Q: On ABC's "This Week" on Feb. 17, in response to a question, "Are you a 'read my lips' candidate, no new taxes?" you replied, "No new taxes." Did you mean that literally?
A: I'm not making a "read my lips" statement in that I will not raise taxes. But I'm not saying I can envision a scenario where I would, OK? But I'm not making it a centerpiece in my campaign.
I want lower taxes. I want the family to keep more of their money.
That Sen. McCain may not mean what he says on taxes is not a new phenomena as he had run on a similar platform the last time he ran for President in 2000. On 07 FEB 2000 The National Review (the folks who run The Corner) looked at Sen. McCain's plan like this (via findarticles):
John McCain's tax plan may reasonably be described as Bush Lite. Like Bush, he cuts or eliminates the estate tax, the Social Security earnings test, and the marriage penalty; like Bush, he expands the tax credit for children. He falls short of Bush in cutting marginal tax rates: Where Bush cuts across the board, McCain only cuts rates for some people in the 28 percent tax bracket. McCain does more for individual investors than Bush: The senator would create new family savings accounts and liberalize 401(k)s, education savings accounts, and medical savings accounts. But McCain raises taxes on corporate investment in the name of closing "loopholes." His rhetoric, meanwhile, has been worse than his proposal. He suggests that Bush's tax cut is so large that it endangers Social Security-as though the government could possibly tax its way into solvency for that program. When McCain said that Bush's tax cut was "unfair"-i.e., too generous to the rich-he should have known that no tax cut could be "fair" by the liberal definition he was using. Now that he has unveiled his tax plan, liberal critics are saying that it is almost as biased toward the rich as Bush's. McCain has only himself to blame for that-and for letting Bush get to his right on taxes.
Yes, he campaigned on 'fiscal responsibility' of the old school of: grow government and taxes to pay for it. It was described by Donald Lambro on 21 JAN 200 in Human Events (via findarticles) as 'tax-and-spend liberalism' and in that he was like the other 'maverick' on the Democratic side, Bill Bradley. Apparently to gain 'moderates' Sen. McCain would reach out via a form of liberal attack on candidate Bush's tax plan [all spelling errors in the original for all findarticles material]:
Meanwhile, in the Republican presidential primary, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is sounding more and more like a Democrat as he attacks Gov. George W. Bush's tax-rate reductions as a scheme Ao help the rich."
Using the same demagogic liberal rhetoric that we are used to hearing from Bill Clinton, Al Gore and House Democrats like Richard Gephardt of Missouri and David Bonior of Michigan, McCain says Bush's tax plan is "unfair because it favors the rich." "sixty per cent of the benefits from his tax cuts go to the wealthiest 10% of Americans, and that's not the kind of tax relief that Americans need," McCain said.
In fact, Bush's tax-rate reduction plan, which reduces the number of tax brackets from five to four, calls for larger rate reductions for the bottom brackets than it does the top brackets. Even Robert Reischauer of the Brookings Institution, who does not support tax cuts, concedes Bush's rate reductions are "progressive," and tilt more toward lower income people.
Bush would take millions of workers in the 15% tax bracket and put them in a 10% bracket. McCain merely expands the 15% bracket.
Arizona Senator Opposes Reaganite Cuts
The left-leaning Arizona senator knows better. But he opposes the kind of across-the board income-tax cuts Ronald Reagan signed in 1981, and that Bush proposes now. McCain thinks the economy will not grow beyond the low 2.4% projected by the administration and the Congressional Budget Office, and that the budget surpluses won't get much larger than current forecasts.
To whom is McCain listening? His decinist fiscal gum is former New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman, who is fixated, Hoover-like, on paying down debt instead of spurring economic growth. Rudman and the Concord Coalition he heads are notorious for being against tax cuts.
McCain wants to spend not only the Social Security surpluses to pay down the debt (which is already in decline), but also much of the non-Social Security, general-fund surplus, too-leaving little to cut excessively high tax rates.
This is not the cause of free-market economic growth that Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp championed, and that Bush champions now. It is a left-leaning, debt-obsessed, bigspending agenda that says the top tax rates are fine where they are and that the surplus should not be given back to the people who earned it. No wonder Mr. McCain is doing poorly in just about every state except New Hampshire.
