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Kerry's Offers Nothing

I tried to be fair to Nader voters in this post on Barbara Ehrenreich, treating them as serious, if wrongheaded people rather than high-handedly dismissing them, but after reading through the comments I'm just not sure. One consistent theme running through the Naderite remarks was that John Kerry has "nothing" to offer the Left, and that he won't take the Left's views into consideration. Boo fucking hoo.

To steal a point from Eric Alterman, the truly astounding thing about the Nader program is that it proposes to build a progressive movement in America by taking steps condemned by every labor union, ever civil rights group, and feminist group, every gay and lesbian group, and every environmental group of any note in America. It would seem that working people, racial minorities, gays and lesbians, and environmentalists all feel that a Democratic administration would offer them a thing or two. And I'm not just talking about ABB stuff here, actual things Democrats favor doing and will do if they are given the White House and sufficient votes in the congress.

We're talking about a health care plan here that will give insurance to millions of people. I have health insurance and I'm damn happy about it. Others don't have it, but might get it if John Kerry wins. I think he has something to offer them. I do pay premiums for my health insurance and Kerry would make those lower, I like that. I don't make an hourly wage, but many people do, and Kerry will raise the minimum wage. If I made the minimum wage, or anything close to it, I'd be pretty excited about that. Readers know I'm not a big environmentalist, but I prefer that my air not be toxic. Kerry wants "an aggressive program to meet ozone and air quality standards, stop acid rain, and reduce mercury emissions." Sounds good to me -- I breath. Kerry supports civil unions for gay and lesbian Americans, something that sure would be nice were I in a committed gay relationship.

I could go on. Suffice it to say that unless the Left for some reason doesn't care about the interests of poor people and unpopular minority groups, John Kerry is offering them quite a bit more than nothing. Is he offering them everything? No. Is he offering me everything? No. I want an assault rifle in every garage, developers running roughshod over local zoning ordinances, and draconian measure to limit CEO pay. And it looks to me like it's not going to happen. But I'll take lower premiums, health care for millions of additional citizens, cleaner air, fairer treatment of the sexually unorthodox, and a higher minimum wage. If that stuff is "nothing" to you, then I don't know what your problem is. I also like this idea:

John Kerry has also proposed a "Service for College" plan, which will provide the cost of four years at a public college to young people in exchange for serving their communities and country in national service for two years. His plan says to all students, if you work hard and give to your country, your country will make sure you can afford a college education no matter who you are.
That sounds to me like a plan that will make it easier for people to go to college, while also providing help to various other people. Is that not the sort of thing the Left is interested in? Or must all salvation wait until the hated WTO can be destroyed?

July 13, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

I'm with you, Matt. Kerry isn't a far-Left or Green dream, but he offers a lot more than nothing. I'll take someone I disagree with on 10-30% of issues over someone I disagree with on 70-100% of issues.

But that is, of course, academic this election. This election it is about simple ability to govern. Bush and crew have done almost nothing right. Nay -- they have done almost everything wrong, very wrong, or amazingly wrong.

I like to think that I am open-minded enough, that, if a Democrat fucked up as badly as Bush had, I would hold my nose and vote Republican.

This year, Green vs. Dem. disagreement really is not important. Getting someone who might be able to actually do the job of President in office is. It turns out that office of President is kind of important.

Posted by: Timothy Klein | Jul 13, 2004 2:19:31 AM

"I don't make an hourly wage, but many people do, and Kerry will raise the minimum wage. If I made the minimum wage, or anything close to it, I'd be pretty excited about that."

Matt you would be happy about it IF you kept your job. Raising the minimum wage does put some low skilled workers out of a job at the margin.

Question for Matt and the rest. I know we have all had jobs that have paid or do currently pay minimum wage. But how long did you stay at this wage?

The fact is that government does not set wages. They are determined by productivity. When the government controls wages they are setting a floor for a price. A price is different than a cost and the latter is where we need to focus (i.e. real wages are the key here folks).

