On MSNBC Live, Mika Brzezinski stated that Sen. Barack Obama "claimed" that Sen. John McCain "had initially opposed the tax cuts and was flip-flopping, just to get elected," and aired a clip of McCain saying, "Senator Obama has stated very clearly his desire to increase Americans' taxes." But Brzezinski did not acknowledge that Obama's "claim" that McCain reversed his position on the Bush tax cuts is in fact true, or that, contrary to McCain's assertion, Obama has proposed tax cuts for the poor and the middle class.
During the March 14 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Mika Brzezinski stated that Sen. Barack Obama "claimed" that Sen. John McCain "had initially opposed the tax cuts and was flip-flopping, just to get elected." Brzezinski then aired a clip of McCain saying, "Well, it's very clear that I have voted to make those tax cuts permanent on several times. Senator Obama has stated very clearly his desire to increase Americans' taxes." At no point did Brzezinski acknowledge that Obama's "claim" that McCain reversed his position on the Bush tax cuts is in fact true, or that, contrary to McCain's assertion in his response, Obama has proposed tax cuts for the poor and the middle class.
In a March 13 statement, Obama said that McCain "made a decision to reverse himself" on the Bush tax cuts, which, Obama added, "McCain rightly said were irresponsible when they first came up that certainly were unprecedented at a time of war." Of McCain's reversal, Obama also said: "[T]hat was how I guess you got your ticket punch to be the Republican nominee. But, he was right then and he's wrong now."
Indeed, in May 2001, McCain voted against the final version of President Bush's initial $1.35 trillion tax-cut package. In a floor statement explaining his opposition, McCain said that while he supported an earlier version of the bill "that provided more tax relief to middle income Americans," he could not "in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief." In 2003, McCain voted against legislation to accelerate the tax reductions enacted in the 2001 bill and to cut dividends and capital gains taxes. In February 2006, however, he switched positions and voted to extend the 2003 tax cuts on capital gains and dividends through 2010. Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform president, reportedly said at the time: "It's a big flip-flop, but I'm happy that he's flopped." McCain now claims that he initially opposed the tax cuts because they were not paired with spending cuts.
Contrary to McCain's assertion that Obama "has stated very clearly his desire to increase Americans' taxes," Obama discussed his plan for "a middle-class tax cut" as recently as March 13 and has also proposed tax cuts for the poor and senior citizens. As Bloomberg reported on March 13:
Obama's proposal would shift the tax burden further toward the rich from low- and middle-income workers.
The centerpiece of Obama's tax plan is a $1,000 tax cut for workers that would cost more than $80 billion annually and effectively eliminate all taxes for about 10 million low-income Americans.
That tax cut is "the signature difference,'' said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington research center funded partly by labor groups. "That costs some serious money.''
The Illinois senator would also offset the cost of his cuts by raising the income cap on payroll taxes and eliminating "corporate loopholes,'' including one that allows executives of hedge funds and private-equity firms to pay a 15 percent capital-gains rate on most of their income rather than the 35 percent regular income-tax rate, and by cracking down on overseas tax havens.
"We have identified the cuts we think are available or the changes in our tax code that are available to pay for a middle-class tax cut,'' Obama told reporters on his campaign plane today.
Obama also offers a 10 percent mortgage credit that can be claimed by people who don't itemize deductions and eliminates taxes for senior citizens who earn less than $50,000.
His approach is aimed in part at giving a boost to workers whose incomes have been stagnant in recent years by allowing his $1,000 credit to offset payroll taxes as well as income taxes, which means it will reach lower on the income scale.
"That's a problem that faces a pretty wide swath of the population,'' said Austan Goolsbee, the candidate's chief economic adviser and an economics professor at the University of Chicago. "Targeted credits do not properly deal with that problem.''
Obama's proposals for middle class "tax relief" are further detailed on his campaign website.
From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the March 14 edition of MSNBC Live:
BRZEZINSKI: And not to be left out of all the back and forth between the Democrats, John McCain shot back at Barack Obama's charge that he's changed his position on making President Bush's tax cuts permanent. Senator Obama claimed that the Arizona senator had initially opposed the tax cuts and was flip-flopping, just to get elected.
McCAIN [video clip]: Well, it's very clear that I have voted to make those tax cuts permanent on several times. Senator Obama has stated very clearly his desire to increase Americans' taxes. He wants to raise Americans' taxes and put more of their money into the hands of the government. I want to keep it in the wallets and purses of the American people.
BRZEZINSKI: McCain has said he supports extending the tax cuts because the economy is struggling and tax reductions may stimulate it.