At a recent family gathering, an uncle asked me which major presidential candidate I’d support if I weren’t a Libertarian. When I told him that I don’t see a dramatic difference between the two major candidates, he balked.
“Are you kidding me?” he asked. “Kerry is a liberal and Bush is a conservative. Everyone knows that.”
My uncle isn’t a dumb guy. He’s just one of the many millions of Americans who have bought into the media’s political hype.
Virtually every news outlet wants to portray every presidential race as a fierce ideological battle. There’s no drama in saying that the two major candidates are like different shades of gray. Consequently, millions of Americans are drawn into the political fantasy.
Back in the real world, George Bush and John Kerry basically agree on the vital issues.
The Drug War? Absolutely.
Corporate welfare? No doubt.
More health and education regulation? Hell yes.
Higher spending and debt? Of course.
Stricter speech restrictions? You bet.
Greater police powers? Why not?
The Iraq War? Affirmative (to appease antiwar liberals, Kerry has criticized the way Bush is “handling” it. He also insists that Bush shouldn’t have gone to war in the first place, although Kerry voted to give him the power to make that decision).
Okay, Bush and Kerry disagree nominally on abortion, and many Americans on both sides of the debate feel strongly about it. But the truth is that abortion is largely a non-issue. The Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down anti-abortion laws. And although Congress just banned a rare partial-birth abortion procedure, legislators don’t even attempt to outlaw abortion during early pregnancy anymore.
Stem cell research is another often-cited difference. With great fanfare, Bush has limited it to pre-existing embryos, while Kerry supports it unconditionally. But since there’s a large number of pre-existing embryos, that’s largely a nonissue too.
As for income taxation, Bush supports a tiny reduction for all taxpayers, while Kerry supports a tiny reduction for middle-class taxpayers only. That’s a difference–but hardly a striking one.
Social Security Deception
Ah yes, Social Security. Kerry has repeatedly declared his opposition to any market-based reform of the program. Bush, however, has already pledged to let workers divert a small portion of their payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts (PRAs).
Finally, a serious disagreement, right? Wrong.
First, small accounts is a proposal that won’t happen. Antiprivatization leaders will fight hard against it, but workers won’t care enough to actively support it. The only chance of change lies with rallying workers by offering them total or near-total privatization.
Second, the president’s actions since the 2000 election have belied his words. Other than appointing a new “study commission,” he rarely even mentioned Social Security during his first term.
Some true believers say that Bush was too busy fighting/encouraging terrorism to tackle Social Security reform. That’s funny; he somehow found the time to greatly expand federal control in other non-terrorism-related areas.
The president likely used the PRA idea to appease Republicans who were irked by his promises to fatten the Department of Education and Medicare. Now he needs to appease them again. Thus, he has resurrected the idea in time for the end of this year’s race.
My prediction: Should Bush become president again, he’ll continue to avoid any real reform (just as John Kerry would). Eventually, American workers will be saddled with a big payroll tax hike–exactly what has happened more than a dozen times before.
The two candidates are so alike that both attended Yale University, and both joined the Skull and Bones Society. Those commonalities prove nothing, of course, but they’re another log to throw on the fire.
When the Yankees played the Red Sox in the playoffs recently, the emotions on both sides ran high. Each team’s fans badly wanted their guys to win the series–myself, a native New Yorker, included.
But that doesn’t mean that Sox or Yankee fans seriously believed that their lives might change drastically depending on the outcome. It’s only a game.
And, in as much as George Bush and John Kerry are the key players, so is this year’s presidential contest.
Jonathan Trager is a freelance writer who lives and works in Washington, D.C.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | James Velasquez
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond