Snowboarding and more

McCain versus Obama

The 2008 election is less than a month away and if you haven’t decided who to vote for, this excellent article from Trong Do, a Visualgui.com reader, can help you select the candidate that can best serve you. Mr. Do has done a great job of breaking down the fundamental differences of each party on the issues. Highly recommended if you haven’t have time to do the research.

Many Americans—about half of the people who could—did not vote in recent presidential elections. Perhaps, they did not care enough, or were turned off by the political process and the perceived sleaziness of politicians. Unfortunately, by not voting, they are not exercising their right to support the kind of government they want. Please do vote and select leaders who will fight for your rights and build a better future for your children. Voting is a privilege and a moral obligation.

In a few weeks you will be able to elect either McCain or Obama as the next president of the USA. This election has polarized the country as never before, because the two candidates provide a stark contrast in style, personality and espoused policies. To help myself decide which candidate to support, I have analyzed their positions which can be summarized as following:

McCain plans to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. These tax cuts benefit mostly the wealthiest 1% Americans. In addition, McCain will cut corporate taxes and support not regulating businesses. However, McCain is against raising the minimum wage and does not support universal health care. He supports reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits to make up for budget shortfalls. McCain will deal with the energy crisis and the US dependence on foreign oil by allowing more offshore drilling and building 45 new nuclear reactors. He is against gun control and is against the right of women to have legal abortion—he wants “Roe v. Wade” overturned. He supports the war in Iraq and will keep US troops there indefinitely, despite the staggering costs in money and human lives. And he has selected Sarah Palin, a young inexperienced politician, as vice-president.

Obama plans to get rid of the Bush tax cuts, effectively increasing taxes on the wealthiest 1% Americans. However, he will give tax cuts to more than 90% of taxpayers. Obama will ensure corporations pay their fair share of taxes by closing many tax loopholes. He will use tax credits to entice American companies to keep jobs in the US, instead of outsourcing them to other countries. Obama will push for a higher minimum wage and enable everybody to have health care. He will try to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits by raising the limits on taxes. Obama will deal with the energy crisis by pushing for targeted conservation and investing $150 billion in renewable sources of energy like solar and wind. Obama is for gun control and supports women’s right to legal abortion—he does not want “Roe v. Wade” overturned. He thinks the war in Iraq cannot be justified and costs too much. Obama has selected Joseph Biden, a veteran US senator, to be his vice-president.

Neither McCain nor Obama can do everything they promise. That is to be expected. Nevertheless, McCain, despite his proclamation of being a maverick, indicates he will continue W Bush’s economic and foreign policies. McCain enthusiastically endorses Bush’s tax cuts and Iraq war, and voted more than 90% of the time for legislation championed by the Bush administration. If McCain were to be president, US unilateralism in foreign affairs will continue to be promoted, ensuring that our allies will distance themselves from us while our enemies multiply. Internally, with McCain, the wealth gap between rich and poor will grow, yet benefits to the retired, the sick and the weak will be cut. McCain wants to see “Roe v. Wade” overturned, thus making abortions illegal once again. This turns the clock back 35 years for women’s rights. Last but not least, after proclaiming himself a patriot who puts his country first, he picks as running mate an inexperienced young woman, whose job seems mainly to win the women’s vote and the Republican conservative support. If McCain truly cares more about his country than his ambition, he would not select Sarah Palin as the next in line for the US presidency. His decision to pick Sarah Palin as VP is selfishly calculated and reckless. This decision does not reflect patriotism, it is political expediency at its worst.

In contrast to McCain, Obama’s push to promote cooperation rather than confrontation, and negotiation instead of conflict in foreign affairs will likely win over many allies. Internally, his priority to assist our poor, sick, retired or unemployed can make this country once again decent and fair. For these reasons, I will vote for Obama.

For more details on the candidates’ positions, please read on.

Income Taxes

McCain believes everybody should pay less tax, especially people who make more than $603,000 a year. Meanwhile, Obama plans to give tax cuts to people making less than $227,000 a year, and raise the taxes of people making more than $603,000 a year.

