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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain speaks during the presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Gary Hershorn, Pool)

Barack Obama and John McCain during their final presidential debate on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP)

We’re getting used to big, wild news. On Wall Street, epic swings up and down, and Warren Buffet saying it’s time to buy. In the economy, rough headlines all over and warnings of worse to come.

In politics, tough digs, the last head-to-head debate of the presidential campaign, and a welcome respite of humor. Obama concedes he has the ears of Alfred E. Newman. McCain jokes he’s hired Joe the Plumber to work on all seven of his houses.

This hour, On Point: We’ll look at the week. Our news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

You can join the conversation. Is the fog clearing yet for you on the American economy? On the presidential race? What do you see? Tell us.

Guests:

Joining us from Washington is Liz Halloran, senior writer for U.S. News & World Report, who’s been all over the presidential campaign.

Also from Washington is David Leonhardt, economics columnist for The New York Times.

And with us from Hanover, New Hampshire, is Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly.

More links:

Here’s the full video of Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain:

And here’s the next night’s comic relief at the Al Smith Memorial Dinner in New York, which featured roasts by the candidates:

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  • Joe B.

    I really enjoy the Friday segments of On Point, “The week in the news”. With so much happening in the news, perhaps you could expand this into a two hour program.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    I’m with Joe. During this season especially it would be a good move. Maybe change the topic one hour to the next but there’s so much going on and you’re so good at covering it a two hour round up would be great.

    I highly recommend watching these two videos. Watch McCain first, he introduces Obama.

    http://politicalirony.com/2008/10/16/obama-makes-mccain-laugh-and-you-will-too/

  • John

    I agree … I’m always disappointed when it ends at 11! (Although I do also enjoy the sorts of topics you fill the 11-12 hour with on Fridays, such as today’s …)

  • Peter Nelson

    I disagree with everyone else (what else is new?).

    The quality of the discussions in the Week in the News segment has been largely polemical, and Jack ups that ante. Much heat and little light. Anyone who doubts this can simply read the archives of previous Week in the News discussions and see all the complaints here about the guests, Jack and Tom. So it’s a little ironic to see people demanding MORE of a segments that they spend most of their time complaining about.

    Anyway, the news is all around us and there is plenty of much deeper, more insightful and nuanced analysis in the print media.

  • http://banicki.biz steve banicki

    The stock market lost $8-trillion in the last 16-months; $4-trillion of it was lost within the last 30-days. Panic selling caused some of it along with the market adjusting to a new economic reality.

    It is true that much of the decline in the stock market results from a “selling panic” caused by the many bank failures and the ineffectiveness of the federal government to solve the credit shortage. Eventually the investing public will understand that life will pretty much go on a usual as the weak banks fail and as the credit crisis indeed is resolved.

    However, much of the market decline is a result of investors adjusting their expectations of the future income of the companies that they hold in their stock portfolios. With expected returns from investments lowered, it means that “values” of stock portfolios will also fall. A lower expectation of earnings is the harsh reality we are facing; it is not panic driven.

    The new reality is that the average household lost trillions of dollars by the value of their homes falling precipitously and now the decline in the stock market. This then results in a significant drop in demand for the goods and services offered by companies that investors have purchased. These companies will earn less and therefore the value of their shares will decline.

    The issue for bargain hunters is to determine what portion of the sell-off is due to panic and how much is due to fundamentals.

  • Michael

    What are the odds that ACORN has been sabotaged by GOP operatives? The number of fraudulent registration applications just seems way too high to me. If anyone intended to get away with this, they wouldn’t have brought such blatant attention to this kind of activity.

    What do you think?

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    The issue for bargain hunters is to determine what portion of the sell-off is due to panic and how much is due to fundamentals.

    If prices are falling in line with earnings then P/E’s should remain more-or-less constant. Infact we’re seeing P/E’s in some sectors falling much faster than that, suggesting there might be some good buying opportunities.

    OTOH Two caveats should be kept in mind -

    1. P/E’s are still way high by historical standards, and both for that reason and the fact that earnings growth will probably remain depressed for years lower P/E’s might be the norm going forward.

    2. Following the 1929 crash the Dow actually regained much of its lost value – by Q2 of 1930 is was almost 300 – the same range it was in in early 1929, and much higher than it was in 1928! So people thought we were in recovery despite growing unemployment and falling industrial production. Since the DJIA is seen as a “leading” indicator people thought recovery was “just around the corner”.

