As the resident moderate, I’ve decided to start taking a look at where both McCain and Obama are positioning themselves on the issues that will help decide which one of these three ring circuses calling themselves “Presidential Campaigns” will pitch their tents at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I’m going to start today with the perpetual issue that the donkeys and the elephants battle over during a presidential election cycle. Read my lips, we are talking taxes.

Taxes may not be as inflammatory as the war in Iraq, or souring relations with Russia, my guess is, it is one that more Americans will think about as election day comes closer. After, it’s the economy stupid. Right?

The Holy Grail for both sides seems to be who can claim to give the largest tax cut to the middle class. CNN did a story a couple months ago, based on a report from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

Here’s how it breaks down:


According to this chart, the Obama plan will give a larger cut to the middle class and those at the lowest level of the income scale, whereas McCain’s plan cuts taxes for everyone, including those making over $2.9 million.

Both plans have a major flaw:

Under both plans, all American taxpayers could pay a price for their tax cuts: a bigger deficit. The Tax Policy Center estimates that over 10 years, McCain’s tax proposals could increase the national debt by as much as $4.5 trillion with interest, while Obama’s could add as much as $3.3 trillion.

And there is the whole spending issue. One of the McCain’s flagship campaign planks is a war on earmarks, which sells well to the voting public, but realistically can be difficult to actualize:

But spending cuts can be politically difficult to achieve, said Len Burman, the Tax Policy Center’s director.

Obama can be criticized for proposing plans that could send spending spiraling upwards, but McCain isn’t completely out of the spending market either. While out to cut the pork, McCain is on the record as wanting to increase the size of and compensation for American armed forces, which adds spending.

So what’s the verdict?

How the candidates’ tax plans would affect economic growth is an open question. “It depends on how the deficits are closed,” Burman said.

Tax studies have shown that when tax cuts are deficit funded and they’re paid for by raising taxes in the future, “the economy is worse off than if you didn’t cut at all,” Burman said.

I call it a draw, unless McCain can really effectively cut spending and ground conditions in Iraq allow him to dramatically reduce the number of American soldiers on the ground there. If Mac has those two things happen, the hit his tax cuts lays on the deficit will be reduced.