The McCain-Palin Health Care Shell Game: The Canary in the Mine

While America’€™s attention was riveted on hunting trophies and beautified pigs, Wall Street decided it was time to distract us with some melodrama of its own.  The recent financial meltdown was not the work of foreign enemies, though it may give them great comfort to learn how adept we have become at producing self-inflicted wounds.  All of a sudden, John McCain is a regulator who will protect us against the unrestricted free market he denies he ever advocated.  But who will protect us against John McCain and his running mate, who have replaced the now discredited financial derivative with an even better instrument of economic mass destruction, the budget neutral tax credit.

According to Governor Palin, she and Senator McCain are ‘€œproposing a $5,000 tax credit for families so that they can get out there and they can purchase their own health care coverage.  That’€™s a smart thing to do.  That’€™s budget neutral.  That doesn’€™t cost the government anything …’€

But look under the hood and you find that this tax credit that won’€™t cost the government anything comes fully equipped with a massive tax increase on working Americans whose employers’ contributions to their health insurance will be treated, for the first time in history, as taxable income.  And if that weren’€™t enough, to achieve budget neutrality, the Wall Street Journal reports that one of McCain’€™s senior policy advisors said that McCain ‘€œalways planned to fund the tax credits, in part, with savings from Medicare and Medicaid,’€ federally funded programs that provide health care to seniors, poor families, and the disabled.  Which is proof positive of the first rule of practical decision making: ‘€œIf it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’€ 

Like the Wizard of Oz, John McCain has built his marketing campaign on elaborate deceptions that distract attention from real issues.  If and when Toto pulls the curtain and makes deception impossible, excuses and promises become substitutes for leadership and policy.  As Bob Hebert pointed out in his commentary in the New York Times “You would think that with some of the most venerable houses on Wall Street crumbling like sand castles right before our eyes, we’d be a little wary about spreading this toxic formula even further into the health care system.”

But why should Wisconsin worry about insignificant economic issues when the state’s economy is booming, when there are good jobs for every citizen willing to work, when home ownership is within everyone’s grasp, when our educational system is preparing every child to secure high-paying 21st century jobs, when our infrastructure is perfectly tailored to meet our needs, and when no one need worry about going bankrupt if they become sick or disabled.

Pull the curtain and it is obvious that the McCain-Palin formula for health care is not an aberration. It is the canary in the mine, the warning of danger ahead, not only for hard working Main Street but also for the true elitists, the Wizards of Wall Street who are too short-sighted to realize that their future is inextricably bound to the health of the American middle class on whose shoulders their fortunes rest.

In contrast, as described in the Wall Street Journal, Barack Obama’s health care reform package is tailored to meet the needs of all Americans in a cost-effective manner. It takes what works in the current system while improving and replacing what doesn’t. It does not depend upon financial sleights of hand and impractical assumptions about free markets. Instead, it proposes realistic programs to benefit ordinary people.

John McCain and Sarah Palin want you to believe that this presidential election is about a fictional villain who aspires to high office to deprive us and our children of the American dream. Barack Obama and Joe Biden want this election to be about you and your place in the American Dream. If you don’t believe this, just take a careful look at their competing plans to deal with America’s health care crisis.

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