    But instead, that was its last hurrah – between 1930 and 1932 it dropped and dropped, with a few furtive rallies in between to draw in the suckers. By 1932 it was down around 50 and US industrial production had dropped by half and over 1/4 of the population was unemployed.

  • james smith

    Republications minimize the few hateful comments made at some republican rallies by saying that the few don’t represent the many. On the other hand, republicans use one man, Joe the Plumber, to represent many. Can one have it both ways?

  • http://www.inkywretch.com Bill Wilt

    On the “aspirational” aspect of Americans:

    The US actually is not a “free market” and the folks fulminating against “spreading the wealth around” don’t realize that $700 billion of “taxpayer wealth” has just been spread around to the Wall Street Fat-Cats. I wish I owned a bank.

    As for free market Republicans, show me a Steinbrenner that has paid every penny of the cost for his new baseball stadium because he will profit from selling tickets and I’ll show you a real “free marketeer.”

    Show me a Wall-Streeter who will pay the complete costs of the US court system he uses to enforce his contracts and I’ll show you a free marketeer.

    The point: Without the social “infrastructure” — call it government if you wish — there would be NO markets, free or otherwise. And the “free marketeers” pay nowhere NEAR their share of the costs of this infrastructure.

  • Phil Newton

    Your guests this morning have made numerous positive comments about the re-emergence of John McCain’s real )charming) personality. Have any of you read the the recent “Rolling Stone” article by Tim Dickinson? In it, McCain is portrayed as a “make-beleive maverick”, who, like Bush, “developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion.”, to “fail upward.”

    Dickinson says the only major difference between the two is that “Bush was a better pilot”

    Who is right, MSM or Dickinson?

  • http://www.inkywretch.com Bill Wilt

    PS — and yes, you’ve got to extend the Friday wrap-up or wrap-around from the one hour to TWO hours.

    There is now sooo much to cover that it just can’t be done in one hour.

    That condition probably isn’t going to change for the next four years.

    bw

  • Joanna Drzewieniecki

    I think it is essential for both Palin and McCain to say at their rallies that comments calling for assassination are absolutely unacceptable (as, needless to say, is assassination itself). I find it astonishing that they haven’t said this outright.
    As far as ACORN goes, it does look like a clear case of sabotage but I doubt anyone will ever be able to prove it.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    What are the odds that ACORN has been sabotaged by GOP operatives?

    Michael – who knew you were a conspiracy theorist? Who else is in on it? MIB’s? Area 51? The Illuminati?

    The GOP is grasping at anything they think they can get Obama on – Acorn, Ayers, “Hussein” “Secret Muslim”, etc. It’s all theater but that doesn’t mean it won’t work, although it certainly doesn’t seem to be working. Here’s the world’s most reliable “poll” . . .

    http://iemweb.biz.uiowa.edu/graphs/graph_Pres08_WTA.cfm

    I’m impressed by the Democrat’s forebearance at not going after Todd Palin’s membership in the AIP – “What’s the matter, Palin – the United States isn’t good enough for you?”.

  • Sean Benoit

    I think its absolutely appalling that as Americans, we see world hunger, and destroying countries as far more important than providing less than the SAME amount of tax payer money in order to provide health care and other social services for the individuals in our own country – those being exploited.

    Why do I say exploited? Because their employer, that corporation they hate going into work to, is paying them far less than what is necessary for them to have any standard of living.

    I realize that “hard working” Americans like to think of themselves as working so much harder than their fellow Americans – it’s the capitalist mentality. However, they have to sit back and think about where their money is coming from – fellow Americans. If more people are doing well, more goods and services are requested.

    People need to get real. Stop supporting US efforts in other nations around the world when our own people are being underpaid, undereducated, and just under everything.

    10 Trillion dollars in debt?! What about keeping 10% of that at home so we can become a proud nation and not a nation of snobs who feel like they’re doing their duty when they send 12c a day to feed some African child instead of having a slight tax increase so the unfortunate (read: homeless) can eat and have health care.

    I’m disappointed in Americans. It’s a sad day when our government can find all this money to build bombs but yet, our hungry and sick die right here on our homeland – AND THEY’RE SUPPORTED by our citizens.

