PHILADELPHIA -- "John McCain promised a decent and honest campaign," said Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell at a press conference in Philadelphia this morning, "but his campaign has been anything but honest; it is desperate and dishonorable."
Rendell called the press conference, held at the Obama campaign headquarters in Center City Philadelphia, to challenge lies being spread by Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin in rallies across the Commonwealth.
With Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter standing next to him, Rendell challenged three issues specifically: the Republicans' claim that Obama will raise taxes on the middle class, the accusation that Obama is a socialist, and misinformation about Obama's health care policy. While the polls continue to give Obama a lead, most recently a nine-point lead, McCain and Palin are waging an all out assault on Pennsylvania, small towns in particular, in an attempt to stage a last minute upset.
"Senator McCain and Governor Palin have been practically living in Pennsylvania," Rendell said, "They should start paying taxes."
For the past few days, Rendell has been on a bus tour across the state on Obama's behalf, correcting misconceptions about the Democratic presidential nominee along the way. "It's important to set the record straight," Rendell told the spacious, but packed room of volunteers, staff and media. He explained that he'd sent a letter to McCain requesting that McCain stop lying about Barack Obama, but that the letter had gone unanswered. Rendell didn't pull any punches in confronting the McCain campaign's mendacity, "They are trying to scare the people of Pennsylvania," the governor said, "Because they have nothing else."
He began by debunking the GOP claim that Obama's will raise taxes. "It is not true that Obama will raise taxes for middle class Americans," he said. Rendell went on to explain that according to a nonpartisan think tank [The Tax Policy Center], Barack Obama and Joe Biden will cut taxes for middle class families at least three times as much as McCain would. He emphasized that Obama will, in fact, cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families and that no family making under $250,000 will see their taxes increase. Rather, they will receive a $1,000 tax cut. Under Obama's plan, senior citizens earning under $50,000, including 430,000 Pennsylvanians, will not pay taxes; and the average family will pay tax rates that are 20 percent lower than they were when Reagan was President.
In contrast, Rendell said, "Under McCain's plan, 101 million Americans--including 4.7 million Pennsylvania households and 97 percent of Pennsylvania's seniors--will receive no tax relief."
Rendell talked about Exxon-Mobil's record profits, reported yesterday, "the largest profits of any corporation in the history of the world," and how McCain wants to give Exxon-Mobil a 1.2 billion tax cut at the expense of working, middle class families.
The audience robustly applauded the governor several times during his remarks. Addressing the cost of higher education, Rendell reminded Pennsylvanians that Obama will provide a refundable tuition tax cut for families with children in college, which will allow all middle class families to send their kids to college. For families with small children, Obama will extend the child care credit to $6,000.
Rendell tackled head-on McCain and Palin's bizarre accusation that Obama is a socialist. The governor, offering a brief history lesson, explained that the graduated income tax in which those who are in the highest income bracket pay more has been in effect for one hundred years--and started under a Republican, President Teddy Roosevelt, whom McCain has referred to as his hero. The governor explained that the earned income tax credit, which offers relief to poor families so that they can continue working, started under another Republican, Ronald Reagan who was hardly a socialist.
Further, Rendell pointed out that as governor, Sarah Palin in her own words has "spread the wealth" in Alaska to reduce taxes for Alaska residents. The governor pointed out, also, that in 2000, McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts saying it was okay for people of wealth to pay a bit more in taxes; but that ironically since he's become a presidential candidate, McCain has fully embraced the very tax policies he once denounced.
In a strong, resonant voice, Rendell said, "Obama wants to give tax cuts to the people who need them most. Remember, Republicans called FDR a socialist, too." Indeed, Franklin Roosevelt's administration gave the nation social security and unemployment benefits, programs we take for granted today. Yet, when he proposed those programs, which offered much needed relief to millions of Americans during the Great Depression, Roosevelt too was accused of being a socialist.
To illustrate how ridiculous McCain and Palin's claims are, Rendell reiterated that under Obama's health care plan, "You can keep the health care you have" if you're satisfied with it, at a lower cost. "This," he said, "is not socialism."
Mayor Nutter spoke after Governor Rendell and directly addressed the falsehoods the GOP ticket has been spreading, as well, "Senator McCain and Governor Palin have been lying," he said, "but Philadelphians, Pennsylvanians, Americans--are not stupid. The lies will not work, not this time." Nutter said that the Republican candidates are in a place that is long gone, using tactics that no longer work.
"As they try to scare people," he said, "They are becoming scary themselves."
Feeding on the energy and excitement across Philadelphia from the Phillies' World Series victory, Nutter said, "Senator Obama is trying to move the country forward in a new direction. This is our World Series; this is about us and our interests." He encouraged everyone to defeat the lies being spread by the Republican ticket by working hard over the final eighty-one hours of the campaign. "We're going to elect Barack Obama President and Joe Biden Vice President and there's nothing John McCain and Sarah Palin can do about it," Nutter said to hearty cheers and applause.