Editor's Page

Dec. 21, 2004
Comparison shopping in an election year.

Along with the rest of the country, I finally got around to shopping for a Presidential candidate this month. I meant to buy a White House hopeful last year, but what with Christmas and the Y2K nonevent (Have you used up your bottled water yet?) I was just too tired to invest in some Republican or Democrat who wasn't going to last anyway. And now I find that I've waited so long that some limited-run models -- the Elizabeth Dole and Orrin Hatch, for instance -- aren't even available anymore. Unfortunately, now that I'm ready to buy, what I'm looking for doesn't seem to be available. So in case any of the candidates is still in design mode, here are some of the features I was hoping for: A Health-Care Policy: This one matters to me on both moral and economic grounds. First and foremost, it seems obscene that during one of the greatest economic booms in modern history we have millions of individuals who don't have or can't get health-care coverage. All of us making a decent living have an obligation to make sure that everyone has access to affordable health care, even if it costs us an extra buck or two out of our paychecks. And although my bias runs toward private-sector initiatives -- medical savings accounts, etc. -- the particulars are less important to me than universal availability. This one is tops for me because it's also a competitiveness issue, in that talented people often refrain from switching jobs or launching entrepreneurial ventures because of concerns about obtaining affordable health care. Wouldn't it be more productive for the economy as a whole to find a way to separate health care from employment, thus allowing talent to flow where it's needed, rather than where it's safe? A Tax Plan: I don't like them. You don't like them. But neither of us minds them as much when the system is fair and transparent, and when it doesn't favor one type of industry over another. So I'm looking for a combination of a simplification (but not a flat-tax moronification) and a 10-year moratorium on any changes, to avoid any special-interest tax breaks or shelters. In addition, I'm looking for a sensible plan to gradually impose taxes on Internet commerce in a way that makes the form of transaction -- online vs in-person vs catalog -- tax neutral. Because as much as I like all those tax-free bargains on the 'Net, I'm hard-pressed to argue why economically advantaged people (i.e., those who have computers) should pay less sales taxes than poorer people (i.e., those who don't have computers). No More Talk About Character: It'd be nice if we could have a president we could respect. But it's even more important to have one who can lead, even if he's a scoundrel or a womanizer or an SOB. So please just concentrate on the issues at hand. After all, there are only 274 shopping days left till the election. Send e-mail messages to John Brandt at [email protected]

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