NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 22, 2008

In a town hall, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama once again said, "We will cut taxes, cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans."

Even the supporters who applaud him are not quite sure what to make of this pledge, since they are also drawn to Obama by his promises to expand education and health care, and Obama has already said he would strengthen military efforts in Afghanistan while trimming them in Iraq, says Derrick Z. Jackson, a Boston Globe columnist.  Do they really believe he can pay for it all?

To be clear, there are huge differences in the tax plans of Obama and GOP nominee John McCain, according to an analysis published last week by the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute:

  • Under McCain, the lowest, second, third and fourth quintiles of Americans would receive average 2009 tax cuts of $21, $118, $325, and $994, respectively; under Obama, the lowest, second, third and fourth quintiles would see cuts of $567, $892, $1,118 and $1,264.
  • Under McCain, the top 1 percent of Americans would receive a tax cut of about $49,000 and the upper 0.1 percent would receive a tax cut of about $291,000; under Obama, the top 1 percent would pay about $94,000 in new taxes and the top 0.1 percent would pay about $543,000 more.
  • The McCain proposal would leave the nation $5.1 trillion more in debt by 2018; the Obama plan would still add $3.6 trillion to the national debt.

"The short answer is no," said Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center, when asked if Obama could pay for it all.  "We're talking about massive tax cuts, significant new spending priorities, and down the road we have enormous economic challenges, particularly on health care."

Source: Derrick Z. Jackson, "Can Barack Obama do all he plans and cut taxes?" Dallas Morning News, September 20, 2008.


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