Thoughts on the Third Presidential Debate

I just finished watching the 3rd Presidential Debate. Not surprisingly, it didn’t change my choice of candidate, but I do have some observations to share, in no particular order. This is, in a sense, a followup to my post on the 2nd Debate (“What I Wished They Had Said“), my Observations on the 1st Debate, and my observations on the VP debate.

  • I was very pleased to see the President come out in favor of space, cybersecurity, and the importance of basic research.
  • I noticed a number of very telling things regarding the American economy. The President constantly referred to reducing the deficit, when he likely meant reducing the debt. They are different things: the deficit is the measure of how much money we need to borrow each year; the debt is what we owe. On the other hand, Romney referred to reducing the debt, and talked about achieving it through a balance budget. Wrong. A balanced budget only means you are not increasing the debt; you need to run a budget surplus to actually reduce the debt.
  • In general, Romney’s foreign policy appeared to be to do the same as what the President is doing. Every time he described his policy, it was usually an echo.
  • Gov. Romney appears to think that when America talks, other nations immediately kow-tow. The reason sanctions and coalitions take so long to build is that each nation is working for what it sees as its interest, not just to please America. These different agendas is why all the things America thinks other nations should do don’t always happen in the way we want. This is the distinction between a coalition builder (the President), and an businessman (who wants his own way).
  • Gov. Romney keeps talking and talking about cutting government programs, yet increasing the number of jobs. He seems to think that government is this abstract thing for which cuts only benefit people. He forgets that the government is the nation’s largest employer, and the government cutbacks and programmatic cutbacks means government personnel and contractor personnel are put out of work. Thus, Gov. Romney really wants to increase unemployment of government and contractor workers, and doesn’t have a plan to put them back to work.
  • Gov. Romney appears to live in the past, where more ships and tanks and airplanes make a stronger military. He forgets the leveraging effect of technology, such that one of today’s naval vessels is significantly more effective than a 1914 ship, how a single aircraft of today is more effective than a WWI aircraft, and how new technology, such as drones, are significantly more cost effective and do not put troops in harms way. He also forgets that with more equipment comes greater maintenance and logistic support costs.
  • Gov. Romney talks about wanting to encourage moderate Muslims in the region. I’m pleased that he recognizing that moderate Muslims do exist and that not all Muslims are extremists (something that many in his party seem to forget). Still, this is difficult to do when America has a history of not being respectful of different cultures in the region. I did not see Romney propose any initiatives that would demonstrate that Americans will be respectful of non-Christian religions. For example, did he propose working to shut down initiatives that attempt to expand Christianity in Muslim countries? I didn’t hear anything.
  • Romney kept talking about us being four years closer to a nuclear Iran. What he hasn’t said, however, is anything specifically that he would have done differently to prevent it. He also talked about Syria being Iran’s path to the sea, so he obviously doesn’t understand the region.

In general, with respect to foreign policy, it appeared that Romney wanted to simply continue what Obama has done. If that’s the case, why change?

As a reminder, you can find my positions on all the ballot candidates and propositions here (state propositions), here (federal offices), and here (state and local offices and local measures).


What I Wished They Had Said…

Watching  last night’s debate*, there were a number of times where either candidates’ answers were not the answers that I would have given. So here is how I wished they had answered some of the questions:
(Note: This post was written Tuesday after the debate, and scheduled for posting today)

[* ETA: Links to 3rd party candidates answering the debate questions.]


QUESTION: Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

I wished they had answered… I’d tell your parents that I hoped you had picked a useful major. After all, what do you do with a BA in English? Seriously, for all our talk about bringing manufacturing and other jobs back to America, there is one characteristics that all these jobs have: technology. Service sector jobs (sales, etc.) can only go so far, and are eventually cannibalizing. However, if you can work with technology and mathematics, and know how to communicate well with people, you will be able to find employment. No matter how well you are educated, if you cannot deal with these areas, you will be at a disadvantage in the job market. To those of you studying engineering and math: Learn to communicate your findings so that your audience will hear you; speaking and writing skills are critical. Get on the stage, learn to perform, and learn to present your ideas. To those of you studying liberal arts: Learn something technical. Today, no matter what you will be doing, you will be using technology and math, and you cannot be a luddite and ignore those disciplines.

QUESTION: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?

I wished they had answered… Let’s ask what goes into gas prices. It isn’t just the oil that comes into the ground. We can pump all we want, but the price that the oil sells for is based on the International market prices. That’s right: if an oil company can sell their gas for more money to some other country, they will. This is how the market works, and so the price that we pay for a barrel of oil will never go down just by domestic production. Further, producing more and more domestic crude means nothing if our refineries are at capacity. If we are not building more refineries, the bottleneck on prices is refined supply, not raw supply. Lastly, there is the profit motive at work here: every company that handles that barrel of oil from the ground adds their markup for profit. All of these combine to make the price you pay for oil, and very little of it can be affected by the Energy department, except perhaps permitting for a refinery. Everyone would just love to see more refineries… just not in their backyard.

This is why the best way to lower energy prices is to move to technology that people want in their backyards — solar, wind — and to take approaches that lower demand and improve efficiency. If you can go twice as far on the $4.00/gallon gas, your overall costs for fuel will go down, even if an individual fill-up is more expensive. The Energy Department is working towards these goals: encouraging clean energy, improving automobile fuel efficiency, as well as increasing domestic production (for what it is worth). You can help to by moving to vehicles that are more fuel efficient or use electric power. Alas, there’s not much we can do with respect to oil company profits: government cannot dictate corporate profit levels. Only shareholders can do that.

QUESTION: Governor Romney, you have stated that if you’re elected president, you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue. Concerning the — these various deductions, the mortgage deductions, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also the … education credits, which are important to me, because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important to the middle class?

I wished they had answered… Reducing tax rates is not the answer. Past administrations have shown that reducing taxes does not improve the economy. In fact, the economy was often stronger when taxes were higher. Back in WWII, the country had shared sacrifices to enable us to win the war. Everyone lived with rationed gas, sugar, and other necessities until the battle was won. We’ve lost the sense of shared sacrifice. We’re asking the lower and middle classes to sacrifice jobs and their standard of living, but not asking the top 1% to sacrifice anything. They still have their jobs, they still have their bonuses, and they still have their low tax rates on capital gains and exemptions on income. That must change. If we want to lower the national debt, we need to move to a period with budget surpluses — not just a balanced budget, but a budget that earns a little extra each year to pay down what we owe to a manageable level. To do this, the 1% must sacrifice some of their wealth through increased taxes and lowered deductions until the debt is reduced. We are all in this together to make this country stronger. It is only fair, and they’ll earn it back when the economy rebounds strongly. So where are their loyalties: personal wealth, or the economic strength of this great nation?

