John McCain, man of science:
"At a town hall meeting Friday in Texas, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared that "there's strong evidence" that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that was once in many childhood vaccines, is responsible for the increased diagnoses of autism in the U.S. -- a position in stark contrast with the view of the medical establishment."
I have criticized Jake Tapper, who wrote the ABC new piece, but he did the right thing here by linking to a lot of evidence that McCain is just plain wrong. That last link is particularly interesting: a study has shown that diagnoses of autism continued to rise even after thimerosal was removed from most vaccines, which makes it pretty unlikely that thimerosal is responsible for that increase.
This matters. Measles can have serious complications:
"Measles itself is unpleasant, but the complications are dangerous. Six to 20 percent of the people who get the disease will get an ear infection, diarrhea, or even pneumonia. One out of 1000 people with measles will develop inflammation of the brain, and about one out of 1000 will die."
As I write, there's an outbreak of measles in San Diego. None of the children who got measles had been immunized. Those kids did not decide for themselves to buy into a discredited theory about the dangers of vaccines: their parents did. Moreover, while infants are generally protected against measles by maternal antibodies for their first 6-8 months, they are not vaccinated against measles until they are 12-15 months old. This means that there are a few months when they are susceptible to measles. This window would be a lot less dangerous if every child was vaccinated, since these kids would never encounter children who got measles because their parents were idiots.
Mark Kleiman points out that McCain has also advocated discontinuing methadone after 6 months, which also flies in the face of available research. And, moving from science to other issues, the WSJ notes that McCain has apparently disowned his own Social Security policy:
"On Social Security, the Arizona senator says he still backs a system of private retirement accounts that President Bush pushed unsuccessfully, and disowned details of a Social Security proposal on his campaign Web site. (...)
Asked about the apparent change in position in the interview, Sen. McCain said he hadn't made one. "I'm totally in favor of personal savings accounts," he says. When reminded that his Web site says something different, he says he will change the Web site. (As of Sunday night, he hadn't.) "As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it -- along the lines that President Bush proposed.""
And his position on taxes seems to be, um, evolving:
"On taxes, Sen. McCain is walking a fine line between courting keep-taxes-low Republicans while insisting he is the candidate of fiscal discipline. Two weeks ago, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked him on "This Week" if he were a "'read my lips' candidate, no new taxes, no matter what?" referring to a pledge made by President George H.W. Bush, which he later broke. "No new taxes," Sen. McCain responded. "But under circumstances would you increase taxes?" Mr. Stephanopoulos continued. "No," Sen. McCain answered.
Asked in The Wall Street Journal interview to clarify, Sen. McCain softened that stance. "I'm not making a 'read my lips' statement, in that I will not raise taxes," he says. "But I'm not saying I can envision a scenario where I would, OK?"
Behind the scenes, his campaign is searching for ways to pay for Sen. McCain's tax proposals. In addition to extending the Bush tax cuts, the 71-year-old candidate would slash the corporate income-tax rate from 35% to 25% at a cost to the Treasury of $100 billion a year, estimates Mr. Holtz-Eakin.
In all, his tax-cutting proposals could cost about $400 billion a year, according to estimates of the impact of different tax cuts by CBO and the McCain campaign. The cost will make it difficult for him to achieve his goal of balancing the budget by the end of his first term.
To pay for the cut in corporate tax rates, Sen. McCain is considering eliminating some corporate tax breaks listed by a bipartisan tax reform panel appointed by President Bush, who ignored its report. The panel outlined different ways to change the tax code to spur U.S. competitiveness.
Among the candidates for elimination are a 2004 break for manufacturers -- written so broadly that it includes computer software makers, construction firms and architects -- a low-income housing credit, and tax breaks for life-insurance companies, credit unions and exporters. Undoing those breaks would raise a maximum of around $45 billion a year, still leaving a big hole.
"There could be a fairer, flatter tax proposal that I might embrace, that you might look at the minutiae of it and say, well, that's going to increase somebody's taxes," he says. "But they eliminate the inequities, the complexities, and all of the things that characterize our tax code today.""
I favor eliminating some tax loopholes, and I think that McCain needs to pay for any tax cuts he proposes. But I always thought that eliminating tax breaks for people counted as "raising their taxes". If McCain wants to say that he is not going to raise people's taxes, he does not get to add: "There could be a fairer, flatter tax proposal that I might embrace, that you might look at the minutiae of it and say, well, that's going to increase somebody's taxes." That's just dishonest. In that respect, it's unlike his intervention in the thimerosal controversy, which I assume is just culpable, irresponsible ignorance that could lead to the deaths of children. Frankly, I don't like either.