I also know that this opinion probably makes me about as popular as a skunk at a picnic. There's not a lot I can do about my opinion, I suppose, but maybe I can try to explain why it is my opinion.
While I don't believe that all of the Bush tax cuts were wonderful (for instance, I think that an estate tax starting at a relatively high level -- say, $10 million or so -- would be a reasonable idea), I think that they've provided a reasonable stimulus for an economy that was sorely in need of one after the Internet bubble burst. I think that reductions in the marriage penalty are good public policy as is providing some sort of equalization between the tax rate on dividends and capital gains, even if I think that there are better mechanisms than the one that was actually added to the tax code. (Why? Well, the problem is that taxing dividends at a higher rate than capital gains incents corporations to do stupid things with money that they probably should distribute to the shareholders.) I hope -- in the future -- to see something done about the Alternative Minimum Tax so that it stops catching the middle class in a net that wasn't designed for them.
I believe that Bush is trying to come to grips with the massive unfunded liabilities in our Social Security and Medicare programs. While it may be true that his current plan for private investment accounts could require $2 trillion in transition funding, I've seen estimates that the unfunded liability is about 40 times that. As a tail-end Baby Boomer, I'd like to feel like I have a chance of getting some benefits without riding too heavily on the backs of the the folks who will still be working at that time. Kerry's sole proposal in that area involved means testing benefits and I believe that anyone who actually was successful in saving for their retirement will find themselves means tested out once we start doing that.
I was briefly intrigued by Kerry's proposal for the government to step in as a insurer of last resort for catastrophic illness, but the actual proposal that I saw presented would have covered 75% of the cost of treatment. While this might be a wonderful thing for those who can afford the remaining 25% of the cost (Senator Kerry and his wife come to mind), it's a piss poor solution for the folks who can't afford it and still find themselves having to choose between bankruptcy and death. Bush seems to be working toward a system where health insurance becomes insurance again, as opposed to the current system of low deductibles and co-pays that makes everyone insensitive to the actual cost of treatment and which encourages overuse of the resources by those who are covered, while forcing those who aren't covered into the most expensive care available, either in emergency rooms or just in being the only people who are paying the "rack rate" for services that are widely discounted.
I don't know how many of you are aware of this, but I saw an interview with Bush last week where he made it clear that he was in favor of allowing civil unions. Yes, the questioner did a double-take, asked again, and Bush confirmed this. I believe that -- despite the massive backlash against gay marriage that we saw at the polls yesterday -- there's a reasonable possibility of putting together a majority opinion in favor of civil unions and not applying the entire body of marriage-related law to a relationship that isn't exactly the one that the law was designed for. And I think that -- if you polled public opinion -- you'd find that there are a lot of people who would be in favor of implementing all of the humanitarian benefits that civil unions would provide, such as next-of-kin relationships and inheritance, if you didn't simultaneously provide governmental subsidies that were designed to support the nuclear family of the 1950s. We wouldn't call it "marriage", because it just ticks a lot of people off to no good purpose -- and gets you into having to examine a huge mass of case law. And there's no reason that the form shouldn't be available to both same sex and mixed sex couples.
And people entering into a civil union should have whatever kind of ceremony that they and their religion (or lack thereof) support. And they can refer to their relationship in any way that seems appropriate to them. It's none of my business.
I don't agree with the restrictions that Bush has placed on Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, but I believe that it is a respectable position to take in a country where a substantial number of people believe that human life begins at conception, despite the fact that this is not my personal belief.
Like many of you, I worry about reductions in our civil liberties as a result of the War on Terror. But I don't believe that Bush's behavior is substantially different than we would see from a Democratic administration under these circumstances, much as bedlamhouse pointed out in his extremely cogent post earlier today. And I see that -- when a court rules that he has overstepped the bounds of law and Constitutionality -- the Administration obeys those rulings.
I know that many of you find Bush's foreign policy and the Iraq War to be reprehensible. I respectfully disagree.
I am an American. I am proud to be an American, but I have not always been proud of the things that we have done. Our support of various dictators in our attempt to confine global Communism is a blot upon our history, no matter how good an idea it might have seemed to have been at the time.
That world no longer exists. Soviet-style Communism is an idea that is being consigned to the ashheap of history. I have seen Germans dancing on top of the Berlin Wall, a sight that I never thought I would see in my lifetime. The chance of global annihilation in a nuclear war is far less than it was when I was young -- which is not to say that cities might not yet be destroyed again by nuclear weapons, but that the human race is much more likely to survive long enough to spread beyond this planet.
And I am proud that my country helped all this to happen.
There are those who say that we brought the attacks on 9/11 on ourselves and -- to some limited extent -- they are correct. We had help, of course, from the British and the French, as we created countries out of whole cloth following World War I, set up monarchies that turned to dictatorships, and threw together peoples who would hever have been in a single state together if they had a choice about it. But we drew such entertainingly straight lines on the map and believed that they would work out.
We were wrong.
Among all of the nations in the world, Americans are perhaps the best at forgetting. This turns out to be a tremendous asset. We have forgotten that "No Irish need apply". We have forgotten that a Catholic could never be elected President. Some day, we will forget that we can't elect someone Jewish, or black, or female as President, and we'll forget about discriminating against them in other ways. Because we've proven to be pretty good at forgetting and I don't foresee that changing.
There are other places in the world that desperately need to forget the wrongs that were done to their people ten or fifty or five hundred or more years ago. And I see no better hope for helping them to forget than the twin memes of democracy and capitalism.
If we can help them learn, just as we continue to learn, that the measure of a person is not who his ancestors were, but who he is and who he might become; that there is truth in Jefferson's statement "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness", then we may be able to help them forget why it is that they should hate each other.
Some people claim that you cannot impose democracy at the point of a gun and this would be true. But I look at Afghanistan, where the people with no tradition of democracy stood in line for the chance to vote, and I believe that there is fertile ground in so many places for these ideas. And I look at the news reports from Iraq and I see, in between the people who are determined to hate and kill, a people who might just be willing to put hate aside for a while and see how it works.
We have a chance to be on the right side of history.
We have a chance to fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
And given the danger that is posed by radical Islamic regimes that engage in state-sponsored terrorism, I believe that we would be foolish to pass up this chance.
I hope and pray that we succeed.