By the way, it is important to remember the distinction between the deficit and the debt. They are different things. The deficit is the net result of the US budget for the year. If we spend more than we take in, we have a deficit, and we have to borrow to cover the additional expense. If we take in more than we spend, we have a surplus, and can use that to pay down the debt, fund new programs, or distribute out to tax payers. This is all part of balancing the budget (overall, but note that a balanced budget is one with neither a surplus or a deficit). Now, if we have a surplus, or if we build into the budget principle repayment (which is essentially the same thing), then we can pay down the overall national debt. Note that we don’t want to pay off the national debt entirely, for reasons I’ll go into later (although what I’m saying is based upon Planet Money reports on When the US paid off the National Debt and What Happens If We Pay Off the National Debt).

QUESTION: In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

I wished they had answered… Very simple. We reintroduce and pass the ERA. People doing the same work should earn the same pay. It is only fair.

QUESTION: Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter, because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration.

I wished they had answered… The problem with the Bush administration was the greatly increased deficit spending. In short, they went from a budget that was balanced to a budget that was in the red, meaning every year our deficit increased, and the amount we had to pay to service that debt increased. The first 4 years of the Obama administration still had a budget in the red, but less in the red. This meant that the debt still increased, but by significantly less. What is important to realize is that balancing the budget is not the answer. All a balanced budget will do is keep the debt at the current level. Balancing your budget, as payments on the debt are interest only, is like paying the monthly minimum on your credit card. What this country needs is a number of years where the budget has a surplus, and that surplus is dedicated to paying down the amount owed. Creating a budget surplus cannot be done simply by cutting. Creating a surplus by cutting alone is like expecting to increase household savings by only cutting expenses. Anyone with a household knows that’s only part of the answer. You need to get a second or third job for a few years until you are back on your feet.

By the way, it is also important to know that the US Government should never entirely pay off its debt. That would be disasterous. Every citizen in the US depends on the national debt. You hold it when you own savings bonds, when you put money in the bank (which invests in safe US Treasury Bonds), and when corporations and investment firms need someplace safe to put their money. Eliminate the national debt, and you eliminate a safe and secure harbor for investment funds, and move that investment to other countries. Our goal should be to bring the debt down to a pre-established manageable level, and then to let it fluctuate around that level to provide investments. The budget surplus should be used to establish a rainy day fund, so that when a crisis situation occurs — be it a natural disaster or national defense — we can address that crisis without having to borrow. This is just like your household retaining some level of debt in order to preserve your credit rating, while maintaining savings for emergencies.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.

I wished they had answered…  There was a lot that I did, and even more that I tried to do. But a President does not work in a vacuum. There is a limit on what a President can do when faced with a Congress that refused to compromise. The economy has not recovered as I hope it would because Congress has not worked with me to craft legislation to move the country forward. Instead, both parties have crafted legislation that advanced party aims, and have often blocked legislation that went against those aims. I cannot sign legislation I do not get. By the way, for that opposition party, that aim was to ensure I was not reelected. The best way to do that is to keep the economy failing. That’s a blunt statement, but it is also true. If you are the party out of power and want to get back in power, you cannot let your opposition make the country stronger or better. When you go to complete your ballot, ask yourself: Do you want to support people who actively blocked moving this country forward.

QUESTION: Mr. Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?

I wished they had answered… If someone who is in this country can demonstrate that they are a productive, law-abiding member of our society, contributing their talents and skills to what makes America strong, they should be permitted to progress along the path to citizenship. This will permit them to share in all the obligations of this country: selecting our leaders, defending our nation, and economically contributing to its success both through work and through payment of income taxes.

Further, the issues of immigration should be separated from drivers licenses. Drivers licenses should be solely a proof that someone knows how to drive safely, knows the rules for driving in their state, and has an appropriate level of automobile insurance to protect themselves and other families. Period. We need safe drivers. If you need to show immigration status, that’s fine — use a distinct form of license as California is doing with new drivers — but do not deny the license and endanger others on the road. Further, people who do not have their licenses should not be driving. I’m looking at you, Amanda Bynes.

QUESTION: We were sitting around, talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

I wished they had answered… It is very easy to armchair quarterback after an event to figure out what we should have done. But without a time machine, we can only go on what we know. We are in an environment where there is a strong emphasis to reduce the costs of operating government. Guards are one of those costs, and at times, this function has been moved to local security, when advisable. It appeared advisable at the time in this place, and the specific requests for enhanced security had not worked their way up the chain. You’ve worked with the government. Have you ever known requests to be efficiently processed? As a leader, I can only act on information I have. So let’s not armchair quarterback. Let’s ask instead: Where did our processes break down, and how can we change them to improve the processes to not only prevent this specific incident from happening again, but to make it so that credible information moves where it needs to be quickly. Note the word “credible” there. Another problem with armchair quarterbacking is that information that seems “credible” after the fact often didn’t appear as creditable when first received.

QUESTION: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?

I wished they had answered… Simple answer: There is no reason that anyone other than military personnel on a military mission need assault or automatic weapons. End of story. We need to make this happen. Individual defense does not require guns like the AK-47.

QUESTION: The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?

I wished they had answered… First, ask yourself why jobs are outsourced. It isn’t that people overseas are more talented. They are cheaper. Why are they cheaper? Because they are not paid a living wage, because they work in intolerable conditions, because they work unreasonable hours, receive no vacations, receive no health care, and in general are disposable. American is better than that, and we treat our workers better than that (thanks to the hard work of our Unions). We aren’t going back to sweat-shop work conditions. That’s not America. We cannot compete with overseas on the raw cost of manufacture. So where can we compete? First, quality. Skilled workers produce better product faster. Second, we can reduce transportation costs by producing parts near where they are assembled and used. This lowers total overall cost of manufacture. That’s how we get jobs back: provide the right skills and efficient manufacturing that makes up in efficiency the cost of treating our workers like human beings. We can also refuse to import products that are produced with exploited labor. Companies such as Apple are starting to do this, requiring that living wages and appropriate working conditions be applied to the products built for them. Doing this will increase the cost of those products… and may return American manufacturing to a competitive conditions when the other factors are considered.

As we are talking about jobs, let me make one additional point. We talk about wanting to bring the unemployment rate down, but also talk about needing to drastically cut back government. The two are incompatible. When you talk government cutbacks, you aren’t talking about simply closing buildings — you are talking about cutting back or eliminating programs. Such cutbacks will mean that the government must cut back on its personnel requirements, meaning that unemployment will go up. Further, eliminating those personnel and programs will cut more than just the government employees, but will have corresponding impacts on all the service and related industries and contractors that support those programs. So when my opponent talks about cutting back government, he is talking about creating massive layoffs within the country. Government is not just a nameless beast; it is also a major employer in the United States.


