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Looking at tax policies, plus a clarification

by NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News correspondent

Image: Kelly O'DonnellToday the McCain campaign seized on a comment made by Joe Biden on tax policy during an interview with a Scranton TV station Monday.
 
Senator Biden was talking about tax cuts and which voters should get them. Biden said, "... It should go like it used to. It should go to middle class people -- people making under $150,000."
 
The McCain campaign chose to make a political argument claiming the Obama campaign has said conflicting things about tax policy. McCain argues Obama has "redefined rich" and that the income level is "creeping" down to include more families. 
 
The Obama campaign provided a written response calling McCain "desperate."
 
The Obama campaign did not address the $150,000 income that Senator Biden cited. The campaign simply chose to ignore that figure in its official response.
Instead the campaign did state that its policy is households earning less than 200,000 dollars would receive an Obama tax cut.
 
Senator Biden's words appeared to be in conflict with his own campaign. That is the kind of inconsistency opponents look for and why McCain chose to highlight those remarks.
 
In my Nightly News report, I wrote that the Obama campaign response to McCain's charge "provided a different number, $200,000 dollars." The Obama campaign contends my use of "different" implied a "new" policy. I did not say or suggest the figure provided was "new."  If viewers interpreted it that way, then I regret any lack of clarity. 
 
My script stated, "the campaign provided a different number than Biden had, saying families earning under $200,000 would get Obama's tax cuts. And not the $250,000 that Obama has claimed in the past."
 
A centerpiece of the Obama tax policy is that an income of $250,000 is the bright line between tax increases and tax cuts.
 
But Senator Obama has not always been precise discussing that policy. He has suggested that workers making less than $250,000 would also receive a tax cut. For example, Senator Obama said, "If you make $250,000 a year or less, we will not raise your taxes. We will cut your taxes."
 
However, the Obama campaign says taxes on incomes between $200,000 and $250,000 would remain the same and not cut.
 
Again, that perceived conflict is what the McCain campaign chose to argue before voters.