The Ins and Outs of McCain's Tax Plan

Evan Jones and his wife, Amanda Jones, bank $70,000 with both of them working and they have two children. Though the pair have mainly mortgage debt, they said they're living paycheck to paycheck.

"We don't go out too much," Evan Jones said. "We don't have the extra money to maybe go out to the movies."

That's why, for the Joneses of Iowa, taxes are the major issue this election season.

"Taxes are through the roof," Amanda Jones said.

Click here to see Barack Obama's tax plan and how it will affect the Joneses.

Jones FamilyPlay

According to presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain's senior policy adviser, the candidate often positioned as a maverick would cut the Joneses' tax bill.

"John McCain believes that if you're raising two children, we should be able to shield more of your income from tax. And for the Joneses in particular, he would have an additional $3,500 per child exempt from tax," said adviser Doug Holtz Eakin. "The dependent exemption would double from $3,500 to $7,000."

Last year, the Joneses paid $2,700 in federal income taxes, and the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center calculated the family would save $700 on its tax bill under McCain's proposals.

"John McCain never voted to raise income taxes in his entire career," Eakin said. "He believes that, No. 1, we should have a government that doesn't take your money in a shallow and thoughtless fashion. We should think hard about how much we spend. His history has been in fighting wasteful spending. ... The quickest way to keep taxes down is to control spending."

But critics have claimed McCain's plan benefits the rich more than it benefits the middle class.

"Most of the tax cuts that Sen. McCain proposes would go to people with very high incomes," said the tax center's Roberton Williams. "And he'd give much smaller cuts to people like the Jones."

As president, McCain also would keep President Bush's tax cuts for everyone, including families that make more than $250,000, and maintain the capital gains tax rate while repealing the estate tax.

"If you look at the McCain campaign, it is fundamentally about jobs in America," Eakin said. "One of the things that John McCain would like to do is lower the business tax rate. Our business tax rates are second highest in the developed world."

"Let's have investment incentives," he added. "Let's make sure we do the research and development here instead of shipping the labs over to India and places like that."

McCain also hopes to create a balanced budget by 2013 and to cut earmarks -- known more colloquially as "pork."

"It's a third of the budget, and believe me it's trillions of dollars, so this is real money. So you do have to go after that," Eakin said. "The important thing is to convince the American taxpayer that we're using their money wisely so we can take on the big challenges of the future."

But Williams said cutting pork would not be enough to make up for what he calculated as $4 trillion in 10 years of lost revenue from McCain's tax cuts.

"You need very, very large spending cuts to compensate for that. And our initial analysis suggests that he will have a very hard time trying to get spending cuts that large," Williams said.