The Straight Talker, who warned us he was weak on economics, blew a bighole in his presidential vessel the other day by talking straight on thesubject with the Wall Street Journal. John McCain has already embracedGeorge Bush's Hundred Year War in Iraq. Now McCain says he also wants torevive Bush's plan to privatize Social Security. And he wants to cut thecorporate income tax by one-third, though it has already beeneviscerated by Republican loop holes. And the Senator's goal for taxreform includes a "fairer, flatter tax" which can only mean moreregressive tax-cutting in the Reagan tradition.
The country and campaign reporters are presently fixated on fine-printarguments between Obama and Clinton, but John McCain's bold declarationsto the Journal's Bob Davis provide devastatingmaterial for the fall campaign. On one level, the Republican nomineeseems to be correcting the record, getting his policy positions evenmore closely aligned with Bush and the Grover Norquist school ofperennial tax-cutting.
Deliver more boodle to the corporates and high-end incomes, so thefederal government will be starved for revenue. This is meant toreassure the money guys expected to finance his campaign, but it oughtto alarm anyone who still sees McCain as a level-headed moderate whothinks independently. The media truth squad should have fun trying tomake sense of the McCain agenda. His remarks will provide content formultiple sharp-edged attack ads.
Consider Social Security. The right's long-running campaign to dismantlethe Social Security system by shipping its funds to Wall Street as"individual accounts" turned out to be George Bush's political Waterloo.The plan failed miserably because people figured out the implications.Now McCain says he still backs Bush's blueprint and will revive it aspresident. Davis was confused because there is a very different SocialSecurity reform plan posted on McCain's own website that would notdivert any Social Security funds to private investment firms. Askedabout this contradiction, McCain said he would change the website.
"As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savingsaccounts are part of it--along the lines that President Bush proposed,"McCain affirmed. McCain's economic aide, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, poured alittle more oil on the fire by explaining that Social Security benefitsmust be cut to keep the system solvent. "You can't keep promises made toretirees," Holtz-Eakin said. "But you can pay future retirees more thancurrent retirees."
Does that sound like Straight Talk? Actually, it sounds just like theright-wing double-talk that finally caught up with George W. Bush. Whenthe fall campaign gets underway, Senator McCain will doubtless be askedabout his economics. I suspect he will straight-talk his way into deepertrouble.