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The battle between two South Florida congressional candidates -- Republican Adam Hasner and Democrat Lois Frankel -- is largely about who is on the side of the middle class.
Frankel tries to speak directly to middle-class taxpayers boasting in one ad: "I always take your side" and promises to strengthen Social Security and defend Medicare. She tries to portray Hasner as the pal of the rich and says in her ads that he "is never on our side."
That message is counter to the image he has emphasized of understanding the struggles of the middle class. He says his public school teacher parents in Brooklyn only had $31 to their name when Hasner was born, and he vows to help small businesses and told the Miami Herald’s editorial board that his own home is "severely under water."
Here, we will look at a claim from a Frankel ad called "Real": "Hasner gives the wealthy tax breaks worth $250,000 a year but hikes middle class taxes $2,000."
We wanted to check to see if Frankel accurately characterized Hasner’s record on federal taxes.
The Ryan and Romney tax plans
When we asked the Frankel campaign for evidence of its claim, they pointed us to Hasner’s stated support for a budget plan written by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis,. who later became Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate.
Ryan’s plan doesn’t explicitly call for tax increases. Instead, it says that overall tax rates should be lowered -- Ryan suggests two new tax brackets 10 and 25 percent -- while eliminating loopholes, deductions and exemptions.
Romney’s tax plan is similar, in that it too recommends across-the-board rates cuts in exchange for eliminating loopholes, deductions and exemptions.
The idea behind both plans is to simplify the tax code while bringing in about the same amount of revenue, so as not to drive up the deficit.
But at least two studies have suggested that the middle class would see tax increases if the most common tax breaks were eliminated, even if their overall tax rates drop.
Frankel’s ad cited an ABC News report about one such report by staff for Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., which examined Ryan’s plan.
The Casey report concluded that for those earning more than $200,000 a year "their net taxes fall significantly," while it is likely that those earning less than $200,000 would face an increase.
A study by the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan group that analyzes tax plans, estimated that those earning at least a million dollars would receive an average tax cut of $265,000 under the Ryan plan. But the Tax Policy Center report also showed that Ryan’s plan would mean a net tax cut for every income group over $30,000 a year -- not a tax hike for the middle class, as Frankel claims.
The discrepancy stems from a huge difference in methodology between the Casey report and the Tax Policy Center analysis of Ryan’s plan.
The Casey report assumes -- without really knowing -- that Ryan and fellow Republicans would eliminate current deductions for state and local taxes, mortgage interest and charitable contributions, remove the employer‐provided health insurance exclusion, and tax 401(k) contributions.
But that approach amounts to taking the worst-case approach to make the point.
The Tax Policy Center, on the other hand, attributed no elimination of deductions to Ryan’s plan, noting that his plan doesn’t specify what Republicans would do. (Ryan’s plan does strongly suggest that some tax breaks would go and others would remain, but specifics are lacking).
Democrats have made similar claims that Romney’s tax plan would give millionaires a tax break while raising them for the middle class. Romney’s plan has also lacked details making it difficult to analyze.
What Hasner says
So has Hasner explicitly supported the Ryan or the Romney plans?
We should note that Hasner served in the Florida Legislature, not in Congress. So he’s never taken a vote on the Ryan plan.
But in the past, Hasner clearly said he supported the Ryan plan. When he was running for the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, he repeatedly voiced his support for it. In 2011, the Washington Post The Fix blog-- one of the citations in Frankel’s ad -- said that Hasner "fully embraced" Ryan’s budget "a rare Senate candidate willing to take such a step."
Hasner said he would vote for the plan "without hesitation" and suggested the plan "does not go far enough."
And he chastized Republicans who were backing away from it: "A lot of Republicans are starting to waffle on this question. Some are backing away, some are hedging their bets, some are sticking their finger in to test the political winds. I want you to know that I fully support the Paul Ryan plan."
But trailing behind in the Senate primary, Hasner switched to the congressional race in February 2012. Now as a candidate running in a left-leaning district where he needs the independent vote, Hasner often talks about his support for the "bipartisan Wyden/Ryan" plan.
Is Ryan -- the GOP vice presidential candidate and hero of conservatives -- actually the author some sort of bipartisan plan? Well, sort of -- on paper. But that was a white paper about reforming Medicare -- not a detailed tax plan.
Hasner told us in an interview that he supports extending expiring tax cuts, sometimes called the Bush tax cuts, for all incomes.
"I support extending the current tax rates just like President Obama supported extending them back in 2010," he said. (That’s different than Frankel, who has repeatedly said like Obama she wants to get rid of tax cuts for those earning above $250,000.)
Hasner said he supports the general principle of eliminating exemptions and cutting tax rates, but he declined to endorse the specific targets set forth in the Romney and Ryan plans.
Hasner also said: "I will never support any tax increase on middle-income earners ever. ... If you're not going to eliminate loopholes and exemptions, then I wouldn't support lowering rates."
Hasner said he was "not afraid" of more revenues coming into the government because revenues as a percentage of GDP are below historical levels. He says he supports "a responsible approach." The claim is the ad is "misleading and false," he said.
Would Romney's plan result in tax increases on the middle class?
"Not only do I believe the Romney plan doesn't do that, but I would never do that."
