Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Checking Palin and Boehner on the Bush tax cuts

Sarah Palin sent this tweet as the debate over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts heated up.
Sarah Palin sent this tweet as the debate over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts heated up.

As the Jan. 1, 2011, expiration of George W. Bush's tax cuts approaches, the claims are flying fast and furious. We checked two of them.

One is a tweet from Sarah Palin that read, "Pls refer to Jan.1 tax changes appropriately: they're OBAMA TAX HIKES & they'll slam every American's savings, investments & job opportunity," Palin wrote on Dec. 1.

We gave Palin credit for cramming a ton of tax policy into the 140-character limit on the Twitter messaging service. But she missed the truth on several counts.

Palin and other Republicans often suggest that Obama and the Democrats want to see tax rates go up for all incomes. But that's not what they've been advocating for more than two years. President Barack Obama campaigned on maintaining the tax cuts for couples earning less than $250,000 while allowing the expiration of the tax cuts for families above that line. In fact, in a Dec. 2, 2010, vote, the vast majority of House Democrats supported a bill to do precisely that, with almost all Republicans voting against the bill. (House Speaker-to-be John Boehner, R-Ohio, went so far as to call the bill "chicken crap.")

Meanwhile, while it's legitimate for Palin to assign Obama some of the blame for not dealing with the looming expiration, a good portion of blame should fall on the current Congress. It's been well-known that the tax cuts are going to expire, and there was nothing stopping the Democratic-controlled Congress from addressing the issue earlier. You'd also have to give a share of the blame to Bush and the Congresses he worked with for passing tax cuts that expired within 10 years. For all these reasons, we rated Palin's tweet False.

The second item we examined was a statement by Boehner following a Dec. 1, 2010, meeting between congressional Republican leaders and newly elected GOP governors.

"I don't know what my colleagues across the aisle didn't hear during the election -- the American people spoke pretty loudly," Boehner said. "They said stop all the looming tax hikes and to cut spending."

We found four polls taken since the election that addressed the question of what to do with the expiring Bush tax cuts. They all found that overwhelming majorities favor extending some of the tax cuts. But the percentage of people who said they favored extending the tax cuts for every income level -- which is the formulation Boehner used in his comment -- ranged from 23 percent to 40 percent. By contrast, the highest level of support for any specific course of action was to extend the tax cuts for families below $250,000 but not for those above that line. Support for this position ranged from 39 percent to 50 percent.

Because the polls showed that the public, by a modest but consistent margin, supported allowing tax rates to rise for families over $250,000, we rated Boehner's comment False.