Sunday :: Jan 4, 2004

"And They're Lining up In The Starting Gates, ..."


by pessimist

Within days, the 2004 Presidential primary season begins in several states with the collection of absentee ballots. In an effort to getting some discussion going, I offer the following list of a few of the major issues and where the various Democratic candidates stand on them. I also include my own comments upon these issue positions.

Before anyone dismisses this, every candidate got at least one favorable comment from me, even Lieberman, so I invite you to read their comments, my comments, and then add your own.

One final caveat: I would prefer that any comments you make reinforce a position of a candidate you support rather than say something that tears another candidate down any worse than I already have. I'd rather see positive statements, something our slate of candidates could learn from, than to see us assist BushCo in their bid for a legitimate election victory.

DEMS zero in on issues
DEMS zero in on issues: Part 2

Candidates gear up for Iowa vote but heed Michigan's concerns
By Deb Price / Detroit News Washington Bureau
Detroit News, MI

WASHINGTON With former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean leading the pack, the dash for the Democratic presidential nomination speeds up now as Democrats prepare to cast their first ballots in Iowa on Jan. 19.

"Dean has tapped into a lot of anger about the (contested) 2000 race and anger at President Bush," says political analyst Bill Ballenger, editor of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics. "You have a hard-core constituency that is bitter over 2000, hates Bush, and is resentful of (Democratic) wimps, and meanwhile Dean is striking all the right notes." But there are no guarantees that the controversial Dean dogged by questions about his electability, foreign policy savvy and temperament won't be beaten back.

Michigan Democrats could wind up making the final decision over who challenges Bush when they weigh in Feb. 7, far earlier than in past contests. The early caucus date means Michigan will be the first big industrial state to vote, which has spurred candidates to pay more attention to some of the state's key concerns, including saving manufacturing jobs, creating strategies to save ailing cities and making health care more affordable. Several of the candidates, in fact, have chosen Detroit as the place to make major policy statements on job creation and urban strategy. As the primary season approaches, here's a look at where the Democratic field stands on six critical issues.

Economy/jobs

Carol Moseley Braun: The government should stimulate job creation to boost the economy. She would also increase federal spending on education, environmental protection and health care reform.

These points are a good start, but won't get too far coming from a candidate who won't qualify for two more primaries this week: New York and Delaware.

Wesley Clark: Clark would repeal Bush Administration tax cuts to pay for a $100 billion jobs plan, including $20 billion in business tax incentives, with a $5,000 tax credit for hiring new full-time workers.

The goals are worthy, but this creates another instance of corporate welfare. It also won't fly on the corporate side, as $5000 barely dents the average full-time wage. In fact, it doesn't match one-half of the minimum wage at the Federal standard work-year of 2000 hours.

Howard Dean: Would repeal Bush Administration tax cuts and revise the tax code to further benefit middle-income workers. Wants tougher enforcement of U.S. trade laws, and a new small business loan program.

These points are a good start. The questions are in the details - how will these goals be implemented, and how will they be paid for? More input required.

John Edwards: Proposes a 10 percent tax credit for companies that keep jobs in America. He also would create a venture capital fund for depressed areas, and provide tax credits for home ownership and education.

I don't like this first one at all. There should instead be a penalty for those companies who send jobs out of the country.

The venture capital for depressed areas sounds interesting, but the other ideas are already implemented through the mortgage interest deduction and the college tuition deductions. More input required.

Dick Gephardt: Would repeal Bush administration tax cuts. Opposes NAFTA, saying lack of tough labor and environmental standards in trade pacts threatens U.S. living standards. Would push for higher minimum wage.

Excellent planks, but the sawyer has not shown he can walk his talk. Has also shown far too much loyalty to Bush's legislation. Thanks for playing, Dick.

John Kerry: Would eliminate Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and refund payroll taxes for two years on new manufacturing workers. He also would increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation.

I like the first and third points, but the second assumes that there is something to manufacture. Were this to be tied to a program to free America from dependence on foreign oil by stimulating the development of viable alternative energy, then I'm all for it. But unless Kerry can find the fire he showed the day his patriotism was challenged, then these are moot points.

Dennis Kucinich: Would offer $50 billion in zero-interest loans every year for 10 years 20 percent of which would be targeted for school construction and repair to finance public works projects.

Could be a worthy goal if the recipients of these loans were more precisely defined. America's bridges and roads, pipelines, power grid, all of these infrastructure elements, and more, have been cited repeatedly by the experts as needing updating and upgrading. If the remaining 80% of Kucinich's proposed loans were targeted on these, then I support this plank.

Joe Lieberman: Wants tax credits for keeping manufacturing in the U.S. and to promote investments by small and medium-sized businesses. He would restructure income tax brackets to benefit the middle class.

Details, Joe!

Al Sharpton: Proposes a five-year, $250 billion federal infrastructure redevelopment plan to rebuild highways, schools and ports. He also favors development of national high-speed rail system.

