In Wednesday's off-lead story by Michael Cooper and Larry Rohter, the New York Times found both McCain and Obama retreating to home base when it comes to economic solutions. But the Times' unconscious embrace of liberal conventional wisdom was evident in how it treated much-argued political terms like "windfall profits", "the death tax," and even "victory" in Iraq. Bush's mild tax cuts were seen as only benefiting "the wealthy" (by whose definition?), an assertion the Times underlined by repeating it three times. And look how the Times used quotation marks as warning flares or to suggest a conservative position was dubious. While "victory" and "death tax" were seen as partisan Republican terms and secured in protective quotes, Democrat-loaded terms like "windfall profits of oil companies" weren't put in quotes but stood unencumbered and presented as fact, even though the phrase "windfall" is calculated to make it appear oil company profits are somehow unjust or unearned.
The economy has emerged as the top concern of voters in the presidential race, supplanting terrorism and the Iraq war as gasoline prices and unemployment have gone up and housing values and stock prices have gone down. Their differences on the economy are every bit as stark as the difference on the Iraq war, where Mr. Obama favors beginning to withdraw United States troops while Mr. McCain wants to keep them there until they achieve "victory."Mr. McCain wants to extend the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy, cut corporate taxes and keep capital-gains taxes low. The tax cuts he promotes as benefiting the middle class include doubling the size of the exemption people can claim for each child. And his call for repealing the alternative minimum tax, while it would still help some middle-class taxpayers, would still largely benefit the wealthy: some 80 percent of the benefit would go to the top 10 percent of earners, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.Mr. Obama wants to let the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy lapse, and he wants to raise the tax on capital gains and dividends and to tax the windfall profits of oil companies. He also wants to keep the estate tax, which many Republicans deride as the "death tax," on people with estates valued at more than $3.5 million; Mr. McCain would exempt people with estates valued at up to $10 million and would impose a much lower tax rate. Mr. Obama wants to use some of that money to pay for his middle-class tax cut and for the elimination of income taxes on retirees.