July 23, 2007

McCain The Tax Cutter?

John McCain took a lot of heat for opposing the sweeping tax cuts during George Bush's first term. He warned that the cuts would starve government of the funds needed to fuel the war, among other issues -- and got proven wrong. Now as McCain looks to reconnect with Republican primary voters, he has vowed to cut taxes as President, starting with the alternative minimum tax that has ensnared more and more middle-class taxpayers:

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is pledging to repeal the alternative minimum tax and hold down government spending with vetoes and line-item-veto authority.

The Arizona senator, in remarks prepared for delivery Monday evening to the Economic Club of Southwest Michigan, promised to eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which he said would affect as many as 30 million people by 2010. The tax was originally intended to make sure the wealthy do not exploit tax loopholes.

"I am committed to repealing this tax before millions of American families are forced to devote even more of their hard work to paying for the spending largesse in Washington," McCain said in excerpts from his speech released by his campaign.

McCain said he would fight for line-item veto power, which the Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional, but wouldn't hesitate to use the veto as it now exists to crack down on spending.

"Give me the pen, and I'll veto every single pork-barrel bill Congress sends me, and if they keep sending them to me, I'll use the bully pulpit to make the people who are wasting your money famous," he said.

McCain's opposition to the tax cuts came mainly on the last round, which McCain thought excessive at the time. As the rejuvenated economy filled the coffers of the federal government at a rate higher than projected, McCain acknowledged his error on the cuts. This appears consistent with his later positions, in which he advised making the tax system more fair for taxpayers.

The AMT, however, represents everything wrong with progressive tax schemes and will be hard to kill as a result. It originated as a means to force the rich to pay their fair share of taxes, but Congress did not allow indexing for inflation. Now taxpayers in the middle class have begun getting hammered by the AMT, but Congress has been paralyzed into inaction. Everyone would like to take credit for saving the middle class from the AMT, but the defeat of this particular dragon would cost tens of billions in revenue. Without an alternate source of revenue to replace the monies lost, Congress has been unable to act.

This shows how Beltwayitis works, too. Instead of looking for matching reductions in expenditures, Congress has thrown up its hands until it can find new revenue streams to replace the money it shouldn't be collecting at all. "Fiscal responsibility" seems to mean confiscating more of other people's money rather than trimming budgets and reducing government bloat and redundancy.

McCain's promise to attack the AMT will likely get echoed by most presidential contenders, but the question will be what they can actually do about it. The same holds true for the line-item veto, which McCain also will endorse today. In both instances, he may be able to do more as a member of the Senate than as President, although nothing much will happen while the Democrats control Congress on either. On the other hand, we need to make sure the next President keeps the pressure on Congress to do something other than dither.


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Comments (18)

Posted by swabjockey05 | July 23, 2007 11:18 AM

Good points Ed.

Too bad your Repubs had both houses and WH...they had the perfect chance to flush the AMT. Don't see how any of you can whine about the Dhimmicrats on that issue.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 23, 2007 11:33 AM

McPain has faith that the media will ressurrect him.


But he sure sucks up any oxygen there is in the spot light.

Posted by Rick Moran | July 23, 2007 12:38 PM

He warned that the cuts would starve government of the funds needed to fuel the war, among other issues -- and got proven wrong.

Mmmmm...I'm not sure he was "proven wrong." The deficit ballooned to over $400 billion in 2004 and only in the last 3 years has it started to come down. The war may not have "starved" for funds - but only because Congress and the President refused to have any fiscal discipline whatsoever.

Posted by LarryD | July 23, 2007 12:43 PM

The Line Item Veto was struck down by the SCOTUS, it's dead.

Congress could repeal the provision of the 1972 Budget and Impoundment Control Act that removed the Impoundment power from the President. The Federal Budget has been out of control almost every year since then.

Impoundment, for anyone who doesn't know, was the long established implicit power the President hand, to not spend every penny that Congress had Authorized and Appropriated.

Instead of a Line Item Veto, I want the Impoundment power restored. Since we can't get it through Congress (and I don't want Congress rescinding it again anyway), it's time to push for it at the state level, as a Constitutional Amendment. Along with Term Limits on Congress (and maybe the bureaucracy and SCOTUS too).

Posted by Thomas Jackson | July 23, 2007 12:46 PM

It appears between sucking the middle class aka "the rich" better known as those who work, and cutting black hole leftist fantasy social spending, the Taxacrats will always seek to drain the last drop. After all you should be happy that bureaucrats allow you to keep even 10% of what you earn peons.

When was the last time a Dhimmiecrat cut taxes? In my childhood that arch conservative JFK did, but they killed him for that sin. One doesn't commit heresy without punishment.

Posted by George | July 23, 2007 12:53 PM

Rick Moran beat me to my response. Our Washington politicians' willingness to go deeper and deeper into debt is not evidence that our government has the funds.

Nonetheless, I don't think we should be increasing taxes. It is time to reign in spending.

Posted by PersonFromPorlock | July 23, 2007 12:53 PM

Good Lord! Is he still alive?

Posted by Adjoran | July 23, 2007 1:04 PM

Naturally, it takes several years for the stimulative effect of a marginal rate reduction to become fully effective - as we found with the JFK and Reagan tax cuts - and generate the increased revenues, so taking figures from the years immediately after the cuts are enacted and holding them up in isolation is an act of deception.

I apologize in advance if any of those using such a spurious argument are merely stupid instead of dishonest.

McCain never was a Reaganite tax-cutter, but that's irrelevant. We welcome him to the fold as we welcomed Mitt Romney to the pro-life position, and we are glad to have them both on our side. McCain, of course, does have an unblemished record of opposing pork and other excessive spending over the last two decades or so.