Alas, they didn’t answer things this way. I still liked Obama’s answers better than Romney’s, but far too often they lapsed back into canned answers and responses instead of directly answering the question. It reminds me of the days of the Perfect Student Union at UCLA, where one of our candidates answered a question by saying, “Do you mind if I’m different from the other candidates, and actually answer the question that you asked…”.



Third Parties

In a previous post, I looked at all the candidates for President in the upcoming election. This included all the candidates from the third parties, who truthfully speaking, do not have a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected. That got me thinking: why? Why is it that third parties have such a hard time getting started and succeeding?

We have had third parties before. Teddy Roosevelt bolted from his party and was a “Bull Moose” candidate. Ross Perot ran as a candidate of the Reform Party. George Wallace, if I recall, ran on a third party platform. None have been even somewhat successful. Why is that?

My theory: We’re starting at the wrong end. These third parties attempt to succeed through their presidential candidate. That’s an approach doomed to failure. The parties will never acquire enough votes at the Presidential level to get their candidate elected, and if they do get elected, they will not be successful with Congress.

I believe that if a third party is to succeed, it must start at the local level. The Hypothetical Third Party (HTP) would need to start by successfully electing candidates to local offices: mayor, city council, county supervisors. As their platform catches on, they work on establishing themselves at the state level, and starting to acquire House positions. It is only after they have been successful in becoming near majorities at the state level and having significant congressional presence should that party attempt to go for Senate and the Presidency.

I do not believe that any of our current 3rd parties, as constituted, would be able to succeed in this fashion. Certainly not the American Independent or Peace and Freedom parties, which are probably too far to the fringes on either side. The Greens and Libertarians have great chances, but only if they start working at the local level, demonstrating their parties success and the validity of their ideas.

Will they do it? That I can’t answer. Some people prefer to tilt at windmills, to rage against the system without having the patience to use the system to affect the change.

Do I hope it will happen? That’s a different question. As I’ve looked at the various positions of the 3rd parties, there were none I was 100% congruent with. My hope is more that a generational change will affect the existing major parties, and they will lose some of the social rigidity and appeals to the more extreme elements within that have overtaken them. My hope is that the existing major parties will relearn to work together for the country as a whole, and will learn that compromise is what makes our representative government successful. I hope that the major parties, once elected, they represent their entire constituencies, not just the segment that voted for them, and that they realize why compromise is important to do that.

But what are your thoughts? What do you believe is necessary to make a third party successful in the US?

Music: Carrie: The Musical” (2012 Original Cast): “A Night We’ll Never Forget”



VP Debate Thoughts / Political News Chum

Well, the Vice-Presidential debate is over, and so the media is filled with spin on the subject. I’m not quite media, but I do feel like sharing a few impressions before I go to bed (as with my next post, this post was written Thursday evening, scheduled to be posted Friday at lunch):

  • Demeanor. If I had to describe Biden’s performance in one word, it would be “passionate”. You got the impression he truly cared — emotionally cared with deep heartfelt emotions — that what his team was doing was right, that the “middle class” needed protection, that the “upper class” do not. This is why he got so exasperated at times, this is why he strove so hard to make corrections. Ryan’s performance, on the other hand, was more “wonky”. Cool, collected, attempting to be reasonable. Both can be presidential. Biden’s emotions make me think of Lyndon Johnson. Ryan was more of a George Bush Senior.
  • Listening to What Was Said. There were a number of times listening to Ryan where I wondered if he heard what he said. For example, he berated Biden for the administration not submitting specific approaches to Congress to address debt problems and such… but when asked what loopholes he would eliminate, he indicated he would defer to Congress to come up with the answer.  Another example: Ryan kept dragging out the line from 2008 where Obama said that if an administration can’t run on their record, they just attack the other side. He immediately followed this line with long attacks on the other side, not with their records and legislative accomplishments.
  • Small Businesses. One of the big points in the debate was the importance of small business. Ryan (and to a much lesser extent Biden) touted small business as a creator of jobs. There’s just one little problem. It’s not. LA Observed has a good summary of a Bloomberg article that notes“First, small businesses destroy almost as many jobs as they create. Second, only about 3 percent of small-business owners fall into the upper-income tax brackets that would increase if, as Obama has proposed, the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. And third, many businesses counted as small aren’t engaged in traditional small-business activity. Instead, they are partners in hedge funds, law firms and private-equity shops, or they are highly paid actors, athletes, speakers and authors.”  How do they destroy jobs? Most of the small businesses that create jobs are startups…. and many startups fail. The whole article is worth reading, and points out many of the misconceptions being pointed out this political year.
  • Defense Arguments. At one point, Ryan trotted out the line about the Navy being the smallest it has been since before WWI. What he didn’t mention, of course, was the disparity in effectiveness. The pre-WWI Navy was mostly small boats and ineffective cutters. Today’s Navy have fewer, but more specialized and more lethal ships. The issue isn’t the number of tanks and boats, it is effectiveness. By the way, I am continually disappointed in how neither candidate is addressing cybersecurity, and securing and protecting this country’s cyber-infrastructure, which is critical to both national defense and the commerce of the nation. I know some of what the Obama administration is doing (and much, but not all, of it is reasonable). Romney/Ryan? I haven’t heard anything.
  • Effects of Obamacare. One thing the debate did not go heavily into is Obamacare. There was one interesting article related to Obamacare in the news this week. Darden Restaurants, the folks behind Red Lobster and Olive Garden, are going to test hiring more part time workers in order that they don’t have to provide the healthcare benefits that are required for full-time workers. Although I understand the business decision, I think it is morally wrong to do something just to not do right by your employees. I’d say I’d boycott them, but I don’t eat at Olive Garden or Red Lobster anyway. In any case, it goes to show that much of the reason for the opposition to “Obamacare” is not because health care is a bad idea, but that companies do not want the cost of health care to erode their profits. Forget Jesus Christ. The almighty god in the US sometimes seems to be “Profits”. Are we still in the “greed is good” generation?

Overall, will the VP debate change the course of the election? Probably not. It won’t move the undecideds, but there was enough meat in the 90 minutes to provide more energy to each of the respective party bases. After all, we’ve had quite a few VPs that were duds — Quayle and Agnew come to mind. We’ve had VPs that were clearly Presidential material (ah, Hubert Humphrey, whatever became of you :-)), and we’ve had some that were clearly deranged and power hungry (Cheney). I don’t think Biden or Ryan are in these categories, and are more good men trying to support their candidates.




