Obama, Clinton spar over bitterness in PA

In last night’s Clinton-Obama debate in Philadelphia, moderator Charlie Gibson asked Obama to clarify his remarks regarding Pennsylvanians bitterness with government and their gravitation toward guns and God. The entire transcript is here. I am reproducing the crux of the answers from Obama and Clinton. I don’t think he appreciably changed the basic meaning of his earlier comments.

Obama said:

And so the point I was making was that when people feel like Washington’s not listening to them, when they’re promised year after year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to change, and it doesn’t, then politically they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion.

They end up feeling “This is a place where I can find some refuge. This is something that I can count on.” They end up being much more concerned about votes around things like guns, where traditions have been passed on from generation to generation. And those are incredibly important to them.

And yes, what is also true is that wedge issues, hot-button issues, end up taking prominence in our –in our politics. And part of the problem is that when those issues are exploited, we never get to solve the issues that people really have to get some relief on, whether it’s health care or education or jobs.

Is he really saying that people become single issue or ideological voters because they feel government is insensitive to their economic plight? He clearly believes there is some causal relationship – he uses the phrase, “end up” four times in this short narrative to cast interest in religion, guns, social issues as the result of frustration with government. I think this seriously misunderstands those on the other end of the spectrum from him on social issues.

I think Clinton made a pretty accurate statement in response:

I don’t believe that my grandfather or my father, or the many people whom I have had the privilege of knowing and meeting across Pennsylvania over many years, cling to religion when Washington is not listening to them. I think that is a fundamental, sort of, misunderstanding of the role of religion and faith in times that are good and times that are bad.

And I similarly don’t think that people cling to their traditions, like hunting and guns, either when they are frustrated with the government. I just don’t believe that’s how people live their lives.

At any rate, perhaps the most troubling thing I heard in the debate was the promise of both Democratic candidates to bring the troops home from Iraq, no matter what military leaders advised. Even if they advise the country will destabilize and our interests will be harmed, they said they would bring the troops home. They also promised no new taxes on people making 250k or less. Shades of George Bush I…

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  • Eddy

    Warren,

    In the first blocked quote, the first line of the 2nd paragraph…should that be ‘refuge’ not ‘refugee’? :-)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/ Warren

    That is what I heard him say. I took this directly from CFR.ORG website so I guess the transcriber was editorializing a bit :)

  • jayhuck

    Warren,

    In all fairness, the candidates gave some good reasons for pulling out of Iraq and Obama even said he would always listen to what the military advisers have to say.

    How long do we need to stay in Iraq? Until the country is stabilized? What if that never happens and what would we consider stabilized? Is our presence there making things worse or better at this point?

    George Bush’s stay-the-course rhetoric seems to be wearing thin for many Americans and the above questions are ones we need to be asking – not simply assuming that we have to maintain such a huge presence in that country to achieve our interests.

  • Me

    I disagree with you. Obama’s words were completely taken out of context. I am a Christian woman who grew up in a lower SES household, now have a PhD in Psychology, and have a strong sense of faith. I also happen to agree with Obama’s comments. When things are tough for me, I cling to my faith to get me through. As a psychologist and as someone who grew up in a lower SES neighborhood myself, I also agree with Obama that people get frustrated and blame those who are not like them for their problems when they can’t make ends meet. They feel threatened by those who are different from them. That is why the KKK was developed. So those of us who are comfortable facing reality and able to think critically about issues without just looking for a reason to dislike Obama had no problem with what he said. To the rest of you, please don’t hide behind God or your faith as a way to continue to perpetuate hatred. Grow up!!

  • Drowssap

    They also promised no new taxes on people making 250k or less. Shades of George Bush I…

    And of course they would both break that promise on day 1. Both support the repeal of the Bush tax cuts which would instantly raise taxes on everyone making over $31,000 per year.

    Obama (and possibly Clinton) support raising the capital gains tax which would directly impact at least 100,000,000 shareholders. The worst response of the debate was when Gibson told Obama that raising the capital gains tax rate would actually reduce the revenue it generated for the government. Obama wasn’t concerned because he prefered a “fairer” tax code.

    HOLY SMOKES!!!!!

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    And of course they would both break that promise on day 1.

    Holy Smokes – kind of presumptuous don’t you think?

