Come Sit At My Kitchen Table Part I: John McCain Edition

Sorry about those kid drawings, here, I'll move them out of the way.

I've invited you here because I want to talk, really talk, about how we are going to manage the next four years.  With Wall Street plunging while we sit here, I think we can all agree that the situation is really very serious.  So I hope we can get down to business and concentrate on the really important issues.

#1  The Economy.  Some of you tell me that Senator McCain has the right plan for our economy.  I am trying to understand that plan, so that I can make an educated decision this November.  

John McCain's Economic Plan

  • Workplace flexibility - Senator McCain supported the Family Medical Leave Act and the Family Friendly Workplace Act.  That's cool, but what is he doing today?  According to his website, he proposes the creation of something called the "National Commission on Workplace Flexibility and Choice."  That sounds interesting, but I notice it mentions "modernizing the nation's labor laws so that they allow more flexibility in scheduling" - what does that mean?  Does that mean you'll be changing overtime laws and other worker protections?  Because I think I would really not like that.  Also, when you say "ensuring that the nation's labor laws don't get in the way of working at home" I hope you don't mean a different minimum wage or less protection for at-home workers.  Because I work from home and I have already noticed that many companies think it's perfectly ok to offer me "piece work" money that amounts to 2 or 3 dollars an hour.  Maybe that's not what it means?  I'd like to hear more specifics, please, because I don't like the idea of changing labor laws unless I know specifically what changes you are talking about. 

    I can think of a few ways in which some of these changes might hurt my family economically, so I want to be very sure I understand.

  • Immediate Relief for American Families: Gas and Food Prices - "Under [John McCain's] plan, the United States will be telling oil producing countries and oil speculators that our dependence on foreign oil will
    come to an end - and the impact will be lower prices at the pump.  That would be good.  How will we be doing that?


    John McCain's policies will increase the value of the dollar and thus reduce the price of oil. In recent
    years, the declining value of the dollar has added to the cost of imported oil. This will change.
    Americans will have a stronger economy, a stronger dollar and greater purchasing power for oil, gas
    and food.

    Ok.  Which of his policies will do that?  How will that be happening?

    "John McCain believes we should institute a summer gas tax holiday." - OK, that might be nice for a little while, but what does the gas tax pay for?  My understanding is they pay for roads and infrastructure.  So I hope that if we are going to have a gas tax holiday it won't cost us more down the line in dangerous roads and bridges.  Also, I don't know how long that will actually help.

    John McCain will repeal a tax on imported sugar-based ethanol, and roll back corn-based ethanol mandates, which contribute to the rising costs of food.  Both of these things make sense to me, although I hope if we are rolling back ethanol mandates, we are doing so in a way that allows farms to recover.

    Immediate Relief for American Families:  Home Plan - Right off the bat there's some language about being well-meaning and deserving.  I don't like that kind of rhetoric, personally. 


    No taxpayer money should bail out real estate speculators or financial market participants who failed
    to perform due diligence in assessing credit risks. Any assistance for borrowers should be focused
    solely on homeowners and any government assistance to the banking system should be based solely
    on preventing systemic risk.


    OK, but hasn't the opposite already happened?  Isn't it happening today?  Are you going to establish a program for homeowners because it seems like republicans usually don't like to do that sort of thing.  I don't mean to offend you, but I have noticed that.

    Oh, OK, we have some details of the plan.


    Eligibility: Holders of a sub-prime mortgage taken after 2005 who live in their home (primary
    residence only); can prove creditworthiness at the time of the original loan; are either delinquent, in
    arrears on payments, facing a reset or otherwise demonstrate that they will be unable to continue to
    meet their mortgage obligations; and can meet the terms of a new 30 year fixed-rate mortgage on the
    existing home.

 Ok, thank you for those details.  So in other words, if I were a member of one of those families who received a sub-prime loan that might not be eligible for a standard loan, I will not be eligible for help through this program.  That would make me one of those underserving, not well-meaning people you were talking about. You say that this plan will help 200,000 to 400,000 home owners, but I understand that right now something on the order of 2 million families are in danger of losing their homes, so you'd only help one quarter or less of the most "deserving" ones.

