John McCain and Barack Obama are swapping sharply worded charges over tax cuts.
Each is accusing the other of shortchanging middle-income Americans at a time of economic hardship for millions.
McCain, trailing in the polls, fired the first volley. He likened his rival to the socialist leaders of Europe and said Obama wants to "convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington."
Obama responded a few hours later, saying McCain, quote, "wants
to cut taxes for the same people who have already been making out
like bandits, in some cases literally."
Obama said that McCain "must be the first politician in history to call a tax cut for working people 'welfare."'
The exchange unfolded 17 days before an election that is trending Obama's way as he bids to become the nation's first black president.