Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The McCain Plan(s)

Health Care
McCain's health care plan revolves around giving tax credits to offset insurance costs. Individuals can receive a $2500 refundable tax credit while families could get $5000. If an individual or family doesn't spend that much on insurance, they can put the balance into a Health Savings Account. Individual states would be encouraged to create "Guaranteed Access Plans" to make sure that people without prior insurance or with preexisting conditions could get insurance.

Unfortunately, this plan doesn't address the essential problem: spiraling health care costs and profits. McCain's web site says:

John McCain will look to bring greater competition to our drug markets through safe re-importation of drugs and faster introduction of generic drugs.

According to Robert Kuttner in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Here is a second opinion. Changing demographics and medical technology pose a cost challenge for every nation's system, but ours is the outlier. The extreme failure of the United States to contain medical costs results primarily from our unique, pervasive commercialization. The dominance of for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies, a new wave of investor-owned specialty hospitals, and profit-maximizing behavior even by nonprofit players raise costs and distort resource allocation. Profits, billing, marketing, and the gratuitous costs of private bureaucracies siphon off $400 billion to $500 billion of the $2.1 trillion spent, but the more serious and less appreciated syndrome is the set of perverse incentives produced by commercial dominance of the system.

In other words, it is the market system itself which is the problem in the US health care system. I've already written about the poor US health care outcomes compared with the rest of the industrialized world. Pretty much everybody else uses a single-payer system, and no other major nation except New Zealand allows widespread prescription drug advertising.

McCain's health care plan is more of the same: greedy health care companies will continue to take 20 to 25% of US health care dollar, care will not improve, and annually 100,000 Americans will die needlessly at the hands of people who are supposed to save them.

McCain has made it clear that he believes in trickle-down economics. His tax plan would make the Bush tax cuts permanent, end the Alternative Minimum Tax (93% of which hits taxpayers making between $200,000 and $1,000,000 annually), and cut the corporate income tax rate by about 30%.

Unfortunately, trickle-down has never worked. Reputable economists agree it will never work. Even David Stockman said:

[T]he whole California gang had taken [the Laffer curve] literally (and primitively). The way they talked, they seemed to expect that once the supply-side tax cut was in effect, additional revenue would start to fall, manna-like, from the heavens. Since January, I had been explaining that there is no literal Laffer curve.

McCain's tax plan is more of the same: deceive the American public about tax cuts which guarantee that the incredibly wealthy (those making $200,000 a year and above, especially those making $1,000,000 or more a year) will get richer and the rest of us will keep treading water.

(for a fantastic piece on inequality in the US and how it changes under Bushes and Clintons, see Hamsters on the Wheel of Misfortune)

McCain makes no secret of the fact that he believes in The Surge. He claims a 90% reduction in sectarian and ethnic violence without reference to the cease-fire called by al-Sadr. He blithely says that he doesn't mind if we're in Iraq for 100 years. In fairness, that's if Iraq is as safe for Americans as Japan and Germany are now. It's not going to be that safe any time soon.

McCain's Iraq plan is more of the same: American soldiers will continue to die, contractors will continue to make tremendous profits from the American taxpayer, Iraq will continue to be chaotic, and Iran's influence will grow in the region.

Torture and Ethics
McCain proposes a plan for restoring ethics in Washington. He has spoken out against torture, but voted to allow the practice to continue. He backed legislation requiring candidates to pay the full cost of flying on corporate jets, but used his wife's corporate jet while paying only about 1/3 of the cost. He is allegedly against telecom amnesty, but did not vote for or against it.

McCain's ethics plan is more of the same: say one thing and do another, allow the US to continue to torture in violation of the Geneva Accords and other international law, and leave all the power usurped by the executive branch right where it is.

Greed? Deception? Abuse of Power?
That's no plan.