McCain Doesn’t Speak For McCain On Raising Payroll Tax

After calling the “present” Social Security “setup” — in which “we are paying present-day retirees with the [payroll] taxes paid by young workers in America today” — “an absolute disgrace,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) reversed his pledge to not raise payroll taxes and suggested that he might preserve the “present setup” by increasing payroll taxes:

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, that means payroll tax increases are on the table, as well?

MCCAIN: There is nothing that’s off the table. I have my positions, and I’ll articulate them. But nothing’s off the table.

I don’t want tax increases. Of course I’d like to have young Americans have some of their money put into an account with their name on it. But that doesn’t mean that anything is off the table

McCain’s reversal “drew a sharp rebuke Monday from conservatives” and has led the McCain campaign to backtrack from the senator’s promise that “everything is on the table.” During an appearance on the Fox News Channel today, Tucker Bounds, McCain’s national spokesperson, said that raising the payroll tax is “absolutely out of the question”:

KELLY: You’re off point. We’re talking on a go-forward basis. McCain gets in the White House, is he going to raise the payroll tax? Might the Social Security tax go up? Is that on the table?

BOUNDS: No Megyn there is no imaginable circumstance where John McCain would raise payroll taxes. It’s absolutely out of the question.

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In fact, McCain has gone back and forth on increasing the payroll tax:

– In 2005 on Meet the Press, McCain said, “As part of a compromise I could” support lifting on the cap on Social Security taxes to apply them to incomes above $90,000. [MSNBC, 2/20/2005]

– During an interview with the National Review, McCain promised to not raise payroll taxes under any circumstances. [National Review, 3/5/2007]

– In 2007 on Fox News Sunday, McCain denied his earlier comments and said, “I want to right now tell you I will not support a tax increase. I don’t see how it would be — it’s off the table, certainly, now.” [FNC, 4/30/2007]

– In 2007, McCain said, “I am against tax increases. I am against increases in taxes. I think there are ways to fix Social Security without that.” [SFSSS, 6/2007]

Lifting the current payroll tax cap (currently $102,000) “on the employer side to make businesses pay Social Security taxes on all of the income of the highest paid employers…is the fairest way to help shore up the finances of Social Security“:

According to the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees, the longrange, 75-year actuarial deficit is equal to 1.95 percent of taxable payroll. Eliminating the cap on both the employer and employee side would be more than enough to bring the system into long-range balance. Removing the cap on the employer side would thus go a long ways toward restoring solvency as well as help ensure greater progressivity and fairness in the payroll tax.