While Americans focus on the interminable Clinton-Obama celebrity death match, Senator John McCain is using clear-headed, compellingly crafted speeches to propose surprisingly bold, free-market ideas. With one huge exception, the Arizona Republican advocates more limited, open government as his Democratic rivals promise tax hikes and an even busier state. Voters should welcome this stark contrast.
On spending, John McCain would rule with a tight fist.
“There will be no more subsidies for special pleaders — no more corporate welfare — no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people’s money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas,” McCain said April 15 in Pittsburgh. “I will veto every bill with earmarks, until the Congress stops sending bills with earmarks,” McCain continued, “I will seek a constitutionally valid line-item veto to end the practice once and for all.” More impressive, McCain said, “We will institute a one-year pause in discretionary spending increases with the necessary exemption of military spending and veterans’ benefits.”
Such prudence would be a welcome relief from the Bush/GOP Congress years that did for fiscal responsibility what the Playboy Mansion has done for sexual restraint.
McCain’s budget discipline would make it easier to cut taxes. He wants to make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent. He would slice corporate taxes from 35 to 25 percent. He also would scrap the Alternative Minimum Tax, double the dependents’ exemption from $3,500 to $7,000, “and sign into law a reform agenda to permit the first-year expensing of new equipment and technology.”
Most significantly, he would let Americans choose to file taxes under today’s rules or volunteer for a simpler, flatter rate, perhaps at 25 or 15 percent.
Regarding healthcare, McCain warned in Tampa on April 29 that his opponents “urge universal coverage, with all the tax increases, new mandates, and government regulation that come along with that idea. But in the end, this will accomplish one thing only. We will replace the inefficiency, irrationality, and uncontrolled costs of the current system with the inefficiency, irrationality, and uncontrolled costs of a government monopoly.”
Instead, McCain believes that “the key to real reform is to restore control over our health-care system to the patients themselves.” He would expand Health Savings Accounts, and more dramatically, offer a tax credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to help Americans purchase their own coverage, even across state lines. McCain added, “It would be yours and your family’s health-care plan, and yours to keep.”
McCain also calls for reining in the misguided, multi-trillion-dollar Medicare drug plan. “People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet don’t need their prescriptions underwritten by taxpayers,” McCain observed. “This reform alone will save billions of dollars that could be returned to taxpayers or put to better use.”
There is a cautionary note among these encouraging signs: John McCain has beer-bonged the Kool-Aid on global warming.
“We need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring,” McCain said May 12 at a Portland, Oregon wind-power research facility.
He desires “a cap-and-trade system to change the dynamic of our energy economy.” His specific goal is to reduce CO2 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Former Virginia state climatologist Dr. Patrick Michaels estimated in the May 16 Washington Times that this would lower per-capita emissions “to 19th-century levels.”
Before relegating America’s mid-21st Century economy to the norms of the Grover Cleveland era, McCain should heed the expanding caucus of experts who believe so-called “global warming” is exaggerated, if it even exists.
On May 19, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine released a petition signed by 31,072 Americans scientists, including 9,021 Ph.D.s. They reject the idea that CO2 is boiling Earth. So much for climate science being “settled.”
One hopes McCain will listen on this issue. Just as he recently has warmed to tax cuts, perhaps he will cool on “global warming.”
Nonetheless, McCain will remain a mixed bag. Sometimes he will annoy the Right. Other times, he boldly will go where no GOP standard bearer has gone since Ronald Reagan. As a wise man said, “John McCain is not perfect. Just perfect enough.”