Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

Michelle Malkin Bids For Self-parody Award
October 17, 2008

I try really hard not to dignify Michelle Malkin by responding to her rants. But I can't let this one pass.  It seems that Malkin is angry over the recent treatment of Joe Wurzelbacher--a.k.a., "Joe the Plumber." As you may recall, John McCain invoked Wurzelbacher a few times during Wednesday's debate, using Joe's situation to suggest that Barack Obama would raise taxes on the middle class. Since that time, reporters and Democratic partisans have been digging into Joe's story, to see whether McCain's claims are right.

Is Joe The Plumber The Same As Joe Six-pack?
October 16, 2008

John McCain didn't utter the phrase "middle class" in debates one and two. He didn't utter it tonight, either. Instead, he talked about "Joe the Plumber." Joe, whose full name is Joe Wurzelbacher, is the plumber who asked Barack Obama about tax policy during an Ohio campaign event this week. Wurzelbacher hopes to buy his own business. But, as he explained during their now-famous exchange, he worries that he'd face higher taxes if Obama were to become president. It's not clear to me that Wurzelbacher really would be worse off financially if all of Obama's plans were implemented.

Stan Greenberg's Focus Group: "decisive" For Obama
October 15, 2008

As I type this, Stan Greenberg is briefing reporters on his focus group of undecided voters in Colorado. He said the respondents felt Obama "won" and that the results were "more decisive than either of the last two." That's a reference to Greenberg's previous focus groups, which also came away preferring Obama. The most striking result came on the favorability ratings. Although the focus group was officially undecided, it leaned towards McCain.

Joe The Plumber Should Like Obama's Health Plan
October 15, 2008

Would Barack Obama's health care plan be bad news for Joe the Plumber? Not at all. In fact, Joe the Plumber would be among the plan's primary beneficiaries. It's no secret that small businesses have a really hard time finding affordable health insurance right now. And it's no secret why. For one thing, it costs an insurer a lot more money to solicit, and then run, an insurance plan for multiple small businesses than it does for one large employer with the same number of employees.

Already The Media Is Flubbing The Economics
October 15, 2008

Here is CNN's Bill Schneider reacting to the candidates' answer about which priorities they'd set aside because of the financial crisis: Obama is once again not answering the question about which programs he will cut. He says that he will go through the budget line by line and eliminate the programs that don't work…but he won't specifically name any. McCain is also avoiding specifics on this issue.

More Deficit Nonsense At The Debate
October 15, 2008

John McCain says he will balance the budget in four years. I'm aware of no credible economic analyst who believes that's possible, given the enormous tax breaks McCain has promised. But it's worth mentioning that balancing the budget in four years shouldn't be the goal. In the short term, we need deficits in order to stimulate the flagging economy. And, over the medium term, we need to spend money on the sorts of investments--like public works, energy independence, and health care reform--that will make our economy more productive in the future. Don't take my word for it.

Those Poor Corporations
October 15, 2008

John McCain just trotted out his usual line about corporations in America facing the second highest tax rate in the world. It's a very misleading claim: Most corporations pay far less than the stated rates, because of loopholes. For the full explanation, see this Nobel Prize-winning economist. --Jonathan Cohn

David Brooks Sees The Future. And It Looks Pretty Good.
October 13, 2008

David Brooks peers into his crystal ball today and predicts some infighting over the Democratic Party's agenda. With Obama likely to win the presidency and the Democrats likely to pad their margins in Congress, Brooks expects calls for more bailouts, an economic stimulus package, plus major energy and health care reforms. That would mean a lot of government spending, Brooks says, and not everybody in the party will be so happy about it: One the one side, liberals will argue (are already arguing) that it was deregulation and trickle-down economic policies that led us to this crisis.

Less Cancer Screening Under Mccain's Plan? Actually, Yes.
October 07, 2008

McCain, like most conservatives, believes that allowing cross-state purchases of insurance will help make health care more affordable. If people can shop for the policy that best suits their needs, the market will naturally bring down prices--while taking care of everybody's needs. This is pure bunk--for precisely the reasons Obama just laid out. If insurers can sell policies across state lines, they will search out--and then converge upon--whichever state or states have the least stringent regulations.

Obama: Trying To Make Health Care Simple
October 07, 2008

Obama's answer about health care reform came straight from the speech he gave a few days ago--which, as I wrote at the time, was very strong. While the scheme Obama supports is necessarily complicated, I think his two-step explanation makes sense: If you have insurance and like it, you get to keep it; if not, you can buy the same insurance I have. His critique of McCain's plan was spot-on, too.