California Ballot Analysis Part III: State Offices, County Offices and Issues

As promised, this is the third and last installment of my posts on the 2012 General Election ballot. This post covers state offices, and Los Angeles county offices and measures. Previous posts in this series have looked at the Federal offices on the ballot and the California propositions. (Note: This was written Wednesday night, but posted Thursday morning, because I expected to be busy with meetings)

As I stated in the first post, On November 6, most of you will have the opportunity to vote. I hope you do so, and I hope you study and make intelligent decisions about which candidates and positions to support. This means supporting a candidate or position on the basis of your own research and the facts, not the pablum spewed by commercials nor the invective spewed on the Internet. I never have a problem with a political position arrived at honestly and based on facts. The same goes if you categorically reject the possibility of any new tax, or believe the government is always evil. I want discussions based in reality, not fantasy worlds. To that end, every year I go through my entire sample ballot and present you with my positions on everything. This allows me to research it all, present that research, and allow others to possible convince me to change my current position before the election.

California State Senator, 27th District

This is a battle between Todd Zink (R) and Fran Pavley (D). Both are new to this part of Northridge, thanks to redistricting; previously, we had been lumped with a Santa Clarita district and had Cameron Smyth. Zink is supported by Steve Cooley, the Howard Jarvis association, and a number of Republican congressmen, supervisors, and such. Pavley has unions and the Democratic leadership of the state. Neither are a great surprise, and neither sway me. Issue-wise, I like much of what Zink says. He lost me, however, when he talked about increased spending for prisons. There is limited discretionary funding in the state, and spending for prisons comes at the expense of the California university system. We can’t have that — what will make California lead again are our universities. Looking at Pavley’s positions on the issues, she talks about supporting the California university system. That’s a big plus for me. She’s also had a lot of support for highway projects.

(I’ll note that this is a similar position to the primary, where I said: “This is easier: one Democrat (Fran Pavley, a CSUN graduate who wants to lower CS and UC tuition), and one Republican (Todd Zink, whose positions also seem reasonable). Both have reasonable positions; I’m giving the edge to Pavley simply because I’m tired of having a Republican as my state senator (which is what I’ve had for years).”)

Conclusion: Leaning Fran Pavley

California State Assembly, 45th District

This is a battle between Chris Kolski (R) and Bob Blumenfield (D), the incumbent. Again, both are new to Northridge, thanks to redistricting; previously, we had a Republican from Santa Clarita, Sharon Runner. I like that Kolski is an Engineer from UCLA… but he’s also campaigning against folks like Waxman and Obama (even though he is not running for Federal office) and states he is “an active Reagan Conservative”. His issues page talks national issues, not state issues. Blumenfield’s issue page is on his assembly website, but doesn’t really say all that much. His accomplishments page gives some more clues, but he seems to be mostly consumer issues. I don’t see any mention of state infrastructure, nor of transportation. So it looks like this battle is between someone who is campaigning on the Federal issues and people he is against, and an incumbent supported primarily by unions who isn’t strongly for anything either.  Weak choices, both.

(Again, I’ll note that we only had these two to choose from in the primary battle, and I drew similar conclusions: “Kolski, although he’s an EE (+) and a UCLA grad (+), is campaigning on an anti-Waxman platform (I like Waxman) and is for returning to the gold standard (bad idea).” In other words, I voted for Blumenfield only because I couldn’t stomach voting for Kolski.)

Conclusion: Coin Toss, but probably Blumenfield, simply on the hope he’ll work better with the Governor.

Los Angeles County District Attorney

This is a non-partisan battle between Alan Jackson and Jackie Lacey. Jackson is mostly endorsed by the Republican establishment and law enforcement groups. Jackson also has the endorsement of the LA Daily News. Lacey is endorsed by the LA Times, the state Atty General, the LA District Attorney, and the Democratic establishment.  Jackson’s issues page does have a discussion of high-tech crimes and cybersecurity — a plus. Lacey doesn’t have an issue page, but her “about me” page gives insight into her positions. I think I”m leaning towards Lacey, simply because she’s already in the DA’s office, and knows how it works. (I’ll note that, looking back, I supported Lacey in the primary as well)

Conclusion: Jackie Lacey.

County Measure A: LA County Assessor – Appointed or Elected?

This is an advisory vote on whether to change the LA County assessor from an elected position to an appointed position. Appointed positions could be subject to cronyism, but elected positions really are meaningless when people don’t understand what the office does or the qualifications. A yes vote means that we might see this on a future ballot, but it is advisory only. I think we might as well get it on the ballot, so we can really analyze the pros and cons.

Conclusion: Yes on A

County Measure B: Require Adult Film Actors to Wear Condoms

This would require adult film performers to wear condoms while engaged in sex acts, provide proof of blood borne pathogen training courses, etc. Violations would result in civil fines and criminal charges.

To me, this is “nanny state”. Adult film actors are simply that: adults. They are tested very very regularly, and and failure is well known and publicized. For the county to step in and attempt to monitor this is both silly and a waste of money that should be spent elsewhere.

Conclusion: No on B

Los Angeles County MTA Measure J: Accelerating Traffic Relief

This measure would continue the 1/2% sales tax for transportation projects for another 30 years. From my work on the highway pages, I’ve seen the good this money has done. Our infrastructure is crumbling, so there’s no doubt about how I’ll vote on this.

Conclusion: Yes on J


Well, that’s it. In three posts, I’ve gone through the entire ballot. Probably not surprising to those who know me, I’ve ended up supporting the Democratic candidates, although I did at least attempt to look at the positions of all the other candidates. I hope it has proved useful for you to read, as it has been for me to write and research. As I’ve said before, convincing arguments on any of these issues are welcome.



California Ballot Analysis Part II: Federal Offices

This is the second of three posts that analyze all the choices on my sample ballot. This post looks at the Federal offices on the ballot. The previous post, “California Ballot Analysis Part I: The Propositions“, looked at the California propositions. The last post will look at the local offices and measures.

As I stated in the first post, On November 6, most of you will have the opportunity to vote. I hope you do so, and I hope you study and make intelligent decisions about which candidates and positions to support. This means supporting a candidate or position on the basis of your own research and the facts, not the pablum spewed by commercials nor the invective spewed on the Internet. I never have a problem with a political position arrived at honestly and based on facts. The same goes if you categorically reject the possibility of any new tax, or believe the government is always evil. I want discussions based in reality, not fantasy worlds. To that end, every year I go through my entire sample ballot and present you with my positions on everything. This allows me to research it all, present that research, and allow others to possible convince me to change my current position before the election.

