Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Grading the Candidates -- Mike Lee

Grading Scale

Honesty -- Whether the position has been thoughtfully considered, and shows intellectual honesty.
Best Move For Our Country -- Whether this position (if successfully passed into law) would lead the country on a better course than it is now on.
Realistic -- Whether the position is mere pandering to the right wing with no realistic chance of being successfully mandated if the candidate was elected.
Believability -- Whether the position enhances or diminishes the candidates trustworthiness. Heavy pandering diminishes trustworthiness, and thoughtful well designed positions enhance trustworthiness.

Maybe a tad redundant. However, I needed some sort of a scale to evaluate the candidates.

Mike Lee

Issues from his campaign site:

End Deficit Spending – Mike Lee supports a balanced budget amendment like that of most states. Okay, great – what Republican doesn’t theoretically believe in having a balanced budget?

One problem with the balanced budget amendment is that it doesn’t always make sense for the nation’s economy. Many economists argue that government’s ability to spend can be a key to quickening economic recovery during recessions. One example of arguable and unproven success is the Bush and subsequent Obama stimulus packages – the economy appears to be improving even if the improvement hasn’t been all that apparent to the average taxpayer.

Balanced Budgets sound great. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they can be realistically achieved at the Federal level and to a certain level I’m not sure that it is best to tie the Fed to a balanced budget each and every year.

Honesty – A
Best move for our country – B
Realistic – C
Believability – A

Average – B+

Strengthen National Security – Mike Lee’s campaign site suggest that our armed forces have clear objectives before deployments are authorized – and that troops are sent home as soon as objectives are met. The second suggestion is that our militaries “hands are not tied by unnecessary rules of engagement.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Lee on the first point. The two front war that our nation is currently engaged in has become a quagmire that has no visible end in sight. Part of the problem is the lack of planning and purpose – especially in Iraq. I believe this objective (if achieved) would be in the nations best interest.

Unfortunately, and this is dependant on what he means by “unnecessary rules of engagement”, I disagree with Mr. Lee on the second point. While possibly cumbersome, the rules of engagement that our troops abide by are necessary to keep our troops safe and to keep civilians safe in the areas where we deploy our troops to serve. When the job includes the use of deadly force, rules and encumbrances are necessary to keep our troops on the right side of the thin line that divides soldiers from criminals of wartime crimes against humanity

Mr. Lee's campaign is somewhat vague in explaining the position. If he is asserting that Congress should allow the military to have complete control over rules of engagement, than I disagree. However, I would still disagree with his position if he is asserting that Congress needs complete control over rules of engagement. Rules of engagement should be set by the military and should be checked and reviewed as needed by Congress. The military should be free to do their job, but rules and regulations need to be in place to make sure the military isn’t crossing moral and ethical lines.

Point 1
Honesty – A
Best move for our country – A
Realistic – A
Believability – A

Average – A

Point 2
Honesty – A
Best move for our country – C
Realistic – C
Believability – B

Overall – B+

Reform the Tax System – Mr. Lee supports the flat tax or the fair tax. Both of these proposals fail to take one major, albeit altruistic, point into consideration – 5% to a family living at the poverty level is much different than 5% to the rich. Having all Americans pay the same amount of tax is almost as regressive as taxing food at the grocery store. In my opinion the current tax code, although far from perfect or fair, has been developed through nearly 80 years of trial and error. The graduated tax rates keep those who have very little from being burdened with an additional tax liability, and has most taxpayers paying what they can (or should be able to) afford.

However, I agree that tax entitlements have gotten out of control. Although I’m not complaining about one of the biggest refunds I have ever received this year, I think the tax entitlements should be entitled for only those who are at or below the poverty level. Keep the middle class from paying too much, but we don’t need to give those who have enough to get by free hand outs.

Honesty – A
Best Move for our Country – D
Realistic – D (How many Congresses have had flat taxes introduced?)
Believability – A

Average – C+

Reduce Government Regulations – The talking point is a vague assertion that government regulations are bad for the market. Every good Republican would agree with this, but it isn’t all realistic. Given how vague the talking point is, I doubt Mr. Lee believes that it realistic either.

Overall – C (Vague)

Term Limits – Mr. Lee claims that he is for a twelve year limit on Congressional terms. This is something that I wholeheartedly agree with. However, it is also something that is pretty unrealistic to actually happen. I wonder if Mike Lee will believe in term limits after (and if) he is elected?

Honesty – A
Best move for our country – A
Realistic – C+
Believability – C

Average B+

Illegal Immigration – Mike Lee listed a whole list of items that he believes will help solve the illegal immigration problem. Items that I agree with him on:

1. Securing the border
2. Enforce Existing Law
3. Improve and Promote the Use of E-Verify

These are all important to control the flow of new immigrants to the United States. We need to control who comes in to the US from Mexico and Canada and we need to know who they are, but we also need to offer new immigrants (all immigrants) a pathway to legitimate citizenship that takes less than a year (at least less than a decade) and doesn’t require the intervention of a lawyer.

Specific items that I disagree with Lee on include:

1. Mandating and enforcing the denial of welfare benefits to (illegal) immigrants
2. NO Amnesty

First, I see the right-wing pandering in the position statement that we need to deny any welfare benefits to illegal immigrants. However, I also see a harsh reality for millions of people who (although illegally) have come to our nation seeking a better life. Life in America is often difficult for first generation immigrants, and I can’t accept the idea of refusing denying welfare to any new comer who may need assistance.

Second, and most important, Mike Lee proposes (as have many extreme right-wing pundits) that no amnesty be granted to the estimated nearly 20 million illegal immigrants currently living in the US. He even suggest that the government mandate that everyone return home and go through the proper channels before they can return. While pleasing the extreme-right’s fear of being overrun by our neighbors to the south, the proposal is unrealistic and illogical. We need to first get complete control of our borders, and second we need to offer a citizen path to any who are here and are legitimately trying to prosper in the land of the free – 5-10 year conditional green cards (no felonies, and proof of income) for all with citizenship after the waiting period.

Honesty – B-
Best move for our country – C
Realistic – D
Believability – D

Average D+

Other issues

Entitlements – C
Education – C
Abortion – A (I’m pro-life)
Federal Lands – A (Great idea to push for the property taxation of Federal Lands – probably unrealistic)

Overall GPA 2.85 (B-)

Conclusion -- While I disagree with Mike Lee on a few of his stated positions and I'm not a fan of some of his campaign moves, I'm pretty convinced that he would be no better or worse than Bob Bennett or any other member of Utah's Congressional delegation if elected albeit with less of that cursed but crucial word in Washington D.C. -- seniority. I'm pretty sure he is pandering heavily to the right on some of his less realistic campaign positions (immigration, education, finance, and entitlements) However, given his previous employment with former Governor and current Ambassador Jon Huntsman, I'm somewhat hopeful that he is more of a moderate in right-wing clothing during the pre-convention stage of his campaign.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I like your grading system.

I'm not nearly as fair or level headed as you in my analyses. I research the candidates' positions and automatically write them off for the dumb and unrealistic arguments they make. I'm too cynical I guess.

I agree with most of your discussion. a flatter tax system is unrealistic but I like that our candidates are agitating for it in the face of a tax year where so many people didn't pay any income taxes.