Sunday, January 20, 2008

Here's Why McCain Is The Worst Choice

Can we sufficiently trust a McCain administration to produce consistently strong economic policies? Unfortunately, both his rhetoric and record suggest that the answer is NO.

From Club for Growth white paper

The reduction of tax rates on income and investment is a cornerstone of limited-government philosophy and economic growth. When the most important pro-growth tax cuts in a generation were proposed by President Bush in 2001 and 2003, Senator McCain vigorously opposed them. The depth of this opposition goes a long way towards tarnishing the Senator's fiscal credentials.

First, it is notable that Senator McCain stood so astride the Republican anti-tax position that he was one of only two Republican senators to oppose the 2001 tax cuts and one of only three GOP senators to oppose the 2003 reductions.

Second, Senator McCain's stated reason for opposing the Bush tax cuts rhetorically allied him with the most radical anti-growth elements of national politics. Senator McCain argued, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief." Senator McCain's eager embrace of grossly inaccurate class-warfare demagoguery demonstrated, at best, a painful ignorance of pro-growth economic principles.

Third, Senator McCain not only voted against the Bush tax cuts, he joined leading liberal senators in offering and voting for amendments designed to undermine them. All in all, Senator McCain voted on the pro-tax side of 14 such amendments in 2001 and 2003. These included such odious measures as:

* An amendment sponsored by Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) to prohibit a reduction in the top tax rate until Congress enacted legislation to provide a prescription drug benefit
* An amendment sponsored by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) against full repeal of the Death Tax. This vote is in keeping with Senator McCain's 2002 vote against repealing the Death Tax
* An amendment sponsored by Tom Daschle (D-SD) and co-sponsored by Senator McCain to limit tax reduction in the top tax bracket to one percentage point

Finally, John McCain recently claimed that he has never voted for a tax increase, but the congressional record tells a different story. As Chairman of the Commerce Committee in 1998, he sponsored and voted for an enormous 282% tax increase on cigarettes.

Senator McCain's vigorous opposition to and misguided rhetoric against the most pro-growth tax cuts in twenty years should make economic conservatives very worried about the tax policies that would emanate from a McCain presidential administration.


During his 2000 presidential campaign, Senator McCain's plan for Social Security reform included a pledge to incorporate personal retirement accounts within his first year in office, and correctly criticized the inherent unfairness of the current program which forces "workers to give a portion of their hard-earned money to finance a system with low or negative returns for themselves."

This positive stance on personal accounts though, is marred by his willingness to raise Social Security taxes as part of a package that would include personal accounts. On a February, 23, 2005 edition of Meet the Press, Tim Russert asked Senator McCain if he would support "as part of the solution to Social Security's solvency problem, that you lift the cap so that you would pay payroll tax, Social Security tax, not just on the first $90,000 of your income, but perhaps even higher?" Senator McCain answered, "As part of a compromise I could . . . I'm proud of the job that Senator Lindsey Graham has been doing in his leadership position on this issue and showing some courage."

Raising Social Security taxes in this manner is not a sign of courage. It could constitute a massive tax increase and prove devastating to economic growth in this country. Furthermore, Senator McCain's support for Lindsey Graham's proposal to raise Social Security taxes contradicts his own observation about the woefully poor return workers receive. Raising taxes would only make that return worse. As Senator McCain hinted in 2000, it is not Social Security taxes that are too low, but the below-market return on those taxes that should most concern policy makers and taxpayers alike.

John McCain's support for raising Social Security taxes demonstrates that even his pro-growth positions tend to be muddied by a heavy anti-growth undercurrent. Unfortunately, this undercurrent can sweep away the good with the bad.


Most egregious is Senator McCain's leadership role in two bills that would have drastically restricted free enterprise. The first was the Patients' Bill of Rights, which he sponsored with Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and former trial lawyer John Edwards (D-NC). The bill allowed the government to impose a set of onerous mandates on insurance coverage instead of allowing individuals to make their own decisions about healthcare plans in the marketplace.

