Obama vs McCain on Taxes

The McCain campaign has been trying to paint Senator Obama as intending to raise taxes. In fact, Obama’s plan calls for cutting taxes for the majority of Americans, as shown in the table below.




Avg. tax bill

Avg. tax bill

Over $2.9M



$603K and up





















Under $19K



Republican VP nominee Gov. Sarah Palin explained the discrepancy in a recent interview with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: … Why do you both keep saying that Obama is going to raise people’s taxes? It’s been pretty clear what he intends. [Obama’s] talked about middle-class tax cuts, extending Bush tax cuts on everything but people who own or earn more than $250,000 a year — cuts taxes on over 91 percent of the country. Why do you keep saying he’s going to raise people’s taxes?

PALIN: Well, I would argue with the whole premise of that, that his mission is to not increase taxes. He’s had 94 opportunities to either vote for a tax cut or not support tax increases. And 94 times, he’s been on the other side of what I believe the majority of Americans want.

So in this rather dubious line of reasoning, Palin attempts to argue that Obama is just instrinsically motivated to raise taxes or has some kind of mission to raise taxes as much as possible, and she discards his stated plan to actually reduce taxes more than McCain’s plan. This would be like Biden arguing that McCain intends to reduce taxes until the government is broke and falls apart. But politicians don’t raise or lower taxes just for the sake of it, they do it to achieve certain social goals. To call someone a “tax raiser” or “tax lower” without reference to the sought after goals of the action is just intentionally trying to stir people up and confuse the real issues.

For a dizzying array of information on tax policy, see the Tax Policy Center.

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