Okay, undecided voters. It?s time to put up or shut up.
Wednesday?s third and final presidential debate was probably the least consequential, because it was the most predictable. The candidates mostly set aside foreign policy and focused on the many new and exciting ways in which they would spend our money.
Ironically, each candidate vows to cut the deficit in half over the next four years. But as Charlie Gibson found out in debate number 2, neither seems to have ?a plan? to accomplish that. So let?s set aside the big, vague promises and instead have a look at specific things the candidates said.
For example, John Kerry won the ?but? competition. By one unofficial count, he said ?but? 35 times to George W. Bush?s 28. Not an overwhelming margin, but certainly a substantial one. And keep in mind that, usually, when someone says ?but? what he means is ?ignore everything I?ve just said, because I?m about to contradict it and tell you what I really think.?
That was highlighted when Kerry said, ?The president and I share the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe that. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.?
Sounds good so far. Here it comes, though: ?But I also believe that because we are the United States of America, we?re a country with a great, unbelievable Constitution, with rights that we afford people.? He?s using the ?but? to explain why he opposed a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The ?but? enables Kerry to jump from stating something that most Americans agree with to highlighting his policy, which is to vote down the only measure that might protect the concept he says he agrees with.
It?s also worth wondering exactly what feature of the Constitution Kerry finds ?unbelievable.? Perhaps the First Amendment?
?I?m not going to appoint a judge to the court who?s going to undo a constitutional right, whether it?s the First Amendment, or the Fifth Amendment, or some other right that?s given under our courts today -- under the Constitution,? Kerry insisted.
However (or should I say ?but?) he later outlined a plan to further erode everyone?s right to free speech: ?I?m going to work with my friend, John McCain, to further campaign finance reform so we get these incredible amounts of money out of the system and open it up to average people, so America is really represented by the people who make up America.? So Kerry will protect the First Amendment for everyone, unless they want to engage in political speech.
This debate was formatted to zero in on domestic policy, so it pretty much ignored the most important issue out there: The war in Iraq and the greater war against terrorism.
After all, if we lose those struggles, it?s difficult to imagine how the economy or health care would even matter. Still, there is one domestic issue that probably runs a close second to terrorism. Social Security. On this issue at least, Kerry doesn?t have ?a plan.?
?We?re going to protect Social Security. I will not privatize it. I will not cut the benefits. And we?re going to be fiscally responsible. And we will take care of Social Security,? Kerry said.
In fact, the senator showed a frightening disregard for how the program really works.
?We put together a $5.6 trillion surplus in the ?90s that was for the purpose of saving Social Security. If you take the tax cut that the president of the United States has given -- President Bush gave to Americans in the top 1 percent of America -- just that tax cut that went to the top 1 percent of America would have saved Social Security until the year 2075,? Kerry claimed. But that ignores the fact that Social Security is a pay-as-you-go plan. It?s impossible to build up a surplus that will make it solvent for decades to come, because there?s no place to save the money up.
Social Security is running a surplus right now. The problem, as Heritage Foundation analyst David John notes, is that the government spends that surplus on other things, leaving behind only IOUs. Starting in 2018, Social Security will start running a deficit. After that it will always spend more than it collects in taxes. Trillions of dollars over the life of the program. That?s why we have to create Personal Retirement Accounts, to generate a better rate of return and give people a real nest egg they will own.
Kerry insisted, ?Now, if later on after a period of time we find that Social Security is in trouble, we?ll pull together the top experts of the country.? Well, no ?period of time? is necessary. Everyone knows the program is in trouble. By kicking the can down the road for electoral gain, Kerry threatens to make the problem worse.
Think of it this way: If someone gives you $1,000 today, it would be pretty easy to grow that into $10,000 over, say, 10 years. But it would be virtually impossible to grow that same amount in 10 days or even 10 months. So it?s important we get PRAs up and running as soon as possible, so we?ll have the most possible lead-time.
So, come on, undecideds. Make up your minds. There?s the war, there?s Social Security, and there?s everything else. Let?s vote.