Income McCain avg. tax bill Obama Avg. tax bill
Over $2.9M -$269,364 $701,885
$603K and up -$45, 361 $115,974
$227K-$603K -$7,871 $12
$161K-$227K -$4,380 -$2,789
$112K-$161K -$2,614 -$2,204
$66K-$112K -$1,009 -$1,290
$38K-$66K -$319 -$1,042
$19K-$38K -$113 -$892
Under $19K -$19 -$567

The table above (with data from Money magazine) shows the detailed difference between the two tax plans. If your household is like the average American household that makes between $38,000 and $66,000 a year, you would get tax cut of $319 under McCain, and $1,042 under Obama. If you are barely scraping by on less than $19,000 a year, McCain would give you $19 whereas the Obama plan would give you $567.

Republicans since Ronald Reagan have championed the trickle down theory which postulates that big tax cuts given to corporations and rich Americans will result in prosperity and more employment for the average Americans, because companies with higher profits from reduced taxes will hire more people—and perhaps richer Americans will hire more servants? However, it is dubious whether the trickle down theory works at all, yet the Reagan and George W Bush tax cuts had created enormous deficits (the national debt increased from $900 billion to $2.6 trillion under Reagan, and from $5.6 to $10 trillion under Bush), while the fortune of the average Americans as measured by savings and salary has regressed.

McCain who has seven houses and 13 cars wants tax cuts for the rich. Is this self-serving or coincidence?

Ironically, Clinton, the Democratic president who raised taxes on the rich, managed to balance the federal budget; something the recent Republican presidents have not been able to achieve.

Business

McCain wants to reduce corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, and accelerate business expense deductions.

Obama will consider reducing the corporate tax rate in conjunction with closing corporate tax loopholes. Obama will use tax credits to reward companies that keep jobs in the US instead of moving them overseas.

Republicans also love deregulation. This means they do not want to put in rules and regulations to control what business does. They believe doing so will help business flourish and more jobs will be created as the result. Unfortunately, deregulation caused the savings and loans crisis in the 80’s when 747 S&L associations (half of the number of S&L in the USA) failed, costing taxpayers $125 billion. Now deregulation causes the current mortgage crisis which might cost taxpayers upward to $1 trillion.

Jobs & Wages

McCain wants to cut taxes for corporations and high-income individuals thus allowing them to make more money, yet he does not want to raise the minimum wage. McCain wants to leave minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, which is where current law will take it by 2009. He is opposed to tying future hikes of the minimum wage to inflation rate.

Obama wants to raise minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011 and tie future rises to inflation.

Why are Republicans–who believe rich people deserve to have bigger tax cuts and thus be even richer–so parsimonious when it comes to the minimum wage? Theoretically, they subscribe to the old economic theory that a higher minimum wage causes higher unemployment, especially among the poor. But if the minimum wage is so low that poor people get more money via food stamps, welfare, and federal and state child support, they will not try to get a minimum wage job and achieve financial independence. There is also the issue of basic decency. As a civilized society, we should pay our lowest wage-earners wages they can actually live on (living wages). This will help many of them from turning to crime or public assistance just to get by.

Health Care

McCain is against universal health care (providing government mandated or subsidized health care for every citizen).

Obama wants to the government to implement universal health care.

Among developed countries, the US is the only one without universal health care. There are close to 50 million uninsured Americans. Many of the uninsured are fully employed but too poor to afford health insurance. It is for this reason that the US, though known as the wealthiest country on earth, ranks 29th in the world in life expectancy. People in the following countries live longer than Americans: Andorra, Japan, San Marino, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, France, Iceland, Canada, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Spain, Norway, Israel, Greece, Austria, Malta, Netherlands, South Korea, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Jordan, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Social Security

The US government has been borrowing money from the Social Security fund to spend on other things. By 2017, if the government does not start to pay back its debt to Social Security, retirees will start getting smaller Social Security checks. Even if the government does repay its debt on time (which is not likely, especially if the Republicans go ahead with their tax cuts), by 2041 Social Security will be short of funds again and will have to start reducing benefits.

