The Palin choice-11: McCain and Obama on taxes

(For previous posts in this series, see here.)

I have looked previously at where Sarah Palin stands on the issues. In this post I will examine McCain’s positions. This is not easy to do since McCain has shown himself remarkably willing to change positions for the sake of expediency. Yesterday’s Post Script of the Daily Show bio of McCain shows this.

McCain keeps saying that he is a ‘maverick’ but what that seems to mean to him is that he takes policy positions that serve the purpose of polishing his own image. If that requires him to criticize his own party when his own needs demand it, he does not hesitate to do so, but he rarely follows that up with any actions that actually goes against his party. Steve Benen has been keeping a running list of McCain’s flip-flops. It is getting pretty long.

It is important to emphasize that changing one’s position on an issue is not by itself bad. If the facts or circumstances change or one is presented with compelling new arguments or evidence, then one should review and revise one’s stand. It is the reasons for the change that are important. With McCain, he often does not even bother to give any reason.

Although the campaign has become, as usual, focused on trivialities (lipsticks, pigs, and fish) and culture wars, the really important issues are those of war and peace and the distribution of income, wealth, and services in the country. The one-party/two-factions system that exists in the US requires both candidates to serve the interests of Wall Street and the wealthy. Both Obama and McCain have obliged. It is only at the margins that they differ.

Candidates who strongly favor the very rich (like McCain) prefer to talk in terms of ‘averages’ (in income or tax cuts), because that can mask huge differences between groups. You can give huge tax cuts to a few rich people and very small cuts to a large number of poor people and still claim that people are receiving a good ‘average’ tax cut. But what needs to be examined is how it breaks down in narrow income slices.

The Washington Post recently had the kind of political analysis that is worth reading. It analyzed how Obama’s and McCain’s tax plans would affect people in specific income groups. Such detailed breakdowns are far more useful than broad generalizations.

tax comparisons.jpeg

We see that McCain’s policies are heavily skewed to benefit the very wealthy. McCain emphasizes how his policies would give everyone a tax cut and the average benefits would be larger than Obama’s plan. That is true, but the graphic clearly shows that lower income groups get tiny tax cuts while the very rich get enormous benefits. Obama gives bigger tax cuts to the lower income groups (those earning below about $100,000), smaller tax cuts to those earning between $100,000 and $250,000, while the very rich have to pay more taxes.

BusinessWeek says:

The [Tax Policy Center] took a look at the various tax proposals put forth by the two candidates and estimated that Obama’s plan would lead to a boost in aftertax income for all but the highest earners, while taking a smaller bite out of government tax revenues than would McCain’s plans.
. . .
Under McCain’s proposals, by contrast—including an extension of the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers, a corporate tax cut, and a larger reduction in estate taxes than Obama would support—far more of the benefits would go to the top. If his plans went into effect in 2009, married couples in the bottom fifth of the population would see aftertax income go up just 0.2%, while those in the next quintile would see a 0.7% hike. But those in the top quintile would see a bump up in aftertax income of 2.7%.

There is no question that the Bush administration has favored fiscal and monetary policies that have favored the already well-to-do, while gutting the protections that poorer people depend upon. The Wall Street Journal points out that among wage earners, only professionals like doctors and lawyers made more in 2007 than in 2000. McCain’s tax policies will enable the very rich to keep even more of their income, accelerating the inequalities that has been going on for some time.

Although Obama’s tax plans are a less generous to the very wealthy than McCain’s, for me, the biggest factor in favor of Obama is that he is unlikely to recklessly start another war or create international tensions, while McCain is, if possible, even more reckless than Bush.

POST SCRIPT: US-Pakistan clashes?

Lost in the coverage about the presidential campaign and the chaos in the financial markets has been this troubling story about tension between US and Pakistani forces on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan following an incursion into Pakistan by US forces on September 3 that led to the deaths of some villagers.

The BBC reports that a second attempted incursion was stopped because of Pakistan paramilitary troops firing on US forces:

Pakistan’s army spokesman has made clear that its forces have been ordered to open fire if US troops launch another raid across the Afghan border.
. . .
Locals said seven US helicopter gunships and two troop-carrying Chinook helicopters landed in the Afghan province of Paktika near the Zohba mountain range.

US troops from the Chinooks then tried to cross the border. As they did so, Pakistani paramilitary soldiers at a checkpoint opened fire into the air and the US troops decided not to continue forward, local Pakistani officials say.


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