High Five: Corporate taxes, Aaron Rodgers' taxes and a government jet honeymoon
Our most-clicked items in September 2017 included an uncommon mix ranging from corporate taxes to single mom-vs.-Aaron Rodgers taxes to a honeymoon by government jet.
Another relatively uncommon phenomenon: The two items with the most page-views were both fact checks on statements made by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Let’s get into them.
1. Trapped cash overseas
Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican, said: "We've got about $3 trillion in trapped cash overseas that basically can't come back in this country because of our tax laws."
To avoid a 35 percent U.S. tax, U.S.-based multinational companies have opted not to "repatriate" roughly $3 trillion of their foreign profits, a figure that is growing. That is, they don’t bring the money back to their U.S. headquarters, where it can be used for things such as dividend payments or investments in their domestic operations.
But the overseas profits aren’t literally trapped and indeed some foreign-earned profits are repatriated, though they are subject to the 35 percent tax.
2. Single mom vs. Aaron Rodgers
Ryan said Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, "is not the highest tax rate payer" in Wisconsin, it's "the single mom getting 24 grand in benefits with two kids who will lose 80 cents on the dollar if she goes and takes a job."
There was some mixing of apples and oranges here. The reference to Rodgers was for the actual highest rate he would pay for income taxes. With regard to the single mother, Ryan was referring to her marginal tax rate -- how much in public benefits she would lose by taking a job.
Ryan was correct that it’s possible for the woman he described to lose 80 cents in benefits for every $1 in income earned -- an 80 percent marginal tax rate. But that occurs in very rare cases where the mother would be receiving a higher than typical set of public benefits and would take a job within a narrow income range above the poverty level.
The vast majority of lower income people aren’t hit with a marginal tax rate as high as 80 percent, although even lower rates are considered strong disincentives to work. And advocates for the poor say the unemployed generally are better off financially by taking a job, even if they lose some public assistance.
3. Reagan tax cut "boom"
President Donald Trump, in an article written for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said: "In 1986, President Ronald Reagan" cut the business tax rate to 34 percent and "it worked -- our economy boomed, the middle class thrived and median family income increased."
Some economists said the corporate rate reduction, from 46 percent, did help lead to economic growth and higher income. But it wasn’t necessarily any more important than a cut -- from 50 percent to 28 percent -- in the top individual income tax rate that was part of the same 1986 package that included other tax changes, as well.
More importantly, many other factors beyond tax cuts -- demographics, immigration, trade policy and more -- bear on the economy.
4. Wisconsin "voter suppression"
In her new book, Hillary Clinton blames what she calls voter suppression in Wisconsin and other states as one reason she lost the 2016 presidential election to Trump.
We did an article revisiting a fact check we did in May 2017 on a claim Clinton made in an interview. She said: "The best estimate is that 200,000 people in Wisconsin were either denied or chilled in their efforts to vote" in the 2016 presidential election.
Our rating was Mostly False.
A report three weeks before Clinton’s claim from a group that supports Democratic candidates said a decline in voter turnout between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections in Wisconsin was entirely due to the state’s new photo identification requirement for voting.
But experts said that while photo ID requirements may reduce turnout to some extent, they questioned the methodology of the report and said there was no way to put a number on how many people in Wisconsin didn’t vote because of the ID requirement.
5. Government jet honeymoon
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "wants to use a government jet that costs $25,000 per hour for his honeymoon."
Pocan’s use of "wants" wrongly suggested it was a pending request, and the news report he cited said the jet could cost $25,000 an hour.
But essentially Pocan was on target: Mnuchin put in a request for a government plane to take him and his wife to their honeymoon destinations, though he did not use one.