October 26th, 2008 5:33 pm | by JOHN MINERVINI News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, CLEAN UP

TOME RAIDER: Change We Can Believe In


Each week, WW writer John Minervini brings you the latest in book reviews, author Q&A's and Portland literary gossip. Click here to join the Tome Raider mailing list.

In all likelihood, damas y caballeros, we have our next president. According to public opinion websites like Rasmussen and Gallup, Sen. Barack Obama has led Sen. John McCain in national presidential polls by between 5 and 10 percentage points every day for a month, now. In a recent release, Rasmussen said Obama is 86.5% likely to win on Nov. 4; FiveThirtyEight.com puts that number at 96.7%.

So pop a cork. Cross yourself. Do whatever your own personal politics dictate. Maybe you're not convinced and want to wait it out; that's fine, too. But no matter where you stand on the issues, it pays to learn the policy platforms of the odds-on next president.

To that end, Tome Raider recently scoured a copy of the new book released by the Obama campaign, Change We Can Believe In (Three Rivers Press, 288 pages, $13.95). It lists the Illinois senator's stances on just about every issue you've ever heard of, from child support to mercury pollution.

Nightmare Before Election Night

The downside is that Change is the least sexy thing ever to be published under Barack Obama's name. Seriously, did you read Dreams from my Father? The Audacity of Hope? Those books were intravenous idealism, unburdened by practicality or compromise. Above all, they were eloquent.

By contrast, this new book seems to have been written (and probably was written) by a committee of overcaffeinated campaign staffers. The only parts that Barack actually penned are the forward and the seven appended campaign speeches. With its mangled syntax, its noncontroversial language and its brazen flag-waving, Change certainly isn't going to inspire anyone on the strength of its rhetoric.

Not to mention the constant repetitions. Change'scontent is organized by topic (e.g. energy independence, strengthening the middle class, nuclear nonproliferation); that means the same policy ends up getting explained four or five times under different umbrellas. Seriously, if I hear about Early Childhood Education one more time, I'm gonna vom.

Still, the book is a great resource, and critically important as an accountability check. Indeed, it's difficult to overstate Obama's bravery as represented by his willingness to go on-record (and on-paper) with such an audacious lineup of reforms. Can you imagine anything like this coming from the Republican ticket?

Republican Books

Below, find several of Barack's most interesting/controversial/insightful/confusing platforms. Hopefully, they'll start a few political conversations, or at very least whet your appetite for a progressive presidency:

Automatic workplace retirement plans: Require employers who do not currently offer a retirement plan to enroll their employees in a government direct-deposit IRA. Employees keep the plan even when they change jobs. If they want, they can opt out.

Mid-East: Begin planning a responsible withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Instead, focus on fighting terrorists in Afghanistan. Launch a “diplomatic surge” in the Mid-East: train & deploy civilian diplomats to Syria, Iran, etc..

Minimum wage: Raise it to $9.50 by 2011. Afterward, index it to inflation.

Universal health insurance coverage: Offer an opt-in low-cost government insurance plan to every American—even those with pre-existing conditions.

Education: Further fund zero-to-five education programs & after-school enrichment. Pay teachers more; hold them more accountable. Offer a $4000 college tax credit to students willing to contribute 100 hours of public service, annually. Expand Pell Grants.

Tax policy: Lower or maintain tax rates for families making less than $250k/year. Raise tax rates for those making over $250k/year. Remove tax penalties on married families. Reward parents who pay child support with an EITC tax credit.

Cars: Double fuel economy standards within 18 years. Get one million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Cut taxes for Americans who buy fuel-efficient vehicles.

“Green” jobs: Create five million enviro-forward government jobs in clean energy, biofuels, hybrid automobiles, fuel infrastructure, low-emissions coal plants and a digital electricity grid.

Clean air: Reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Institute a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions. Invest in low-carbon nonpetroleum fuels.

Veterans: Fullly fund veterans' medical care. Increase the number of centers treating Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other specialized injuries. Work to end homelessness among veterans.

Nuclear nonproliferation: At all costs, prevent Iran from developing and testing nuclear weapons. Eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons program (seems unrealistic). Phase out Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) from the civil sector. Provide additional funding ($16m) to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Reduce US and Russian nuclear stockpiles. Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Global warming: Reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Spend $150bn over 10 years to develop and deploy climate-friendly energy sources.

Foreign aid: Double foreign financial assistance to $50bn by 2012. Double the size of the peace corps to 16,000.

Lobbying: Employ no registered lobbyists in an Obama administration. Ban gifts to executive branch employees. End no-bid contracts over $25,000. Create a “Google for Government” so that regular citizens can track federal grants, contracts, earmarks & loans.

Civil rights: Overturn the Supreme Court ruling that makes it harder for women to file pay-discrimination claims. Preserve women's rights as elaborated by Roe v. Wade. Support civil unions with equal rights for same-sex couples. End the “don't ask, don't tell” policy in the US military.

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