For a while now I have been following the 2004 campaigns of the various presidential candidates. Some of them seemed strong (Dean, Clark), some of them hopeless (Braun, Sharpton), but most just seemed to be mediocre enough to fall off into the wayside and are slowly weeding themselves out (Graham). I couldn’t fully support any one of them and feared they were all too similar and half-assed to really be a threat to the Bush Regime. And then along came Kucinich. He may not be perfect, but he entered the scene like a knight in shining armor, his horse a glaring white – a horse I like to call Progress.
1. The Background
Kucinich rose from the most humble of beginnings. His grandfather was a Croatian immigrant (who spelled his name Kucinic), and Dennis grew up in the 1950s in the inner city of Cleveland. He reportedly lived in twenty-one places (including in automobiles) by the age of seventeen. But he had a vision and he stuck with it. He attended Cleveland State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Case Western Reserve University in1973 and a master’s degree in speech communications from Case Western in 1974. In 1977, Dennis became the youngest mayor (31) in Cleveland’s history. As mayor, he was most noted for keeping the city’s power company in the hands of the city rather than selling out to a private corporation – ultimately saving the consumers millions of dollars on their electricity bills.
He has been in Congress since 1996, and has really made a name for himself in Progressive circles. He is “left-wing” in all the right ways. Speaking out against the Iraq war, he beseeched us to rid ourselves of our own “weapons of mass destruction” – poverty, unemployment, and discrimination. He is the only presidential candidate to have voted against the Patriot Act (which we will discuss below). And he is probably the only real candidate to care about the people’s well-being rather than their tax dollars and the contributions of the corporations.
2. The 10 Key Issues
On Kucinich’s web site [jrs: http://www.kucinich.net/], he outlines his “Ten Key Issues” that he plans to focus on during his time as president. They are as follows, with my commentary:
A. Universal Health Care. America is the only “industrial nation” to not have a state-sponsored health care system. Countries such as Denmark have a health care system so streamlined that even foreigners can get preferred treatment without insurance or long waiting periods. In America, we have let the insurance companies decide what can and can’t be done and what we will pay for it. Our pockets get emptier, our health gets worse, and who profits? Insurance companies and the doctors who work with them. According to the General Accounting Office of Congress: “If the U.S. were to shift to a system of universal coverage and a single payer, as in Canada, the savings in administrative costs would be more than enough to offset the cost.” With our country of 40 million uninsured Americans and 30 million more with minimal coverage, how can we say no to something this easy?
B. Social Security. Kucinich wants to return the age of Social Security to 65, rather than having it rise up as the stock market falls. He wants the benefits expanded, and plans to do this with a “progressive tax structure”, which I assume means that the brackets will tax the rich more and the poor less. If his statistics are correct, the CEOs of corporations earn as much as 240 times what the average employee earns. That concept is almost unfathomable!! If one worker is struggling to feed their family with a 40-hour week and their boss collects 240 times that amount by simply signing papers, should it not be a moral obligation of the CEO to give back into the system at a higher rate? He could hardly justify the defense that he is rich because he “earned” it, and even if he could, how can he openly deny people funds he obviously doesn’t need in the first place? (Yes, this is a socialist idea – but it’s also a humane idea.)
C. Withdrawal from NAFTA and the WTO. Admittedly, I have no solid background in NAFTA or the World Trade Organization (WTO). But I can hardly deny its effects. When we agree to unlimited free trade with other countries, we are sending an invitation to the multinational corporations to place their business where they can profit from it the most. What happens? The CEOs in Point B become richer and the American workers suffer because their jobs are sent to Mexico or the Philippines. We have seen this for a while now and with the failing economy we are seeing it increase at an alarming rate. Free trade is great, but let’s be fair. Keep the money local.
D. Repeal the Patriot Act. As stated above, Kucinich was the only presidential candidate to vote against this Act, which slid through Congress on the basis of heightened (and falsified) fears of terrorism rather than sound logic and concern for the basic human rights our Constitution provides. I will allow Dennis to sum it up: “The Attorney General has been handed unfettered power to wiretap, search, jail, and invade our most sacred right to privacy. The government must not be allowed, without probable cause or warrant, to snoop on our communications, medical records, library records, and student records.” George Orwell saw it coming, and it has finally happened. But it is not too late.
