Saturday, October 23, 2004

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The draft and the deficit

Paul Krugman draws an interesting parallel between Bush’s assurances that we won’t need a draft in the future to replenish our severely strained Armed Forces and his promises four years ago that his tax cuts would not lead to a return of big budget deficits.

Bush’s refusal to consider a military draft is not unlike his refusal to consider a tax increase (or at least a rollback of some of his tax cuts) to address the budget deficit.
Ignoring the deficit puts a strain on our economy and is one of the chief reasons why this current “economic recovery” has been so weak. But Bush can get away with weakening our government by allowing deficits to pile up unheeded longer than he can ignore military manpower shortages in the middle of a war. Our military can’t operate on IOUs like our government can. They need people on the ground in sufficient numbers to accomplish their missions.
Unless we are willing to commit the number of troops necessary to finish the job, we need to consider alternatives such as scaling back our current goals and/or working harder to bring in support troops from our allies.

A military draft is like paying higher taxes. It is a method by which the government acquires the resources it needs to function effectively. It may be unpopular, but when you have a president who insists on running up record deficits and starting unnecessary wars there eventually comes a time when everyone is forced to pay the piper.

By the way, if Bush is so certain that we won’t ever need a military draft, why are we continuing to fund a Selective Service System to the tune of $26 million a year?

46 percent

According to an analysis by Knight-Ridder, President Bush has only fulfilled 46 percent of the promises he made during his 2000 campaign for the presidency. This despite having a Republican majority in both the House and Senate for most of his term.
President Clinton, by contrast, fulfilled 66 percent of his campaign promises is spite of having a Republican Congress to contend with for most of his tenure.
So does this mean that Bush is just incompetent, unlucky or was his agenda so out-of-step with the American mainstream that there was no way he could get most of it passed?
46 percent is also about where Bush’s poll numbers have been sitting recently which means he’s a guaranteed one-termer.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Baseball playoffs

I had mixed feelings watching the Yankees lose tonight. I still like the Yankees though I'm not as big a fan as I was a few years ago. I'm happy for the Red Sox and all but I will remind folks that this victory does not end the Curse of the Bambino. They have to win the World Series for that to happen.
As for the Yankees, it looks like the Knoblauch curse is still alive and well.

I'm really hoping the Astros can pull off one more victory tomorrow behind Roger Clemens. If they do I will be rooting for them to keep the Babe's curse alive. However, if the Cardinals win I will be pulling for the Red Sox to go all the way.
In many ways the Astros have had a longer drought than the Red Sox, at least in recent memory. The Red Sox have at least been to the World Series twice since in the past 30 years while the Astros have never been in their franchise history.

Tour of Duty

My brother-in-law is now in Iraq. He had been preparing to go since early this summer as a member of the Louisiana Army National Guard. He will be stationed in Baghdad for the next year.
Lee is a fellow Aggie (Class of ‘86) and Corps member who first met my sister when they were both active with the A&M Wesley Foundation. He is currently a Major in the Army Guard and will be working out of one of Saddam’s former palaces.
Some of my readers will be pleased to know that Lee is politically conservative and is very much in support of President Bush and his war efforts. In addition to being active in the Guard, Lee is a volunteer deputy sheriff with the Arcadia Parish. He is a big time gun owner and NRA member. The first and only time I’ve ever had the opportunity to fire an assault rifle was while visiting their crawfish farm some years ago.
He and my sister have four children all under the age of 10. I will be counting the days until he can come home again and hopefully not have to turn around and go back anytime soon.
Needless to say I am proud of Lee’s service to our country and I wish him all the best during his tour of duty.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Abolish the electoral college

If the tables had been turned in 2000 and Al Gore had won the electoral vote and lost the popular vote rather than George W. Bush, I believe Republicans would have launched a huge campaign to do away with the electoral college. A constitutional amendment to do just that would have breezed through the Republican-controlled House and Senate and a state-by-state campaign to get it passed would have been backed by every right-wing radio host along with the rest of the VRWC.
And I would have joined in as well.

Driving to work this morning I overheard the end of an interview on NPR with Texas A&M political science professor George Edwards about his new book “Why The Electoral College Is Bad For America.”

Edwards evicerates the lame arguments put forward by people like George Will who fret that straight popular voting would not provide enough legitimacy for a strong government.

Drawing on systematic data, Edwards finds that the electoral college does not protect the interests of small states or racial minorities, does not provide presidents with effective coalitions for governing, and does little to protect the American polity from the alleged harms of direct election of the president. In fact, the electoral college distorts the presidential campaign so that candidates ignore most small states and some large ones and pay little attention to minorities, and it encourages third parties to run presidential candidates and discourages party competition in many states.
Edwards demonstrates effectively that direct election of the president without a runoff maximizes political equality and eliminates the distortions in the political system caused by the electoral college.

I would love to get this book sometime soon and read it. In the meantime, here are some articles that extrapolate on the ideas in Edward’s book.

Second-Guessing the Founders, Dissing the Electoral College

Mr. Edwards’ greatest objection to the Electoral College is that it violates the principle of political equality. His case is compelling: Since the electoral votes of each state equal the number of Congressmen and Senators from that state, small states have a much larger percentage of the electoral vote than larger states. Nor does every ballot carry the same weight. In 2003, one electoral vote in Wyoming corresponded to 167,081 persons, and to 645,172 folks in California. What happened to the Supreme Court doctrine of "one man, one vote"?

The winner-take-all system in place in every state but Maine and Nebraska (where a few electors are chosen in districts), Mr. Edwards adds, disenfranchises millions of voters and depresses turnout. What incentive was there, really, for a Bush voter in New York or a Gore voter in Texas to come to the polls? In effect, their votes went to the winner.

This is exactly right. There is not much incentive for me to vote in the presidential election other than the satisfaction that it will help drive up Kerry’s popular vote total.

The Indefensible Electoral College

Most of the original arguments in favor of an electoral college system are no longer valid. The electoral college was partially a concession to slaveholders in the South, who wanted electoral clout without letting their slaves actually vote. (Under the electoral college, slaves counted towards a state's electoral vote total.) The framers also thought that ordinary people wouldn't have enough information to elect a president, which is not necessarily a concern today.