WASHINGTON -- "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace confronted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday for flip-flopping on tax cuts for the rich.
Wallace asked McCain whether he would oppose higher income tax rates as part of a deal with Democrats to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- the moment at the end of the year when tax hikes and spending cuts are scheduled to take effect, with potentially negative consequences for the economy.
"I would be very much opposed to raising tax rates," McCain said. "But I do believe we can close a lot of loopholes ... Things like a limit on the amount of deduction of charitable giving. A limit on the amount you can take on your home loan mortgage deduction."
Democrats want the top marginal tax rate to go from the current 35 percent back to its Clinton-era level of nearly 40 percent on incomes above $250,000. Wallace noted that early in the 2000s, McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts because they didn't benefit the middle class. He has since changed his position, garnering a "Full Flop" award from PolitiFact.
"You said too many of the benefits go to the wealthy, not to the middle class," Wallace said. "But, if you could get a solid deal, with, as you call for, spending cuts and entitlement reform ... why is the 35 percent top tax rate which you opposed sacred?"
"Because every economist that I respect says if you raise tax rates at this time, in fact, the president even said that a couple of years ago, it harms the economy," McCain said. "We are trying to help the economy. And, so, unless I can be convinced that raising tax rates will be beneficial, then obviously I think there's reason and ground for my position. But, I also believe that we can and must get an agreement, otherwise I think first of all, the markets are going to start reacting."
The notion that increasing the top marginal tax rate would hurt the economy is more controversial among economists than McCain suggests. McCain himself listened to different economists in 2003.
"Most of the economists view this as primarily benefiting wealthier Americans," McCain said of the Bush tax cuts at the time. "There's a theory, I think, that's prevalent -- it was true in the 2001 tax cuts -- that if you give it to the wealthy people, then they will then, you know, create jobs, et cetera. The interesting thing to me is that most economists will tell you that it's the middle-income Americans that have been keeping the economy afloat."
Also on HuffPost:
"Bad Day" (Daniel Powter)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/18/john-mccain-dadt-repeal-_n_798726.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Dec. 18, 2010) -- </strong></a> In an interview with ABC News, McCain labeled the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" a "very sad day" (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
"Get Crazy" (LMFAO)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/17/john-mccain-twitter_n_863253.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(May 17, 2011) --</strong></a> McCain draws upon "Jersey Shore" star Snooki to make a point about Twitter. While acknowledging the positives of the social media platform, the senator added that there are "dangerous aspects," pointing to his tweet about her tanning bed tax getting more attention than hard-news issues like the START treaty.
"No Way" (The Naked And Famous)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/29/john-mccain-sarah-palin-c_n_868562.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(May 29, 2011) --</strong></a> In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, McCain was asked whether his former VP nominee, Sarah Palin, could defeat President Barack Obama head-to-head. "Of course she can," McCain said, adding that he was unsure if Palin would take on a 2012 run. She ended up not doing so. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
"I Made A Mistake" (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/john-mccain-obama-slip-up_n_1187504.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Jan. 5, 2012) --</strong></a> At a campaign event for GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, McCain had a forgettable slip of the tongue. "I am confident, with the leadership and the backing of the American people, President Obama will turn this country around," he said. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
"Still The One" (Orleans)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/10/mccain-palin-best-decision_n_1197772.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Jan. 10, 2012) --</strong></a> Four years after a failed White House run, McCain stood by his vice presidential pick, calling Sarah Palin the "best decision" he's "ever made." (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)
"Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" (Eurythmics)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/john-mccain-2008-election_n_1431032.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(April 17, 2012) --</strong></a> While stumping for Ohio GOP Senate candidate Josh Mandel, McCain cracked a joke about his 2008 presidential election loss. "After I lost, my friends, I slept like a baby -- sleep two hours, wake up and cry," he said. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(April 26, 2012) --</strong></a> While delivering a floor speech in favor of the Violence Against Women Act, McCain slammed Democrats over claims that the GOP is running a "war on women." "I don't believe the ludicrous, partisan posturing that has conjured up this imaginary war does," McCain said. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
"You're A Jerk" (New Boyz)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/john-mccain-heckled-memorial-day_n_1552400.html " target="_hplink"><strong>(May 29, 2012) --</strong></a> While delivering a speech in California, McCain lashed out at a spectator in the crowd, calling the heckler a "jerk" for interrupting his remarks. (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
"Zombie" (The Cranberries)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/john-mccain-zombie-apocalypse-meghan-mccain_n_1572084.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(June 5, 2012) --</strong></a> In the midst of a summer of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/zombie-apocalypse/" target="_hplink">odd cannibalistic attacks</a>, McCain joked that his daughter, Meghan, believes he is a zombie. "She does, in fact," he said. "But she thinks I'm a nice zombie."
"Bold As Love" (Jimi Hendrix)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/12/john-mccain-mitt-romney-vp-sarah-palin_n_1770856.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Aug. 12, 2012) --</strong></a> Days after Romney selected Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee, McCain took a stroll down memory lane, drawing some comparisons to his 2008 decision. He vowed that the Ryan pick was "also a bold choice" like his move to pair with Palin. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)