Editor's Notes

Do the math: under Obama, around 90 percent of the country would get an immediate raise
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tredmond@sfbg.com

Suppose you don't care about the war in Iraq. Suppose you have a secure job, and you aren't in trouble with your mortgage, and don't spend much time worrying about climate change. You're thinking about No. 1, and that's how you plan to vote.

Let me ask you a question:

Who's more likely to cut your taxes — Barack Obama or John McCain?

If you figure that the heir to the Bush mantra — cut taxes, cut regulation, cut government programs (except for wars) — is the guy who will reduce your tax burden, try again.

I refer you to a very intelligent article by David Leonhardt in the Aug. 24 New York Times Magazine. Leonhardt is not a radical leftist, and he's not an Obama campaign operative. He's an economics columnist who has spent a lot of time trying to understand what both of the candidates are really proposing, and here's his conclusion:

"Obama would not only cut taxes for most people more than McCain would. He would cut them more than Bill Clinton did and more than Hillary Clinton proposed doing."

Obama is offering big middle-class tax cuts, reductions that would actually put a lot more money in the pockets of the people who are most likely to need, and spend, that money. And he'd do it by raising taxes on the very tiny percentage of people who make very high incomes.

McCain loves to talk about tax cuts, but what he has in mind is cutting taxes on the 0.1 percent of earners who have average annual incomes of $9.1 million. Those people would pocket an additional $190,000 a year, which, frankly, would make absolutely no visible difference to their lives or lifestyles.

Obama would raise that group's taxes by about $800,000 annually — which would also make absolutely no visible difference to their lives or lifestyles. As the Times notes, "The bulk of Obama's tax increases on the wealthy — about $500,000 of that $800,000 — would simply take away Bush's tax cuts. The remaining $300,000 wouldn't nearly reverse their pretax income gains in recent years."

So when it comes to putting more money in your pockets — as the free-marketeers like to say, giving the middle class more cash to spend as it wants, thus stimuutf8g the economy — the Democrat is far, far ahead. And all he's going to do is put the very rich back where they were a few years ago, which was, well, very rich.

This message isn't getting out.

Part of the problem is that tax policy is complicated (Jesus, just look at all those numbers in the past few paragraphs); analyzing the competing tax plans can make my head hurt, and I love this stuff. Part of the problem is that the Obama campaign is leery of sounding too populist a note; class warfare makes people like me happy, but it doesn't tend to win national elections. (Part of the problem is that a large percentage of middle-class Americans seriously believe they'll be stinking rich someday, which is why lotteries make money.)

But the economy is gong to be the issue that decides this election, and the Democrats have to sell two messages. One, we're better than the Republicans at managing economic policy (not hard, when you look at how the last GOP chief has handled things). And two, we know you're hurting (Bill Clinton became president by feeling people's pain) — and we're going to make it better.

Do the math: under Obama, around 90 percent of the country would get an immediate raise. That might be worth mentioning in his acceptance speech.