Posted by JohnSal | July 23, 2007 1:26 PM

RM and George. Yes, McCain was proven wrong: that the war had to be paid for by more taxes rather than a growing economy from tax cuts. The shrinking deficit, however, is not the problem (now). It is the burden of ever increasing cost of government on the tax base of the private economy. If you think we have problems now get ready for a loud explosion in a decade or two as the Boomers drive Medicaid and Social Security spending into a crisis.

For swabjockey05. A lot of the visitors to this site hold so-called right wing views - from libertarian to cultural conservatives. But I suspect there is one thing that brings all of them together, and that is government is too big. It expropriates too much money and is too heavily involved in "regulating" private interests. This belief comes, at least in part from an understanding of the founding principles of our Constitution - to protect the citizen from government.

I believe, and I think many others would agree, the Founders had it right in 1789 and we have lost the government that was once our birthright, at least since the rejection in the 1930s by all branches of government of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. You are correct that the enemies of small government can be found in both political parties. But, let's be honest, only one political party makes big government and high spending/taxes a core belief. The fact that Republicans betrayed a key constituency in not pursuing tax reform when they had the chance is true. The fact that while Democrats control Congress there will be no reduction in the overall tax burden is a dead shot certainty.

Posted by swabjockey05 | July 23, 2007 2:17 PM


Very eloquent, shipmate. But the fact remains. Your Repubs held the controls of the government. What did they do with the reins? They made it grow faster and fatter than it had under Clinton's tutelage.

So what is a non-Republican like me to think? You guys tell me to vote for Repubs because the Dhimmicrats will grow the Government MORE than the Repubs will? Some choice. Thanks a lot.

Posted by swabjockey05 | July 23, 2007 2:29 PM

John Sal,

By the way, I agree that we all lost a lot when "they" tossed out the 10th in the '30s. But I think the most comprehensive blow to liberty was dealt by the "Incorporation Doctrine" from the '50s.

Posted by ajacksonian | July 23, 2007 2:40 PM

Perhaps Mr. McCain has heard of this thing known as a 'Bill'?

It could contain language to repeal the AMT.

It could be presented to this body known as the 'Senate'.

He could work with these beings known as 'Senators' to get it passed to the other body, known as 'The House'.

This is contained under the heading of 'Congress'.

You know, the folks who made this stupid thing in the first place? A President can do very little about this, but a member of either of these two bodies could do much. Apparently there are many individuals running for President from this body known as 'Congress' that refuse to do anything about their fine ideas which must go through 'Congress'. If they would spend more time on their jobs to accomplish these things, they just might get done. Apparently they have risen to the level of their incompetence and no longer recognize which part of the elected government does what. Therefore they are perfectly placed due to application of the Peter Principle.

Thus I will support none of them for President as they are perfectly placed in their current jobs.

Posted by Project Vote Smart | July 23, 2007 5:28 PM

Senator John McCain’s voting record on budget, spending, and tax issues can be found at: http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=53270&type=category&category=10&go.x=13&go.y=4

Senator John McCain’s history of speeches on the alternative minimum tax can be found at: http://www.votesmart.org/speech.php?keyword=alternative+minimum+tax&daterange=&begin=&end=&phrase=&contain=&without=&type=search&can_id=53270&go2.x=0&go2.y=0#Results

Senator John McCain’s ratings from special interest groups on budget, spending, and tax issues can be found at: http://www.votesmart.org/issue_rating_category.php?can_id=53270

Project Vote Smart produces the National Political Awareness Test (NPAT), which essentially asks each candidate “Are you willing to tell citizens your positions on the issues you will most likely face on their behalf?” You can find Senator John McCain’s responses to the NPAT at: http://www.votesmart.org/npat.php?can_id=53270#543

For more information on Senator John McCain’s position on budget, spending, and tax issues please visit http://www.vote-smart.org or call our hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART.

Posted by gerryg | July 23, 2007 6:55 PM

John McCain needs to go away.

He cannot be trusted with our liberties.

Gang of 14. McCain-Feingold. Immigration.

John, go the hell away.

Posted by MattJ | July 23, 2007 7:51 PM

There is nothing wrong with the AMT; if anything, we should replace the current tax code with the AMT. If you are a fan of tax simplification, the AMT has significantly fewer deductions than the regular tax code.

As to why the Republicans didn't get rid of it - as I understand it, the main reason the AMT is hitting more and more people is that it does not allow people to deduct state and local taxes. There is no reason the federal tax code should subsidise high state and local taxes, and the states with the highest taxes tend to be Democratic.

Posted by Rose | July 23, 2007 10:53 PM

The moment we are in a position to have to trust McJack-aaaaaaa to protect us from Congress, our goose is COOKED.

All McJack-aaaaaaaaaaa ever did was make things a whole humongous amount WORSE for AMERICANS while he bartered WITH the DIMS in Congress against our best interests.

He is a vengeful man.

Posted by Rose | July 23, 2007 11:16 PM

McCain never was a Reaganite tax-cutter, but that's irrelevant. We welcome him to the fold as we welcomed Mitt Romney to the pro-life position, and we are glad to have them both on our side. McCain, of course, does have an unblemished record of opposing pork and other excessive spending over the last two decades or so.

Posted by: Adjoran at July 23, 2007 1:04 PM

So you are a big-spending Liberal? GREAT! We are THRILLED to give this Jack over to you Dims.
Been trying to get him to leave the GOP for a decade or longer.

Posted by MarkD | July 24, 2007 7:14 AM

The Fair Tax is the answer.

It would prevent the pols from creating tax breaks for bribes - I mean campaign contributions. It will never pass.