Is Obama A $32,000 A Year Tax Hiker?

The McCain campaign has a new way to cast Barack Obama as a tax hiker: the claim is that he supports raising taxes on those earning as little as $32,000 a year. "Based on his actions and votes, Barack Obama is going to raise taxes on nearly every American. If you make over $32,000 per year, Barack Obama has voted to raise your taxes," writes McCain chief policy adviser Doug Holtz-Eaken in a memo. That's a major difference from the Obama's campaign's contention that no family earning less than $250,000 would pay higher taxes. So what's the truth? Partisans might retreat to their corners, and belief perseverance will probably obviate the differences, but both campaigns have a point. Obama voted twice in favor of a budget resolution that would have raised marginal tax rates on the 25% bracket by three percentage points. Budget resolutions, though, set wide targets and don't have the force of law. The same budget resolution called for middle class tax relief and AMT reform; it's hard to sustain the charge that Obama actually "voted" for tax hikes because he wasn't voting on a bill -- he was voting to give Senate taxwriters a set of guidelines for them to maneuever. In general, though, the public conflates resolutions and bills and Congressional Democrats' budget resolutions certainly speak to the priorities of the party. Domestic spending would increase, offset by the expiration of a good chunk of the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. As NBC's Ken Strickland notes, if all the Bush tax cuts expire, folks who pay taxes in the 25% bracket could pay more than they do now.

Now -- Obama has separately promised to keep those lower brackets at their Bush levels and let the reductions on higher tax brackets expire. And the Tax Policy Center has concluded that his plans would offer more relief to middle class taxpayers.

But the budget resolution that he voted for does not make that distinction. Instead, it extends the marriage penalty tax cut, the child tax credit, the 10% bracket and even death/estate tax relief.

The same resolution aspires to balance the budget by 2013, so with the logic used by the McCain campaign, Obama also twice "voted" for a balanced budget by the end of his first term.