So let’s look at the Federal offices:

President and Vice President

This is the biggie, so let’s start with the third-party candidates. They don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, but they can influence an election — often based on who they take votes away from. First, I think we can dismiss Rosanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan (Peace and Freedom). If for some reason she won, this country would truly be laughed at — in more ways that one. It is for this reason that I’m not even bothering to look into their issues. We’ve had enough trouble with actors as politicians — I’ve previously mentioned Fred Grandy, George Murphy, Ronnie Reagan, and Arnold Schwartznegger. Next time, Peace and Freedom, nominate someone with credibility.

The American Independent party is running Tom Hoefling and Robert Ornelas. Their platform states, “A Resolution affirming vital existing constitutional protections for the unalienable right to life of every innocent person, from the first moment of creation until natural death.”. Sorry. Such an unconditional position I cannot stomach.  They also want “a Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and oppose all attempts everywhere to redefine marriage as being anything but what it has always been: the union of one man and one woman”. I’m sorry, I just can’t support these folks.

Of the third parties, that leaves the Greens and the Libertarians. The Greens are running Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. I like many of the ideas of the Green Party. However, I think a lot of them are idealist and pie in the sky, and would never get through a Congress dominated by the traditional parties. I also disagree with their cuts on the Defense budget. The issue is not the size of the Defense budget, but where and how it is spent. Simple cuts demonstrate simplistic thinking that defense is guards, guns, and gates. Much better is to direct Defense spending back into advance research and cyber-areas. I think their position on Defense, as well as some of their overly idealistic ideas loses them my vote.

What about the Libertarians? They are running Gary Johnson and James P. Gray. Gary Johnson should get the Ron Paul vote; if any candidate might gain enough votes to sink one side, it might be Johnson. Again, I like a number of his positions. However, I have a basic disagreement with the Libertarian approach of a minimal government: I believe it is a government’s responsibility to do good — in particular, to make life better for its citizens through its activities. I see words that make me think they want to return to the gold standard (a bad idea), abolish the IRS, eliminate “Obamacare”, and stop spending on transportation. Transportation infrastructure is what helps America work. Basically, the Libertarians cut Government too far back for my taste; as such, I don’t think I can hold with the Libertarian position.

So that leaves us with the major party candidates: Barack Obama/Joe Biden and Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan. First, let’s get it out of the way: Obama is not a Socialist. Read up on Socialism,  and it is pretty clear that is not the direction the country is moving. Obama is not a Muslim either, despite having a middle name of Hussain. He’s Christian. Obama is a citizen, and I believe his birth certificate is valid. Bring up any of that BS, and we won’t have a discussion.

I”ve studied Romney and Ryan’s positions a bit. I do not like their social positions: I support same-sex marriage. I believe women have the right to do what they want with their bodies. I’m very nervous when the positions of one religion get enshrined into law. I also disagree with the repeal of Obamacare — I think it is doing good and will do more good. I disagree with a voucher system for Medicare — I’m one of the folks that will be affected, being 52. I disagree with the increase in the Defense Budget Romney proposed, primarily because it’s going for the wrong things. I disagree on the notions of never raising taxes: I think we need a mixture of new revenue and government cutbacks. I also cannot support a candidate who keeps changing his positions during a single campaign. Romney seems to be doing that. I appreciate a candidate learning and changing their position, but they should be able to keep the same position during a single campaign, or at least publically admit they have changed their position from what they said during the primary.

But, you say, is the economy better under Obama? I think it is getting better. These things take time, and its hard to recover an economy when the Congress doesn’t go along with any proposals. We probably would have recovered faster had the stimulus been larger, but that didn’t happen — which led to slow growth. Congress has rejected attempts to raise revenue in a fair fashion; they have rejected job programs. They then publicly blame Obama because they didn’t do their job and find a workable compromise.

But, you say, Obama is too liberal. Actually… he’s not. The Obamacare that is rallied against is what was proposed by the Republicans in Mass. It was a compromise position (the Democrats really wanted single payer) that was crafted to get Republican votes, before the Republicans decided they would not do anything that would give the President a claimable victory. The Democrats never took that intransigent an attitude when Bush was in office. If you look at the legislation and positions taken by the Obama administration, they have been moderate and perhaps overly cautious. This has infuriated the far left side of the Democratic base, but Obama wanted the compromise. Still, everytime a compromise was arrived at, the Republican house (often led by folks like Paul Ryan) moved the goal post.

This does highlight one of Obama’s failings: He hasn’t been able to use the power of personality to convince the House to go along with him. But, you say, shouldn’t this mean someone else should get a try. Perhaps, but I don’t believe Romney would have any more luck with a Democratic senate. Romney recently has been espousing moderate positions he never took during the primary; the Republican base would try to push through the conservative positions… which would be soundly rejected by the Senate. We need to figure out how to get past this intense partisanship. Back in 2008, I believe it was due to bad blood between the Clintons and the Bushes (which is why I supported Obama over Clinton). Nowadays, I think it is just a bad habit and misunderstood patriotism… and a side effect of the Internet amplifying the extreme voices. America was built on compromise from our start (don’t believe me — go see “1776” — it’s at Cabrillo at the end of October).

In general, I like what Obama has tried to do. He has been advised well. He has made mistakes — as have all Presidents — and has hopefully learned from those mistakes. But I think his approach is the right one, and I’m willing to leave the country under his leadership for four more years.

So, how am I going to vote? If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m squarely in the Barack Obama camp.

Conclusion: Barack Obama and Joe Biden

United States Senator

For this office, we have two candidates: Dianne Feinstein (D) and Elizabeth Emken (R). Emken wants to repeal Obamacare, was against the stimulus, wants to bring back a Bracero program, wants no new taxes, is anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage. Basically, the Republicans opted not to run a candidate that would be viable in California. There’s only one clear choice.

Conclusion: Dianne Feinstein.

United States Representative

In our district, the 30th, we have an interesting battle: two incumbent Democratic congressmen, both good men: Howard Berman vs. Brad Sherman. In reality, either would be great. Right now, I’m leaning towards Howard Berman, primarily because he has the seniority, and in the senate, seniority means power.  However, I’m open to an argument as to why one is better than the other.

Looking at endorsements: both have gotten good endorsements. Berman seems to have the support of most papers, the governor, both California senators, other senators from both parties, members of congress, and loads of leaders. Sherman has Bill Clinton, a number of other members of congress, the Lt. Governor, and lots of Democratic groups and unions. I think Berman’s endorsements are slightly stronger; I hope the Republican endorsements mean he can work more on bipartisanship.

On the issues, Berman and Sherman are very similar. Neither of them talk much about their position regarding the Department of Defense and Cybersecurity. Berman does have an active history in Intellectual Property (which is not a surprise, as he was representing Hollywood), but Sherman is taking similar positions.