McCain will simply pay retirees less and less as Social Security slowly runs out of money. He does not want to raise Social Security taxes for higher income wage earners. He prefers to supplement Social Security benefits with individual investment accounts, which means advocating people to do more saving on their own to replace the reduced benefits of Social Security.

Obama opposes individual investment accounts and is against raising retirement age. He will increase the Social Security taxes of people making more than $250,000 a year to shore up Social Security.

Energy

McCain will lift ban on offshore drilling, commit $2 billion annually to advance clean coal technologies, construct 45 new reactors by 2030 as part of a push to expand nuclear power production.

Obama will invest $150 billion in renewable energy over the next 10 years, allow limited amount of offshore drilling, require that 10% of nation’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2013, and aim to reduce nation’s demand for electricity 15% by 2020.

McCain solves the energy crisis by drilling more for oil, and expand the use of coal and nuclear power. McCain’s plan is not earth-friendly as his emphasis is still on burning fossil fuel (oil and coal). McCain proposed expansion of the use of nuclear power is also controversial given that the US has not developed an acceptable plan to dispose of nuclear waste. Obama’s plan is big on renewable energy such as solar and wind power, and has specific target for conservation (cars with higher gas mileage and reduced use of electricity).

Budget Deficit

The US cumulative budget deficit will exceed $10 trillion at the end of the W Bush presidency. As most of this debt is financed by foreign countries (especially China) which may balk at loaning the US much more money, the next president will have to try to balance the budget to shrink the deficit or at least slow its growth.

McCain will try to balance the budget by slowing growth in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending, and eliminate funds for pet projects, known as earmarks. However, earmarks only account for $18 billion in the federal budget that has an annual deficit of about $500 billion. Therefore, even if we can eliminate all earmarks, we can’t even make a dent in our debts. Under the McCain plan, most of the savings will have to come from cutting benefits like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Obama will reduce spending on earmarks to no greater than 2001 levels and require more transparency on such spending, and help pay for new proposals by drawing down troops in Iraq, raising taxes on high-income filers and cutting certain corporate loopholes.

McCain, while proposing big tax cuts for the wealthy, will try to reduce the budget deficit by cutting benefits to the most vulnerable citizens: poor people, retirees and senior citizens. Obama plans to balance the budget by stopping the expensive war in Iraq, increase taxes on the wealthy and reduce corporate loopholes.

Gun Control

McCain supports assault weapons and concealed weapons and has voted consistently against their bans or restrictions. Most recently he opposed an amendment to extend a ban on 19 specific firearms, and others with similar characteristics. McCain praised the June 2008 Supreme Court decision striking down the District of Columbia’s gun ban.

Obama has a history of supporting gun control. He supports a ban on assault weapons and concealed weapons. He supports cracking down on unscrupulous gun dealers, and voted against prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

Each year, more than 40,000 Americans die from guns. Of these, fewer than 2,000 deaths are from suicide, the rest (more than 38,000) is from murder and accident. (About 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam during this 21-year conflict, which works out to about 3,000 deaths a year.) Gun deaths have to be linked to the massive amount of firearms owned by Americans, and this is made possible due to the lax gun laws. The following statistics are from medicinenet.com:

Gun-related deaths per 100,000 people in 1994 by country

U.S.A. 14.24
Brazil 12.95
Mexico 12.69
Estonia 12.26
Argentina 8.93
N. Ireland 6.63
Finland 6.46
Switzerland 5.31
France 5.15
Canada 4.31
Norway 3.82
Austria 3.70
Portugal 3.20
Israel 2.91
Belgium 2.90
Australia 2.65
Slovenia 2.60
Italy 2.44
New Zealand 2.38
Denmark 2.09
Sweden 1.92
Kuwait 1.84
Greece 1.29
Germany 1.24
Hungary 1.11
Ireland 0.97
Spain 0.78
Netherlands 0.70
Scotland 0.54
England 0.41
Taiwan 0.37
Singapore 0.21
Mauritius 0.19
Hong Kong 0.14
South Korea 0.12
Japan 0.05

Japan has the lowest gun-related deaths thanks to very strict gun control, and it is hard to claim that Japanese democracy suffers because of this.

