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Vote for Substance, Not Image

April 2004
Vote for Substance, Not Image

Broadly speaking, the values of the Republican Party are often touted as more aligned to our community as a whole. To begin with, there is this oft-repeated piece of statistic from the U.S. Census Bureau that would suggest a strong Republican affinity: the median household income of Indian-Americans is $60,093 versus the national median of $38,885. This alone, it appears, would be enough to make us card-carrying members of the Grand Old Party?the default choice of the wealthy.

We also boast of a disproportionately high number of the self-employed; both?mom-and-pop store owners, as well as leading entrepreneurs in the Hotel, Medicine, and IT industries, to name a few. The scales therefore weigh further in favor of the GOP?the Party that has a solid reputation as one that is pro-business and which believes in less government and less taxation.

Moreover, the conservative values of family and religion espoused by Republicans are also cited as parallel to Indian-American culture in general.

With only the above generalizations on our plate, certainly we would want to vote Republican.

But delving deeper, we find that not only are broad generalizations often fallacious, but also, that there could be exceptions to the rule that can turn a situation on its axis.

We, like other minorities, should be extremely concerned about a particularly unhealthy bent of the ultra-religious right that has found haven in the current Republican circles?all the way up to the President. Given their way: (i) Our children would soon end up studying how God created the universe in seven days. This, they would learn, not in a religion or theology class, but in science class! (ii) Our tax dollars would subsidize religious institutions and programs where the chief beneficiary would be, of course, the majority religion.

Some may discount the above as farfetched, and that may well be so? at least, one hopes that it is so. What really has the potential to drive our vote?like it does for the rest of the Americans?is our pocketbook. Here, the governmental efficiency of the Republicans is a big draw as compared to the tax-and-spend Democrats. Even if that is generally true (and I believe it is), worrying about the pork-barrel spending of Democrats in the face of the monumental Iraq price-tag? is like worrying about a choked toilet even as the house is burning down.

Currently, the Pentagon is spending the equivalent of $60 billion a year on Iraq just for the military occupation, not counting the cost of reconstruction. So far the Congress has, through the supplemental spending bills, already approved $166 billion for the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan?of which Iraq consumes the lion's share.

The money is being sucked so fast in Iraq that it would shame the proverbial "giant sucking sound" of lost jobs that Ross Perot had so famously alluded to in the wake of NAFTA. As hefty as the price tag has been so far, it may well be just a drop in the bucket considering there is no end in sight as to how long American troops will be stationed there.

Even the most notoriously liberal tax-and-spend Democrat could not begin to regress the economy as spectacularly as this Iraq misadventure has done.

"But what's the price tag on national security?" is the feeble attempt to justify Iraq. That is another subject for another day.

- Parthiv N. Parekh


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