And let’s not forget more inaccuracies, too. In CNN’s preview of the release, Political Ticker noted that White House spokesman Jay Carney claimed that the data would show that the Obamas would have needed to pay more had the Buffett Rule been in effect, although that’s not quite what Carney argued:
In a post on the White House blog accompanying the returns’ release, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wrote the president’s proposed “Buffett Rule” would actually increase the percentage of income the Obamas would pay in taxes.
“Under the President’s own tax proposals, including the expiration of the high-income tax cuts and limitations on the value of tax preferences for high-income households, he would pay more in taxes while ensuring we cut taxes for the middle class and those trying to get in it,” Carney wrote.
Carney’s argument wasn’t specific to the Buffett Rule, which wouldn’t have applied anyway. The Obamas’ taxable income on their return came to $789,674, well below the $1 million threshold for the Buffett Rule as it currently exists in the Senate proposal. (Obama originally proposed $250,000.) It would have applied to last year’s return, with the Obamas’ taxable income level well over $1.2 million.
The Obamas paid $162,074 in federal income taxes for an effective tax rate of 20.5%. That falls well above the median level of effective tax rates, according to the White House’s own report on the subject, which is 13.3% for the middle quintile of income earners. It’s also well below the median effective tax rate for “the top 1%,” which is 29.6%. Interestingly, it’s also lower than the level for the 25% quintile of the 1%, which is 21.2%. According to these statistics, 75% of the top 1% pay at least 21.2% in effective tax rates, while only 10% of the middle quintile pay above that rate. So much for unfairness.
The White House reports that the Obamas gave “$172,130 – or about 22% of their adjusted gross income – to 39 different charities.” Good for them; that’s the kind of wealth-spreading that conservatives endorse. On the other end of the spectrum, though, we have the Bidens, who had a reported AGI of $379,035 — and who donated $5,540 to charity. That comes to about 1.5% of their taxable income, which was an improvement over earlier years … but not by much. Contrast that to Mitt Romney, who donated $4.1 million on an AGI of $20.9 million in 2011 on his estimates, which would come to 19.6% of his AGI.
Democrats want to use this early-Friday release to have the media peppering Romney to release his returns all weekend long. However, as noted, Romney has already released his 2011 estimates along with his 2010 returns in January, and the final returns aren’t due until Monday anyway. Don’t expect that to keep the media from banging this drum over the next few days anyway. As I wrote in January, the only purpose in this obligatory dance is class-warfare voyeurism.
Addendum: It occurs to me that the White House may have especially wanted Hilary Rosen off of Meet the Press in order to keep the one-weekend tax-return narrative from getting buried by the “war on women” backfire. I don’t think they can avoid that outcome, however.