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Thursday, July 03, 2008

People who charge $750,000 a month have no business calling anyone else elitist
Posted by Jill | 6:10 AM
Look, if you HAVE the ability to repay over a quarter of a million dollars in credit card purchases so that it isn't "ongoing debt", that's fine. But can we please stop calling Barack Obama an elitist, and writing articles about how he bought a house with a mortgage a few basis points under the average for those of all credit ratings and income levels, and making it seem as though the McCains are like the rest of us because Johnny the Curmudgeon can man a Weber grill?

Cindy McCain and the McCain children are the beneficiaries of a beer distributing fortune amassed by her parents and estimated to be worth $100 million or more. Though the McCains maintain separate finances, Cindy McCain’s family fortune has boosted her husband’s political career at critical junctures, helping to fund his inaugural 1982 run for Congress and helping to subsidize his current presidential campaign when it all but went broke last year.

In recent years, a Politico analysis found, the McCain family appears to have tapped its fortune liberally.

While Cindy McCain, her dependent children and the trusts and companies they control made as much as $29 million — and likely substantially more — from her family’s business interests from 2004 through last year, data from the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and the Center for Responsive Politics also reveals that they spent $11 million purchasing five condominiums for the family, hired additional household help and racked up progressively larger credit card bills almost every year.

Their credit card bills peaked between January 2007 and May 2008, during which time Cindy McCain charged as much as $500,000 in a single month on one American Express card and $250,000 on another, while one of their two dependent children had an AmEx card with a monthly balance as large as $50,000.

A campaign aide who did not want to be identified discussing the McCains’ personal finances stressed that the credit card balances are “not ongoing debt.”

The aide pointed out that the disclosure forms on which the credit card liabilities were listed ask respondents to indicate ranges for the largest balances owed during the reporting period.

“It has been the McCains’ practice and procedure, as previously indicated, to pay off the balance of credit cards on a monthly basis, so they do not carry credit card debt,” the aide said in a statement.

The aide did not answer questions about what Cindy McCain or her children purchased with the cards and declined to make either she or her husband available for an interview about their finances or spending habits.

And I really don't care. If you've got it, spend it. There isn't a presidential candidate that ever ran whose financial position was better than that of most of the rest of us. But then don't tell me that you are just plain folks. Being fabulously wealthy doesn't by definition mean that you can't understand the real problems that most Americans face, though I would say that when Cindy McCain likens herself to a single mother, I would guess that her lifelong position as a child of wealth does give her a tin ear for such things. But when you're fabulously wealthy, and you support more tax cuts for fabulously wealthy people and corporations, and you don't know the price of gasoline, and you say that your economic policy is going to involve listening to Alan Greenspan (the guy who in 2004 said that people holding fixed-rate mortgages should refinance to ARMs), I'd say you qualify as living in a moneyed bubble, and are...dare I say it?....an elitist.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Up is down, right is left, birth is death, good is bad, rich is just regular folks.

And thank goodness they have the media to spread their message so beautifully!

Great post, Jill.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Elitist doesn't have to be about the size of the bank account. And even though your title discredits what you say in your last paragraph, you seem to believe this.

Obama isn't called an elitist because of his bank account. He is called an elitist because he thinks religion is something you join for twenty years to help your career in local politics. That it exists because it provides something to be clung to by bitter, irrational people who don't look it at like he does: a political lever. he is called an elitist because he is able to buy an expensive home that he could otherwise not afford not because his wife is rich - but because his political fund raiser Rezko made it happen.

He is called an elitist because he believes what a lot of elitists believe - and perhaps what you believe as well Jill?: that a larger, expanded government knows better how to spend our tax dollars and American business' tax dollars - and knows better how businesses should be run (higher regulation and manipulation of markets) - than does a smaller government where more power resides with states, and even better with us citizens and American businesses.

And the rube that McCain wants to keep taxes low and to lower others just so that his fellow fat cats have another swimming pool of money to splash around in: give me a break.

Look at tax law and look at Bush's tax cuts. More money came in to the treasury when the burden of investment was reduced. And more Microsofts and others unleashed millions of dollars of dividend payments to all the average joes and janes with 401ks and other investments solely because Bush lowered the dividend tax.

Elites are those who think they can put in place the largest tax increase in our history - even while our economy is shaky? - and that capital will Increase to American businesses: no matter how high the tax rates? Odd logic.

It's the decades old keynesian logic of 'let the government spend our way out of a stalled economy.' That's a bad, disproved non-solution.

And why would they want this? Because it's better if the federal government spend that money than if individuals spend it in the marketplace? Including businesses who CREATE JOBS? And investors who invest in American businesses WHO CREATE JOBS? Odd.

If that isn't at the heart of elitism: using other people's hard earned $ because you think you can spend it better, then please tell me what is.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
And a little, non-political side note: it would be a nice journalistic courtesy for both the writer of the material and for us readers to give a credit for your long quote.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
And yes, McCain's self-righteousness and liberal views that come from... where? an elitism? are precisely why many republicans don't love the guy the way the media used to the love the guy a few years ago.

