Thursday, October 30, 2008
I remember the first course in economics I ever took. It was during my senior year of high school. I didn't pay much attention to be honest. "Senioritis" was in full swing; most of us were mentally halfway out the door and thinking more about college the following fall than Mr. Conom's lectures on the history of capitalism. Yet a few things from that class have stayed with me.
Our textbook defined an "opportunity cost" as; "the cost of something in terms of an opportunity forgone." So basically it is what you can't have or do, because you had or did something else. As a nation we will come face to face with a choice next Tuesday that will define the collective opportunity costs, that our nation may face in the coming weeks, months, years and even decades.
If America makes the decision to elect the McCain/Palim ticket, we will face many such costs. Some of them economic, some political, some social. Yet and all of them, staggering in size and scope.
A common cliché is to say that leadership is about choices. Simplistic as that sounds it rings true regardless of what political party holds whatever end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Yet our choices speak volumes about who we are both as a nation, and what our political parties stand for, or against.
McCain opportunity cost number one: America's health.
Because of an elective choice by the GOP, at present we cannot afford to do anything to shore up our near critical public health care infrastructure.
Earlier this year the Washington Post reported that the cost of the war in Iraq will top $400 billion, and that total is likely to more than double before the war finally ends. Like most people, I find it hard to wrap my brain around how much $400 billion actually is. So to put this in perspective I thought we might want to examine the opportunity costs that a McCain/Palin adminstration will give us.
The number of people without health coverage rose to more than 45 million nationwide in 2003, 15.6 percent of the population compared to 15.2 percent in 2002. Here in California, we are home to the greatest number, with 6.4 million uninsured, or 18.2 percent of the population. The public health care system is overwhelmed by the country's uninsured that turn to hospital emergency rooms for even routine care. And Medicare -- the only source of health coverage for millions of elderly Americans-- is projected to run out of funds by 2019.
McCain Opportunity Cost number two: America's safety and security.
We are for all intent and purposes alone in Iraq. Britain our only real partner is heading for door as fast they can. And the United States of America, the nation that brokered Camp David and Oslo, has next to nothing in terms of political and diplomatic capital in the Middle East. Our credibility as a broker for peace is gone.
Throughout our history, America has overcome crisis and hardship through collaboration. Without help from France and Spain the American Revolution would have failed. Without allied unity in both the first and Second World War, imperialism and fascism would have triumphed. Without strong strategic partnerships and combined resolve, the cold war between East and West might still be with us today, or worse, not ended peacefully. It was the ability of President George HW Bush to create a unified coalition with Arab partners that enabled the liberation of Kuwait in the first gulf war to go as quickly and as successfully as it did.
The only victory that can be claimed so far in the "global war on terror" is "The United States is safer without Saddam Hussein in power." A popular early John McCain talking point on Sunday morning talks shows is if you dare question the President's failing policies in Iraq, then you clearly would prefer that Saddam was still in power. Again I don't know whether to laugh at the desperation of that, or cry at its sheer dishonesty.
Iraq has through an elective choice by this administration with the full throated support of John McCain; been transformed from a third rate dictatorship with dreams of one day maybe threatening the United States, into a breeding/training ground for real terrorists who are a threat to the United States. Iraq has become the Alamo for the extremist world. A rallying cry, recruitment poster and fund raising infomercial all wrapped up in one chaotic explosive roadside package. A package, with our name on it.
McCain Opportunity Cost number three: America's economic security.
Be it our crack-addict like dependence on oil, or our crippled manufacturing sector that has been allowed to fall critically behind the rest of the world. U.S. Automakers are unable to sell many of their cars in China, because Chinese mileage standards are higher than ours. That fact alone makes the argument by the auto and oil industries that the costs of better environmental standards is too high, seem downright stupid, or deliberately dishonest.
I remember the news this past Summer, and one of the lead stories was the tens of thousands of people who will be losing their jobs. Intel, Ford Motors, Eastman Kodak, Hewlett Packard, and AETNA are just a few of the companies who announced large workforce reductions for this year. According to my old employer, the HR consulting firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., the number of announced layoffs in August totaled 65,278 jobs, compared with 37,178 in July. The crippled housing market, rising fears of inflation, negative job growth , a staggering budget deficit, ballooning national debt and soaring energy prices have all battered consumer confidence.
Not to mention it would be a lot easier to sell your products overseas if your country is wasn't hated by the rest of the world.
McCain/Palin Opportunity Cost number four: America's soul.
Government is not a religion, it is a function. Ideology is not theology and should never presented as such. To claim that God would vote for you, or to seek to win elections by demonizing whole groups as people God doesn't love is truly un-American.
A GOP senate candidates saying only Christian voters can be trusted, an off the cuff remark by a then Texas Governor, and future President that all Jews are "going to hell". A decorated war veteran in Pennsylvania called a coward and traitor because he dared question the judgment of men who did all they could to avoid combat. All these things damage the soul of our nation. Under McCain/Palin all this would be common place for the next four years
Or even a deliberate choice by their political party to make fear and hatred of Gays and Lesbians a central Republican campaign theme. The result is the same. The party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan is reduced to a mob of big mouths with small minds, and our entire national debate of real issues is diminished.
It is true, opportunity costs are hard to quantify. Yet the choices that John McCain and Sarah Palin have promised to make, just like those made by the GOP and the current Bush administration are ones that our nation will be forced to be pay off for decades. The choices made by George W. Bush. John McCain and the Republican Party have left our nation in debt-- teetering on bankruptcy, in danger-- lacking strong strategic partners and facing increasing global animosity, and have sought to create a divided nation where ideology is based on who you hate, not what you believe.
As we head into this most crucial election of this century to date, it is perhaps a good idea to think not so much on the opportunity costs of the last eight years, but about the possibilities of next four if we stand together and make a much needed change on November 4th.
That is one opportunity I am willing to work for. I will walk into the voting booth next Tuesday and vote my hopes not my fears. I will vote for a better future not a rose-colored view of the past.
I am voting for Barack Obama for President of the United States.
I hope you will too...