What McCain and Obama’s tax plans reveal about their priorities

The Washington Post has an interesting graphic which gives a good visual for both McCain and Obama’s tax priorities.  It’s easy to see the difference between the two:  for McCain, the more money you already have, the more you’ll get back from the government.  The less you have, the less you’ll get.  For Obama, those who have the least receive the most tax support proportionally:

These figures are based on the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the candidate’s proposals.  (The full report is available on pdf here.)

What’s particularly striking to me is what this says about each candidate’s priorities.  John McCain evidently believes that those who have the most should be given the most back – both in terms of actual dollars and percentages of tax decreases.  Barack Obama has the exact opposite philosophy here:  those who have the least actually get the highest percentages back.

As a Christian first, but also as an American who believes in fairness and equal opportunity, I frankly can’t understand where John McCain is coming from.  The idea of giving the most to those who already have the most, and giving the least to those who have the least is completely backward. It belies the interests of economic greed to which McCain is beholden.  It is out of touch not only with the needs of real people, but with the biblical idea of whom in society should we really be helping.  If this is an example of how John McCain’s values translate to policy, he should be opposed not only on political but moral grounds.

UPDATE: Commenter cheyenne alerts us to another chart of the same data, created by chartjunk.  This one offers a visual that corresponds to the size of the U.S. population.

11 Responses to “What McCain and Obama’s tax plans reveal about their priorities”

  1. rjjrdq Says:

    That is just for income tax. It doesn’t include the other kinds of taxes Obama will impose. And the employers being taxed won’t sit there and eat that. They’ll roll it down to…You do the math.

    Vote for Bob Barr…


  2. Tom Ryberg Says:


    Thanks for stopping by. Although I have no idea what specifically you’re referring to (got sources?), I see you’re concerned about other taxes than simply what are shown here. Fine. My concern, however, has to do with what the differences between McCain and Obama’s plans reveal about each of their perspectives. I note that unfortunately McCain feels that those who have the most should get the largest percentages back, while Obama takes an opposite view. Any thoughts about this topic to share?


  3. Fran Says:

    Great post Tom- and I would agree that is says a lot.

  4. rjjrdq Says:

    Hi Tom,
    Looks bad. I don’t know if Obama doesn’t realize what his tax plan will do, or this study has no merit. It looks legit.


  5. Tom Ryberg Says:


    I looked into this analysis, and it was created by Alex Brill and Alan D. Viard, a “research fellow” and a “resident scholar” at American Enterprise Institute, and published in AEI’s magazine.

    AEI is described by Wikipedia as a “conservative think tank” that has been “one of the leading architects of the second Bush administration’s public policy.” This is hardly an unbiased source. With clear partisans on one side and a group of non-partisans who strive to maintain neutrality on the other, I’m inclined to believe those whose stake is simply accuracy over those who are trying to advance a specific agenda.


  6. cheyenne Says:

    Hey Tom, I haven’t checked your blog in a while, but I thought you might like this version of the tax plan graph with the income brackets drawn to scale.


  7. Tom Ryberg Says:


    This is soooo cool! Thanks for letting me know; I’ll add it to the post. (More for my own reference than anyone else, but still!)

    Good to hear from you! Hope you’re doing well.


  8. Nick Says:

    I am trying to figure out the fairness in taxing people for being successful. When you go to the grocery store, you pay the same tax as the person behind you and in front of you regardless of how much they earn. Basically what I am saying is that if I make a $1,000,000 a year and my neighbor makes $100,000.. I am going to pay around $500,000 in taxes while they are going to pay around $40,000. I would already be paying more – why should I have to pay more while they get a decrease? Eventually, it will end up that my take home pay on $1,000,000 is the same as the guy who made $100,000 – whats the incentive for me to do whatever someone is paying me $1,000,000/yr to do?

  9. Tom Ryberg Says:


    It is true that the actual amount of dollars spent by the rich compared to the poor in taxes is greater. But I’ve seen nothing thats suggests that wealthy people pay anywhere near the same percentage of their income as poor people.

    If you want to talk about fairness, let’s talk about someone making $40,000/year, paying 20% of her income ($8,000) and taking home $32,000, compared with someone making $1.2 million/year, giving up 12% ($144,000), and taking home $1,056,000. You tell me who this economic system favors in the long run.


  10. Stories of Expatriation & Maturation Says:

    […] As for the way their tax plans break down I suggest you see a post by Tom Ryberg, What McCain’s and Obama’s Tax Plans Reveal About Their Priorities. […]

  11. Jubilee Economics « Stories of Expatriation & Maturation Says:

    […] as mythology.  And had McCain been elected, we would have been headed for more of the same (see this article describing the differences of philosophies between President Obama and his former contender McCain […]

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