The DNC says it’s a myth that President Obama raised taxes?

DNC-logo-on_white-sq-250“Myth:  Democrats like President Obama have raised my taxes.”

—The Democratic National Committe’s “Your Republican Uncle” website, Nov. 27, 2013

 

Overview

Third in our series on claims from the Democratic National Committee’s “Your Republican Uncle” website, we have an oddly worded implicit claim that President Obama did not raise taxes.  Obama has cut taxes and raised taxes, sometimes raising taxes he had earlier cut.

The Facts

The DNC says it’s a myth that Democrats like Obama have raised taxes:

Myth

Democrats like President Obama have raised my taxes.

President Obama has cut taxes repeatedly for middle class families. In the first four years of his administration, a typical family making $50,000 a year received $3,600 in tax cuts . But Paul Ryan’s plan, which House Republicans passed, would cut taxes for the rich and likely mean new taxes for the middle class.

 

Obama cut taxes with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the 2009 economic stimulus bill) and allowed most of those cuts to expire along with some of the Bush tax cuts with the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.  Obama signed other tax cuts and tax increases as well.

Analyzing the Rhetoric

Though the DNC used vague wording to describe the Republican uncle’s myth, we think it’s best interpreted to mean that Obama hasn’t raised taxes.  This makes the best sense of the first supporting hyperlink supplied by the DNC, which connects to the White House website:

Within weeks of taking office, President Obama took immediate action in the midst of the economic crisis to restore security for middle-class families by cutting their taxes in the Recovery Act.

Since then, President Obama has continued to cut taxes for middle class families to make it easier for them to make ends meet. In the first four years of the Obama administration, a typical family making $50,000 a year has received tax cuts totaling $3,600  – more if they were putting a child through college.

On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed bipartisan legislation that will make sure income tax rates stay low permanently for 98 percent of Americans, while asking the wealthiest households to pay a little more to help reduce the deficit.

 

If the subject isn’t Obama’s history on taxes then the DNC’s claim makes little sense regardless of whether the facts offered in support check out.

One hand giveth, the other taketh away

President Obama has presided over a complex set of tax changes.  He entered office during a recession, and the standard economic prescription for a recession includes tax cuts.  The stimulus bill made a number of temporary tax cuts, including one to the Social Security payroll tax.

Not all the ARRA’s tax cuts were ultimately temporary, as CNN points out:

The fiscal cliff deal extends four key tax credits that benefit parents. The Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit are safe for five more years, while the Child Dependent Care Tax Credit will be permanently extended.

 

Two clear Obama tax increases came from a tax hike on cigarettes and tobacco products and a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning.  Allowing the Bush tax cuts to sunset for higher earners had the same effect as a tax hike, though some might argue it doesn’t count since the law was designed to sunset.

CBO chart showing increased revenues / increased taxes under Obama after 2009 dip

This CBO chart shows increased revenues under Obama as a percentage of GDP after the 2009 dip.

The healthcare reform bill makes up a redistributive maze of taxes and subsidies.  The ACA levies a number of taxes that will end up embedded in the cost of insurance premiums.  Those embedded taxes will surely result in a net tax increase for many in the middle class.  Those forgoing insurance may end up paying the individual mandate penalty, designated a tax in the Supreme Court ruling that upheld most of the law.

We don’t think it relevant to look at whether Obama raised taxes nationally on net.  The DNC addresses the question through a hypothetical individual “Republican uncle.”  Some Republican uncles would see higher taxes and some would see lower taxes, and for those facing higher taxes because of Obama’s tax policy it is clearly not a myth that Obama raised their taxes.

The DNC claim implies that no Republican uncle could rightly claim Obama raised his taxes.

Summary

“Myth:  Democrats like President Obama have raised my taxes.”

Taking the claim in its most coherent sense, the DNC implies that Obama hasn’t raised taxes.  Whether or not we consider the net effect of Obama’s tax policies, many Republican uncles could accurately say Obama has raised their taxes.  So the implication is false.

We can extend more charity to the DNC by allowing that some Republican uncles may wrongly think their taxes went up under Obama’s policies.  Taking the DNC’s claim as true using that interpretation makes the DNC guilty of a fallacy of ambiguity.  The DNC’s presentation also sets a logical booby trap leading to the fallacy of hasty generalization (some, therefore all).

True Statement Maximum Charity icon Fallcy of Ambiguity icon Booby Trap icon some therefore all fallacy icon

 

References

The Democrat’s Guide to Talking Politics With Your Republican Uncle.” Yourrepublicanuncle.com. Democratic National Committee, 27 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Taxes.” The White House. The White House, n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

Lim, Katherine, and Roberton Williams. “Economic Stimulus: What Does the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Do for Individuals?Tax Policy Center. Urban Institute, 5 May 2009. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

Pagliery, Jose. “Obama’s Small Business Tax Cuts, Explained.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 24 Sept. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

Compton, Matt. “The Seven Things You Need to Know About the Tax Deal.” The White House Blog. The White House, 2 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Jan. 2013.

The CNN Wire Staff, Dana Bash, Tom Cohen, Ed Hornick, and Alan Silverleib. “Obama Signs Tax Deal into Law.” CNN. Cable News Network, 17 Dec. 2010. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

Kartch, John, and Ryan Ellis. “Comprehensive List of Obama Tax Increases.” Americans for Tax Reform. Americans for Tax Reform, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

Ebeling, Ashlea. “ObamaCare’s 7 Tax Hikes On Under $250,000-A-Year Earners.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 28 June 2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Rubin, Richard. “Top 1% Would Pay Two-Thirds of Higher Taxes Under Obama.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

The Associated Press. “Deal Means Taxes Will Rise for Most Americans.” USA Today. Gannett, 2 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

Gleckman, Howard. “Taxes: Who Would Pay More under Obama Budget?The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

Sahadi, Jeanne. “Obama’s Tax Agenda.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 08 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

Updated Budget Projections: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023.” CBO. Congressional Budget Office, 14 May 2013. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.

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