Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debate 1: So Where are the Radical Differences?

Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee?

1. The debate was the high ground in the campaign thus far, for both men. With exceptions few and far between, issue discussion dominated on both sides.

2. What surprised this writer was that the policy gaps between the two candidates was nowhere as wide as I thought they were. Obama had the confidence and manners to concede on several points that "John is correct," while John never uttered similar words about anything Barack said, despite the fact that these guys held positions on most issues that were more similar than different. And most of those differences were on the margins.

Both have been subjugated to the inevitable triumph of the Goldman Sachs Bailout Plan, though McCain presented some feeble, almost comical, resistance to it earlier in the week. Neither could present any alternative plan; both bought-- hook, line and sinker--the Great Depression II argument that Goldman Sachs has used as its weapon of choice to intimidate both parties into acquiescing with the transformation of Public wealth into Private wealth.

Perhaps it should be no surprise, as the Republican's Hank Paulson and the Obama Democrat's Robert Rubin are both ex-Goldman Sachs CEOs. [Note: Paulson announced last night that he has hired yet another ex-Goldman Sachs guy as his primary adviser on executing the bailout plan. Goody, goody.]

McCain's non-sequitor replies about $18 billion in earmarks, and Obama's loophole-closing rants did not speak to the fundamental rightness, fairness or necessity of the bailout.

4. The single most dramatic economic policy difference between the two regards tax policy. McCain is adamant about extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, with Trickle Down, Supply Side ideology as its intellectual base; by not supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts, Obama would effectively be raising taxes on households with minimum incomes of $250,000, with those below that number either having no change or a reduction in their tax rates. His is more a Demand Side, Keynesian approach.

3. Once the debate moved on to Foreign Policy there would be some fireworks, some fundamentally different policy disagreements, right? Wrong. A squabble developed about talking to our adversaries rather than giving them the silent treatment. But as Obama and McCain went back and forth a bit on this issue, it became apparant that their positions were fundamentally the same. Low level talks, said McCain, were fine; just no Summit talks right off the bat. Obama was in sync with that position as well.

Both were anxious to commit more US foot-soldiers to the next quagmire, Afghanistan. Again, some bickering about troop availability given the demands of Iraq, and a bit of back and forth on the advisability of attacking targets in Pakistan. But on the fundamental, strategic issue, these guys essentially agreed...again.

Kissinger, and/or the Council on Foreign Affairs, obviously are inputting to both campaigns. Ain't that great?

In summary, on the issues, McCain and Obama have some disagreements, but both occupy the center of political discourse, Obama coming to it from the Left, McCain from the Right.

The larger contrasts between the two were personal. I'll try writing another Hub on that later.

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