Worthy goals, but how do the bills get paid?


Iraq/foreign policy

Carol Moseley Braun: She opposed the war in Iraq, and thought it had nothing to do with the war on terrorism. Calls the Iraq War a "misadventure."

Full agreement.

Wesley Clark: Retracted early statement saying he "probably" would have voted for Iraqi war resolution and has cast himself as an anti-war candidate with strongest military credentials to go up against Bush.

While he has the strong military credentials, I'm not assured by his switch on Iraq after the fact. His credibility needs improvement.

Howard Dean: Dean was an outspoken critic of the Iraq, saying the Bush administration "launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help and at unbelievable cost."

Full agreement.

John Edwards: Supported Iraq war; believes U.S. cannot reconstruct Iraq alone; wants stronger action on political reform in Cuba, North Korea, and the Middle East while rebuilding relationships overseas.

Except for rebuilding Iraq with the help of other countries, the rest of these ideas are troubling. Could result in additional wars, requiring the reinstitution of the draft.

Dick Gephardt: Voted for the resolution authorizing Iraq war, but criticizes Bush for the "go-it-alone" Iraqi policy that discouraged allies from shouldering part of financial burden of rebuilding the country.

Where were you when you were needed, Dick?

John Kerry: Voted for the Iraqi war, but says Bush's foreign policy has "enraged those who should be our friends." Backs "a bold, progressive internationalism backed by undoubted military might."

Where were you when you were needed, John? And just what do you mean by "undoubted military might"? Isn't this what Bush has demonstrated these last two years?

Dennis Kucinich: Says the Iraq war was conducted under false pretenses. While the U.S. won a military victory, the administration never justified the war, rendering it a diplomatic and foreign policy failure.

Full agreement.

Joe Lieberman: Considered a defense hawk, the longtime advocate of removing Saddam Hussein from power voted for a resolution authorizing Bush to go to war with Iraq.

Go back to sleep, Joe. Frist will awaken you when he needs your vote.

Al Sharpton: Wants the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, followed by multilateral development of Iraq without America being the dominant corporate or military force.

Full agreement.


Health care

Carol Moseley Braun: Backs government-funded universal health care, including a prescription drug benefit. Supports fusing Medicare and Medicaid into the single tax-funded plan.

If she were still a viable candidate, then more details would be needed before I could support these ideas. I wouldn't want to see a Clinton Medical Plan II.

Wesley Clark: His $695 billion, 10-year plan includes tax credits to ensure coverage for all children up to age 22. Would allow Americans without job-related coverage to buy the federal workers' health plan.

The tax credits idea could use more explanation, but I like the federal worker's health plan idea.

Howard Dean: Would insure all children and young adults up to age 25 by enlarging existing programs. Also would create a government health plan available to the uninsured and small businesses.

Come on, Doc! You can do better than this!

John Edwards: Believes that tax credits could be used to make affordable health insurance more widely available, especially to small businesses, the unemployed, adults under age 25, and people aged 55-64.

I welcome more details on this idea.

Dick Gephardt: Would create universal health coverage through the current employer-based system. Companies would be required to give employees health care, and would get 60 percent tax credits.

Sucking up to Corporate America now that Organized Labor isn't running to your side with open checkbooks? Take a trip to Mexico and see what your own country will look like in a few more years.

John Kerry: The government would pay health care claims above $50,000. He would allow the uninsured and businesses to buy into the federal workers' health plan, subsidizing the cost with tax breaks.

The big issue here is: how does this get paid?

Dennis Kucinich: Promotes universal, government funded system of national health insurance, phased in over 10 years. He says the government should place limits on prescription drug prices.

Details, Dennis.

Joe Lieberman: He offers a new program modeled on the health plan for federal workers that would offer comprehensive care at low premiums. The government would subsidize low-income coverage.

Who would have thought that Lieberman would come up with an idea that doesn't turn me off? I'll listen to more on this idea, Joe.

Al Sharpton: Calls for a national government-paid health plan; the government would guarantee all citizens' health care.

Details, Al.


Education

Carol Moseley Braun: Intervention programs and public education for children with disabilities should be fully funded.

Sounds nice. But what do you mean, exactly?

Wesley Clark: Would provide $6,000 for the first two years of college for students with family income under $100,000. He proposes setting aside $50 billion for states to offer preschool to all 4-year-olds.

Worthy goals. I'm willing to hear more, General.

Howard Dean: Would fully fund special education, match local investments to build schools, offer meals to low-income students and provide $10,000 in student aid per year for college or career training.

These aren't new ideas, Doc. But if you have new ways of implementing these, ...

John Edwards: College tuition would be free for the first year for those qualified to attend a public college who are willing to work or serve their communities for at least 10 hours a week.

I'm willing to hear more.