Of course conservatives could have cut the size of government, while they were at it, so that there would be less spending, too. Given just a smidge of cash liquidity, couldn't 'fiscal conservatives' figure out that the leading cause of increased government spending is this thing known as "Increased Government"? Apparently not. What is even more interesting, of course, as that spending bills for the budget originate in Congress and a bit of leadership in Congress could go a long, long, long way towards getting some of this 'fiscal responsibility'. Even before the primaries were over, Sen. McCain would have a wonderful chance to demonstrate such leadership from the Senate on a bill to give one of the highest post-WWII tax cuts to everyday Americans seen up to that point in time. Wouldn't that have been a delicious and ironic way to undercut fellow Presidential candidate George Bush? The following comes from a Human Events article from 18 FEB 2000 by Mike Catanzaro (via findarticles):
One day before the scheduled floor vote on the Senate Republicans' proposal to relieve the highest tax burden since World War II by passing a $792-billion tax cut, the Republican whips were working desperately to find the 51 votes needed for victory As the clock ticked away, they were stuck at 47.
John McCain--presidential candidate and self-professed "conservative" reformer-was not among them.
The effort to stop this bill was being led by Jim Jeffords (R-VT) and John Chafee (R-RI). Sen. McCain explained his opposition to a tax cut package that would gotten rid of the estate tax, marriage penalty and cut rates across the board for this reason:
" [S]pecial interests get the biggest breaks," McCain said, "[and] American families get the leftovers."
What he was carping over was some of the very pork barrel spending, at a scale far, far lower than it is today, cutting some corporate taxes and helping businesses turn chicken waste into energy. Mind you this would have carried out his same *campaign promises* seen just two weeks previously and he could easily have written off some of the small amounts of pork as a necessary deal to get his economic program in place BEFORE THE ELECTION. He would have had a 'two-fer' of substantiating his own Republican credentials and his tax views while undercutting his opponents by doing something his opponent could not do: vote for a package containing those promises.
What would it take to convince him? That gets to be very interesting:
Hours before the vote, McCain remained undecided. Sen. Phil Gunin (R-Tex.), joined by several other conservatives, personally lobbied him to change his mind. McCain at last relented-but only when aides advised him that he would have to defend a "no" vote on the Sunday talk shows.
Mr. Principle made a last-minute public relations decision.
A month later, McCain was back ridiculing as anti-populist and pro-Washington the tax cut he had voted for. "It galls me and enrages me when you see all these tax breaks for special interests," he said. "It's a cornucopia of good deals for special interests, and a nightmare for common citizens."
Yes he would no longer be the 'maverick' or 'media darling' if he voted for them so he voted for them... and then denounced that very same package. Sen. McCain's views on taxation would run afoul of those who see 'populism' not in the pushing of 'popular' packages, but in actually giving money back to the people:
And last month he declared, "I don't know why these millionaires or billionaires need a tax cut ... I'm not giving tax cuts for the rich." "Did you ever hear [Ronald] Reagan say anything like that"" responded an angry Martin Anderson, who served in the Reagan White House as an economic and domestic policy adviser, pointing out that the fair-minded Reagan cut taxes across the board.
Writing in the Manchester Union-Leader, Anderson said, 'McCain's policy views on taxes and limiting and controlling free speech in political campaigns are not a continuation of Reaganism-they are old-fashioned leftwing liberalism. Any man who could boldly advance such ideas will think of other similar ideas if we give him power." I know Ronald Reagan," said Anderson, "and John McCain is no Ronald Reagan. Not even close. Maybe close to Nelson Rockefeller."
Even Rep, Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), one of McCain's few congressional backers, tuned suddenly skittish when asked about Ins candidate's Clintonesque approach to taxes. On NBC's 'Meet the Press" January 9, he said, "John should focus on what his tax plan does."
Even better is that those closing of 'loopholes' in the McCain proposals would have eliminated corporate and business benefits to encourage businesses to provide insurance premiums, transit passes and the like, and those cost shifts would go to either eliminate those benefits as they are taxed, or cut wages. By changing the structure of the Earned Income Tax Credit, he would apply a double-whammy to low income folks by reducing those checks in his expansion of the 15% tax bracket downwards. Sen. McCain's previous work on this, in 1998, went down to defeat in the Senate in the class based 'Middle Class Tax Relief Act' so consistency in class warfare based tax proposals can be given to Sen. McCain.
