Clinton Continues Use of Dishonest Mailers

Throughout the primary camapaign Hillary Clinton has resorted to using dishonest mailers to distort Obama’s positions on the issues. The Politico reports on a mailer now being sent on health care. The mailer asks, “Which of These People Don’t Deserve Health Care?” The implication is that Obama would leave people out while Clinton’s health plan would include them. This is untrue as the only people who would be left out are those who choose not to have coverage.

On a conference call today, Ted Kennedy responded to Clinton’s charges:

“They both effectively have universal health care programs,” Kennedy said. “The point of this ad is to undermine people’s belief that Barack Obama is committed to universal health care, and that is simply a distortion, a misrepresentation… that is the kind of distortion that we had back in 1994.”

To be exact on this, Obama’s plan might not be called universal as people have the option not to participate. However if Obama’s plan is not considered universal, then Clinton’s plan could not be called universal as not everybody obeys government mandates. Robert Reich has argued that Obama’s plan would actually cover more people:

She says his would insure fewer people than hers. I’ve compared the two plans in detail. Both of them are big advances over what we have now. But in my view Obama’s would insure more people, not fewer, than HRC’s. That’s because Obama’s puts more money up front and contains sufficient subsidies to insure everyone who’s likely to need help – including all children and young adults up to 25 years old. Hers requires that everyone insure themselves. Yet we know from experience with mandated auto insurance – and we’re learning from what’s happening in Massachusetts where health insurance is now being mandated – that mandates still leave out a lot of people at the lower end who can’t afford to insure themselves even when they’re required to do so. HRC doesn’t indicate how she’d enforce her mandate, and I can’t find enough money in HRC’s plan to help all those who won’t be able to afford to buy it. I’m also impressed by the up-front investments in information technology in O’s plan, and the reinsurance mechanism for coping with the costs of catastrophic illness. HRC is far less specific on both counts. In short: They’re both advances, but O’s is the better of the two. HRC has no grounds for alleging that O’s would leave out 15 million people.

It would be a simple matter to resolve the free rider argument. There are numerous ways in which incentives can be built into the system to provide incentives to join and consequences for trying to wait until one needs the coverage.

Medicare has just such a situation with the Medicare D program which covers prescription drugs. People who do not currently have expensive drug costs might be tempted not to participate and wait until they do. This problem was solved by charging a higher premium should you join later. Those purchasing the insurance later would be charged both the higher rate than in effect as well as an additional charge. Should people try to game the system it doesn’t matter because down the road the system picks up increased premiums when people do join, eliminating the fears that the free riders are making the coverage more expensive for all.

Another way in which the Medicare D Program discourages free riders is to have open enrollment only during a brief period every year. This makes people consider the fact that should they develop a medical condition which requires expensive medications to treat after the open enrollment period, they will have to pick up the cost for several months. Other incentives could also be built into any system to make it more costly to join later, including waiting periods and temporary exclusions on preexisting conditions as currently exist.


Conservatives Jumping Aboard Obama As Socialist Meme

It is not surprising that many conservative bloggers are repeating the claims that Barack Obama is one of the most left wing candidate for president we’ve seen in ages following the story in The Times of London which I discussed yesterday. They assume that everyone will forget that in 2004 they said the same of Kerry, and they seem to make the same claim about the Democratic every election year. As I noted in my previous post, Obama’s economic advisers are out of the University of Chicago, which is far better known for its free market principles than for promoting socialism.

Despite the free market influences on many of Obama’s economic views, I still wouldn’t expect many conservative bloggers to go agree with him even if they acknowledged that his economic views are far less leftist than those of many other Democrats. I support Obama more on social issues, civil liberties issues, and foreign policy than on every one of his economic views and in some areas I see some validity with some of the conservative criticism of his economic plans. Unfortunately in politics we will never have a candidate we agree with on all issues.

