Politics & Policy

Kerry’S Tax Pledge Is Ablaze

That didn't take very long.

The final two presidential debates have given Americans a clear picture of John Kerry’s tax vision. It’s not pretty. For starters, Kerry’s statements and campaign manifesto undermine his pledge not to raise taxes on those who earn less than $200,000. This alone should warn voters that, for Kerry, tax hikes are not a last resort, but a first response.

In the St. Louis debate, Kerry replied to James Varner who asked him “to look directly into the camera and, using simple and unequivocal language,” pledge not to raise taxes on families who make less than $200,000 annually.

“Absolutely,” Kerry said. “Yes. Right into the camera. Yes. I am not going to raise taxes. I have a tax cut.”

Demonstrating yet again Kerry’s talent for self-contradiction, he added, “Now, for the people earning more than $200,000 a year, you’re going to see a rollback to the level we were at with Bill Clinton … “

But, as veteran business journalist and Fox News contributor Stuart Varney reported on October 10, restoring the status-quo-Clinton will hurt taxpayers less affluent than those Kerry boasts are in his crosshairs.

Varney cited Johnkerry.com, which says that Kerry hopes to “restore the top two tax rates to their levels under President Clinton.”

“If you restore those top two tax levels,” Varney said, “lots of people who make well under $200,000 a year would, in fact, have their taxes raised under the John Kerry plan.”

For instance,

‐ Varney calculates that for married couples filing jointly, the tax rate would rise from 33 to 35 percent above $178,651

‐ For heads of households, the 33 percent rate would grow to 35 percent above $162,701

‐ For married couples filing separately, the 35 percent rate increases to 39.6 percent above $159,550

‐ Single filers would move from 33 to 35 percent above $146,751

‐ And for married couples filing separately, the 33 percent rate would increase to 35 percent above $89,326.

Thanks to his words and website, Kerry’s week-old tax pledge already is ablaze. Americans who earn as little as $89,327 can expect federal tax hikes. This should surprise no one. Through his 20-year Senate career, Kerry has been one of the Tax Man’s best friends.

Kerry “voted to increase taxes 98 times. When they tried to reduce taxes, he voted against that 127 times,” said President Bush at Thursday’s Tempe, Arizona, debate. “He voted 277 times to waive the budget caps, which would have cost the taxpayers $4.2 trillion.”

While Kerry says he favors middle-class tax cuts, he skipped the Senate’s September 23 vote to extend family tax relief. It also is difficult to reconcile Kerry’s tax-reduction plans with his gilded expenditures.

Kerry proposes $2.2 trillion in new spending — including $700 billion for a 10-year catastrophic medical-payment program — plus kiddy health insurance, and more. Even squeezing those who earn $200,000 or more, President Bush argued, Kerry would generate $800 billion, at most. That leaves him $1.4 trillion short. Would you bet against paying part of that bill?

Even while denouncing Bush’s tax cuts, Kerry hypocritically enjoys them. As Club for Growth president Steve Moore explained in the Wall Street Journal on October 11, the Kerrys paid $704,227 in federal taxes on $5.51 million in income last year, a 12.8 percent effective tax rate. While typical middle-class families effectively paid 20 percent, the Bushes paid 30.4 percent. Had Kerry rejected Bush’s tax cuts and stuck with Clinton’s top rate, Moore estimates that Kerry would have paid $1.2 million in taxes, effectively 21.8 percent.

President Bush seeks re-election with sterling supply-side credentials. He has signed $1.9 trillion in tax relief, lowered the top rate from 39.6 to 35 percent and the bottom rate from 15 to 10 percent, and reduced levies in between. While his per-child tax credit and other targeted relief represent pro-family social engineering, these measures at least keep money in citizens’ pockets — and out of the Potomac.

Bush, alas, deserves brickbats on spending. If reelected, he should wield his untouched veto pen and draw a fiscally conservative path. Beyond national security, he should freeze spending, or at least tie it to inflation, rather than its 8.2 percent average annual ascent since 2001, as the Cato Institute calculates.

Nonetheless, Bush’s fiscal shortcomings pale beside those of John Kerry, a congenital spendaholic who yearns for higher taxes.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a contributor to National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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