Your daily dose of the issues

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We’ve been having a lot of fun talking about the politics of the race between Senators Clinton and Obama and posting about President Clinton’s latest hijinks.

It’s important to remember, however, that there are a lot of important issues out there that aren’t getting a lot of play on cable news where most of the talk has been about whether Clinton won with a 10-point margin, an 8.6-point margin or a 9.3-point margin.

While those issues may not be as important as, say, the end of the world, they still deserve more attention than they’re getting. Who knows? Maybe if we do pay more attention to them, we could maybe put off the apocalypse – or at least the Mad Max-ization of the world.

I’ve been saving some of these links from the past couple days so we could discuss them in the cold light of the post-Pennsylvania landscape.

First a couple John McCain proposals. Brian James Kirk takes a look at John McCain’s proposals on the technology front which, Kirk explains, are not so much a plan as they are a bunch of statements to press outlets who are interested in such things. There’s very little surprise here as McCain focuses on unleashing those wonderful market forces and getting rid of taxes on internet transactions and cell phone services. There’s also the usual about a Research and Development Tax Credit, which is, essentially, a tax cut but a tax cut that’s supposed to encourage people to discover things that may not immediately make them a lot of money. Nothing specifically about improving this nation’s broadband capabilities but I’m sure if asked about it the words “market” and “free” will be somewhere in McCain’s answer.

Meanwhile, Salon takes issue with Senator McCain’s gas tax holiday plan. A professor of energy who’s not a big fan sums up his opinion of McCain’s plan:

Politically it’s a great idea for McCain. It hits on two main issues: Gas prices are high and he’s also lowering taxes. For the economy and for society at large, it’s a terrible idea.

Remember when gas was like a buck ten a gallon and Bill Clinton raised the gas tax by 4 cents/gallon to close the budget deficit. (The Salon article reminds us that it was 1993). The backlash was enough to cost at least a few congress people their seats. Horrors! How can we survive if we have to pay $1.14 for gas!

Turns out that the 50-cent or 1-dollar per gallon hike would have been a pretty good idea back then and may have put us in a pretty good spot right about now. Where’s my damn time machine?!

The professor, Christopher Knittel, even explains how we can raise the gas tax without letting people know it’s being raised and make it less regressive.

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Bob Herbert at The New York Times wants to remind us that in all of the shot drinking and beer swilling being done by the candidates, they may have lost sight of some sobering facts about the state of education in this country.

Herbert uses one of my favorite phrases – “The nation’s future may depend on _________” I’m curious what you think the nation’s future depends on but for now, we’ll go with his idea that education is the answer. The column is full of the kinds of statistics that I would want all of the presidential candidates repeating to us every freakin’ day:

  • an American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds…
  • a quarter of surveyed teenagers could not identify Adolf Hitler…
  • a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion…
  • fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900…
  • a third of all American high school students drop out…
  • a third graduate but are not prepared for the next stage of life — either productive work or some form of post-secondary education…
  • In math and science, for example, our fourth graders are among the top students globally. By roughly eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. And by the 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring generally near the bottom of all industrialized countries…
  • nearly 20 percent of respondents did not know who the U.S. fought in World War II
  • eleven percent thought that Dwight Eisenhower was the president forced from office by the Watergate scandal…
  • another 11 percent thought it was Harry Truman…

I’ve heard it said that Rome fell as its people were slowly poisoned by lead in their drinking water. America’s lead – now that we’ve taken care of paint – will be our general disdain for and ambivalence towards quality education. But hey, the president was on Deal or No Deal.

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Meanwhile, also at NYT, Paul Krugman, who is awesome by the way, points out that health insurance is getting so expensive that even health insurance companies are starting to feel the pinch. BECAUSE NO ONE IS BUYING HEALTH INSURANCE. So much for that free market fixing everything.

——————–

At least our nation’s veterans should be getting an extra boost to cover the costs of their education, right?

Apparently not during an election year.

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), my dark horse candidate for vice-president, has a bill in the Senate that would expand the G.I. bill and bring it in line with higher tuition, room, board and book costs.  Other senators, including John McCain, and congressmen and women, seeking their own legislative victory, are putting their own similar bills out there.

C’mon folks! Just work together.

Take a bite out of these issues.  We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

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