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    Again you’ve taken Obama’s words out of context – I will reprint what he actually said concerning Capital Gains, crumbling healthcare system, our economy – and the severe debt that Bush has left us in:

    “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year — $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That’s not fair.

    And what I want is not oppressive taxation. I want businesses to thrive and I want people to be rewarded for their success. But what I also want to make sure is that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don’t have it and that we’re able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools.

    And you can’t do that for free, and you can’t take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children and our grandchildren and then say that you’re cutting taxes, which is essentially what John McCain has been talking about. And that is irresponsible.”

  • Ann

    I’m not sure if Barak Obama would be the right one to do this in public, but the next time Hillary Clinton makes it a point to bring up Barak’s past and present associations and put them in a negative light, , someone should politely point out to her who SHE chose to continue a relationship with after his transgressions which disrupted our country, stained his reputation and legacy, the presidency, their marriage, AND the blue dress.

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year — $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

    So rather than support tax cuts for secretaries and other workers Obama supports tax increases on investors EVEN if this results in less revenue to the government and slower growth for the economy. That sort of logic only makes sense on the DailyKos.

    Ann

    I wondered where you were. I figured vacation. 8-)

  • jayhuck

    How would tax cuts result in more revenue for the government Drowssap?

  • jayhuck

    There’s also no evidence that these changes would result in a slower economy – we’ve already had a number of tax cuts under George Bush and our economy is tanking.

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    What is sad is that we’ve grown to be a country that doesn’t want to have to pay for anything. We want the best in healthcare technology and pharmaceuticals, but we don’t want to pay for them. We want good schools and a solid infrastructure but we don’t want to pay for them. We sometimes aren’t able to see past our own noses (granted, I’ve been plenty guilty of this before) – but we love seeing money returned to us without thinking about where the money for those returns came from or what might be impacted in the future by the loss of this money. The words raising taxes have been the death of many politicians. So we’ve had 8 years of a president and a party whose main focus has been to lower taxes – which has given us tax cuts and where are we? SEVERELY in debt with a failing healthcare system. We have to pay for that debt Drowssap, but very few politicians want to discuss this fact. We will have to pay for those tax cuts and this war and the increasing costs of healthcare and it won’t be through continued tax CUTS.

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    What is the capital gains tax?

    The capital gains tax is a sales tax on the sale of assets. By reducing the capital gains tax burden economic activity is encouraged which results in greater revenue to the government.

    WSJ article on the Capital Gains tax and Obama.

  • jayhuck

    That wasn’t my question Drowssap – you talked about reducing taxes for secretaries – As for low capital gains taxes, we have one of the lowest tax rates now and our economy is suffering.

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    I borrowed this from Fairmark.com – it addresses the Capital Gains issue – This is from an article titled: “Capital Gain: What Obama Should have said: Misleading question, weak answer” – by Kaye Thomas

    (I apologize for the length of this article)

    “An exchange from the Democratic debate.

    In the April 16 debate between the Democratic presidential candidates, Charlie Gibson asked Barack Obama a question about capital gains tax rates that was argumentative and misleading. That may sound like a criticism of Gibson, but it’s not. Questions of this kind are appropriate as they test the candidates’ ability to respond to arguments frequently offered against their positions. In this case, Obama wasn’t well prepared (particularly considering the debate was held the day after tax day), and Hillary Clinton did no better when the ball shifted to her court.

    Gibson began by noting that Obama has indicated an intention to raise the capital gains tax rate, and reviewed recent history: the rate fell from 28% to 20% under Bill Clinton in 1997 and fell further to 15% under George W. Bush. Then he said, “And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?”

    That’s a good question, one the Democratic nominee is likely to face in the general election. It will be asked by Republicans and will appear on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers.

    After a brief hesitation, Obama began his response as follows: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year — $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That’s not fair.” He went on to talk about the need to reduce the deficit, completely ignoring the point that tax revenues went up when the tax rate went down.

    Gibson pressed the point: “But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.”

    Obama: “Well, that might happen or it might not. It depends on what’s happening on Wall Street and how business is going.” And he went on to mention the housing crisis and take a dig at what he saw as an inadequate response from John McCain.

    Obama seemed to be groping toward a different issue, the ability of hedge fund managers to structure deals so the bulk of their profit is taxed at the lower rates reserved for capital gain. These structures are legal under current law but unfair because the true nature of the income is compensation, not capital gain. The profits should be taxed at the higher rates the rest of us pay on our wages, but a Republican filibuster late last year blocked legislation that would have closed the loophole. An increase in the capital gain rate wouldn’t eliminate the problem but it would at least reduce the disparity. That’s a side issue in the debate over whether to raise the tax rate on capital gains, however.

