Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 25, 2008

Flotsam and Jetsam

A surprisingly fair take on Sarah Palin and the rise of an alternative feminist model.

Ross Douthat nails it: the McCain campaign has been a series of discrete tactical maneuvers and redefinitions without a core narrative based in policy. If you asked them when they’d bring out their economic message you’d get “In September we’ll brand Obama as a liberal.” Nothing on their policy vision. Oh, that.

Brian Williams was annoyed he had to wait so long to interview Palin. But really, the McCain camp’s desire to extract revenge worked to their disadvantage — of the three broadcast network anchors Williams’ interview was the most straightforward and “fair.” And Palin came off well.  So it’s Palin and Republicans who should really be annoyed.

Grover Norquist explains the happiness gap between conservatives and liberals: “When I was 12, I realized the world was not organized around my desires and wishes. The problem with guys on the left is they never figured that out at age 12. And they’re just irritated the world is not organized around their vision. This makes them grumpy.”

I’m not sure why former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge thinks it’s a good idea to tell the state’s voters he would have been a better choice for VP. You wonder what instructions are given to McCain surrogates (“Hey, toss in something really off message!” or “Hey, if you can slam either half of the ticket or a key state, that’d be swell!”)

Joe the Congressman. Really.

Jim Geraghty advises conservatives who have jumped ship that ”they ought to have open eyes about what they’re doing, and they ought not to expect to be warmly received by their fellow conservatives after the election.” It would be nice to think there is a price to be paid for disloyalty. But this is politics.

A smart take on the hate crime hoax perpetrated by a McCain volunteer.

Randy Scheunemann takes time out from his foreign policy duties to defend Palin. That would be because so many others are busy dissing her. That “fire the campaign” advice was never more on point.

An informative, fair, and ultimately sympathetic print interview of Palin. Hey, she could have been doing those also!

Megan McArdle on Obama campaign credit card fraud: “The Obama campaign screwed up massively; it should not be possible to charge something to a credit card without matching the name to the name on the credit card.  Most responsible web processors also require that you provide a fair amount of other information, to ensure that people aren’t using stolen cards.  And beyond that, last time I looked it was mandatory to get correct names to ensure that people aren’t violating the campaign finance laws.”

Jay Cost explains that national polls are all over the map because “different pollsters have different ‘visions’ of what the electorate will look like on November 4th, and these visions are affecting their results.” Put differently, Obama is ahead but professional pollsters disagree on the question “By how much?”

Those military ballots in Virginia will be counted. Bravo.

The Department of Justice is AWOL in Ohio.

A silver lining for Republicans: Norm Coleman is pulling ahead of Al Franken.

A surprisingly fair take on Sarah Palin and the rise of an alternative feminist model.

Ross Douthat nails it: the McCain campaign has been a series of discrete tactical maneuvers and redefinitions without a core narrative based in policy. If you asked them when they’d bring out their economic message you’d get “In September we’ll brand Obama as a liberal.” Nothing on their policy vision. Oh, that.

Brian Williams was annoyed he had to wait so long to interview Palin. But really, the McCain camp’s desire to extract revenge worked to their disadvantage — of the three broadcast network anchors Williams’ interview was the most straightforward and “fair.” And Palin came off well.  So it’s Palin and Republicans who should really be annoyed.

Grover Norquist explains the happiness gap between conservatives and liberals: “When I was 12, I realized the world was not organized around my desires and wishes. The problem with guys on the left is they never figured that out at age 12. And they’re just irritated the world is not organized around their vision. This makes them grumpy.”

I’m not sure why former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge thinks it’s a good idea to tell the state’s voters he would have been a better choice for VP. You wonder what instructions are given to McCain surrogates (“Hey, toss in something really off message!” or “Hey, if you can slam either half of the ticket or a key state, that’d be swell!”)

Joe the Congressman. Really.

Jim Geraghty advises conservatives who have jumped ship that ”they ought to have open eyes about what they’re doing, and they ought not to expect to be warmly received by their fellow conservatives after the election.” It would be nice to think there is a price to be paid for disloyalty. But this is politics.

A smart take on the hate crime hoax perpetrated by a McCain volunteer.

Randy Scheunemann takes time out from his foreign policy duties to defend Palin. That would be because so many others are busy dissing her. That “fire the campaign” advice was never more on point.

