For Those Undecided

The series of debates between those contesting for the top leadership roles in the executive branch of our government have concluded.  Unfortunately, we only got the Republican and Democratic nominees so it wasn’t truly a representative debate.  If I were an undecided voter, awaiting the outcome of the debates to influence my choice, I’d still be undecided.  The banality of the system, or is it the coverage, is probably best summed up in this picture:

After a poor performance in the first debate, the incumbent tried to portray the challenger as attempting to balance the budget by firing Sesame Street icon Big Bird.  Groups, especially women’s organizations, seized upon the challengers comment about getting “binders full of [women]” while searching for qualified female applicants for government jobs.  The third debate on foreign policy had the incumbent trying to paint the challenger as naive and behind the times in military matters.  I learned nothing new from watching any of the debates.  Basically, I’d call all of them draws.
The one salient difference between these candidates is what they imagine as the role of government.  The incumbent believes we are improving in the economy and cuts in the defense area can best be spent improving education and infrastructure to enable America to regain its place among the leading nations in the world.  The challenger would achieve the same goals but using the private sector, not government to do so.
Of course, I am not an undecided voter.  I am retired– old enough to draw on the money I’ve paid into Social Security; not yet of the age where I can reap what my employers and I have paid into Medicare.  I live in the Southwestern United States where distances are huge compared to the East Coast and maintenance of the Interstate highways is a major concern.  On the PBS Newshour Morning Line this morning was a story about a study carried out by a non-partisan group that said, in essence, that the cost to update the Interstate system would exceed the cost when it was built–$688billion.  (Story is about 2/3 way down the page, after the segment on McGovern.)  Please note that is about 2/3 of the challenger’s proposed increase to defense spending, where the USA already significantly outspends the entire rest of the world.
This morning I was in a conversation about what the effect on day-to-day living would be if either candidate won.  The answer, I believe, is that the effect would be negligible over the short term.  Neither candidate is going to have an immediate effect on the benefits I paid into and now, and in a year or so, will receive.  But the long term effects will be devastating if the challenger wins.  Spending on defense instead of infrastructure will have such long term deleterious effects on the economy and on competitiveness that the USA will be removed from the top tier of the rich world, likely surpassed by China, a country making infrastructure gains.  Under the challenger’s budget plan and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I see my medical costs increasing, especially on the predictive tests that in the long run help reduce the overall medical bill.  This could make my financial position untenable since I’ve already retired and my income is fixed.  It would have been nice to have $20million or so in assets to see me out and handle unforeseeable tribulations, but I’m afraid I never made it into that top 1% of earners.
So for me the choice was easy when I participated in my state’s early voting.  For those readers who might still be undecided or under the age of 55, the age when most Republican changes will affect you, the question of for whom to vote may boil down to whether you want the Social Security benefits you have paid into coming in a check or electronic transfer from the U S Treasury, the same entity that sends you your income tax refunds, or whether you prefer the funds to come from some private firm like Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan Chase who brought you the economic meltdown of 2007 from which we still haven’t recovered.  And for those who believe the present administration is responsible for the slow recovery, turn off FOX and Rush and Glen and read this.

Stumbling Towards the Election

Hey, kiddies, it’s election season!!!!!!  For some, like lobbyists and Super-PACS, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  For some, like a friend of mine, it’s time to shut down the Facebook page or the email account to avoid the constant barrage of political messaging.  Thanks to New Mexico early voting, I soar above all these attempts to influence me.  I’ve already cast my ballot.

I have to admit it’s sure been a long season.  The president has been running for a couple of years, Mitt Romney since 2008.  They went toe-to-toe in the first presidential debate about a week ago and their surrogates, the Number Twos, went at it last Thursday night.  It’s not my intent to pick winners or losers in this post.  It is my intent to remind readers to make up your mind and go vote.  With that as my motivation, please allow me to share a few ideas about performing this oh most patriotic of duties…..

Don’t shut off any information sources.  There’s a lot of noise from the DNC and the RNC and Crossroads America and Priorities USA Action and ad nauseum….Check the Open Secrets site for a list of PACS and Super-PACS and for whom they spend.  I always find it helpful to know what the agenda is for the person trying to force feed me information.

I have a friend on Facebook who always posts the most inane and least fact-checked information.  For example, one that has a person click “like” to stop Joe Biden from smiling.  The only way to acheive this is to elect Mr. Biden’s opponent.  Of course, since that party has persistently failed to concisely elucidate what specific actions he would take to improve the lot of the country, the listener or decision maker, i.e., the voter, is faced with quite the conundrum.  But fear not……

A couple of months ago we “cut the cable”—fired Comcast as our television content provider.  Since we still have high-speed internet with them, there is a bleed-over of some broadcast channels.  It is so refreshing to NOT have to listen to the self righteous blo-hards of either the left or right—yes, no MSNBC trying to make us feel guilty and no FoxNews trying to fill us with bile and venom.  So now I get my news from my local PBS station.  Both the national editions and the local news bend over backwards to present BOTH sides of any controversy.  Commentators and “expert” guests are identified as to their proclivities as liberal or conservative.  Best of all, I don’t need to adjust the volume to avoid the screaming and vehemance of the more partisan cable news outlets.

As for print media, well, I subscribe to the New York Times  digital editions.  This goes back to my roots growing up in CT and having had a history teacher my junior year who wore three-piece suits and    assured us that the only way to improve our minds was to read the Sunday New York Times from first to last page.  I also get print editions of both the Economist and Atlantic, neither of which is a bastion of socialist thought.  In short, I attempt to get information from various and reliable sources.  I utilize fact checking sites whenever I have a question about some statement that is made or some email I’ve received.  None of this is very time consuming or difficult.

But making an informed voting decision has perhaps never been more crucial for baby boomers, genXers, and millenials.  Please vote, and please use your head and make an informed choice.  A candidate’s smile, laugh, or jokes aren’t important—what he will do is what counts.