Dick Gephardt: Proposes a teacher corps in which students agree to teach five years in exchange for college tuition. Would make the first $10,000 of college tuition tax deductible regardless of family income.

There may yet be hope for you, Dick. I like these ideas.

John Kerry: States would receive $24.8 billion to modernize schools. Also would provide tax credits on the first $4,000 of college tuition, or four years of free tuition in exchange for two years of public service.

I'm willing to hear more.

Dennis Kucinich: Would improve resources for struggling public schools, expand public education to include pre-kindergarten and provide tuition assistance for some students attending state colleges.

I would need to hear more before I could back these comfortably.

Joe Lieberman: Pell grants for low-income families would be raised from the current $4,050 to $7,760 by 2008. Middle-class families would get a tax deduction of up to $10,000 for college tuition.

Without further details, I'm ambivalent.

Al Sharpton: Federal aid to public education would be increased, and federal standards for teacher pay would be enacted. Sharpton opposes school voucher systems.

I would need to hear more before I could back these comfortably.


Urban issues

Carol Moseley Braun: No public response recorded.

It figures.

Wesley Clark: Would expand low-income housing tax credits, and increase funds to replace rundown public housing projects with homes. Would also increase funds for police officers and public transportation.

And who foots the bill, General? The Pentagon?

Howard Dean: Proposes a $100 billion fund to create jobs in education, health care and homeland security. He would provide an additional $1 billion in loans for small business, and create a fund to build affordable housing.

Without further details, I'm ambivalent.

John Edwards: Wants to attract teachers to disadvantaged schools by offering scholarships and increased pay. Would also provide tax reform to help working families own homes and save for retirement.

Let's hear more, John.

Dick Gephardt: Will seek more funding for loans to new businesses, strengthen the federal agency fostering minority-owned businesses and create a national trust fund to develop low-income housing.

I would need to hear more before I could back these comfortably.

John Kerry: Would create more affordable housing, set up empowerment zones to clean up urban air and water pollution, and provide funds to increase the police presence on city streets.

Without further details, I'm ambivalent.

Dennis Kucinich: Wants to end the war on drugs because of racial bias in drug laws. He also believes in tougher gun control laws, and supports civilian police review boards and community policing.

While I lean toward supporting these ideas, they will be a tough sell. More specifics would be required.

Joe Lieberman: Would work to reduce high school dropout rates, provide grants to states for "fatherhood" programs, improve child care options, and create special accounts to help poor people buy homes and go to school.

These sound nice, Joe, but who pays?

Al Sharpton: Supports a strong federal commitment to cities, including redevelopment of everything from empowerment zones to education.

Could you narrow this down just a bit, Al?


Race relations

Carol Moseley Braun: She is a supporter and self-proclaimed beneficiary of affirmative action. She also wants to repeal the Patriot Act.

No arguments.

Wesley Clark: Supported University of Michigan's affirmative action policies in brief to U.S. Supreme Court. Spoke out against 2004 Michigan anti-affirmative action ballot initiative.

No arguments.

Howard Dean: Would create an assistant secretary for minority health whose job would be to eliminate racial health disparities; backs affirmative action and vows to appoint like-minded judges.

Without further details, I'm ambivalent.

John Edwards: Fought efforts to weaken affirmative action programs; wants judges who support civil rights laws. Would improve voting rights enforcement, and make certain the war on terrorism does not erode civil rights.

Sounds good. How do you make this happen?

Dick Gephardt: Would keep affirmative action in college admissions and in federal contracts, and boost funding for minority business programs. He also wants a national museum honoring African-American history.

Thanks for playing our game, Dick.

John Kerry: Backs affirmative action and a ban on racial profiling. He received a 100 percent rating from the NAACP for votes related to African-American concerns.

Enforcing a ban on racial profiling would be a difficult thing. How do you accomplish this, Mr. Kerry?

Dennis Kucinich: Says affirmative action is necessary, and believes the government should study the best means to make reparations for slavery, create affordable housing and crack down on predatory lending.

Besides reparations for slavery, these sound good. Details would be necessary.

As for reparations, no one alive in America today ever was, or owned, a slave. As for dealing with the effects of slavery, I consider affirmative action the best start toward correcting the problems slavery caused. What needs more work is the racist attitudes, on all sides, which keeps the issue of slavery in America alive. A successful recapture of the government from the racist neo-cons who currently hold it captive is the best way to begin this project.

Joe Lieberman: He backed the University of Michigan's affirmative action programs. Supports legislation to end racial profiling, and helped secure $50 million to modernize classrooms and dorms in black universities.

$50 million is a drop in the bucket, Joe. Add another zero, and throw in the other minority schools in the nation, and we can begin to talk.

Al Sharpton: He would strictly enforce federal civil rights laws protecting citizens from all forms of racial profiling and civil rights violations.

Could you narrow this down just a bit, Al?

Sources: The candidates and their Web sites

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pessimist :: 8:52 AM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!