The Wisdom of Chain Email

Sometimes it is worth reading those chain emails being spread around the internet before hitting delete, such as with this one:

  • If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you’re “exotic, different.”
  • Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.
  • If your name is Barack you’re a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
  • Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you’re a maverick.
  • Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.
  • Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you’re well grounded.
  • If you spend 3 years as a community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran’s Affairs committees, you don’t have any real leadership experience.
  • If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you’re qualified to become the country’s second highest ranking executive.
  • If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising two daughters, all within Protestant churches, you’re not a real Christian.
  • If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you’re a Christian.
  • If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
  • If , while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state’s school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you’re very responsible.
  • If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family’s values don’t represent America’s.
  • If you’re husband is nicknamed “First Dude”, with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn’t register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

The Case For Obama

Here is one hard working blogger. ShadowSD has a post at Daily Kos which gives a very detailed view of the case for Obama over McCain. This is only his quick “bullet point summary.” The full post provides far more information. I’ll be adding it to the reference list over on the right.

You Cannot Afford John McCain in The White House–Especially If You Get Sick

In recent posts on John McCain’s health care plan (here, here, and here) I’ve expressed surprise that there has not been more criticism. While people talk of fictitious tax increases from Obama, the reality is that what they really need to watch out for is the higher amounts they will be paying for health care under John McCain’s plan. Today there have been several additional articles on the topic in addition to my earlier post on this.

Three advisers of Barack Obama address the subject in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal which they immodestly titled Why Obama’s Health Plan is Better. After discussing the potential savings under Obama’s plan they look at the higher costs under McCain’s:

In contrast, Sen. McCain, who constantly repeats his no-new-taxes promise on the campaign trail, proposes a big tax hike as the solution to our health-care crisis. His plan would raise taxes on workers who receive health benefits, with the idea of encouraging their employers to drop coverage. A study conducted by University of Michigan economist Tom Buchmueller and colleagues published in the journal Health Affairs suggests that the McCain tax hike will lead employers to drop coverage for over 20 million Americans.

What would happen to these people? Mr. McCain will give them a small tax credit, $5,000 for a family and $2,500 for an individual, and tell them to navigate the individual insurance market on their own.

For middle- and lower-income people, the credits are way too small. They are less than half the cost of policies today ($12,000 on average for a family), and are far below the 75% that most employers offering coverage contribute. Further, their value would erode over time, as the credit increases less rapidly than average premiums.

Those already sick are completely out of luck, as individual insurers are free to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Mr. McCain has proposed a high-risk pool for the very sick, but has not put forward the money to make it work.

Even for those healthy enough to gain coverage in the individual insurance market, the screening, marketing and individual underwriting that insurers do to separate healthy from sick boosts premiums by 17% relative to employer-provided insurance, well beyond the help offered by the McCain tax credit.

The immediate consequences of the McCain plan are even worse. The McCain plan is a big tax increase on employers and workers. With the economy in recession, that’s the last thing America’s businesses need.

As I’ve discussed before, they might be overly optimistic about the savings we will see from Obama’s plan, especially in the short run, but there is no doubt that costs for most individuals and employers will be tremendously higher under McCain’s plan.

A related article is receiving attention in the blogosphere today. Jonathan Cohn and Ezra Klein both review and article in Health Affairs which examines the costs under McCain’s plan. The abstract sums up the problems:

Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) health plan would eliminate the current tax exclusion of employer payments for health coverage, replace the exclusion with a refundable tax credit for those who purchase coverage, and encourage Americans to move to a national market for nongroup insurance. Middle-range estimates suggest that initially this change will have little impact on the number of uninsured people, although within five years this number will likely grow as the value of the tax credit falls relative to rising health care costs. Moving toward a relatively unregulated nongroup market will tend to raise costs, reduce the generosity of benefits, and leave people with fewer consumer protections.

The article also warns:

The reality is that providing coverage through nongroup plans is much more costly than providing that coverage through groups. Administrative expenses are twice as high in nongroup markets as in group markets. The costs are higher because insurers in this market spend considerable resources on medical underwriting, and economies of scale are lost. It is much more expensive to sell insurance to millions of individuals one individual at a time than it is to sell to a much smaller number of employer groups, each comprising thousands of employees. For a typical family that moves from group to individual coverage, therefore, the move to nongroup insurance will raise premiums for an identical policy by more than $2,000 per year. Shifting people into the nongroup market would not save money for most Americans. Rather, it would lead to increased spending on administrative costs and a decrease in the portion of health spending that actually goes to providing care.

