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Clinton accusing Obama of $1 trillion tax increase for plan she also would consider

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Posted: January 17, 2008 3:10 p.m.
Updated: February 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    HENDERSON, Nev. — Hillary Rodham Clinton is accusing rival Barack Obama of proposing a $1 trillion tax increase with a plan to require high income earners to pay more Social Security taxes.
    Clinton outlines the charge, which she previously has made, in a mailing to voters ahead of Saturday’s presidential caucus.
    Obama tried to describe his position at a campaign stop outside Las Vegas on Wednesday, saying the worst part about the mailer is that Clinton has said she would consider doing the same thing he wants to do.
    He said he thinks requiring high-income earners to pay more Social Security taxes is the best way to prevent a cut in benefits.
    Currently, workers pay Social Security taxes on the first $97,500 in income — anything above that is exempt. Obama said he would consider keeping the exemption for up to around $200,000, but anyone earning more than that should have to contribute more. He was not specific about what he would do.
    ‘‘There might be some exemptions, but once people are making over $200,000 to $250,000, they can afford to pay a little more in payroll tax,’’ Obama said.
    Clinton told reporters later Wednesday that at times Obama has advocated lifting the payroll tax completely, which could affect a Las Vegas police captain, a school superintendent and many of the people she represents in New York who have advanced in their careers but live in high-cost areas.
    ‘‘It doesn’t just fall on the wealthiest of Americans. ... It would be a trillion-dollar tax increase on middle class families, and I think there are better approaches to solving the long-term challenges we face in Social Security,’’ she said, without elaborating.
    Three months ago, Clinton told an Iowa voter privately that she would consider raising the income limit as long as there was a ‘‘gap,’’ with no Social Security taxes on income from $97,500 to around $200,000. An Associated Press reporter overheard the conversation.
    The idea of a gap was first proposed in the campaign by former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
    Campaigning in Las Vegas, Edwards jumped into the latest debate, saying Clinton has dodged the issue rather than answer a tough question.
    ‘‘I understand the issue. I’ve heard her answer the question 30 times. I have no idea what she would do,’’ he told reporters after a town hall meeting. ‘‘And so I don’t think it’s possible for the American voters to know. I mean, she says she’s not going to cut benefits, she’s not going to raise the retirement age, she won’t raise taxes. Well, I’m sorry, those are the options. She’s just not willing to take a position.’’
    Clinton’s flier says she would provide middle class tax relief, ‘‘address Social Security without putting burdens on hard working families or seniors’’ and ‘‘strengthen Social Security and the economy by returning to balanced budgets.’’
    The mailer says Obama has ‘‘a plan with a trillion dollar tax increase on America’s hard working families. Lifting the cap on Social Security taxes to send more of Nevada families’ hard-earned dollars to Washington.’’

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