An informative, fair, and ultimately sympathetic print interview of Palin. Hey, she could have been doing those also!

Megan McArdle on Obama campaign credit card fraud: “The Obama campaign screwed up massively; it should not be possible to charge something to a credit card without matching the name to the name on the credit card.  Most responsible web processors also require that you provide a fair amount of other information, to ensure that people aren’t using stolen cards.  And beyond that, last time I looked it was mandatory to get correct names to ensure that people aren’t violating the campaign finance laws.”

Jay Cost explains that national polls are all over the map because “different pollsters have different ‘visions’ of what the electorate will look like on November 4th, and these visions are affecting their results.” Put differently, Obama is ahead but professional pollsters disagree on the question “By how much?”

Those military ballots in Virginia will be counted. Bravo.

The Department of Justice is AWOL in Ohio.

A silver lining for Republicans: Norm Coleman is pulling ahead of Al Franken.

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Lots And Lots

How much does Barack Obama want to raise taxes? This provides a guide:

When it comes to taxes, the difference between Barack Obama and John McCain is arguably as wide as it’s been in a presidential race since Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale battled in 1984. Sen. Obama is proposing to raise taxes more than any recent candidate, while Sen. McCain wants to cut them substantially. Most of the campaign debate has been over whose taxes would be raised, and whose cut.

Mr. Obama would roll back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for taxpayers in the top two brackets, raising the top two marginal rates of income tax to 36% and 39.6% from 33% and 35%. The 33% rate begins to hit this year at incomes of $164,550 for an individual and $200,300 for joint filers. Mr. Obama claims no “working families” earning less than $250,000 would pay more in taxes, but that’s because he defines income more broadly than the taxable income line on the IRS form. If you’re an individual with taxable income of $164,550, you will pay more taxes.

The Democrat would also reinstate the phaseout of the personal exemptions and itemized deductions for married couples making more than $250,000 a year. Those phaseouts would raise the top marginal tax rate for millions of taxpayers by another 1.5 percentage points.

Capital gains and dividend taxes would increase to 20% from 15% for those making more than $250,000, although capital-gains taxes on investments in “start-ups” would be eliminated.

Mr. Obama’s most dramatic departure from current tax policy is his promise to lift the cap on income on which the Social Security payroll tax is applied. Currently, the employer and employee each pay 6.2% up to $102,000, a level that is raised for inflation each year. The Obama campaign says he’d raise the payroll tax rate on incomes above $250,000 by as much as two to four percentage points — though it’s unclear if that higher rate would apply to the employee, the employer, or both.

What does it all add up to?

Taken together, these add up to about a 10-percentage-point hike in marginal tax rates for those making more than $250,000 a year, including millions of small businesses that pay taxes at individual rates. The “marginal” rate refers to the rate paid on the next dollar of income, and it has an especially strong influence on decisions to work and invest.

This ignores hints of more tax hikes to come, which Charlie Rangel and Barney Frank have suggested. And it assumes that Obama won’t look at his $4.3 trillion in new spending plans and conclude he needs to go further down the income ladder to scrape for more revenue.

When you go step by step, it strikes you how substantial the tax hikes may be. It seems incomprehensible that, in the midst of a worsening recession, Obama would still be advocating what amounts to throwing the economic car into reverse. What’s the point of all that Fed-created liquidity if you are going to suck millions and millions of dollars back out of the private sector? But that’s what Obama says he wants to do: raise taxes – lots and lots.

How much does Barack Obama want to raise taxes? This provides a guide:

When it comes to taxes, the difference between Barack Obama and John McCain is arguably as wide as it’s been in a presidential race since Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale battled in 1984. Sen. Obama is proposing to raise taxes more than any recent candidate, while Sen. McCain wants to cut them substantially. Most of the campaign debate has been over whose taxes would be raised, and whose cut.

Mr. Obama would roll back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for taxpayers in the top two brackets, raising the top two marginal rates of income tax to 36% and 39.6% from 33% and 35%. The 33% rate begins to hit this year at incomes of $164,550 for an individual and $200,300 for joint filers. Mr. Obama claims no “working families” earning less than $250,000 would pay more in taxes, but that’s because he defines income more broadly than the taxable income line on the IRS form. If you’re an individual with taxable income of $164,550, you will pay more taxes.

The Democrat would also reinstate the phaseout of the personal exemptions and itemized deductions for married couples making more than $250,000 a year. Those phaseouts would raise the top marginal tax rate for millions of taxpayers by another 1.5 percentage points.

