The Fog of Politics: Looking at the Parties

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For those of you who have not seen, heard, or read anything regarding news lately, the US is currently in a dead heat for the Presidential election.  The Republicans are getting desperate to hold on to some branch of the government that will give them some leverage as their hold on government slips from their grasp, while the Democrats are feverishly trying to win back what they feel is their right to govern.  Both sides are attacking each other on policy points, and promising the world to potential voters.  But what exactly are they promising?  It's hard to understand what the Candidates are promising, as they do change either their positions or the flavors of their positions slightly to appeal to the group to whom they are talking.  So what does this mean for the average voter?  What can we do as voters to evaluate the positions of the parties and their candidates? One great thing about the modern election system is the use of websites for both truth and propoganda.  The Web is now a very powerful tool a voter can use to evaluate the documented positions of the candidates, and their specific policies.  Below I am going to list the policies and positions of the Republican and Democratic National Committees.  Please note that the decisions to post one party over another is not based on personal preference:  I am unaffiliated, and prefer to remain so.  I am just posting their positions, and someone needs to come first.  Also note that it is the responsibility of the reader to sift through the promises and look at what is actually possible.  Can the promise be kept?  Are the obstacles, and if so have they been accounted for?  Are the ideas just ideas, or are they realistic?  What helps over the short term, and again in the long term?  What past experience does the candidate, party, and entourage bring to each unique problem?  All these questions and more should be asked by the reader as they go through the mire.  Author Note:  I don't like mud-slinging politics, and hate watching ads, read speeches, etc. that attack other candidates.  As such, I will not post such attacks made by candidates to prove their position.  As I told a good Democrat friend of mine back in 2004:  "I'm not Bush" is not a position.  I need substantive policies to look at, and the minute a candidate attacks another candidate on a policy I stop listening.  The Republican National Committee: The RNC website is http://rnc.org.  On the main page, they have a menu item that covers Issues.  Here are the Issues, as seen by the Republican Party: 
  1. Faith and Values:  Providing support for Faith-based community organizations, Support of the New Freedom Initiative, which provides support of freedom and independence for individuals with disabilities, and Support of Partial Birth Abortion Ban and "Connor's Law".  
  2. Education:  A new high school initiative to help states hold high schools accountable for teaching all students and to provide effective interventions for those students who are not learning at grade level, Increasing reading skills for America’s striving readers by providing a focus on improving the reading skills of high school students who read below grade level, Accelerating mathematics and science achievement dedicated to support projects to accelerate the mathematics achievement of all secondary students, and especially low-achieving students, Accelerating student achievement with Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, and Promoting Scholastic Achievement with State Scholars.   
  3. Energy:  The President's Advanced Energy Initiative promotes America's four main sources of electricity: coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewable sources, Nuclear Power is abundant and affordable, clean, and safe, President Bush is encouraging the research and development of Clean-Coal technologies, which is by far America’s most abundant and affordable energy resource, and President Bush's FY2007 budget proposed $44 million in funding for wind energy research and other alternative and renewable resource.  
  4. Healthcare:  The President's plan will help more Americans afford health insurance by reforming the tax code with a standard deduction for health insurance - like the standard deduction for dependents, and The Affordable Choices Initiative will help make basic private health insurance available and will provide additional help to Americans who cannot afford insurance (These two policies will work together to help more Americans afford basic private coverage), and The President's proposal will lower taxes for millions of Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, making their insurance more affordable.  
  5. Jobs and Economy:  Restraining spending by the Federal Government, Working with Congress to pass legislation that promotes economic growth - including making his tax cuts permanent, Reforming the institutions fundamental to American society, so that they can meet the realities of our new century, and Strengthening high schools and the secondary education system.  
  6. Legal Reform:  Securing the ability of injured patients to get quick, unlimited compensation for their "economic losses," including the loss of ability to provide unpaid services like care for children or parents, and Ensuring recoveries for non-economic damages do not exceed a reasonable amount ($250,000), Reserving punitive damages for egregious cases where they are justified, and limiting damages to reasonable amounts.   
  7. Safety and Security:  Strengthening our Military, Deploying a missile defense system, Strengthening our ties NATO, and Protecting the homeland and acheiving a sustained level of success and progress in Iraq.  
  8. Social Security:  In 1950, there were 16 workers to support every one beneficiary of Social Security. Today, there are only 3.3 workers supporting every Social Security beneficiary, In 2008 - baby boomers will begin to retire, and Under the current system, today's 30-year-old worker will face a 26% benefit cut when he or she reaches normal retirement age.    
  9. Tax Reform:  Restraining spending by the Federal Government, Reforming the tax code, as the President believes that America's taxpayers deserve, and our future economic prosperity demands, a simpler, fairer, more pro-growth system, and Taxes should be applied fairly, and reform should recognize the importance of homeownership and charity in our American society.  
Those are the published issues the Republican National Committee are dedicated to accomplishing.  The Democratic National Committee, located at http://dnc.org, has their own agenda: 
  1. Honest Government:  The Democratic Party is committed to real ethics reform and meaningful campaign finance reform that protects our rights and ensures that elected officials act ethically -- not just within the law, but within the spirit of the law. To do so, we will create and enforce rules that demand the highest ethics from every public servant, sever unethical ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, and establish clear standards that prevent the trading of official business for gifts.  Please note that I have cut whole sections out of their original paragraphs due to irrelevant comparisons to another party (as in both parties have struggled with ethics in government, not just one).  
