WASHINGTON--Hope versus fear, new versus old: Barack Obama and John McCain have placed their bets. These are the terms on which the 2008 presidential campaign will be decided. That's why it's unfair for political bystanders to attack Obama and McCain for offering few specifics as to how they'd fix an ailing economy.
In an effort to start making sense of what is an indisputably confusing situation, we asked some of the most thoughtful people we know the question: How will America change as a result of the economic downturn? Here's Michael Lind, Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation and director of its American Infrastructure Initiative. The effects of the greatest financial crisis since the Depression are only now beginning to be felt. By the time the crisis has run its course, a decade or more from now, the U.S.
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.
Richard Stern is a novelist and emeritus professor of English at the University of Chicago. The political word today is that the Republicans will return to personal attacks on Obama and Biden to draw attention away from McCain's erratic performance during the days before the passage of the Great Rescue/Bailout/U.S.-as-Sweden bill. We are supposedly to hear again about the Reverend Wright, the unreverend Tony Lezko, and William Ayers, the unrepentent Weatherman. Of these three Chicagoans, I know only the last.
It's stunning that $25 billion is no longer considered a lot of money for Congress to fork over to corporate America, but the House just approved $25 billion worth of low-interest loans to Ford, GM, and Chrysler, along with some of their suppliers. Okay, in fairness, this had been authorized in last year's energy bill, but, it's still noteworthy that there aren't many strings attached to the loans.
And now, for something new, John McCain is attacking Barack Obama over his big-spending ways: The text of this new advertisement, for those who don't want to sit through the cilp, goes like this: When our economy's in crisis, a big government casts a big shadow on us all. Obama and his liberal Congressional allies want a massive government, billions in spending increases, wasteful pork. And, we would pay--painful income taxes, skyrocketing taxes on life savings, electricity and home heating oil. Can your family afford that? I have no idea whether this is an actual television advertisement
Yesterday at the Center for American Progress, John Podesta spoke with SEIU President Andy Stern about his new book on The Power of Progress. I got the chance to ask them both about health care and the energy crisis.
The first thing you notice out in the early pages of Bob Woodward's The War Within are the showy indictments of President Bush, who leans on poor General George Casey, Jr. like a fraternity pledge-master disappointed with his charge. Casey, who's something of an academic (he studied IR at Georgetown and the University of Denver, and he'd never been in combat) accuses Bush of focusing on body counts, an attitude that Casey identifies with the "Kill the bastards!
I highly recommend reading David Frum’s sharp and provocative analysis in the New York Times, on the “Vanishing Republican Voter,” who is, despite other ideological underpinnings, falling prey to the siren call of Democratic economic policies.
How did it play politically? Will it energize the base? Will it make swing voters swoon? As usual, your guess is as good as mine--or any of the pundits you see yapping on the television right now. Until the focus groups and polls come in, we're all just speculating. But I can register a verdict on substance. If this was McCain's answer to voter anxiety about the economy, it wasn't too impressive. As you've been reading--or, perhaps, as you've noticed on your own--economic policy has not been a big theme this week in Minneapolis.