We’ve heard Barack Obama lay claim to having passed the “biggest middle-class tax cut in history” many times since passing the Porkulus package, with his oddly-named Making Work Pay reduction of $800 per year from withholding taxes. (Did work not pay before Obama pushed Porkulus through Congress?) Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post decided to test that claim, and ends up calling it a “whopper”:
We took an informal survey in our office and asked people what they thought the president’s statement meant. Everyone agreed he was claiming the biggest tax cut in terms of dollars.
Imagine our surprise when the White House responded that he wasn’t talking about dollars at all.
“The point the president was making that is there is not a tax cut that has been enjoyed by such a broad section of the population,” an administration official said, pointing to a report that said that 95 percent of working families received some kind of tax cut under the Making Work Pay provision in his stimulus bill.
Er … all right. By Obama’s measure, a successor could pass a tax cut that reduces liabilities by $5 per person and allow it to apply to every American, and that would beat Obama’s dubious “record.” Small wonder that, as Kessler writes, the MWP cut went “largely unnoticed” by the American public, which was just a gimmicky rehash of George Bush’s “rebate” in early 2008. It was too small to matter in terms of economic growth, and the temporary nature of the cut meant that no one could do any long-term planning based on it.
The proper measure of “biggest tax cut” should be based on GDP, with adjustments for inflation. Kessler ran the numbers for tax cuts over the last 50 years, and Obama didn’t even come close. So who does win the prize?
John F. Kennedy seems to win the prize for biggest tax cut, at least in the last half century. By the same measure, the income tax provisions of George W. Bush tax cuts are more than twice as large as Obama’s tax cut over the same three-year time span.
B-b-but … the White House claimed that they had “outside validation” for this claim! And they did, but as Kessler discovered, that “outside validation” used some odd sourcing:
Incidentally, the report that the administration official cited as “outside validation” for the 95 percent statistic just mentioned it as an aside. We checked with one of the co-authors, and he said the source for the figure was a White House fact sheet.
So this outside source parroted the White House talking points, and this White House calls that “validation.” Sounds like an echo chamber to me, and one that has a rapidly-decreasing membership. Kessler gives Obama four Pinocchios for this claim, but I’d also give them four Nelson Muntzes for their attempt to validate their material through talking-points echoes: