Volume 12, Issue 40 ~ September 30-October 6 2004
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Listen Up to the Presidential Debates

We have entered the most telling time of the campaign season, when we get to see candidates side by side, if not face to face, in the televised presidential debates.

It is not our mission to tell you for whom to vote. At Bay Weekly, we haven’t endorsed candidates in the past, and we don’t plan to start now.

But we always talk about issues, and in this season we sometimes wonder who else does. From where we sit (looking out at the Chesapeake Bay), we are struck by how extraordinarily empty this campaign has been when it comes to the substantive issues that affect our families.

Yes, national security is vital. But it’s far from the only issue in our lives. Yet many people are failing to make the distinction between Iraq and the war on terrorism.

That’s one reason these debates are so compelling. Finally, we get to hear more than the howls of the attack dogs. On matters of war and peace, we can hear the words of the candidates themselves, watch their eyes and judge their body language.

But there are a host of other issues out there that are scarcely being talked about. So our main advice is that while listening, you consider what is truly important to your family.

Think about what is happening with healthcare and listen closely to the candidates. A report this week by the non-partisan Families USA found that, based on government statistics, healthcare premiums paid by workers rose 35.9 percent since 2000.

Similarly the share paid by employers climbed 31.8 percent. Why are we letting this happen? How do we fix a system that is sapping our paychecks and draining our savings?

Along the Chesapeake, we have special concerns about the environment. Yet we learned this week in the Baltimore Sun the details of how Maryland’s largest power plant, Mirant’s Chalk Point power station along the Patuxent River, decided not to install the latest pollution control equipment two years ago when the Bush administration weakened clean-up requirements.

Rather than a partisan issue, we look on this as a family-health issue when we consider a Harvard study showing that Clark Point’s pollution causes 100 premature deaths and 7,500 asthma attacks annually. (The utility disputes the study’s findings.)

On the other hand, has the time come to cut back on costly regulatory burdens for our industries and their shareholders? When candidates debate the environment, these are matters to consider.

There are many more. This week, for the first time ever, the cost of a barrel of oil passed $50. What would paying $2.50 or $3.00 a gallon for gas do to our family budgets? Is there any end in sight?

Given these soaring healthcare and commuting costs, how will we find the money to send our kids to college? In this wartime budget, federal Pell Grants, the most dependable means of support, have not increased from their maximum $4,500 in two years.

In short, there is much to think about while listening to our White House aspirants. We all have our own definition of security, and our advice as you listen to these debates is to consider what adds up to security for your family.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.