But most folks can see the difference in the choices available now. Someone who is farther left than Bush is right - or someone who pledges to uphold at least a few of the real-republicans-stand-up tenets of smaller government, limited regulation, pro-growth, market-driven solution, anti-government-monopoly-solution policies...

...Policies that several years of republican congressmen and women and a republican president - on a few too many times - ignored.

Blogger Jill said...
Perhaps if you unclutched your pearls for a minute and untwisted your knickers, John, you'd see that there is a link to the original Politico piece from which the excerpt is quoted. If you were aware of all internet traditions, you'd recognize that this is how such things are often done.

As for the rest of your comment, well, I don't respond to the regurgitation of tired, discredited Republican boilerplate about the magnanimity of United States industry towards its workers.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
... and McCain himself will ignore some of these tenets from time to time as well. But at least we know that with Obama the pendulum would swing so wildly in the other direction that it wouldn't be funny.

Can a politician be more extreme left than Kerry or Gore... and yet have a media organ - both mainstream and independent - that eats up his non-policy-rhetoric and tries to portray him as a "post partisan" "bring both sides together" kind of guy?


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Jill - an internet tradition would say "Look, if you have the ability to repay [link]over a quarter of a million dollars in credit card purchases[link] AS POLITICO HAS REPORTED so that it isn't..."

Then we would be talking about well formed internet conventions. But as you assume that a user following one of four links qualifies as journalistic courtesy.

But it's your blog. I'm just letting you know how it could help me... and Politico.

Re: not wanting to discuss issues that are directly related to this topic of elitism - and waving it off as "boilerplate" rather than a reasoned counter to the issues you post - again that's your choice.

Seems odd that you don't want to discuss on-topic issues on an issues-based blog - but that's your choice.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"...you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly." - The header of your website.

I see which one you have chosen.

I'm not looking for personal barbs - It just assumed a site that seems to be dedicated to fighting for its beliefs would actually fight for them when presented with reasoned counter responses...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
And how many times have I seen people use this response - especially on the left? "I won't address these issues because its the same old thing..."

Is it learned from Obama and how he dismisses issues all the time: "Oh that's just politics as usual." In other words, I won't answer that because I don't want to answer that.

And he will only answer it when it becomes a huge deal that people really want to know how he stands on that issue and he has prepare a speech to address it?

Hhhm. I wonder if it's related...

And THESE ARE THE ISSUES. You can say "its the same old issues." But these are the among the issues that Americans will be deciding in Nov yes? So why is it all the sudden off the table?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
McCain and Bush are one and the same; both are from wealth and will pursue policies favoring the wealthy class.....They see politics as commercial endeavors, and will use business tactics to influence the masses(who is more like Obama than McCain)to choose McCain over Obama....The news media have an interest in this too, as it is owned and operated by the wealthy....Any further questions?????

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"any further questions?"...

Yeah, where do you get this black and white world view? You really think Bush and McCain are out to help the rich at the expense of the less-rich?

How about this idea: doesn't Everyone want opportunities to be more-rich? not to be stuck in the same, union job their whole lives - or to be in one income bracket their whole lives - but to have the opportunity to move from poverty to the middle-class or even beyond -- or from the middle-class to beyond? Isn't that the American dream? You can do it if you work for it?

Don't policies that are pro-growth, pro-market, anti-government-monopoly offer more opportunities and freedom to do this than those designed to create a middle-class and keep everyone there? Including penalizing the rich - and those who strive for more - to be in the middle-class as well (ie, economic redistribution)?

While, on the other hand, you have liberal policies (that are put in place by union-sponsored politicians) which offer a job and career advancement world view several decades old?

Let's look at a case study: look at Detroit if you want to see how great liberal economic and social policies are at providing for citizens.

It's not global competition that killed Detroit. There are new car plants humming in southern states and elsewhere in this nation - states with low taxes and no forced union membership - that are doing well - attracting new manufacturing (including automobile) and other jobs - and exporting a good bit of that product to other nations even...

Yet many northern states and cities are doing poorly. Look at their business and citizen un-friendly policies: their high taxes, their forced union enrollment.

And look at the health of many of these northern states compared to the southern states. Look at the data showing the outflow of people from the north and moving south.

I'm not making this stuff up. People are voting with their feet...

Blogger Jill said...
So you don't think that short-sighted management policies in the Big Three had ANYTHING at all to do with it? You don't think that continuing to crank out gas guzzlers while WE WERE AT WAR IN THE FUCKING MIDDLE EAST had nothing to do with it?

What Detroit is reaping isn't about union wages and benefits; it's about shitty, short-sighted, get-through-the-quarter and fuck the future management.

While we're at it, let's look at the health of residents in the south, shall we?

