The more I think back to that campaign, the more staggering some of the similarities appear (minus the semi-viable, wing-nut, third-party candidate, of course). A critical difference, however, was that the Republican candidate who was running back then was actually a pretty competent steward of the economy. Though America was in the depths of a recession in the early 1990's, the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 that George H.W. Bush signed into law is widely credited with staving off a much a longer and deeper financial crisis, and it set in place important regulations that allowed for the economic expansion of the Clinton years. The regulation came at a steep price, of course, in the form of new taxes, taxes which would ultimately cost Bush re-election after his famous "read my lips" pledge in 1988.
The differences between father and son are quite striking, and they should be pretty obvious to everyone. When it comes to competent management of the economy, the choice in this election should be abundantly clear - McCain wants to continue the bumbling, ideologically-driven, irresponsible policies of George W. Bush, and he would rather rely on poisonous populist rhetoric than put forward any concrete proposals. If you doubted the sheer depths of McCain's economic ignorance, read this quote from his interview on CNN's Larry King Live last night:
KING: You don't believe Barack Obama is a socialist, do you?
MCCAIN: No. But, I do believe -- I do believe that he's been in the far left of American politics. He has stated time after time that he believes in "spreading the wealth around." He's talked about courts that would redistribute the wealth.
KING: Concerning spreading the wealth, isn't the graduated income tax spreading the wealth? If you and I paid more so that Jimmy can get some for him, or pay for a welfare recipient, that's spreading the wealth.
MCCAIN: Well, that's spreading the wealth in the respect that we do have a graduated income tax. That's a far cry from taking from one group of Americans and giving to another. I mean, that's dramatically different.
Sen. Obama clearly has talked about for years, redistributive policies. And that's not the way we create wealth in America. That's not the way we grow our economy. That's not the way we create jobs.
Imagine that - a sensible question from Larry King. John McCain said outright that he does not really believe that Barack Obama is a socialist, but he is going to continue with this yarn regardless. The fact of the matter is that John McCain seems to reject the very notion of the graduated income tax, which is a position far more radical than returning to the tax rates of Clinton, H.W. Bush, and Reagan, as Obama proposes. There will always be some people who pay more into the system than they get out in the form of services from the government, and everybody accepts that. People's wealth is not entirely derived from the sweat of their brow; everybody reaps some benefits from society in the form of opportunities or collective services or common infrastructure, and we all agree that the people that take more out of the common stock should probably put a bit more in. Similarly, the people who have not benefited so much should probably pay a bit less. This is not socialism - it is called tax brackets, and no sensible person thinks that it is subversive or radical.
Instead, McCain implies that to be poor is to be lazy. He does not actually believe that we should eliminate the income tax, but he is using this rhetoric to appeal to the extreme right wing, people that subscribe to an ideology founded on irrational defense of the free market and perverse interpretation of individual freedom - I am referring to people who support ideas like libertarianism and the flat tax. These are radical ideas, and they should be rejected as readily as revolutionary communism.
So, John McCain is not a sensible person, and he should shut his damn mouth about socialism before he whips this country into another Red Scare. Hopefully the latest poll numbers indicate that his attacks are ringing more hollow by the day.
[Transcript of interview]