Joe Klein Warns of McCain’s Hidden Tax Increase on Health Benefits

Joe Klein has decided that rather “than do the McCain campaign’s bidding by wasting space on Senator Honor’s daily lies and bilge–his constant attempts to divert attention from substantive issues” he will look at McCain’s positions on the issues, starting with health care. He warns readers that McCain’s health care plan amounts to a tax increase:

John McCain wants to tax your employer-provided health care benefits. He wants to replace those benefits with an insufficient tax credit–$2500 for individuals and $5000 for families (the average cost per family for health insurance is $12000).

There is a positive, progressive tax aspect to this: wealthier people should have to pay for health insurance themselves, without tax breaks from the federal government.

But make no mistake: this plan will do little or nothing for those who do not have insurance now–unless they are young and healthy–and it may well hurt a fair number of workers, especially unionized workers, who get gold-plated benefits from their employers.

It will certainly do nothing for families with members who have pre-existing conditions or children with special needs–because it makes no provision to regulate the insurers, forcing them to cover all comers at “community” rates that don’t discriminate against the people who need health insurance most.

It is amazing to me that Obama campaign has let things go this far without pointing out that McCain–who opposes the energy bill because it would increase taxes on oil companies–is actually proposing a tax increase on health care benefits for American workers. But that is precisely what the Senator from Arizona is doing.

I’ve been wondering why Obama hasn’t been hitting McCain harder on his health care plans for quite a while. I’ve been hoping that he is simply holding some ammunition for the final weeks of the campaign.

Besides simply taxing health care benefits, John McCain envisions a system in which individuals are responsible for paying a greater amount of their health care costs, believing this is a rational way to control costs.

For years Democrats have been placed on the defensive by having their health care plans be mischaracterized as being “socialized medicine.” This year Obama has the chance to put McCain on the defensive by showing how radical his plan is.  McCain’s plan will do virtually nothing for those who are uninsured or underinsured, and he also gives good reason for even those with insurance to vote for Obama since the result of McCain’s plan would be to increase out of pocket expenses even for those who are insured. How many voters, regardless of their financial situation, are really eager to foot the bill for more of their health care costs?

Update: Ezra Klein comes to the same conclusion about the result of McCain’s health care policies:

McCain wants to cut total health care spending. Along with his advisers, he thinks total health care spending is too high because employers by lavish plans and employees don’t realize those plans are coming out of their paychecks. If the employees were buying the plans, they’d buy cheapers ones, and use less health care. All these premises are probably true. And the outcome will be that people have less health care, and can’t access needed services, and go bankrupt a lot. The bottom line is that this isn’t merely a tax increase. It’s a governance philosophy that holds that the problem with health insurance is that you have too much of it, and John McCain aims to change that. He has, in other words, a policy that will pay down the federal debt with money raised through human misery.

Polls Remain Close As Obama Remains Strong in Battleground States

The polls continue to show that the race is extremely close and most likely they will remain like this until there are new events such as the debates. McCain’s post convention bounce in the Gallup daily tracking poll, which had been at 5% for the past few days, has decreased one point to 4%. Post convention bounces from the party which held their convention last typically last a month so it will be a good sign if it continues to decrease this soon after. Gallup also reports an increase in Republican party identification but notes that short term shifts of this nature are typical after a convention.

Obama and McCain are tied in the Rasmussen daily tracking poll with both candidates being within a point of each other the last few days. Insider Advantage also shows the race as tied while some other national polls continue to give McCain a slight lead.

Part of McCain’s gain in the polls is due to receiving increased support from social conservatives after picking Palin, resulting in larger leads in typically Republican states which might not lead to gains in the electoral college. Obama remains strong in many battleground states. Public Policy Polling shows Obama with a one point lead in Colorado. Quinipiac shows Obama leading 49% to 44% in Ohio and leading 48% to 45% in Pennsylvania. McCain leads in Florida 50% to 43%.

Sarah Palin’s Attempts at Censorship


ABC News reports on Sarah Palin’s desires to ban books in Wasilla which extressed views she disapproved of in the video above. No books were actually banned, but only because the local librarian opposed this and was backed up by people living in Wasilla.

Update: More on Palin’s attempts at banning books from Steve Benen today.

Republican Foreign Policy Experts Don’t Share Excitement for Palin

Republicans, especially social conservatives, love Sarah Palin. Republican foreign policy experts do not. Of course the experts who have actual knowledge of foreign policy are elitists.

Why Liars Like John McCain Succeed

Michael Kinsley discusses why lies prevail in politics:

One reason is that the media have trouble calling a lie a lie, or asserting that one side is lying more than the other — even when that is objectively the case. They lean over backwards to give liars the benefit of the doubt, even when there is no doubt. Objectivity can’t be objectively measured. What can be is balance. So if the sins of both campaigns are reported as roughly equal, the media feel they are doing their job — even if this is objectively untrue.

