Breaking down McCain's speech on the economy

Despite his reputation for "straight talk," an address the presumptive Republican nominee gave on Tuesday has some factual issues.


Justin Jouvenal
June 11, 2008 3:11AM (UTC)

With the economy looming large in the presidential race, John McCain made his case for why he's the better president to deal with the issue in a speech on Tuesday morning. By this afternoon, it seemed clear that parts of the address might not have been the "straight talk" of the McCain legend.

The non-partisan Web site Factcheck.org has previously analyzed parts of McCain's economic message. That analysis calls into question the accuracy of some of what McCain said on Tuesday, and Democrats have already seized on the discrepancies.

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The statement that’s getting the most attention, and seems the most dubious, is McCain’s claim that Obama "[w]ill... enact the single largest tax increase since the Second World War." As FactCheck points out, the increase would only be the fifth largest since 1943 if measured by the standard most economists use. And it's misleading to say "tax increase" in relation to what McCain was discussing, the scheduled expiration of the Bush administration's tax cuts. Republicans have been characterizing Democratic opposition to extending the cuts beyond their expiration date of 2010 as a tax increase, but obviously that's not the usual meaning of the phrase. Plus, it was Republicans who planned the expiration -- in part, it was an accounting trick that hid the true cost of the Bush cuts.

McCain also said he would propose "a phase-out of the Alternative Minimum Tax to save more than 25 million middle-class families as much as 2,000 dollars in a single year." The number he gives -- and his presentation of it -- is not really accurate.

First of all, McCain campaign officials have said in the past that his figure for the number of families affected includes those making up to $200,000 a year. That number looks right, FactCheck says, based on projections made by the Tax Policy Center. But those projections are for the number of tax units that would be affected, not the number of families, and the two aren't the same thing -- a single tax unit could be a family, but it can also be an individual filer.

Also, according to the Tax Policy Center's projections, there are 5.8 million taxpayers who, by 2010, will be paying the AMT and making more than $200,000. These taxpayers, FactCheck says, would stand to benefit disproportionately from McCain's proposal.


Justin Jouvenal

Justin Jouvenal is an editorial fellow at Salon and a graduate student in journalism at New York University.

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2008 Elections John Mccain, R-ariz. War Room

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