Saturday, March 29, 2008

Some Planks from Senator McCain's Platform

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Hi, whoever is out there,

I decided to do something I maybe should have done before but just haven't got around to. (So many blogs, so little time; to steal a phrase) I am going around to the three major candidates' web pages and taking a look at their positions and proposals. I realized that I am too dependent on other bloggers and the news media for my information and have decided to correct that. I may even drop in on Nader as well.

Right now it is John McCain's turn. First is his economic stimulus package. He proposes reducing the corporate tax rates from 35% to 25%, giving a tax credit equal to 10% of wages for research and development, and a first year write down on equipment and technology investments. He claims that the U.S. has been lagging the rest of the industrialized countries in reducing the tax burden on corporations which puts them at a decided disadvantage competing with international firms. That may be and I am not in any position to refute his assertions. The question I have is how will corporations use this kind of a revenue windfall? If it merely goes into the pockets of the CEO and his upper management or into the stockholders' pockets what will we gain. Senator McCain seems to assume that the funds will all be plowed back into the companies. I wouldn't bet on it.

Second, his tax reform proposals. This section is a bit of a mishmash. It repeats the proposals made in his economic stimulus outline. And it is highly skewed toward business. His proposals for the middle class focus on the alternative minimum tax which he wants eliminated. Actually I think the premise behind the tax is rather sound. Everyone should pay a fair share of taxes. The problem has been that the original legislation never accounted for inflation and as incomes have risen more people have been hit with this tax. How about amending the legislation to account for inflation? He also suggests that we roll back the medicare taxes so seniors won't find their social security and pensions eaten away by increasing taxes. He seems to count on the medical and medical insurance sectors to control costs. Nice but I don't think relying on the private sector to control costs will work any better in the future than it has in the past. I have long felt that there are certain things that should not be commodities provided on a profit basis. Health care is one of these.

As part of the program Senator McCain proposes to reign in spending. Some of his proposals I definitely agree with and in some cases would go further. For example, the notion that we should eliminate pork-barrel projects, wasteful subsidies, and ear-marks. Of course the devil is always in the details. What is exactly pork-barrel? Can legislators agree on a definition? And I would go a step further--I would insist that no funding bill be attached as a rider to an unrelated bill. In other words: no 'bridge to nowhere' attached to a defense bill. Funding bills should be included in the budget or should stand on their own. On the issues of 'reforming' social security and medicare the proposals are very nonspecific. He also seems to lean toward curtailing benefits and increasing taxes. Nor does he indicate how he would judge which one in five government programs is ineffective. I would love to see how the Department of Homeland Security would stack up, or No Child Left Behind. The sections on 'trade and displaced workers,' 'national strategy for energy security,' and reform of the medical delivery system are too non-specific to make any judgment on. Given the tenor of this whole section it will probably cater to the interests of business and industry primarily.

Third, reform of the health care system. The first half of this section is very general. It reiterates many of the criticisms of the health care system but, as I said above, the devil is in the details. Senator McCain's concrete proposals are heavily skewed toward the medical insurance industry and emphasize individual responsibility. For example, he has picked up the proposal that individuals be given a $2500 tax credit to buy their own insurance and opening the insurance market nationally so individuals can choose from companies operating on a national level. I have several problems with this. How many people pay enough in taxes to get back a $2500 credit? I never have. Also, how many will find adequate insurance for this amount? Families often have to spend upwards of $1500/month, so how far would the family credit of $5000 go? I have seen accounts of insurance for individuals exceeding $500/month. Also, there is no mention of the people who cannot find insurance at any price. Senator McCain's plan fails, as far as I can see, to address the problem of the 'uninsurable.' I am entirely sympathetic with the complaint that business is at a disadvantage with comparison to foreign companies when they have to provide health care for their employees. However, over the past several years more and more companies have been getting out from under both pension plans and health care plans leaving the burden on the employees which places employees at as similar disadvantage compared to foreign workers. Why do I say that. Because the U.S. is the only major industrial nation which has no national health care system that covers everyone. We are the only country in which the burden is almost entirely on individual companies or individual workers.

On the Senator's 'sanctity of life' proposals, needless to say, I disagree. Banning abortion or overturning Roe v Wade is a cheap and insensitive way to enforce conservative, Christian morals on everyone else. This is the area where individual responsibility and choice should be the determining factor. It is none of the state's business (federal or state levels).

The strategy for victory in Iraq says pretty much what the news sound bites have indicated. I have a problem with the whole thing on several fronts. First, it is largely predicated on a business as usual premise which hasn't changed since the so-called end of the Cold War. We have shifted from an ideological war against communism (which was identified with particular states) to a new ideological war against terrorism (which is considerably more amorphous). For the last century we have been engaged in ideological struggles that have attained the intensity of the religious conflicts of the 16th and 17th centuries. I think it is about time that we got out of that rut. Second, it does nothing to cure us of our presumptuousness. We presume that we have the right (as well as the might) to demand that other people adopt our values, our concerns, tow our line in all things. And if they don't we have the right to chastise them with our military. Third, it relies so largely on conflict and confrontation and in the end on how much military force we are willing to bring to bear. Will Senator McCain, if he is elected President, follow President Bush's lead and declare his openness to negotiation but fail to negotiate honestly in good faith? Or will he dictate what must be the final outcome of the alleged negotiation?

There is more on Senator McCain's web pages. Please do visit them and make your own decisions on what is written.

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