One of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top priorities for the 111th Congress is increasing taxes, and she has not been reluctant at all to twist the facts to make her case.
At a Jan. 8 press conference, when was asked about the tax-rate reductions that are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010, Mrs. Pelosi stated — “Put me down as clearly as you possibly can as one who wants to have those tax cuts for the wealthiest in America repealed,” adding that it should occur “as soon as possible.” Eliminating the cuts means the tax rates pop back up.
Just as Barack Obama did during the campaign, Mrs. Pelosi stated that taxes should increase for families making $250,000 a year or more. But President Obama has had the good judgment to tell Capitol Hill he is not interested in repealing the tax cuts (thus increasing the tax rate), at least for now.
That has not dissuaded Mrs. Pelosi, a multimillionaire, from demagoguery against the upper income earners and in effect challenging the president to increase taxes. She claims - demonstrably incorrectly, it turns out - that the Bush tax cuts “at the high end” were “the biggest contributor to the budget deficit.” As evidence, Mrs. Pelosi asserted that a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report “when the Republicans had control of the Congress” demonstrated that these tax cuts for the upper income earners were primarily to blame for the deficit.
But when PolitiFact, the fact-checking service run by the St. Petersburg Times, looked closely at Mrs. Pelosi’s claims, her story fell apart. For one thing, the CBO report didn’t exist. The speaker’s office told PolitFact that the information had come from a left-liberal advocacy group called the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The CBPP prepared a chart using CBO numbers which purported to show that tax cuts were responsible for almost half of the costs of new legislation between 2001 and 2007. But that hardly proved Mrs. Pelosi’s point, because it lumped together tax cuts for all income groups - not just those for the higher-income taxpayers.
So PolitiFact went to a number of budget and tax policy experts in an effort to learn what portion of the deficit that tax cuts at the “high end” are responsible for. For purposes of its research, PolitiFact defined “high end” taxpayers the way Mr. Obama did during his run for the White House, when he called for repealing tax cuts for singles making $200,000 or more and couples making $250,000 or more: When the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center ran the numbers, it found that the top five percent of taxpayers - those making $225,000 or more - received 30.5 percent of the benefits from the Bush tax cuts in 2008. But the other 95 percent of taxpayers got 70 percent.
In short, over two-thirds of the benefits did not, contrary to Mrs. Pelosi, go to the upper-end taxpayers and thus they could not be “the biggest contributor to the budget deficit.” Concluded PolitiFact: “In fact, all the numbers we looked at showed that tax cuts for the middle and lower incomes represent a larger slice of the revenue pie.” The fact-checking service called Mrs. Pelosi’s assertion to the contrary “false.” The fact that the speaker continues to repeat the canard proves that she isn’t about to let the facts get in the way of a good soundbite.