The new district configuration was created by redistricting, and ended up putting two strong Democratic candidates against each other. We’ll be served well if either wins — and yes, this is a case of Congress is bad, but my congresscritter is good (and that’s true for our previous congresscritter, Henry Waxman,  as well). I’m on Berman’s side primarily because of seniority and bipartisan endorsements, but this is a real coin toss.

Current Position: Leaning towards Howard Berman.

What’s Next?

The third post in this series will look at the state legislative positions, the one county position, and the three county measures.

ETA: (Part III: State and Local Offices, Local Measures)


California Ballot Analysis Part I: The Propositions

On November 6, most of you will have the opportunity to vote. I hope you do so, and I hope you study and make intelligent decisions about which candidates and positions to support. This means supporting a candidate or position on the basis of your own research and the facts, not the pablum spewed by commercials nor the invective spewed on the Internet. I never have a problem with a political position arrived at honestly and based on facts (meaning I have no patience with those that believe the lies spewed around — so (for example) if I read that Pres. Obama is a socialist (he isn’t; learn what socialism is), a Muslim, or a non-citizen, I’ll dismiss any further discussion with you. Similarly, if I see similar invective about Gov. Romney (he’s the devil; he’s out to make America solely for the rich), I’ll dismiss any further discussion. The same goes if you categorically reject the possibility of any new tax, or believe the government is always evil. I want discussions based in reality, not fantasy worlds.

To that end, every year I go through my entire sample ballot and present you with my positions on everything. This allows me to research it all, present that research, and allow others to possible convince me to change my current position before the election. As I just received my State of California Voter Information Guide, I figured I would start with the propositions this morning. Here’s the summary for the TL;DR crowd:

30 Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment Strong Yes
31 State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute Leaning No
32 Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute Strong No
33 Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute. Leaning No
34 Death Penalty. Initiative Statute. Leaning Yes
35 Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute. Leaning No
36 Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute. Leaning Yes
37 Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute. Leaning Yes
38 Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute. Strong No
39 Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute. Leaning Yes
40 Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum. Strong Yes


Proposition 30: Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Prop 30 is an initiative primarily supported by the Governor Brown intended primarily to fund education and public safety. It increases the sales tax rate by ¼% through the end of 2016, and increases the personal income tax rate on incomes over $250K single, $500K joint for 7 years. This additional money would flow into the general fund, and could be used to support public schools, public universities, health programs, social services, and prisons. Having more funds would increase the minimum guaranteed funding going to K-12 and community colleges, and make more funding available for public universities. The funds would supposedly be deposited into an Education Protection Account, of which 89% goes to K-12 and 11% goes to Community Colleges. This would free up other funds in the general fund; those funds could then be used for public universities and such. The funds would also be available to help balance the budget. The 2012-2013 state budget provides that if this measure fails, there will be significant cuts to education: $5B to K-12 and community colleges, $250M to each of UC and CSU. It moves local public safety programs to local controls, and guarantees new revenue will be used for school funding. Although the title talks about public safety funding (and there is some text in the initiative), it is not in the legislative analysts summary, leading me to conclude that the public safety aspect is more in budget stability and the guaranteed funding to the county and local level.

The argument against this is that it does not provide new funding for education — which it doesn’t, except as it increases the minimum guaranteed. The argument also indicates that it does not reform pensions or eliminate school bureaucratic problems. That’s right, it doesn’t.

My thoughts… I now have a child in the UC system, which has been devastated by budget cuts. Passing this measure prevents an immediate cut to CSU and UC, and will make more funds available for those systems in the future by providing a steadier source of school funding. It is not a perfect measure and does not solve the structural problems, but one rarely sees a perfect initiative.  The financial impact for most Californians is small (slight sales tax increase), and the net tax rate increase for the upper brackets is smaller than the competing measure. I think this measure needs to pass to help the state find financial stability and to help fund UC and CSU. Strong Yes.

Proposition 31:  State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

 This proposition makes revision to the state’s budgeting process and how things are funded. It creases a two year budget cycle, and requires that almost all bills that have expenditures or cuts of $25M or more (adjusted for inflation) have offsetting cuts/revenue. It requires that bills be posted for 3 days before passage. It also creates something called Community Strategic Action Plans, where states or local governments indicate how they will implement a law, or take a functionally equivalent approach. It shifts some sales tax revenues to local governments, and allows transfer of local property taxes. It requires a regular review of public programs.

My thoughts… Reading through the proposed law and the ballot arguments, there are things I like and things I don’t. I like the two year budget cycle. I like the notion of offsetting spending with cuts, or tax cuts with revenue elsewhere, but the implementation in this proposal is ambiguous and probably won’t be effective at all. I’m not sure I like the “functionally equivalent” approach to implementing state requirements, simply because not all nuances will be captured. The 3 day visibility aspect is likely noise, and bills are already posted on the web. This sorta leads me to a “no” position, but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. Leaning No.

Proposition 32: Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute

This is one of the big battleground propositions. It bans unions in particular (and corporations or government contractors, if they did it) from collecting money from paychecks for political activities without written consent. It prohibits unions and corporations from contributing directly or indirectly to candidates and candidate-control committees. Other political expenditures are unrestricted. It also prohibits government contractor contributions to elected officers or officer-controlled committees.

My thoughts… This seems balanced, but really isn’t. Unions are prohibited from collecting money from members (their sole source of income) and using them for candidates, although they could create PACs. The same is true for corporations and govt. contractors, but those entities have other sources of income. So, essentially, this ties the hands of unions by restricting the money they can collect while still permitting corporations to use profits to fund political activities. Let’s put it another way. Assume Chik-Fil-A was unionized. This would prevent the CFA Union from collecting funds from workers without written consent; thus, they would have limited funds to work for gay rights. Yet Chick-Fil-A would be free to take the profit from every sandwich you buy, without your consent, and use it to work against gay rights. That’s not fair. Strong No.

Proposition 33: Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.

This proposition is a modification of previous proposals that permit insurance companies to set prices based on whether the drive previously carried auto insurance with any insurance companies. It allows discounts if there was some history of prior insurance coverage (with increases if there isn’t continuous coverage). It defines continuous coverage as <90 days, or < 18 months if there is loss of employment or military service. Children residing with a parent could get the parent’s discount.

