Political fracas: Debaters debate, plus your turn to speak up on health care
The Kansas City Star
Round I to McCaskill
Claire McCaskill bloodied Todd Akin’s nose during their first debate Friday, although there was no knockout.
The U.S. senator’s talking points were more effective than Akin’s. McCaskill, a Democrat, offered specific examples of her Republican challenger’s extreme views to eliminate federally subsidized lunches and to privatize parts of Medicare.
Akin fell back often on his “Washington is bad” mantra. He railed against profligate spending yet offered few concrete ways to reduce it.
Still, neither candidate slipped badly.
Officially, Akin has until Tuesday to get out of the Senate race, as leading Republicans around Missouri and the nation have urged. But he likely won’t. Color McCaskill’s supporters happy with that possibility; they expect the senator to pummel Akin with an ad blitz after the deadline.
Pollyanna, meet Grumpy
Gov. Jay Nixon is well known for skipping around Missouri, presenting a bright face about the state and its future. He stuck with that theme Friday in his first debate against GOP challenger Dave Spence.
Missouri is headed in the right direction, Nixon said, adding, “We need to keep moving that way.”
But Spence, a businessman, didn’t see smooth sailing at all. In fact, he portrayed Missouri as the Titanic, headed for the iceberg, with Capt. Nixon at the helm.
It should be noted that neither candidate offered much in the way of a proposal for economic development or anything else.
With a lack of actual issues to discuss, suspense in the governor’s race hinges on whether Nixon will actually look at his opponent between now and November. He studiously avoided doing so in the debate.
Romney’s taxing ignorance
Mitt Romney has been vilified for his statements that imply Americans who don’t pay income taxes are irresponsible moochers living off other taxpayers.
As even other Republicans have pointed out, millions of retirees, low-income households, students and others pay no federal income taxes for legitimate reasons, as laid out in the U.S. tax code. Still, some hardliners continue to contend that all Americans need to have “skin in the game” and pay income taxes.
This is a highly misleading argument. In reality, most Americans every year pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, state and local income taxes, sales taxes, real estate taxes and others.
Citizens for Tax Justice notes that even the lowest-earning fifth of U.S. taxpayers still had a total tax rate of 17.4 percent in 2011. The rates rose along with incomes from there. Middle-income taxpayers had total rates ranging from 25.2 percent to 28.3 percent. And the highest earning fifth had a total rate of 30 percent.
Americans pay plenty in taxes, even if their federal income tax liability is zero for any given year.
Speak out on health care
Health care looms large as an election issue in the political fracas this fall.
Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, or at least radically redo it.
If Obama and congressional Democrats prevail, it’s full speed ahead with the Affordable Care Act. That means, among other things, a phase-in of statewide insurance exchanges, more protections for patients and consumers, and eventually tax penalties for some Americans who opt not to purchase health insurance policies.
What do you think is the best course?
Repeal Obamacare and let market forces prevail.
Move forward with the Affordable Care Act.
Repeal the law but keep some of what it does.
Go to Midwest Debate at kansascity.com/opinion/ to record your choice and tell us why in the comments section.