After compiling the worst economic record since the Great Depression, the Republican Party is pinning its electoral hopes on scare attacks against Barack Obama. A lot of GOP fear mongering takes place on what President Bush calls "the internets." Cyberspace is filled with anonymous e-mails carrying slurs against the Democratic presidential nominee. The candidate's web site has a page devoted to answering many of these accusations (http://fightthesmears.com/), but it's practically impossible to counter all the lies Republicans have dumped on voters. Chances are that you or someone you know has received some of these messages, so I thought I'd take a look at a scare e-mail forwarded to me by a family member. It presents a clear view of Republican tactics.
While many such e-mails contain bizarre charges that Senator Obama is a secret Muslim terrorist, this message made remarkable claims about the Democratic nominee's economic program. The anonymous author states that Obama's plan to repeal portions of Bush's tax cuts will result in massive tax increases for all Americans, including a $3,900 annual tax hike on unmarried people who earn under $30,000 per year.
That is one bold lie. First, Obama's plan only eliminates Bush's tax cut for those who earn more than $250,000 annually. So it's not true that low- or middle-income citizens would end up paying more to the IRS. Second, it is ridiculous to claim that President Bush reduced taxes by $3,900 for those earning under $30,000. A study by the Congressional Budget Office found that Bush's tax cut for households with incomes of $38,140 was only $800 - and that number fell as you went lower down the income scale. (The average income-tax reduction for the richest 1% of households was about $58,000.)
The e-mail also issues a warning against Obama's proposal to raise the capital-gains tax (which applies to profits resulting from the sale of stocks, securities, or other assets) from 15% to a maximum of 28%: "The experts predict that 'Higher tax rates on dividends and capital gains would crash the stock market yet do absolutely nothing to cut the deficit.'" Yeah, thank God we still have George Bush's policies in place to keep the stock market from crashing. Also, just who are "the experts"? Probably the same right-wing economists who told us that Bush Junior's tax cuts would pay for themselves and that we wouldn't have any deficits during this administration. Hey, they were only off by $4.5 trillion.
Here's a real tear-jerker on the Democratic nominee's proposal to reinstate inheritance taxes on the wealthy: "Many families have lost businesses, farms and ranches, and homes that have been in their families for generations because they could not afford the inheritance tax." Actually, Obama would only tax inherited wealth worth over $3.5 million, so only mega-millionaires' kids would pay the levy. I hate to ruin the e-mailer's scenario of folks being tossed out of their ancestral homes by inheritance taxes, but that's not a moving van pulling up to that house, it's a limousine.
Another highlight of the message was the accusation that Democrats want to implement "socialized medicine so we can receive the same level of medical care as other third-world countries!!!" "Other third-world countries"? So we're a Third World country now? After nearly eight years of George W. Bush, it's hard to argue with that. As for quality of health care, the World Health Organization's most recent rankings place the U.S. 37th worldwide in that department, and we're not even tops in the hemisphere. Canada, Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica are all rated higher. France and Italy rank first and second in the world, respectively, and they have socialized medicine. Also, America pays about twice as much per capita on health care as other industrialized nations. Still, I admire the brass it takes to try to frighten voters with the possibility that the U.S. might no longer be stuck with one of the world's worst health-care systems.
But, you may ask, isn't it unfair to criticize all Republicans for something written by an anonymous nut who may not even work for the party? I'm sure you can find remarks of equal or greater stupidity on Fox News Channel or at your local GOP campaign headquarters. In fact, the anonymous e-mailer has nothing on John Sidney McCain III, who told one of the biggest lies in election history when he ran a campaign ad accusing Obama of supporting "comprehensive sex education" for kindergarten students. In truth, that program merely provides kids with information on how to recognize and avoid sexual predators. You'd think that Republicans would want to steer far clear of the subject of pedophilia, after the House GOP leadership got caught covering up for a colleague who made passes at underage boys (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5400536.stm). But then they never had much capacity for shame.
The GOP aims its onslaught of falsehoods at economically vulnerable, older people - people who fear losing everything and who've also been subjected to a lot of negative stereotypes of African Americans during their lives. If you have relatives who fit that description, be on the lookout for more shady Republican tricks and rumors in the last days of the campaign.