It’s been a while since I’ve done one of my The Issues According to a Candidate’s Website posts. I only got about half way through John Edward’s issues before he dropped out of the race. Okay, and I got burned out writing about these issues. But now there is only one candidate left in the running (who has any chance at all) that I have not yet covered: John McCain.
I never intended to write about McCain when I started this project since, at the time, his candidacy was all but declared dead. But as of yesterday’s primary in Wisconsin, McCain is the de facto Republican nominee. He has 15 issues currently listed on his site. I will divide them up between three posts of five issues each. So here are the first five issues that matter to him and what his stances are on them according to the issues page on his website.
Economic Stimulus Plan: As the publics short attention span causes them to shift focus from the War in Iraq, so does the emphasis made by the candidates. Based on any rational criteria, the
political economic stimulus package is not the most important issue facing America this election cycle. Yet, here it is, on the top of McCain’s list.
Instead of actually talking about the bill, he uses this issue as a platform to discuss a portion of his economic plan. The first thing he mentions is cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%. I’d be all for that, if that rate applied to corporate income before deductions and after rebates and incentives. In fact, everything on that page is about saving businesses money. It seems McCain’s top priority for his planned administration is cutting taxes for the wealthiest institutions in the world while the middle class slowly slips into poverty. At some point, I’m going to have to write a post about what I consider the fundamental folly of supply-side economics (more appropriately known as ‘trickle-down’ economics).
McCain Tax Cut Plan: The first heading of this topic is “Cut Taxes On The Middle Class”. How? By permanently repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). He says that this will reduce the tax burden for “25 million middle class families”. What he doesn’t mention is that most of these will be upper-middle class and that the repeal of the AMT will also benefit a majority of rich families. If he truly wanted to cut taxes for the middle class, he would adjust the AMT so that middle class families are no longer effected, but rich families continue to be effected.
Next, he wants to make the Bush tax cuts for the rich permanent. Then he wants to require a 3/5 congressional majority to raise taxes (permanently skewing the laws in favor of a Republican issue). He mentions cutting corporate taxes again. He also wants to freeze tax rates on capital gains and dividends, ban internet and cell phone taxes, and lowering Medicare premiums. I’m open to these last three, depending on the details.
McCain talks about ways to reduce government spending. This is one area that McCain tends to win high marks from both Republicans and Democrats. Here’s what he has to say about earmarks and other ‘pork’:
Stop Earmarks, Pork-Barrel Spending, And Waste: John McCain will veto every pork-laden spending bill and make their authors famous. As President, he will seek the line-item veto to reduce waste and eliminate earmarks that have led to corruption. Earmarks restrict America’s ability to address genuine national priorities and interfere with fair, competitive markets.
Other than the expansion of already out-of-control executive power via the line-item veto, I support this idea. Though I preferred John Edward’s specifics on this issue. Furthermore, like Giuliani, McCain also wants to reduce government spending by eliminating inefficient government programs, though Giuliani had more specifics as well. McCain makes special mention of saving Social Security (SS). He says he will ‘reach across the aisle’ to Democrats, but also says that he wants to save SS without raising taxes. There”s going to be a lot of retirees as the Baby Boomers transform into the Elderly Boomers, which will cost the government even more than it does today. Without additional taxes, I’d love to know how we can afford the additional costs.
I really like McCain’s views on facing the challenges of globalization. Unlike most Democrats, who foolishly take a protectionist stance in the face of international competition, McCain wants the US to embrace the challenge, and lower barriers. He believes that Americans can compete in the global market place, as do I. We also agree that the best way we can ensure our success is through better education, though we likely differ on how to best accomplish this. Simultaneously, he wants to reform unemployment insurance into a retraining, re-education, and relocation program for displaced workers. The goal is not simply to provide them with a temporary income, but to enable them to earn their own keep in a new career.
He finishes his economic section by mentioning the economic aspects of his healthcare reform and energy plans. Both are covered as issues unto themselves.
Government Spending, Lower Taxes and Economic Prosperity: In this issue, McCain outlines his general economic ideals and gives a few specifics about how he’d reduce government spending. Outside of the laudable, anti-pork section, it’s largely a supply-side manifesto in the guise of freedom to earn without government interference. But, if you recall your American History, laisa faire policies lead to the Robber Barons of the late 19th to mid 20th century. If that era is familiar to you, it is because it is the period that immediately preceded and encompassed the Great Depression. I’m not eager to see a return to the economic policies that lead to that situation.
Straight Talk on Health System Reform: You’ve got to love McCain’s unambiguously heterosexual talk . He has a long series of bullet points for this issue. I will follow suite and paraphrase and add some commentary.
- Control the rising costs of healthcare. (How?)
- Increase competition and options.
- Make medical care available to all Americans. (How?)
- Allow veterans to transfer their VA money to other, more timely providers.
- Place more responsibility and control on patients. (Because Americans have proven they are excellent at self-healthcare!)
- Increase patient information about treatments and prognoses.
- Develop national standards for evaluating the efficacy of treatments. (With an eye on not funding ineffective ones, I’m sure.)
- “Reform the payment systems in Medicare to compensate providers for diagnosis, prevention, and care coordination.”
- “Dedicate federal research on the basis of sound science…” (unless it’s stem cell research?)
- Give states more flexibility in implementing Medicare.
- Remove regional restrictions on providers. (Which will result in mass mergers and less choice.)
- Improve medical information systems.
- Creating new delivery systems.
- Provide ‘telemedicine’ and limited-care, community facilities.
- Ease restrictions on creating generic versions of drugs.
- Limit malpractice liability. (Disabled and disfigured for life because of an avoidable medical error? Here’s your $10k, good luck!)
- Enforce anti-trust in the healthcare industry.
- Eliminate incentives for employer-paid health insurance and replace it with tax credits for people to buy individual insurance. (Which would eliminate collective bargaining resulting in higher prices.)
- Enable individuals to purchase insurance across state boarders
- Encourage the establishment of portable health insurance.
- Create incentives for Americans to spontaneously eat healthy and exercise. (When they work 60+ hours a week, it’ll never happen.)
Strict Constructionist Philosophy: As I read through this, I couldn’t help but groan multiple times. From the conservative point of view, anytime a judge interprets a law (their function as set up by the Constitution) in a way they disagree with, the cry ‘Activist Judge!’ When conservatives say they adhere to a strict constructionist philosophy, it’s really code for “I will only appoint judges who pass my political litmus test for conservativeness.” A true strict constructionist would only grant powers to all branches of government only if the right is explicitly granted by the Constitution. Here are a list of powers and institutions that are unconstitutional from a strict constructionist point of view:
- The FBI, CIA, NSA, and Department of Homeland Security
- The EPA and FDA
- Any Federal law regarding sexuality and drug use
- Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
- No Child Left Behind
- The CDC!
Just to name a few. If McCain were serious about his strict constructionist philosophy, he’d condemn these right along side of ‘liberal’ judges.
That’s it for Part I. Later this week, I hope to cover the next five issues: Human Dignity & the Sanctity of Life (aka undoing woman’s liberation), Lobbying & Ethics Reform, Strategy for Victory in Iraq, Border Security & Immigration Reform, and Commitment To America’s Service Members: Past And Present.