But the bigger reason is that no one — not the media, not the campaign professionals, not the voters — cares enough about lying. To some extent, they even respect a well-told lie as evidence of professionalism. If a candidate complains too much about an opponent’s lies, he or she starts being regarded as a bad sport, a whiner. Stoic silence doesn’t work either. People start asking why you don’t “fight back.” Pretty soon, the victim of the lies starts getting blamed. C’mon: this isn’t paddycakes; politics ain’t beanball; and so on. This happened to Al Gore in 2000 and to John Kerry in 2004. And it’s already starting to happen to Barack Obama this year.

Sure, if he loses, it will be his fault. Sure, he and everybody ought to know that the Republicans play this game for keeps. But that shouldn’t let John McCain off the hook. He says he’d rather lose the election than lose the war. But it seems he’d rather lose that honor he’s always going on about than lose the election.

Divinity Professor Warns About Palin’s Religious Views

Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago’s Divinity School, discusses the religious beliefs of political candidates and fears that, in picking someone with Sarah Palin’s views, the Republican Party has “finally lost its mind.”

I object strongly when anyone (and especially anyone with political power) tries to take their theology out in public, to inflict those private religious (or sexual) views on other people. In both sex and religion (which combine in the debates about abortion), Sarah Palin’s views make me fear that the Republican party has finally lost its mind.

As for sex, the hypocrisy of her outing her pregnant daughter in front of millions of people, hard on the heels of her concealing her own pregnancy (her faith in abstinence applying, apparently, only to non-Palins), is nicely balanced by her hypocrisy in gushing with loving support of her teenage daughter after using a line-item veto to cut funding for a transitional home for teenage mothers in Alaska.

Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman. The Republican party’s cynical calculation that because she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies (and drives them to school! wow!) she speaks for the women of America, and will capture their hearts and their votes, has driven thousands of real women to take to their computers in outrage. She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working class women.

And as for religion, I’d love to know precisely how the Good Lord conveyed to her so clearly his intention to destroy the environment (global warming, she thinks, is not the work of human hands, so it must be the work of You Know Who), the lives of untold thousands of soldiers and innocent bystanders (He is apparently rooting for this, too, she says), and, incidentally, a lot of polar bears and wolves, not to mention all the people who will be shot with the guns that she thinks other people ought to have. An even wider and more sinister will to impose her religious views on other people surfaced in her determination to legislate against abortion even in cases of rape and in her attempts to ban books, including books on evolution, and to fire the librarian who stood against her.

Palin Ignored Warnings About Her Misconduct In Troopergate Scandal

Besides supporting the same policies as George Bush, Sarah Palin has another similarity to one of the worst presidents in American history. Like Bush she doesn’t listen to advice contrary to what she has decided to do. She was advised against her actions in the Troopergate scandal at least twice and ignored this advice according to reports in The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek.

The Wall Street Journal reports that an ethics adviser warned Palin on the Troopergate issue:

An informal adviser who has counseled Gov. Sarah Palin on ethics issues urged her in July to apologize for her handling of the dismissal of the state’s public safety commissioner and warned that the matter could snowball into a bigger scandal.

He also said, in a letter reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, that she should fire any aides who had raised concerns with the chief over a state trooper who was involved in a bitter divorce with the governor’s sister.

In the letter, written before Sen. John McCain picked the Alaska governor as his running mate, former U.S. Attorney Wevley Shea warned Gov. Palin that “the situation is now grave” and recommended that she and her husband, Todd Palin, apologize for “overreaching or perceived overreaching” for using her position to try to get Trooper Mike Wooten fired from the force.

This advice came from an informal adviser who was not in an official capacity when writing to Palin. She also received similar advice in the form of warnings from a judge during her sister’s divorce:

An Anchorage judge three years ago warned Sarah Palin and members of her family to stop “disparaging” the reputation of Alaska State Trooper Michael Wooten, who at the time was undergoing a bitter separation and divorce from Palin’s sister Molly.

Allegations that Palin, her husband Todd, and at least one top gubernatorial aide continued to vilify Wooten—after Palin became Alaska’s governor and pressured state police officials to take action against him—are at the center of “Troopergate,” a political and ethical controversy which has embroiled Palin’s administration and is currently the subject of an official inquiry by a special investigator hired by the state legislature.

Court records obtained by NEWSWEEK show that during the course of divorce hearings three years ago, Judge John Suddock heard testimony from an official of the Alaska State Troopers’ union about how Sarah Palin—then a private citizen—and members of her family, including her father and daughter, lodged up to a dozen complaints against Wooten with the state police. The union official told the judge that he had never before been asked to appear as a divorce-case witness, that the union believed family complaints against Wooten were “not job-related,” and that Wooten was being “harassed” by Palin and other family members.