Posted by: PM | Jul 13, 2004 2:32:43 AM

MY: Do you really want an assault rifle in every garage? You're a policy guy: how is this good policy?

And the zoning thing cuts both ways, since from time to time zoning laws prevent complete and utter devastation, as well as preserve clean air and clean water. I'm in Seattle, and I would LOVE for developers to run roughshod over the zoning laws we have here. But there are times where they're worth something.

[if this was a bunch of sarcasm, I apologize, because I am REALLY bad at catching sarcasm. But the thing about CEO pay seemed reasonable, though it will correct itself once shareholders start revolting.]

Posted by: niq | Jul 13, 2004 2:38:47 AM

PM: "The fact is that government does not set wages. They are determined by productivity."

Productivity has risen substantially for a number of years, but wages (both nominal and adjusted for inflation) are falling for a large number of people in the workforce. Note that CEO and other executive wages are rising, along with huge increases in corporate profitability. Are these executives becoming more productive?

Perhaps PM would be happier if we opened immigration to all, and removed the minimum wage. Then entry workers would receive wages like south and east asia.

There might be a problem that these workers couldn't afford housing, food, transportation or health care, but that wouldn't matter, because they could still be good consumers of the 70% or so of our economy that is dependent on consumer spending, but what the heck.... oh wait, they couldn't consume, so who keeps the economy afloat? Oh yeah, the corporate executives will spend more.

Let's just race to the bottom of wages paid by country. We can outcompete Miramar or Namibia if we just adjust our wages to their level.

Really....such nonsense.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 13, 2004 2:49:24 AM

Question for Matt and the rest. I know we have all had jobs that have paid or do currently pay minimum wage. But how long did you stay at this wage?

You're asking this in the wrong place. The crowd here is very heavily toward the college-educated end of things. Thus, we had minimum wage jobs before we became trained for bigger and better things.

I married into a very poor hispanic family. Quite an eye opener, coming from my white-bread, well-to-do suburban existence. I have many in-laws that have been working at or very near minimum wage for their entire lives. When I was a kid in high school, I looked down on people like that. Now, having actually had the chance to live with, eat with, love, and generally get to know people in the poor part of society, I have gained wisdom.

There is one thing that separates my family from my wife's. It is not hard work, genetics, skill, or any of that. It is luck. I was born middle class. They weren't.

Posted by: Timothy Klein | Jul 13, 2004 3:05:24 AM

Word. But in a future post, you might want to adopt a more honeyed tone, while keeping the core substance, if you want to try to persuade Nader/Greens.

Nader/Greens seem to me to be people who believe, quite reasonably, that a democratic victory will not make an apppreciable difference in their lives, and they seem not to have got it in them to realize it might make an appreciable difference in other people's lives.

Posted by: roublen vesseau | Jul 13, 2004 3:21:12 AM

"I want an assault rifle in every garage..."

I can only presume that, due to an editing error, a "not" got left out someplace. As it stands this is one of the kookiest ideas I've heard...

Posted by: Andrew Boucher | Jul 13, 2004 6:56:49 AM

Hey, assualt rifles are great for protecting your garage from rats!

Posted by: Rob | Jul 13, 2004 8:06:04 AM

Rob definitely lives in DC!

Posted by: TedL | Jul 13, 2004 8:10:01 AM

My real problem with Nader is that there just doesn't seem to be any plan, any realistic strategy, of achieving his goals. He left the party he was aligned with, he isn't trying to build a new one, he hasn't built any kind of constituency over the last four years, and he's not trying to achieve success at any lower level offices. I think he's in a worse position today than he was in 2000 (if only because of the events of 2000.)

If he hasn't done anything in the last four years to make his shot of becoming president any more realistic, or making his ability to get any of his policies passed in the unlikely event that he does win, how is he any more honest than the politicians he castigates? And why does he deserve my vote?


