Fri. Aug 14th, 2020

For My Friend, Ruth

I spoke with my friend Ruth at my daughter’s birthday on Sunday.

I never realized she and I were on different sides of the political divide, which either says a lot about what a lovely person she is, or how uncurious and naive I am, or both.  But what she said affected me a lot.

She said she felt like she’d been under assault during this political season because of her fiscally conservative views, and she brought up some good points.

She didn’t think it was fair the current administration was being tarred with all the difficulties we’re currently facing: other presidents had a chance to change things and did nothing.

In all honesty, I think she’s right on that point.  But unfortunately, the stuff hit the fan on W’s watch.  And  his administration was in the tank for every deregulatory initiative that crossed his desk and many that didn’t.  Under the Bush administration, government agencies like the Dept. of Energy didn’t even enforce their own rules about alternative fuel vehicles in government and private fleets.  The EPA began rolling back hard-won environmental regulations.  They had to be sued and defeated by environmental groups to get any action.  And then you add on things like the signing statements – the President declaring soto voce whether his administration was going to enforce any law they had signed off on or not – and the picture of this regime starts to look like something out of a Tim Burton movie, just not so funny.  So I think it’s difficult to excuse the Bush cabal for their actions.  They pursued them with such vigor, and with such dishonesty.

And Bush might have skated, if we weren’t immersed in an international war against terrorism.  Granted, they attacked us.  But we attacked a country that had little or nothing to do with the events of  9/11.  We went after the country that our president and his father had a beef with.  And that war has sucked us dry.  If the war wasn’t costing us so dearly in blood and treasure, W and his friends might have gotten away with their escalation of the assault on the middle class.  But that war, combined with the collapse of the financial markets, has put our nation in peril.  The opportunity for unity, domestically and with the world at large, was squandered.  Our conduct of this war has put us in bad stead with our friends around the world.  It has polarized the nation.  And our fiscal conduct has been as bad or worse.

My friend Ruth was very worried that, if Obama were elected, small businesses would suffer because of the size of his proposed social programs: how can he cut taxes AND pursue all his proposed programs?  He won’t get to do all of them: he’ll be President, not king.  Besides, George Bush and his administration cut taxes in a time of war, which is unprecedented, as far as I know.

Why was there no outcry from conservatives about that?

Where was the shared sacrifice of those “good wars”?

How many legislators of either party had a son or daughter in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Honestly, I think that if Obama and O’Biden – as Sen. McCain referred to Citizen Joe in one of the debates -can get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, money will be freed up to do many constructive things.

And like other presidents, he won’t get his way in all things.  He’ll have to choose his battles.  His tax plans are targeted to benefit those earning less than $250,000 a year, whether they’re families or small businesses; and the majority of small businesses fall in that category.  If you’re making more than that, there may be an increased burden.  But frankly, some of those people have gotten a free ride for 8 years.  It’s time for the rest of us to get a break.  Particularly those who’ve been socked with the Alternative Minimum Tax.

After Ruth and I spoke, we were able to reassure each other that within our friendship and our privilege as Americans, we could agree to disagree and accord each other the respect we deserved.  I don’t think I changed her mind, although I think she did grant me some ground on the aspect of the war and its impact.

Monday morning, I got a pleasant surprise: Paul Krugman, a respected economist who also writes for the New York Times, was awarded the Nobel Prize for his earlier works.  Krugman is a determined and stalwart critic of the Bush administration’s economic policies.  But as deserving as he is, I think this award was also a message to all of us as Americans, that the policies pursued in our name are disliked by many governments around the globe.  We’ve paid a tremendous price in terms of our prestige and standing in the world over the past eight years.  It’s time to do something about that.

It’s time for a change.  A big change.  A change that John “Bush Lite” McCain can’t deliver.

I can respect Ruth’s position even if I don’t agree with it.  I don’t know if she’d agree with me that her party has sent us careening down the road to ruin and over the cliff.  But she’s an intelligent, compassionate human being and I respect her views.

Is Barack Obama the right man at the right time?  I don’t know.  But he is the best bet we’ve got in this election, and he’s my man.

In the meantime, God love you, Ruth.  You have a good heart and we disagree.  But that’s A-OK in this country.

May the Higher Power of your choice provide you good counsel and guidance in the big decisions to come.