|by Wes George
Election 2000: This Year, Think Different
November 6th, 2000
It's difficult to focus on Apple Computer's trivial problems of the day before the 2000 US Presidential election. Steve Jobs has made no secret of the fact he supports Al Gore; therefore, with your permission, I'll use Apple's well-known support of the Democrats to segue into politics and my own admittedly disturbing (though deeply considered) view of the election process and the candidates.
As someone who follows the economy closely, I normally reside in the fiscally conservative camp, supporting free trade, lower tax rates, less government, and a strong dollar. In my opinion, the federal government is a bloated monopoly that has yet to be downsized and reinvented to accommodate the new reality of the information age and the emergent globally networked economy.
As you might not have guessed from the above, however, I find the Republicans repulsive recidivists when it comes to social issues such as immigration, abortion, civil rights, the environment, and gun control.
Unfortunately, somewhere between the idealism of the honorable Jimmy Carter and the swelter of the Clinton miasma, the Democrats have become as beholden to multinational corporate interests as the Republicans they're just a whole lot less honest about it. In fact, Clinton's reign has been almost indistinguishable from what a hypothetical Republican administration might have been like in terms of economic, social and environmental policy.
America Deserves Better
This year I can't find the stomach to support either of the major candidates. Let's face it, America deserves better. Neither Gore nor Bush is presidential timber.
Bush is a reformed party animal (sound familiar?) whose main qualification for high office is his dad's letter of recommendation and the governorship of Texas, which is in the classic Texan tradition of disdain for authority really just a part-time job. No kidding.
Gore is let's be honest a bald-faced prevaricator and Bill Clinton's dupe to boot, whose real inner being is so shrouded by decades of let's-make-a-deal politicking that even Al Gore doesn't know what he really believes. Bush, on the other hand, can answer the relatively simple question of what he believes: Not much. He's a guy who never contemplated the big issues of the day while he was hell-raising as a misfit redneck in Kennebunkport, so he just stammers whatever Republican-think-tank-born platitudes he's been instructed to memorize. If Bush is presidential material, then I'm H.L. Mencken.
From an historical perspective, it's a sign of decline that the US two-party system allowed two of the most incompetent, Quayle-class politicians on the national level to rise to positions of imminent power. God help us all. Whoever wins, the American people lose.
The problem seems to be that the process of candidate selection has broken down. Eighteen months ago it was already a foregone conclusion who was going to be running for office. From the get-go, behind-the-scenes corporate puppet masters copiously over-fertilized Bush with capital like some wacky Internet startup. Meanwhile, regnant Al Gore was simply the Clinton dynasty's preordained heir. Bush bought the primary for handsome price. Tomorrow, about half the country is going to vote for him mainly because he's not Gore.
The 2000 candidate selection process was by rote, with precious little input from hoi polloi. The party conventions were reduced to expensive, self-aggrandizing pep rallies, paid for in part by your tax money
The Debate Sham
The so-called debates truly illuminated the debauchery of our political system. The debates were the world's first detailed inspection of the major candidates' intellects, and both men failed miserably to meet the standards set by the long line of Presidential debates stretching back to the Kennedy and Nixon confrontation in 1960.
Far more damaging than the visible floundering of both candidates on national television, the debates were invisibly bastardized before they had even begun by the exclusion of the third party candidates. Of course, Gore and Bush were pleased not to have to share their placid pool of ineptitude with any poignant, alternative viewpoints, but the exclusion wasn't their choice it was the system that actually decided to exclude the major third party candidates from the debates. Not surprisingly, the mass-media-doped American people submitted with barely a whimper of protest.
Imagine if Peru or East Timor decided to systematically exclude third party candidates from an election debate process the simon-pure US government would surely label such manipulation of the democratic process unfair. Protests would pour in from the UN and civil rights watchdog groups.
The Commission on Presidential Debates decided that to enjoy the grace of democracy in our nation one must "have at least a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the 2000 general election." While that criterion might seem innocently pragmatic at first glance, the ultimate effect of this requirement (and its covert purpose?) is to deny a third party sufficiently broad exposure to ever challenge the two-party duopoly, since our society relies entirely on the mass media for information. The Commission should be challenged in federal court for violating the civil rights of third party candidates and for thwarting the democratic intent of our founding fathers.
In all three of the presidential debates, both Gore and Bush emerged as losers. One can only imagine how an orator with authentic convictions, such as Ralph Nader of the Green Party or John Hagelin of the Natural Law Party, would have exposed as flummery the muddled and often negligible differences between Gore and Bush.
Some of the third party candidates have ideas that are far removed from the mainstream, but do the American people need to be protected from radical ideas? Wouldn't it be better to let the other candidates trounce the medieval delusions of, say, a Pat Buchanan, who believes AIDS is God's "retribution against homosexuals," on national TV rather than let such nonsense fester unchallenged for years at the local level?
Of course, dealing with the irrelevance of Buchananism or the socialists in presidential debates would require more of the two major candidates than focus-group-tested sound bites. No one ever claimed that democracy is the easiest form of government, just the least repugnant. Meanwhile, serious third party contenders would have elevated the debates far above the level of Tweedle-dum versus Tweedle-dee.