To be fair I also criticized current retired candidate Mitt Romney for these exact, same views on taxation and 'closing loopholes' as not raising taxes... although they end up raising taxes (as seen from the Cato Institute's Fiscal Policy Report Card). But Sen. McCain, at the National level, has wider purview to enact legislation across the US, and seems unable to grasp the problem of taxing money that gets put into the economy for economic stimulus instead of in government spending which, when it finally does find its way into the economy, is used for ephemeral benefits.
Mr. Catanzaro's article is worth a lengthy read as it goes through the things that Sen. McCain proposed to be 'fairer' with taxes by going after middle-class benefits. He had also backed reductions for incentives on charitable giving based on property appreciation, so that if one held something of value that increased substantially over time, you would not be able to spend that money on charitable giving and get a tax write-off for an amount greater than the original value. This would have hit the holders of technology and business stocks hard during the boom years of the internet or for any investor that has wisely chosen fast growing investments.
Now, Sen. McCain could claim that he was going after ALL tax based incentives and benefits, across the board, but then one comes to the question: why not a flat tax? Instead we get attempts to 'tweak' the current system, close 'loopholes' which end up costing the poor and middle class disproportionately, and discourage savings and investment via stocks, bonds and funds vehicles. The idea of getting more money into the hands of everyday Americans is exactly what Ronald Reagan was about, and that was across the board.
Sen. McCain would not be beyond using the tax system and guiding regulatory plans for putting his own views into things and creating loopholes of his own, however. From this 26 APR 1999 TV Digest with Consumer Electronics article (via findarticles):
Other legislators at convention said there was little support in Congress for raising TV ownership caps. McCain addressed NAB via satellite, staying in Washington to introduce Senate resolution calling for use of necessary force in Kosovo. In his taped comments, McCain said he will hold hearings next month on broadcast ownership rules and on how to create "a new Y2K ownership diversity program" that will include new tax certificates --- policy advocated by FCC Comr. Powell, who was McCain's choice for Commission. In speech dominated by discussion of Kosovo policy, McCain criticized FCC for trying for 30 years to remove barriers to entry in broadcasting "with great vigor and a resounding lack of success." He said Commission should "work with entrepreneurial and market forces, not against them," and should use "private sector initiatives in a creative way that will benefit industry participants as well as new entrants." Republican Congress eliminated tax certificate program in one of its first acts after taking over in 1995, although minority ownership levels hadn't risen appreciably when program was in place.
McCain criticized FCC for failing to acknowledge that "the best entrepreneurial opportunities in the telecom industry aren't in broadcasting any more," and for coming up with microradio proposal. He denounced microradio policy, asking: "What possible diversity interest is advanced, what kind of opportunity is created, by manufacturing thousands of tiny new radio stations in an already overpopulated, transitional market?" He said that if FCC wants to enable more people to share their views, then Web or cable access channels work better.
The microradio proposal was that to allow small, low power community radio broadcasters to use parts of the spectrum for local broadcasts. Do remember the internet of 1999 was not the great multi-media thing it is today, but a rather limited area where getting actual connection and ability to surf the net was difficult. What microradio intended, however, was to increase the 'ownership' of broadcasting to local communities, and that would then serve those communities and as an outlet venue for local news and views. Combined with the internet, this would allow radio stations in places like the Balkans to continue 'service' even after their facilities had been attacked. The upshot of this was that Sen. McCain wanted to have more 'minority ownership' in *traditional* broadcasting and cable channels, which tend towards the monopolistic side of things. The internet would boomerang on views of upholding that MSM monopoly while microradio would face a long and entrenched fight against the national networks who were loathe to give up under utilized or used parts of the spectrum.
The final bill that Sen. McCain would come up with, as seen at TV Digest with Consumer Electronics on 20 SEP 1999 (via findarticles) would be the standard hodge-podge of special interest tax breaks that would require more government regulation to determine just who is and is not: a minority, special interest, poor. All of that would be left up to the Dept. of Commerce to decide upon via, yes, regulation. Yes, the public money would be spent on defining minorities and special interest groups that were 'underserved' by media who wanted to start their own media outlets. Just don't try to get a low cost microradio transmitter, that just wouldn't do for poor folks.
