Saturday, September 20, 2008

Three-point shot: Obama hits McCain on healthcare, social security, Wall Street

Obama sank a three-point shot against McCain's claim to be an effective economic reformer today. Speaking first at Bethune-Cookman University and then at an outdoor rally in Jacksonville, he simultaneously hit McCain on three closely linked fronts - wanting to privatize social security, being a longtime advocate of bank deregulation, and proposing further deregulation of our chaotic health insurance system. He exposed as completely bogus McCain's newfound zeal for tough regulation.

Here's ABC's account of the healthcare-banking connection:

At the end of a week of Wall Street bailouts and government negotiations to take over hundreds of billions in bad loans, Obama contends McCain is a newcomer to government regulation of Wall Street.

Speaking before a crowd of 2,500 at an event focused on women’s issues – Obama called McCain out for once suggesting deregulation of the health care industry like the banking industry.

Obama used McCain’s words – and the financial crisis against him – reading a quote from McCain which was published in "Contingencies" magazine last year.

"Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation, McCain said in the magazine in their September/.October 2007 issue.

Today, Obama read back the quote to the crowd and in astonishment said, “So let me get this straight – he wants to run health care like they’ve been running Wall Street. Well, Senator, I know some folks on Main Street who aren’t going to think that’s such a good idea.”

And here is Reuters on the banking-social security connection:

[Obama] attacked McCain for supporting some privatization of Social Security retirement funds, a proposal President George W. Bush made a centerpiece of his 2004 White House campaign but was unable to push through Congress.

"I know Senator McCain is talking about a 'casino culture' on Wall Street -- but the fact is, he's the one who wants to gamble with your life savings," Obama said at a rally in Daytona Beach in Florida, a state with a large population of seniors and retired workers.

"That is not going to happen when I'm president," the Illinois senator said, asking the crowd to imagine the fears of retirees who found their Social Security funds tied to the current market.

The common thread, of course, was deregulatory zeal:

"There's only one candidate who's called himself 'fundamentally a deregulator' when deregulation is part of the problem," Obama said.

These thrusts are going to sink deep into McCain's reformer posture. Democrats have long run on claims that Republicans want to destroy Medicare and Social Security, and sometimes those claims have had a demagogic edge. But Obama's claim that McCain wants to do to healthcare and social security what Phil Gramm (a.k.a. Dereg) and his wrecking crew did to banking has the advantage of being true. McCain was zealous for bank deregulation; McCain himself has drawn the analogy between bank deregulation and unfettering insurers from state healthcare mandates; McCain's ridiculous healthcare plan would indeed free insurers to riddle health insurance with ever more coverage restrictions and exclusions. As for Social Security, McCain has been pushing privatization since the late '90's; he supported Bush's privatization proposal; and as recently as March he disavowed the plan on his own website to establish private accounts separately from the existing system, insisting that the privatization should be built into a portion of each person's current social security set-aside.

At the darkest hour of McCain's post-Convention bump, I confess to worrying that McCain might win -- as I still do. But I never lost my faith that Obama and his chief campaign architects understood better than all his critics -- better than anyone -- how to conduct an effective campaign. That faith is redoubled now. Obama has brilliantly, patiently, meticulously positioned himself for full frontal attack -- now, when the nation's attention is riveted. He has seized and held the high moral ground, nurturing the meme that the McCain campaign has set new standards for viciousness and dishonesty and letting it take hold before concentrating his fiercest fire.

Now, as he binds McCain ever-tighter to discredited policies (more tax cuts for the wealthy) and bankrupt ideas ("I'm always for more deregulation"), he maintains the moral contrast by continuing to make clear that he is faulting McCain on policy and outlook rather than on character. At the convention, Obama's keynote was, "it's not because John McCain doesn't care, it's because John McCain doesn't get it." This fleshed out his months-old claim that McCain would continue the failed policies of the last eight years. It also contrasted pointedly with McCain's scurrilous character attacks on Obama. The party heavies followed his lead, collectively killing McCain with kindness.

As the market tsunami broke last week, Obama continued the two-step, making the gesture of fairness before launching a pinpoint strike on McCain's approach to economics:
I certainly don’t fault Senator McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to. It’s a philosophy we’ve had for the last eight years – one that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. It’s a philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise, and one that says we should just stick our heads in the sand and ignore economic problems until they spiral into crises. Well now, instead of prosperity trickling down, the pain has trickled up – from the struggles of hardworking Americans on Main Street to the largest firms of Wall Street.
Again, the attack has the supreme virtue of being true -- and giving the lie to McCain's vociferous promises to reform Wall Street. These calm, precise charges contrast beautifully with McCain's ridiculous charges that Obama was closely tied to former Fannie Mae CEOs Johnson and Raines and somehow personally responsible for the market meltdown.

McCain's chickens are coming home to roost. The more he flails at Obama with charges of being vapid, all talk, unpatriotic, and motivated solely by ambition, the more gravitas he lends to Obama's attacks on McCain's governing philosophy and support of Bush policies. The debate that Obama has always said he's eager to have -- over policy -- will play out on his terms.

Related posts:
Killing McCain with Kindness
Obama does it with integrity




  3. Did you see the Bunk study stating 2/3 of doctors in America want National Health Care. The doctors who did this study also conducted one in 2002 and found that the majority of doctors did not want national health care, the problem with this is that the 2 question surveys drastically differ in there 2nd question. I found this article, 60% of Physicians Surveyed Oppose Switching to a National Health Care Plan, It's worth a read.