McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin responded yesterday to a recent report by the Tax Policy Center, which found a $2.8 trillion gap between McCain’s public economic proposals and what his advisers had been telling tax experts in private.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain’s chief economic adviser, says the numbers he provided to the TPC aren’t secret — they’re the same ones he provides to anyone who asks. He also disputes the way the study takes suggestions McCain has made on the stump out of context. “This is parsing words out of campaign appearances to an unreasonable degree,” Holtz-Eakin said. “He has certainly I’m sure said things in town halls” that don’t jibe perfectly with his written plan. But that doesn’t mean it’s official.
Two problems: the numbers Holtz-Eakin gave to the Tax Policy Center in their initial analysis weren’t available to “anyone who asks,” and pointing out the gaping distinctions between what McCain says on the stump and what his advisers say in private, is far from parsing.
For months, the McCain campaign had not offered specific numbers on his profligate budget proposals. In June, Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition, a prominent advocacy group for balanced budgets, told Bloomberg news: “I haven’t received anything, and if some of the other groups have then I’ll be really ticked off…If he’s got some more complete budget proposal he can send I’d love to get it.”
Detailed figures did finally appear publicly in the first Tax Policy Center report and later in the Washington Post, but are still not available on the campaign’s web site. And no wonder: there are still serious inconsistencies between what his advisers provide to the wonks at the Tax Policy Center (and the editorial board of the Washington Post) and what appears on McCain’s web site and in his stump speeches.
As Douglas Holtz-Eakin himself has said, only “Senator McCain speaks for Senator McCain.” Silly us, we believed him.
Two examples of McCain’s inconsistencies after the jump.
— The Alternative Minimum Tax: McCain told the Conservative Political Action Conference that he would “abolish” the Alternative Minimum Tax. His website says he would “phase it out.” But the numbers he offered Tax Policy Center suggest that he would only “extend and index” the patch and “raise the exemption.”
The difference between “abolishing” and “raising the exemption”? $390 billion.
— Corporate Expensing: Senator McCain has called for a huge change in the tax code allowing businesses to write-off their equipment purchases. In the documents his advisers provide to tax experts, the proposal is restricted to “a narrow class of investments [with] a sunset the proposal after five years.” But on the stump, as the Tax Policy Center points out, McCain’s statements “strongly imply that the provision would apply to all machinery and equipment.” And McCain regularly rails against sunset provisions as covert tax-hikes.