Final Day of the Convention
Well it was the final day of the Republican Convention. After three days of mostly attacks on Kerry and terror mongering, we finally get to hear from Bush himself. After Schwartzenegger telling us all that to be good patriots, we need to be Republicans. After Giuliani telling us that we should thank God George Bush was in power after 9/11. After Zell Miller's rant and red faced rage and hatred of Kerry. After Laura Bush's impassioned plea for us to remember the good her husband has done, even if she had to tell half truths and exaggerations to do so. After the Bush twin's giggly high school performance. After Cheney's outright lies.
Here is the main event. Warm up was provided by Pataki, who did a serviceable job with a noted lack of charisma. He basically repeated a lot of what had already been said, i.e. we are all in danger, 9/11, Bush is decisive, 9/11, Kerry is a flip flopper, 9/11. One of his recurring themes was the phrase "and he did it". So he said things like "Bush wanted to improve education accountability, and he did it." The implication of course is that when he says something, he will do it. Kind of like when he said we would catch Osama Bin Laden, Dead or Alive. Or when he said he would fight the formation of the 9/11 commission, or the department of homeland security. Or when he said we would find WMD. Or when he said his tax cuts would help the middle class.
The most notable thing about Pataki's speech though was that he actually mention Bin Laden by name!!!! He was the only one I saw throughout the entire week. Enemy number one. The guy who actually attacked us. Actually mentioned. Amazing!
Finally however we get to the main event. Bush is introduced by Senator Thompson (You know, the guy from Law and Order and Hunt for Red October) and a nice biographical movie; a slick production. I am assuming it is supposed to highlight Bush's achievements, but all it actually shows is that Bush is good at organizing photo ops. I am not kidding. The entire 5 to 10 minute movie focuses on three events, 9/11, Bush's photo op with the firemen three days later on ground zero, and then Bush's photo op at the world series where he threw the first pitch. In four years, according to the Republican media guys, that is all he did that was notable.
Now we get to the speech. Actually Bush does a good job, for Bush. He is reasonably articulate, and even gets emotional at one time. I actually think he did a fine job. Too bad the content of his speech was so awful.
I believe every child can learn, and every school must teach -- so we passed the most important federal education reform in history. Because we acted, children are making sustained progress in reading and math, America's schools are getting better, and nothing will hold us back.
This has been a favorite of the Bush camp this convention. And it has mostly been a disaster. Bush has underfunded the act, while providing no additional funds to schools and no additional funds to teachers, and no additional training or tools to help them meet the goals. They are simply told to meet the new standards (which by the way increase every year until they reach the impossible standard of 100% of students passing) or the schools will shut down. Since every school will fail under the impossible 100% standard, we will finally get the republican dream of a fully privatized education system. As for results??? Well some schools have gotten better, some have not. But overall this act simply teaches our schools to focus solely on passing the tests. Not a good way to a well rounded education.
I believe we have a moral responsibility to honor America's seniors -- so I brought Republicans and Democrats together to strengthen Medicare. Now seniors are getting immediate help buying medicine. Soon every senior will be able to get prescription drug coverage, and nothing will hold us back.
The prescription drug benefit has been a joke. The discount cards that seniors have to buy have already had their advantage erased by drug companies raising their prices. Without some kind of price controls, the drug companies are having a field day. As for the actual drug benefit Bush wants to implement in Medicare, it is confusing, strangely designed, and doesn't really make a big enough dent, in the face of rising health care costs.
I believe in the energy and innovative spirit of America's workers, entrepreneurs, farmers, and ranchers -- so we unleashed that energy with the largest tax relief in a generation. Because we acted, our economy is growing again, and creating jobs, and nothing will hold us back.
Too bad that only 1 out of the 4 groups of Americans he mentioned actually got any reasonable tax relief; the entrepreneurs, and only the wealthy ones at that. As for the economy growing? It is, but extremely anemically, and we are still down nearly a million jobs from when Bush took office, not to mention the fact that in the meantime millions more Americans have joined the workforce. Tax cuts do provide stimulus, and they have had some effect. The problem is the stimulus is generally short lived. Also the tax cuts went to the wrong people, the wealthiest do not spend their cuts, they save them or use them on luxuries if they do spend them. Finally, the deficit we have generated with the tax cuts will be a long term drag on our economy for years to come, not worth any short term short lived benefit of the tax cuts.