If this sounds like something that is made to protect the entrenched MSM and marginalize local views to little used 'public community cable channels' that is because it is exactly that. Sen. McCain protecting the MSM, that press that so adores him in primaries.
Speaking of speech, this 01 MAY 1998 Capital Briefs article by Human Events (via findarticles) would look at the first reactions to Sen. McCain's campaign finance reform bill:
ONLY THE LONELY: The voice of the late Roy Orbison ought to be echoing in the ears of Sen. John McCain (R.Ariz.) these days. One of McCain's Republican Senate colleagues told HUMAN EVENTS last week that McCain is now"the loneliest man in town"-increasingly shunned by other Republican senators for his promotion of a campaign "reform" bill that would deny conservative groups their 1st Amendment right to communicate with voters during federal election campaigns, and, also, for his attempt to enact a tobacco deal that would result in more than $500 billion in new taxes.
Nonetheless, McCain is still seriously considering running for President in 2000. Says GOP pollster Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, "I still can't figure out what country McCain is positioning himself to run in."
Some of us out here, beyond the beltway but close enough to see its influences, understand that sentiment exactly. And a bit further on we would find a *backer* of Sen. McCain's bill:
GOP LIBS BACKSTAB AGAIN: A group of 13 Republicans led by liberal Rep. Chris Shays (Conn.) joined with Democrats last week in signing a discharge petition that would force consideration on the House floor of a radical campaign finance reform bill. The measure would restrict conservatives' constitutional rights to engage in issue advocacy and could damage Republicans' political fortunes for the foreseeable future. As a result of these GOP defectors, the House leadership was forced to agree to bring campaign finance reform back to the floor in May.
There you go, bipartisanship from Republicans in BOTH Houses of Congress to restrict free speech during campaigns! Yes, that lovely 'bipartisanship' really would help so much in reducing freedom of speech, that one just can't craft an Incumbistanian policy without it.
Few people may remember the internet boom years of the 1990's, where venture capital would go to fund sock-puppets and millionaires were made and broken in a heartbeat, but that bubble economy produced a very strange thing in the US: a budgetary surplus for the federal government. Yes, this rarity in modern times was the godsend of an overheated tech sector combined with liberal banking rules that would see the Red Mafia penetrate the Bank of New York system and infiltrate the money exchanging Clearstream system, beloved of folks like Mogilevich, Abramovich and Auchi (for his own deals, needless to say). That ephemeral surplus (it was a bubble economy and most admitted that by the end of 2000) produced a lovely budget surplus and for one of the few times in American History we got to see how political parties could handle an economic boom. It was already in decline by 2001 and heading downwards, with 9/11 accelerating that to a year with no growth, economically. Just before that time, however, we got one of the few glimpses of just what sort of 'good times' fiscal policy would be floated by all and sundry on the political stage.
On 07 FEB 2000, Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review (via findarticles) had a chance to look at the division within the Republican party during the primary season. This would not be a pretty look at Sen. John McCain's fiscal policy:
The Bush-McCain dispute concerns the non-Social Security surplus, projected (like the Social Security surplus) to be $2 trillion over the next decade. Bush wants to return much of this surplus to taxpayers. His campaign estimates that his tax-cut plan would reduce federal revenues by $483 billion over five years (assuming it doesn't increase economic growth, which would add back some revenue). McCain describes this as "fiscally irresponsible." He wants a smaller, $237 billion tax cut, partially offset by tax increases on corporations. But he wants to spend 5 percent of the non-Social Security surplus to reduce the national debt, and to save 62 percent of it for Social Security. Since the saving has to be done through debt reduction, McCain's policy amounts to using two- thirds of the non-Social Security surplus to reduce the debt.
Why 62 percent? McCain says he's making good on President Clinton's 1999 promise to devote 62 percent of the surplus to Social Security. Actually, McCain's going much further than Clinton: The president was referring to 62 percent of the total surplus of $4 trillion. McCain's talking about using the entire $2 trillion Social Security surplus, plus 62 percent of the $2 trillion non-Social Se curity surplus: a whopping $760 billion difference.
