Reality Check on Middle Class Tax Claims

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., makes remarks during a rally at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Producer Rob Hendin wrote this story for

In a Tuesday rally, before Senator John McCain left to prepare for Wednesday night's final presidential debate, the candidate threw some new fuel on the fire of the battle for the middle class.

Here's what Senator McCain said: "A typical middle-class family of four making $42,000 a year with health insurance will get 4,350 more dollars under my plan than they would under Senator Obama's plan. That example of 42,000 a year in wages is especially relevant, because just last year Senator Obama voted to raise taxes on individuals making that amount."

Families at the $42,000 income level are highly coveted voters. They are considered by economists to be in the low range of the middle class.

There are two claims to examine here.

First, the claim that Obama voted to raise taxes on families making $42,000 a year: that claim is simply not true.

This statement has been recycled by McCain for a while and garnished a "Barely True" rating by the non-partisan PolitiFact.Com. The vote that is cited by McCain was on a budget resolution, a non-binding vote to end the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and not a vote to actually raise taxes. In fact, one of Obama's central campaign pledges now is to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, for families making less than $250,000 a year.

Onto the new claim, that the same family would see 4,350 dollars more under John McCain. This claim is true, but only if McCain can enact his highly controversial health care plan, under which this family gets a $5,000 refundable tax credit. Without the health care plan; and on tax policies alone, this same family would get a larger tax break under Obama, $737, than under McCain with $87.

Critics point out that even if you presume passage of the McCain health plan and this family indeed pockets the $5000 tax credit, they would only qualify by having the value of their company-sponsored health benefits added to their gross income and taxed for the first time ever.
Rob Hendin