McCain: Clear and Present Danger to Families
by Robert Drago and Arlene Holt Baker
Many voters and pundits see John McCain as a maverick, someone willing to cross party lines on important issues. Maybe that is so in some ways, but his record on family issues is consistent. He opposes what American families need (see Take Care Net Summary).
Last year McCain voted against a $35 billion expansion of a health insurance program for poor children (SCHIPS). How can anyone oppose health insurance for poor children? Are we supposed to blame children because they cannot afford coverage? And now, as a "benefit" for the declining group of employees provided with health insurance through their employers, he wants to tax those expenditures (albeit with a subsidy to insurance companies when families purchase private health insurance on their own). That will make health insurance even less affordable than at present and means, oops, even more children will be without health insurance in the future if McCain wins the presidency. Oh yes, and making those payments taxable is part of McCain's ostensible "solution" for the many Americans who have no health insurance today.
Plenty of low-income working families need a higher minimum wage. Indeed, by last year when a small federal increase finally passed after 10 years of nothing, a majority of employees already had a higher minimum wage provided by states fed up with inaction on Capitol Hill. It was the first time in the 70-year history of the federal minimum that it had dropped so low as to be irrelevant for most workers. And where was McCain? He voted against raising the federal minimum eight times in the last four years, and even voted to abolish it in 2007.
McCain also voted repeatedly against the right of millions of workers to overtime pay. This is a critical issue for all of the working families who depend on overtime pay just to pay the rent and feed their kids. But McCain supported an amendment that would have disqualified as many as 10 million working women and men (those unlucky enough to work at firms with less than $1 million in annual revenue) from overtime pay protection. And when the Bush administration came out with rules that threatened the overtime rights of 6 million workers, he voted against a measure to protect overtime pay from the Bush rules.
One of the most reliable paths for working families to the middle class and economic security is union membership. Union members' wages are 30% higher than wages for non-union members. What's more, union workers are far more likely to have adequate health insurance and pensions. So it makes sense that a pro-family candidate would support the Employee Free Choice Act to restore workers' fundamental freedom to organize into unions. However, John McCain "strongly opposes" it, and he voted for a national right-to-work-for-less law that would try to eliminate unions totally.
Okay, on one of the centerpieces of federal legislation to help working families succeed, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, McCain did eventually vote in favor. However, that was after voting for an amendment forcing the eventual suspension of the Act unless the government either certified that compliance would not increase business expenses or provided financial assistance to businesses to cover any related costs. What an odd notion. Employees are only supposed to get sick or welcome a new child into the world so long as it is costless for their employer?
And maybe worst of the batch, McCain supported the 2005 bankruptcy legislation. This worsened a situation in which almost half of all personal bankruptcies are due to a family member becoming ill. Over three-quarters of those folks had health insurance when health problems arose. Further, there was an amendment guaranteeing that workers, many of whom had given decades to their employers, would receive back pay for vacation and severance before creditors got bailed out. McCain voted against the amendment.
Of course, McCain might flip-flop and follow the Republican Party's new American Families Agenda. That document promises to provide a family-friendly work week, take care of our parents and grandparents, assure health care for all, make pensions portable, and provide health care for our neediest children. If so, that is one flip-flop we would welcome. Nonetheless, McCain's record speaks clearly and in a single voice: he does not value family in any meaningful sense of the word. Senator McCain's presidential candidacy represents a clear and present danger to American families.