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October 30-November 5, 2008

editorial@boulderweekly.com

October 30-November 5, 2008

• United States Senator

• U.S. Representative, Congressional Districts 2 and 4
• State Senate
• State House of Representatives
• District Attorney, RTD Director and CU Regent
• County Commissioners and County Assessor
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October 16-22, 2008

• East Boulder County ballot issue endorsements
• Boulder Weekly’s clip-and-save endorsements


Mad as hell?
Vote Obama

If McCain wins, the next four years
will seem like an eternity
by Richard Valenty

We’ve all heard the legendary line from the 1976 movie Network — “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” — whether one has seen the movie or not.
    
And it’s about as good of a lead into the Boulder Weekly’s endorsement of Barack Obama for president as any. Take a moment, read the first paragraph of the fictional Network newscaster Howard Beale’s “Mad as Hell” performance, and see if it doesn’t look just a little bit like it could have been written in 2008.

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad.

It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job.

The dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street; and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do; and there’s no end to it.”

Of course, it was only a movie, and with movies can come melodrama. There was no depression in 1976, although there was inflation, and economists aren’t even declaring yet that there’s a recession today. The United States was a great country then, it’s a great country now, and there are other parts of the world in which things are truly, brutally bad.

But American citizens have lived through a losing-streak laundry list of disturbing events and situations over the past eight years, and our government has lost a lot of respect, worldwide and at home. On the campaign trail, Obama has used most if not all of the points in our following modern-day Howard Beale paragraphs to drive home his primary message — the need for change.

The U.S. is mired in a financial mess that is at least making real-life pundits take a fresh look at what caused the Great Depression.

We’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars on military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, while other potential hotspots — Iran, Pakistan, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia/Georgia — loom on our horizons. On top of our tenuous financial situation, our military is overextended, and we can’t count on foreign alliances the way we once could.

At home, it might have taken the tragic I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis to finally shine the spotlight on our aging and underfunded infrastructure. Millions of Americans don’t have health insurance at all, and health-care costs are a real burden for millions more. Energy prices are already an issue, but the United States also faces fresh competition for finite energy supplies from the emerging superpowers of India and China. Japanese automakers with a focus on fuel efficiency have earned shares of the market that once belonged to GM, Ford and Chrysler, and thousands of domestic autoworkers lost decent jobs. Some lost their homes, as well.

Trust in the federal government is pretty much shot, even without considering events such as warrantless wiretapping, outing a CIA operative, torture at Guantanamo Bay, closed-door energy-policy meetings with Enron at the table, or the Hurricane Katrina response. Most Iraqis didn’t greet our invading soldiers as liberators, and the war has already cost about 10 times more than early rosy estimates. President Bush spoke of budget surpluses years into the future when he first took office, but today we’re staring at a possible $11 trillion debt cap, on top of God knows how many trillions in other long-term unfunded liabilities.

There are people who wish Obama would put a harder edge on his signature slogan of “Change We Can Believe In” — something closer to “Mad as Hell,” perhaps.

But there’s also a hell of a lot of work to do if we’re going to right the course of this wayward government, and we’re convinced that Obama is the candidate who is most committed to turning the wheel of this gigantic ship in a new and better direction.

Why Obama?

People who primarily get their news from abbreviated mainstream accounts — the 10 o’clock local TV news, the mega-search engine home page, the small-town newspaper Associated Press download — might believe that Obama offers nothing but lofty campaign oration or promises of hope and change without substance to back them up.

Those who still feel that way need to spend some time on Obama’s website, www.barackobama.com. There, you’ll find enough brief outlines, broader plans and links to other literature to at least explain Obama’s stances on the key issues of the day.

Still, his charismatic campaign has energized millions of Americans politically, notably young adults, who turned out for this year’s caucuses in record numbers. On top of that, he’s a Harvard Law School grad with an intellect to match the inspiration, and the nation will need the combination of energy from the masses and thoughtful decisions from the top of the ticket to remain a true superpower.

Back to the issues — we can’t touch on all of his stances here, but we believe there are some highlights that should appeal to many local voters.

ENERGY: Obama has proposed devoting $150 billion towards renewable energy and energy efficiency R&D over the next 10 years, which will certainly help with domestic job creation and non-renewable resource depletion.

It’s about time that America does something like this, but a major investment in alternative energy should also be very, very good for the Boulder area and Colorado. The University of Colorado, NREL and partners have been doing tremendous work in the renewable-energy fields, and Gov. Bill Ritter’s New Energy Economy has already attracted jobs and scientific minds to our state.

Obama has also proposed increasing CAFE fuel efficiency standards by 4 percent per year, while providing federal funds to help domestic automakers and parts manufacturers physically produce the efficient cars of the future. He’s proposed a 10-percent national renewable energy standard by 2012, investments in smart-grid technology, and a 15-percent reduction in electrical demand by 2020.

This is change.

McCain’s website, www.johnmccain.com, does include sections on expanding biofuel use and production, updating our aging electrical grid and providing tax credits for purchases of zero-emissions cars. But one thing is telling — the categories displayed at the top of his issue page refer to expanding domestic oil production and promoting/expanding the use of domestic natural gas.

Domestic fossil fuels will certainly be an important part of our energy future, but Obama’s overall energy platform is clearly more forward-thinking than McCain’s. As demonstrated by the successes of Ritter’s energy policy in Colorado and the business problems faced by U.S. automakers that didn’t take the lead on producing fuel-efficient cars, it pays to be ahead of the new energy curve, and it hurts to be behind.

