Friday, 29 August 2008

Channeling my inner Republican

Maybe I'm a closet republican. Or maybe I was just in a bad mood because The Beer Store was all out of Lakeport Ale. More probably the latter, the first option indicates latent schizophrenia, which I will not consider at this point in time.

*Yes you will*

What? Who said that?

Moving on.

Whatever the reason, I was not that wowed by Obama's speech last night. Of all the opinions I've read online, the closest to my own is Andrew Potter's.

Especially his platform "details". Increase spending, but cut taxes. Hmmmm. Where have we heard that one before? Our collective answer to that particular promise was "when pigs fly".

Yes, Obama mentioned that he would fund his promises by taxing fat cat corporations, but acknowledging that doesn't even come close, he stated "But I will also go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less, because we cannot meet 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century bureaucracy."

Sorry, that is 100% rhetorical bull shit. Problem 1, every time you eliminate a program you affect someone depending on that program. That project money is going somewhere, whether to individuals, NGOs, Corporations, communities, states, etc. You cut that program, you piss off whoever is receiving it. You cut a lot of programs (make no mistake, he'll have to cut a lot) you piss off a lot of people.

Those people will fight back, tooth and nail. To keep them happy, he'll have to compromise, keep some programs funded which compromises his ability to fund his promises, puttin him to back to square one, where does he find the money?

Problem 2 is the implicit assumption that the bulk of the programs are wasteful and can be fixed by modifying the budget. It don't work that way. The 20th-century bureaucracy is in place for a reason. When you start cutting programs indiscriminately, you get reactions like this, and this, or this, etc. etc. etc.

It becomes a battle, their interests or my interests, his interests or her interests. It isn't about "good programs" or "bad programs". Its about appeasing your base, keeping people happy. Keeping people happy is what keeps government inefficient. To get elected, you have to keep most of the people happy most of the time. That's politics.

So to enact the "change" that Barack is so passionate about, he should be honest.

"Change doesn't come easy, and it comes at a price. It will anger many of you, maybe even most of you. Though you look up to me now, when I'm finished my first term as president, you will see me in a different light. So much so that you will not likely support me for a second term.

But that's OK, because I'm not here to win the election in 2012. I'm here to enact the change needed in 2008. And when I'm done, history will be my judge. If I lose the election in 2012, it will be worth the price to ensure a future for my daughters and your sons."

Barack is in a dangerous spot right now. If he wins, and enacts the change he is calling for, he will most certainly lose 2012. Everyone says they want change, but everyone wants that change to impact some else. Well, its gotta impact somebody, most likely everybody, and even when its in their own best interests, people still resent change to their lifestyle. If he compromises to keep his hold on power, he betrays the principles he campaigned on, and becomes part of the system he vigorously attacked, inviting disillusionment. I honestly do not believe he can change Washington anymore than John McCain can make himself young again.

He also promised to end the dependence on middle eastern oil in 10 years. Riiiggghhhttt. I'll believe that when I see it. Just ask Dalton McGuinty, he promised to close the coal fired electrical generating stations. Why can't he? Because the replacements aren't online yet. They don't exist. And that's Barack's problem to. He's promising to replace existing oil with non-existent solutions, and those solutions will not replace oil in 10 years.

He squeaked in a promise to implement "safe" nuclear and "clean" coal. That's a case of the cure being almost as bad as the disease.

Let me clarify one thing, I believe that Barack Obama is a better choice than John McCain. I also agree in general with most of Barack's goals (health care, climate change, energy dependance, etc.) BUT...

He's setting himself up for failure. The most likely scenario is that he will morph into Just Another Politician, which will erode his support. Or he will actually try to do everything he says he's going to, and the whole country will turn against him, because the people will not like the changes when they start being personally affected.

Lose, lose. And I don't have enough optimism to see it turning out otherwise.


Ken Breadner said...

I could quibble with some of your conclusions, but I have to go to work...I will say this: "going through the budget line by line" is an awfully Republican/Conservative thing to say. Despite the title of your post, I wonder if that line rankled you a little.
I am reminded of a quote by Spider Robinson, defending America to Canadians:
"Sure, the United States has sometimes failed to live up to its ideals. If you want to replace 'sometimes' with 'most of the time', I won't argue. But never has their been a country with such a magnificent set of ideals to fail to live up to."
Obama won't accomplish everything he says he will--politics will get in the way. But he will change the culture in Washington and he will push for some much needed paradigm shifts. For that alone he'd get my vote.

Ken Breadner said...

Erratum: "their"="there...Jesus, I need coffee.