Posted by: Royko | Jul 13, 2004 8:30:10 AM

Studies

PM: "Raising the minimum wage does put some low skilled workers out of a job at the margin."

Part of the blogosphere is this week having a vigorous discussion on just this question. Current consensus among economists is that your statement is not the case, or not proven. Previous studies were statistically flawed. The Crooked Timber posts crosslinks to DeLong and Levy
and many others.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 13, 2004 8:39:52 AM

Yeah. After all, we all know that Switzerland, where there is literally an assault rifle in nearly every garage, is teetering on the very edge of anarchy. Remember: when guns are outlawed, only cops, the military, and insane wingers will have them. And the folks who used to be on the left will... hide. We all know that Jews in Poland would have been LESS safe if they had had a rifle in every house. And the populace of Hungary in 1956. Etc., etc.

On balance the left is less idiotic than the right. But the gun issue shows that the left is still plenty idiotic when it tries.

Posted by: CD318 | Jul 13, 2004 8:51:14 AM

No, Royko, the problem with Nader is that he can't possibly win. Reposted from my blog:

The system we have in America is a two-party system because the Electoral College mandates a two-party system. That's reality. You've got to build the broadest possible coalition to try and get 51% of the electoral votes, or you lose. Third parties can't do that--they can hardly even do that in one congressional district, much less across all 50 states.

If you want viable third- and fourth-party options in this country, your efforts should go in major governmental reform, especially dropping the state-based electoral vote system altogether and instead adopting a parliamentary system more like Britain's or Canada's (or basically every other democratic country in the world's). I'd be right there with you fighting for that.

But until then, anything other than the two-party system is completely unviable, because a vote for anyone but the "better" of the two parties hurts your own interests. Failing to support Kerry fails to put votes in the Kerry column which makes the reelection of George Bush more likely--which hurts (and in Bush's case, eviscerates) those interests the Naderites say they support.

If this wasn't obvious to Naderites before, it should be obvious now that the Republican party is openly aiding Nader's attempt to get on the ballot. Wise up already.

Posted by: G C | Jul 13, 2004 9:11:33 AM

Rephrase that--the problem isn't that Nader isn't trying, it's that his plans can't succeed by definition.

Posted by: G C | Jul 13, 2004 9:12:26 AM

Does anyone know what Nader is for these days?

Posted by: wvmcl | Jul 13, 2004 9:17:55 AM

1: For the love of God, read through your posts to check for spelling and grammar. I know it's only a blog, but it looks sloppy.

2: Kerry's National Service plan, the more I look at it, seems to be a crock. I'm not clear on whether someone would serve their two years before or after getting their degree, but either way, that's two years out of the *real*, *paying* workforce, in which it's fairly easy to save up tuition money for your average 4-year public university, if you include Pell grants, merit aid, and the like. "Average tuition paid at public universities fell 32% from $1,636 in 97-98 to $1,115 in 2002-03" (and that's straight from a recent USA Today article) Wasting 2 years doing national service and forgoing $20-30K per year in salary will mean a net loss for you. The country gets your labor for cheap (mostly to do things that volunteers are plenty capable of doing anyway) and doesn't have to shell out that much in return. The way I see it, poor and middle=class students would be better off working for a few years before college or working part-time while in college.

Posted by: someone | Jul 13, 2004 9:18:11 AM

I still don't get the gun thing. The Hungarians in 1956 had their own army. It just didn't matter, because the Soviet army could overwhelm it. Had Hungarians had their own guns, I see no particular reason to think things would've turned out any better.

Personally, I don't think guns are that important one way or the other. But please provide some historical example which actually shows private ownership of guns protecting people's freedom, or whatever it is guns are supposed to do.

Posted by: John | Jul 13, 2004 9:20:56 AM

Yeah. After all, we all know that Switzerland, where there is literally an assault rifle in nearly every garage, is teetering on the very edge of anarchy.

