Top 10 Lists

John McCain’s Top 10 Class-Warfare Arguments Against Tax Cuts

1. “I don’t think the governor’s tax cut is too big—it’s just misplaced. Sixty percent of the benefits from his tax cuts go to the wealthiest 10% of Americans—and that’s not the kind of tax relief that Americans need. … Gov. Bush wants to spend the entire surplus on tax cuts. I don’t believe the wealthiest 10% of Americans should get 60% of the tax breaks. I think the lowest 10% should get the breaks. …

“I’m not giving tax cuts for the rich.”

Discussion with media, reported in “Bush, McCain Snip Over
Tax Cut Plans,” Los Angeles Times, and “GOP Rivals Bicker on Taxes,”
Washington Post, Jan. 5, 2000.

2. “I have never engaged in class warfare. I am very much in favor of tax cuts for middle-income and lower-income Americans. I’m deeply concerned about a kind of class warfare that’s going on right now. It’s unfortunate. There’s a growing gap between the haves and have-nots in America, and that gap is growing, and it’s unfortunately divided up along ethnic lines.

“I feel very strongly that we ought to have middle-income and lower-income tax cuts, and we’ll be getting into it, I’m sure, later on in this program. Mine are basically comparable to Gov. Bush’s, in some cases far better. But I’m not sure we need to give two-thirds of that tax cut, of that money, to the wealthiest 10% of America.”

—Michigan Republican Debate, Jan. 11, 2000.

3. “I always thought that class warfare was to take away from the rich. I always believed that that was what class warfare was all about. As I said, there are tax breaks and money for the richest in America and the very rich, but I think that it’s clear that there’s a growing gap between rich and poor in America, the haves and the have-nots. And many studies have indicated that, and I think that the people who need it most and need the relief most are working middle-income Americans and that’s what I want to give to them. And at the same time, the greatest benefit that I can give them is to make sure that their Social Security benefits are there. And I also don’t think it’s fair for us to lay a $ 5.6 trillion debt down on future generations of Americans.”

—NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Jan. 16, 2000.

4. “We give the millionaire a $2,000 refund. Gov. Bush gives him $50,000.”

Quoted in “John McCain: How Straight a Shooter?” by Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, Jan. 27, 2000.

5. “There’s one big difference between me and the others—I won’t take every last dime of the surplus and spend it on tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy. I’ll use the bulk of the surplus to secure Social Security far into the future to keep our promise to the greatest generation.”

—McCain campaign commercial, January 2000.

6. “I don’t think Bill Gates needs a tax cut. I think you and your parents do.”

—Michigan State University rally, Feb. 20, 2000.

7.  “Mr. President, the principle that guides my judgment of a tax reconciliation bill is tax relief for those who need it the most—lower- and middle-income working families. I am in favor of a tax cut, but a responsible one that provides significant tax relief for lower- and middle-income families. And I commend Sen. Grassley for moving in that direction. But I am concerned that debt will overwhelm many American households. That is why tax relief should be targeted to middle-income Americans. The more fortunate among us have less concern about debt. It is the parents struggling to make ends meet who are most in need of tax relief.

“I had expressed hope that when the reconciliation bill was reported out of the Senate Finance Committee, the tax cuts outlined would provide more tax relief to working, middle-income Americans. However, I am disappointed that the Senate Finance Committee preferred instead to cut the top tax rate of 39.6% to 36%, thereby granting generous tax relief to the wealthiest individuals of our country at the expense of lower- and middle-income American taxpayers.”

—Senate floor statement during debate over President Bush’s tax relief package, May 21, 2001.

8. “During the debate on the Senate version of the tax reconciliation bill, I had urged my colleagues that substantial tax relief to middle-income Americans should be our top priority. While I regret that my amendment to cut the top rate by one percent to 38.6% so millions more middle-class Americans would fall into the 15% tax bracket failed on a tie vote, Sen. Grassley did move in that direction in the Senate bill by insisting that the top rate should be cut to only 36%. As a result, I reluctantly voted for the bill but pledged to vote against the conference report should further reductions in the top tax rate be made at the expense of the majority of Americans who are in much greater need of tax relief.

“Unfortunately, the conference report did just that by jettisoning the commendable work both Senators Grassley and Baucus did in crafting a Senate reconciliation bill that provided more tax relief to middle-income Americans. This conference report lowers the top rate cut to 35%, at the cost of delaying, for several years, much needed tax relief for married couples unfairly penalized by our tax code. …

“We had an opportunity to provide much more tax relief to millions of hard-working Americans. . . . I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief.”

—Senate floor statement before voting against President Bush’s tax cut, May 26, 2001.

9.  “I am concerned that repeal of the estate tax would provide massive benefits solely to the wealthiest and highest-income taxpayers in the country. A Treasury Department study found that almost no estate tax has been paid by lower- and middle-income taxpayers. But taxes have been paid on the estates of people who were in the highest 20% of the income distribution at the time of their death. It found that 91% of all estate taxes are paid by the estates of people whose annual income exceeded $190,000 around the time of their death. …

“We have no idea what our financial or economic situation will be ten years from now. … We may want to have the flexibility to provide significant tax relief for lower- and middle-income taxpayers. Other unforeseen issues may arise. The point is that we must think beyond the horizon. Making the repeal of the estate tax permanent fails to take these new circumstances into account.

 “We will need resources to deal with … responsible tax reform that benefit lower- and middle-income taxpayers.”

—Senate floor statement opposing HR 8, a bill to permanently eliminate the death tax, June 11, 2002.

10.  MCCAIN: “Shouldn’t we give relief to average citizens who also are double taxed every single day?”

HOST KATIE COURIC: “But, Sen. McCain, if you listen to Commerce Secretary Don Evans, and he just appeared on this program, working Americans, the middle-class Americans, under the Bush proposals will get a major break. A family of four making $39,000 a year, according to Mr. Evans, will get a $1,100 tax cut for several years, allowing them to plan their individual budgets. That sounds like something that won’t just simply benefit the wealthy.”

MCCAIN: “Well, I think it will. But when you look at the percentage of the tax cuts that—as the previous tax cuts—that go to the wealthiest Americans, you will find that the bulk of it, again, goes to wealthiest Americans. … A lot of Americans now are paying a very large a—low and middle-income Americans are paying a significantly larger amount of their income in taxes. I’d like to see them get the bulk of the relief.”

—NBC’s “Today,” Jan. 7, 2003.

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