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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

April 14, 2008


McCain's Fix for the Economy: Ask Bush

Leave it to the McCain campaign to screw up something as simple as "reporting" about an economic roundtable which he spoke before. Here's how it reads from JohnMcCain.com:

"Remarks By John McCain On The Economy At Brooklyn Small Business Roundtable

"April 10, 2008

"ARLINGTON, VA -- U.S. Senator John McCain will deliver the following remarks as prepared for delivery at a small business roundtable in Brooklyn, New York, today at 12:45 p.m. EST:"
-from JohnMcCain.com

Did they move Brooklyn to Virginia? I don't remember reading about it in the New York Post. And what about "reporting" on their candidate's remarks before their candidate ever makes those remarks? Much like his would-be predecessor, George W, Bush, I guess there's not a lot of chance that the new GOP flag-carrier would veer off of any course at all.

"Thank you for joining me here today. It is a real pleasure to be participating in this roundtable with so many accomplished entrepreneurs and small business owners,"

What would have happened if no one in Brooklyn (that's in New York City, which is located in New York State, by the way) had showed up at McCain's Bushies roundtable? Just what would Senator McCain have said then and would his campaign had changed the web site?


In McCain's talk-which-had-yet-to-come to Brooklyn (NY) small business owners, he outlined his short-term plans to get the economy going again.

"I have a plan of action to get the American economy back on track. My plan is comprised of two parts: First is a tangible, near-term plan to address and relieve some of the serious problems that Americans are facing right now. The second part of the plan is to create the right medium and long-term environment for our economy to rebound and thrive.

"Let me discuss the short-term challenges and actions first."

So I read on and what I saw began to sound familiar. And as I kept reading, I noticed that the reason it all sounded familiar was because the words used by McCain in his about-to-be-spoken speech were near-identical to the thoughts and (mis)deeds of George W. Bush. It began with an outline of the obvious "here's what's wrong" stuff which we in the diminishing middle class know all too well. For three paragraphs, McCain goes on to tell his near-audience that the housing bubble burst and gas prices are high. And like the current (part time) resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he blames us, the American people for the housing woes.

"Some Americans bought homes they couldn't afford, betting that rising prices would make it easier to refinance later at more affordable rates,"

McCain did place some of the blame on the greed-and-feed predatory mortgage lenders as well, but failed to recognize the inaction and the complacency of the Bush administration who fiddled while Rome burned. McCain also failed to mention the apathetic Congress which, under the leadership of his party, had let investors, bankers and mortgage lenders set their own terms.

"Let's start with the housing challenges. There is nothing more important than keeping alive the American dream to own your home, and priority number one is to keep well meaning, deserving home owners who are facing foreclosure in their homes,"

So, even though his own words tell us of those who should not have been given loans, McCain's answer is to keep those people in their homes. Even though he all-but called those homeowners foolish in their endeavors to own their own homes, McCain wants to allow them to keep their homes rather than to allow those homes to go on the open market, which would lower the inflated prices of everyone's home being sold (appropriately so) and force the lenders, who were irresponsible in the first place, to take their lumps along with the rest of us. Oh no - that's not McCain's "plan", is it?

McCain believes that MORE debt will make America's economy better. The statement above ("Some Americans bought homes they couldn't afford, betting that rising prices would make it easier to refinance later at more affordable rates") tells that story. It appears that Senator McCain believes that had the housing market kept on rising, as the lenders would have preferred, those Americans who borrowed too much money to purchase their homes could have borrowed even more money so they could have paid their bills as well. The logic of higher housing prices leading to these new homeowners being able to borrow even more money to make ends meet boggles the mind. Surely even John McCain couldn't believe such a Bush administration line like that - could he?

And that's not even the worst part of McCain's line of thinking. Many of these loans made to those who couldn't afford those loans were made as interest-only loans where the first five years of the mortgage payment is artificially low because the lender is only paying on the interest and none of the principle. So after those five years, the homeowner would have paid what amounts to rent on "their home", plus the real estate taxes. If the borrower didn't sell the home for at least what they paid for it, the lender would then gain a more valuable home in foreclosure.

And McCain thinks that's a good enough plan to make his own.

"I believe a more robust, timely and targeted effort is my HOME plan. It offers every deserving American family or homeowner the opportunity to trade a burdensome mortgage for a manageable loan that reflects the market value of their home. This plan is focused on people. People decide if they need help, they apply for assistance and if approved the government under my HOME Program supports them in getting a new mortgage that they can afford,"

To go along with McCain's plan to allow low-rated borrowers to borrow more is his HOME plan which would allow homeowners to decide to apply for aid in order to pay for those same homes they shouldn't be in in the first place. And we, those of us who are living within our means, are going to pay for it.

If you add to this new McCain "plan" the fact that those of you who played by the rules are suffering because the homes they would have bought under normal circumstances are now unaffordable, it's even worse.

McCain was right when he told the Wall Street Journal, "I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated."

We don't have four years to allow him to get that education - not when his teacher is George W. Bush.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

The Pennsylvania primary on April 22nd will be one of the most important in decades. At issue: How we begin to reconfigure the nation after two terms of one of the most disastrous presidencies in U.S. history.

Pennsylvanians have three choices on April 22nd: The Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and the two Democratic candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Independents cannot vote in the primary, nor can voters cross parties: You can only vote within the party for which you are registered.

