No wonder John McCain’s campaign is in trouble

The candidate calls for a safety net to cushion workers from globalization. But he doesn't want to pay for it

Topics: 2008 Elections, Globalization, How the World Works, John McCain, R-Ariz.,

The John McCain show made a stop in Detroit on Friday, where the presidential candidate addressed the 2007 Hispanic Business Expo and Economic Summit. A review of the transcript of his speech gives some insights into why his campaign is going nowhere.

The man makes no sense.

We’ll skip quickly past the most egregious howlers — how Washington D.C. is the “last vestige of real socialism in the world,” Democrats want to build “a wall around America” (uh, John, you voted for the U.S.-Mexico border fence just like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), and Democrats, if they gain the White House, will “recklessly” tax and spend (remind me, again, which party’s president last presided over a balanced budget?) Instead, we’ll cut right to good stuff.

But let’s have some straight talk: globalization is here, globalization is an opportunity, but globalization will not automatically benefit every American.

We must remain committed to education, retraining, and help for displaced workers, regardless of whether their job went away because of trade, technological innovation, or shifts in consumer spending patterns. For Americans who have lost a job, we need to expand opportunities for further education and training that can open new doors. We need to modernize our unemployment insurance system to reflect the reality of the 21st century economy: jobs that go away no longer come back when business rebounds. We need to help displaced workers make ends meet between jobs and move people quickly on to the next opportunity.

We need to reform the half-dozen government training programs that are supposed to help such workers. As I talk to business people and education experts I hear again and again that community colleges do a great job of providing the right skills to workers and the right workers for firms. We should take greater advantage of this record of success, transform rigid training programs, and get workers back to work.

Hillary Clinton could have delivered those last two paragraphs. So could Barack Obama or John Edwards. Boosting the safety net for workers who are negatively impacted by globalization is about as mainstream Democratic a policy as you will find. But guess what? To buff up the safety net so that it actually works as a cushion against economic dislocation will cost money. Which, given the current parlous state of U.S. government finances, might even require raising taxes.

There you have it: John “Great Society” McCain.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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