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Marketing McCainomics

8:07 PM, Jul 7, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru parse McCain's newly unveiled economic plan:

The plan itself is largely unchanged from prior iterations: veto earmarks, freeze discretionary spending, cut corporate tax rates, phase out the alternative minimum tax, increase the dependent exemption, create an optional simplified tax structure, promote free trade, and reform health care and entitlements. But the emphasis on spending, which was the campaign's own doing as much as that of the press, misses the key to voters' concerns about the economy, and to the way McCain's economic message can address those concerns.

As important as control over federal spending surely is, voters make no connection between budget debates and their own livelihoods. [...]

Simply put, rising costs of living make the tax issue newly salient. Many conservatives have, quite reasonably, begun to conclude in recent years that tax cuts would no longer have the political pull they once did, since fewer Americans consider themselves overtaxed. But the question of taxes has finally to do with how much of their money people are able to spend on their families' needs. As the cost of meeting those needs rises, the promise of more money to spend grows more appealing as well. Tax cuts, especially those directed to families who are increasingly feeling the pinch, would speak to what is quickly becoming the core economic concern of this election year.

McCain's economic plan includes one such cut in particular: doubling the personal exemption for dependents from $3,500 to $7,000. Such a reform would help parents most of all, and would speak to the pressures and needs of the moment. It is, however, a very modest move, worth only an additional $350 per child to parents in the 10 percent tax bracket. McCain would be wise to build on it, for instance by also significantly expanding the child tax credit, and making it refundable against payroll as well as income taxes.

Read the whole thing on the homepage.

Also, Andrew Ferguson had a prescient piece back in February on McCain's eclectic economic team of budget hawks and supply-siders. Their imprint is clearly-or should one say confusingly-seen in this plan.