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August 22, 2008


The USA Today take is an absolute knock-down to McCain. It's about time.

my guess is that they'll just put a finer point on what they mean by "elitist". it'll stop meaning ostentatious displays of wealth from people who claim to want to help the little guy, and start being about the (strawman) idea that liberals think they have all the answers.

you'll see Obama criticized as being an elitist because he's smart and wants to use his intelligence to run the country. it'll be the intellectual elitist, instead of the economic one.

no, it won't make any sense at all, since anyone running for office thinks they know how to do things better than everyone else. but given the difference between smart, cool Obama and a middling hothead like McCain, they're going to attack Obama's intellect. they'll call him an "ivory tower elitist" or something.

it's easier than throwing away decades of pre-made attacks. just put 'em in new boxes !

Or the fact that he doesn't understand what a cap and trade system is, despite having co-authored legislation that would create one:

"Russert: Senator McCain, you are in favor of mandatory caps.

McCain: No, I'm in favor of cap-and-trade."


There is a distinction between mandatory caps and cap and trade. The fact that cap and trade can involve mandatory caps does not eliminate this distinction.

With that line of attack neutralized, perhaps we can get to actual issues.

Oh, you dear, sweet, naïve thing.

Von, how can you have a cap and trade system without mandatory caps? If the cap isn't mandatory, what's the value of the carbon credits for trading?

von - not to be snarky, but please provide a link to a description of a cap-and-trade system that doesn't involve the caps being mandatory. I don't see how that could possibly be effective. A summary would be fine, but a pointer to a nation that has actually implemented such a thing would be better.

I'm guessing that the answer is something like: cap-and-trade involves mandatory caps, but cap-and-trade is not simply mandatory caps. If it were, the two could be used interchangeably.

Just a guess. But I'm being reasonable today.

Well, I suppose McCain could have been making the point: "A mandatory cap means the government says to each company 'you can emit X amount of carbon and no more'. I'm not doing that. I'm in favour of a system that has the government saying 'here's the overall amount that the US is allowed to emit, now trade the permits between yourselves'".

"perhaps we can get to actual issues"

How dare you insinuate the John McCain, who was a POW for over five years, should get to actual issues.

Chuchundra and NonyNony, my good man Slartibartfast is correct.

I favor a cap and trade system. Would you come to me on the street, however, and tell me I was in favor of "mandatory caps," I would correct you: "no, I'm in favor of cap-and-trade."

According to Hilzoy, if I distinguish cap-and-trade from mandatory caps, I don't know what cap-and-trade means. To which I can only sigh.

You think this will get back to issues?

Maybe during the democratic convention this will happen, but the republican convention is going to focus (stop me if you've heard this one before) on Obama instead of McCain.

So, both campaigns are going to come out swinging. As much as I didn't wish the system worked this way, it does have one benefit... all the dirt of our next president is going to be well known before he ever gets to office.

And Ajay is correct as well.

von: it this was the only time McCain had said something like this, perhaps, though still think it would be a stretch. But it isn't.

Hilzoy, you're not helping your case. McCain was right in his exchange with Russert. He wasn't confused.

Your links also don't establish that McCain is confused. He's soft-selling the caps by calling them targets to mollify the R base. He's also suggesting that he is going to start the targets at or above current levels so they are no a effective cap, but then gradually decrease them until they are. (For a variety of reasons, that's probably a good thing and it is a component of the cap and trade systems I favor.) And he's distingushing literal "mandatory caps" which don't start high and decrease over time.

If you opposed cap-and-trade, you might ding him for softpedaling his real proposal. But when you argue that he doesn't understand cap-and-trade, you're only admitting that you don't know what cap-and-trade is.

Von, that seems like an odd definition of the word "mandatory". Mandatory doesn't mean absolute or inflexible, it means required or compulsory. Something that isn't mandatory is, by definition, voluntary or optional.

An optional cap obviously wouldn't work for a cap and trade system. The value of the traded credits would be just about zero.

The question tried to find if McCain has the same values as we do. We being we the people.

When asked how many houses he & his wife owned, John McCain was stumped. He said he didn't know. It's been released that he has multiple properties with many, many houses all over the US.

When asked how much income per year is rich he stated that it took $5 Million a year to be rich.

The tax plan proposal that John McCain has released says it would give he & his wife Cindy a $373,429 refund (based on most recently available 2006 Federal Tax data).

The question was answered eloquently by Senator McCain himself. He plainly told America he isn't remotely close to our values and has no idea what world we live in. John McCain simply told us he does not share our values nor will he and his enablers ever try to do so.

cross posted at SwordsCrossed

So, rereading the post hilzoy linked to, I noticed something. The reporter asks if McCain would consider mandatory targets for renewable energy but he answers by talking about cap-and-trade. These are totally different subjects, right? Cap-and-trade regimes regulate emissions, presumably carbon emissions. Renewable energy though need not be carbon free or even lower carbon: if we get our energy from crummy corn ethanol, there will be high carbon emissions even though we're using a renewable energy source.

It seems like McCain heard a question that involved the environment and launched into a discussion of the only environmental policy he was familiar with, global warming. Am I missing something? Is there some way that talking about emission controls is responsive to a question regarding renewable energy targets?

I agree with hilzoy and think it's a great point about not getting hung up on the campaign we wish we could see. But I'm a little surprised that McCain's galling ignorance of how Social Security works didn't make it to the "best of" list. :)

"Stimulus" doesn't have to mean spending increases. It could equally mean tax cuts. Anyway, it's a bad idea, except possibly in conditions of actual deflation.

