John McCain, Policy Genius

| Mon Oct. 6, 2008 10:02 AM PDT

JOHN McCAIN, POLICY GENIUS....Jon Cohn runs down the McCain campaign's meanderings on healthcare policy today. It goes something like this:

  1. We're going to eliminate the tax deduction of healthcare insurance and replace it with a $5,000 tax credit for families.

  2. Oops, that means a lot of families will end up paying more in taxes. Can't have that. So what we're really going to do is eliminate the income tax deduction, but not the payroll tax deduction. All better now.

  3. Oops again. The new plan saves middle class families from a tax increase, but by doing so it blows a huge hole in the budget. $1.3 trillion over ten years, to be exact.

  4. What do do? Cut Medicare! Hooray!

The McCain campaign, of course, says it's not really "cutting" Medicare. It's going to save $1.3 trillion by "eliminating fraud" and "reforming payment policies" in addition to a bit of other handwaving. You betcha.

I think the lesson here is not so much that McCain is being especially mendacious, but that he was never serious about this plan in the first place. He's never really cared one way or the other about healthcare reform, but Obama had a plan so he needed one too, and this is what his advisors cooked up. If the sums don't work out right — well, tell the numbers guys to jiggle a few things around and then jabber about earmarks or something. And then get back to accusing Obama of palling around with terrorists. Mission accomplished!

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