Arizona Daily Star:

Sunday, October 3, 2004 

Editorial: Elect Kerry

Four years ago, George W. Bush became president of a thriving America. Not only had his predecessor eliminated the national deficit, he had left the new president a $236 billion budget surplus.  Unemployment was at a record low of 4 percent.  The nation was not at war.  The current president's policies have had a negative impact on each of these areas.  We believe John Kerry can reverse that trend, and we endorse him for president.
In less than four years, President Bush, the avowed conservative, turned a record surplus into a record deficit, now estimated at $422 billion.  During the same period, the unemployment rate rose to 6 percent and then improved a bit, but this summer, 5.4 percent of the work force was still unemployed.
The peace and prosperity of the Clinton administration evolved, under President Bush, to a falsely justified war and an economy that declined sharply and is barely staggering back to solvency - though even that faltering solvency is seriously jeopardized by impractical tax cuts for which our children will pay dearly.
Economist Milton Friedman has observed, with considerable wisdom, "A tax cut that adds to the deficit today is just a tax hike on future taxpayers."
It is clear that a change is needed.  We believe the policies and management style that Kerry represents offer more hope than the current administration's stubborn allegiance to isolationist rhetoric, the unjustified use of military force and economic policies that provide instant gratification to some and long-term danger to the nation as a whole.
For many voters, unfortunately, the election is essentially a personality contest.  People tend to regard the candidates the way they do celebrities.  And while that is always a mistake, this year it would be a particularly egregious mistake to vote without examining closely the leadership qualities and philosophical underpinnings of each presidential hopeful.
Kerry demonstrated his leadership abilities, as well as his fidelity to principle, with his bravery during the Vietnam War and with the dissent that he expressed when he returned home.  That dissent took as much courage as - maybe more than - the young John Adams' decision some 250 years ago to take on the legal defense of British soldiers who had fired on a Boston mob that had been pelting them with rocks.
The domestic and international problems facing Bush are not likely to vanish if Kerry is elected, but Kerry's experience in the Senate - especially his time on the Foreign Relations Committee - makes him better prepared to move the nation toward achievable goals and stronger international coalitions.
President Bush had never served in a state legislature or either house of Congress before he was elected.  His only preparation for the job had been six years as governor of Texas and social contact with his father's friends and associates.  The effects of this shallow background, coupled with a simplistic world view, can be seen in the deadly chaos of Iraq, the decline of U.S. prestige abroad and impending domestic crises in health care and Social Security.
What is needed now is not only a realistic strategy for addressing changes but a manager who can assemble a team to achieve them. Kerry's campaign has been working closely with former President Clinton and officials in his administration.  Unlike President Bush, these are individuals with a proven track record of creating jobs, eradicating deficits and promoting prosperity in a peacetime economy.
President Bush's economic policies - cut taxes and regulation and let free markets develop unrestrained by government regulation - would likely create wealth, but for a very limited segment of society.  The people who prosper from the debt service the government pays, as well as highly skilled workers, will do well.
We cannot say the same for the vast middle class, for those whose jobs have been outsourced and those for whom the Bush tax cuts - though they are politically attractive - are a pittance.  And for that enormous population that still cannot afford health insurance, or for seniors whose Medicare premiums just went up 17 percent, the tax cuts are useless.
Come January, either Bush or Kerry will have to address the deteriorating mess in Iraq as well as the deficit and the approaching drain on the Social Security trust from baby boomers reaching retirement age.
And just as there is no evidence that Bush ever accepted the predictions of his intelligence and security experts with respect to Iraq, there is nothing to suggest that he will reverse his politically opportunistic tax cuts.
Kerry would deal with taxes more realistically, increasing rates but only for those earning at least $200,000 a year.
President Bush had four years to prove himself and did poorly.  It is time to elect a president with a broader understanding of international affairs and a greater concern for the welfare of those living on slender incomes.  Elect John Kerry.

Copyright © 2004 Arizona Daily Star.  Reprinted by permission.  (Dennis Joyce Oct. 15, 2004, Rene Weatherless Oct. 20, 2004)

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