In humble attempt at casting this in the tradition of Socrates, a (slightly altered) quote:

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Woe is McCain: Economically Out of Touch

For a while I've wanted to start a set of posts looking at McCain and his various stances on issues, his character traits, etc., and thought this issue would be a good starting point; look for any other coming posts with the title "Woe is McCain" if you're interested in reading more.

Apparently McCain, when recently asked how many houses he and his wife own, said, "I think — I'll have my staff get to you...It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you." You can actually hear the recorded question and answer at the top of this brief overview of the issue. I'm not really sure what to say here, as this would be funny if it weren't so far removed from any reality I could imagine.

I waited to post this though because none of the news I was seeing was making it clear whether the McCains actually lived in most of the houses or rented some out. I still couldn't find a definitive answer in looking around, but he and his wife clearly live in at least four, though it looks like they own twice that many; at least two of those eight are used by their children. Here's a list of the properties (from here): "Those real estate holdings include a Sedona ranch with three dwellings, worth $1.1 million; a Phoenix condominium suite that had originally been two units, worth $4.7 million; an $847,800 three-bedroom high-rise condo in Arlington; an oceanfront condo in La Jolla, Calif.; a half-million-dollar loft in Phoenix purchased for their daughter Meghan; another Phoenix condo, worth $830,000; and two beachfront condos in Coronado, Calif, one of which is valued at $2.7 million...Cindy McCain told Vogue magazine the family needed the second condo because the first was getting too crowded as their family grew." (See pictures and read another fairly biting description of the high-dollar homes here).

That said though, perhaps it would be easy for McCain to lose track (honestly). However, it still relates to a larger problem, I believe. First, there is the simple fact that he and his wife live in at least four big-money homes across the country--in a world where many are in need, I do have to say that seems excessive, though it's of course his choice. Secondly, McCain actually said recently that it was those making $5 million or more that he considers "rich." He mentioned this at a "faith forum" last weekend. Obama was there too and was asked the same question--he considered those making $250,000 or more to be rich (which is a lot closer to what I'd estimate). Third, McCain recently said the "fundamentals of our economy are strong." If you're not sure about the state of the economy, watch this tough video from Bill Moyers on the individual stories of some average Americans who have been hit hard by the current economic situation. Lastly, none of this even gets into his tax policies, such as the tax cuts of the current Administration that McCain says he plans to make permanent (even though he previously could not "in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate")--I'll have to write more on that topic, but I'll just say that I know a well-off Republican who literally said that he didn't need the annual $80,000 he was getting back because of Bush's tax cuts. Maybe, just maybe, that money could stay in the government pot and pay down some of our $9 trillion deficit, allow full health insurance coverage of all children, provide increases in the National Institute of Health (NIH) budget for cancer research, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Add up the above points on McCain and you get an individual bouncing around the country between four expensive homes, who thinks the rich are those making over $5 million, feels the economy is fundamentally strong, and is all for skimping Americans by maintaining what I believe are unethical tax cuts. So what? So that's not the person I want in the White House deciding what amount of taxes are fair for various income brackets, whether to spend money on programs that create new jobs, whether to make health insurance affordable for the 47 million who don't have it, and so on. I'll have to write more on some of the economic issues related to this if I have a chance, but suffice to say right now that, given McCain's economic position and related perspective, I don't think he can relate to most Americans enough to make this country work as it could for most Americans.

Update: To give credit where credit is due, I just read this New York Times article that mentions, among other things, some of the charitable giving in which the McCains have been involved. While I still hold to the above points, I really have problems with the common approach in politics of overstating the case and leaving out complimentary points about one's opposition. The article seems to present a balanced picture of the overall scope of the McCains' wealth; here's an excerpt:

"[T]he Hensley family wealth, from its rough-and-tumble origins to prominence in Arizona’s corporate world, is also the fortune that propelled John McCain into national politics. A clearer picture of that fortune emerges from a review of public records and interviews with employees, business associates, friends and relatives.

Hensley & Company has grown from a tiny operation in the 1950s to the dominant beer wholesaler in Arizona and the third-largest Budweiser distributor in the country, with more than $300 million in annual sales. It plays a leading role in corporate Phoenix — Andy McCain, the senator’s stepson from his first marriage and a top executive of the beer company, is now president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce — and is a forceful presence in state politics on the issues that matter to it.

But by all accounts, Mrs. McCain is far from a forceful presence at the company, where she is chairwoman.

She crisscrosses the country on the company jet, keeps an accountant on the company payroll to mind her personal finances, drives a company Lexus with “MS BUD” plates and says she oversees the company’s “strategic planning and corporate vision.” Yet she almost never shows up in the office, is deemed an absentee owner [which is a technical not derogatory term] by Anheuser-Busch and has left scarcely a mark on the company, present and former executives say.

Mrs. McCain has spent far more time as a volunteer on behalf of needy children. She is a board member of CARE and Operation Smile, which provides cleft-palate surgery for impoverished children; when she visited Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh 17 years ago, she brought a baby girl back for the surgery and then adopted her...While all of the family's real estate is held by Mrs. McCain, the John and Cindy McCain Family Foundation is funded by Mr. McCain. From 2001 to 2006, its donations averaged about $260,000 a year. In addition to big donations to children's causes, mine clearing and Parkinson's research, the United States Naval Academy received $420,000 to run an ethics conference in the senator's name; the Brophy school has received more than $250,000; Christ Lutheran, which Bridget and Jim attended, more than $100,000."

Update 2: In September, McCain continued to say that the "fundamentals of our economy our strong," despite the enormous collapses of banks, mortgage lenders and others. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC provided a good overview on all of it, bringing in the perspective of the Obama camp as well:

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