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October 28, 2004

hopes for a Kerry administration

I think the odds favor the Democrats on Tuesday, although it will be close and nobody really knows who has the edge. If John Kerry is elected president, my hopes will be modest--not because I lack respect for him as a person, but because the situation is awful and good ideas are scarce. I will be more than satisfied if Kerry and a Republican Congress are able to get the deficit down somewhat; America is extricated from Iraq without a devastating defeat; and people in the executive branch and the congressional Democratic Party begin to work out solutions to problems that Kerry currently does not know how to solve. Those problems include:

  • The loss of manufacturing jobs or decent substitutes. Playing with tax policy will have only a marginal effect. Better education is a long-term strategy, and it's going to be hard to achieve big improvements in education now that we've solved some of the easier problems. So what should we do to provide stable, remunerative, rewarding employment for people with less than a college degree?

  • Dependence on foreign oil. There are chalkboard "solutions" to this problem: higher fuel taxes and tougher economy standards. These solutions are politically implausible. A real answer would come with a political game-plan that could work.

  • The highest incarceration rate in the world. (5.6 million Americans are in prison or have prison records.) They are disproportionately younger male African Americans and Latinos. Even if massive incarceration is a way to reduce crime, the cost is far too high. There has to be a better way.

  • This list could also include the 40 million without health insurance, al-Qaeda (and its clones), global warming, and nuclear proliferation. I think John Kerry's biggest contribution, just like Bill Clinton's, may be to keep the fiscal situation reasonably sound so that the government is able to act later on; and to veto the most dangerous ideas from the right. This would not be a small achievement, but it is disappointing that we have no better solutions to our deepest problems than we had 12 years ago.

    Posted by peterlevine at 9:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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