Capital gains and dividend taxes would increase to 20% from 15% for those making more than $250,000, although capital-gains taxes on investments in “start-ups” would be eliminated.

Mr. Obama’s most dramatic departure from current tax policy is his promise to lift the cap on income on which the Social Security payroll tax is applied. Currently, the employer and employee each pay 6.2% up to $102,000, a level that is raised for inflation each year. The Obama campaign says he’d raise the payroll tax rate on incomes above $250,000 by as much as two to four percentage points — though it’s unclear if that higher rate would apply to the employee, the employer, or both.

What does it all add up to?

Taken together, these add up to about a 10-percentage-point hike in marginal tax rates for those making more than $250,000 a year, including millions of small businesses that pay taxes at individual rates. The “marginal” rate refers to the rate paid on the next dollar of income, and it has an especially strong influence on decisions to work and invest.

This ignores hints of more tax hikes to come, which Charlie Rangel and Barney Frank have suggested. And it assumes that Obama won’t look at his $4.3 trillion in new spending plans and conclude he needs to go further down the income ladder to scrape for more revenue.

When you go step by step, it strikes you how substantial the tax hikes may be. It seems incomprehensible that, in the midst of a worsening recession, Obama would still be advocating what amounts to throwing the economic car into reverse. What’s the point of all that Fed-created liquidity if you are going to suck millions and millions of dollars back out of the private sector? But that’s what Obama says he wants to do: raise taxes – lots and lots.

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The Best and The Worst

Bill Kristol’s defense of John McCain includes this noteworthy passage:

We also hear a lot of squeaking from rats deserting the McCain ship about Barack Obama’s exemplary temperament. So what? If he’d had his way, Obama would have lost the war in Iraq–with equanimity. He would have been calm, cool, and collected as U.S. interests were sacrificed and U.S. honor besmirched. Neville Chamberlain also had a fine temperament and a good intellect. Joe Biden, by the way, has neither. But he did–much as he now wishes people to forget it–support the Iraq war. These days, he can barely be bothered even to mention Iraq. Oh well, start a war, lose a war. Gotta move on.

Kristol’s take on Biden is especially relevant in light of the Colin Powell endorsement. Wasn’t it Powell who invoked the “Pottery Barn” rule  (“you break it, you own it”) with regard to Iraq? It seems Biden was just the sort of miscreant who Powell was seeking to handcuff for attempting to flee the scene.  Someone should ask Powell about that at the next Georgetown soiree.

But everyone makes choices and must live with the consequences. It is when defeat is not just possible but imminent that character comes through. We see who abandons principle for social acceptance and who defies the lure of new-found fame. We note who falls prey to careerism and self-justification and who continues to man the post until the bitter end. We acknowledge who carries on without complaint and who whimpers that the world is unfair. Politics is important not just because it affects great issues and the fate of nations, but because the best and worst of human behavior is revealed in it.

Bill Kristol’s defense of John McCain includes this noteworthy passage:

We also hear a lot of squeaking from rats deserting the McCain ship about Barack Obama’s exemplary temperament. So what? If he’d had his way, Obama would have lost the war in Iraq–with equanimity. He would have been calm, cool, and collected as U.S. interests were sacrificed and U.S. honor besmirched. Neville Chamberlain also had a fine temperament and a good intellect. Joe Biden, by the way, has neither. But he did–much as he now wishes people to forget it–support the Iraq war. These days, he can barely be bothered even to mention Iraq. Oh well, start a war, lose a war. Gotta move on.

Kristol’s take on Biden is especially relevant in light of the Colin Powell endorsement. Wasn’t it Powell who invoked the “Pottery Barn” rule  (“you break it, you own it”) with regard to Iraq? It seems Biden was just the sort of miscreant who Powell was seeking to handcuff for attempting to flee the scene.  Someone should ask Powell about that at the next Georgetown soiree.

But everyone makes choices and must live with the consequences. It is when defeat is not just possible but imminent that character comes through. We see who abandons principle for social acceptance and who defies the lure of new-found fame. We note who falls prey to careerism and self-justification and who continues to man the post until the bitter end. We acknowledge who carries on without complaint and who whimpers that the world is unfair. Politics is important not just because it affects great issues and the fate of nations, but because the best and worst of human behavior is revealed in it.

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