FactCheck says new McCain and Let Freedom Ring ads are" Hooey!"
New ads on Sen Barack Obama's tax proposal are downright lies, FactCheck charges.
The organization also says its own words are misrepresented as well.
Republicans are misrepresenting Obama's tax proposals right down to the bitter end. New radio ads from the McCain campaign and a TV spot from the pro-Republican group Let Freedom Ring are targeting voters nationwide with some of the same tax deceptions we've been hearing all fall, rolled in a bundle and flung through the airwaves. One of the radio ads features Hank Williams Jr., the other Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. But new packaging doesn't make the charges any less false.
- Taxes wouldn't have gone up on "families" making as little as $42,000 under the budget resolution passed last spring, as the Charlie Crist ad says. Try $90,000 for a typical family of four. And anyway, that measure doesn't at all resemble what Obama's actually proposing to do.
- The Let Freedom Ring ad claimed that Obama has "voted to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire," meaning "our income taxes will actually go up." But Obama only voted to let some of the tax cuts expire, and at any rate nobody's taxes are going up as a result of that vote. The group yanked this ad off the air rather than try to defend it.
- Echoing a recent McCain theme, Crist says, "McCain knows that people don't want to 'spread the wealth,' " condemning Obama's use of the phrase when he talked to "Joe the Plumber." Actually, McCain has supported taxing high earners more than low earners. Not so long ago McCain said, "Wealthy people can afford [to pay] more." Obama's tax plan would "spread the wealth" more than McCain's, but it's not as though McCain wants to do away with the progressive tax system we currently have.
Even if it had been enacted, though, there would have been no tax hike for "families" (as one ad says) making $42,000 a year. (The other ad says "folks," a somewhat less precise phraseology). No, nyet, non, nein. We have nightmares about our very own version of the film "Groundhog Day," in which we wake to Sonny and Cher's "I Got You, Babe," then stagger to our laptop and type these sentences: While it's true that a single taxpayer making $42,000 a year would have seen his or her taxes go up by about $15 if this provision had been followed up and enacted, a family of four would have had to hit an income level of $90,000 before experiencing a tax hike. For couples, the figure would have been $83,000.
And, once again, Obama himself proposes tax cuts for 95 percent of families with children. Only families with more than $250,000 annual income would see an increase.
We could say that we didn't think the McCain campaign had heard a word we've said*over these long months, but we know it has: It cites our work in its back-up for the Crist ad. The article it quotes from though – "The $32,000 Question" – doesn't support what the radio ad says. What we said is this: "The resolution Obama voted for would not have increased taxes on any single taxpayer making less than $41,500 per year in total income, or any couple making less than $83,000."
Maybe the campaign is only half-listening.
EDITOR'S NOTE: the bold text which begins here and continues to the end of this reference was left out of the original post. Any comments posted before 16:30 CDT/21:30 GMT were unaware of the error.
The Let Freedom Ring TV ad is even worse. It claimed that "100% of America" would see taxes go up because Obama "voted to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire." This is so far from reality that we had to ask Let Freedom Ring what vote it could possibly be referring to. And a spokesman said it was Obama's vote on the same budget resolution just mentioned. But as we noted above, the resolution only would have let some of those tax cuts expire. It would have preserved provisions that benefit families – "marriage penalty" relief, child tax credits, a 10 percent tax bracket for the lowest-earning taxpayers. It did not call for letting the cuts expire for "100 percent of America." So the claim in this ad is 100 percent wrong. And Let Freedom Ring appears to know that. "We weren't comfortable" with the ad's assertion, the spokesman told us, and the group has taken it off the air. It still appears on the Web site for the group's ad campaign, however.
Plumbing the Meaning
The Crist ad refers to the phrase "spread the wealth," which was used by Obama in his now-familiar conversation with Joe Wurzelbacher in Toledo.
What Obama was saying is that giving tax breaks that have disproportionately benefited upper-income taxpayers leaves those further down the scale "pinched," with the result that "business is bad for everybody."
Obama, Oct. 12: [W]e've cut taxes a lot for folks like me who make a lot more than $250,000. We haven't given a break to folks who make less. It's not that I want to punish your success, I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success, too. And everybody is so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.
Obama was wrong about one thing; the Bush tax cuts did in fact give tax breaks "to folks who make less," including the previously mentioned 10 percent tax bracket, "marriage penalty" relief and an increase in the per-child tax credit, all of which Obama proposes to keep. What his plan would do is provide even more tax benefits at the middle and low end of the scale, while increasing taxes at the top.
This way of "spread[ing] the wealth around" is hardly a new concept. The United States already has a progressive tax system by which high earners are taxed at higher rates than those who make less. Obama would make it somewhat more progressive. (The Williams ad uses the term "taxing the rich.")
McCain himself hasn't always seemed so opposed to progressive taxation. Here's what he said in a 2000 meeting with college students sponsored by the MSNBC program "Hardball," when questioned about the issue:
McCain, Oct. 12, 2000: [W]e feel, obviously, that wealthy people can afford more.
And I think middle-income Americans, working Americans ... all of the taxes that working Americans pay, I think they – you would think that they also deserve significant relief, in my view.
[H]ere's what I really believe, that when you are – reach a certain level of comfort, there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.
In fact, the system would remain progressive under McCain's tax plan. His argument with Obama isn't about whether to "spread the wealth," but by how much.
Also, as we now know, Joe the Plumber would almost certainly be entitled to a tax cut if Obama's plan were implemented – and a larger one than he'd get under McCain's.
FOLLOWING WAS ADDED AT 18:20 CDT/23:20 GMT
We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.
The Annenberg Political Fact Check is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg in 1994 to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state and federal levels.
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