    The question went over to Hillary Clinton, who also proposes to raise the capital gains rate, and who opined that “we’ve got to get back to an economy that works for everyone” and talked about how good the economy was in the late 1990s (i.e., when a Clinton was in the White House).

    A better response

    Obama might better have responded something like this:

    Charlie, it may be true that 100 million Americans own stock, but most stock held by middle class Americans is in IRA or 401k accounts, where the capital gains rate doesn’t apply. The tax rate matters for stock held outside these retirement accounts, and most of that stock is owned by extremely wealthy individuals. The bottom 60% of households own just 9%, while the top 10% of households own 70%. Over half of all capital gains go to households with income over $1 million. That’s roughly two-tenths of one percent of the population getting more than half the benefit of the cut in the tax rate.

    Tax revenue went up after these cuts partly because people anticipated them. Advisors told their clients to hold off selling anything for a gain until after the tax cut passed. Then we had a lot of people making these sales and the result was a boost in revenue, but that’s a temporary effect.

    Some say these cuts helped spur the economy. What they overlook is their role in spurring the stock bubble toward the end of the 1990s and the housing bubble in more recent years. These bubbles harmed the economy, and the harm was felt by many people who saw little or no benefit from the cuts in capital gain rates.

    A response along those lines would have better answered the argument implicit in Gibson’s question.

    Two sides to the story

    Those in favor of a low capital gains tax rate have reasonable arguments at their disposal. The long-term effect on the economy may be favorable enough to provide widespread benefit. To the extent it lifts stock values, a lower rate provides a benefit even for people who hold shares in retirement accounts where the rate doesn’t apply. Furthermore, in a system that doesn’t index gains for inflation, capital gains would be overtaxed without some kind of break.

    The change in tax revenue that immediately follows a change in the capital gains rate is a bogus statistic, though. It’s theoretically possible for the lower rate to lift the economy enough to provide a sustained increase in government revenues, but you can’t make that case by looking at how taxpayers respond to the change in the short term.

    Advocates of lower capital gains rates (and lower corporate tax rates, and other tax benefits for business) often cite the statistic that 100 million Americans own stock, implying that the middle class will receive an ample share of the benefit. Yet ownership of stock is highly concentrated in the hands of wealthy individuals, a small fraction of the population. The vast majority receive little direct benefit, or none at all. To borrow an analogy from John Kenneth Galbraith, the “100 million” argument is like justifying the cost of feeding more oats to the horses by pointing out that some will fall to the ground and be eaten by sparrows.”

  • Drowssap

    Jayhuck

    Good article, but it’s misleading.

    While it may be true that many small investors are shielded from a direct tax on capital gains that’s only a small part of the story. The corporations that small investors put their money in pay Capital Gains tax and a million other taxes. Our corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world. Capital Gains reduces the share value of every company in America and this directly reduces the value of the little guy’s retirement account. Some of these guys might avoid all or most capital gains but this tax has already reduced the value of every company in their retirement account.

    If we eliminated capital gains the economy would boom. The value of shares would rise and investment would pour in from around the world to take advantage of our low taxes. Obviously it wouldn’t be fair (what is?) and some people would make more money than others. Personally I say screw fair. Let’s all make more money.

  • Drowssap

    Jayhuck

    you talked about reducing taxes for secretaries

    I am 100% in favor of reducing the tax rate across the board. From secretaries to billionaires, reduce the tax rate. By the same token, cut spending massively. We have a massive wave of retirees heading our way with now real way to support them. We need more $$$.

    The new president of South Korea ran on a platform of economic growth, not economic fairness. His nation’s economy grows at about 5% a year and he thinks it should be more like 7% a year. I wish we had more of that attitude in America.

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    Re-read the article I posted above :)

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    We’ve been reducing taxes for 8 years or more and our economy is suffering :)

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    “If we eliminated capital gains the economy would boom. “

    And I thought I didn’t understand Capital Gains – LOL – Re-read the article man :)

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    I’m republishing this part of the article for you:

    “Charlie, it may be true that 100 million Americans own stock, but most stock held by middle class Americans is in IRA or 401k accounts, where the capital gains rate doesn’t apply. The tax rate matters for stock held outside these retirement accounts, and most of that stock is owned by extremely wealthy individuals. The bottom 60% of households own just 9%, while the top 10% of households own 70%. Over half of all capital gains go to households with income over $1 million. That’s roughly two-tenths of one percent of the population getting more than half the benefit of the cut in the tax rate.

