Fact Checking John McCain’s Acceptance Speech

John McCain sounded more moderate in his acceptance speech than many of the speakers before him, but he was just as dishonest. Factcheck summarized some of his untrue statements:

  • McCain claimed that Obama’s health care plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs” and would put “a bureaucrat … between you and your doctor.” In fact, the plan exempts small businesses, and those who have insurance now could keep the coverage they have.
  • McCain attacked Obama for voting for “corporate welfare” for oil companies. In fact, the bill Obama voted for raised taxes on oil companies by $300 million over 11 years while providing $5.8 billion in subsidies for renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuels.
  • McCain said oil imports send “$700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us very much.” But the U.S. is on track to import a total of only $536 billion worth of oil at current prices, and close to a third of that comes from Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
  • He promised to increase use of “wind, tide [and] solar” energy, though his actual energy plan contains no new money for renewable energy. He has said elsewhere that renewable sources won’t produce as much as people think.
  • He called for “reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs,” but as in the past failed to cite a single program that he would eliminate or reduce.
  • He said Obama would “close” markets to trade. In fact, Obama, though he once said he wanted to “renegotiate” the North American Free Trade Agreement, now says he simply wants to try to strengthen environmental and labor provisions in it.

Further details are in the body of their post. Among the more dishonest portions of McCain’s speech was the mischaracterization of Obama’s health care plan. In their analysis, Factcheck writes:

McCain mischaracterized Obama’s health care plan:

McCain: His plan will force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.
mccain at conventionThe claim that “small businesses” would have to “cut jobs, reduce wages,” runs counter to Obama’s actual proposal. Obama’s plan would require businesses to contribute to the cost of insurance for employees or pay some unspecified amount into a new public plan. But his proposal specifically says, “Small businesses will be exempt from this requirement.” And it offers additional help to small businesses that want to provide health care in the form of a refundable tax credit of up to half the cost of premiums. We’ll note that neither man has defined what exactly a “small business” is.

Furthermore, Obama’s plan wouldn’t “force” families into a “government-run health care system.” His plan mandates that children have coverage; there’s no mandate for adults. People can keep the health insurance they have now or chose from private plans, or opt for a new public plan that will offer coverage similar to what members of Congress have. Obama would also expand Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. His plan certainly expands government-offered insurance – and McCain’s doesn’t – but it’s not a solely government-run plan, as McCain implied. And if Obama’s public plan turns out to be similar to what federal employees have, as he says it would be, we’re not sure how “a bureaucrat” would stand “between you and your doctor.” The possible exception would be persons covered by Medicaid or SCHIP.

McCain also made this boast:

McCain: My health care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance.
Fair enough. But McCain’s plan wouldn’t do nearly as well as Obama’s. One comparison, by the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, finds Obama’s would reduce the uninsured by 18 million people in its first year, compared with a 1 million reduction under McCain’s plan. TPC made various assumptions about the plans to fill in details each proposal lacks, so those numbers aren’t definitive. We await more comparisons from other experts.

There has also been fact checking of McCain around the blogosophere. Jonahtan Cohn found several errors including on health care:

McCain did talk about his health care plan–something, as best as I can recall, no other prime time speaker did. But his suggestion that it would “make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance” is just plain wrong. As numerous experts have noted, its primary effect will be to move people out of employer-sponsored insurance and into the individual market, where the benefits are less comprehensive and insurers refuse coverage to anybody with pre-exsiting medical conditions.

Ezra Klein shows more errors in McCain’s statement on health care and makes an interesting challenge for McCain:

Last night, in his speech, John McCain said, “My health care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance. His plan will force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.”

I should say, of course, that not only isn’t this true, but it’s nonsensical. Where exactly is the bureaucrat supposed to stand? In the waiting room? Outside your car? Obama’s health care plan is basically a way to subsidize private insurance. There’s a regulator involved, but he has nothing to do with you or your doctor. Instead, he stands behind your insurer, tapping his foot, and warning against denying you coverage on grounds of ill health or bad luck.

That said, here’s the question I’d love to see John McCain asked: “Senator McCain, can you describe how Senator Obama’s health care plan works?” And if he gets it wrong, I’d like to see the moderator correct him and ask what he thinks of the actual plan.

McCain certainly talks Obama’s plan down plenty, and fair enough. But I’d bet good money, and a fair amount of it, that there’s no way he could describe it. And I wouldn’t mind seeing the same question put to Obama. The two of them should be forced to display some rudimentary understanding of what this debate is actually about, and if either can’t, that should say a lot about the salvos that have been unleashed thus far.

The same challenge could be made regarding all of Obama’s programs which McCain has repeatedly lied about during this campaign.

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