E. Civil Rights. Again, I will let Dennis do the speaking because he succinctly states what he wants: “Only those who agree to uphold Roe v. Wade [pro-choice] will be nominated for the Supreme Court. Civil rights (and voting rights) enforcement will be intensified. Lesbians and gays will be afforded complete equality throughout society. Affirmative action will be maintained as a tool for racial and gender equality. Drug policy will emphasize treatment over criminalization, and not a rampaging war that erodes Constitutional freedoms, privacy, and law enforcement resources. An end to capital punishment will be sought.” I cannot agree more with the pro-choice, pro-treatment, anti-death penalty stance. I am unclear about where he intends to go with Affirmative Action, and I hope to look into this issue, as it is a dangerous one to tread upon and he has decided to do it. We cannot allow reverse discrimination to over-run this country, as I fear it is already starting to do.
F. Worker-Corporation Balance. The minimum wage today is 21% less than it was in 1983. While the dollar amount may have increased, it did not follow the increase of inflation. So if families were struggling on minimum wage in 1983, we can imagine just how bad they have got it today. Kucinich wants “living wages” rather than “minimum wages.” It is unclear exactly what amount he intends for this to be (I would hope at least $7/hr), but the need to increase the wages of our poor seems undeniable. While I live in Wisconsin where $5.15 can be stretched if need be, that same amount won’t even buy you a value meal in California or New York.
G. Quality Education. Kucinich says “education is the only proven way to reduce poverty”, and is therefore the key step to improving this country. Only 2.9% of the budget goes towards education, and this needs to be increased. “Schools need money to decrease class size, increase teachers’ salaries, renovate decaying facilities, and include hands-on job training for those not going to college. Pre-K and after-school programs will get increased funding, and the soaring costs of college will be reversed.” I agree on all these points except for one – the salaries of the teachers do not need to be increased. While I cannot think of a vocation more important than the teachers of our children, I cannot advocate increasing the salaries of these individuals without first finding a way to improve the quality of the teachers themselves. Far too many high school English teachers operate on an eighth grade level, and we can see similar equivalents in her fields.
H. Peace and Diplomacy. “Our security will be enhanced by working with other nations and the U.N. instead of acting like an Empire, arrogantly undermining international agreements such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions, the Small Arms Treaty, the International Criminal Court, and the Kyoto Climate Treaty. As President, Kucinich will work to implement two measures he sponsored in Congress: the Space Preservation Treaty, which bans space-based weapons, and a cabinet-level Department of Peace, to establish non-violence as an organizing principle in both domestic and international affairs.” We’re the fucking United States of America, not Rome. Let’s not try to be Rome, especially since we all know how they ended up. The cuts Kucinich intends to make in military spending (he claims we spend more on weapons than all other countries combined) can easily fill in the funding gaps of his other programs (health care, education and Social Security).
I. Rural Communities and Family Farms. Kucinich wants to take the farming industry away from monopolies and put it into the hands of family farmers. An admirable idea, but defiantly easier said than done. Farming is (sadly) a dying industry, and to get individuals to pick up their pitchforks and pump their fists defiantly against the monopolies of agribusiness seems like more of a pipe dream than a feasible reality.
J. Clean Energy and the Environment. This is fairly self-explanatory. Kucinich would sign the Kyoto Treaty, and push for more environmentally-safe energy alternatives. Unlike some other president(s), Kucinich has no investment in the oil industry and has only invested in the American people – and what better gift than a planet that isn’t covered in shit by the time our grandchildren are running it?
I currently have no known political faults to contest, although I know they exist. No one has a perfect voting record, not even Russ Feingold (D-WI). I will add objections here as they surface and encourage others to challenge me and help in this endeavor.
On a personal level, we must wonder about his married life. Kucinich, a man who is in favor of family, has been divorced twice. While this does nothing to tarnish his political views, we must wonder where this Roman Catholic went wrong. Or perhaps this will strengthen his hold on the people, as most American marriages end in divorce and this will create a realistic image we can identify with. Watch this issue come into play down the road.
While my opinion is quite obviously biased, I have presented the facts as is without tampering or skewing in any way. The facts really do speak for themselves. Kucinich is a man of the people with people’s interests in his heart. He doesn’t care about corporations or the almighty dollar. He cares about tradition, families, and the right for every American to not have to worry about whether or not they can afford to feed their kids on a daily basis.
Fuck the Right and vote for Dennis John Kucinich in 2004.