John McCain recently acknowledged, “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.” That’s a perfectly accurate
April 24, 2008

John McCain recently acknowledged, “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.” That’s a perfectly accurate self-assessment, but McCain would almost certainly be better off if he didn’t spend so much time highlighting his lack of knowledge on the subject.

For example, yesterday, the Republican presidential candidate had the gall to talk up his concerns about poverty.

Republican John McCain, saying the nation is in a recession and “families are hurting,” retraced Lyndon Johnson’s steps in eastern Kentucky and pledged to mount a war on poverty different from that waged by the former Democratic president.

“I have no doubt President Johnson was serious and had the very best of intentions” in 1964, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said at a town-hall event in Inez today as he continues his week-long courtship of voters in America’s economically hard-pressed areas.

“Government has a role to play in helping people who, through no fault of their own, are having a hard time,” McCain, an Arizona senator, said. He defined that role as offering choices on education, health care and job training, rather than providing handouts.

McCain has a lot of nerve showing up in one of the poorest, most impoverished communities in Appalachia, railing against government handouts, while simultaneously touting one of the most regressive economic agendas imaginable.

Consider this WSJ item that ran earlier this week.

Sen. John McCain is proposing tax cuts that would either cause the federal deficit to explode or would require unprecedented spending cuts equal to one-third of federal spending on domestic programs.

Once thought of as a deficit hawk, the near-certain Republican presidential nominee is now putting more stress on the traditional Republican orthodoxy of tax cuts. Altogether, he proposes more than $650 billion in tax cuts a year, much of it benefiting corporations and upper-income families. That includes the cost of extending tax cuts implemented under President Bush that he voted against twice.

To help pay for it all, the Arizona senator says he would cut $160 billion a year from a federal discretionary budget that totals a little more than $1 trillion. He hasn’t specified where the cuts would come from.

So, on the one hand, McCain wants to cut taxes dramatically to benefit “corporations and upper-income families,” and on the other, McCain wants to cut federal spending. Since spending cuts for the military and national security are off the table — indeed, he’s vowed to increase spending on both — it would necessarily mean McCain would make billions of dollars in cuts in spending that would benefit those who aren’t in “upper-income families.”

But if you’re in Appalachia and living in poverty, forget about a “handout.” In a McCain administration, they’re reserved for the same wealthy interests that have benefited throughout the Bush years.

What’s more, in about five months, Republicans will tell these same people in impoverished areas that they shouldn’t even consider voting for Barack Obama (or Hillary Clinton) because what really matters are flag pins. It’s like an arsonist telling a family whose home is on fire not to trust the man outside in the firetruck.

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