Thursday, October 16, 2008

Finally - A Real Debate!

I have to admit, my hopes were not high going into last night's debate between McCain and Obama. The last two debates were so dull I couldn't even make it through. But I was pleasantly surprised on many fronts, although it didn't start out looking like I would be. McCain started out by saying, "Americans are hurting right now, and they're angry... They're innocent victims of greed and excess on Wall Street and as well as Washington, D.C." At this point, I thought it was going to just be more of the same... and I thought, "What about those of us who are frustrated and angry because we're innocent victims of the American government taking money from us to fix the bad choices of our neighbors?"

I was somewhat gratified, however, to hear from McCain that the $300 billion he wants to use to shore up the housing market comes from the $750 billion already passed. I highly doubt that he will have any success in extracting this from congress at this point, since they're already working on even more bailouts, but at least his idea wasn't to pass an extra bill for that.

McCain launched into Joe the plumber right at the beginning of the debate. Most people had no clue about Joe the plumber until last night... so a bit of background on this for you. Joe Wurzelbacher approached Obama in Ohio and asked him a question about the taxes on a plumbing business he is preparing to purchase. According to Joe, the business makes between 250K and 270K each year. He took issue with Obama wanting to charge him a higher tax rate. Here's Obama's somewhat lengthy response:
"Well, here's what's gonna happen... First of all, you get a 50 percent tax credit, so you get a cut of taxes for your health care costs. So you would actually get a tax cut on that front. If your revenue is above two-fifty, then from two-fifty down your tax is gonna stay the same. Now it's true that from two-fifty up, say from two-fifty to three hundred or so...(Joe tries to interrupt and Obama talks over him) I just wanna answer your question. So for that additional amount, you go from 36 to 39 percent which is what it was under Bill Clinton. And the reason we're doing that is because 95% of small business make less than two-fifty. So what I wanna do is give them a tax cut. I wanna give all these folks who are, you know, bus drivers, teachers, auto workers who make less, I want to give them a tax cut. So what we're doing is we are saying that the folks who make more than two fifty, that marginal amount above two-fifty is going to be taxed at a 39 instead of a 36% rate... There are two ways of looking at it. I mean, one way of looking at it is - now that you've become more successful (Joe interjects 'through hard work') through hard work, you don't want to be taxed as much, which I understand. But another way of looking at it is, 95% of folks who are making less than two-fifty, they may be working hard, too. But they're being taxed at a higher rate than they would be under mine. So what I'm doing is... project, put yourself back ten years ago when you were only making whatever - sixty or seventy - under my tax plan, you would be keeping more of your paycheck, you would have lower taxes, which means that you would have saved and gotten to the point where you are faster... My attitude is that if the economy is good for the folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody. If you've got a plumbing business, you're gonna be better off if you've got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you. Right now, everybody's so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when we spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

So McCain accuses Obama of making the American dream of owning your own business more difficult. Obama responded by saying that McCain wants to give $200 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations in America. (This is funny... because the idea of a plumbing business bringing in 250K per year being one of the wealthiest businesses in America is ludicrous - and yet Obama is wanting to raise their tax rates, too.) He also said that independent studies have looked at their respective plans and concluded that Obama gives three times the amount of tax relief to middle-class families than Senator McCain. (Of course, this becomes an easy thing to achieve when you're even mailing checks to people who don't pay any taxes at all.) Obama also claimed that 98 percent of small businesses make less than 250K, which doesn't hold up under the microscope of government statistics. According to the numbers available through the economic census, only 54% of small businesses make under 500K. (I couldn't find any statistical information that went only to 250K.)

In going round and round on the tax issue, Barack Obama says this:
"I want to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans. Now, it is true that my friend and supporter, Warren Buffet, for example, could afford to pay a little more in taxes in order to give additional tax cuts to Joe the plumber before he was at the point where he could make $250,000." And then on and on to the people who are trying to figure out how they're going to afford food and save for their kids college education. (Maybe it's just me, but I think if people don't know where their next meal is coming from, they're probably not thinking about college.) So Obama knows that nobody likes taxes, but that "ultimately we've got to pay for the core investments that make this economy strong, and somebody's got to do it." Call me crazy, but I didn't know that our economy was ever made strong by taking from the rich and doling it out to people who aren't as rich. Because let's get real here... if you're working, and you're coming home to cable television and X-Box and internet access... if you're smoking cigarettes and buying beer and going outside on your four-wheeler, you're not poor. If you have those things and you don't know where your next meal is going to come from, you need a lesson in budgeting. 

After Obama once again tried to connect McCain with President Bush (which is pretty funny, considering how often McCain went against Bush in the last eight years), McCain said, "Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I'm going to give a new direction to this economy in this country." Not a bad response, really. 

And on the issue of reform, McCain challenged Obama to come up with one issue where he stood up to the leaders of his party. Obama answered that with supporting tort reform which wasn't very popular with trial lawyers (so?) and supporting charter schools which isn't popular with teachers' unions. But neither the teachers' unions or trial lawyers are the leaders in the Democrat party, so I guess he doesn't have one.

Both men were asked about the tone of their campaign. McCain responded by saying that he regrets some of the negative aspects of both campaigns - and then went on to cite Congressman Lewis' remark about McCain and Palin being like George Wallace (segregation, deaths of children in church bombings, etc...). Then he said, "And Senator Obama, you didn't repudiate those remarks. Every time there's been an out-of-bounds remark made by a Republican, no matter where they are, I have repudiated them." He also reminded people that Obama had signed a piece of paper that said he would take public financing for his campaign if McCain did and he didn't keep his word.

Obama's response? "Well, look, you know, I think that we expect presidential campaigns to be tough." He goes on to say that the impressions of the American people according to polls is that McCain is more negative than Obama. Well, hoooeee! I guess if the American people have that impression (even though it's not true) we'll just keep it that way, huh? Nice. McCain ended up holding Obama's' feet to the fire on this one and said, "But again, I did not hear a repudiation of Congressman Lewis's remarks." Obama's response was to defend Congressman Lewis.

McCain was asked about Obama and "terrorists" and he responded by saying he didn't care about an old washed up terrorist, but that we need to know the full extent of that relationship. He also brought up Acorn - and the fact that the Obama campaign has paid Acorn 832K for "lighting and site selection." Obama was not honest on either the Ayers point or the Acorn point in his response and I wish McCain had held his feet to the fire on that as well.

A couple of times in the debate, McCain commended Obama on his eloquence right before pointing out his slippery words. I think he scored a few points there. 

And on to the Supreme Court. McCain did a good job of communicating his view on the justice nomination process. He said that he voted for Breyer and Ginsburg not because he agreed with their ideology but because they were qualified and selected by the president.

McCain attacked Obama on the issue of abortion and cited the fact that Obama voted against legislation in Illinois that would require medical attention for the surviving babies of botched abortions. Obama responded by saying, "If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that's because it's not true." Unfortunately, though, it is true. You can look it up.

To sum up, I think that McCain did a really good job. I don't know if it's enough to help boost him to win in November, but he stood up and held his ground. And I have to say, I was impressed. Thank you, Senator McCain for finally not trying so hard to be nice that you don't say anything at all. 

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