    Tax revenue went up after these cuts partly because people anticipated them. Advisors told their clients to hold off selling anything for a gain until after the tax cut passed. Then we had a lot of people making these sales and the result was a boost in revenue, but that’s a temporary effect.

    Some say these cuts helped spur the economy. What they overlook is their role in spurring the stock bubble toward the end of the 1990s and the housing bubble in more recent years. These bubbles harmed the economy, and the harm was felt by many people who saw little or no benefit from the cuts in capital gain rates.”

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Economists debate these things all the time; I doubt we will get much agreement here. The political issues are more interesting at this juncture anyway since none of this can happen until after the election.

    jayhuck appears to support Obama, however, Obama says he might lower taxes on the middle class. He pledged not to raise them (except the capital gains business). Do you support Obama’s desire to lower taxes or is this an area where you disagree with him?

  • Drowssap

    Warren

    Do you support Obama’s desire to lower taxes or is this an area where you disagree with him?

    I am in full support of any plan to cut taxes and spending. The greater share of the economy that is in the hands of private individuals the more economic growth we’ll enjoy.

    However I don’t think Obama plans to transfer a greater share of the economy back to private individuals. He might shift it around a bit, but that’s about it. As for spending he hardly gives a speech that doesn’t promise more govt spending.

    Government is full of waste, but why wouldn’t it be? Your chances of efficiently spending $10 that you earned are much greater than your neighbor efficientaly spending $10 that YOU earned. 3rd party payer systems are always loaded with waste.

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    The greater share of the economy that is in the hands of private individuals the more economic growth we’ll enjoy.

    As Warren said, this is a matter of debate. This old trickle-down theory is hopefully on its way out. Some people believe this and some don’t, but if you think private industry doesn’t have its own problems with waste then you may have put it on a pedestal on which it doesn’t belong.

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    The greater share of the economy that is in the hands of private individuals the more economic growth we’ll enjoy.

    As Warren said, this is a matter of debate.

    There is no debate on that one. The concept of efficient, state planned economies is long dead. People need to spend their own money if it is to be spent efficiently. Do you think your neighbor could spend your paycheck more efficiently than you could?

    I don’t support a complete elimination of all government spending. But spending needs to be at a minimum and most of that should be done at the state level. We are much better off with 50 different problem solving ideas instead of 1.

  • jayhuck

    No Drowssap – the concept of trickle-down is what is dead. Sure the state has problems with efficiency but so does the private sector – I know because I worked in it for 10 years. We will always have to give our money to someone to get things done. There is PLENTY of debate on this one.

  • jayhuck

    Sometimes Drowssap I DO believe my neighbor could spend my paycheck more efficiently than I could because I’m hardly always efficient with my spending. :)

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    What it comes down to – for me anyway – is what the government, state or federal, is using the money for. I know for a fact that the profit motive and greed often get in the way of doing what is right or good or best for most people. You can see that today in healthcare where what is best financially for an institution can trump what is best for the patient – and that is wrong.

  • Ann

    can someone please tell me what the words “code, strike, and close tags” mean on the bar above the response box? Thanks :-)

  • Nick R

    Hey Warren, this is off-topic but worth mentioning,

    I saw you quoted by Focus on the Family again for one of their stories. Ironic isn’t it? You don’t seem to have any problems lending your voice to organizations that lie, deceive, misrepresent, and fabricate when it comes to homosexuality. Is that how Christians are supposed to act? Why do you make yourself so available to a group that has habitually demonstrated a disdain for Jesus’ teachings and for academic integrity? I guess when a group is so anti-gay you will give them leniency given your own anti-gay bias.

    By the way, and I’m serious, what actual evidence is there that homosexuality is not inborn? I’ve seen tons of studies that support it being inborn. I know you don’t think it is – but what actual scientific evidence do you have? I know you tend to rely on your theoretical perspective – but that isn’t actually evidence now is it? So, what actual evidence do you have and, I think it’s fair to ask, are you applying the same level of academic critique to your “evidence” that you do to the legitimate evidence? Just curious.