Immediate Relief for American Families:  Keeping the Credit Crunch from Hurting College Students

John McCain is proposing a student loan continuity plan. Students face the possibility that the credit
crunch will disrupt loans for the fall semester. John McCain calls on the federal government and the 50
governors to anticipate loan problems and expand the lender-of-last resort capabilities for each state's
guarantee agency.

OK, but what about some relief in the form of better interest rates?  What about Pell Grants?  Existing loans?  I owe 80,000 in educational debt, can I expect any relief?  Do you think it makes sense in the present economy for students to take on these massive loans at all?

  • Reforming Washington to Regain the Trust of Taxpayers:  Bring the Budget to Balance by 2013 - OK, this section starts out with some language about the deficit and balancing the budget, sounds good.  

    In the long-term, the only way to keep the budget balanced is successful reform of the large spending
    pressures in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.



    What, really?  That doesn't make a lot of sense to me, since our population is rapidly aging and we're going to have millions and millions of Baby Boomers needing these programs in the next few decades, and their kids (ie: me and people like me) can't afford to support them.  I thought other parts of the budget were a lot more costly.  Oh, you are including the Social Security Trust Fund as "government spending" - I don't see it that way, because that's money the people have paid in, expecting that Social Security will be there.  Personally, I would rather take a look at how our defense dollars are being spent. 

    Here is some other language that really concerns me:


    A one-year spending pause. Freeze non-defense, non-veterans discretionary spending for a year and
    use those savings for deficit reduction.

    Oh, please don't do that.  Because it seems to me that we are experiencing major problems with our infrastructure and increasing threats from natural disasters right now.  Also, our educational system is falling apart.  What a bad idea.  Please.  Don't do this.  It will cost us so much more to fix everything when the spending freeze is over.
      If we can.  If I don't need to worry about this, please tell me why not?  Keep in mind that my children attend public school and will continue to do so.

    And then:

    "Reform our civil service system to promote accountability and good performance in our federal
    workforce."  - Please reassure me that this will not be another No Child Left Behind.  How will you determine accountability?


  • Supporting Small Businesses - Cool.  My husband runs a small business.  Right now, he's working another full time job because we can't live on it anymore and we'd also like to go see a doctor for the first time in four years.  Please tell me you have something to offer that can help my family.

    • Lower Energy Costs - good! Because our utility bill is ridiculous.  How will we do that?  "He strongly supports increased domestic exploration of oil and natural gas." - ok, natural gas would help, but I think I read somewhere that increased oil exploration will only provide 2% of demand, and only after a really long time.  How else? 

      "

      John McCain has set the goal of building 45 new nuclear
      power plants by 2030
      - creating 700,000 jobs and providing cheap electricity." - OK, here's another place where I don't want to offend you, but I have noticed that Republicans really don't like to fund infrastructure, and that makes nuclear energy sound a little scary to me.  Because it costs a lot of money to keep nuclear power plants safe, and dispose safely of their waste.  

      Anything else?  "

      The Lexington Project will devote $2 billion
      annually to research that will allow the clean use of our most plentiful and low-cost energy source: coal."  2 BILLION DOLLARS FOR RESEARCH?  Into a DIRTY TECHNOLOGY?  Sorry. go on.  Um, couldn't we do that with wind or solar or tidal or some other clean technology? 

    • Controlling Health Care Costs - Oh, good, because my health care costs are ridiculous, which is why I usually opt for no health care.  How will we control health care costs?

      "

      He will provide $5,000 for health insurance to every American family - supporting
      small businesses that seek to offer insurance."  That's cool, although ours currently costs $7200 a year and I think my husband's employer still pays a portion.

      "

      John McCain opposes costly mandates or "pay or play"
      requirements that would raise the financial burden on small business, cut the ability to hire, expand, or
      raise payrolls." - Do you mean fewer employers will have to provide health care?  Because I'm not sure that will actually be helping most people.  How are you going to define "small business?"  Because I think already you have to have a certain number of employees to require health insurance.  For example, my husband's teeny little business is not effected.

    • Keeping Tax Rates Low - We haven't been too profitable lately, but I understand that for successful small businesses this is a big deal.  OK, how?  "John McCain will keep the top tax rate at 35 percent,
      maintain the 15 percent rates on dividends and capital gains, and phase-out the Alternative Minimum Tax." - Well, we aren't in the top tax rate, and we don't have any investments anymore, so none of that really helps us. 