Then there was the lone vice-presidential debate, which only served to highlight Gore and Bush's inadequacies as front-runners. The stark contrast between Lieberman and Cheney's genially intelligent banter and the ham-fisted blather of the two Presidential contenders one of whom we will have to endure for four years left me longing for a transfer to a parallel universe where it's the Cheney-Lieberman ticket against Gore-Bush.
A quick look at a few of the issues starting with taxation and the surplus.
Much of the pseudo-debating between Gore and Bush was dedicated to what to do with or should I say, how to spend the surplus tax income of the US government. Both candidates inarticulately struggled to define differences in their economic policies, and while there are some real differences, at the foundation both plans are based on farfetched speculation. It's rather like listening to two futurologists lamely extrapolate the upward curves of the economy's charts and then fiercely argue whether the Dow will hit 30,000 or 36,000 by 2010.
Essentially Gore's and Bush's perishable presumptions about the future of the US economy are same; they only differ on how they would mortgage it.
So the whole argument on what to do with a largely chimeric surplus is mostly a moot point, except in that it illuminates one major philosophical difference between two parties that otherwise are owned by the same corporate masters.
Bush would give back the much of the hypothetical surplus to the people from which it originally came. That means the affluent are naturally going to get the lion's share of the Bush tax break, since they are the source of much of the surplus to start with. The end results would be the dilution of the Federal government's power and a boon for free enterprise, as a much larger share of the returned tax money would flow into capital investments than under Gore's plan.
Al Gore, a millionaire by birth, fell back on his father's demagogic us-versus-them class warfare paradigm to describe Bush's tax relief plan in Marxist terms of poor-versus-rich. . But it's hard to buy into that fairy tale while living in a postindustrial nation with the highest level of social mobility on the planet. Participation in the capital formation markets is becoming a national past-time in the US and hard work plus the initiative to get an education means anyone in the US could find oneself on the evil rich side of Gore's flawed equation. I am saying there is no poverty or discrimination in the US? No. But I am saying Gore's tax plan isn't going to change a thing.
Gore's tax plan would only return about half as much of the surplus to the citizens as the Republicans' would. The real difference is that Gore's plan isn't to return tax money to the pockets from which it came, but to redistribute it according to some hackneyed notions of class warfare which glorify the role of central government as a type of bureaucratic Robin Hood. Gore's policy is not a tax break per se, it's a socioeconomic engineering program designed to appeal to the basest social instincts while enhancing the authority of the Federal government as the final arbiter of wealth distribution in our nation.
Public education is the most important single task a society must succeed at in order to secure its future in the information age. And public education in the United State sucks. In every category the US system fails to meet the standards set in Western European, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia.
Lieberman, in his debate with Cheney, said he doesn't believe the US education system is floundering it just needs more money thrown at the problem. Bush and Cheney are more aware that the education system is producing a generation of illiterates "permanently sentenced to a lifetime of failure." But the Republican solution is to leave the problem at the local level where it always has been anyway and provide much less new capital for schools than the Democrats. And if that fails they'll nuke the whole public education system by making it more appealing for the best and the brightest to bail out which is already happening anyway.
Gore is all for maintaining the failing Social Security status quo. He disingenuously believes that Americans are dumb enough to not notice a 2% return, on what amounts to a retirement fund, is a rip-off deal. Inflation easily consumes that 2%. Soon even that poor return on your Social Security investment will shrink to negative points as more and more of the population reach retirement age.
Gore's camp paints Bush as a wild-eye libertarian when it comes to Social Security entitlements. Bush does look like a boy genius in the Social Security category. Essentially, he had the temerity to suggest that by simply purchasing the most conservative investment instrument on Earth 30-year US treasury bonds young workers could reasonably expect to get two to three times the rate of compounded returns than the system now provides. Moreover, the chance of losing much of your retirement investment if it were in treasury notes is far less than the certainty of losing much of it through Gore's stewardship of the status quo.
However, on closer inspection Bush's plan is merely a clever observation rather than a tangible program. His suggestion is to divert little more than 1 or 2% of the Social Security tax in what amounts to a tepid pilot program for the most youthful workers.
Gore is what is commonly known outside the US as an ugly American. He thinks that The American Way of Life is the superior path for civilization (I use that word loosely) to follow into the new century. He believes secular humanism is the ultimate moral light for the planet, and that it's America's job to lead the world. Gore sees the world as a new frontier to be tamed just like we tamed the Wild West. Lord knows Americans love a frontier. Gore would proactively attempt to civilize the world in our own image. Make way for designer jeans, Coca-Cola, rock-n-roll, Disneyland, and strip mall suburbia for the whole globe whether they want it or not.
Bush is hardly less naive, but at least he doesn't have Gore's sanctimonious attitude, nor is he as prone to attempt "nation building" police actions with US troops.
