Saturday, August 30, 2008

"I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95% of all working families."

I'd like to highlight several points from Obama's acceptance speech that were lost during the media's scramble to cover McCain's VP pick. I don't want to repeat points he's made before, but instead talk about some of the really big statements he made.

"John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time... I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change."

Okay, maybe he's said this before, but it's poignant for the economy, the war, immigration, and pretty much anything else.

"For over two decades, he's [McCain, duh] subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy -- give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else."

McCain believes in "trickle down economics," which has been widely discredited over the past 25 years.

The market "should reward drive and innovation and generate growth."

A Democrat talking about how the market is good? How did no one mention this?

And then he got specific (at least as specific as he could really get in a speech like this).

"I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95% of all working families."

The parts about tax breaks and cutting taxes for small business is important, but let me mention that last part again, because it went largely unrepeated: his plan cuts taxes for "95% of all working families." About 90% of the families in the U.S. make less than $100,000 a year, and his plan only affects people who make more than $250,000 a year. As shown in previous posts (see "Two Articles Worth Your Time and Brain Power" below or check this link), McCain's tax plan is almost non-existent for middle and lower-class families.

" ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East."

Rather than throw money away drilling domestically for a small percentage of our oil needs, we should funnel more money into alternative energy plans to completely move away from oil. I don't read this as being completely off of oil in 10 years (I don't think anyone seriously thinks in 10 years no one will have cars with internal combustion engines), but the idea of pushing ourselves and making a "man on the moon" type of commitment to developing commercially viable alternatives is the perfect way to work towards true energy independence while creating a new industry. And, with commercially viable renewable energy sources, we could export our technology to the rest of the world and do something about worldwide pollution and our international trade deficits as well.

"I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability.

And we will keep our promise to every young American -- if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education."

Because we'll never make all these technological advances until we have more science and engineering graduates. And programs like Americorps will be funded again to harness the power of our youth to make our country a better place.

"If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most."

Here's probably the second most important part of his plan (IMO), after renewable energy. Obama's plan doesn't create more government -- it expands our existing forms of healthcare (combined public/private), but admittedly this is probably the riskiest and hardest sell. See my post "Healthcare's Partisan Divide" below for more healthcare info.

"I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime - by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less..."

This is important -- because I've been skeptical of his "we'll use the money we save in Iraq to fund my new programs" plan so far. But if he's really willing to go through the tax code and truly look closely at the budget, we'll be in better shape.

"Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility -- that's the essence of America's promise."

Hello? This is what the Republican party used to be built on, until, say, Nixon.

"I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights... We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past."

'Nuff said about our current situation. Let me add that the two biggest wars this country has been involved in (WWII and the Civil War) were successfully led by Commanders-in-Chief with no prior military experience.

"...don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals."

Did you catch the wording there? "Uphold" the Second Amendment. That's an important distinction from how previous Democrats have looked at this issue.

McCain's decision to announce his VP pick was well-timed to pull our ADHD media away from Obama's amazingly powerful speech. But before we debate the wisdom of picking Governor Palin as his running mate, let's not lose sight of Obama's historic speech -- historic because of its timing as well as its content.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Healthcare's Partisan Divide

Terri Gross did a terrific interview on her show Fresh Air with political scientist Jonathan Oberlander in which he compares McCain and Obama's proposed health plans. Dr. Oberlander recently published The Partisan Divide — The McCain and Obama Plans for U.S. Health Care Reform in the New England Journal of Medicine. I haven't read the article yet, but the interview was very interesting. You can listen to the interview online as well as read an abstract at

Dr. Oberlander doesn't seem too fond of McCain's plans, pointing out that the tax credits they offer will do little to offset the cost of moving from employer-based to private insurance. (Tax credit for families: $5000. Average price of private insurance for families: $13,000.) He also notes that many employers don't seem to like it, either.

He's tough on the Obama plan for putting too much responsibility in the hands of the government, and especially for counting on money to fund the plan that realistically won't be available. (One of my biggest gripes about several of Obama's plans are that he says the rollback of Bush's tax cuts for those making more than $250k will pay for the new plans. It's as if he's assuming the repealing the tax cuts would result in a bottomless pit of cash, which just isn't the case. He needs to more clearly specify how the tax revenues will be divided.)

[I feel better about this since Obama's acceptance speech. See my post immediately above.]

The reality for both plans is that if the next president's party doesn't have a majority in Congress, they will either end up being very watered down or, much like the reforms proposed in the early 90s (or Social Security reforms proposed pretty much any time), they'll die a very public and very painful death.

Put on your headphones and spend 33 minutes educating yourself on the difficulties facing both plans.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Two Articles Worth Your Time and Brain Power

I killed a lunch hour reading this, but it was highly worthwhile:

How Obama Reconciles Dueling Views on Economy

I'd love to see a similar piece on McCain. I wonder if that's in the works? This one does a good job of explaining not only what Obama believes (based on the reporter piecing it together himself, not just from posted campaign policy and platform statements), but where his beliefs stand on the traditional Conservative/Liberal measuring stick, how those beliefs compare to McCain in some areas, where they fit in historical context, and how he came to hold them.

Another interesting, although less-detailed, article from the LA Times that compares the McCain and Obama tax plans:

McCain and Obama tax plans diverge on wealth

Be sure to click on the "Who gains, who loses" image at the top for an interesting comparison of potential tax changes broken down by income brackets. It uses numbers also referenced by the NYT article above that include not only income tax rates, but also dividends, capital gains, and, probably most significantly, payroll taxes.

I'd probably take too long if I editorialized these articles, so I'll leave you to make your own judgments.

Quote of the Year

So-called "global warming" is just a secret ploy by wacko tree-huggers to make America energy independent, clean our air and water, improve the fuel efficiency of our vehicles, kick-start 21st century industries, and make our cities safer and more livable. Don't let them get away with it!
--Chip Giller,