In all manner of politics (and life) there is no want for logic. What is often absent, however, is the citizenry's will to exercise the art of critical thinking. One necessary component of this thought process is the recognition (and acceptance or rejection) of the logical argument's founding assumptions. To illustrate, let's examine how two polar world views can build pristine arguments on a subject, but come to very different conclusions.
Two World Views
Within the realm of the two mainstream political parties, there exists starkly polar world views as they relate to our governance. Many policy preferences exist to illustrate the differences but a few are defining party essentials. These essentials are defended to the death and can trump even the assurance of our national security. Among these is the economy.
The unvarnished founding assumption of one party is that the financial markets must be free of governmental involvement to function properly and to ensure our way of life. Accept this assumption, and all logic that follows is yours to own. Follow this logic to its purest end, and the entire financial system is poised to collapse, taking the world economy with it. Take the logic to its extreme, there is at first deep chaos, then tyranny.
The unvarnished founding assumption of the other party is that the markets are by nature imperfect and require governmental monitoring and management. As above, accept this assumption, and all logic that follows is yours to own. In this case, however, taking this logic to its purest end results not in calamity, but in regulation to avoid the calamity. Take it to its extreme, there is a centrally controlled economy (socialism, even communism).
Though the extremes are unlikely in our American society and culture, the "purest end" prospect in either approach is not only likely, but in one case has come to rest on our doorstep. My biased opinion chooses the latter as the best policy alternative. Checking the founding assumptions (and their likely outcomes) has informed this opinion.
All logic makes sense. Citizen voters must, however, think critically. The best place to start is to check the founding assumptions of a political position before buying the logic that follows.
Speaking of the economy, a logical examination of its performance under the past eight years of the Bush administration illustrates the result of the de-regulated free market philosophy. To agree with the analysis, one must first accept the following assumption:
Fundamental elements in measuring the health of the economy include outcomes stemming from management of the budget, the national debt, employment levels, and the healthy functionality of the financial markets.
Accepting this assumption, consider then the following:
Budget management under Bush began with a $127 billion surplus. Bush turned that into a litany of annual budget deficits:
$157 billion in 2002
$375 billion in 2003,
$413 billion in 2004
$348 billion in 2005
These deficits continued through 2008 with the projected 2009 deficit being set at $410 billion.
During the eight years of Bush economic policies, the national debt has nearly doubled from the $5.6 trillion to $9.6 trillion.
When Bush took office, the unemployment rate was 3.9 percent. After eight years of Bush administration economic policy, it now stands at 6.1 percent.
Health of the Financial Markets
Despite efforts to "spread the wealth" of blame over decades of various administrations, it is the laissez- faire economics of the Bush administration that has ensured the present calamity. Despite his willingness to change colors when the going gets rough, McCain has been, and remains, in full support of this de-regulate-at-all-costs ideology. In a span of just a few weeks, Freddie Mac, Fanny Mae, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, AIG, Washington Mutual, and Wachovia have failed. Congress has passed legislation for the biggest governmental incursion into the free market in history. Credit has dried up. The system is choked with fear and distrust. The titans of capitalism are now begging their nemesis (government) to dewater their vessel and haul her into port
Draw one's own conclusion, but, accepting the above founding assumption, my conclusion is that, despite Bush and his party's promises for less government and fiscal conservatism, their performance has been is quite the opposite. Furthermore, it has driven our economy, our national security, and our way of life to the brink of utter ruin.
Risk Management for Voters
Those predisposed to vote for the party of George Bush and his proposed successor are traditionally supported by owners of businesses of all kinds and size. Of all the expertise needed to remain viable in the business world, skills involved in managing risk are at the top of the list.
One way we can all view the upcoming presidential election is from a perspective of risk management.
One candidate is in his mid '70s and is a three-time cancer survivor. Actuarial experts will place this individual in a high risk category with respect to either not surviving the next four to eight years or becoming debilitated within that timeframe. His replacement is untested, unschooled, unprepared, and lacks widespread confidence in the ability to assume the post of the most powerful government official (i.e., person) in the world.
The other candidate is a middle-aged black male. He has been a smoker. Actuarial experts will make some assessment as to risk, but he is deemed much more likely to survive the same timeframe. As for expertise, if measured by years in office, he does not compare favorably with his opponent. As for cool under fire, calm decisiveness, and a vision and plan for an alternative to failed policies of the past, this candidate offers a viable, reasonable choice for president.
His potential replacement is universally unquestioned with respect to capability to assume the duties of president.
Ideology and policy preferences set aside, allowing for strictly a risk management analysis, it is clear which is the least risky to the security of the nation. The comparatively higher likelihood of the first candidate needing to yield power to an thoroughly inadequate vice president is much more dangerous to national security than electing a capable candidate who is likely to retain the office.
Furthermore, should he become unavailable to serve, a most capable replacement stands at the ready.
Advice to the Undecided
For those who remain undecided in this presidential election, a couple of suggestions may be helpful. First, do not be drawn to the tired "lesser of two evils" mantra. This is an intellectual cop-out and an affront to our democracy. Despite their human imperfections, these candidates, through their deeds and character, have risen to the world stage as the top contenders to lead our democratic republic.
The "two evils" cop-out is but a mask that pretends thoughtful deduction, but really only offers cover for uninformed indecision.
Second, vote your convictions. Examine your true, personally developed beliefs about government. Seek the candidates at every level who most closely espouse policies that match your beliefs. The voting booth offers us one of life's rarest of opportunities to express our true beliefs without limitation.
I urge all citizens to take full advantage of that rare and precious opportunity and vote. And when you do, vote your convictions, even if (especially if) those candidates belong to the party you never thought you would support. You will have then acted as a true patriot.
Cornville's Steven R. Estes, BS, MPA has lived in the Verde Valley since 1989, excluding a four-year hiatus in Oregon. Estes earned his Master of Public Administration degree in Political Science department from Northern Arizona University. He served for two years as the District 1 representative on the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee, acting for a time a co-chair. He is also a member of the Yavapai County MATforce Substance Abuse Coalition. He is also a fine singer-songwriter and musician.