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Thread: Barack Obama: Closing the whopper gap

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default Barack Obama: Closing the whopper gap

    Closing the Whopper Gap


    By Ruth Marcus
    Monday, September 22, 2008; A15

    The symmetry of sin is suddenly looking more equal. Last week, I flayed John McCain for dishonesty -- flagrant and repeated dishonesty -- about Barack Obama's proposals. Obama was by no means blameless, I argued, but his lapses were nowhere near as egregious as his opponent's. I stand by everything I wrote.

    But a series of new Obama attacks requires a rebalancing of the scales: Obama has descended to similarly scurrilous tactics on the stump and on the air. On immigration, Obama is running a Spanish-language ad that unfairly lumps McCain together with Rush Limbaugh -- and quotes Limbaugh out of context. On health care, Obama misleadingly accuses McCain of wanting to impose a $3.6 trillion tax hike on employer-provided insurance.

    Obama has been furthest out of line, however, on Social Security, stooping to the kind of scare tactics he once derided.

    "If my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would have had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week," Obama said Saturday as he campaigned in that retiree-heavy state. "Millions of families would've been scrambling to figure out how to give their mothers and fathers, their grandmothers and grandfathers, the secure retirement that every American deserves."

    This is simply false -- even leaving aside the incendiary language about "privatizing" Social Security. As the invaluable FactCheck.org noted, the private account plan suggested by President Bush and backed by McCain would not have applied to anyone born before 1950. It would not have changed benefits by a single penny for current retirees like the nice Florida folks that Obama was trying to rile up. The sensible notion was that workers at or near retirement age should be able to rely on promised benefits and should not be subject to the vicissitudes of short-term market fluctuations.There is a fair argument to be had about the wisdom of having workers invest part of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. This year's plunge buttresses the contention that such accounts are too risky to comprise even part of what was conceived, after all, to serve as a safety net.

    But Obama's cartoon version of private accounts is not what Bush suggested, and it certainly is not something being peddled by McCain now. Under Bush's plan, workers would have been able to invest less than a third of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. Unless they specifically chose a riskier course, workers, beginning at age 47, would have had their investments put in "life-cycle portfolios" that shifted from high-growth funds to more secure bonds as retirement approached.

    Obama's ads on Social Security are equally misleading. "Cutting benefits in half, risking Social Security on the stock market," it warns. "The Bush-McCain privatization plan. Can you really afford more of the same?"

    Cutting benefits in half? As FactCheck notes, "this is a rank misrepresentation." No one at or near retirement age would have been affected. Those retiring in the future would not have received benefits as big as what they have been promised under current law -- but those promises cannot be paid for under the current system or even through the payroll tax increase on the wealthy that Obama has proposed.

    The Bush plan would have limited benefits for some workers to growing at the rate of inflation rather than at the generally faster pace of wages. In other words, these workers would be getting benefits equal in real dollar value to those received by current retirees. But under the "progressive price indexing" approach endorsed by the president, lower-income workers would continue to receive all their promised benefits; medium-income workers would have their benefits reduced somewhat; and high-income workers would take the biggest hit.

    The Obama campaign stretches the truth beyond recognition when it says that this would cut benefits in half. Under progressive price indexing, the average-earning worker would see a 28 percent cut in promised benefits -- in 2075. In other words, trims of that magnitude would affect workers not yet born. Today's average-earning 25-year-old would experience much smaller reductions in promised benefits upon reaching retirement age -- more like 16 percent.

    And the only way the Obama campaign can inflate the supposed benefit cut to "half" is by assuming that the change in calculating benefit growth would be applied to all workers, not just the top tier. In that case, workers not yet born would get 49 percent of the benefits not yet promised to them by 2075. Doubt these numbers?

    They come from Jason Furman, now the Obama campaign's chief economic adviser.

