Monday, October 22, 2012

US Presidential Debate : High Stakes, High Drama...


In the US, they don't do "conversations", they debate. Technology allowed me to watch the entire debate 'live' on my smartphone mid last week[website for live broadcast]. If you want to know who is leading in this presidential race, the best projections actually do not come from opinion polls that tells us the candidates are dead even but the bookmakers in London who live or die depending on their ability to set the right odds[Ladbrokes US Presidential Election Odds]. Obama has about 65% chance of winning vs 35% for Romney.

The questions from the audience were quite good. You can see how nervous some of them were when they read out their questions but they must thought about what to ask the candidates very carefully and written it on paper so they wouldn't fumble when asking their questions.

America is in a difficult post-financial crisis economic period with high unemployment, high govt debt and high income inequality. The economy is seeing a weak recovery but not creating enough jobs for those who join the workforce. The belief of the Republicans seem to be tax-cuts being a cure-all for American economy. Candidate Romney's proposed $5 Trillion over 4 years in tax cuts is very counter-intuitive as he claims it will not only revive the economy but narrow the deficit[Link]. His proposal will cut income taxes by 20% for all, eliminate estate (inheritance) taxes, and extend the temporary Bush tax cuts by making them permanent. So far analysts have not found this plan credible as Romney claims he can recover these tax cuts by finding money closing tax loop holes which he has failed to detail throughout his campaign. Romney has also proposed increased military spending.

These tax cuts and Romney's campaign has found strong support among the ultra-rich. Some of them genuinely feel that taxes are oppressive and are strongly opposed to Obama's plan to raise taxes on the top 2% of the population[Billionaires against Obama]. Despite the need to close the deficit and narrow the income gap, these billionaires, many of whom are self-made, feel that any increase in taxes is unjust. For some, it is a combination of higher taxes and increase regulation that led them to oppose Obama so strongly. These new regulations most of which were introduced to prevent another financial crisis are opposed by those in the banking sector.

There is strong similarity between US Republicans and the PAP govt when it comes to taxes and regulation. The main difference is the PAP govt  practices strict "fiscal conservatism", they don't go into deficits or borrow to fund spending. The PAP goes further in many areas- even less on social spending, lower progressive taxes, less financial sector regulation.  In the US they debated about elimination inheritance taxes for the last 10 years - Bush could not garner enough support to eliminate it and Romney brings it back on the table. In Singapore, the PAP govt did it almost "overnight" [Link]- no debate needed.

If you go back to Obama's campaign in the 2008 election, the early part of the election before the financial crisis, his focus was primarily on the healthcare system - the high cost of care and large number of uninsured Americans was considered a severe problem. Today in Singapore we have more uninsured or under-insured people per capita than when US was having a healthcare crisis but the PAP govt does see it as a big deal. Recent case of a family having to incur medical debt of $130K payable over 42 years for their child who was hospitalized for meningitis[Link]. The boy is a PR (Permanent Resident) but such high debts can be incurred by any Singaporean so long as they are not adequately covered. What is incredible is the MSM (mainstream media) wrote about this story to highlight the generous gesture by the KK Hospital to allow the family to pay its medical debt over 42 years instead of bankrupting the family or forcing them to sell home to pay their medical bills. ...rather than highlighting the inadequacies of our medical system and high cost of medical care that left this family in dire straits. The child's father, a lorry driver who earns $1000 a month, now has to pay $250 every month for the next 42 years - all this happening in a country with the highest average income in the world. Among developed countries, Singaporeans shoulder the highest level of % of medical expenditure vs govt spending on healthcare and Singaporeans have the highest out of pocket spending.

America's inequality has caused a  polarization of its society that led to this almost acrimonious debate. Different strata of society with their own interests to protect. The decrease of taxes in US to historic lows did not lead to satisfaction of  ideological right and the expansion of the income inequality does not concern them too much. Some on the left want to go back to the days of the "welfare queen" that America can no longer afford. One side wants to expand social spending, the other side wants to expand military spending but they can do neither as the country's debt pile up. There seem to be no middle ground for either side to walk on and whoever wins the election will be opposed by almost half the people.

Singapore has a 3rd world wage structure with much of the benefits GDP growth going to the top few % of the population. PAP's policies have been extremely pro-business until its 'poorer than expected' election results in 2011. The govt has softened its stance a little to persuade the populace that it will implement policies that will benefit them. However, until we close the income gap, or seriously mitigate its effects by implementing universal healthcare, wage restructuring and transform our system we will face the same polarizing forces as we see in the USA. The old days of authoritarian style govt with control of the media to make us accept various policies are now over......The PAP has now resorted to 'conversation' but nobody is interested in 'old wines in new bottles'. The conversation initially generated interest because we were told there were no 'sacred cows' so people expected fundamental change only to find that the PAP cannot change fundamentally. Even as they converse, the problems are deepening and if there is no credible vision to take Singaporeans to a better future, it is hard to believe things will improve.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Healthcare in Singapore is affordable when you can pay it over 42 years. Only $250 per month over 42 years,so cheap! Just like our subsidised HDB flats and the $8 bypass Heart surgery.

Anonymous said...

"Russian President Nikita Khrushchev on the balcony of the Russian Delegation headquarters in New York in September 1960 was asked why there is only a one-party election in Russia. Khrushchev replied that it was the same in America as he could not see any difference between the Republican and Democrat candidates.

Only the names change."
http://johnharding.com/

Anonymous said...

Republican and Democratic party in America may be about the same.

But the same cannot be said of PAP and the opposition in Singapore what, tio bo?

And where is America's 60%? Do they have GRCs?

So cannot anyhow compare, OK?

Anonymous said...

