While Americans focus on the interminable Clinton-Obama celebrity death match, Senator John McCain is using clear-headed, compellingly crafted speeches to propose surprisingly bold free-market ideas. With one huge exception, the Arizona Republican advocates more limited, open government as his Democratic rivals promise tax hikes and an even busier state. Voters should welcome this stark contrast.
On spending, McCain would rule with a tight fist.
“In my administration, there will be no more subsidies for special pleaders — no more corporate welfare — no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people’s money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas,” McCain said April 15 in Pittsburgh. “I will veto every bill with earmarks, until the Congress stops sending bills with earmarks,” McCain continued. “I will seek a constitutionally valid line-item veto to end the practice once and for all.” More impressively, McCain said, “We will institute a one-year pause in discretionary spending increases with the necessary exemption of military spending and veterans’ benefits.”
Such prudence would be a welcome relief from the Bush/GOP Congress years that did for fiscal responsibility what the Playboy Mansion has done for sexual restraint.
John McCain displayed far more courage than the average GOP presidential contender when he flew to Iowa to tell its farmers what they can do with their ears of corn.
“I have to give you a little straight talk about the farm bill that is wending its way through Congress,” McCain declared in Des Moines on May 1, before lawmakers approved a $307 billion agricultural bailout bill. “I do not support it. I would veto it.” He added: “I would do that because I believe that the subsidies are unnecessary.”
As he told the National Restaurant Association in Chicago on May 19, “If I am elected president, I will seek an end to all agricultural tariffs, and to all farm subsidies that are not based on clear need. I will veto any bill containing special-interest favors and corporate welfare in any form,” He explained: “The original idea was to provide a buffer to small farmers in tough times and to assure a stable supply of food for our country. But nowadays, the small farmers have been forgotten, and instead the Congress sends a steady supply of subsidies to agribusiness.”
The GOP desperately needs a leader who can stand up to America’s rural welfare queens. If he can “just say no” to them, perhaps other privilege-seekers will notice and draw their snouts from the public trough. Had President Bush not given away money as if it grew like grain, it might have been easier to kill or at least lasso this year’s farm fiasco. Instead, with a few brave exceptions, Republicans gleefully lined up to help Democrats fatten farmers, as if they were hogs bound for the abattoir.
McCain’s fiscal discipline would make it easier to reduce taxes. He wants to make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent. He would slice corporate taxes from 35 to 25 percent. “We have the second-highest tax on business in the industrialized world,” McCain said. “High tax rates are driving many businesses and jobs overseas — and, of course, our foreign competitors wouldn’t mind if we kept it that way.”
McCain also would scrap the Alternative Minimum Tax, double the dependents’ exemption from $3,500 to $7,000, “and sign into law a reform agenda to permit the first-year expensing of new equipment and technology . . . to ban Internet taxes, permanently . . . to ban new cell phone taxes… and to make the tax credit for R&D permanent, so that we never lose our competitive edge.”
Most significantly, McCain would let Americans choose to file taxes under today’s rules or volunteer for a simpler, flatter rate of perhaps 25 or 15 percent.
Rather than yesterday’s unemployment-insurance system, McCain explained in Pittsburgh that he favors “using the unemployment-insurance taxes to build for each worker a buffer account against a sudden loss of income — so that in times of need they’re not just told to fill out forms and take a number.” He would let community colleges tap into existing federal training programs to help displaced workers develop new skills.