Don’t believe what you hear about taxes

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Memo to the undecided: please do not base you vote, no matter whom you choose, purely on what one candidate says about the other.  In fact, you should probably avoid most of the things that the candidates say about themselves.

Let’s take tax and budget policy as an example.  Late last week, I provided you with the link to a great episode of Fresh Air in which Terry Gross talked to an Obama adviser and a McCain adviser for about 5 minutes each before talking to an independent, third party expert for the remainder of the hour.  That’s just about the right ratio.

Today on Time.com, Michael Scherer has another examination of both campaigns’ tax and budget plans though he focuses more on what they’re NOT saying in order to portray their opponents as off base on the issue.  His pull quote in the blog post about his own story (curiously warning you not to read it because it’s boring?):

Seems clear enough, right? It’s an old argument you already know — Republicans cut taxes, Democrats raise them. Except it’s not true, at least not in the way that it seems. But don’t take my word for it. Here is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain’s chief economic policy adviser. “I used to say that Barack Obama raises taxes and John McCain cuts them, and I was convinced,” he told me in a phone interview this week. “I stand corrected.”

That’s because the policies proposed by Obama are, unlike sound bites, actually complicated. He would raise taxes on those who make more than about $200,000, in some cases by significant amounts, through increases in taxes on capital gains, dividends and regular income. But Obama has also proposed a whole range of other tax cuts, for health care expenses, poor seniors, working people, homeowners, parents and even renewable energy. The net effect, according to experts in both campaigns and independent analysts, is a reduction in government revenue over 10 years. In other words, a tax cut.

In other words, pay no attention to the men in front of the camera.  If you want to know the real scoop on any of the issues, find one of the experts.  I’ll keep trying to point you to them.

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