Clinton's promise was widely seen as a ploy to block tax cuts, and House Republicans might be expected to side with Bush rather than Clinton or McCain-with tax cuts rather than debt reduction. Yet in early January, House Speaker Denny Hastert announced that paying down the debt would be a priority for Republicans this year. He also made a long-term commitment: "We are putting together a plan to pay off all of our nation's debt so that our children will inherit a debt-free country." Only small tax cuts- relief from the marriage penalty and expanded educational savings accounts-are on the agenda.
Mr. Ponnuru then goes on to do a review of the utility of the Nation Debt and how it is used by the government to set monetary policy and how paying for a slightly more robust defense policy would make as much sense and have higher utility than paying down the debt. That would have been a worthwhile argument for Sen. McCain to make, in light of the problems Congress inflicted on DoD during the 1990's that left maintenance and supplies going wanting while President Clinton put out US troops for long periods in 'peace keeping' operations and then, promptly, forgot about them.
Many Congressional Republicans were up in arms about this abuse of power with the armed forces, committing them for a long period of time without coming to Congress to get sufficient funding for those missions. This so impacted the readiness of the Armed Forces that a Congressional Staff report in 1997 identified glaring weaknesses in training, maintenance and supplies that were eroding the capability of the Armed Forces to meet even modest 'peace keeping' missions. By 1999 the Army had two divisions, 10th Mountain and 1st Infantry, that had so been mishandled due to Presidential and Congressional neglect that they were at the lowest readiness seen since Vietnam. A further report on 26 SEP 2000, after the primaries were safely over, were a clear indictment of how the problems caused by both branches of government reached out to impact one of the most highly trained units in the US Army, the 10MD. Sadly, Sen. McCain was not one of those calling for accountability by the President for those long-term 'peace keeping' missions that had not been properly scoped nor authorized by Congress. A year is an expedient to meet a crisis, three years is lack of oversight or accountability. That is why, writing early in the year, Mr. Ponnuru was right to point out that spending more on the armed forces would have been wise, coming from those campaigning in 2000.
Mind you on 30 APR 2001 Sen. McCain would cross the aisle to vote for a DoD increase... but only because the money had a tax associated with it, thus making it 'fiscally neutral'. To the tune of $100 billion over 10 years, or $10 billion per year. No other Republican voted for that bill.
Now that plan from 2000 by Sen. McCain also was looked at by a small business trade group, and on 21 FEB 2000 here is what they had to say (via findarticles):
The Small Business Survival Committee (SBSC) today released its report card on the tax plans drafted by the leading presidential candidates.
Texas Governor George W. Bush scored highest with a B+, followed by Arizona Senator John McCain with a C-. Former Senator Bill Bradley received a D, and Vice President Al Gore received an F.
Released in the Entrepreneurial Economy, a special publication of SBSC, the report card is based on the impact each plan will have on the small business community.
Their President, Christopher Wysocki, would have this to say in particular about the McCain plan:
McCain tax plan is good in that it expands the 15% income tax bracket, strengthens medical savings accounts, and makes the ban on Internet taxes permanent, it also penalizes small businesses.
"The plan includes tax increases on small business by eliminating deductions for certain costs of doing business, and it fails to eliminate the heinous death tax. The plan also disproportionately hits charitable organizations that depend on contributions of appreciable assets.
Small Business Survival Committee? Have to love a group that has on its front page, currently:
That is survival, all right, learning the best protocols to speak with the Emirs of Incumbistan. Special protocol and all for talking with Congresscritters and just their staff. Well, one assumes Big Tobacco knew all of that and yet they would get targeted for higher taxes, anyways.
Sen. John McCain would lead this battle and it would be, like all good Nannystaters, 'for the children'. M. Stanton Evans looks at Sen. McCain leading this charge on 03 JUL 1998 with The myth of the 3,000 kids at Human Events (via findarticles)[note original article had no emphasis in it]:
Washington is a city of statistics--and in the battle about tobacco, one statistic has been pounded home above all others: the "3,000 kids" who start smoking every day, presumably at the bidding of Joe Camel. This dreadful image was the oft-cited basis for Sen. John McCain's (R.Ariz.) sweeping, costly tax bill.
McCain himself has used this number incessantly in floor debate and comment to the press: "This has got to do with 3,000 kids every day starting to smoke," "every day, another 3,000 kids will start smoking," and so on. President Clinton, Sen. John Chafee (R.-R.I.) and countless other politicians have used the same statistic, in virtually the same phrasing.