Gore in debate said that World War II was caused because the United States left those pesky European nations, "to their own devices and they brewed up a lot of trouble that quickly became World War II." Thank goodness we saved them. Then after the war with the Marshall plan, "We had civil administrators come in to set up their ways of building their towns back," according to Gore. That's double speak for the fact that after W.W.II, the US, as the only military and economic giant left standing, rather successfully Americanized Western Europe.
Now that the Soviet Union has fallen, Pax Americana prevails and the world looks more and more like an American melting pot or colony, as an Ameri-centric world culture emerges from the fertile soil of the ubiquitous US dominance in high technologies. While one might argue a global civilization led by the US is the inevitable and even necessary result of winning the cold war, it certainly isn't anything but toxic to cultural diversity. But maybe the decline of cultural diversity is inevitable, since a single nascent global civilization seems likely to emerge from the networking of the entire planet economically and fiber optically. And that might not be as sinister as it sounds the Internet has already proven to be a medium that bestows upon the individual many advantages over centralized command and control authorities.
Essentially, a limited global civilization already exists. The problems the world faces will increasingly become global in scale. All the most intractable problems are already global in nature from greenhouse gas emissions and dying fisheries to currency exchange stability, to dealing with the growing drug-and-weapons shadow economy and enforcement of intellectual property rights to the problem of the Commons. These are issues that can only be dealt with by reaching a planetary consensus and then implementing policy on a global scale.
The social issues
Gore is the Democrat so he firmly holds the secular humanist high ground on every one of the social issues. That doesn't mean he's going to lift a finger in protest of the human right violations in China if it means jeopardizing American corporate interests. In a similar Machiavellian fashion, Gore supports the death penalty which in reality liquidates a disproportionately large number of African American men, a significant percentage of which aren't even guilty! But Gore needed the Law and Order tough guy badge to get elected somewhere back in the fear-ridden 1980s, and he still wears it today.
Bush is the Republican so he automatically fails all the politically correct social issue litmus tests as did his father and Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford and even wily old Tricky Dick. Yet none of these Republican Presidents is remembered for turning back the clock on civil rights. In fact the steady advancement of secular humanism as a guiding standard in our legal and social systems has proceeded at about the same pace since Nixon no matter who is President. Democrats with Roosevelt's, Kennedy's or Johnson's conviction belong to an era long past.
As Ralph Nader says, "the two parties, Republican and Democrat, have converged on essentially more and more issues, to become one corporate power--party with two heads wearing different makeup." I don't agree with much of Mr. Nader's rhetoric but his refreshing analysis of political life in the United States is absolutely insightful.
If you're reading this on the Internet, you already grok that the pace of technological change is accelerating. It's at the point now where the velocity of technology is accelerating social, legal, political and even environmental transformation beyond the capacity of the senile two party system to evolve policy innovations in response.
Corporate chieftains cherish the two party system precisely because it so obediently preserves the status quo from one congressional term to the next. A predictable political steady state is always best for corporate profits, but during periods of historic bifurcation, (i.e. now) maintaining the status quo isn't good for business or the US or the world community of nations or the biosphere.
I've never voted for a third party, but I will this time.
A vote for Gore or Bush is really a vote for the corporate masters who have bought and stage managed the puppet candidates in return for the inevitable favoritism which the corporations will demand from which ever one becomes President.
A vote for a third party is a vote for a future with real choices. It's a protest vote against the fraud, the lies, the obfuscation, the irrelevance and the pork barrel politics as usual. Obviously no third party candidate can win this election, but your vote for a third party candidate will make alternative points of view stronger for the next election while sending the dominant political machine a message of discontent.
If that sounds a bit extreme, recall that many, if not most, Fortune 500 corporations give to both major candidates in order to hedge their bets. Microsoft, the world's most powerful corporation, vigorously supports both parties. Ultimately, in the final analysis it doesn't matter who wins, the status quo will be preserved.
What sort of democracy is that?
Your comments are welcomed.
Check out the Apple Trader Forum in the new Mac Observer Forum section! Talk about Apple's stock, the markets, or give your best stock tips, just come on in!
The Apple Trader's Most Recent Columns
The Dawning Of The Age Of Aquarius?
Apple's K-10 And Apple's Future
Apple's Stock: A Double Your Money Gamble?
The Apple Trader Forums
The Apple Trader Archives
Back to The Mac Observer For More Mac News!
Wes George writes about the financial side of being a Mac nut. Wes has followed Apple's finances for the last 7 years and comes to The Mac Observer every Monday to tell all about his opinions. He is, in his own words, "inordinately fond of money." If you would like to write Wes, make it nice. Someday you might own a company that has something to do with Apple, and Wes will probably still be writing for The Mac Observer...... On the other hand, Mr. George is known to love a rousing, hair-raising debate, so send him your worst!
Disclaimer: This column is for informational and entertainment purposes. While Mr. George may be sage indeed, his writings can not be construed as a solicitation to buy, nor an offering to sell any particular stock. As with any trading in the financial markets, you must use your own judgment to make the best trades that you can. Neither The Mac Observer nor Wes George may be held accountable for trading advice.