Jonathan Cohn
Senior Editor

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.

Your Umpteenth Reminder On The Tax Cuts
October 07, 2008

John McCain, just now in the debate: I am not in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy. The Tax Policy Center, in a report last month: The two candidates' tax plans would have sharply different distributional effects. Senator McCain's tax cuts would primarily benefit those with very high incomes, almost all of whom would receive large tax cuts that would, on average, raise their after-tax incomes by more than twice the average for all households. Many fewer households at the bottom of the income distribution would get tax cuts and those tax cuts would be small as a share of after-tax income.

The Tax-and-spend Attack: Has It Run Its Course?
October 07, 2008

Once again, CNN is showing how voters are reacting to the debate arguments, real-time. Among the more fascinating responses was the one John McCain elicited when he attacked Barack Obama for supporting too much spending. From what I could tell, it got no response at all. I have no idea how accurate that is. But I wonder if it's evidence that the whole "tax-and-spend" attack--the one Republicans used so successfully, for so many years--has finally lost its punch. For what it's worth, I think McCain's delivery during this town hall is light years better than it was in the previous debate.

Mccain: I'm Not Raising Taxes. I'm Cutting Medicare!
October 06, 2008

Barack Obama says John McCain would raise people's taxes by changing the way the IRS looks at health insurance. McCain says he wouldn't. Who's right? Quite possibly McCain. But only because he's decided to slash Medicare and Medicaid instead. Laura Meckler, who is one of the sharpest and most reliable policy reporters around, has the full story in today's Wall Street Journal. To review: The essence of McCain's health care plan is to change the tax treatment of health benefits they get from employers.