John McCain spent the weekend hammering Barack Obama for his "spread the wealth" comment to Joe the Plumber. Michael Cooper's Monday "Political Memo," "'Spreading the Wealth' as Both Accusation and Prescription," makes the point that in a sense we're all socialists now thanks to the federal bailout of the financial system, but then twisted that observationinto a predictable partisan accusation of hypocrisy on the part of McCain,while fact-checking McCain's tax plans with a vigor the paper has rarely expended on Obama's claims.
In a radio address on Saturday, Mr. McCain said that "at least in Europe, the Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives." Asked in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" whether he believed that Mr. Obama's plans amount to socialism, Mr. McCain said, "I think his plans are redistribution of the wealth." Pressed again on the subject, Mr. McCain said, "That's one of the tenets of socialism."
And in rallies from Miami to North Carolina to here, Mr. McCain gets some of the biggest crowd reactions when he thunders that Mr. Obama wants to "spread the wealth around." Some members of the audience even chant the line along with him.
Still, at rally after rally Mr. McCain denounces Mr. Obama for wanting to redistribute wealth, hitting especially hard on Mr. Obama's plan to give tax credits, in the form of checks, to some people who do not pay income tax. (Mr. McCain omits the fact that his own health care plan would do much the same thing, giving tax credits of $5,000 to families for health insurance, regardless of whether they pay income taxes.)
The problem is that Obama is falsely claiming his plan would cut income taxes on 95% of people - an impossible figure, given that many Americans don't pay any income tax at all.
Cooper also let in some labeling bias. While the Cato Institute is accurately described as a "libertarian research group," the liberal Brookings Institution is merely a "public policy research group."