Another drag on our economy is the current tax code, which is a complicated mess -- filled with special interest loopholes, saddling our people with more than six billion hours of paperwork and headache every year. The American people deserve -- and our economic future demands -- a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system. In a new term, I will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code.
This scares the hell out of me. Yes, our tax code is a complicated mess with loopholes for special interests. But the ones exploiting those loopholes are companies like Enron, that didn't pay taxes for 4 out of the last 5 years. You heard that right, NO TAXES. I paid more tax than Enron did. The loopholes and those who take advantage of them are the wealthiest Americans who can afford to invest in tax deferred ways, who can afford the best accountancy advice, who can afford to take advantage of every opportunity for them to save. So why is it such a bad deal that Bush wants to reform this system?
Well because when Bush is talking loopholes, he is not talking about Enron or the wealthy. He is talking about the poor. Bush's economic team have already been quoted saying that the poor don't pay their fair share of taxes, because they "use most of the services provided by the government" and they often pay no tax. Bush's economic team also has indicated they are interested in pursuing a national sales tax. This of course hurts the poor the most, as sales taxes like this are regressive. When Bush says he wants to reform the tax code, expect more of what we have already seen, a shift of the tax burden from the wealthiest Americans to the lower rungs of society.
To stand with workers in poor communities -- and those that have lost manufacturing, textile, and other jobs -- we will create American opportunity zones. In these areas, we'll provide tax relief and other incentives to attract new business, and improve housing and job training to bring hope and work throughout all of America.
This is itself is not a bad idea, but with Bush's record, the emphasis will not be on how these zones can improve the lot of the poorest amongst us, it will be on how can Halliburton and other connected companies make more money by hiring cheap labor tax free. It is instructive to look at how these zones have worked in foreign countries. Places like India have these kinds of prosperity zones, and basically the attract businesses they give the businesses all kinds of incentives, like weakened labor laws, like weaker environmental regulations, like lower wages and lower taxes. It can work if protections are provided for the environment and workers, however that will not be Bush's priority.
We will offer a tax credit to encourage small businesses and their employees to set up health savings accounts, and provide direct help for low-income Americans to purchase them. These accounts give workers the security of insurance against major illness, the opportunity to save tax-free for routine health expenses, and the freedom of knowing you can take your account with you whenever you change jobs. And we will provide low-income Americans with better access to health care: In a new term, I will ensure every poor county in America has a community or rural health center.
In other words we will provide Americans with tax free savings accounts to save and pay for their own medical care. Sounds good in theory, but it really only works for the wealthiest of us. One catastrophic illness, and an account is exhausted and a family bankrupt. It also tends to make families have to make tough choices between health care and other essentials. It also means that routine preventative care usually falls by the wayside, as families try to save for emergencies, but in the process, we end up with an inefficient health care system where we only end up treating people later in the disease, not earlier when more good can be done. Finally, with every American basically purchasing their own medical care, without any kind of group bargaining, medical care costs will continue to go through the roof.
As for the community or rural health centers? Well that is a great example of an empty campaign promise. What exactly is he proposing? Free health clinics? This is an easy thing to say, and then forget.
In this time of change, government must take the side of working families. In a new term, we will change outdated labor laws to offer comp-time and flex-time. Our laws should never stand in the way of a more family-friendly workplace.
Yeah, those pesky laws like overtime laws, and worker protections.
In an ownership society, more people will own their health plans, and have the confidence of owning a piece of their retirement. We will always keep the promise of Social Security for our older workers. With the huge Baby Boom generation approaching retirement, many of our children and grandchildren understandably worry whether Social Security will be there when they need it. We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account -- a nest egg you can call your own, and government can never take away.
This is also very scary. Not only will we be paying our own health care costs, but we will be paying our own retirement costs as well. Young workers will be investing in the stock market instead of contributing to the Social Security trust fund, which is already short of money, which will of course hasten the demise of social security, another Republican hope and wish. As for these wonderful personal accounts, they will be at the mercy of the stock market. All you need is a crash or depression in the value of the market, and all of a sudden millions of retiring workers are on the streets. Or make a few bad decisions and investment choices and watch your retirement going down the drain.
