John McCain appears to be wavering on his no tax pledge. This past weekend he admitted that “nothing is off the table” in terms of fixing Social Security, and that includes raising the payroll tax.

McCain said he would obviously prefer not to raise taxes but …

While I tend to think taking tax increases off the table is politically foolish for any politician, McCain needs to be careful here. One of his advantages over Barack Obama is that voters know McCain a lot better and can be more confident about where he stands on major issues. To waver on such a fundamental issue as Social Security payroll taxes really makes me question where his head is at. He already has trouble explaining why he voted against George Bush’s tax relief – now he’ll have to explain this too.

  • kranky kritter

    I’m of two minds on this. Agreed that this shows a lack of savvy regarding tactical maneuvers, tax increases being a GOP 3rd rail, but it actually encourgaes me that McCain would attempt, even clumsily, to acknowledge that the nature of the impending SS funding gap is that it will be too vast to bridge via tweaking.

    However, any candidate who suggests that increased payroll taxes NOW make sense for a gap that won’t arrive for another, what 7 to 10 years, better be ready to explain to me how that surplus will actually be set aside for its alleged use. And I’m not talking about a “trust fund” which amounts to no more than a note to the government that says “Uncle sam owes SSA 15 gazillon bananas.”

  • TomFromMD

    From the SS point of view, there’s nothing wrong with that note, bananas withstanding. The problem (so far as it exists) is the effect on that debt on the dollar and the future taxpayer; i.e. we’re creating a debt for ourselves. But there’s no difference between that debt and any other that the government contracts – it’s no worse than selling bonds. So the real problem (from the viewpoint of the government and future taxpayer) is the amount of debt that we’re accruing. And here, there is a solution: if the taxes go to pay off existing debt, or to offset new obligations that we were going to take anyway, we keep the demands on the future taxpayer from being any worse. The only tricky part is to keep the pigs in Washington from seeing it as a new trough.