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Decision Time

I will be out of the country for the election. I have to say that, for me, this is just as well. I’m finding that I have a lot of anxiety about the outcome, and my anxiety increased the other night as I watched the final presidential debate.

If you saw it, you know that it dealt with foreign policy. If you saw it, you probably know that Governor Romney displayed a lack of geopolitical knowledge that was—at least for me—rather frightening. One of things he said was that Syria was Iraq’s “route to the sea,” despite the fact that Iraq needs no route to the sea (it has two already) and it also shares no border with Syria. Another subject he talked about was our need for increased spending in the area of naval weaponry, despite our already spending upon the military a sum in excess of that spent by the next ten ranked nations combined. Hearing these two assertions was enough to make me experience both fear and despair. Why? Because the last President who was as badly informed as Governor Romney was George W. Bush. We are now in two wars begun by that President, who handed his foreign policy over to people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. And look where we are.

So I am afraid. I am afraid because foreign policy is the last thing people think about when economic times are bad, and I do understand this. But the election of Governor Romney as President would not, I believe, bring good times to people who are currently suffering.

I think this, first, because of Governor Romney’s plan to create jobs. As far as I have been able to ascertain from his declarations during debates and at campaign stops, he is going to create 12,000,000 jobs by reducing taxes on the rich and the super rich, by reducing environmental regulations, by eliminating capital gains taxes, and by other means that are buried within his 160-page-long Economic Plan that can be found on his website.

However, I have two problems with Governor Romney’s plan to create jobs. The first has to do with his history. When he was Governor of Massachusetts, that state was ranked 47th among the other states in job creation, which does not inspire confidence in me. His approval rating as governor was 34%, which suggests that things were, perhaps, not as he would have us think they were during his tenure. Additionally, he created Bain Capital, which has a history of buying companies, selling them at a profit to the Chinese and to others, and moving them overseas where workers are paid—in some cases in China—85 cents per hour. While all of this makes money for the investors in Bain Capital (it’s called Bain Capital for a reason, after all), it does nothing to support American jobs. Shakespeare once said that “The past is prologue,” and what I think he meant is that if we look at people’s past actions, we can predict what their future actions might be.

But my second problem with Governor Romney’s plan to create jobs has to do with a belief he has that lowering taxes on the rich and the super rich creates jobs. I don’t believe this. The lower-their-taxes method of ending a recession has been tried time and again, and, as far as I can remember, it has failed time and again. And despite listening to his arguments for lowering taxes over many months now, I have never heard anything from Mr. Romney to indicate that he’s tweaked this lower-their-taxes strategy in such a way as to make it a success this time around. Besides, I’m not a fool when it comes to giving loads of money back to the rich and the super rich because what I know about rich and super rich people and their money is that these folks—as well-meaning as they might be—generally do not start small businesses, which is exactly where Mr. Romney keeps claiming the job growth is going to come from. I also know the rich and super rich do not generally fund entrepreneurs. And you can give them money in reduced taxes hand over fist, but they also simply do not buy enough goods to create the 12 million jobs that Mr. Romney has promised.

Love him or hate him, President Bill Clinton said it best, I think: The math does not add up. You cannot cut taxes and increase military spending without driving the country further into debt, which in the long run does nothing to improve the economy. If you do not wish to drive the country further into debt, the only thing you can do is decimate other programs. These programs that suffer are generally those associated with health, education, and social welfare because the only other things to cut are Medicare and Social Security, which no one wishes to do. So what’s left are the so-called Entitlement Programs, which benefit people because the nation has decided these people are entitled to some kind of assistance. These people comprise: military veterans, wounded veterans, veterans suffering from PTSD, elderly people, disadvantaged minority children, children in poverty, those born physically disabled, those born mentally disabled, those needing special medical care. These programs are the first to get cut because generally they have no rich advocate behind them. They depend upon the collective social conscience of elected officials to keep them in place, and if an elected official has no social conscience, then the programs get cut. I would suggest that education would also get cut under Mr. Romney’s plan because he cut it in Massachusetts.

But for me—and I speak only for myself—the most important issue in this election is women’s health. Mitt Romney has espoused a plan to limit women’s access to birth control, to mammograms, and to cervical cancer checkups by de-funding Planned Parenthood across the country. He has a plan to curtail women’s right to choose by allowing terminations of pregnancy only in case of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s health. His running mate Paul Ryan’s position is to eliminate women’s right to choose as well as to limit women’s access to birth control. As a woman—even though none of these plans affect me personally—I find Governor Romney’s and Congressman Ryan’s positions deeply disturbing. I subscribe to what President Clinton said when running for re-election in 1996: “I have no intention of putting the health of American women into the hands of back alley abortionists.” This statement made sense to me then. It makes sense to me now. Beyond that, for me there is something deeply, deeply troubling about putting the health of American women into the hands of a bunch of men wearing suits and ties, no matter who those men happen to be.

There are other critical issues, I know:

Whose hand seems steadiest when it comes to volatile situations in Middle Eastern countries?

Who appears to be the person most willing to champion the rights of everyone, no matter who they are or what their walk of life is?

Who believes more strongly that there is actually a reason that the Founding Fathers insisted upon a separation of Church and State?

Who will have the clarity to nominate Justices of the Supreme Court who are committed to the rule of law and its interpretation and not to political whimsies?

But what concerns me most of all is that in the end, to be honest with you, the best man does not always win an election. Those of us who were alive at the time know that 1972 was a defining moment in the history of political skullduggery and, ultimately, electoral crimes against the American people. Many of us would declare that the election of 2000 wasn’t much better. For me, in neither case did the best man win. In both cases, I believe the nation was the worse for it. Oddly enough, also in both cases the outcome was extended war and the loss of American lives.

I earnestly hope that this election is different. I earnestly hope that the best man wins. My guess is that you feel likewise. But the only way to ensure that happening is for you—and everyone you know—to vote.

- Elizabeth George
Whidbey Island, Washington

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