    To Democrats who worry about whether their nominee is willing to do whatever it takes to win: You can calm down.
    marcusr@washpost.com
    washingtonpost.com - nation, world, technology and Washington area news and headlines
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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Here's her McCain Whopper column:

    True Whoppers
    __


    By Ruth Marcus
    Wednesday, September 17, 2008; A19

    Economists are not generally known for their lyrical phrasing. But the other day, one told me something about the election that has stuck with me: He cautioned against succumbing to the "symmetry of sin."

    This unexpected snippet of political poetry, from a Democrat advising Barack Obama, was prompted by my expressed desire to hold both campaigns accountable for their lapses from good policy and honest argument. At which point my eloquent economist invoked the lure of false symmetry.

    He was peddling a self-interested, but important, point: All campaigns fall short, but some fall far shorter than others. And it is a phony evenhandedness, comfortable for journalists but ultimately misleading, that equates these failures without measuring the grossness of their deviation from the standard of decency.

    In the 2008 race, and especially in the past few weeks, the imbalance has become unnervingly stark. Ideological differences aside, John McCain's campaign has been more dishonest, more unfair, more -- to use a word that resonates with McCain -- dishonorable than Barack Obama's.

    Both candidates are guilty of playing trivial pursuit in a serious season, campaigning from gotcha to gotcha. Obama also has eagerly taken every cheap shot -- McCain wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years, doesn't get the economy, can't count his own houses. Neither candidate is running the honest, confront-the-hard-questions campaign he promised.

    McCain's transgressions, though, are of a different magnitude. His whoppers are bigger; there are more of them. He -- the easy out would be to say "his campaign" -- has been misleading, and at times has outright lied, about his opponent. He has misrepresented -- that's the charitable verb -- his vice presidential nominee's record. Called on these fouls, he has denied and repeated them.

    The most outrageous of McCain's distortions involve Obama on taxes. He asserts that Obama's new taxes could "break your family budget," and that an Obama presidency would inflict "painful tax increases on working American families." Hardly. Obama would lower taxes for most households, and lower them more than McCain would. The only "painful tax increases on working American families" would be on working families making more than $250,000.

    Likewise, the McCain campaign has its story about Sarah Palin, and it's sticking with it -- facts be damned. She said "thanks but no thanks" to that "Bridge to Nowhere," except that she didn't: She backed the bridge until it was unpopular, then scooped up the money and used it for other projects. More than a year after McCain began railing against the bridge, Palin, then a gubernatorial candidate, said the state should build it "now -- while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist."

    Palin sold the gubernatorial jet, on eBay and for a profit -- except that she didn't. She didn't take earmarks as governor -- except for the $256 million she sought last year, and the $197 million wish list for 2008.

    Every hard-fought campaign is in some sense a struggle between the id of political consultants driving for a victory and the superego of policy types who worry about having to govern with the consequences of campaign rhetoric. Every campaign calls on the candidate to calibrate, at some point, how far he is willing to go in pursuit of the prize.

    No candidate has felt this tension so keenly, or written about it as movingly, as McCain. In his memoir "Worth the Fighting For," McCain describes the sickening sensation of renouncing his views about the Confederate flag to curry favor with South Carolina voters in 2000 -- "reading it as if I were making a hostage statement."

    He wrote that his "theatrics" were designed to "telegraph reporters that . . . political imperatives required a little evasiveness on my part. I wanted them to think me still an honest man, who simply had to cut a corner a little here and there so that I could go on to be an honest president."

    Sitting on the couch with the women of "The View" last week, McCain offered a litany of excuses for his conduct this time around: Obama's ads are hard-hitting, too. The tone wouldn't be so negative if Obama had agreed to more debates. McCain's own lipstick comment was different because he was referring to health care.

    You had to wonder: Are there any corners left for McCain? Is there any reason to trust that a man running this campaign would go on to be an honest president?

    marcusr@washpost.com

    washingtonpost.com
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


    All of God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.


    If I wanted the government in my womb I'd fuck a Senator

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    Elite Member tkdgirl's Avatar
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    Wait, wait, wait... politicians LIE???? Get the fuck out!

    A government big enough to give you everything you want,
    is strong enough to take everything you have. ~Thomas Jefferson

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