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McCain's Convenient Untruth

Author: Sebastian Mallaby, Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics
September 8, 2008
Washington Post

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When it comes to fighting wars, John McCain stands up and calls for sacrifice. “We never hide from history; we make history,” he declared in his convention speech. But when it comes to taxes, McCain is unwilling to demand even a teensy bit of sacrifice. In a McCain administration, Americans would not have to surrender a dime more of their money to a cause larger than themselves.

Why this bipolar attitude toward sacrifice? Start with the answer that McCain himself provides. “My tax cuts will create jobs. His tax increases will eliminate them,” he said at the convention, offering one of the speech’s few policy contrasts between Obama’s platform and his own. In other words, McCain is not calling for tax sacrifice because he believes it would be counterproductive. On taxes, he is saying, you can selfishly avoid sacrifice—and serve the public good.

This, unfortunately, is a convenient untruth. Tax hikes taken to an extreme can indeed backfire, harming growth and job creation. But it’s a stretch to assert that Barack Obama’s tax plan would do that. And it’s downright scandalous to pretend that the economy can be strengthened in anything other than the short run by unaffordable tax cuts.

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