Iraq

McCain has always supported the war in Iraq. He supports the present troop increase and favors maintaining troop levels. He has also defended moral justifications for the war.

Obama has always been against the war in Iraq and supports a phased withdrawal of the troops from this country. Even with our budget deficit, we continue spending $10 billion a month in Iraq (while Iraq enjoys a $79 billion budget surplus). Obama would demand Iraq uses their budget surplus to pay for the rebuilding of their infrastructure.

The US invaded Iraq because the Bush administration claimed that Iraq had helped the 9/11 terrorists and owned weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It has now been proven that Iraq did not help the 9/11 terrorists and no WMD has been found in Iraq. So, American waged a destructive war against another sovereign country based on two false premises. Yet, Republicans and McCain still claim moral justification to have caused thousands of American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis to die in this unnecessary war. The war’s economic cost is also staggering. By September 2008, the US has spent more than $500 billion on the war in Iraq. This does not include the medical and economic costs needed to rehabilitate tens of thousands of injured Iraq war veterans.

Iran

McCain believes that Iran’s nuclear proliferation is a serious risk and could further destabilize the region. He would use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Obama would engage in direct talks with Tehran including offering some economic incentives if Iran stopped operations in Iraq and cooperated on nuclear issues. He has refused to say if he would consider military action if Iran were not to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

McCain joked about bombing Iran. We cannot have a president who is so casual about wars. McCain famous bad temper and impulsiveness also makes it dangerous for him to be the US armed forces commander in chief.

Vice-President Choice

Sarah Palin, McCain’s choice to be his Vice-President, is young and inexperienced. She has been governor of Alaska for two years. Alaska has a population of 670,000 people, about a quarter of the population size of Houston, Texas. Prior to this job, Palin was mayor of Wasilla, a small Alaskan town of 5,000. Palin is a devout Christian and holds many views that are popular with Republicans:

  • People like her (i.e., conservative Republicans) understand God’s intent—she stated that our troops in Iraq are carrying out “a task that is from God”.
  • Adamantly against gun control
  • Cut corporate taxes—in Alaska, she lowered taxes for businesses and increased tax burden on residents
  • Against sex education—ironically, her teenage daughter got pregnant.
  • Pro-creationism—many fundamental Christians believe humans were created by God and did not evolve from lower species; they also want this Christian dogma taught in school as science, even to children of other faiths.
  • Anti-abortion, no abortion even in case of rape and incest. (At least McCain and his wife would permit abortion in case of rape and incest—but not Ms. Palin.)

People are worried about Palin’s inexperience because of McCain’s age and health (he is a cancer survivor). If elected, McCain would be the oldest American president ever. If his health fails him, Palin would become president and will have to manage the cabinet, watch over the economy, lead the armed forces, and deal with foreign leaders. She does not have the experience to do so.

Biden, Obama’s Vice-President choice, has been a US senator for 36 years. He was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and is the current Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He appears to have the experience to be a competent vice president. There seems to be an attempt to discredit Biden with the Vietnamese community. I have looked for tangible proof that Biden is anti-Vietnamese. I have found nothing credible.

Abortion & Women’s Rights

McCain is anti-abortion. On February 2007, in South Carolina McCain said, “I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned.” McCain also voted NO to an amendment of the Senate’s 2006 Fiscal Year Budget that allocates $100 million in funding to reduce teen pregnancy by education and contraceptives.

Obama strongly supports a woman’s right to have an abortion as protected by the Constitution and stated in May 2007, “A woman’s ability to decide how many children to have and when, without interference from the government, is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. It is not just an issue of choice, but equality and opportunity for all women.”

If McCain and the Republicans have their way, abortion will once again become illegal in the USA, perhaps even in case of rape and incest (though this is not McCain’s position, it is that of Sarah Palin and many Republicans). (Sarah Palin even made rape victims in her town pay for the medical kits & forensic exams used in investigating the rapes.) Imagine Vietnamese boat people raped by pirates or African civil war rape victims being told they must keep the babies of their rapists. How cruel is that?

-Trong Do

Snowboarding and more