Two years later, the Arizona maverick took a another swing at the free market with the Climate Stewardship Act, a bill he sponsored with Joe Lieberman (D-CT) to require greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 2000 levels by the year 2010. This intrusive bill was projected to cost $76 billion annually by 2025, with huge increases in the cost of electricity and gasoline according to the Department of Energy.

Unfortunately, these two bills do not close the book on Senator McCain's regulatory indiscretions. Over the years he has voted for a number of other big-government bills. These include:

* Voted for an amendment that would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to set prices on prescription drugs under Medicare
* Voted against a bill that would prohibit an increase in CAFE standards
* Voted for an amendment that would prohibit oil drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska
* Voted (along with all of his Senate colleagues) in favor of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, an overreaction to corporate malfeasance that imposed heavy financial burdens on companies

Much like his record on taxes, these terrible votes cast a dark shadow on Senator McCain's positive votes. His anti-growth votes are exacerbated by his characteristic vociferousness in cases like the Patients' Bill of Rights and the Climate Stewardship Act. His occasional eagerness to support and encourage increased government regulation suggests a troublesome mistrust of the free market.

Political Speech

Senator McCain was the driving force behind the ultimate passage of the McCain-Feingold Act, a bill that imposed grossly unconstitutional restrictions on citizen participation in the political process.

Over the ten-plus years since Senator McCain first introduced campaign finance reform legislation, he has pursued his trampling of the First Amendment with a vengeance. On a April 28, 2006 taping of The Don Imus Show, McCain cavalierly admitted as much: "He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform . . . I know that money corrupts . . . I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government."

In defense of the provision banning issue advocacy ads that mention a candidate 60 days before an election, McCain said, "These ads are almost always negative attack ads, and do little to further beneficial debate and healthy political dialogue." In his brief to the Supreme Court, Senator McCain continued along the same lines: "These ads are direct, blatant attacks on the candidates. We don't think that's right."

Thus, Senator McCain and his partner in crime, Senator Russ Feingold, have anointed themselves the arbiters of appropriate political speech, worthy of deciphering which speech is "right" and which should be permitted in American political debate. To this day, Senator McCain remains responsible for the greatest modern infringement of political free speech. While bestowing significant advantages upon incumbent office holders, this feat has created neither a less corrupt political domain nor a more democratic one.


However, McCain's maverick moralism often manifests itself in the form of more government, less freedom, and a distrust of the individual and the free market system. This is dramatically the case in his opposition to the Bush tax cuts, his class-warfare rhetoric, his occasional support for large-scale increased government regulation, his willingness to raise Social Security taxes, and of course, his abysmal record on political free speech.

Senator McCain's outspoken pursuit of anti-growth and anti-free-market policies in the realms of taxes, regulation, and campaign finance reveals a philosophical ambivalence, if not hostility, about limited government and personal freedom. This ambivalence, combined with a rebellious nature, often leaves taxpayers the victims of his latest cause célèbre. The evidence of his record and the virulence of his rhetoric suggest that American taxpayers cannot expect consistently strong economic policies from a McCain administration.

from the Heritage Foundation research paper on the McCain-Kennedy Amnesty Bill

The Senate is currently considering a massive immigration reform bill, the "Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007" (S. 1348). This bill would grant amnesty to nearly all illegal immigrants currently in the United States.

The fiscal consequences of this amnesty will vary depending on the time period analyzed. It is expected that many illegal immigrants who are currently working "off the books" and paying no direct taxes will begin to work "on the books" after receiving amnesty, and therefore tax payments will rise immediately. By contrast, under S. 1348, benefits to these immigrants from Social Security, Medicare, and most means-tested welfare programs (such as Food Stamps, public housing, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) will be delayed for many years. In consequence, then, the increase in taxes and fines paid by amnesty recipients may initially exceed slightly the increase in government benefits received. In the long run, however, the opposite will be true. In particular, the cost of retirement benefits for amnesty recipients is likely to be very large. Overall, the net cost to taxpayers of retirement benefits for amnesty recipients is likely to be at least $2.6 trillion.

I don't need to disagree with my friend gamecock about McCain's Gang of 14 compromise because McCain's record and rhetoric on economic policies alone are sufficient to discourage electing this man to be our next President.

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