It's the centerpiece of Barack Obama's pitch. 95% of Americans, The One assures us, will get a tax cut. Well, there's a problem with that -- as many as 40% of the public doesn't actually pay income taxes - they might have taxes withheld, but they get every penny back and sometimes more. So how do you give someone who isn't paying income tax a refund?
You take it from someone else, of course. The Wall Street Journal's William McGurn explains it well - the real bone of contention is the payroll tax, which funds Social Security. You can't take money out of the "lockbox" of course, so what's happening is really a bait and switch where money is taken from taxpayers and given to those who aren't paying taxes. You could call it what it really is, which is welfare. You could also call it what Obama discussed with our old pal Joe the Plumber, which is "spreading the wealth around." Or you could call it buying votes.
But my guess is that, in the end, what we're going to call it is a mirage. I'm old enough to remember 1992, when then-candidate Bill Clinton, who ran as a fiscal conservative, told us that a tax cut, specifically for the middle class was in the offing. Oddly, I never got that. If Barack Obama wins, we'll hear that, darn the luck, that $700 billion bailout has the government tapped out.
If you really believe that Barack Obama is a better candidate than John McCain, go ahead and vote for him. If you really believe that a guy who has never been an executive can suddenly take on the largest, most divergent executive job imaginable, then cast your vote accordingly. But if you are voting for Barack Obama because he's promised you a tax cut, you really need to think it through.