Elite-baiting is bad from either party. Somebody makes money -- good on them. Somebody likes to windsurf or drink decent wine-- fine with me. If Americans really wanted someone whose dieting and exercise habits were typical, we'd be looking at President Hastert about now.

Pthlord: ""Stimulus" doesn't have to mean spending increases. It could equally mean tax cuts." -- Yes, but cutting spending de-stimulates the economy. If we need to stimulate the economy, cutting spending as part of a larger package which included enough tax cuts that it was a stimulus taken as a whole would be one thing. Saying we do need a stimulus, but we need to cut spending first, is another.

von: OK, I admit it: if we redefine "mandatory" to mean not "obligatory" but "remaining at the same level over time", and if we allow McCain to be "soft-selling" caps by calling them targets, yet oddly enough in such a way that his claim that these targets are not caps, and that he does not favor mandatory caps, is neither a lie nor a sign that he doesn't know what he's talking about, then yes, McCain's statement is perfectly defensible.

I think any line of argument that assumes McCain is not confused is not likely to be persuasive ;-)

There is a distinction between mandatory caps and cap and trade. The fact that cap and trade can involve mandatory caps does not eliminate this distinction.

Well, I can't figure out how to draw Venn diagrams for von in a blog comment, so let me just indulge in a little fictional dialogue:

Von: I hate pie.

rea: But you're eating cherry pie right now!

Von: Well yeah, I like cherry pie, but I hate pie.

rea: But cherry pie is pie!

von: Sigh. There is a distinction between cherry pie and pie. The fact that cherry pie can involve pie does not eliminate this distinction.

rea: Well, but all cherry pie is pie, so it makes no sense to say you don't like pie if you like cherry pie!

von: Sigh. You're wrong. Would you come to me on the street, however, and tell me I was in favor of "pie" I would correct you: "no, I'm in favor of cherry pie."

rea: But . .. but . . .

von: sigh.

Wall Street Journal on Von's sighs -- with slight name changes:

"The sigh kept Von from winning the debate," observed Margaret Carlson of CNN and Time magazine. Partisans of both Hilzoy and Von expressed concern this week at their candidates' unfortunate gestures and noises during Tuesday's debate. But the lawyer-blogger was by far the worse offender. Even his closest allies at Obsidian Wings are exasperated and puzzled by their man's debate manners this week.

Von sighed with deep impatience throughout the debate in an attempt either to distract Hilzoy in his answers to debate questions or influence the audience. Yesterday Von blamed his behavior on the TV cameras. "Under the debate rules, we were told there was going to be no coverage of our reactions when the other guy was talking."

This is preposterous. Von's sighs were highly theatrical in nature, and he accompanied them with a series of squints, grimaces and eye-rolling that couldn't have been accidental. The proof is Von's behavior during the blog debates. Anita Dunn, who was Hilzoy's media adviser, notes that during a "Meet the Press" debate the Bradley campaign issued "an official deep-sign count of seven" for Von. Jacob Weisberg of Slate noted at the time that "Von's sneering gestures all seemed rehearsed and theatrical. . . . Hilzoy made Von look like a complete ass."

I think the WSJ was mean and unfair to you, Von. That's why I don't like or respect their editorial page.

Since the admirable Thullen hasn't spoken yet: Of course the Son of Cain spoke against the mandatory wearing of caps and was just scolding the reporter for bringing up a meaningless clothing issue instead of the important question of planetary survival.
Also a stimulus is giving people their stolen money back and has nothing to do with spending.

About time. With that line of attack neutralized, perhaps we can get to actual issues.

Not if the McCain campaign can help it. The best we can hope for is that the cycle of gaffe/attack/gaffe gets so ridiculous even the MSM will ridicule it.

Repeat after me: Captain Queeg, strawberries, marbles. The Dems can't sink McCain, but they can help him sink himself.

Is it possible the confusion is over whether the caps are to be applied to individual companies or to emissions as a whole?

My understanding of the benefit of a cap-and-trade system is that it establishes an overall limit - some would call that a cap - and then lets firms buy and sell rights to emit some of that total. That way companies who can economically reduce emissions do so, and those for whom the right to pollute is valuable end up with the permits.

So I don't see how it can work without an overall limit.

"Stimulus" doesn't have to mean spending increases. It could equally mean tax cuts.

Not exactly. The idea is to increase aggregate demand (spending) in the economy. Government spending is spent. Tax cuts are partly spent, partly saved. In particular, the more tax cuts go to wealthier people the more they are saved rather than spent.

True. But it is also true that public spending could crowd out private spending.

The more important point is that if the spending/tax cuts increase aggregate demand, and the Fed thinks aggregate demand is too high, then the Fed will raise interest rates neutralizing the whole thing. On the other hand, if the Fed thinks aggregate demand is too low, it can just cut interest rates itself. Given the deadweight costs of taxing and spending, McCain is basically right.

On the other hand, if the Fed thinks aggregate demand is too low, it can just cut interest rates itself.

Um, does the Fed really have lots more room for lowering interest rates? They can't actually go negative.

"In particular, the more tax cuts go to wealthier people the more they are saved rather than spent."

On the bright side, in a McCain administration, they'd go to buying more new POW camps, so everyone can benefit from the experience.

From the above discussion, I gather that mandatory caps and cap-and-trade are interchangeable; that they both map completely onto each other. In other words, there is no method of applying mandatory caps that is not cap-and-trade.

I had no idea.

Von isn't saying that all cap-and-trade regulation doesn't come with mandatory caps, he's saying that not all mandatory caps are cap-and-trade. If I'm understanding him correctly, I mean. It's certainly possible, though, that von and I have a similar misunderstanding of how this sort of thing works.

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