Periscope Depth

less than zero, less than zero

I have tried to hold off on political posts of late until I have recent news stories that make both presumptive nominees look dumb.

Starting with the Ruling Party: MarketWatch asks what qualifications a green Navy pilot and mediocre senator has to be President.

His campaign finance law failed to significantly reduce the role of money in politics. He failed to get a big tobacco bill through the Senate. He’s failed to change the way Congress spends money; his bill to give the president a line-item veto was declared unconstitutional, and the system of pork and earmarks continues unabated. He failed to reform the immigration system.

Every senator who runs for president misses votes back in Washington, so it’s no surprise that McCain and all the others who ran in the primaries have missed a lot of votes in the past year. But between the beginning of 2005 and mid-2007, no senator missed more roll-call votes than McCain did, except Tim Johnson, who was recovering from a near-fatal brain aneurysm.

McCain says he doesn’t understand the economy. He’s demonstrated that he doesn’t understand the workings of Social Security, or the political history of the Middle East. He doesn’t know who our enemies are. He says he wants to reduce global warming, but then proposes ideas that would stimulate — not reduce — demand for fossil fuels.

Seriously – what successes does McCain have to his name? Other than McCain-Feingold, whose limits on campaign finance he has now successfully evaded.

Backstroking to the Opposition Party’s side of the pool, I found this frankly baffling story in the news yesterday: Barack Obama wants to end income taxes on seniors who make less than $50,000.

The Obama campaign says the idea would give tax cuts averaging about $1,400 to 7 million seniors who are battling inflation with mostly fixed incomes. The campaign also says the plan would relieve millions of older people from having to file complicated tax returns.

[...]

Some of Obama’s allies in Washington think he’s onto a bad idea.

“Most low- and moderate-income seniors already owe no income tax. Among seniors with incomes below $50,000 who do owe income tax, a significant number have modest incomes because they are retired but possess substantial assets,” said Robert Greenstein, who heads the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. “Given all the problems and needs the nation faces, targeting relief to this group isn’t a priority.”

The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, gave the idea bad grades in a recent study of the two presidential candidates’ tax plans.

Seniors already get preferential treatment in the tax code. They can claim an additional standard deduction and only a portion of their Social Security benefits are taxed. Many don’t pay payroll taxes because their income is from investments rather than wages.

Most of the bad economics that I waste my time railing against, you could call Good Ideas Executed Poorly. Take the minimum wage, for instance. Raising the minimum wage does not help the people it purports to help. But at least it comes from a halfway reasonable premise. You want to help poor people, you raise the amount they get paid. It is, at least, goal-oriented thinking.

But cutting taxes on seniors to zero? What could that be other than pure pandering for the elderly vote?

The median net worth for a U.S. citizen over 65 is $174,400. That’s almost four times the median net worth of any 35-year-olds reading this, and eighty-two times the median net worth of most of you (25-34 age bracket). Seniors collect more benefits from the combined trough of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security than any other demographic. Seniors are one of the few classes in the U.S. who get more in state and federal money than they pay in.

It is not possible to sincerely believe that a 66-year-old woman making $48,000 a year needs further government bailouts and have that belief be informed by reality. No real data supports that. If that is your opinion, your opinion is wrong*.

Holy hell – bailing out seniors who earn per capita GDP? Who comes up with that?

I’m in my cave if you need me.

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* Show of hands – how many of you live on one of America’s coasts and make less than $48,000 a year? Do you pay for your own prescriptions? Is that $48,000 a salary or the result of investments? Congratulations – you’re proof that seniors are fine.

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