MILITARY/IRAQ: McCain earns points of respect for having served in the military and for having lived through the hells of captivity and torture. Still, it’s possible to respect McCain’s 20th-century history but question his 21st-century judgment and to agree with many of Obama’s objectives.

In Iraq, Obama is calling for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops along with a phased transfer of national security responsibility to Iraq’s police and army. He has reasons.

The occupation, which will almost certainly last longer than all of World War II even if Obama is elected, has been a major drain on the nation’s financial resources. The United States has lost more than 4,000 lives, and only God knows how many Iraqis have been killed, injured or displaced. American troops are coming home physically and/or psychologically traumatized. State National Guard troops that might be needed for emergencies at home have done multiple tours of duty in Iraq.

In short, Obama’s position is that the U.S. could find better uses for the tremendous amount of money and human vitality that we’re spending on Iraq, and that a withdrawal would allow some troops to be redeployed to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and, if necessary, Pakistan.

While McCain might have been a little flippant when he was quoted as saying that he would be fine with the U.S. staying in Iraq for 100 years if necessary, he’s said nothing about a nearer-term withdrawal or a timeline, and his website says he would keep the U.S. in Iraq for as long as it takes to get the job done.

Obama and McCain’s Iraq positions offer a striking “change vs. no change” comparison, and we are also heartened by Obama’s calls for enhancing diplomatic efforts and strengthening regional alliances. The unilateral, lone-wolf approach of the Bush administration might work in isolated instances, but it’s not sustainable in the long run.

ECONOMY: Only time will tell if the $700-billion bailout package will keep the nation’s financial systems operating optimally in the long run. Both Obama and McCain voted for the bailout, but there are significant differences in other parts of their economic objectives.

Notably, Obama has favored rolling back Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting taxes for households making less than
$250,000, while McCain favors keeping the Bush tax cuts in effect along with reducing corporate tax rates. Obama also supports higher taxes for the wealthier brackets, when it comes to estate and capital gains taxes, than McCain does.

It would take entire books to fully explain the merits or inherent problems of the most basic tenets of supply-side economics, including that reducing the tax burden on the well-to-do can stimulate job creation, or that supply-side tax policy without spending cuts can lead to major fiscal deficits. But one of the reasons that we favor Obama’s economic platform is rooted in morality.

It’s impossible to bring about true economic equality, but it’s demoralizing to see the modern-day gap between the wealthy and the struggling. The lower classes have bare-minimum needs that aren’t being met — health care, adequate housing, job training and education among them — and it’s time to at least make an adjustment in the economic system so people who don’t need help aren’t getting the lion’s share of the breaks. 

Other Obama proposals include providing tax credits for employers who keep jobs in the United States, ending tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas and cracking down on off-shore tax havens. He favors expanding early-child education funding to keep kids from falling behind right off the bat, expanding Pell Grants for college students, and recruiting/retaining quality instructors to teach math and science.

The McCains probably own eight homes, and good for them. But in this period of job and mortgage insecurity that has led to significant increases in foreclosure rates, it’s time for the U.S. to invest in its ordinary citizens so they have a better chance at keeping the one home that they really need.

IT’S ABOUT MORE THAN ONE MAN VS. ONE MAN: No doubt about it, a U.S. president as one person has tremendous amounts of raw power. At this stage in history, he or she has a bully pulpit that can sway opinions and actions throughout the world, not to mention here at home. The United States is known as the world’s policeman. Our physical actions can influence the global environment; our economic issues can cause ripples in world markets; and poorer nations look to us for humanitarian aid.

Still, it’s important to remember that the president is also the head of a gigantic domestic government, and part of his or her responsibility is to put together a Cabinet and a team of departmental officials to manage the day-to-day operations.

Boulderites — are you interested in seeing environmentalists in charge of the EPA, or the Departments of Interior, Transportation or Energy? If so, the ideology of the next president matters to you. Interested in the ideological balance of the Supreme Court or the protection of civil liberties? He who wins in November earns the right to nominate justices and attorneys general for perhaps the next four or eight years.

So, we believe that even those who don’t strongly favor either McCain or Obama should consider the impact of appointments to key positions, and there’s no doubt that Obama’s appointments will reflect progressive values much better than McCain’s would.

NOW, BRING IT ON HOME:
We won’t make a habit of using football analogies, but consider for a moment having the ball in the fourth quarter, just inches from the goal line and needing a touchdown to win the game.

That’s where partisan Coloradans are at, since many polls suggest that it’s a tight contest in a battleground state. And whether either Obama or McCain wins by one vote or 100,000 in our state, he captures all nine of our Electoral College votes. As we saw in 2000, it doesn’t matter if he wins the nation’s popular vote unless he also wins in the Electoral College. Certain people might not like those rules, but they are the rules.

It’s respectable to vote for any candidate — Democrat, Republican, minor-party or independent — if one believes that the candidate is best qualified for the job or represents their values. But it would be an upset of unbelievable magnitude if a minor-party presidential candidate earned much more than a couple of percentage points in Colorado.

Let’s face it: only Obama and McCain have a chance of winning here, and voters have a clear and pronounced ideological choice between a mostly progressive direction and continuing many of the Bush-era policies that have gotten our nation into the mess it’s currently facing. The winner will set the nation’s course for the next four or eight years, which, as people on both sides know, is an eternity when you can’t stand what’s going on.

So, if you’re mad as hell today, it’s worth fighting for that new direction. Make sure you know how and where to vote, learn the issues, get your friends and family to the polls, and vote Obama/Biden in 2008.

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