Court documents show that Judge Suddock was disturbed by the alleged attacks by Palin and her family members on Wooten’s behavior and character. “Disparaging will not be tolerated—it is a form of child abuse,” the judge told a settlement hearing in October 2005, according to typed notes of the proceedings. The judge added: “Relatives cannot disparage either. If occurs [sic] the parent needs to set boundaries for their relatives.”

Parallel World Sarah Palin Differs From Palin of the MaCain Campaign

We appear to be at the cross roads of two parallel worlds. On one of these parallel worlds Sarah Palin is a maverick who cuts government spending. I know this because I keep hearing it on all the ads and in all of Palin’s campaign appearances. In the other parallel world Sarah Palin was a mayor and a governor who, instead of opposing government spending, brought in more earmarks per capita than any other state. I know this from many articles which look at the record of this parallel world. I would love for the two Sarah Palins to meet and for the anti-waste Palin to have a few words with big-spender Palin.

Some of the earmarks brought in by the wasteful Sarah Pallin are reviewed in The Politico:

“We’re not going to spend $3 million of your tax dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana,” McCain has said during this year’s campaign, referring to a study he’s mocked for years of whether grizzlies need to keep their status as an endangered species.

Palin, meanwhile, has requested $3.2 million to be spent in part researching the “genetics of harbor seals,” in one of the state’s many requests for federal funding of research into Alaska’s fauna.

She’s seeking $1 million, for instance, for a project to investigate rockfish fisheries, a request that, according to the Alaska document, was presented to and refused by Congress last year.

“Our state’s economy depends a certain amount on tourism…and there are a lot of charter fishermen who have clients that want to come up fish for halibut, and likewise when they’re fishing for halibut they’re catching … rockfish as a by-catch in that fishery,” said Cleo Brylinsky, who heads up the rockfish project at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “So it’s important to our tourism economy that we have sustainable fisheries and well-managed fisheries,” she said.

The rockfish research is one of several requests for federal help studying marine wildlife, which, coming from another candidate, might have drawn McCain’s mockery.

Here are a few, with the state’s description of the project:

• $400,000: Alaska Invasive Species Program: Continues to comprehensively prevent, identify, and respond to the threat of invasive species on the Alaska environment.

• $494,900: Assessment of Recreational Halibut Harvest in Alaska: This is an ongoing effort to collect data on the recreational halibut fishery that is conducted by federal agencies though relying on the state for data.

• $2 million: Bering Sea Crab Research and Management: Researches Bering Sea crab productivity and sustainability as necessary to restore crab stocks.

• $3.2 million: Seal and Steller Sea Lion Biological Research: Funds monitoring of ice seal populations in Native villages, research on the species delineation and genetics of harbor seals to understand the declines in population and provide for population restoration, and continues research into Steller Sea Lion population decline.

There are also other earmarks received by Palin which McCain has opposed. Maverick John McCain would never pick someone like this to be his running mate, but we also seem to have two different John McCains from parallel worlds. Parallel worlds must be the explanation.

Should Obama Have Chosen A Different Running Mate To Counter Palin?

The choice of Sarah Palin has changed the campaign, causing the McCain/Palin ticket to receive all the attention. Some question if Obama would have been better off with someone other than Joe Biden as running mate, or if he would have picked someone else if he had known of McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin. After careful consideration I see that they do have a point.

Looking back at Obama’s primary opponents, there is one opponent who could have led to a different outcome despite McCain picking Palin. I did not support that candidate in the primaries. Nor did I support that candidate in their endeavors to continue on with the campaign after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination. Now I must reconsider that candidate. The accomplishments of that candidate are discussed here. There is no doubt that things would have been different if, instead of choosing Joe Biden, Obama had picked Mike Gravel.

This choice would have kept the attention of the press as, just as with Sarah Palin, people would continue to be wondering who exactly is Mike Gravel. Every story which Sarah Palin tells of life in Alaska could be matched by Mike Gravel. Gravel would have kept Alaska’s electoral votes in play.

Despite being a supporter of decreased liberty and of the warfare state, Palin has ties with libertarians who back her. Gravel also has his own libertarian support, and even tried to win the Libertarian Party nomination this year before losing to Bob Barr, who won on the sixth ballot. Among Gravel’s accomplishments were his efforts to abolish the draft. Rather than trying to keep information from the public as Palin has been doing, Gravel was instrumental in the release of the Pentagon Papers.

Some suggest that other primary opponents of Obama might also be considered but most would be too much like Sarah Palin for supporting the Iraq war. Gravel has been an opponent from the start.

There is the question of whether we would really feel comfortable with Mike Gravel being a heartbeat away from being president, but with McCain choosing Sarah Palin it is clear we are to no longer think of that role for the vice president.