  • Alex

    I have been in this country for 12 years and I am perplexed by this fascination with the tax issue. I have learned that the majority of the people here are not hurt by higher taxes. Republicans may throw you are bone in a form of a $300 check once in a while. At the same time the cost of health care, education, housing, fuel, state or federal fees and charges, highway tolls, food is going up like crazy. Granted, not everything can be rectified by the government, but some big issues could be through a reform on the federal level. Politicians dangle this lower taxes promisses in fron of our noses. Meanwhile, people keep paying many times over for the privilege to have marginally lower taxes, if at all, while paying through the nose for healthcare and their kids’ colleges.

  • Sean Benoit

    “THEY’re SUPPORTED” being “government” (elected officials). Just to clear it up ;) – NOT the dying.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    On the “aspirational” aspect of Americans:

    The US actually is not a “free market” and the folks fulminating against “spreading the wealth around” don’t realize that $700 billion of “taxpayer wealth” has just been spread around to the Wall Street Fat-Cats. I wish I owned a bank.

    You CAN own a bank, or at least part of one. Just buy stock in a bank.

    But on your “aspirational” point – politics is theater – the objective reality is not as important as the perception. That’s why people living in mobile homes supported the Bush tax cuts a few years ago.

    Don’t knock an aspirational ethos. It’s what brings millions of talented, hard-working immigrants to the US to build our economy. It’s also what makes people start their own businesses despite the fact that the SBA says that over 80% of all small business startups will fail. It’s also what made a small band of rabble-rousers, idealists and troublemakers thibnk they could start a democracy here in 1776. I’ll take aspirationalism and Keynes “animal spirits” over a detached rationlism any day, although I reserve the right to be rational in my own economic decisions.

  • Frederic C.

    What are the odds that ACORN has been sabotaged by GOP operatives?

    The simpler sounding answer is simple financial gain no conspiracy.
    But, my thoughts go immediately to the ghost of Tricky Dick Nixon.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    i>I have been in this country for 12 years and I am perplexed by this fascination with the tax issue.

    . . .

    Meanwhile, people keep paying many times over for the privilege to have marginally lower taxes, if at all, while paying through the nose for healthcare and their kids’ colleges.

    What perplexes me is why so many people here criticize me for pointing out that politics is all about theater and perception, and then claim to be “perplexed” that Americans don’t get the basic numbers, as you describe, above.

    YES, you are absolutely correct that the NUMBERS don’t make rational sense. Obviously, in numeric terms a different distribution of taxes and more spending on healthcare and education would work better and make more sense.

    But it’s not about numbers and all the science on the way humans make decisions in a social context such as politics underscores this. Emotion, intertemporal choice, group affiliation, symbolism, “aspirationalism” etc, etc, will trump numbers like yours (or mine, because I totally agree with your economic analysis) almost every time.

  • Sean Benoit

    Buying stock isn’t exactly an answer to his argument. Purchasing stock is simply taking your hard earned money, and investing it in “someone” else because you believe they will make better business decisions than you can.
    I realize people make tons and tons of money in various markets, however, the fact that the stock market has been pitched as a way to grow your retirement – if you even deserve one – is laughable and upsetting at the same time.
    Its simply a gamble on someone else other than yourself because you don’t think you’re smart enough to grow your own money. Sad, sad state of affairs.

  • ThresherK

    For those callers who are concerned about Obama’s proposed tax plans: Do you recognize such rates will only affect the amount of money you net over $250k? Did the rich suffer in the 1990s under Clinton? What will your tax rates be when Bush’s tax cut runs out in a couple years as designed?

    Lots of Low Information Voters (there’s that phrase again) are calling in with feelings and nothing to back them up. And NPR is supposed to know these things already without all the “on the one hand on the other”isms.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Its simply a gamble on someone else other than yourself because you don’t think you’re smart enough to grow your own money. Sad, sad state of affairs.

    What makes it “sad”?

    Other than being an entrepreneur how else do you “grow your own money”?

    And, statistically, the odds of success in being an entrepreneur are POORER than making money in the stock market, since the vast majority of small busineses fail in the first few years. Furthermore, being an entrepreneur doesn’t insulate you from the decisions of others – your customers, competitors, suppliers, etc, will all make decisions that determine YOUR success.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    Lots of Low Information Voters (there’s that phrase again) are calling in with feelings and nothing to back them up. And NPR is supposed to know these things already without all the “on the one hand on the other”isms.

