A nuanced definition of what’s "rich" …

I think that both candidates gave pretty good answers to Rick Warren’s question at Saddleback.

McCain is getting hammered for his $5 million joke (which Paul Krugman of the NY Times acknowledges was a joke).

Going beyond the sound bites and reading the transcript (below), it turns out that it was McCain, not Obama, who gave the more nuanced answer.  Hmmm.

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Obama’s  Answer:

REV. WARREN: Okay. Taxes — this is a real simple question. Define “rich.” (Laughter.) I mean, give me a number. Is it 50,000 (dollars)? One hundred thousand (dollars)? Two hundred thousand (dollars)? Everybody keeps talking about who we’re going to tax. How do you define that?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, if you’ve got book sales of 25 million, then you qualify. (Applause.)

REV. WARREN: (Laughs.) I’m not asking about me. (Laughter.)

SEN. OBAMA: Look, here’s how I think about it. Here’s how I think about it, and this is reflected in my tax plan. If you are making $150,000 a year or less as a family, then you’re middle class, or you may be poor. But 150 (thousand dollars) down, you’re basically middle class. Obviously, it depends on region and where you’re living.

REV. WARREN: In this region, you’re poor. (Laughter and applause.)

SEN. OBAMA: I don’t know what housing prices are doing lately. (Applause.) I would argue that if you’re making more than 250,000 (dollars) then you’re in the top 3, 4 percent of this country. You’re doing well. Now, these things are all relative, and I’m not suggesting that everybody who is making over 250,000 (dollars) is living on Easy Street.

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McCain’s  Answer:

REV. WARREN: Okay, on taxes, define “rich.” Everybody talks about, you know, taxing the rich but not the poor, the middle class. At what point — give me a number. Give me a specific number. Where do you move from middle class to rich? Is it $100,000? Is it $50,000? Is it $200,000? How does anybody know if we don’t know what the standards are?

SEN. MCCAIN: Some of the richest people I’ve ever known in my life are the most unhappy. I think that rich should be defined by a home, a good job, an education, and the ability to hand to our children a more prosperous and safer world than the one that we inherited.

I don’t want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich. (Laughter.) I don’t believe in class warfare or redistribution of wealth. But I can tell you, for example, there are small businessmen and women who are working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, that some people would classify as, quote, “rich,” my friends, and want to raise their taxes and want to raise their payroll taxes.

Let’s have — keep taxes low. Let’s give every family in America a $7,000 tax credit for every child they have. Let’s give them a $5,000 refundable tax credit to go out and get the health insurance of their choice. Let’s not have the government take over the health care system in America. (Applause.)

So I think if you’re just talking about income, how about $5 million? (Laughter.) So, no, but seriously, I don’t think you can — I don’t think, seriously, that — the point is that I’m trying to make here, seriously — and I’m sure that comment will be distorted — (laughter) — but the point is, the point is, the point is that we want to keep people’s taxes low and increase revenues.

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Technical note: Obama’s 25 million books line (also a joke) is getting a free pass — even though, at $5 per copy, they represent $125 million in income — which is equivalent to $5 million amortized over 25 years.  Hmmm.  Did the candidates jokingly say the same thing ?

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Full debate transcript:


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