Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Debate Update

I watched most of the second debate tonight, and I was struck by how mundane and tired the whole felt like. I was glad to see McCain call out Obama on a number of issues, but their lack of substantive differences on the bail out took the a lot of the drama out of it.

And it was plenty of the same old-same old from Obama. When asked why either party should be trusted with our money, Obama replies in part, because I am going to spend it better. From the transcript:

So here's what I would do. I'm going to spend some money on the key issues that we've got to work on.

It's that old time liberalism, by gum, we've got to spend more of your tax dollars to save ya from yourselves.

Obama called this the worst economic crises since the Great Depression. On what basis? Unemployment, although a lagging indicator, is just over 6%. The stock market is way down along with home prices, but that does not measure the health of the economy. Of course, he starts out by blaming Bush and deregulation. (Where does this come from? I cannot remember any deregulation initiatives during this administration. As a matter of fact a big new regulation, Sarbanes-Oxley was passed. The addition of financial regulations was one of the things that irked me about this administration.) To be fair I quote Obama at length:

And I'll tell you what, the Treasury should demand that money back [$400,000 junket] and those executives should be fired. But that's only step one. The middle-class need a rescue package. And that means tax cuts for the middle-class.

It means help for homeowners so that they can stay in their homes. It means that we are helping state and local governments set up road projects and bridge projects that keep people in their jobs.

And then long-term we've got to fix our health care system, we've got to fix our energy system that is putting such an enormous burden on families. You need somebody working for you and you've got to have somebody in Washington who is thinking about the middle class and not just those who can afford to hire lobbyists.

Notice how no crisis, great or small, doesn't morph into a call for greater government spending hither and yon on everything that might buy some votes, while unrelated to the "greatest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression." BTW, government spending did not end that crisis either.

I think on health care, the differences were most striking. Obama proposes to set up a new bureaucracy to insure those without insurance, and McCain proposes to hand out checks to let people shop around. I don't like either plan, but more health care bureaucracy isn't going to get it done. Also, Obama says, no one will be turned away for a pre-existing condition. This is madness. This will just encourage businesses to tighten up their eligibility rules to remove high risk workers from the rolls. This is where Obama's unspecified fines come in. It just has the stench of fascism.

McCain used one of his responses to bait Obama into asking the moderator to change the rules so that he could respond to McCain's final attack. That looked pretty weak, Brokaw pointed out that both sides had agreed to the format. But when the outcome wasn't to his liking, Obama whined. Brokaw got him off the hook by pointing out that since the next question was sort of related he could use that answer for rebuttal. But again, it shows a guy who does not think well on his feet. In debates such as these, both sides often ignore the question so Obama's protest made him look petulant. Judge for yourself. [After McCain nails him on his tax plans, you realize how effective that was by Obama's response.]

Brokaw: Sen. Obama, we have another question from the Internet.

Obama: Tom, can I respond to this briefly? Because...

Brokaw: Well, look, guys, the rules were established by the two campaigns, we worked very hard on this. This will address, I think, the next question.

Obama: The tax issue, because I think it's very important. Go ahead.

Brokaw: There are lots of issues that we are going to be dealing with here tonight. And we have a question from Langdon (ph) in Ballston Spa, New York, and that's about huge unfunded obligations for Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs that will soon eat up all of the revenue that's in place and then go into a deficit position.

Since the rules are pretty loose here, I'm going to add my own to this one. Instead of having a discussion, let me ask you as a coda to that. Would you give Congress a date certain to reform Social Security and Medicare within two years after you take office? Because in a bipartisan way, everyone agrees, that's a big ticking time bomb that will eat us up maybe even more than the mortgage crisis.

And Barry doesn't even thank him for the assist. Actually, I thought Brokaw was pretty fair over all, but I welcome your thoughts on that matter.


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