    The vote of a “low information” voter counts just as much as your vote. Infact, if the “low information” voter lives in a swing state it probably counts more.

    But what makes you think voters base their decisions on “information”?

  • http://tombstone001.blogspot.com MOHAMMED N. RAZAVI, DALEVILLE, AL 36322

    May be John McCain should be trying to take the job away from Joe the Plumber, since it seems that he thinks that Joe the Plumber could be making the income of more than what the senator is paid.

    At this point it seems that everyone is confused. The income of a business is not taxed as a whole only the NET PROFITS are taxed, after all the expenses of the business are taken out including utilites, local taxes, empolyees pay, health benefits, vhicles, parts, depriciation of buldings and equipment what have you, be it a corporation, sole propritership or an S-corpration, only then whatever is left for the owner is taxable. A Business could have a million dollars in sales but the owner may not even make a hundred thousand doallrs in income.

    Both McCain and Neal Boortz and the other right wing mouth pieces are trying to scare people. To bad Obama himself could not explain it in the debate.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    At this point it seems that everyone is confused. The income of a business is not taxed as a whole only the NET PROFITS are taxed

    Some of us already know that, but you are right that most people don’t understand that.

    Now: multiply this topic (business taxes) by all the other issues – monetary policy, global warming, geopolitics, healthcare funding, the “bailout”, stem cell research, missile-defence systems, funding the deficit, trade policy, etc, etc, et cetera, and we can see a problem.

    A few of us are geeks who enjoy being policy wonks. We know what the “Bush Doctrine” is and why we should care about LIBOR and why the Senate bailout bill had to be attached to an unrelated piece of legislation to get voted on. But most voters are not wonks; they don’t know this stuff and aren’t interested!

    So why do so many people here castigate them for making their decisions in a different basis? I like being wonkish, but what right do I have to impose my ivory-tower value system on other voters? This is a free country and it’s elitist for someone to tell someone else how they should choose for whom to vote.

  • http://www.oz7.com Ozzie Banicki

    “Joe The Plummer” backfired for McCain.

    Obama was patient (or just lucky not being able to think of a reply for awhile). McCain showed some immediate distress on his face–not a good reaction. It was a nonverbal confession of his weakness on a point he harped on for the entire evening.

    The debate was monitored well by Bob Sheiffer, almost as good as Jim Lehrer, but superior to Gwen Ifill and Tom Brokow, the latter was clearly last in effectiveness, too many self made distractions.

    The general rule is, style beats substance when substance doesn’t have a clear advantage; so we know who won all three Presidential debates.

    I hope we put tarrifs on outsourcing like we do on goods. Maybe the people could afford the gas, regardless of the price–giving us the comparative advantage in buying the abundance of oil in the world.

    I’m out!

  • roger davies

    I agree — two hours — the commentary and information are excellent.

    Joe the the non-plumber is an incredibly sloppy and cynical tactic. Turns out that the McCain campaign didn’t even check if this guy is legit, and the press should be all over this as incompetence or as misrepresentation.

    This guy complains about taxes which he doesn’t even pay! — so maybe he shouldn’t be using all the services he gets from local, state, and federal taxes…..

    Last, McCain’s assertion that he speaks out against the violent and dangerous statements that his campaign rhetoric encourages is false, and I wish that more commentators and news analysts would call him on it unequivocally. We have lost too many good national leaders to assassination. Maybe Lewis’ comments about McCain are regretable, but McCain’s and Palin’s statements (now these statements are part of their robo-dial campaign) are incendiary and really do give extremists a reason to resort to violence. McCain and Palin need to denounce these statements in no uncertain terms when they happen

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    I hope we put tarrifs on outsourcing like we do on goods.

    VERY dangerous idea, if you care about the US economy!

    Our best jobs and most successful companies are high-tech engineering and science jobs. But they depend heavily on outsourcing because the US simply does not produce enough skilled engineers and scientists on its own. I’m sure I’d be out of a job and my whole office campus would be shut down if we couldn’t afford to outsource the work that we can’t do here.

    If you think tariffs are a good idea going into a recession I suggest you look up “Smoot-Hawley”.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    “Joe The Plummer” backfired for McCain.

    Yes, bigtime. Practically everything McCain has done in this campaign has backfired. The only reason he’s not behind by 20 points is because Obama’s black and there’s enough residual racism in the US to keep it close.