Even A Member of McCain’s Family Is Shocked By How He Has Changed

Many people have already noticed how much John McCain has changed. Instead of delivering straight talk he has been running a campaign so dishonest that even Karl Rove and Fox News have objected. Previously McCain opposed the “agents of intolerance” in the religious right. Now he has chosen Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Even a cousin has written about how much McCain has changed in an op-ed in The St. Petersburg Times (Hat tip to Crooks and Liars).

Although neither my father nor I have ever voted for a Republican, when John threw his hat in the ring in 2000, we were both very proud and encouraged, and not just because he’s our relative. This was the first Republican who, on a national stage, was saying things like, “If we repeal Roe vs. Wade tomorrow, thousands of young American women will be performing illegal and dangerous operations,” and, “Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer-reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance.” Wow!

Here was a man who was not abiding by partisan lines, who was, instead, living up to his promise of “straight talk” and commonsense thinking. The right-wing Republican base may not have agreed with everything he said, but the rest of America certainly respected him for speaking his mind honestly.

Jump ahead to the campaign Sen. McCain is currently running. Clearly, a lot can change in eight years. Our nation has gone from a time of unparalleled prosperity and peace to one marked by debt in the trillions of dollars, record foreclosures, and a global reputation for warmongering and neo-imperialism.

So, where is the straight-talking, commonsense John McCain of 2000? I’m afraid he is long gone, replaced by a desperate version of himself who seems to contradict nearly everything he once stood for.

What becomes apparent in his ideological about-face is just how out of touch McCain really is with America’s working families.

In a time when the country is facing the worst housing crisis in the memory of most Americans, McCain couldn’t even recall how many homes he owns. When asked how many homes my side of the family owns, I can answer you pretty quickly. Zero.

Just like so many working families in this country, we were nearly ruined by the ongoing mortgage and foreclosure crisis. Our family home of three generations was sold at auction last year. The story is a familiar one: We were suckered into a refinance deal during the real estate boom, and when times got tough, the near criminally deregulated mortgage companies changed the rules on us.

What was John McCain’s response to this? He lumped together all the families who fell victim to the smarmy sales pitches from subprime lenders, calling us “irresponsible,” a move the New York Times described as “mean-spirited and economically naive.”

What contortions has this new John McCain twisted himself into in order to win this election? When asked last year about his stance on abortion, he told a group of supporters, “I do not support Roe vs. Wade. It should be overturned.” This statement not only sharply contrasts with what he said back in the 2000 election cycle, but is also at odds with a majority of American public opinion, according to the most recent Harris poll on the subject.

Further, McCain’s decision to put the antichoice, creationist Sarah Palin on his ticket appears to be motivated completely by a political desire to shore up the radical right evangelical base with whom he’s been at odds for so long. This is the same woman who claimed in June “that our national leaders are sending (our soldiers) out on a task that is from God.”

A part of me is made very sad to write this article. As I’ve said, my family has followed John’s life and career with no absence of pride. If there ever were a Republican we might consider voting for, it would have been my cousin John.

But, as he continually demonstrates in this campaign, my cousin John is long gone. “Straight talk” has been replaced with “flip-flop.” Saddest all, this is the same man who, when campaigning in 2000, told a crowd of supporters, “I don’t think Bill Gates needs a tax cut. I think your parents do.”

My parents, John, need some help after the economic destruction Bush has wrought in the last eight years, but it’s clear you’re not the one who’ll give it to us. America’s working families no longer recognize you, nor does your own.

John McCain Invented The BlackBerry and Other Silly Stories

The silly stories continue. While we are not hearing as much about pigs or lipstick, one of the top stories today is the report that John McCain invented the BlackBerry. AP reports:

Move over, Al Gore. You may lay claim to the Internet, but John McCain helped create the BlackBerry.

