McCain is no salesman on tax proposals

So much has gone wrong for John McCain that it is surprising he is not further behind in the polls. He has been a victim of circumstances and his own bad judgment. Some of his errors, however, are more perplexing than others. How is it, for example, that Mr McCain has been so thoroughly outmanoeuvred on tax policy?

Both candidates have offered complex tax proposals. Proliferating alternative baselines (with or without the extension of the Bush tax cuts, with or without a “patch” for the alternative minimum tax, and so forth) deepen the confusion. Unable to fathom the details, voters are left to weigh the competing slogans. Mr Obama promises to cut taxes for 95 per cent of working families. Mr McCain says the rich need a tax cut, too. Guess who wins that argument.

Here is a fact you might not have noticed. It certainly seems to have slipped by most Americans. The typical US household would get a bigger tax cut under Mr McCain’s proposals than under Mr Obama’s. I know a few politicians who could do something with that.

The remainder of this column can be read here. Please post comments below. 

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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