      How else?  "

      Cut The Corporate Tax Rate From 35 To 25 Percent"  So corporations will pay less taxes?  I'm not so sure I like the sound of that.  It seems like they already manage to pay very little of their fair share, while individual workers end up paying through the nose.

      "

      Allow First-Year Deduction, Or "Expensing", Of Equipment And Technology Investments"  OK.  I like that.  Good idea.

      "

      Allow Families To Keep Their Businesses: John McCain proposes reducing the Estate Tax rate to 15
      percent and permit a generous $10 million exemption."   Thank you for not calling it a "death tax" - and no.  Unless the estate in question is over 1 million dollars, this does not effect you.  (Certainly,  I am in no danger.)  It effects less than 3 percent of deceased Americans.  I'm not worried about it, except that it seems like a loss of that tax revenue could have a negative impact on our budget and infrastructure. 

    • Opening new markets - surely, you are not going to suggest something like NAFTA.  "we should be encouraging the growth of
      even more jobs in this sector through more free trade agreements which give American firms more
      access to sell our goods and services abroad."  - Oh.  You are suggesting something like NAFTA.

  • Energy - We already talked about energy, so let's recap a little.  You are proposing more nuclear power plants, 2 billion dollars for clean coal research, and here finally is a mention of renewable energy:  "John McCain believes in an even-
    handed system of tax credits that will remain in place until renewable energy has progressed to the point
    that it is competitive with conventional energy sources."  That's it?  Where is all the detail we got about clean coal research?  I'd like to know more because it sounds like you are less committed to this idea than the nuclear power/coal thing.

    As we talked about before, McCain would like to expand drilling and exploration for oil and natural gas.  I wish there were more to be gained through additional oil drilling, perhaps you could address the allegations that this won't substantially increase oil production?  (Not in numbers please, but in percentages.)

    Transform Transportation - OK, here McCain outlines a project to encourage the development and production of cleaner more efficient vehicles.  Sounds awesome.  Except, I noticed, it is also called the Lexington Project.  So, this will be tied into the 2 billion dollars for coal research?  So in other words, if we want our cleaner cars we have to pay for the coal thing?  That sounds a little pork barrelish.  Don't you think?

    Building Efficiency - I am all for greener buildings and homes.  Sounds good.

  • Health Care Reforms - OK, in looking through this health care reform plan, I see lots of good outcomes discussed:  like decreasing chronic disease, lowering the costs of drugs, etc.  But then when we get to how that will be achieved, you lose me.  For example, I would be more likely to get preventive care if I could afford it, but the only way I would be able to do that through this plan is through a tax credit, which I'd have to apply directly to my health care.  Well, I have a lot of other bills and in all likelihood it will go toward one of those.  Like my student loan, for which I understand I can expect no relief. 

    Also, when you talk about tort reform and medicare reform that concerns me, because I have noticed that these things generally benefit corporations and insurance companies, while further restricting the rights and privileges of the patient.  So, please explain how that will help American families, as opposed to insurance companies.

  • Reform Taxes - see small businesses, above.  I think we've more or less covered this territory.

  • Lower Barriers to Trade - Remember that NAFTA conversation?  I still want to know more about this, but I don't see any more detail.  What I do see is a mention that we will be more competitive through school choice?  Do you think we can actually afford to offer every public school kid in the US a true choice of school through vouchers?  Or will that only help the people who can afford to still pay more than half the tuition while the public education system crumbles?  Also, private schools are exempt for No Child Left Behind and don't actually have to prove they offer a better education.  So, I feel skeptical when I hear about vouchers.  I like my children's school and I'd like to see it get more funding, not less. 

    Also, I am concerned about this:


    John McCain will overhaul unemployment insurance and make it a program for retraining, relocating and
    assisting workers who have lost a job.

    I used to work with public benefits recipients and it sounds to me like you want to administer this like a"welfare" program, where people have to spend the majority of their time satisfying program requirements, including working for very low wages or opting for training programs over degree programs, in order to qualify.  Also, I don't see it as a real answer to the trade probllem, particularly if we're talking about more "free trade" agreements.

Phew.  That's a lot to chew on.  As you can tell, I've thought about these issues a lot and I'm really worried about our future.  I am interested in hearing more about these issues, and I hope you'll come back later to sit down and go over Barack Obama's economic plan. 

 

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