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By John Frank June 26, 2008

McCain flipped on payroll taxes, if only once

What politicians have said on TV often comes back to haunt them.

Sen. John McCain knows that feeling after Sen. Barack Obama recalled a past statement McCain made about Social Security solvency on a Sunday morning news show.

In a June 13, 2008, speech to senior citizens in Columbus, Ohio, Obama outlined his plan to require those earning $250,000 or more to contribute more in payroll taxes while keeping all other tax levels constant.

Then Obama dropped this line:

"There was a time when John McCain thought this wasn't such a bad idea. When he was asked a few years ago whether he could see himself lifting the cap on the payroll tax, he said, 'I could.' But today he's attacking me for holding the very same position."

McCain never put specific salary parameters to the issue, but he did tell Tim Russert on a Feb. 20, 2005, edition of Meet the Press that he would consider increasing the Social Security payroll tax to help keep the system solvent.

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Here's the relevant material from the transcript:

Russert: Sen. McCain, there's a big debate in your Republican Party about whether or not, as part of the solution to Social Security's solvency problem, that you lift the cap so that you would pay payroll tax, Social Security tax, not just on the first $90,000 of your income, but perhaps even higher. Could you support that as part of a compromise?

Sen McCain: As part of a compromise I could, and other sacrifices, because we all know that it doesn't add up until we make some very serious and fundamental changes. (At the time, the cap stood at $90,000. In January 2008, it rose to the current level of $102,000.)

Reacting to Obama's assertion, McCain's advisers told reporters in a June 2008 conference call that he would not "under any imaginable circumstance" consider raising the payroll tax. During the conference call, campaign advisers didn't address McCain's 2005 statement on Meet the Press.

Neither McCain's campaign nor the Obama camp returned calls seeking more information.

But the record is clear in verifying Obama's statement. We rule it True.

Our Sources

NBC News Transcripts, Meet the Press, Feb. 20, 2005

Associated Press, "Obama wants higher Social Security tax for the 'wealthiest,'" by Charles Babington, June 14, 2008

Plain Dealer, "Obama's agenda turns to Social Security, seniors; In Columbus, candidate courts older voters," by Mark Naymik, June 14, 2008

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McCain flipped on payroll taxes, if only once

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