  2. Real Security:  [Democrats] will protect Americans at home and lead the world by telling the truth to our troops, our citizens and our allies. We believe in a strong national defense that is both tough and smart, recognizing that homeland security begins with hometown security.  Democrats have a plan that is comprehensive-- from repairing our military, to winning the war on terror, to protecting our homeland security, to ensuring success in Iraq and freeing America of its dependence on foreign oil--and it will finally prepare America for the security needs of the 21st Century. And we honor the sacrifices our troops, their families and veterans by making sure we take care of them when they come home.Democrats are unwavering in our commitment to keep our nation safe. For Democrats, homeland security begins with hometown security. That's why we led the fight to create the Department of Homeland Security and continue to fight to ensure that our ports, nuclear and chemical plants, and other sensitive facilities are secured against attack and support increased funding for our first responders and programs like the COPS program so we keep our communities safe. We want to close the remaining gaps in our security by enacting the 9/11 Commission recommendations. 
  3. Energy Independence:  [Democrats] will create a cleaner, greener and stronger America by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, eliminating billions in subsidies for oil and gas companies and use the savings to provide consumer relief and develop energy alternatives, and investing in energy independent technology.  By clearing the pathways to innovation, investing in our workers and infrastructure, and providing American consumers with broader, more responsible choices, the Democratic plan will provide the tools to help move America forward, toward real energy security for the 21st century.  Again, this was edited, though not for partisan comparisons.  Much of the statement here is simply stating the obvious.  For a full version of this agenda item, visit the page. 
  4. Economic Prosperity and Educational Excellence:  We will create jobs that stay in America and restore opportunity for all Americans, starting with raising the minimum wage, expanding Pell grants and making college tuition tax deductible. We also believe in budget discipline that reduces our deficit.  Democrats believe that the most effective way to increase opportunity for our families is a high quality, good paying job. The Democratic Party supports fair trade agreements that raise standards for all workers here and abroad, while making American businesses more competitive, and we don’t believe in tax giveaways that reward companies for moving American jobs overseas.  We also believe in balanced budgets and paying down our national debt, [partisan attack edited out]. We want to restore the budget discipline of the 1990s that helped eliminate deficits and spur record economic growth.  Democrats know that the key to expanding opportunity is to provide every child with a strong foundation of education. We will also help expand educational opportunities for college by making college tuition tax deductible, expanding Pell Grants, and cut student loan interest rates.
  5. Affordable Healthcare:  We will join 36 other industrialized nations in making sure everyone has access to affordable health care, starting by fixing the prescription drug program and investing in stem cell and other medical research.  Democrats are committed to making sure every single American has access to affordable, effective health care coverage. We want to fix the disastrous Medicare Part D and ensure our seniors can afford their prescription drugs.  We also believe in investing in life saving stem cell and other medical research that offers real hope for cures and treatment for millions of Americans.
  6. Retirement Security:  We will ensure that a retirement with dignity is the right and expectation of every single American, starting with pension reform, expanding saving incentives and preventing the privatization of social security.  Democrats believe that after a life of hard work, you earn a secure retirement. Our commitment to protecting the promise of Social Security is absolute.  Democrats also recognize that Americans rely on more than just Social Security for a secure and dignified retirement. Democrats will continue to fight for genuine pension reform that protects employees’ financial security from future Enron-style abuse. We also want to work on new ways to help hard-working Americans create retirement savings.
  7. The Environment:  The Democratic Party believes that it is our responsibility to protect America's extraordinary natural resources. The health of our families and the strength of our economy depend on our stewardship of the environment.  We reject the false choice between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. Farming, fishing, tourism, and other industries require a healthy environment. New technologies that protect the environment will create new high-paying jobs. A cleaner environment means a stronger economy.  Far too many Americans live with unhealthy air or water quality. Democrats will fight to strengthen the laws that ensure we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. And Democrats will make sure these laws are enforced.  Democrats know that a sensible energy policy is key to a strong economy, our national security, and a clean environment. Democrats are committed to the next generation of affordable and renewable energy for the 21st century and to conservation measures that will immediately reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
  8. Civil Rights and Justice:  Democrats are unwavering in our support of equal opportunity for all Americans. That's why we’ve worked to pass every one of our nation’s Civil Rights laws, and every law that protects workers. Most recently, Democrats stood together to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.  On every civil rights issue, Democrats have led the fight. We support vigorous enforcement of existing laws, and remain committed to protecting fundamental civil rights in America.
  9. Election Reform:  A fundamental tenet of our democracy is the right to vote and have that vote counted. We must be vigilant in protecting this right and ensuring that our voting system is fair for every American.  Democrats are determined to reform the voting system in this country so that it includes verification, accountability, and accuracy. It is imperative that we modernize election equipment, and guarantee access to polls with common sense reforms such as Election Day registration, shorter lines, and early voting. The Democratic Party is committed to election reform and will fight for federal standards that restore confidence in our voting process.
  10. Immigration:  America deserves realistic solutions to address border security and immigration reform, consistent with American values. That means reform that is comprehensive, tough and smart but also fair.  Democrats are fighting for laws that will:Secure our bordersProtect all U.S. workers and their wages & prevent exploitation of immigrant workersReunite familiesAllow immigrants who pay taxes and don't have trouble with the law a path to earn the opportunities and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.
That was the list of the Democratic National Committee agenda items.  I have a lot to say about some of them, but I'll leave it for another post.  Due to the length of this article, I'll leave the candidates to next week.