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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Altered Consciousness: Midterm elections

Published: October 22, 2010
Section: Opinions

Last Saturday, I filled out an absentee ballot and ultimately voted to send New York Democrats back to the House and Senate. I did so, however, without enthusiasm.

The quality of the democrats’ leadership has been poor at best. Policies such as the stimulus bill and the bailouts of Detroit and Wall Street, while needed, were not large enough to lift the United States out of its economic malaise. The health care bill had a number of flaws, from not creating competition for the insurance industry to placing onerous Medicaid mandates on state governments. The financial reform legislation does not end “too big to fail” banks, nor does it address, in any substantial way, the problems associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Democrats have abandoned cap-and-trade and comprehensive immigration reform.

The current administration’s foreign policy has not been wonderful either. President Barack Obama’s plan to send troops into Afghanistan and then promptly withdraw will not accomplish anything. Instead, we should limit our role there to strictly a counter-terrorism and containment strategy because, otherwise, the war will remain a hopeless and endless counterinsurgency and nation-building exercise.

The president is also wrong to believe that we should completely leave Iraq in the very near future. If we do, sectarian warfare between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds could break out once again; insurgency groups may wreak havoc there once more; and the country could very well become a client state for Iran.

The president needs to take a harder line on Iran as well. His engagement strategy has only legitimized and appeased the militant, fanatical Islamic regime there, at the expense of Iranian moderates. At the same time, Obama has failed to prevent the government from crushing the Green Movement, evading our sanctions, reaching out to countries like Turkey and Brazil, continuing its quest to produce weapons of mass destruction and funding groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban without fear of reprisal or consequence.

Additionally, the administration’s Israel policy has been a spectacular failure. Obama has estranged our trusted ally and fellow democracy, personally treated Prime Minister Netanyahu like a third-world dictator, forced Israel to impose a racist moratorium on legal Jewish building in the national Jewish homeland, and actively promotes the Palestinian narrative and false “linkage” theory. His “peace” talks have gone nowhere due to Palestinian rejection-ism and hatred of the Jewish state and his representative, Susan Rice, has voted against Israel in the United Nations and led the United States to join the insidious U.N. Human Rights Council—a hypocritical organization made up of dictatorships with terrible human rights records. (Some of its members have included China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain and Russia.)

In short, the democrats have not been inspirational. But what of the republicans?

Domestically, the republicans have nothing to offer us. Their main economic policy is extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest 2 percent of Americans, who will promptly save rather than invest this money. Also, the tax cuts will increase income inequality and expand the deficit by as much as $700 billion. To prove my point, the Congressional Budget Office rated this policy as being one of the least effective ways to stimulate the economy.

Instead, to boost growth, the federal government has to support state and local governments as well as make investments in key sectors, like education, health, and energy to spur the private sector and increase aggregate demand. Republicans refuse, however, to accept these policies. Cutting taxes, especially payroll and corporate taxes, can reduce unemployment but are insufficient on their own.

Republicans wish to repeal health care reform while eliminating needed-reforms for insurance companies, denying millions of people coverage and increasing health care costs. They also want to get rid of financial reform and, in so doing, preserve the conditions that led to the 2008 financial meltdown. And, based on their past record, they will probably not cut government spending or address entitlements in any meaningful way, and will prevent the passage of environment, immigration and campaign-finance reform bills.

On the international front, a republican Congress won’t be able to greatly affect Obama’s foreign policy, since the Executive Branch has more authority on this matter. For what it’s worth, though, republicans are superior to Obama, in certain respects, on Middle East policy, would pay more attention to our European allies, would not cower before China and Russia, and would provide a more confident posture on the world stage that does not unnecessarily exude weakness. I am wary, however, of their wish to extend the futile Afghanistan war indefinitely.

Both democrats and republicans are terrible. If, however, I had to ultimately choose between the lesser of two evils, I would begrudgingly pick the former, mainly because of their slightly-superior domestic policies.