An audience member asked a question about whether or not health care should be treated as a commodity. Instead of responding with a meaningful discussion of his ideas, McCain took the chance to cast the long, dark "socialist" shadow on Obama's plan:
McCain: But what is at stake here in this health care issue is the fundamental difference between myself and Senator Obama. As you notice, he starts talking about government. He starts saying, government will do this and government will do that, and then government will, and he'll impose mandates.
If you're a small business person and you don't insure your employees, Senator Obama will fine you. Will fine you. That's remarkable. If you're a parent and you're struggling to get health insurance for your children, Senator Obama will fine you.
After some more rambling, McCain summed it up by saying, "But they certainly are a little nervous when Senator Obama says, if you don't get the health care policy that I think you should have, then you're going to get fined. And, by the way, Senator Obama has never mentioned how much that fine might be. Perhaps we might find that out tonight."
The Associated Press released a fact check on McCain's claim, saying: "Obama's health care plan does not impose mandates or fines on small business. He would provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50 percent on health premiums paid on behalf of their employees. Also, large employers that do not offer meaningful coverage or contribute to the cost of coverage would be required to pay a percentage of payroll toward the costs of a public insurance plan. But small businesses would be exempt from that requirement."
McCain is eager to invoke fear about Obama's plan while trying to keep his own intentions under the radar. A top aide told the Wall Street Journal that McCain aims to pay for his health plan with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid. Independent analysts estimate such a move could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs.
No doubt the McCain campaign doesn't want to broadcast these intentions, especially while they are battling for Florida, with it's huge retiree popluation - most of which depend entirely on Medicare and Medicaid.