Hasner wrote on his campaign website: "Reducing marginal rates while broadening the tax base through the elimination of loopholes and exemptions will produce enough revenue to ‘pay’ for cutting everyone’s tax rates and would not require any middle class tax increase, nor would it produce a net windfall for high income taxpayers."
Hasner told us in an interview he supports maintaining exemptions for mortgage and child tax credits. He would support eliminating an exemption for employer-sponsored health care and putting in place a new health care tax credit.
"I want to level the playing field for people who want to purchase health insurance as individuals and that means eliminating the exemption for employer-sponsored health care," he said.
Frankel’s ad says "Hasner gives the wealthy tax breaks worth $250,000 a year but hikes middle class taxes $2,000."
The ad bases its claim on a proposal put before Congress by Paul Ryan, now the vice presidential nominee, which Hasner has praised in the past. The plan addressed many aspects of the federal government, including simplifing the tax code by repealing exemptions and cutting tax rates.
But the impact of Ryan’s plan for the middle class is muddled. It’s not clear that it would result in a tax hike for the middle class, though some say it will. The tax plan lacked specifics, which makes it difficult to evaluate. Hasner says he won’t vote for a tax plan that includes middle-income tax increases.
Meanwhile, the ad doesn’t mention the Ryan plan as the source of its claims and states without qualification that Hasner supports tax increases.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Lois Frankel campaign,"Side" ad, Oct. 2, 2012
Lois Frankel campaign,"Real" ad, Sept. 21, 2012
Broward/Palm Beach New Times,"Adam Hasner runs for Congress, speaks at luncheon, serves waffles,"Sept. 14, 2012
Adam Hasner website,Issues - Jobs and the economy, Accessed Oct. 10, 2012
Adam Hasner website,"Fact checking Lois Frankel’s new attack ad -- Real,"Sept. 23, 2012
PolitiFact,"Fact checking the Frankel-Hasner race in South Florida,"Oct. 3, 2012
Washington Post The Fix blog,"Could Adam Hasner be the next Marco Rubio?"June 6, 2011
Washington Post The Fix blog,"Medicare silence from GOP candidates,"May 26, 2011
YouTube,Hasner on Facing South Florida Part 2, Aug. 20, 2012
Huffington Post,"Ron Wyden distances himself from Paul Ryan, says Mitt Romney is ‘talking nonsense,’’’Aug. 12, 2012
Miami Herald Naked Politics blog,"Hasner and Frankel disagree on Ryan plan,"Sept. 25, 2012
Palm Beach Post, "Jacobs takes on Frankel money machine," Accessed in Nexis, Aug. 2, 2012
ABC News,"Paul Ryan tax plan could raise middle class taxes, said panel,"Aug. 14, 2012
Tax Policy Center,Report T-12-0126, House Republican Budget Plan Without Unspecified Base Broadeners: Baseline: Current Policy; Distribution of Federal Tax Change by Cash Income Level, 2015, April 9, 2012
U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, "Winners and Losers:Understanding the Ryan Plan’s Potential Tax Implications for America’s Workers," June 20, 2012
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,"New tax cuts in Ryan’s budget would give millionaires $265,000 on top of Bush tax cuts," April 12, 2012
Palm Beach Post,"Hasner embraces Ryan budget plan, LeMieux calls it ‘better than nothing and disaster,’"May 26, 2011
Wall Street Journal,"The Romney Hood fairy tale,"Aug. 7, 2012
Tampa Bay Times The Buzz blog,"Hasner wants to ride the Paul Ryan plan to Washington,"May 25, 2011
Orlando Sentinel op-ed by Adam Hasner,"Ryan plan preserves Medicare for seniors,"June 17, 2011
Joint Economic Committee Republicans,"Response to ‘Winners and Losers: Understanding the Ryan’s plan potential tax implications for America’s workers,"June 27, 2012
YouTube,"Hasner on Ryan budget,"March 28, 2011
PolitiFact,"Baldwin says Thompson wants to give millionaires a tax cut while raising taxes on the middle class,"Aug. 27, 2012
PolitiFact,"Mitt Romney would cut millionaires taxes, Barack Obama says,"Aug. 3, 2012
PolitiFact,"Mitt Romney’s tax cut proposal blasted by New Jersey Democrats for using $2,000 middle-class tax hike to cover $5 trillion in tax cuts for the rich,"Aug. 12, 2012
PolitiFact,"Mitt Romney’s plan would cut taxes for millionaires while raising taxes on the rich, says Martin O’Malley,"Sept. 5, 2012
PolitiFact, "Ted Strickland claims Romney would cut millionaires’ taxes by $250,000 but raise them for the middle class,"Sept. 5, 2012
PolitiFact,"DCCC campaign ad targets House Republicans for wanting to cut taxes for millionaires, but not the middle class,"Aug. 5, 2012
Interview, Roberton Williams, senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, Oct. 11, 2012
Interview William McBride, Chief Economist at the Tax Foundation, Oct. 12, 2012
Interview, Joshua Karp, spokesman for the Lois Frankel campaign, Oct. 10, 2012
Interview, Brad Herold, campaign manager for Adam Hasner, Oct. 9, 2012
Interview, Adam Hasner, Congressional candidate, Oct. 13, 2012
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