Thursday, October 30, 2008

Endorsements: Barack Obama for President of the United States

I'm excited about voting for President. That's never happened for me before. In 1996 and 2000 I voted for third party candidates because I wasn't impressed with the Democrat and Republican on the ballot. In 2004 I cast a protest vote. This year, I'll be voting for a candidate with a very real chance of winning (a 95.7% chance of winning according to who has articulated three very specific policy ideas that I absolutely love:

  • Green Jobs Initiative: "Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future. . . . Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars—cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon—on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America."

    At its best, this plan accomplishes four important goals: 1) reduced carbon emissions, 2) energy independence (and, ideally, lower energy costs for consumers), 3) new job creation, and 4) giving the struggling U.S. auto industry a boost. I don't know that Obama's plan would succeed on all counts, but I appreciate that he sees how these issues are connected and how going green can have a positive impact on our economy. I also appreciate seeing a major presidential candidate challenging the (flawed) conventional wisdom that says responsible stewardship of the environment and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive—that we must sacrifice one for the good of the other.

  • American Opportunity Tax Credit: "$4,000 in exchange for community service. It will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university." I like this plan for two reasons. The first is selfish. Ashlee and I have three children and are having a difficult time setting aside any money for their college educations (in part because we're still paying for our own).

    The second is my belief in the value of service and sacrifice. Looking back now, I regret never spending a year or two with the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps and wonder if I would have acted differently had the American Opportunity Tax Credit been in effect. In fairness to President Clinton, who was in office during my college years and who actually created AmeriCorps, he did emphasize the value of service. And, in all honesty, no tax credit would have convinced the 1995 Josh Tinley to walk away from his rock 'n' roll band to spend a summer working with inner-city children in another part of the country. Still, most kids aren't as selfish as I was, and I think this program has the potential to give future generations valuable experience and perspective while helping them with the quickly escalating cost of higher education.

  • Healthcare: "The Obama-Biden plan provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans, builds on the existing healthcare system, and uses existing providers, doctors and plans to implement the plan." Because of the rising costs of healthcare, the number of Americans without healthcare, the fact that many of the people lacking healthcare are those who need it most, and health insurers persistently trying to weasel out of paying for services that they supposedly cover, something needs to be done. Yet I'm not convinced that healthcare provided by the federal government is, in and of itself, the answer. As much as I'm frustrated by private, for-profit health insurance companies, I like that Obama is proposing a sort of hybrid system in which private providers still play an important role in making sure that everyone is covered. I think that keeping the current system in place and adding a safety net for those who lack or can no longer afford private coverage will be easier to implement and manage than a purely government-run system and will be much more effective than a plan that relies on tax credits and health-savings accounts (which are great for people who are relatively healthy but do little to cover the costs of chronic illness).

I could elaborate on any of these points or name other, lesser reasons to support Obama. But if I had to limit my endorsement to a sentence I'd say, "I'm voting for Barack Obama because he has come up with creative ways to address the issues that matter most."


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