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Using numbers from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, the website AlchemyToday came up with a calculator to see how much Barack Obama would raise your taxes. It's a nifty device that should help clarify for people the big differences in economic policy in this election.

Are you making less than $603,000? If so, Obama isn't going to raise your taxes, the data show.

According to a Gallup Poll, 53% of Americans think Obama is going to raise their taxes, compared with just 34% who suspect the same of McCain. That means that at least 48% of Americans don't really understand what Obama is going to do and one-third don't understand what McCain is proposing. Where would so many people get the crazy idea that Obama's secret plan is to raise taxes? Well, it could be because John McCain tells them that every chance he gets.
The Washington Post put together a nifty graphic using the same data. CNNMoney also did a smart analysis of the whole thing. The gist of it is, according to CNNMoney:

McCain: The average taxpayer in every income group would see a lower tax bill, but high-income taxpayers would benefit more than everyone else.

Obama: High-income taxpayers would pay more in taxes, while everyone else's tax bill would be reduced. Those who benefit the most -- in terms of reducing their taxes as a percentage of after-tax income - are in the lowest income groups.

In the simplest terms, McCain is going to cut everybody's taxes, but cut the very richest people's taxes most. Obama is going to cut everybody's taxes except the really rich. As the Tax Policy Center points out, both plans are lousy for the federal debt: Obama's would raise the debt by $2.9 trillion, McCain's by $4.2 trillion.

I wish someone would come up with a better calculator than the alchemy one, one that would let people compare their situation under Obama and McCain. First off, people would see that for the vast majority of Americans -- those making $112,000 and under -- Obama cuts their taxes more than McCain.

Second, a better calculator would account for more than just income. A realistic calculator would ask you where you get your income. Is it from work? Or is it from the stock market? (Which Obama says he wants to raise.) Or is it from an inheritance of more than $3.5 million? And then there's McCain's proposal to tax employer healthcare, but give a tax credit to offset it.

Fiscal policy is really complicated. We could desperately need use a tool to bring it home to people where their own financial interest lies.

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