Demonstrates an ignorance of the gun laws and National Militia in Switzerland. Yes, in Switzerland, militia-age, able-bodied males have military weapons as part of their national service. They are also provided with ammo for these weapons, which is sealed and strictly accounted for. The weapons are also required to be locked up.

Additionally, Switzerland has stricter gun control laws than the US, including registration.

The Swiss have the second highest handgun ownership rate among industrialized nations behind you know who. They also have the second highest rate of handgun homicides.

Posted by: Jadegold | Jul 13, 2004 9:21:19 AM

wmcl said: "Does anyone know what Nader is for these days?"

Himself, and indirectly, four more years of radical right wing policy and judicial appointment dominance.

Posted by: Bragan | Jul 13, 2004 9:28:48 AM

I second the poster above who casts doubt on the "last line of defence against tyranny" argument against gun control. If you want a strictly regulated militia a la Switzerland, distributing registered guns with strict regulations and training, then maybe you'll have something that can act as a speed bump when the Soviets finally make their move Red_Dawn style.

But history isn't exactly brimming with examples of nations freedomn to bear arms saved the populace from tyranny. It seems to me that the vast majority of freedom challenged nations on earth - including Saddam Hussein's Iraq - had very lax gun laws. From my personal experience, anyone who wanted to get an A-K in Sanni Abacha's Nigeria could if they had the cash. That sort of shit just really doesn't help a whole lot.

But this thread is about mocking Naderites (always a worthy cause). I commend you Matt for having the courage to call them out as the self absorbed stupid heads they are.

Posted by: WillieStyle | Jul 13, 2004 9:39:59 AM

Yikes!

I want an assault rifle in every garage, developers running roughshod over local zoning ordinances, and draconian measure to limit CEO pay.

I have just the place for you! Also, gas is cheap and medical supplies are free! It's a little dangerous, but hey.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 13, 2004 9:54:30 AM

Very, very well said. And needed-to-be-said.

I sometimes argue a shorter version when the subject comes up: "Supreme Court Justices."


(OT: Dunno why, but I can't use comments in Mozilla since the Typepad changeover)

Posted by: cerebrocrat | Jul 13, 2004 10:04:27 AM

O get real. Yes, it would be nice if all that stuff happened. Now ask someone who voted for Carter and Clinton how much of it did happen.

Will Kerry be better for the country than Bush? Undoubtedly. Will Kerry be better for me than Bush? Hard to tell.

If you want to base your appeal on the good of the country or the benefits to personkind, I'm listening. But pulleeeze, don't post one day about how saving the world is dumb, and then ask me to do something the next day "to save the world". Don't post long arguments 'proving' that greed results in the higher good, and then in the next post appeal to my altruism.

And I'm not even a Naderite, although I do not appreciate the whole "straw man" line of argument that is used to define a 'bad' Naderite. In my opinion the 'Naderites' are no worse than the Republicans, actually better because there are so few of them.

I've spent my life heeding those warning signs. If somebody doesn't like 'coloured people' I leave too, although I'm white. If they want to trash women I'm outa there, in spite of being male. Of course I have no intention of allowing your opinion to influence my vote, but what goes around comes around. If you don't care for the 'Naderite' why should they care for you?

So where was the big increase in 'social' spending in the Clinton years? O, that's right, it was in PRISONS! While, during that decade, Washington State reduced the amount available for care of the non-institutionalized Medicare client by a THIRD. They did it the old fashioned way, by providing less care and accepting worse outcomes.

As a nurse, I can tell you that the health care you're dreaming of might not be as great as you think. As a voter I'm way past thinking things are going to get better because my candidate wins.

Posted by: serial catowner | Jul 13, 2004 10:05:42 AM

Is this the assault-rifle / Nader thread? I guess I came to the right place.

Posted by: Zizka | Jul 13, 2004 10:15:24 AM

Maybe Matt's thinking that if you keep your assault rifle in the garage, it's safer for everyone than if you kept it under your bed.

Posted by: DonBoy | Jul 13, 2004 10:44:59 AM

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