However, if we check the basis for Kessler's numbers, we find the truth is not what is suggested by such statements. In 1996, for instance, he used the 3,000 figure in a piece that he and others at the FDA submitted to The New England Journal of Medicine. This is a well-respected scientific journal where one has to be more careful about what he says than in slapdash political forums, press interviews or debates in Congress.
In this we do indeed discover that "about 3,000 new smokers each day" come from the ranks of "young persons." So far, so good. If we keep going, however, we also read the following: "For purposes of this analysis, only persons aged 20 years and older are included, as information was not collected on younger persons in any consistent fashion over this time period." (Emphasis added.) Such is the ultimate basis for all the statements about "kids"!
Thus, through the statistical-verbal magic of Kessler and his friends, findings in which no one younger than age 20 was included morph into something dramatically different: From "young people" (in a science journal) to "kids"(in public forums), to subteens with cigarettes dangling from their lips in advertising pictures. The effect and purpose of these changes don't require much comment.
One cannot doubt that Sen. McCain has used this formula in good faith, assuming the data passed on by such as Kessler are valid. The fact remains that the entire uproar about "3,000 kids" is based on an intellectual con game.
This would serve as a basis for the Tobacco Tax, starting as an $885 billion McCain tobacco bil (Human Events, 12 JUN 1998) which would be the single biggest tax increase in history at that time. This would be resisted in a bipartisan fashion in the House (Human Events, 12 JUN 1998) as it was seen that a tax increase of this size, no matter what else it was partnered with, would not be politically feasible. Any resemblance to the dodgy science between 'greenhouse gas emissions' causing global warming and the McCain-Lieberman bill of recent vintage is purely intentional, as it, too, uses unrepresentative numbers, save that there even the numbers themselves have come under attack. It is hard to advance a progressive agenda without using the poor science and misrepresentation of progressives, but that is what you need to do if you are going to be 'bipartisan' these days.
Sen. McCain would also back the Franks-McCain bill to mandate that public schools and library deploy 'filters' to screen out pornography and not allow chat rooms on such devices (Insight on the News, 05 APR 1999). Again it was 'for the children' that adults need to restrict free speech instead of seeking things called 'parents' to monitor their children. Restricting the speech of adults because 'children may be harmed' is one of the most noxious potions brewed up by the Nannystate contingent as it purports that the protection of children is something that can only be done by government fiat, instead of by these individuals known as parents. Further, if public facilities wish to set up communications devices with large amounts of screening for children, they can already do so and label them as such and monitor them, without federal mandate. This is called a 'local issue' as it is best done locally by the community, not by bureaucrats in DC. While not directly a tax issue, if said bureaucrats wanted to limit, say, political speech during an election, they would have the grounds for their first mandate to do so. The first attempt to do this was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (Online Newsletter, 01 NOV 1998) and trying this again with 'different language' did not seem to be and was not a winning concept the second time around.
So, will Sen. McCain press for more taxes if he becomes President? I am pretty sure he will try to 'close loopholes' first, which will effectively raise taxes. I've always wondered why those candidates running for President don't just say: 'by tradition there are some areas of the tax code that prior administrations have been lax on and I intend to make those permanent, thus safeguarding your income'. I know it is a non-starter for the progressives out there, but if the tax collection system has so many 'loopholes' then why not just stop making them in the first place? After that, loopholes being less than a few percent of income for the federal government (at $3 trillion, even 5% is only $150 billion), comes taxes, in which Sen. McCain has demonstrated his willingness to be 'fiscally responsible' and add to the tax burden of America. Not *just* to offset spending, but to increase 'sin taxes' and then promulgate his socially liberal views on restriction of the freedom of speech 'for the children' and politics. Nothing says 'freedom of speech' better than gags, after all. And if those require new mandates, I am sure Sen. McCain would be willing to put 'offset' taxes in place for them to be 'fiscally responsible'. Because we all pay for a bigger, more invasive government that just, somehow, can't collect its taxes. Or have politicians willing to advance a flat tax system so that there is equality of payment by all.
That *is* his record and he can run on many things, but he has not only *not* moved from his record he has stuck by it. And he can probably get enough bipartisan progressives to get those passed, too.