Georgian president thanks Biden for war visit

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili thanked Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden for flying to his country to show support during the Russian invasion last month.

“You came straight into the middle of the conflict. … That was very brave of you,” Saakashvili told Biden before they began a private meeting Friday in Milwaukee. “I certainly will not forget that, and my people are not going to forget it.”

Saakashvili said the trip was even more remarkable because it came while Biden was being mentioned as a candidate to become the running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Biden traveled to the pro-Western former Soviet republic in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; he was picked by Obama several days later.

Biden told the Georgian president, whom he has known since before he become president, “I was happy to do that and thought it was important to show American solidarity and support.” Biden added that Russia must not be allowed to bring down a democratically elected government, that the U.S. and Europe should provide substantial economic aid to Georgia, and that Russia should be penalized for its actions.

The remarks came at the beginning of the two-hour meeting between Biden, who was in Wisconsin to campaign, and Saakashvili in a hotel conference room. At least one reporter, photographers and a TV producer were allowed in for five minutes. At the end of the brief statements, Biden asked for questions, but there were none.

Adding up health care plans

During a campaign stop in Pennsylvania a day earlier, Biden claimed that John McCain's tax proposals for health insurance would be “the largest tax increase in the history of America for the middle class.” He was wrong.

McCain does propose taxing the health benefits that some 156 million people get through the workplace. That's a major change, because now no income taxes are levied on those benefits, but it's not the whole story.

So, as Biden explained, someone who makes $40,000 and gets $12,000 in health insurance benefits would end up paying income taxes on $52,000. But what Biden didn't say was that McCain also proposes to give the insured a new tax break in exchange — a $2,500 tax credit for individuals and a $5,000 tax credit for families.

For most families, that tax credit would for several years be more generous than the current tax break for employer-sponsored health insurance. An analysis of McCain's plan by the Tax Policy Center estimated that McCain's plan would increase the federal deficit by $1.3 trillion over 10 years, mainly because it would lead to less tax revenue coming in. The same group says Obama's plan would increase the deficit by $1.6 trillion over the same period.