My thoughts… This is a retry of an initiative from Mercury Insurance that failed before. They make some tweaks, and qualified it again. On the surface, it seems like a reasonable idea: you shouldn’t have to go back to Square Zero with respect to a persistency discount when you switch insurance companies; this could prevent people from switching and hurt competition. But there is no such thing as a free lunch with a corporation: if they are giving a discount, it won’t come out of profits, but because someone else is paying more. So who pays more? Looking at the measure, there are some clear omissions. Its lapse period, except for veterans, those unemployed due to layoff or furlough, is only 90 days. That’s awfully short. Most people are on 6 mo or 1 year policies, so this measure will affect those on month-to-month insurance much more. It has no provisions that address dropping insurance due to a long medical condition, nor provisions that affect those out of work due to a company going out of business, being fired, quitting. It indicates that children can get a parent’s discount, but doesn’t define the age of those children. Thus older children in college who don’t have insurance might be penalized. So, again, this seems like a good idea but a bad implementation. Leaning No.

Proposition 34: Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.

This proposition essentially repeals the death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It applies retroactively, and requires those guilty of murder must work in prison. It also directs $100M to law enforcement to investigate homicide and rape cases.

My thoughts… I’ve never been a big fan of the death penalty. It’s never been shown to be a deterrent, primarily because no one is ever swiftly executed. There are appeals upon appeals, which cost lots of money. Further, technology is permitting us to discover that some judged as guilty were really not; it is wrong for the state to execute someone who is innocent. Passing this law also is likely to save the state quite of bit of money. The argument against blames the ACLU and indicates it lets criminals escape justice. I find that specious. It doesn’t release them: they are still in prison. I’m inclined to support this measure, unless I’m presented with clear statistics that the death penalty is a stronger deterrent than life imprisonment, and that no innocent person has ever been jailed wrongly. Leaning Yes.

Proposition 35: Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

This proposition increases the criminal penalties for human trafficking, and requires the fines collected to be used for victim services and law enforcement. It classifies the trafficker as a sex offender, and requires sex offenders to provide information regarding Internet access and the identities they use.

My thoughts… Human trafficking is a bad thing. However, it is also rare: only a few people have been sent to state prison for it, and there are currently only 18 such offenders. Do we need to increase the penalties for these crimes? Unclear. With parole and such, it would keep them in longer, but what is unknown is what percentage are repeat offenders. If they don’t repeat after prison, the increased penalties as merely punitive.  Of greater concern for me is expanding the sex offender category to include them. I already believe we are overly punitive in that area, for not all crimes classified as sex offenses are equal. Someone who forcibly abducts a child and sexually abuses them is something very different than consensual sex between a 19 year old and a 17 year old, but both are sex crimes and brand the offender for life. Furthermore, it changes the definition of the crime of trafficking to include the creation and distribution of obscene materials depicting minors. I was once at a computer security conference where someone said the easiest way to get somebody was to break into their system and plant child porn. Based on the expansion of these provisions, I just don’t like this proposal. Leaning No.

Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

This proposition revises the three strikes law to impose life sentences only when new felony convictions are serious or violent. It authorizes re-sentencing for those currently serving life sentences if the third strike was not serious or violent and there is not risk to public safety, except for certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offenses, or if the prior convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation.

My thoughts… I always get worried when the argument against starts blaming the ACLU. Remember what I said earlier about cogent arguments? Looking at the text of the measure, it generally tightens the restrictions of three strikes to be for serious or violent felonies — words that were not in the original measure. Most papers seem to be in favor of the measure, as are major district attorneys. In general, this seems to be doing the right thing: tweaking the law to ensure that state resources are used to lock up serious and violent offenders, but not imposing life sentences unnecessarily. It fits my notion of justice. Leaning Yes.

Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.

This proposition has seen a lot of advertising. It requires labeling of raw or processed food if it is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specific ways, and calling such food natural. It exempts foods that are certified organic, unintentionally produced with GM materials, made from animals fed or injected with GM materials but not GM-themselves, processed with or containing only a small amount of such material, sold for immediate consumption in a restaurant, or alcoholic beverages. This was placed on the ballot by natural food manufacturers and concerned consumers; it is opposed by almost every major food processing company.

My thoughts… We don’t know if GM food is safe. Testing shows it appears to be safe, but we really don’t know the long term effects. So, siding on the side of forewarned is forearmed, it would make sense to inform consumers. What’s the downside of this? First, a number of things are exempted, so if you believe this measure will keep GM material out of you, you’re wrong. Thus it gives a false sense of security. Secondly, it applies only to California. This means that manufacturers will either have to create packaging just for California (highly unlikely), or use California-compliant packaging in the rest of the country. That might not be a bad thing — look at what California emissions standards have done for fuel standards overall. I agree with my wife on this one: As flawed as this measure is, I’d still like to see the labels. Leaning Yes.

Proposition 38: Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.

This proposition is primarily backed by Molly Munger. It increases personal income taxes on almost all Californians (starting with those earning over $7.3K), and allocates 60^ of the revenues to K-12 schools, 30% to state dept, and 10% to early childhood education (ECE). After four years, that goes to 85% to K-12, and 15% to ECE. K-12 funding is on a school-specific, per-pupil basis.

My thoughts… I don’t like this measure for a number of reasons. Primarily, this measure provides no funding for higher education: community colleges, UC, and CSU. It provides specific dictates on funding that cannot be amended. It is very heavily focused on ECE. I don’t like this rigidity; I don’t like the extent of the tax increase on those who can least afford it. Further, if it gets more votes than Prop. 30, it will mean a $250M cut to each of UC and CSU. I cannot stomach that. Strongly No.

Proposition 39: Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.

This proposition requires multistate businesses to calculate their California tax liability based on the percentage of sales in California, and repeals an existing law giving permission to choose a different formula. It dedicates the increase in revenue for energy efficiency and clean energy jobs.

My thoughts… The basic argument against this is that businesses in California will pay more taxes, and thus want to leave California. I’m not sure that’s the case. This was created in a budget compromise a few years ago, and it was a bad idea then.  Right now, I’m inclined to support this. Leaning Yes.

Proposition 40: Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.

This proposition approves the new State Senate districts drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission; if rejected, the boundaries will be adjusted by officials supervised by the California Supreme Court.

My thoughts…I voted for the Citizens Redistricting Commission, and generally like their work. The opposition has indicated they no longer seek a no vote. No brainer. Strong Yes.


As always, if you wish to convince me otherwise on these propositions, I welcome cogent and coherent arguments. Subsequent posts will look into the positional campaigns (President, etc.) and Los Angeles local measures (including the condom referendum).

ETA: (Part II: Federal Offices; Part III: State and Local Offices, Local Measures)


Observations on the First Presidential Debate 2012

Last night, I watched the first Presidential Debate of the 2012 General Election. I thought I would share with you my thoughts and observations over lunch.

Strictly in terms of performance, I thought that Gov. Romney did a better job. His responses were smooth with few pauses. He conveyed warmth and sincerity. President Obama also came across as sincere and warm (especially when he flashed the winning smile), but his pauses and hesitations when speaking (what I would call the “um” factor) hurt him greatly.

