I got it! I finally got it! I’ve been cudgeling my poor old brain all day trying to figure out how John McCain plans to bring “change” to Washington when he has been a Washington insider for a quarter of a century and has voted for Bush policies more than 90 percent of the time in the past year.
Before McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, I had it all straight in my mind. John McCain would bring America four more years of Bush: an extended occupation of Iraq; preemptive strikes against “agents of terrorism”; subsidies and tax breaks to large corporations; a close alliance with the military-industrial complex; oil-friendly legislation on all fronts – and so on. And, oh yes, he’s a “war hero,” so if you want a “war hero” for president you know who to vote for.
His only real promise of change, it seemed to me, was a plan to veto all “earmarks.” That would mean canceling funds for such projects as a new university campus or a badly needed road – as well as less justifiable projects designed to pour funds into a lawmaker’s district and buy votes come election time. I wasn’t too impressed with that idea, as it would choke off funds that would stimulate the country’s stagnant economy. In my economics class, we learned that governments should spend money on infrastructure and other useful projects when times are bad, and cut back on public spending when times are good. But, at least I could figure out what it was McCain planned to do that would be different from the Bush years.
That was when he was running on “experience.” Barack Obama was the “change candidate.” This past week, McCain rolled out a new campaign to fit his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Obviously, the “experience” approach wouldn’t work with her. As ex-mayor of tiny Wasilla and novice governor of sparsely populated Alaska, she would need a lot of on-the-job training. So McCain switched his message to “change.”
Now, I know what Barack Obama hopes to change. He wants to end lobbyist-driven policy decisions in Washington, partisan gridlock in government, and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and obscenely profitable corporations. He also has a laundry list of social and economic goals, including health care for all Americans; a massive initiative to develop alternative sources of energy and eventually end America’s dependence on fossil fuels; reduced taxes for the middle class and retirees; a fast and orderly end to the Iraq occupation; intensifying the campaign in Afghanistan; diplomatic initiatives to head off confrontations that could ignite unnecessary war; better pay for teachers; funds for early childhood education; subsidized higher education for students who would commit to public service (military or community) after graduation; rebuilding America’s military; raising the minimum wage; closer cooperation with churches to promote community projects; providing decent care and educational benefits for returning veterans; addressing the dilemma of undocumented workers and mending America’s borders…
In sum, Obama plans to change America’s social system so that all levels of society get a fair shot at a decent standard of living; retool America’s economy to provide more jobs and a better chance of competing in a global economy; and rebuild the country’s armed forces and police capability to protect Americans from attack. He would pay for all this by ending tax breaks for companies that move their jobs overseas, as well as abolishing subsidies and tax breaks to Big Oil and other obscenely wealthy profiteers. And, oh yes here’s the part that makes Republicans mad, he would end the Bush tax break to individuals making more than $250,000 a year. I could be missing something because the guy is nothing if not ambitious, but you get the idea.
So unless McCain is planning to copy Obama’s program, which would mean a complete turnaround, what is there left for him to change? Silly me! McCain has no interest in that kind of change! The Bush social system and the Bush economy are okay with him. He’s been a steadfast opponent of raising the minimum wage (he voted to maintain a filibuster to block a proposed minimum wage hike last year. See photo at right.) And he opposed legislation to give women equal pay if they perform the same work as male fellow-employees. He dismisses that kind of thing as “government interference.”
But McCain has a higher calling – reshaping the Supreme Court to do what some evangelists see as God’s work! As president, McCain has pledged to appoint strict anti-abortionists to replace retiring justices, and several of them could be retiring during his term. That means you could say good-by to Roe v. Wade. He is also an anti-environment convert, so he would probably change all those laws that get in the way of oil drilling, pipeline laying, logging, nuclear plants, and the like. Damn the polar bears – full speed ahead!
McCain promises to tighten federal purse strings in an attempt to curb the deficit and balance the budget. But he has no intention of ending the government’s largess to Big Oil and other powerful corporations. So you can also say good-by to most existing social programs, as that’s the only place left to cut.
Now, that’s the kind of change you can believe in if John McCain is elected president of the United States of America. And as far as I’m concerned, he can keep the change.