Debates are not about presenting your ticket's proposals for health care or education or foreign affairs. They are good for only two things. First the candidates are looking for one-liners, talking points that can be replayed over and over and over again. They'd prefer they be GOOD one-liners FROM them. But they will accept a BAD one-liner from the opponent.
Second, debates are designed to make the candidate LOOK good to a LARGE audience. That's why Kennedy won in '60. He looked VERY good on TV and many Americans fell in love with him. Reagan didn't get elected because he knew more than anyone else about economics and foreign affairs. He got elected because he had great advisors and knew how to memorize and deliver a line. Clinton got elected for the same reason.
During the past eight years we forgot that because we had no memorable democratic candidate. Gore and Kerry were only good for one thing, being the target of jokes. Now, the Dems have a very appealing candidate. Someone who looks good on TV and knows how to deliver a line well. McCain looks stiff and stoic and has no idea how to deliver a line. That's why Obama benefitted from the last presidential debate. And that's why Palin won this debate hands down. She is MUCH more appealing on TV than ANY of the candidates...and she certainly knows how to deliver a line. She came away from tonight with the one-liners and clearly showed herself as an appealing figure to her followers. Whether that will translate into more votes for McCain is yet to be determined.
Typically, Vice Presidential candidates don't win or lose too many votes nationally. But the reason McCain chose Palin was to help him win Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, the conservative part of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Nevada and possibly Minnesota. I will be watching to see if there are any movements in those states over the next few days.
In the meantime, McCain needs to gear up for his next debate. By then the house should have passed the bailout bill and this economic crisis should be on track to recovery. If that shows up in an easing of credit and market gains between now and Tuesday, he needs to pounce on his DIRECT involvement in helping to solve the problem. He needs to also make sure that Americans know that a simple bill does not finish the matter but that it requires a president who is willing to roll up his sleeves longterm to make sure the bill does what it is supposed to do.
He also needs to hit Obama hard on how he plans on finding money for the spending he STILL insists on adding to the budgetary woes.
One thing I have proposed in a prior post that I wish McCain would adapt and adopt is my idea for fixing the problem with Social Security. Here it is again in bullet point form.
1. Raise the cap on FICA for employees ONLY. Do not burden business owners with a raise of the cap for the employer's portion of the tax. For self employed, raise ONLY the cap for one half of their FICA payments (the part that would ordinarily be the employee's portion of the tax). Frankly, I don't care whether the cap is $250K or no cap at all. Most high income earners have a vested interest (through stock or direct ownership) in a business. And since I am not proposing raising the cap for the employer portion, who are they to complain?
2. Eliminate FICA on the first $25k of wages for people making less than $50k annually (indexed for CPI). This would assist the low income people to keep more of their money. But let's not cause this to reduce their ultimate benefits. They still get credits as though they were making their normal payments.
3. Require that 1/2 of the savings for low income people be invested by them into their company's 401K or into a private retirement account. This money would be invested at their discretion. This would give them better retirement income when added to normal Social Security benefits. It would add investment capital into the markets. And would provide long term tax revenues when they ultimately withdraw and spend that money...years later.
4. The other half of their savings is theirs to use as they please. This immediately aids them in living a better life now and infuses money into the economy now.
This plan provides things for both Democrats and Republicans to love and hate. The raise in the cap puts a smile on the faces of Democrats but will anger the Republicans. But so long as there is still a cap and so long as the cap is not imposed upon the business owners also, the Republicans will accept it. The tax relief for the poor will make the Democrats happy, even if it is not enough relief. But the Republicans will get, in a watered down version, their desire for a self-directing retirement program. Even though the Republicans would rather have that for all contributors, that's not what this is for.
I am not proposing altering how Social Security benefits are invested. I am proposing a supplement to Social Security for low income people. And although Democrats will not like the requirement to have half the tax savings for the poor invested in retirement accounts, they will be happy that it will NOT reduce or replace Social Security for these people one iota.
And frankly, Democrats will have a difficult time explaining away the increased savings rates for low income Americans, the increased income for them and the rise in tax revenues from the money spent by low income people. Republicans will have a difficult time accepting the rise in the cap, but the only other alternatives are to keep things the way they are or eliminate the cap altogether (something that may ultimately be more fair). And honestly, how can they complain about it when the increased cap will not burden down business owners and corporations. In addition, to some degree, the Republicans get their hope, to a limited degree, for a self directed retirement alternative to Social Security. Even if it doesn't replace or reduce Social Security one iota.