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Posted on Sun, Nov. 07, 2004

I voted for John Kerry, but I'm not miserable

Getting out of this mess will require Roosevelt- or Truman-like leaders

I hoped John Kerry would win, because he was better prepared than George Bush to take us through the next four years. But I'm not as upset as most Democrats seem to be.

Kerry's problem is that he's not nearly good enough to overcome the horrendous mistakes the Bush administration made in Iraq and in our economy. That would take a true Democrat, like a Roosevelt or a Truman.

The Democratic Party's problems began when it decided that the only way to win an election was to act like moderate Republicans. It has yet to sink in to their thick skulls that voters, given the choice between a true Republican and an ersatz Republican, will usually pick the genuine article.

As a result, the electorate had no true alternatives in this election -- like a Ralph Nader, Howard Dean, or Dennis Kucinich. Any of these would have taken the least disastrous approach to getting us out of an impossible situation in Iraq, and would have adopted the kinds of economic policies that Roosevelt had the courage to pursue in the 1930s. Kerry wasn't willing to do that.

In order to sound not too different from the "decisive" Bush, Kerry committed himself to get tough on terrorism by pouring more of our human and financial resources into the pursuit of an impossible goal: the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic democracy. Even under the best of foreseeable outcomes, he would have created the new premier host country for every variety of crackpot terrorist on the globe.

I've no doubt that Kerry would have led us out of Iraq better than Bush will, but it still would be the disaster that past mistakes have already assured. Then, Republicans would blame Kerry for "not staying the course," and, no matter how much money or American lives spent, it would have not have been enough. And the Bush administration would claim that nothing was ever their fault.

I'm guessing that before too long, Iraq will spin out of control, and we'll have no reasonable options left. And Bush will have some tall explaining to do to an enraged American public.

Then, there's the economy. There's no way we can continue cutting taxes, increasing our national debt, and exporting our best jobs to other countries without disastrous results. Kerry betrayed his unwillingness to address these problems with the comment: "I'm not one of those Democrats, er, people, who believe in redistributing the wealth." In other words, except for a little tinkering around the edges, the present distribution of wealth from middle- and low-income Americans to our new aristocracy will continue unabated.

Erskine Bowles wimped out the same way in his TV spot: "I'm not your typical Democrat." Message: I'm really a moderate Republican, and I'm not going to do anything "liberal," like seriously raising the taxes on those who are profiting most from our economy. And, although working-class Americans are making all the sacrifices to get us this booming economy -- for the well connected -- I'll cut funding for government programs specifically designed to benefit them.

Kerry and Bowles must have forgotten that to finance World War II, Franklin Roosevelt raised taxes on those who would profit most from it -- to 88 percent in the top bracket. It stayed at 88 percent for the next 20 years. Not only did it not destroy investment and cost us jobs, it gave us 20 of the most prosperous years for middle- and low-income Americans, in our history. That's where our vibrant middle class came from.

Roosevelt understood that you stimulate the economy by getting money into the hands of consumers -- who always spend it, usually in this country -- rather into the hands of wealthy investors who may or may not invest it. Why should investors put money into new businesses if consumers don't have money to buy?

As it is now, if an investor is going to make a new investment, it'd better not be in the United States. Even if it becomes profitable, his competitors will undercut his wage costs by locating in China or India. Indeed, that's a major reason cited in a recent Wall Street Journal article for the weak job recovery, despite all the massive tax cuts for our wealthiest Americans.

So, although Kerry would have been better for the economy, he wouldn't have been nearly good enough. It would still be the disaster that is already assured, absent any "liberal" solutions. And, naturally, Republicans would blame him for the weak economy because he raised taxes on a few of the rich.

Harry Truman once said "if someone is hitting you on the head, you'd better figure out who's doing it." Sometime within the next year, the other half of the voting pubic will begin doing just that.

Charles M. Kelly is a retired management consultant living in Tega Cay, S.C., and author of "The Destructive Achiever; Power and Ethics in the American Corporation" and "Class War in America." Write him at

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