    So how did plumbers become such political icons? Remember the “Polish Plumber” (Plombier polonais) in the French EU Constitution campaign? Here’s a refresher:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_plumber

  • AV

    I’m impressed by the Democrat’s forebearance at not going after Todd Palin’s membership in the AIP..

    Agreed. I miss the good old days of the Daisy Girl ad. ;)

  • AV

    Naah. One hour is sufficient. Jack Beatty was really fired up today – I guess with Nov 4 around the corner, the excitement is palpable and passions running hot. “Let’s make history!!”

  • Mary

    I was appalled with the way your guests minimized the ACORN voter fraud issue today. Where ACORN has done good quality work, yea. Where they’ve grievously and without due care registered people not qualified to vote, their registrations should be pulled and if they aren’t fully validated by election day, they shouldn’t count. If a listener hasn’t listened to what’s really been happening on this issue and only heard what you and your guests said, it was seem to amount to nothing. Thank God I make it a point to stay informed. In fact, you and your guests did the same thing to other issues as the program progressed. If you only support Obama, then NPR should make some effort to put analyst on who are more objective. It seems to be a trivial thing that Obama’s economic programs will probably more than double the federal deficit. It’s just over 10 Trillion now, when Obama finishes, we really will be in the black hole of economic hell. I don’t know why no one put that out there, other news analyst have. It seems NPR has sold out to liberal socialism.

  • http://www.pnart.com Peter Nelson

    I guess with Nov 4 around the corner, the excitement is palpable and passions running hot. “Let’s make history!!”

    This is the scary part. Obama is quite correct to warn his supporters, as he did yesterday, to not get cocky. “I have two words for you”, he said, “New Hampshire” He reminded everyone that going into the New Hampshire primary he was heavily favored to win, but he lost.

    Today the TV networks started to discuss how they might fill an election-night where the winner is decided before people sit down to dinner. They’re expecting a big Obama blow-out. So is the world’s most accurate “poll”,
    the Iowa Electronic Markets,
    http://iemweb.biz.uiowa.edu/graphs/graph_Pres08_WTA.cfm

    But McCain has shown that he’ll stop at nothing to paint Obama as a scary bogey-man, and of course the GOP might still have an “October Surprise” waiting offstage. And a Harvard professor friend of mine is still convinced that when many people are in that voting both, alone with their ballot, they just won’t be able to pull the lever for a black man.

    So let’s not buy tickets to the inauguration before November 5th.

  • Wendy Hubbard

    I am really puzzled by the seemingly missing link in all of the discussion about the economic crisis. Do the trillions of dollars that the US is borrowing to fund the wars in Iraq and Afganistan, spending money we do not have, NOT investing in our infrastructure, NOT investing in our children’s educations, NOT investing in alternative forms of energy, NOT investing in our job creation have anything to do with this mess? Does it seem to anybody else that this smacks of hypocrisy? The spin masters of this adminstration’s distraction team who are blaming the homeowners for mortgages that they couldn’t afford for this financial melt down seem to be missing the parallel. We have mortgaged our future and wasted countless lives, I am not clear that these wars have been worth it. I fear the cost has been to great and I say this as mother in a military family, whose son served two tours as a marine in Iraq. Bring our troops home! There is no winning. Let us not forget their sacrifice and become completely self absorbed by own 401Ks.

  • Alex

    I thought plumbers were supposed to know what it is that trickles down.

  • Lon Ponschock

    I’m pretty much down to listening to On Point a week for the week in the news.

    I leave it on until the ‘basically gits come on and tell us how basically everything is. This week it took til 6 and half minutes when I turned it off.

    Please join my campaign to eliminate the tedious use of the word ‘basically.’

    Here is the reasoning::

    The word “basically” is an overused verbal tic which demeans and condescends to the listener. It is at the same time a way for the speaker to inflate his own self esteem by flogging and repeating words that appear to emphasize personal knowledge.

    It is a fault which has become, I fear, some sort of custom or accepted colloquialism.

  • dave panzarino

    “Looks like there’s some margin in the superflux!” -Tom. Stay cool.

  • Archie

    Obama pals around with terrorists.

    Powell pals around with Obama.

    Therefore, Powell is a terrorist.

    I’m with Rep. Bachmann of Minnesota. There should be an investigation of Congress for Un-American activities.

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