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Mccain's Tax Dilemma

Rich Lowry urges John McCain to adopt a larger middle-class tax cut:

Speaking of Risks

The first one I'd take if I were the McCain people is going through whatever budgetary gymnastics are necessary for him to propose a substantial middle-class tax cut of some variety. They may feel "locked in" to the proposals McCain has already made, but consistency can be over-rated (especially if you aren't particularly vulnerable to a vacillating, flip-flopper narrative). Imagine if McCain had stayed consistent in his opposition to drilling—it would have been McCain and Obama united together against the GOP and the public. Until Obama changed—then, it would have been McCain all alone. Drilling was a flip-flop that paid off in a big way for McCain. I expect shifting his priorities to support a middle-class tax cut would do the same. He'd have something tangible to give the voters he most needs to win over, and it would give him maximum leverage for his attack on Obama as a tax-raiser.

Here's the problem. Because John McCain proposes such an enormous tax cut for the rich, Barack Obama can counter with a plan that offers lower tax rates than McCain's to the vast majority of taxpayers, while still bringing in dramatically higher revenues. The current McCain answer to this dilemma is to try to mislead the public into thinking that Obama favors middle-class tax hikes. McCain could, as Lowry suggests, throw in sub larger middle-class tax cuts to out-bid Obama. But his current plans are already so ridiculously expensive that... well, I don't want to say he can't do it, but at some point it gets too ridiculous.

--Jonathan Chait