Main Street: The benefits of a Kerry Administration

Rich Wandschneider

I've cast my votes and wait now while others in our state work their way through the lists of candidates and measures on the Oregon ballot, and still others across the country are pushed and pulled towards and away from candidates and resolutions from now til election Tuesday. Regular readers will know that I voted for John Kerry in the presidential race. Having done so, I thought it might be interesting to speculate on just what a Kerry victory might mean to the country and to us here in Wallowa County. Here are some brief thoughts:

Health. We will see immediate relaxation of rules regarding re-importation of drugs from Canada. Drug companies might balk and put up some fight, but the mandate of a Kerry win, the current flu vaccine crisis and broad public support will win out. Dealing with the issues of tort reform and high health care and health insurance costs will be tougher. Edwards should be able to bring trial lawyers along in addressing the spurious health claims issue. Kerry's plan for a government reinsurance program for major medical has a chance, because he is a long-time legislator with experience in working through the minefield of lobbyists and legislators needed to accomplish major reform. He will not make Hillary's mistake and attack the insurance industry head on.

Energy. We will move quickly towards higher gas standards for automobiles; there will be more research and development money for alternative power sources; and drilling in the arctic preserve will be shelved. I think that it is also possible that there will be a gas tax increase designated for research and development. With the world oil map in such disarray, and third-world countries building roads and buying automobiles as quickly as they are, I do not think that we can count on Kerry - or Bush if re-elected - to do anything to lower fuel prices at this time.

Oregon's assisted suicide bill. Attorney General John Ashcroft will be immediately replaced, and federal challenges to Oregon's law will cease. It's interesting to note that studies show that Oregon's assisted suicide rate has actually fallen, while the rates-- determined in confidential surveys- in many states where it is unlawful have increased.

Farm and forest policies. Commodities programs will not change significantly for us. Kerry might try to hasten phase-outs of tobacco subsidies, but will not tamper much with major commodity programs and their large Midwestern and Southern constituencies. There will be a more sympathetic ear for environmental regulation and enhancement, and other departments in the Forest Service will be at the budget table with fire.

Taxes. Kerry has said that he will rescind tax cuts for those making over $200,000 annually. I take him at his word, and expect and hope that the transfer of the weight of taxes from corporate, capital gains, and investment income to wages will be halted or reversed.

Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter who wins the presidential election, we are in for tough times. I expect John Kerry to hit the road immediately, talking with allies in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East to find ways of dealing with the incredibly complex and volatile situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He can and should pull more international attention towards Afghanistan immediately, coaxing our former and current partners there in making good on previous commitments and advancing the pace of economic and social development.

In Iraq, Kerry inherits a couple of million disgruntled former Saddam administration employees and supporters with nothing to lose, a divided Kurdish north with strong tribal minorities and a significant imported Shiite and Sunni Arab presence, and the divided Shiite population of the south, with no history of governance. It might be necessary to build one section of the country at a time, with strong support from neighbors and international organizations, but this is now a full-out civil war, and in the end there will have to be something like the South African truth and reconciliation commissions to re-knit the country.

Progress in Afghanistan, and a president and administration actively engaged in a Palestinian-Israeli resolution will make movement in Iraq easier, but not easy. I do think that the National Guard situation will be clarified, that at the least Guardsmen and women will receive support and benefits equal to those of the regular forces while they serve overseas.

The rest of the world. The biggest breath of fresh air to everyone who sees global cooperation as important will be improved relations with the rest of the world. Because conditions are currently so bad, they are ripe for a Kennedy style "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, or a Nixon "opening to China," with Kerry leading global conversations about nuclear proliferation, terrorism and development. This is no mean feat, but if John Kerry and a new team of civil and military leaders can pull it off, America might once again become the country of hope.

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