With these considerations in mind I wasn’t surprised to see Ed Morrissey jump on the Obama as leftist bandwagon. At least he does present arguments on his economic views as opposed to simply screaming that Obama is a socialist like many other conservative blogs are doing. He also places Hillary Clinton in the same boat, suggesting that at least he isn’t saying that Obama is further to the left than every other Democrat around as some conservatives now claim. In addition, by including Clinton he isn’t helping her with her strategy, as mentioned by Robert Novak, of trying to win by identifying Obama with George McGovern while keeping her “fingerprints off the attack.”

One commenter to Ed’s post already notes that one of Obama’s plans which he criticizes is similar to an idea promoted by Milton Friedman, The Saver’s Credit, and supported by Ronald Reagan. This may very well tie into Obama receiving advice from economists at the University of Chicago.

While many of the disagreements come down to matters of opinion, there is at least one error in fact. Obama’s idea on having the IRS send completed tax forms for taxpayers to approve if they have no changes is receiving excessive condemnation from many on the right. The more absurd attack was previously discussed here in the comments when Eric Dondero claimed that this would result in the IRS receiving more information than it currently does about business income. The point of the plan is that the IRS already has this information and could just as easily generate a form and save many taxpayer’s the trouble.

Ed’s criticism is less extreme than Eric’s but but is still incorrect. He writes:

Do you like the IRS? Want to trust them to do your tax returns? Rather than simplify taxes, Obama instead wants to have the IRS prepare your returns for you and send them out for your signature. Since the IRS gets all of your income information already, he wants the IRS to calculate how much you owe, without apparently considering that most Americans itemize for deductions. It doesn’t cut down on preparation time in any case, but merely transfers the cost to the federal government– as well as more power to the IRS.

This gives the IRS no more power than it now has as taxpayers would have the option of rejecting the forms as completed by the IRS. The cost issue may or may not be meaningful and if this does turn out to be expensive then I could see objecting. My suspicion is that a computerized system could generate the forms from information already submitted to the IRS at a minimal cost. His major error is in saying that “most Americans itemize for deductions.”

The point of this plan is that most Americans do not itemize and a simple form sent to them for their approval would be sufficient. Most estimates I’ve seen of the number who itemize have been one-third or less but as I haven’t found an exact number I’ll go with a slightly higher estimate from a conservative organization which perhaps Ed would find more credible. The Heritage Foundation writes, “Only 35 percent of Americans itemize their deductions.” This leaves a tremendous number of people who might benefit from this plan.

An Independent Liberal’s Choice

Yesterday Morbo, who guest blogs on Saturdays at The Carpetbagger Report, wrote a post calling for unity among liberals. Although he prefers Obama, Morbo says he would happily vote for Clinton should she win the nomination, considering McCain and not Clinton to be “the enemy.” Morbo gave some reasons why Clinton is preferable to McCain. I cannot agree in finding Clinton to be a better choice than McCain. Following is the response I placed in the comments to the post:

Rather than describing this as a unity call among liberals you should have limited it to Democrats. While partisan Democrats might agree, Clinton gives little reason to support her for many liberals, depending upon the issues which are most important to us. On social issues, civil liberties issues, and foreign policy Clinton is far too conservative. Her economic policies might be considered liberal, but they have so many faults that I don’t see them as advantageous over McCain’s. This is seen in the Washington Post’s grades of the candidates on their economic recovery plans. Obama received an A-. Clinton received a C-, barely beating McCain’s D+.In one of the debates Clinton avoided the liberal label. This was one of the more honest comments she made in this campaign.When I compare Clinton’s views to Obama’s on issues such as the drug war, cluster bombs, Iraq and Iran I don’t find her particularly liberal. Clinton’s views on executive privilege and the power of the president are to the right of Obama’s and perhaps even of McCain’s. Clinton is to the right of both Obama and McCain with regards to transparency in government. I certainly don’t see a liberal when I consider Clinton’s views on banning flag burning and censoring video games.

Most likely Clinton would appoint better judges than McCain, but many good moderate judges were appointed by Republicans. While partisan Democrats might claim this, most do not buy the argument that all Republicans are like the extremists in the Bush administration. Simply saying McCain will do nothing on global warming because he is a Republican will only fly among partisan Democrats. It might take a Republican to get bipartisan consensus.

