Tag Archives: John McCain

Historic Tax Rates in the U.S.: Socialist?

There’s a lot of debate going around right now about tax policy. I thought it’d help to look at the actual tax rates compared to historic numbers. But let’s keep in mind that I took Math for Elementary Education in college (i.e., I’m no mathematician or economist).

The big question seems to be whether or not Barack Obama’s tax policy is socialist (or how socialist is it, depending on your perspective). So let’s take a look at those proposed income tax brackets and compare them to historic income brackets.

To simplify things, I’m only looking at income tax rates for the highest bracket:

  • Current income tax: 35% for those earning more than $357,700.
  • Obama’s proposed income tax: 39.6% for those earning more than $357,700.
  • McCain’s proposed income tax: remain at 35%
    (The current tax brackets are set to expire and revert to 2000 levels, so both Obama and McCain talk about their plans as cuts, which is a bit misleading. They’re both talking about extending the cuts, except that Obama wants to expire the cuts for the top two brackets; Source)

So the difference between McCain and Obama for the top bracket is 4.6% (for the second highest bracket the difference is 3%; for other brackets there’s no difference*). I have a hard time believing that 4.6% pushes us into socialist territory. The fact is both favor a progressive tax policy where the more money you make the greater percentage of taxes you pay.

Bottomline: The McCain and Obama tax proposals are relatively similar. Compared to a historic perspective, they’re very similar.

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Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama

Barack ObamaIn the 2008 presidential election I’m going to be voting for Barack Obama. That’s probably not a surprise to people who know me, but I feel the need to explain that position.

Caveats
I’ve been contemplating this post for some time. Should I even write it? As a person who makes a living writing for a faith-based market (for the most part), it’s some what dangerous to talk about politics. There’s a very real possibility that people won’t hire me because of my political views. It’s happened for much lesser reasons.

But I guess because of that rationale I feel compelled to give a defense for why I’m voting for Barack Obama. I’d rather someone understand my reasoning and still reject me than reject me based on an assumption from something random like a Twitter post.

I think this will be the first time I’ve ever publicly blogged about who I’m voting for. The above rationale is part of the reason, but I’ve also never cared that much about politics. Part of the reason why I’m doing it this year is because of how important the times are. That’s said every year (I said it last election), but this election is historic on several fronts.

Ground Rules
I’m not going to load this post up with links and sources. Perhaps I should, but writing this is going to be grueling enough. I don’t have time to track down all the links. My arguments have come from watching the debates, listening to the candidates, following the campaigns and reading fact check sites. That said, feel free to call me on facts that I get wrong.

I’d also like to remind people of the importance of disagreeing well. How we disagree perhaps says more about our character than what we agree on.
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Is Barack Obama a Muslim? Who Cares?

The New Yorker Obama CoverThe question of Barack Obama’s faith and background keeps coming up. Despite his long-held Christian faith, the rumors that he is a Muslim persist. An April poll showed that 1 in 10 Americans thought Obama was a Muslim (one would hope that number would have dropped in the months since).

Is Barack Obama a Muslim? No. (Visit IsBarackObamaAMuslim.com for the short answer.)

But what if he was? Who cares?

Is Barack Obama an Arab, as McCain crowds in Minnesota seem to think (yes, I’m embarrassed for my state)? No. His father is from Kenya, his mother is from Kansas (hey, my mom’s from Kansas!) and he was born in Hawaii.

Again, but what if he was an Arab? Who cares? Continue reading

The Presidential Debates are Broken

Tonight is the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. I’m not sure if I want to watch. Having watched the first presidential debate and the only vice presidential debate I came away with the conclusion that debates are broken.

  • “Facts” are tossed around by both candidates and then challenged and defended with no regard for what’s factual. Even when multiple sites and news organizations fact check the candidates, those misleading, deceptive or blatantly false claims still come up. Both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin used “facts” in the VP debate that had already been fact-checked and swatted down after the presidential debate.
  • The follow-up questions are limited so there’s no actual resolution for any issue. A candidate can make an outrageous claim and it just sits there unchallenged. This happened multiple times in both debates.
  • Finally, the underlying issues that inform policies are never actually debated. For example, we go round and round on who’s tax policy does what (here’s a good breakdown of their respective tax policies), but we never get to the issues behind the opposing policies: What will improve the economy more, giving more money to the middle class or more money to the wealthy? That’s the real debate, with real historical examples (Reagan vs. Clinton), but we never actually get there.

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Resources to Fact-Check the Presidential Candidates

With a month and a half to go before the election, the campaigns are getting pretty intense (no matter who you’re voting for I hope we can disagree well). New accusations, gaffes and bizarre stories seem to surface every day. It’s hard to know who to believe, so I offer three fact checking resources:

Truth-O-Meter
Offers a ratings for ‘True,’ ‘Mostly True,’ ‘Half True,’ ‘Barely True,’ ‘False,’ and ‘Pants on Fire.’ In investigating 114 of Obama’s statements and 113 of McCain’s, Obama gets 18 ‘false’ claims and 0 ‘pants on fire’ claims, while McCain gets 22 ‘false’ claims and 6 ‘pants on fire’ claims. It’s run by the St. Petersburg Times and the Congressional Quarterly.

