On Wall Street, the masters of the universe have turned to prayer and worry beads. At the Federal Reserve, a full night's sleep is a fading memory. Across Main Street, the recession is starting to hit, stores are shutting down, bankruptcies are spreading, houses are being foreclosed or abandoned. The pain of the recession is just beginning to hit.
But John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in waiting, owner of 10 homes and, by marriage, one of the wealthiest men in the Senate, simply doesn't get it. Today, he delivered what the campaign billed as a major address on the economy. And while McCain says he understands people are hurting, he hasn't allowed this to clutter his thinking.
States across the country are starting to slash spending on Medicaid and schools, as declining tax revenues force harsh budget cuts which in turn will add to the recession. But John McCain offers not one word about emergency aid to states and cities, dollar for dollar the most efficient counter to recessionary pressures.
Over 250,000 workers have lost their jobs in recent months and face dim prospects, and an unemployment system with more holes than net. Not one word from John McCain about extending unemployment benefits or covering those left in the cold.
Over 2 million manufacturing jobs have been lost over the last seven years; wages aren't keeping up with the costs of basics. America is selling off assets or borrowing from abroad at the rate of $2 billion a day to cover unsustainable trade deficits. John McCain shovels up only the same corporate trade policies that dug us into this hole.
A shadow banking system, stoned on risk and complexity, threatens to bring down the whole shebang. Already the Federal Reserve has thrown up about half a trillion dollars in guarantees to stave off the furies. McCain offers nothing about how to bring this system under accountability and control.
What is McCain concerned about?
First, foremost and repeatedly, he is outraged by earmarked spending by the Congress which he vows to veto if president. This is cute, but a joke. Earmarks total less than $15 billion a year in a $2.7 trillion budget. Erasing them all will make utterly no difference in our economic posture.
Second, the Senator believes that the US spends too little on its military and too much on domestic programs such as education, the environment, and public health. He believes George Bush hasn't lowered the taxes of corporations and the wealthy enough.
The reality is that we already spend more than the rest of the world on our military which is the largest source of waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government. Domestic investment has been starved by conservative presidents and congresses over the last thirty years. Corporate loopholes riddle the tax code. Billionaire hedge fund operators already pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. Inequality has reached levels not seen since just before the Great Depression. Yet McCain's proposed tax cuts would increase our national debt to lavish billions on oil and pharmaceutical companies already enjoying record profits.
While offering up another round of tax cuts for the wealthy, he does say that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and their ilk can pay for their own prescription drugs. He then goes on to define as rich anyone making $80,000 a year or more, all of whom will be on their own.
Otherwise, Senator McCain, like George Bush, recycles the old platitudes of the market fundamentalists -- about lower taxes, free trade, smaller government, less spending. Forget the global debt, the $12 billion a month squandered in Iraq, the financial crisis, the deepening recession. For Senator John McCain, Bush's only mistake has been that he hasn't been extreme enough. The Senator should do well with all of those Americans who are yearning for even more of the same.