Questions to ponder before voting

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October 2004

With the election a few weeks away, it is good to reflect once more on what it means to live in this democracy. Let's look at our foundational documents.á American core values are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Our national government is supposed to promote justice, defense, tranquility, and the general welfare. Government is instituted to secure these values. By our voting, we determine how our government does that.

Americans believe there are legitimate differences of opinion in how to uphold and promote these values. That's why there are political parties and why two or more people run for the same office.

One question often posed is, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" This question doesn't really help answer the question who to vote for, however, unless it is part of the bigger question of the common good.

Issues in this election:

I read recently that the four issues most voters are concerned about are the economy, education, health care, and terrorism/war in Iraq.

Was the slump in the economy in the last few years the result of Republican leadership? Or was it part of the general economic cycle that capitalism goes through? Are the Bush tax cuts conducive to economic growth or are they merely a benefit to the wealthiest taxpayers?

Does Bush's largest federal deficit in the history of the US create a barrier to achieving the core values mentioned above? Or is Kerry's plan of a balanced budget and higher taxes a more sound strategy to achieve those values?

Has the President's No Child Left Behind Act created a better learning environment or is it another level of federal bureaucracy? Was it a good idea, as Kerry says, but poorly funded?

Is college education (or its equivalent) a minimum requirement in today's world, just as grade school was at one time and then high school was considered to be the minimum? How do we make college education more accessible to people? Will Kerry's tax credits for tuition help?

A couple columns ago I wrote about one aspect of health care: prescription drugs. We are a people heavily dependent on drugs solving our health problems. The cost of those drugs have skyrocketed in recent years. They are the single most important reason for the huge increases in health insurance premiums for the last ten years. Should drug advertising to consumers be stopped, as Kerry proposes? Should drugs be allowed to come in from Canada, as Kerry proposes? Or let the free market dictate drug costs, as Bush believes?

Millions of people in this country are without health insurance. The traditional way of providing health insurance to most people has been through employers. However, more companies are opting to reduce or even cancel coverage for their employees because of the excessive cost.

What creative ways can our leaders ease the burden of these costs without jeopardizing access to good health care? How can we make good health care available to all? Is now the time to abandon the delivery of health care by profit motivated capitalism? Should access to health care be a universal right, just as access to education is? Which candidate would more likely move in this direction?

Finally, terrorism and the war in Iraq. Are these two really related, as Bush contends, or was the war in Iraq a diversion, as Kerry says? Has 9/11 caused such fear in the American people that we should be looking for terrorists around every corner, as the Bush administration seems to imply? How does this fear affect the pursuit and securing of the core values stated in our foundational documents? Does "going it alone" in the world (Bush) make more sense than working with other countries to fight terrorism (Kerry)?

This presidential election is the most critical in my lifetime. We have clear choices. These are tough questions that we are called to answer in this election. Who can best work toward fair and equitable solutions to these questions? The answers will guide us in our voting for president on November 2. But let's not forget all the other positions and proposals.

Sidebar:

Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governedů.

 

The Constitution of the United States of America:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.