If I were Obama, here's what I would say to Senator McCain
Well, I just got finished watching the minuscule portion of the Republican convention that was televised this week. I was awakened from the couch after the convention was over by a big storm that rolled in. I thought it was the leftovers of Hurricane Gustav working its way inland-- until I realized that the wind that kicked up was the collective sigh of relief issuing from St. Paul after the Republicans figured out how to keep George Bush and Dick Cheney out of the convention without having to admit how much embarassment their presence would have caused. I'm still not sure putting Dick Cheney half a world away in Asia until the convention closed down was really enough of a safety margin, however.
So I drifted back to sleep, and had an interesting dream. I dreamt of Barack Obama responding specifically to Senator McCain's speech accepting the nomination. I dreamt that Senator Obama gave the following response:
"Good evening, my fellow Americans. I want to congratulate Senator McCain for his nomination by the Republican party. Senator McCain is a great American who has always served our country with honor, and it will be a privilege to strive with him in our shared dream of a changed government. Senator McCain says he respects and admires me, and celebrates that we are fellow Americans. He also acknowledges that Americans want us to stop yelling at each other. I absolutely agree with him that Americans are hungry for real debate not based on fear but on hope. I am pleased that Senator McCain has joined me in calling for change.
"And change certainly is necessary. I find it interesting that the nominated candidate of the party that has administered the policies of Washington from the White House for 28 of the last 40 years trumpeted the word “change” ten times in his speech. I want to thank Senator McCain and agree with him that yes, there apparently IS something upon which we agree. Where we disagree is who offers 'Change We Can Believe In.'
"Can we believe the promises to change Washington from someone who has been a member of the Beltway since 1983—for a quarter of a century?
"Senator McCain promises to cut government spending. However, in the last 8 years, government spending at all levels has dramatically increased each and every year, from 3.4 trillion dollars to 5.1 trillion dollars, and at this pace, we can anticipate that figure being at least 5.4 trillion dollars by 2010. TRILLION dollars! Now even for those rich folk designated by Senator McCain as those earning more than 5 million dollars a year, that is a mind-boggling figure. Government spending in 2008 is more than TWICE what it was in 1993—the first year of President Clinton’s time in office. Under the policies of George Bush and his Republican party, government spending in the last eight years alone has risen nearly 40 %.
"Now, where have we gotten the money, since the Republicans have not come close to delivering balanced budgets, much less protecting the surpluses that were delivered to them at the end of President Clinton’s term in office? By mortgaging our future and the future of our children to foreign sources. The Chinese have become the mortgage holders to our children’s futures because the Republicans have accelerated government spending while refusing to face the same tough decisions American families face each and every day when looking at their own budgets. American families don’t have the luxury of not balancing their budgets at the end of the day and not facing real consequences. It is time for the government to stop doing the same. We face a tremendous danger to our national security from this runaway Republican spending spree. That’s what the last eight years of Republican politics has brought us. Their profligate spending reduces investment in job creation and has weakened the dollar all around the world, and that’s part of why oil has become so expensive. That’s change all right—but not change that works for America.
"Senator McCain claims that he will cut revenue even further, and that that will create jobs. Yet perhaps President George H. W. Bush said it best when he derided supply-side economics as 'voodoo' economics. How well have all the tax breaks given to corporations and their multi-millionaire executives helped strengthen the economic situation for working Americans? Let’s ask steelworkers from Pennsylvania to Illinois, autoworkers from Michigan to Missouri, construction workers from California to Florida how many jobs have been created for them? And these are the people who literally built America. Negative job growth is change all right—but not change that works for America.
"I want all Americans to have access to health care—at the very least, the same health care that Senator McCain has access to for all of his seventy-two years from his birth as a military dependent to his twenty years as a senator. Senator McCain has been blessed not to have to try to seek health insurance in the private sector. Government-sponsored healthcare has served Senator McCain well. And I believe all Americans deserve the same access as Senator McCain has enjoyed.
"Senator McCain says that his healthcare plan will keep small businesses from cutting jobs and keep people from having to go through a bureaucrat who stands between you and your doctor. I want to explain to Senator McCain that Americans already have bureaucrats that stand between them and their doctors, who tell us which doctors we can see and which drugs we are allowed to take, who tell families which treatments they are allowed to take as they watch their children and mothers and fathers struggle against cancer. Those bureaucrats are the insurance company flunkies who limit care in the quest for spiraling corporate profits, with help from their fellow bureaucrats in the pharmaceutical industry. Because the Republicans tie health insurance to employment, companies already have to limit the jobs they create to try to hold down the costs of insuring their workers. Hard working Americans need access to health care, and right now, 47 million hardworking Americans have no access to health care under the system the Republicans favor, along with their big corporate donors. That’s not change that works for America.
