Why I Think Obama is a Better Choice than McCain

I’ve been having heated (yet respectful) email exchanges with my grandfather (a staunch McCain supporter). Today’s exchange went thus:

His first email (the jist of it): You’re dismissing McCain’s POW experience.

My response (the jist): While I admire and respect his sacrifice, I do not think being a POW entitles him to the presidency.

His response (the jist): I agree. No one is entitled to the presidency. What makes Barack Obama think he is? Where is his track record?

My response (in it’s entirety):

I don’t think that Barack Obama is “entitled” to the presidency, and I don’t think his campaign is running in such a way that says he is entitled to it. He does have a track record, and it is longer than Sarah Palin’s, I might add. He has, for his entire adult life, chosen to invest in the people of this country. He was a community organizer out of college. Palin belittled his experience of helping families get back on their feet in Chicago when the steel plants closed. I think that speaks volumes for her in a negative way…belittling the fact that someone chose to help other people in his work. Also, he did have responsibilities in that job. He was the executive director of the Community Development Project, and in 3 short years he grew the organization from a staff of 1 (himself) with a budget of $70,000 to a staff of 13 with a budget of $400,000. As someone who is in a similar position (I am a staff of one tasked with developing this organization), I have deep respect for what he was able to accomplish in 3 short years. I’ll be doing very well if I have a staff of 3 in 5 years.

After his time helping communities, he went to law school, where he studied economic law, graduated at the top of his class, and earned his position as the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, he still wanted to give back to people. So he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, investing in his students the way his professors invested in him. And he did all of this before running for office.

I don’t think working for the government (military or otherwise) is the only way to serve this country. I think teachers and community organizers (among many others) serve this country every day.

After his time teaching, he entered the Illinois State Senate, and if you’ll take the time to look up his senate record, you’ll see that it’s quite impressive. He supported tax cuts for the poor; reformed Illinois’ death penalty laws, ethics laws, subsidies for child care, health care laws, and welfare; supported the Republican governor’s regulation of payday loans and predatory mortgage lending; created an office of immigration assistance to provide immigration and education services; and established a program to help juvenile offenders re-integrate into society after serving their sentences. These are not all of his accomplishments, just an example of some of them.

After his time in the state senate, he ran for and won a seat in the US Senate. And, contrary to what the McCain campaign claims, he has accomplished quite a bit in his two years there. He has sponsored or co-sponsored 570 bills, including bi-partisan legislation for controlling conventional weapons and for promoting greater accountability in the use of federal funds (which is fiscally responsible) and legislation on lobbying and electoral fraud, climate change, nuclear terrorism, and care for the returned US military personnel. Again, these are just the highlights.

So there is his track record. Now what I think speaks volumes to him is that you see him acting consistently when you look at his record. We don’t see a time when he suddenly abandoned or reversed all of his policy positions (in contrast, McCain has reversed his stance on over 74 policy issues in the past 18 months). A consistent ethic has informed his political career, and that ethic is apparent in his record.

Beyond that, I think that Obama has shown himself to be a man of character more than McCain. Obama has continued to run a respectful campaign despite the increasingly negative tone McCain has chosen to take. He has not attacked McCain personally. He only attacks his policy positions. By contrast, McCain has based his campaign on slandering Obama’s name, even though at the beginning of the campaign he promised that it would be “respectful.” His actions just don’t measure up with his words.

Further, the McCain campaign regularly lies about Senator Obama’s personal life and his policies. A quick scan of www.factcheck.org‘s website (it is non-partisan) will show that every single speech he has made and ad he has aired has been littered with flat out lies about Obama. The same is not true of Obama. He has stuck to the policy issues (which is what this election should be about) and has refused to attack McCain or Palin personally. And while I will admit that some of his speeches and advertisements stretches the truth, he does not lie in any of them.

A perfect example is taxes. McCain says Obama will have “painful tax increases for working families.” This is not true. Only those who have annual incomes of over $603,402 will see their taxes increase, and they’ll only see an increase of about 10.1% on average. Given their wealth, I hardly think those tax increases will be “painful.” The rest of us will get an average 2.75% tax break under Obama. Under the McCain plan, we’ll get an average tax cut of only 1.5% while those who make more than $603,402 will get an average tax cut of 3.9%. (Click here for my source.) The Tax Policy Center said that the net effect of McCain’s economic plan is “economically harmful.” Another McCain lie: “Obama proposes big spending.” According to the Tax Policy Center, Obama’s economic plan will increase the national debt by $3.5 trillion in 10 years. McCain’s will increase it by $5 trillion. So who’s the bigger spender?

I’m particularly concerned about his reversal on policy issues. It’s quite stunning, really. Up until 18 months ago, his stance on over 74 policy issues weren’t in line with the Republican Party’s platform. Now they are. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think he reversed his position because he knew that he would never get the support of his party for his presidential bid unless he did. (I can’t divine the mind of McCain, thank goodness, so I can’t say this for certain, but that’s the way it looks to me.) In that way, I think he chose personal self interest over the interests of the country. He sacrificed what he believed in for political gain.

Finally, getting back to the issues of this election, I don’t think John McCain is proposing anything different than what George Bush has done over the past eight years, and George Bush’s policies have led us into an economic recession, which I think weakens our national security. Today we found out that unemployment has hit a 5-year high at 6.1% even though for the April-June quarter, GDP was up 3.3% (it has, of course, been dismally low for the majority of Bush’s presidency). This says to me that trickle-down economics doesn’t work. Productivity is growing (albeit slowly), but the workers aren’t reaping any of the benefits. I don’t think this is fair. It’s obvious to me that lowering the taxes of corporations does not spur economic growth. I know that you’ll point to Reagan, but remember that Reagan financed that growth by increasing the national debt by 89%. So now we’re paying for the economic growth we experienced under Reagan. His policies are not sustainable. “Tax and spend” is much more fiscally responsible than the Republican mantra of “borrow and spend” because tax and spend requires current generations to pay for the services and benefits they reap from the government (military, infrastructure, education, social security, etc…) whereas borrow and spend leaves future generations to pay for the services and benefits we reap today.


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