Can PM Lee even be compared with the Mayor of New York City, let alone American presidential candidates?

Anonymous said...

LOL Never buy insurance then kao bei so much. those who needs insurance coverage yet unwilling to put the money down. Please note, the premium is the solution, not the problem.

Anonymous said...

We don't want the leopard to change. We want to see a sacrifice. Go and die lah

Anonymous said...

According to PAP, their definition of both HDB flats and healthcare in Singapore are very affordable is because these loans can be stretched over 30 years each, probably till you are dead.
According to our Minister, 4-rm flat is big enough for young married couple so building executive flats is a waste of money. Then why don't all our Ministers stay in 4-rm flat instead of filthy big GCB.
The way PAP governs is to squeeze as much money from its citizens as possible just leaving enough for the citizens to survive from hand to mouth. They are only interested in keeping themselves in power to continue to reap the million-dollar pay they enjoy at the expense of the ordinary citizens. Improving the quality of life of common Singaporeans is definitely not their priority.

Anonymous said...

Romney sounds like PAP, e.g.
Eliminate estate ta;
Increase defense spending

Hope he loses.

Anonymous said...

You are right.
I don't want PAP to change.
I want to see the PAP go the same way 80 year old men should go.

"... and so long as men die, liberty will never perish."

Anonymous said...

"The way PAP governs is to squeeze as much money from its citizens as possible just leaving enough for the citizens to survive from hand to mouth."
Anon 22/10/12 14:19

Are you talking about the 40% who did not vote PAP?

Anonymous said...

I am feddup because we are never really heard. At the end of the day, some are heard but most are ignored. The entire bureaucratic system, from top down, suffers the same nonsense or disease.

They will not be able to address the root cause!

Anonymous said...

There is no social justice with PAP. Never can be

Anonymous said...

"Singapore has a 3rd world wage structure with much of the benefits GDP growth going to the top few % of the population."
Lucky Tan

I don't understand. How come those who do not have much of the benefits (60%, you know) still vote PAP?

Anonymous said...

Because the opposition is not ready to rule. They themselves also admit what.

So if 60% don't vote PAP, then vote who?

Also cannot bo cheng hu (no govt)what, tio bo?





Anonymous said...

You watch the immigration debate?

The angmoh argued...no one force them to work overseas and be treated like slaves...it is either they stay home and rot or rot overseas.

Our moderator replied...yes, the choice is between the lesser of two evils

Our lawyers nodded their heads...yes...indeed

Anonymous said...

We are a banana republic lah....so remember to suck cok!

Anonymous said...

the two Asian..without relying on script...argued well...why?..their conscience did the talking....not scripted!

the result...they turned the votes in their favor...

our lawyers or scribes need to go back to primary school and be born again

patriot said...

First someone or conpany started a 50 year loan scheme and from there the Authority came in to approve a 35 year loan scheme.
Now, it is interest free super long repayment for medical bill.
What's next?

Anonymous said...

Nothing will change in Singapore until maybe some old men die a natural death?
It seems the entire Pro Alien Party is grinding to a halt.
Unable to make any brave new policy decisions.
Just tai chi here and there.
Hentak kaki.
Waiting for the inevitable.
Which may still be many years away.

Anonymous said...

Lucky,

So you know that many of these rich people in the west have chosen to forsake their own countries to settle here?

Anonymous said...

The pap is worst than the American Republican.

Anonymous said...

"Lucky,
So you know that many of these rich people in the west have chosen to forsake their own countries to settle here?"

So rich people means they are good people is it?
How will all this rich people benefit me if they don't pay taxes?
You must be a PAP supporter.
A running dog for the Millionaires-In-White.

Anonymous said...

The rich in the West are moving to Singapore because we are a tax haven where the rich pay little taxes.

Anonymous said...

"The rich in the West are moving to Singapore because we are a tax haven where the rich pay little taxes."

So how does this benefit me the Singaporean?
Rich people come here so what?
It's not as if they come here to give me money.

Anonymous said...

The removal of the estate tax came at a time when a prominent person was having strokes... If you can draw timelines, you will see something developing in tandem. No prizes for guessing who the prominent person is.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of money to be made from conveyancing?
Shhhh! State secret?

Anonymous said...

All politicians are bad and are there to bully the poor and to flatter the rich. This is the flaw in the system. Most countries suffered from this flaw.

Anonymous said...

I am Singaporean but like many others, we have family links to Malaysia. Recently my Malaysian grandmother was hospitalized due to internal bleeding. She stayed in a public hospital for 4 days and under went some scope examination.

Total bill came up to a whopping 33 ringgit including medication.

Its just simply unimaginable from a Singapore context. There are a lot of problems with Malaysia but we really have to give it to them for their social conscious govt. Why does our govt have to be so miserly towards their own citizens. Its just sad. We just can't blame the foreigners across the causeway for not rushing to take up citizenship. No wonder when we come over to Malaysia everyone is so much more happier and care free.

Anonymous said...

"Total bill came up to a whopping 33 ringgit including medication."

Try singapore next time. You must have heard of the $8/- bypass. Much better deal. But then transportation cost coming to this caring affordable country may exceed the savings.

Xianlong said...

'Old wine in new bottles'

Pro Alien Party is deeply entrenched in their outmoded success mindset. Is like many old diehards in imperial japanese navy who still believe in battleship big guns after their victory over the Russia & Chinese.

Yamamoto, the mastermind of Pearl Harbor attack was a gunnery officer. When he talked about carrier planes warfare over battleship big guns, his life was threatened by the old diehards of the establishment.

Is very hard to change deeply entrenched thinking when it brought success in the past for something 'new'

Edwardspyhq said...

We are a banana republic lah....so remember to suck cok!