Sen. Claire McCaskill sat down with the Missouri media contingent encamped along the Potomac to hash over the president's State of the Union speech. She gave him credit for raising the issue of how to help the more than 40 million Americans without health insurance. But she didn't like his solution.
President Bush basically wants to tax the middle class by allowing families to deduct $15,000 a year to cover the costs of their health insurance. That tax break would be paid for by taxing the difference between the $15,000 and the actual costs of the insurance.
"It's another example of where the president continues to beat the drum to make tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans permanent, while he's proposing another hit on the same folks who are struggling with higher college tuition and struggling with higher energy costs, struggling with other financial realities," McCaskill said.
She said a better idea would be tax incentives for businesses to encourage them to pool their risks and offer coverage to broader number of employees. People with catastrophic health problems are "really going to get hurt here because they're not going to have access to large risk pools," she said.
Bush's plan would also "chase people to the private markets where the companies are going to be able to cream off the low- risk," she said, leaving high-risk people in trouble.
On Iraq, McCaskill said that expectations for Gen. David Petraeus, slated to become the war's top commander, were too high and "unfair."
"Because he's got a great reputation, everyone is very hopeful that somehow he's going to go over there and single-handedly turn things around," she said. "If the Iraqi government is somehow unwilling to unable stand up and help, this will not work."
McCaskill opposes the escalation and said she won't back a resolution against it if it calls for defense cuts because that could hurt troops already in the field.
"How do I talk about the lack of body armour...and then turn around and cut money?" she said. "We need to make sure (the troops) have everything they need...But it's going to be a remarkable accomplishment if we pass a resolution rejecting President Bush and what's he's doing in Iraq that gets a lot more votes than just Democrats. And I think that's going to happen...There are questions being asked now."
Posted by David Goldstein