  • Drowssap

    Nick R

    By the way, and I’m serious, what actual evidence is there that homosexuality is not inborn? I’ve seen tons of studies that support it being inborn.

    What evidence do you have that homosexuality is inborn? There is plenty of circumstantial evidence that suggests homosexuality might have a biological component but that’s it so far.

    I personally believe that SSA is biological but there isn’t enough evidence to prove anything at this point.

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    You can see that today in healthcare where what is best financially for an institution can trump what is best for the patient – and that is wrong.

    Speaking of health care don’t Massachusettes and California have statewide healthcare systems rapidly headed towards insolvency? These systems never work, they can’t. The government isn’t built for efficiency. Whatever problems the private sector has, they are nothing compared with the govt.

  • Eddy

    Ann–

    Good to hear from you again. I’ve missed you.

    LOL! I don’t understand those shortcuts either. Anyone? :-)

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    the concept of trickle-down is what is dead.

    I’m not a fan of trickle down (Republican ideology) or percolate up (Democrat ideology). Both are equally ineffective. If you raise taxes on the rich to cut taxes on the middle class you are still essentially in the same place. The point is to get more of the economy in private hands so the money can be spent efficiently. If the federal government controls 35% of the economy that is the number that needs to be reduced.

    People often forget that the Soviet Union had tremendous resources and in many cases good technology. The problem they had was misinvestment. A central government can never manage those resources and technologies. Modern countries need to be managed by their people, not their governments. Look at the booms in China and India as they move to private enterprise.

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    You seem to suffer under the delusion that privatization will solve our ills, when in fact the private sector often suffers from the same problems that plague governmental institutions – as well as many of the same inefficiencies.

    The private sectors has repeatedly been the source of greed, scandal, self-indulgence and all manner of things that do not benefit people or the economy.

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    I’m not saying that the privatization doesn’t have its place – but the private sector cannot solve all our ills, and in fact, in many instances, has contributed to them.

    Again – we’ve had 8 years of tax reductions and a growing private sector – yet our economy is suffering.

  • ken

    With regards to which candidate will raise/lower taxes the most, I’d like to recount the following from a cartoon I read years ago:

    Husband: “I don’t care about anything else, I’m going to vote for the candidate that promises to lower my taxes the most!”

    Wife: “The president doesn’t set the tax rate dear. Congress does that.”

    Husband: “What?!? Well, then why do they all promise to lower taxes?”

    Wife: “Because they hope the rest of the voters are just as knowledgeable as you are dear.”

    While, the president can certainly influence tax rates through proposals to congress and political deals, he doesn’t have the power to set tax rates.

  • Drowssap

    jayhuck

    Again – we’ve had 8 years of tax reductions and a growing private sector – yet our economy is suffering.

    Although we did have some modest tax cuts during the Bush administration government spending rose to record levels. The government has never been bigger. Just because Republicans are in charge doesn’t mean the government is shrinking. In fact we are lucky when the rate of government GROWTH shrinks. Spending is completely out of control.

  • jayhuck

    Drowssap -

    I agree that spending is out of control – in some part due to the war, but it doesn’t follow that the private sector will solve our ills.

  • Drowssap

    ken

    While, the president can certainly influence tax rates through proposals to congress and political deals, he doesn’t have the power to set tax rates.

    Yep. Even if Bush wanted to cut taxes and spending by 50% (and he doesn’t) congress wouldn’t allow it. Reform occurs glacially slow in Washington.

    The bad part is that in less than 10 years the Social Security surplus will be gone forever. Our reaction time is so slow that no reform can occur until it’s much too late. To be fair, entitlement reform probably needed to occur 20 years ago. Even if we fix the system tomorrow it’s too late.

  • jayhuck

    Reform occurs slowly because we believe in a system of checks and balances. If we wanted things done quickly we could just go back to monarchy rule.

  • bridgetbb

    Obama. His words are from his heart. His actions are from his heart. Here is a man who chose to attend a church for 20 years that preached hate. His true self is mild now as compared to what it will be. A wolf in sheeps clothing?

    Economy. Bottom line. Look how many taxes are being taken out of our paychecks now. Gas prices. Do you have any idea what it will mean to a single mom or dad if the dems take office?

    Hope: People will vote their needs and the safety of our country over their seeing what they want to see in a candidate and not the truth.