Vote only if you've studied the issues carefully

November 3, 2008
We're on the eve of an election, and any columnist would be remiss not to say a word or two about the election. Let me begin by arguing against the tepid, thoughtless mantra to "just vote."

To be sure, voting is important—indeed it is one of the few things worth both dying and killing for —but don't "just vote." The matter is too important to enter the solemnity of the voting booth without having instructed yourself on the issues. If you are ignorant of the topics, stay home.

Our nation is at war. We fight in places the news media cover, and in far more places where they do not. When we win in Iraq, we shall still be at war and when we win in Afghanistan, we shall still be at war. Sadly, those who seek our collapse do not hate us for what we do but for who we are. The policy choices against this enemy are neither clear nor easy. The next president will need to understand this.

The federal government has a significant budget deficit. It is not yet a catastrophe, but well can be over the span of a single presidential term. Deep expenditures cuts are inevitable. The only question is, how far out of hand will the deficit become before spending cuts are enacted?

Both presidential candidates offer changes to tax policies. There are many rhetorical hijinks from both candidates, as is to be expected in an election year. The stakes are terribly high. An error here can be far more costly to your family than a recession.

Our economy has slipped into a recession. At this time, it looks to be modest in both depth and duration. However, there is no shortage of potential shocks that could dramatically alter this forecast. Courage and leadership will be in much demand this next year.

As a nation, we balance environmental and energy concerns. These are real issues, but the solutions that have been offered to date are not. Wisdom, intellectual curiosity and pragmatism will be needed.

Both Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have much to recommend them for office. There are reasons to vote against both. It is hard to imagine a time, if ever, when we had a better set of choices. If you cannot make up your mind, please don't vote.

At the state level, the stakes are high, but not as encumbered by ideology. We will sorely need the candidate who can best "git 'er done."

If you haven't bothered to learn about these issues, don't stand in line with those who have. Whether or not you vote or have bothered to learn about the issues of our time, there is one thing you can do Nov. 4. Offer a heartfelt prayer for the next president of the United States.

Hicks is director of the Bureau of Business Research at Ball State University. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at
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