"Senator McCain spoke of allowing everyday Americans to save, spend or invest as they see fit. But Americans who struggle just to keep a roof over their heads as the mortgage crisis deepens and as their jobs head overseas with the blessing of government tax breaks don’t have the luxury of investing or saving. Instead, millions of Americans face losing the only real investment that they have—their homes.
"Senator McCain acknowledged briefly that some Americans are experiencing 'pain' from the current economic situation, while not offering much in the way of a plan to truly change anything. Workers who risk losing their homes and who have lost their health insurance certainly are feeling pain, or, more accurately, personal devastation. They can't afford investments. They can't afford gasoline. They can't afford spiraling health-insurance costs. They can’t afford college or other training when they are already spending their waking hours working to keep their heads above water. Even if they know they need that education, education costs have outstripped government aid and the inflation rate for decades.
"In fact, access to training and higher education has always been vital for a strong economy. The creation of thousands of public high schools at the dawn of the twentieth century helped make America the aresenal of democracy by the start of World War II. The American middle class was created after World War II when millions of American veterans were thanked by the American people through a G.I. Bill that opened the doors of college and vocational training. The G.I. Bill was a magic carpet to the middle class, a middle class that is the backbone and strength of the American people. My administration would support a strengthening of this investment in America through a new G.I. Bill for this generation's heroes. Such a bill has already been passed. What stance did Senator McCain and his president take on this bill?
"Senator McCain chose to go on a fundraising trip rather than be present to vote for a modern G.I. Bill for our returning military heroes—a bill that President Bush then threatened to veto. Senator McCain opposed this bill because he said that it would dissuade servicemen from reenlistment by giving them choices. I believe that our servicemen and servicewomen should have choices about their futures once their enlistments are completed. I believe our veterans deserve health care and treatment when they have been wounded. They deserve more than just verbal thanks. They deserve more than to be paraded for political gain. They have invested their hopes and their dreams in our security. They deserve government investment in their health, educational, and employment needs. We have to place as much investment in their futures in the civilian world as we have in asking for their service. Our country is dedicated to a strong volunteer military, and we shouldn’t treat those who have volunteered as serfs. I believe that we demonstrate our commitment to our veterans not with pins and jewelry on our lapels but with government investment.
"Senator McCain, I also agree with you that education is the civil rights issue of this century, for veterans who have risked everything near the Persian Gulf as well as for children in the US Gulf coast still struggling to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina three years after it wrought its devastation with so little concern from Washington. Education is a civil rights issue for those children whose parents have been unable to buy or keep a home in a good school district. And what makes a school district good? Access to resources. School districts are already subject to forces of competition-- competition for a strong tax base and for adequate funding. What the Republicans’ plans for education won’t do is increase average Americans’ access to quality education for their children, since all the Republican elite want to do is drain more resources from struggling schools that are not blessed with a wealthy tax base. Parents won’t have real educational choice until we make sure that all American schools are adequately funded.
"Yes, Senator McCain, America is a bountiful nation, and we deserve a government that believes that all people should be able to share in that bounty. Republicans like to say that 'government is the problem.' Yet wasn’t it another great American—coincidentally, a Republican—who spoke so stirringly of government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people?' We need to return to that ideal. I wonder why a party that decries government as being so harmful tries so desperately to hang on to control of that same government and the policies that they have created that have left so many on the margins of abundance? The rising tide of wealth has not raised all boats. Too many Americans are standing on the ocean floor as the tide of debt and despair rises ever higher and pulls them ever deeper.
"Government itself, however, is NOT the problem, because I do believe that government should be by, of and for the people, as Abraham Lincoln reminded us. The first duty of government is to safeguard the rights of and opportunities for its citizens-- the rights to be secure in our own homes, the right to demand that government be as willing to provide children with health care as it is to provide military assistance to dictators in Pakistan or the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Republican control of the government, the failed policies that have led to job loss and a damaged standing in the world, that have played the politics of disinformation and of subversion of the very Constitution that they profess to love and defend for the last forty years—THAT is the real problem. My administration would be a government Americans could trust to be truthful. And my administration would truly bring a change in vision, looking forward to a new dawn of hope and change that we can believe in.
"Thank you, my fellow Americans, and may God bless us all. Good night."