No laughing matter 

I nearly cried when I found out that Hurricane Gustav had caused President Bush and Vice President Cheney to cancel their scheduled speeches at the Republican National Convention on Monday.

Before the storm hit, all the political news had been about Gov. Sarah Palin, the out-of-nowhere choice for vice presidential nominee. The media were starting a lovefest about the gun-totin’, big-oil supportin’, high-heel wearin’ governor, who apparently got the job after a single 15-minute interview with John McCain.

It made me sad that Bush and Cheney, the Two Horsemen of the Apocalypse, weren’t present to boast about their eight years of economic misery, torture and record deficit spending. It would have been entertaining to watch Cheney bite the head off a pigeon, Ozzy Osbourne-style.

After the immediate danger of the storm passed, the media had turned on Palin, who as it turns out appears to be more qualified to be a guest on Jerry Springer than to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Jerry would certainly welcome a highly religious family with a heavy-drinking father, a knocked-up teenage daughter and a mom who may or may not have covered up a previous birth but who at any rate is under investigation by law enforcement for a dispute with a former brother-in-law.

I personally have no problems with Gov. Palin. She has an extensive background of marijuana use, something that all candidates for public office should have. She is personally a very charming person who seems to freely admit that she lucked into the biggest opportunity of her life. I like that in a person.

But all the makeup, high heels and charm can’t mask the fact that her beliefs mirror those of Bush and Cheney and may even be more extreme than them. Her inspiring personal story doesn’t change the harsh reality that a McCain-Palin administration would give us four more years of the last eight years.

But instead of even more ad hominem attacks about the Republicans’ Manchurian Candidates, here’s two very important issues on which McCain and Palin are wrong and Barack Obama and Joe Biden are right.

No. 1 is the need for a comprehensive national health care program. McCain’s plan would give you a meager tax credit to purchase insurance if you can’t afford it and you’re young enough and healthy enough to buy it. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, or you’re over age 35, then McCain’s view is, “Tough shit, you’re on your own, buddy.”

That’s the Republican mantra. Unless you’re a corporate CEO, in which case you get big tax credits, or you’re a multinational corporation, in which case you get rewarded for sending jobs overseas, you’re on your own.

Can’t afford to feed your family on minimum wage? You’re on your own. Have to declare bankruptcy because your child got sick and the doctor bills piled up? You’re on your own.

Obama’s plan for health care would guarantee access to health insurance for every American. It wouldn’t be a free ride, but you’d have reasonable deductibles and co-pays and access to prescription medicine at an affordable price. You wouldn’t have to worry about losing your health insurance if you lose your job.

And you couldn’t be turned down for coverage for a pre-existing condition. Every other country treats health care as a basic human right. McCain and Palin put more importance on your right to own a gun than they do your right to affordable health care.

The second big difference between the candidates is on the Employee Free Choice Act, the bipartisan legislation that gives workers easier access to organized labor without the threat of coercion from management.

It’s already passed the House and received a majority of votes in the Senate. But Bush has vowed to veto it, as has McCain. Obama has pledged to sign the bill into law within his first 100 days in office.

With stronger unions, corporations such as Wal-Mart would no longer be able to intimidate their workers into accepting degrading and inhuman working conditions. And it would send a message to Mexico to reform its policies, thereby improving the quality of life there and driving down the need for illegal immigration.

The bill would also impose harsher penalties on companies who flout the labor laws. No wonder Wal-Mart and Verizon and Comcast are against the bill.

Those are but two examples of why we can’t afford to continue the failed policies of Bush and Cheney. And while I could riff all day about old man McCain and barely-legal running mate, I want to see America reclaim our country from the greedheads and warmongers who’ve infested Washington for the past eight years.

This stuff is too important to make jokes about.

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