Wednesday, April 16, 2008

McCain Searches for Unstupid Economic Message

"[McCain] seems to have decided that it would be folly to run as the candidate of belt-tightening and balanced budgets in a year when economic insecurity is uppermost in voters' minds. Thus the grab-bag approach on display in this speech. . . leaving McCain without a signal theme. . ."

--Ross Douthat, The Atlantic

John McCain did what he had to do yesterday—attempt to articulate an approach to our economic difficulties that would compare favorably to prescriptions Democrats are offering. But as with The Atlantic’s Douthat, the Wall Street Journal felt McCain’s “pudding still has no theme.”

Here’s what the Journal liked:

 McCain spoke out strongly for tax reform and endorsed the specific idea of an optional flat tax. By making it optional, he deflects Democratic claims he'll rob Americans of their tax deductions.

 McCain repeated his proposal to cut the corporate tax rate to 25% from its current 35%. This is a competitive necessity, as the U.S. now has the second highest developed world corporate tax rate after Japan.

 McCain took a hard line on spending, promising to veto any bill with earmarks, and pledging a "one-year pause in discretionary spending increases," except for defense and veterans.

The Journal, however, didn’t like McCain's call for Washington to suspend the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gasoline tax during the Summer to help people hit by high oil prices. Lowering gas prices will likely increase demand, thereby driving prices up and diminishing the original discount.

McCain also took direct aim at overpaid business executives. If voters trace our problems to rich oil barons and Wall Street CEOs, they'll elect Obama. As the Journal concluded, “McCain tried to show voters he feels their pain. What they need and want to hear is . . .that he [will] fight for [their] prosperity.”

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