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Does Calling Obama a Socialist Cross the Line?

In 2001 John McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts, part of which Barack Obama now wants to let expire (while keeping some in place). In 2000, McCain shared a take on the progressive tax system, which deviates from the one he has now. He confronted a question from the daughter of "Joe the Doctor" who asked McCain at a 2000 townhall: "Why is it that someone like my father, who goes to school for 13 years, gets penalized in a huge tax bracket because he's a doctor?" McCain responded:

[You're] questioning the fundamentals of a progressive tax system where people who make more money pay more in taxes than a flat, across-the-board percentage. . . . But I believe that when you really look at the tax code today, the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don't pay nearly as much as you think they do when you just look at the percentages. And I think middle-income Americans, working Americans, when the account and payroll taxes, sales taxes, mortgage pay — all of the taxes that working Americans pay, I think they — you would think that they also deserve significant relief, in my view.

Well now McCain is taking Obama to task for "socialist" plans such as restoring taxes on those making $250,000 to Clinton-era levels. Some say the latest tactic isn't about tax policy as much as it is about exploiting a cultural divide. To see why,

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One McCain critic notes that J. Edgar Hoover used the term socialist to describe African-Americans fighting for equality, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., that could not be trusted due to their un-American values. Add in comments from McCain that Obama wants to turn the IRS into a giant "welfare agency" by potentially giving a tax-credit check to those who pay zero in taxes, and suspicion that he's using code words increases among skeptics. Barack has fought back: "The only 'welfare' in this campaign is John McCain's plan to give another $200 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest corporations in America."

Socialism is a treasonous word in America, paradoxically a country with many socialistic policies like the progressive income tax, medicare, and a $700 billion bailout of banks. Do you share Republican Colin Powell's disappointed sentiment conveyed in his ironic remarks: "Mr. Obama is now a socialist because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have." Has the McCain campaign's latest narrative crossed the line?

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