NBC: Tax Cuts Mean McCain's Economic Plan 'Doesn't Add Up'

Network journalists have yet to meet a spending hike or regulation that they considered unwise, but any tax cut is always ill-advised and helps “the wealthy.” Living up to the pattern -- and illustrating how John McCain will earn media scorn for any conservative policy proposal -- NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams set up a Tuesday story on McCain's economic plan by emphasizing how “some critics say his economic plan, which centers on more tax cuts, doesn't add up.”

Reporting on McCain's plan outlined in a speech at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, reporter Kelly O'Donnell listed McCain's idea for a summer suspension of the gas tax, though that “tax is used to pay for highway repairs.” O'Donnell moved on to McCain's proposal to “double the income tax exemption for dependents to $7,000 a year,” hardly a boon to the rich, before getting to McCain's “core idea” to “lower taxes and make up lost revenue with cuts in government spending.” She then delivered the liberal line: “But critics and some economists argue McCain's math is wrong, that his plan would tilt toward the wealthy, swell the deficit, and not trim enough.”

O'Donnell concluded with how “there's extra scrutiny on his economic proposals today because in the past McCain has said he needs to learn more and that the economy is not his strongest subject.” How about just a little scrutiny on whether the massive new spending plans forwarded by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton really “add up” to a balanced budget?

The CBS Evening News limited coverage to a brief item read by anchor Katie Couric, but ABC's World News ran a full story from reporter Ron Claiborne, who concluded with the same criticism around which NBC had framed its story: “Critics question how McCain expects to pay for the war in Iraq, massive tax cuts and balance the budget. McCain says he can do it, but it will take until the end of his second term.”

Apparently, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax and not raising taxes when current rates expire in a few years constitute “massive” tax cuts to ABC and, for NBC, tax cuts tilted “toward the wealthy.”

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Tuesday, April 15 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Most Americans don't need reminding this is tax deadline day, and John McCain used the occasion to give his second speech on the economy in two weeks' time. He is offering more specifics on how he would handle the economy and the federal budget. But some critics say his economic plan, which centers on more tax cuts, doesn't add up. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is with the McCain campaign tonight in Pennsylvania.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Going right for your wallet and your gas tank, today John McCain urged the government to drop the federal tax on gasoline, 18 cents a gallon, for three months this summer before the election.

JOHN MCCAIN: The effect will be an immediate economic stimulus, taking a few dollars off the price of a tank of gas.

O'DONNELL: That gas tax is used to pay for highway repairs. McCain advisors say they'd make up for that with money from the general fund. Another proposal, double the income tax exemption for dependents to $7,000 a year. McCain's core idea, lower taxes and make up lost revenue with cuts in government spending. But critics and some economists argue McCain's math is wrong, that his plan would tilt toward the wealthy, swell the deficit, and not trim enough. Beyond numbers, plain old politics. McCain claims Democrats will cost you more, and he tried to play off the title of Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope.

JOHN MCCAIN: They're going to raise your taxes by thousands of dollars a year, they have the audacity to hope you don't mind.

O'DONNELL: McCain saved some of the heat for his own party, accusing Republicans of wasteful spending, and the President of failing to stop that with vetoes, while in a new ad, McCain ran for the middle.

CLIP OF AD: As President, John McCain will take the best ideas from both parties.

O'DONNELL: Turning to the Democrats, more on Barack Obama's comments about bitterness in small towns. Both Clinton and McCain have called Obama elitist, and today he was asked if that amounts to the racially charged word "uppity."

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This term, the way it is being used against you, it isn't far from uppity.

BARACK OBAMA: I don't think there are racial overtones to the attacks going on right now. I think that, you know, it's politics.

O'DONNELL: While Hillary Clinton today said she thinks gender has been underplayed in this campaign.

HILLARY CLINTON: And it's inescapable that race and gender, which has gotten, I must say, much less attention, are part of who we are. But we both wish to be judged on the sum of our parts.

O'DONNELL: And the sum of those parts includes life experience and record. And for John McCain, there's extra scrutiny on his economic proposals today because in the past McCain has said he needs to learn more and that the economy is not his strongest subject.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center