At least that’s the contention of a top McCain policy adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Waving his BlackBerry personal digital assistant and citing McCain’s work as a senator, he told reporters Tuesday, “You’re looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create.”

A McCain aide later dismissed the remark as “a boneheaded joke by a staffer.”

McCain has acknowledged that he doesn’t know how to use a computer and can’t send e-mail, one of the BlackBerry’s prime functions.

Holtz-Eakin’s argument is similar to one advanced by Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000. Gore once boasted about “taking the initiative to create the Internet” through technological and educational policies. He later was mocked for claiming to have invented the Internet, although he never made such a claim.

Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said McCain’s service on and leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee put him at the intersection of a number of economic interests, including the telecommunications industry.

The Arizona senator’s handling of regulation and deregulation of that industry in particular left him with the skills to help revive the economy amid a mortgage crisis, an energy crisis and a Wall Street meltdown, the adviser said.

Wait a minute, now they are really getting silly. Skills to revive the economy? This from John McCain, who has admitted he doesn’t know much about the economy.

This story has understandably been compared to the old “Gore invented the internet” story, which was a distortion of what he had had actually said on the subject. Those interested in how the media mistreated Al Gore with such stories might be interested in reading more on this here.

While Al Gore never stated he invented the internet, this story was twisted by the media to portray Gore as a serial exaggerator or a liar. Considering that McCain is already having trouble with the media revealing that he truly has been dishonest, one might wonder why an aide would risk saying something like this. Most likely it is because they no longer care at all what the media says about them, thinking they can succeed in demonizing the media along with everyone else who doesn’t follow their line. Soon Sarah Palin will be echoing Spiro Agnew in attacking the impudent corps of effete snobs and nattering nabobs of negativism who oppose them.

Or perhaps they want something to distract from the silly story which made the rounds yesterday that Sarah Palin purchased her own tanning bed for the governor’s mansion. Yes, this does counter the working mom reputation they are trying to develop for her, but buying a tanning bed is hardly the real reason we don’t want her anywhere near the White House.

Back Up and Running

The blog is back up after our server had to do some emergency maintenance and was down for the last few hours. Hopefully this will also help with some of the intermittent connection problems of the last several days.

As we’ve picked up many new readers (as most political blogs have) since the party conventions, I should repeat an old notice that if the blog is down for a prolonged period of time you can check this site for information on the blog’s status. The site might also be used for posting if we are ever down for several hours or more. This remains a possibility as when busy Liberal Values often reaches the resource limits for this account. Changes such as using a cache have remedied the problem for now, but if we grow much larger it will be necessary to migrate to a new server. Worst case scenario is that the blog won’t be accessible for a few days and the alternative site will be used temporarily. I suggest that regular readers bookmark the alternative site in case the link from here is not available.

McCain’s Radical Health Care Proposals

I’ve pointed out many times that one of McCain’s greatest potential political liabilities is his health care plan. Not only will it do virtually nothing to assist those who lack adequate coverage, but it will make conditions much worse for many who are covered. Republicans typically attack Democratic health care plan with scare tactics such as falsely claiming they represent “socialized medicine.” This time it is the Republican candidate who has a plan which voters should really be scared about. I’ve been surprised that Obama has not been raising this issue often, but at least I’m seeing it discussed more often by others. Bob Herbert does so today. He writes:

A study coming out Tuesday from scholars at Columbia, Harvard, Purdue and Michigan projects that 20 million Americans who have employment-based health insurance would lose it under the McCain plan…

For starters, the McCain health plan would treat employer-paid health benefits as income that employees would have to pay taxes on.

“It means your employer is going to have to make an estimate on how much the employer is paying for health insurance on your behalf, and you are going to have to pay taxes on that money,” said Sherry Glied, an economist who chairs the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health…

According to the study: “The McCain plan will force millions of Americans into the weakest segment of the private insurance system — the nongroup market — where cost-sharing is high, covered services are limited and people will lose access to benefits they have now.”

The net effect of the plan, the study said, “almost certainly will be to increase family costs for medical care.”

Under the McCain plan (now the McCain-Palin plan) employees who continue to receive employer-paid health benefits would look at their pay stubs each week or each month and find that additional money had been withheld to cover the taxes on the value of their benefits.