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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Senator McCain Has a Serious "Knowledge Gap": It's an Issue | AlterNet

Senator John McCain's latest gaffe on Social Security is somewhat breathtaking, and ought to be a campaign issue. It indicates that he is not any better informed on major domestic policy issues than he is on foreign policy (which is supposedly his "strength").

Readers whose memory extends beyond the 48-hour news cycle may recall that on March 18, at a press conference in Amman, Jordan, McCain stated that "al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate."

Senator Joe Lieberman, who was standing next to him, whispered in his ear, causing McCain to immediately issue a correction. The McCain campaign stated that it was just a slip of the tongue, and the Sunday talk shows gave the candidate a pass. But McCain had said the same thing twice before during the same week. It was no slip of the tongue.

How serious of a confusion was this? As is "well-known," the Iranian government is run by Shiites, and Al-Qaeda is Sunni - in fact the Al-Qaeda types tend not to even recognize the Shiites as believers. So this repeated false statement indicates that McCain is missing some very basic knowledge of the region.

Now back to the home front. John McCain said on Monday: "Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed."

But this is how Social Security has always been funded, and was set up to do exactly that. The Social Security payroll tax comes out of our paychecks, and pays for people who are retired. When we who are presently working retire, we will get Social Security from the taxes of people who are working. It's not clear where the disgrace is. The system has worked well for the past 70 years, helping to reduce the poverty rate among the elderly from 35.2 percent in 1959 to 9.4 percent in 2006. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, it will continue paying all promised benefits for the next 38 years without any changes. Only minor changes -less than those implemented in each one of the decades of the 1950s, 60s, 70s, or 80s - will be necessary over the next 75 years to keep it paying all promised benefits indefinitely.

Then there is energy policy, where McCain claims that offshore drilling in environmentally sensitive areas will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower gasoline prices. But according to the Energy Information Agency, McCain's proposed drilling would produce too little oil (less then two tenths of one percent of world oil supply) to have a significant effect on oil prices (PDF). Not to mention that it would be ten years before we would see any oil at all.

Of course the Obama campaign would want to be careful and polite about criticizing Mc
Senator McCain Has a Serious "Knowledge Gap": It's an Issue | AlterNet

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