We live in the wealthiest society on the planet. We can afford to take care of those who have served society throughout their lives.
Senator Kerry opposed Medicare reform and health savings accounts. After supporting my education reforms, he now wants to dilute them. He opposes legal and medical liability reform. He opposed reducing the marriage penalty, opposed doubling the child credit, and opposed lowering income taxes for all who pay them. To be fair, there are some things my opponent is for -- he's proposed more than two trillion dollars in new federal spending so far, and that's a lot, even for a senator from Massachusetts. To pay for that spending, he is running on a platform of increasing taxes -- and that's the kind of promise a politician usually keeps.
Kerry does not oppose Medicare reform, just the reform Bush wants. Kerry does oppose health savings accounts, for the same reasons I mentioned above. Kerry does not want to "Dilute" no child left behind, he wants to change it enough so that it is not predesigned to fail. He did not oppose doubling the child credit and removing the marriage penalty, in fact he supported these measures. He simply voted against the overall tax package that Bush was pushing that included these items. It is true he opposing lowering income taxes for ALL who pay them, he wants to repeal the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. As for new spending? Yes he has proposed a lot, but Bush is proposing a very high amount as well, and at least Kerry is showing how he will pay for the increases, repealing the tax cuts for the wealthiest. (By the way, repealing tax cuts that went too far is not the same as increasing taxes, but that is another discussion)
Because religious charities provide a safety net of mercy and compassion, our government must never discriminate against them.
This will make it so that in order to get charity in America, you have to profess a religious belief and attend religious services. This can work, but only if churches are prohibited from expecting any kind of religious proselytizing or religious change in those seeking their help. That is not the case today.
The majority of the rest of the speech was the war on terror. Bush's claims here are nothing new, and while he did give an impassioned speech, which could likely sway some, it was not full of truth and realism.
One more absolute Bush lie:
I proposed, and the Congress overwhelmingly passed, 87 billion dollars in funding needed by our troops doing battle in Afghanistan and Iraq. My opponent and his running mate voted against this money for bullets, and fuel, and vehicles, and body armor. When asked to explain his vote, the Senator said, "I actually did vote for the 87 billion dollars before I voted against it." Then he said he was "proud" of that vote. Then, when pressed, he said it was a "complicated" matter. There is nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat.
Kerry did vote for and against the 87 billion dollars. That was because there were two opposing bills that would provide the 87 billion dollars. Most Republicans voted for the one that provided the 87 billion, but gave no way to pay for it, so it simply added to the deficit. Most Democrats voted for the alternative bill, that also provided the 87 billion, but that repealed a portion of the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans to pay for it. So in truth, pretty much every member of congress voted for and against the 87 billion. Kerry was not voting to deny body armor for the troops (which they should have had already by the way) he was voting to provide it in a fiscally conservative way. I wish Kerry had explained himself better, but it is not like Bush and his speechwriters (as well as all the other Repubs repeating this slander) don't understand the reality of Kerry's votes.
Finally I want to make a mention of the MSNBC coverage of the convention. I was appalled at the partisanship shown by the commentators after Bush's speech. Not only did they praise Bush for his speech, his speaking style etc, but they also belittled Kerry! They were basically parroting GOP talking points, saying that Bush is always decisive, and Kerry has not yet had a solid opinion about anything. At first I thought maybe this was Bush's communications staff speaking, but it was Chris Matthews and the MSNBC commentary team. It was absolutely blatantly partisan, and I am so incredibly frustrated with the state of journalism in America.
So that was the Republican convention. We finally had Bin Laden mentioned, but not by Bush, by Pataki. We finally heard some of the actual domestic issues and policies the GOP will be pushing the next four years, after three days of nothing but Kerry bashing, patriotism questioning, and terror mongering. We now see what Bush is running on. He wants us to remember the good feelings we had after 9/11 when we all rallied around him as our leader. He wants us to be scared of other attacks and accept that only he and his policies can protect us. And he wants us to believe that Kerry (the decorated war hero) is a wimp, is unpatriotic, is indecisive and would invite terrorists into our country to kill your children.