West Virginia and Kentucky have the highest rates of heart disease in the country. (source)

Infant deaths rising in Mississippi and other southern states (source)

HIV and other STD rates rising in the south (source)

Living in the south is a high predictor for poor health in children (source)

Of the 10 unhealthiest states in the country, 7 are in the south, and none of them is Michigan:

1) Mississippi, with the highest rate of teenage births in the nation, the highest age-adjusted death rate, the highest infant mortality rate and the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases. It also has the largest precentage of obese adults and adults who do not exercise.

2) Louisiana, with the second-highest age-adjusted death rate, the second-highest infant mortality rate and the worst access to primary care.

4) Florida, with the lowest percentage of population covered by health insurance, 4th in new cancer cases and third for new AIDS cases.

6) Georgia, ranking fourth for the number of new AIDS cases reported and fifth for the number of sexually transmitted diseases.

7) South Carolina, with a high percentage of low birthweight babies, high infant mortality rate, high number of new AIDS cases and high rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

8) Oklahoma, with a high teenage birth rate, poor prenatal care, high age-adjusted death rate and high percentage of people not covered by health insurance

9) Alabama, which is in the top five for low birthweight babies, age-adjusted death rate, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, poor primary care access, obesity and non-exercising adults.

(source for above list)

Funny how all those Bible Belt states are at the top of the list for STDs, isn't it? A hell of a lot of Fucking for Jesus going on there, don'tcha think?

Funny too how New Jersey isn't even in the top 15.

You know what the HEALTHIEST states are?

Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts (that bane of wingnuts everywhere), Iowa, Nebraska, Hawaii, North Dakota, and Rhode Island. Not one fucking one of them a southern state.

But you go right on believing your right-wing talking points and don't go cluttering your little head up with things like REALITY.

Not even when a five-minute Google search would give you the FACTS.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
To begin, I shall respond to another commenter. And I quote:

"Yeah, where do you get this black and white world view? You really think Bush and McCain are out to help the rich at the expense of the less-rich?"


Trickle-down, or "supply-side" economics, (also once known as "Reaganomics") has been espoused as a logical economic strategy - either directly or indirectly - by politicians, including, unfortunately, some Democrats. (Tsk, Clinton. 3% tax cut for the wealthy. Dubya cut it by another 4%....).

Its been around far longer, but in recent memory hit an especially strong stride in the 1980s.

In a nutshell, its all about making sure the big players and corporations did well, and in doing so, the theory was that it would "trickle down" to the little guys who would subsequently benefit from the success.

The problem with this, as it has always been, is that people by nature are not more generous just because they are more successful.

Corporations are increasingly protected by legislation, as opposed to those whom they employ.

The world's wealth has become more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, and the USA is not immune to this trend.

And while people slam Obama for being "elitist" Bush (who has made a few gaffes at private events in the past that reveal some of his insensitivity and arrogance about the very Americans he thinks he leads), gathers up the moneyed for "Private" fundraisers for McCain, no doubt filled with wealthy televangelists like Kenneth Copeland. (I guess even millionaire-ess Rodeo Queens have their spending limits when it comes to hubby's campaign. There)

But I digress...

John is right that elitism is not just about money..but part of elitism is about perception, and in an economic climate when so many worldwide are suffering from everything from losing their homes, livelihoods, or food sources, the elitism of corporate favouritism and wealth IS going to resonate with people strongly, and rightfully so.

Another thing I would say is elitism, by its nature, is NOT necessarily negative. Rather its about context, and application.

A person could be elite by nature of their professional success, their intellectual prowess, their education, their fame. How that is USED is a far greater indicator of the "evils that be" than the fact the elitism exists.

If there is anything about Obama that is remotely elite, it is far more academic in nature than the wealth that Jill highlighted in her blog post.

2 cents.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hey Jill:

Do many southern states have a history of poverty that reflects in their health numbers? Sure thing. (And many of the states you listed also have a very long line of democratic leadership - check wikipedia). And what are some Southern states doing? The smart ones are fighting the root cause with economic growth:

Michigan = 7.2% unemployment (2007)
Wayne county (home to detroit) = 8.8% unemployment (2007)

Florida = 4.0% unemployment (2007)


National avg for 2007 = 4.5% source

And read that post. pretty funny:

"In fact, even our state with the highest unemployment rate for 2007, Michigan at 6.9%, is below the EU average of 7.1%. In other words, the U.S. state with the worst economy and labor market conditions, is still better than the average European country, in terms of jobless rates."

And you want to elect Obama who wants to emulate Germany, France and other European nations (as he states on his website - where his energy page had said: look to germany for the solution to $4/gallon gas prices. Eh? Come again? Look to Germany's high tax rates geared toward un-market-sustainable energy sources means folks pay $8/gallon -- that's the solution for our $4/gallon issue? How does that compute?...)?

Re: Florida health... "4th in new cancer cases". Fl also has one of the largest concentration of old folks. I wonder if this has any bearing on these statistics? And "third for new AIDS cases" And i wonder how much the 'NYC of the south' Miami has contributed to this figure?