This, by the way, agrees with the media perception. But then again, the media wants an election to be like the weather report. A weather report that is the same is dull; one that goes from hot to cold to hot is exciting and can be spun for ratings. Same thing with an election: it is rare to have an election where one candidate goes up up up. To the media, amplifying Romney’s performance helps make the election exciting and turns in the viewers. Any non-embarassing performance would have been declared a win (so when you combine that with Obama’s stiff performance), the media is selling Romney as the winner based on performance alone.

But we don’t elect a President on performance alone. After all, who would want an actor as President. Actors belong on the stage, not in the House, Senate, Governors Office, or the Oval Office.*
[*: Grandy, Murphy, Ahhnold, Ronnie. However, comic writers do make great Senators.]

Think about it this way: Expensive foreign sports cars often look great and perform well, but when you look under the hood, you find the flaws in their design that will end up costing you a lot of money in the long run. Sometimes the best engineered car may be dull on the outside. When choosing that car for your family, what do you prefer: the brand-new Porsche or the four-year old Volvo? So let’s look at the candidate’s positions and what they said.

One thing that struck me initially was how similar the positions of Romney and Obama seemed to be. Given what I had read previously about Romney, this came as quite a surprise. It appears that in the last week or two (especially as Romney has gone down in the polls), Romney’s positions have been shifting to the center. Now I don’t expect candidates to pick a position and stick with them. I’m happy to see a politician who can learn over time that their initial positions were wrong, and move to a position that’s better for the country. But I would expect that within a short term (i.e., a single election) their positions would remain consistent. If they can’t keep a position for that long, then I would wonder whether what they were telling me was what they were really going to stick with. Right now, even though Romney came across as very moderate in the debate, I have little confidence that he will remain that way (especially in the face of a Republican House that is being driven by the Tea Party).

During the debate, I listened closely to a number of the positions, and although I thought Romney gave the better performance, I think that Obama had the better positions. So what didn’t I like about Romney’s positions:

  • I do not like Romney’s approach on Medicare. I’m 52; I’m part of that group nearing Medicare age, but young enough that I would be affected by Romney’s voucher approach. I don’t think vouchers are the way to go for Medicare; I think the President is correct when he indicates that insurance companies will cherry pick the healthy seniors, and will leave those with more expensive conditions to burden Medicare. Medicare needs the balance in order to be successful.
  • I do not like Romney’s categorical rejection of taxes or revenue. I do not believe that simple loophole or deduction reduction can obtained the increased revenue to offset the income loss from the rate cuts Romney proposes; if it was that easy, it would have been done. I also do not like Romney’s rejection of the notion of $1 in revenue for every $10 in cuts. That’s a reasonable approach.
  • I do not like Romney’s misrepresentation of existing policies. He indicated he supported the work of the bipartisan commission, while ignoring the fact that his VP was one of the people responsible for torpedoing the effort. He misrepresented the Obamacare commission as dictating what care was permitted, while ignoring the fact that they legally cannot do that.
  • I do not like Romney’s lack of specifics. If Romney is going to be cutting deductions and such to raise income, I’d like to know what they are. If he has a replacement health plan, I want to know what it is. If he has specific approaches on jobs, I want to know what they are. If he wants to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank, I want to know what parts. Presidents should be able to present a strawman proposal to Congress, which Congress will then modify. That’s the purpose of a President — executive leadership. Coming in with a general goal and leaving it up to Congress is not leadership. Leaving it up to Congress to come up with the solution is the mark of a weak President; further, it doesn’t work, for if it did, our problems would have been solved long ago.
  • I do not like Romney’s ignoring the behavior of Congress. Especially with respect to the economy, the President has little power. Although the President could propose ideas, we were dealing with a Congress that refused to go along with anything. If Romney wins, I don’t think that will change (we’ll still have a Democratic senate). I don’t see how Romney would be able to overcome that problem; I can’t see him doing it by moving to the left (if people recall, Obama tried moving to the right, and that didn’t convince Congress). Saying he was able to do it in Mass. is no guarantee it will work at the National level.
  • I do not like Romney’s general approach to healthcare: that is, turning it back to the states. That hasn’t worked before: states have been free to set up their own solutions to the healthcare problem, and they haven’t done it. I see no reason that would compel them to do so after Obamacare is repealed. I certainly do not believe his claims regarding pre-existing conditions no longer being a factor.
  • I do not like that Romney played loose with the facts. They sounded good during the debate, but subsequent checking has shown a number of his statements to be false or exaggerated.
  • I do not like Romney’s threat to cut funding for NPR or PBS. These funds support presentation of the arts to the country, and we’re seeing enough attacks on the arts. Governments have always played a role in promulgating culture.
  • I do not like Romney’s mocking of green energy initiatives. When you are encouraging companies in a cutting edge area, some will fail. Those that succeed will endow America with technology and innovations that will pay off for years to come. I view this as an example of how Romney would view research in new areas as something not worthy of Government investment.
  • I do not like how Romney’s states how he wants job growth, but then cavalierly talks about government cutbacks. Most of these cutbacks… at the local, state, and Federal levels… mean massive job cuts and people losing well paying jobs. Just because someone works for the government does not make their job loss something to dismiss. Further, the cutbacks have impacts on contractors and vendors further down the supply chain. Yes, we need to cut waste in government, but we also need to pay attention to all the good people that support the government, honestly, and who view it as important a service to the nation as those in our armed forces.
  • I don’t like how Romney doesn’t do the math. In relationship to my last point, Romney did say he wants the cuts to be through attrition, but attrition is not that the rate that would actually save money or eliminate duplicity — meaning there would need to be significant cuts. There was similar funny math in his numbers behind his tax proposals, where he couldn’t get the savings he claimed, or in his Medicare proposal which, over the long term, wouldn’t create the savings he claims.

In short, much as I was impressed by Romney’s performance, I don’t believe his positions will move the country in the correct direction. I may not agree with everything President Obama has done, but overall I think he has moved the country onto the slow path of steady recovery. Children want instant gratification; they want Mommy or Daddy to kiss it and make it better right now… and they throw a tantrum if they don’t get it. Parents know that sometimes things take time to heal; much as we might want it better instantly, to heal it in a way that will be strong for the long term takes time and patience. I think we’re starting to see signs that the healing is occurring. At the present time, I see no reason to divert from that path — I’d rather keep the healing progressing than to rip off the bandage and try a different treatment.

[Disclaimer: Of course, this is my opinion, and I respect those of you who have different opinions. I’m always open to well thought out and cogent discussions of subjects.]