Fact Check

Mitt Romney and President Obama each distort the facts in TV ads aimed at young mothers. Romney’s ad falsely attributes the nation’s $16 trillion debt all to Obama when it says “your share of Obama’s debt is over $50,000.” The total public debt was $10.6 trillion when Obama took office, and he inherited a $1 trillion-plus deficit in his first year. Obama’s ad claims Romney’s tax plan “could take away middle-class deductions for child care, home mortgages and college tuition,” citing a nonpartisan Tax Policy Center study. Tax Policy Center, Aug. 1: [E]ven when we assume that tax breaks — like the charitable deduction, mortgage interest deduction, and the exclusion for health insurance — are completely eliminated for higher-income households first, and only then reduced as necessary for other households to achieve overall revenue-neutrality — the net effect of the plan would be a tax cut for high-income households coupled with a tax increase for middle-income households.

Obama claims he’d increase the tax rate on high-income earners to no more than they paid under Bill Clinton. The truth is they’d pay more because of new taxes imposed to pay for the Affordable Care Act. Obama says “independent analysis” validates that his plan would cut $4 trillion from the deficit. That total is inflated by $1 trillion in “savings” from winding down wars that he has promised to end. Obama also overstates claims that vehicles will go “twice as far” by 2025.It’s debatable as to how much or how quickly the new fuel-economy regulations will “save you money”.

Mitt Romney was wrong when he said the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes are “dependent on the government.” Most of them are working people who simply do not earn very much money. According to the Tax Policy Center, about half of those who owe no federal income tax are people whose incomes are so low that when standard income tax provisions — personal exemptions for taxpayers and dependents and the standard deduction — are factored in, that simply leaves no taxable income. Those are people who earned less than $27,000. That doesn’t mean they paid no taxes. Many paid payroll taxes to fund programs such as Social Security and Medicare. They also pay federal excise taxes, such as those on gasoline. They may also pay state and local income taxes or property taxes. 22 percent receive senior tax benefits,15.2 percent receive tax credits for children and the working poor, and the rest ended up owing no federal income tax due to various tax expenditures such as education credits, itemized deductions or reduced rates on capital gains and dividends. Most of the last group are in the middle to upper income brackets.

The TPC estimates there are about 7,000 families and individuals earning over $1,000,000 pay no federal income tax. Romney also said the 46.4 percent who pay no federal income tax “will vote for the president no matter what.” The Pew Research Center similarly found in its latest poll that 32 percent of those making less than $30,000 and 42 percent of those making between $30,000 and $50,000 support Romney — as do a plurality of seniors. That’s not a precise measure of the voting habits of those who don’t pay federal income taxes, but it suggests Romney is way off when he assumes all of the 46.4 percenters vote Democratic.