Lie Count
I came across this one today and it offers a straight count of outright lies from each campaign. As of right now the tally is Democrats: 6 lies, Republicans: 11 lies. This one is run by two web guys with some spare time.

FactCheck.org
This one is the most thorough and has the least spin. They don’t have any counters of who’s “winning” and sometimes they’re overly careful in their fact-checking and statement splicing. The one downside is all that careful truth-finding takes time. They’re backed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. (Curiously, FactCheck was even used in a McCain ad, which they then fact-checked and called a distortion.)

Also of interest, though not for fact-checking, is Every Moment Now, which shows the level of media coverage of both candidates. Perspctv is another good visualizer of McCain/Obama coverage, though it’s much wider in scope (web searches, blog mentions, etc.). Both links via two cents.

It’s sad that we have to call out either candidate for lying or stretching the truth, but that’s the reality. Boo politics.

Here’s Where I Stand: Let’s Disagree Well

This has been an interesting couple weeks of politics, getting sick of politics and not listening to myself about politics. I’ve been twittering and spouting off about politics because it riles me up. Because I disagree. Because I hear things that strike me as wrong and I want to respond. And what I failed to realize is that so often we just disagree (like I said before and then ignored) and pouncing on each other doesn’t help. I’m sorry.

I think politics would be a lot more friendly if we could cut out the rhetoric and just focus on an issue. If we could see where and how we disagree and just be fine with disagreeing. It’s easier to find a path forward if you understand where the other person is coming from. Too often in politics (myself definitely included), we don’t take the time to do that. Instead we jump to the conclusion that you must be stupid. That’s probably why I don’t usually talk much about politics (I tend to disagree with the standard Christian/Republican stance) and why in the past two weeks of talking more about politics I’ve annoyed some people and riled up others. Not that frustrating or riling is bad, but I’m not sure what I’m accomplishing.

Take the Test
So let’s accomplish something. My sister-in-law took one of those online quizzes that tell you where you’re at politically. These things are always goofy because on some questions I hem and haw and then wonder if I had answered differently if it would have changed the outcome (I checked, it didn’t change much). But at any rate, I think it can be helpful to see where we stand.

So give it a try. It’s about 40 questions and takes less than five minutes.
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Politics is Like Trying to Cure Cancer with Ointment

The last 24 hours have probably been some of the most historic 24 hours of politics in a long time. Barack Obama officially accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party with a stirring speech last night in Denver, making him the first African American presidential nominee in U.S. history. And today John McCain announced that Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin would be his running mate, making Palin only the second female vice presidential nominee from a major party in history. No matter who wins in November, history will be made.

I find myself caught up in the excitement—and rightly so; it is historic and ground-breaking and that has personal implications for me—but I’ve been reminded by several people that politics is not everything. As one friend said, “I freaking hate politics. It’s all trying to cure cancer with ointment.”

Even as politics enters uncharted, historic territory and is worth being excited about, I think it’s worth remembering that there are more important things.
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Vice Presidential Frenzy

I’ve been getting kind of weary of the vice presidential speculation and frenzy. How many times can we talk about how Barack Obama is going to text message his choice and you can be the first to know? I heard three of four times that Obama could make his announcement as early as Wednesday morning. Everyone’s a buzz. It’s as if the political junkies have nothing else to talk about and refuse to move on until both candidates name a VP.

So yesterday I had enough and decided I’d pretend to be the first to know and start spreading fake vice president announcements on Twitter. I did Obama VP picks yesterday and McCain picks today. And let me tell you, I had way too much fun.

Fake Barack Obama VP Picks:

I know people say Obama needs to beef up his foreign experience & military credentials, but picking Cobra Commander as a VP?!

I can’t believe Obama picked Clinton—Bill Clinton—as VP! First black presidential candidate picks first black president as VP.

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McCain vs. Obama: Getting Answers on the Adoption Tax Credit

About a week ago I was talking to a friend about the adoption tax credit that offers a $10,000 credit when you adopt. This friend claimed the credit was George W. Bush’s idea and lamented that if Barack Obama gets elected the credit will vanish. So I decided to sort out some facts. Which is harder than I thought.

To start with the basics, the adoption tax credit started in 1997 as a $5,000 credit and was raised to $10,000 in 2001 as a part of Bush’s tax cuts. Bush didn’t start the tax credit, though he did raise it. It’s also not clear if this is something Bush pushed for or if it was just part of the package. It’s also slated to expire in 2010 if it’s not renewed.

And this is where it gets tricky. Where do the current presidential candidates stand on renewing the adoption tax credit?
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