I think the chances of prolonged war might be greater under Clinton than McCain. Both are currently speaking to their party’s bases. Clinton’s overall foreign policy history is quite conservative, and she is only opposing the war now that it is politically safer. With Clinton’s history of wanting to show she is tough, along with the way in which she has used fear of terrorism in stump speeches and has given 9/11 as justification for the Iraq war, I see no reason to believe she will be any better than McCain. In contrast, it is often people like McCain who are able to compromise and achieve peace. Richard Nixon, despite his many other faults, is the one who went to China. Reagan put aside his cold war rhetoric to negotiate with Gorbachev.

Then there’s the character issue. John McCain is certainly not the straight talker that the media portrays him as, but he has far more integrity than Hillary Clinton. At least McCain will help move the Republican Party away from the religious right and some of their more extreme views, plus we’d have another chance in four years. Hillary Clinton would move the Democratic Party in the wrong direction, and with her views on party unity would probably destroy it as a force for liberal change for years to come.

As an independent, should Obama win the nomination I will vote for him. If there is a race between McCain and Clinton I see primarily negatives in each candidate and would be tempted to stay home. If I do vote, my vote would be up in the air and either candidate would have a chance. However, should Clinton proceed with her attempts to steal the nomination by taking the votes from Michigan and Florida, I would consider defense of the democratic process more important than any of the areas where I disagree with McCain and I would vote for him.

Right Wing Attacks on Obama

The Times of London discusses how the right wing plans to portray Obama “as a shady Chicago socialist.” There are two parts to this accusation, neither of which holds up.

The shady part comes from Obama’s association with Rezko. The problem with this accusation is that the shadiness is totally on Rezko’s part. I don’t doubt that Rezko wanted to receive favors from Obama in return for his contributions and land sale. The problem with turning this into a scandal is that Obama never did do anything in return for Rezko beyond helping a partner’s son get a spot as an intern. That hardly has the makings of a scandal which will affect an election. Steve Benen recently wrote:

As regular readers know, the story has been around for a while, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to it. The LA Times went digging, and ran a front-page piece on the “controversy” on Wednesday, but if there’s anything seriously damaging about Obama and Rezko, the LAT couldn’t find it.

Matthew Yglesias wrote:

The essence of the matter is that there doesn’t seem to have been any quid to go with the pro quo here. Rezko tried to curry favor with politicians in order to get stuff from them, and Obama was no exception. And, indeed, when one of Rezko’s business partners had a son who wanted an internship in Obama’s office, Rezko wrote a letter of recommendation and the kid got the job. It’s possible that had Obama remained in the Senate and had Rezko not gotten indicted, that he would have found occasion to do some more serious favors but in the real world there’s nothing there.

Jason Zengerle wrote:

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Rezko thing is a very big deal for either candidate. So far as I can tell, Obama didn’t do any favors for him–other than giving the son of a Rezko friend an internship.

The claims that Obama is on the far left is hardly anything unexpected as Republicans do that in every election. Their goal is to compare Obama to George McGovern and hope for the same results.

One problem with this line of attack is that people are so fed up with the Republicans that they are willing to actually look at the facts before believing such claims. Obama’s economic advisers come from the University of Chicago, hardly a hot bed of socialist economic views.

Obama manages to transcend the traditional left/right spectrum by seeking progressive economic goals while considering free market economic views. This makes him appealing to both those on the left and to many moderates and independents. Daniel Koffler has discussed the influence of free market principles on Obama’s economic policies.

Talk Left, which has promoted many of the anti-Obama memes in their support of Hillary Clinton, tries to take this a step further. They note Obama’s strength in caucus states and compare this to George McGovern, suggesting that this will lead to the same electoral result. The problem with this analysis is that this is only a superficial similarity between McGovern and Obama. While McGovern won the caucuses with the support of activists from the party’s left, Obama is winning with the support of independents and even some Republicans in open states. Obama’s support among independents makes him a far stronger candidate than George McGovern was.