I’ve seen focus group data indicating that the — entirely accurate — charge that John McCain is proposing a gigantic tax increase on employer-provided health care benefits is extremely effective. Consequently, it’s no surprise that the McCain campaign is furiously accusing Obama of lying. But Ben Furnas points out that Sarah Palin implicitly admitted the truth of the tax hike charge when she described McCain’s health care plan as budget neutral:
He’s proposing a $5,000 tax credit for families so that they can get out there and they can purchase their own health care coverage. That’s a smart thing to do. That’s budget neutral.
A $5,000 tax credit costs a lot of money. But as Palin says, McCain’s plan is budget neutral. That’s because the tax credits are offset by a large increase in taxes on recipients of employer-provided health care.
Yesterday, Vice President Cheney spoke at the White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy in Reno, NV, claiming that the Bush administration has championed wildlife preservation:
As all of you know very well, President Bush made wildlife conservation an early and a high priority of his administration. We’ve carried out that commitment in these eight years — and we’ve been proud to have people like you as partners in the enterprise.
The men and women in this room understand what conservation is all about. It means reverence toward creation, and a commitment to faithful stewardship. It means guarding our spectacular wildlife populations — not just for our own time, but for all time.
– Rules proposed by the Bush administration wouldeffectively gut the Endangered Species Act, no longer requiring federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether a project would harm an endangered species.
– Earlier this year, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff used his power to waive federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, in order to expedite building the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
– In September, a federal judge dealt the Bush administration a setback by ruling that its plan “to allow more than 500 snowmobiles a day into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks was not in keeping with the National Park Service’s responsibility to protect the parks” and would disturb wildlife.
– Officials have repeatedly refused to acknowledge and protect wildlife threatened by global warming.
Bush had originally been scheduled to speak at the conference but sent Cheney instead at the last minute. “In my place I have sent my favorite hunter,” Bush explained, alluding to Cheney’s 2006 hunting accident.
It’s hardly shocking to learn that the Chinese government has a massive program to conduct surveillance of Skype conversations, but still a sobering reminder that a lot of techno-utopian talk about communications technology inevitably bringing freedom to China looks more than a little overblown.
Having gotten its $700 billion worth of authority to buy “troubled” assets, the Treasury Department now needs to figure out what to actually do. One oddity of the debate over the rescue package is that, by necessity, to make a program of this sort work you need to have over a fair amount of discretionary authority to the implementers. But that means there’s an enormous range of things they might actually do and nobody really knows today — or knew earlier this week as we debated the program — what would actually happen if it passed.
Meanwhile, Hank Paulson and the Treasury Department certainly haven’t been the least impressive part of the Bush administration, but his performance has hardly been awe-inspiring.
There is a contradiction in the way John McCain has been selling his health care plan: either it busts the budget, or it raises taxes on middle-class families. It has to do one or the other.
Lately, John McCain’s campaign has been going around saying he won’t raise taxes on middle class families.
But last night Governor Palin twice insisted that John McCain’s health care plan is ‘budget neutral’ too:
He’s proposing a $5,000 tax credit for families so that they can get out there and they can purchase their own health care coverage. That’s a smart thing to do. That’s budget neutral. That doesn’t cost the government anything…But a $5,000 health care credit through our income tax that’s budget neutral. That’s going to help.
By insisting that his health care plan is ‘budget neutral’ Palin is implying that John McCain raises taxes on middle-class families. If it doesn’t raise taxes, it’s not ‘budget neutral.’
Here’s how it works:
Giving every family a $5,000 tax credit costs $3.6 trillion over ten years, according to the McCain campaign. McCain wants to pay for it by taxing employer health benefits as income.
If he makes families pay both payroll and income taxes on their benefits, the Joint Committee on Taxation projects McCain can raise the $3.6 trillion, making the proposal ‘budget neutral.’
If he subjects benefits only to income taxes, as the McCain campaign now claims they would, the Tax Policy Center showed that he would fall $1.3 trillion short in paying for his plan. Under any definition that’s not ‘budget neutral.’
The ONLY way to make McCain’s plan ‘budget neutral,’ as Palin insists it is, is to repeal the entire exclusion for health care from both income and payroll taxes. And if this is what he does, then he raises taxes on the typical family making $60,000 by $1,100 by 2013.
In either case families would see their taxes go up eventually because the tax credit grows by the rate of inflation (around 2%/year) and the current exemption grows with the rate of health care costs (close to 7%/year). But if both payroll and income taxes are imposed on benefits, McCain’s tax increase would be much larger much sooner, and would fall most heavily on the middle class.
Senator McCain and Governor Palin are trying to have their cake and eat it too.
