Cogito Patris

Random Thoughts for Random People

How to Vote

I don’t vote every year.  Even when I do vote, I only cast a ballot for the races that I have researched.  I feel it is my duty as a citizen, not only to vote, but to do research before I vote.  I worry that I will do harm if I vote based on advertising or blind chance.  I actually think that is why the Founding Fathers limited voting to a select few.  Unlike the Founding Fathers, I don’t think the people should be limited.  Instead, I think that everyone should do the research before casting a vote.  Because I don’t always have time to do the research, I don’t always vote.

But, like most Americans, I will be voting in next year’s Presidential election.  Before I do so, I want to research the issues that are important to me.

The Background 

Now, I think of Government as have three purposes:

1) Protect citizens from external threats.

This is the original reason for Government.  In many ways, it is the oldest protection racket in the world. “Pay taxes, and we will protect you from the barbarians on the other side of an imaginary line.”   Never mind that the “Barbarians” are saying the same things to their protectees.  Granted, “Protection Racket” isn’t exactly accurate.  For one thing, there are Barbarians at the gate in many cases.  Also, in a true “Protection Racket” the protectees are buying protections from the same people that they would need protection from.

Examples of this in modern America are limited pretty much to Military spending.  I have said before that I am a fan of military spending because of the direct benefits to technology brought about by military research.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

2) Protect citizens from each other

I think this is the difference between a “civilization” and a “tribe”. I am using “Tribe” here to refer more to primitive associations that hunted and battled together.  I know that Native American tribes had all the complexity of what I am calling a “civilization”. 

Examples of this rule are everything from anti-monopoly laws to murder to the protection from an illegal search.

3) Protect citizens from themselves.

In many ways, I consider this the newest set of government laws (as opposed to Laws of the Church which are supposedly to save a person’s soul).  It is also the largest part of America’s government and the primary difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.

Examples of this are speeding laws, social security and medicare.

So, if an issue does not fit in to one of these three categories, I don’t care about it.  That includes the non-issues of gay marriage.  Nothing about gay marriage will harm the average citizen from threats either inside or outside the United States.  And gay marriage will not harm the couple themselves either. (Please note that I had to work really hard not to make a derogatory joke about marriage here.)

The Issues

Now that I have defined the limitations of what constitutes an Issue, the next step in my decision making process is to list out the issues that I care about.  This list may be added to when I start doing research.  This is just what I know I care about.  This is actually a two-part process.  First I just list everything out, then I put them in to an order of importance.  I did these separately, but what you see below is the list in order.

1) The war in Iraq.  I think we should pull out of Iraq.  I also doubt that I will find many people who oppose pulling out of Iraq.  To his credit, I don’t think that Bush could have avoided a civil war in Iraq.  I think that once Saddam Hussein’s rule came to an end, a civil war was going to ensue.  All we did was accelerate that process.  But now that it is a civil war, I don’t think we have any right to be there.

2) The war in Afghanistan.  I think we should remain in Afghanistan.  In fact, I think we should increase our presence in that country.  After all, they asked for our help.

3) Reduction of out dependence of foreign oil.  I don’t want to hear “I will reduce our dependence on foreign oil”, I want to know how.  I want it to be aggressive and I want it to have teeth.  Congress is about to pass a bill (or already passed a bill) that calls for a 30% increase in the fuel economy of passenger vehicles by 2020.  This is based on EPA estimates which are faulty at best, and fraudulent at worst.  The bill does not call for incremental improvements, and it allows for a waiver.  So, Detroit could wait until 2019, not doing anything, and then ask for a waiver.  Ironically, the leading Democratic candidate, and the current President were pushing for a much more aggressive bill.  One that also required a 30% increase in fuel economy,  but includes incremental updates, a stricter regulation on the EPA’s fuel estimates, and sanctions if a company does not comply.  Even with the support of two powerful, and politically opposite, people, this bill didn’t pass.

But I don’t want the talking heads (candidates) to get too caught up in automobile regulations.  Power companies and other industrial applications also utilize a large amount of foreign oil.  We need incentives and penalties to help persuade these companies to do the right thing.

4) Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  You may not have heard, but particulate, NO and SO pollutions are all down.  That means less smog and less acid rain.However, nothing has been done to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases.  The irony is, with less particulate matter in the atmosphere, global warming may now accelerate.  The particulate matter in the atmosphere reflected some of the sun’s radiation away from the planet.  Without that reflection, more is trapped by the greenhouse gases.  Yet again, with this issue I don’t want to hear “I will reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, I want to know how.  Unfortunately, I have not heard a single thing about Washington even looking in to this issue.

You may ask yourself where these last two issues fit in to my “3 reasons for Government”.  I consider them to be both #2 and #3.  Protecting ordinary citizens from the pollution made by big corporations (power plants are a big source of CO2 pollution) and protecting citizens by forcing them to buy products that perhaps cost a little more, but do better for the environment.

5) Health Care.  Autism is a new field medically.  As a result, many of the more experimental treatments are not covered by health insurance.  As a result, in the last year I have spent an incredible amount on tests and treatments.  Granted, most did not help at all, which is why the insurance company didn’t want to pay for it.  But every flavor of autism is different.  Just because a treatment didn’t work for Dante doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t work for some other child.  I also tried an experimental treatment for my Depression.  It didn’t work either.  But add it all up and what you get is a whole lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses.  I like the idea of a universal health plan with the option to buy premium plans.  But even if that is not an option, at least some government investigation in to insurance scams companies should be conducted.

6) Military Spending.  I told you I was getting ahead of myself.  This isn’t much of an issue this year, but a candidate that runs saying they will cut military spending will lose points in my analysis.  I doubt I am going to find that however.  Military research has been instrumental in producing many of the conveniences that we take for granted every day.  The Internet and cell phones are great examples.

7) DirecTV monopoly of the NFL Sunday Ticket.  I know this doesn’t seem like much of an issue.  But the NFL has a monopoly on professional football and DirecTV has a monopoly on letting a citizen choose the game they want to watch.  But I pay an outrageous price for Sunday Ticket to watch the Redskins play because I am in a secondary market.  But because I am in a secondary market, I usually get three to six games on local TV.  Add to that another couple of games that are on National TV, and I pay for Sunday Ticket to get eight to eleven games a season.  That is simply outrageous.  In fact, last year I was going to cancel my subscription and just go to a sports bar for those few games I couldn’t watch at home.  When I called to cancel they gave me a reduced price so I decided to stay with them.  But I don’t think that is going to keep me again next year.

8) National WiFi.  A few years ago, I remember someone mentioning the possibility of providing high-speed Internet for every citizen.  I don’t remember who it was that said that, but I agreed with it then and I continue to agree with it.  But I want to go one step further and provide WiFi everywhere.  That might be a pipe dream, but then again, so was the Model T.

Next time, I will look at each candidate and grade them on these issues.  I may also add some new issues.

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December 21, 2007 - Posted by | Thoughts on Politics

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