In March, Pennsylvanians went to register or change their registration in droves. Thousands of Republicans and Independents–mostly women–switched parties to vote Democrat. When the deadline to register or change registration was reached on March 24th, the state had the largest number of registered Democrats in its history–4 million. Nearly double what it was in 2004.

Of the three candidates, I believe only two are worthy of consideration. It’s certainly true that John McCain has served his country admirably in the military. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran and former POW. McCain is also known for maverick moves in the Senate over the years, many of which have benefited the nation. He was even John Kerry’s first choice for vice president in 2004.

But McCain’s current policies are far too conservative and his stance on the war and the military far too reactionary and protectionist to warrant his being considered for the presidency in 2008. Those who assert that McCain does not represent a third Bush term are correct. He represents a more determined, more focused, more militaristic and more dynamically conservative agenda than Bush ever has. McCain is not Bush lite, as some suggest. McCain is Bush on steroids, the Jose Conseco of conservativism.

There has been a strong, vibrant and exciting Democratic primary between two candidates who are far better suited to running the country than any Republican. Both Clinton and Obama have strengths and weaknesses, and each has done what no other Democratic candidate has been able to do since Bill Clinton. Both have rallied and excited voters and made them believe we can actually secure the presidency and wrest it from a Republican Party so corrupted and insular that it is not only out of touch with the American people, but it is out of touch with the world.

Much has been made of Obama’s eloquence. He is the best speaker the Democrats have had since Bill Clinton. Obama has run on a platform of hope and change and many of us are eager–ravenous even–for both.

Clinton has run a more tempered campaign based on her 35 years of experience in public service. Even a scant look at the state of Washington after the wreckage caused by the Republicans and the Bush Administration clarifies how much we need a good clean-up crew in the White House come January 2009.

The ideological differences between Clinton and Obama are slight. This is not 1984 or 1976 where the differences between the Democrats running are defining. Clinton’s health care plan is more generous than Obama’s and her foreign policy ideas more succinct. Both want to withdraw the troops from Iraq and pump up the number of troops in Afghanistan. Clinton wants to begin withdrawing troops within 60 days of taking office; Obama has altered his perspective on his own troop withdrawal plans recently and said it will depend on the situation on the ground. Both are pro-choice, both are devoted to education, both want tax breaks for the middle class.

So what are the differences? Does it matter which candidate you vote for?

I believe so. Barack Obama may be the best speaker the Democrats have, but Hillary Clinton is the best fighter the Democrats have. I would still prefer to see both candidates on the ticket come November, but without doubt, I believe Clinton should head that ticket.

Here’s why: Clinton has a broader comprehension of the issues at hand in Washington at this critical moment. Obama’s message of hope and change is compelling – and half the electorate voting Democrat has thus far supported him, just as the other half has supported her.

But a deconstruction of what Obama’s message means has yet to be conducted and after the primary is decided it will be too late. Change requires that others change with you. There may be few ideological differences among Democrats, but it won’t just be Democrats voting in November.

On April 10th, while at a fundraiser among his core constituency–wealthy and highly educated–in San Francisco, Obama addressed why mainstream Democrats have not voted for him and why small-town Democrats have flocked to Clinton. “It's not surprising they [small-town Democrats] get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

In 2000, voters perceived Al Gore as too aloof. In 2004, voters perceived John Kerry as both aloof and arrogant. Both were viewed as elitist candidates, not populists. Both lost. American history shows that when Democrats win the White House, they win running as populists who can reach the people in ways Republicans–the actual elitist party–cannot. It’s also true that the majority of two-term Republicans have been men who were viewed as somehow “of the people”–like Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Or John McCain.

Obama’s major problem as a candidate has consistently been his inability to deal with people one-on-one. He speaks predominately to the wealthy middle and upper class voters who have been his core constituents and he speaks to large crowds. He does not address the poverty issues Clinton addresses, his health care plan does not cover all Americans, he has been off-handed or outright dismissive of women’s issues and other minority concerns, like lesbian and gay rights. His stance on the economy has been too little, too vague and come far too late in the election process. These problems will haunt him if he is the nominee.
In response to Obama’s comments, Clinton said, “People don’t need a president who looks down on them. They need a president who stands up for them.”

Both Mayor Nutter and Gov. Rendell agree that Clinton is that candidate. Both were early supporters of Clinton and have been adamant that she’s the best
candidate for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and America. They both assert that her concern for real people with real problems makes her attuned to the nuances of
the current problems facing our city and our country.

We have an historic choice on April 22nd–for the first time in 24 years Pennsylvania will help determine the Democratic candidate for president.

*Both* candidates represent a fundamental if not tectonic change: a woman candidate and a man whose father was African and whose mother was a white American. The Republicans are offering the status quo: a warmongering white guy.

The Democratic candidate will face the fiercest struggle yet in a nation that has been divided down the middle in the past two elections over ideological differences. Washington, like the nation, is divided and divisive; talking about uniting people is not enough. George Bush ran on being a uniter, not a divider. The Democrat who wins the nomination will need to have the fortitude to withstand the Right’s swiftboating attacks between the convention and the general election. And the Democrat will have to defeat John McCain’s maverick image and “just plain folks” repartee.

America needs a tough strategist for our country’s imminent future. A nation in crisis needs a strong and passionate advocate to fix the mess the Republicans have made. That person is definitely not John McCain.

Vote on April 22nd–for history, for America and for an end to the Bush legacy. Choosing Clinton or Obama will send a message all America will listen to.

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-Noah Greenberg