I guess any time she speaks sentences that were clearly intended to be in the English language she “beats expectations” and Rich Lowry sees starbursts so I suppose we should count this as another triumph:
As we send our young men and women overseas in a war zone to fight for democracy and freedoms, including freedom of the press, we’ve really got to have a mutually beneficial relationship here with those fighting the freedom of the press, and then the press, though not taking advantage and exploiting a situation, perhaps they would want to capture and abuse the privilege. We just want truth, we want fairness, we want balance.
Yes, indeed, a mutually beneficial relationship with those fighting the freedom of the press.
At long last the Obama campaign is trying to get some attention for John McCain’s health care proposals — proposals that are much more radical than they seem at first glance. The crux of the matter is that McCain wants to eliminate the tax-favored treatment of employer-provided health insurance, substantially undue regulatory minimums about what insurance plans must cover, and over time phase out any form of tax preference for health insurance whatsoever. The vision, at the end of the day, is to create a situation where most Americans have much less comprehensive insurance coverage. The theory is that with higher out-of-pocket costs and less insurance, people will become more discerning consumers and health care quality and/or cost effectiveness will rise.
The part of this that’s most vulnerable to public attack, it seems, is the point that McCain wants to impose a huge new tax on employer provided health care. The McCain campaign likes to say that this will be offset by a tax credit of $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 per family to buy insurance on the open market. Obama is countering that $5,000 won’t cover the costs of an individual plan, whose average costs are around $12,000. That’s true, but a bit misleading, since it neglects the fact that if we shift away from employer-provided health care people should wind up seeing higher cash wages. The bigger problem with the $5,000 tax credit is that — by designed — it won’t keep pace with the rising cost of health care. It’s pegged to the consumer price index. But some CPI items will predictably see slower-than-average inflation (blu-ray players, etc.) while others see faster-than-average inflation, including health care.
This isn’t a design flaw in McCain’s program, it’s the point of the program. Combined with deregulating the insurance industry it’s supposed to produce a world in which, over time, people are less-and-less insured. This is in keeping with the basic conservative philosophy about our health care problems — that they’re driven by too many people having cushy insurance plans — but it’s pretty strongly at odds with how most people would define the problem.
ABC News reports that the State Department has hired the private firm U.S. Investigations Services “to fill positions in the newly created Force Investigation Unit (FIU),” which was created after last year’s deadly Blackwater shooting to investigate possible crimes committed by contractors in Iraq. However, it is illegal to hire contractors for jobs “considered to be inherently governmental functions” including “the direct conduct of criminal investigations.” Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has written to the State Department about these “highly troubling” hires but has yet to receive a response.
There’s long been some sentiment that if Barack Obama wins the election it will not merely reflect improvements in the race/racism situation in the United States, but also possibly cause further improvements. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of that, but watching the recent controversy over Gwen Ifill’s book, the right-wing’s bizarre effort to blame the Community Reinvestment Act for the financial crisis, and the McCain campaign’s attacks on Obama’s non-existent ties to Frank Raines are making me realize that the reverse is likely to be the case.
For different reasons, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush implemented political strategies that were designed to decrease the salience of racial issues in American politics. To Clinton, it was a way to render the Democratic Party safe for moderate white voters. For Bush, it was both a way of presenting himself as a “different kind” of Republicans and also an effort to broaden the GOP coalition to include more Hispanics. Those two strategies helped create the circumstances under which it’s possible for Obama to win. But an Obama victory would, on its own, transform the circumstances and elevate the salience of racial considerations. The McCain campaign has, thus far, hardly been playing by marquess of queensbury rules but (presumably fearing a media backlash) they’ve largely shied away from the explicitly racial stuff — didn’t have Sarah Palin wonder why Barack Obama thinks his kids deserve special treatment in college admissions that her kids don’t get — but it’s been bubbling up from the grassroots recently. On top of that, I think you’d have to assume that a McCain defeat would lead to the ascendancy of anti-immigrant forces within the GOP and the return of a political strategy that doesn’t really care about reaching out to non-whites which would, in turn, make post-2009 GOP candidates less wary of racialized attacks.
Prior to and following the vice-presidential debates, conservatives on Fox News purported that the “mainstream media” has a preference for an Obama presidency. Bill Kristol, Kirsten Powers, and Bernard Goldberg all agreed in the “obvious fact” of the “transparent agenda” of liberal media bias. Watch it:
These claims fly in the face of reality. The multinational corporations that run the mainstream media — GE (NBC), Time Warner (CNN), Walt Disney (ABC), News Corporation (FOX), and Viacom (CBS) — stand to benefit hugely under a McCain presidency. The centerpiece of Sen. McCain’s economic plan — actually, the whole plan — is large tax cuts for corporations. It would deliver $1.44 billion in tax cuts to the five largest media companies, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
These giveaways are just one part of McCain’s doubling of the Bush tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy which would create the largest deficits in 25 years and drive the United States into the deepest deficits since World War II. McCain and Palin have promised that the $700 billion bailout would not threaten these tax cuts.