Go Figure: Candidates Differ Wildly on What 'Rich' Means

Answers match personal wealth, tax proposals
By Gabriel Winant,  Newser User
Posted Aug 18, 2008 4:03 PM CDT
Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., talks to potential supporters in Adel, Iowa, July 27, 2007. Obama tried talking business with the farmers in Adel but referred to a high-end...   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
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(Newser) – If there was a "gotcha" question in Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren's interviews with the presidential candidates Saturday, it was asking them each to take a shot at defining "rich."  Barack Obama said people making more than $250,000 per year. John McCain went with $5 million—a figure he immediately regretted—"I'm sure that comment will be distorted," he added—and his campaign later claimed was a joke.

The answers reflect the differences in the candidates’ own tax brackets, the Los Angeles Times notes, as well as their policies: Obama has proposed tax hikes on those earning more than $250,000; McCain has proposed to extend tax cuts that benefit predominantly the wealthy. The paper asked some economists where they'd draw the line; all came in under $500,000. The $5-million level, one noted, includes "almost nobody." But then, 95% of Americans describe themselves as "middle class."