On Taxes, McCain Was A Solid Conservative First

Our guest bloggers are James Kvaal and Robert Gordon, senior fellows at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

John McCain is campaigning for president on a platform of budget-busting tax cuts for the rich. In fact, he would cut taxes for the top 1 percent of taxpayers by nearly $150 billion a year.

But McCain opposed Bush’s tax policies before he supported them. So would he govern as the moderate on taxes he was in 2001 or the enthusiastic tax-cutter he is today? McCain’s true intentions were one issue discussed by Gene Sperling and Jared Bernstein at McCain U earlier today.

The easiest way to know what McCain would do as president is to ask him — and he says he wants deep, regressive tax cuts.


But his voting record also matters. And it’s true that, on taxes, McCain was a moderate before he was a conservative. But he was also a conservative before he was a moderate. According to Grover Norquist’s right-wing tax group, Americans for Tax Reform, McCain’s record has three stages:

— Between 1994 and 1997, McCain voted with ATR 100 percent of the time, demonstrating a “Reagan-like” record on taxes.

— Between 1998 and 2003, McCain’s ratings were lower, reaching a low of 55 percent in 2001.

— Since 2004, ATR writes, “McCain has slowly tried to reinvent himself as a taxpayer friendly senator.”

It’s not McCain’s current right-wing tax agenda that is the exception to his career-long record. Instead, it’s his opposition to the Bush tax cuts that was the break from his past.