Despite historically low tax burden, Rove, Fox & Friends push myth that America is "overtaxed"

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Blaming President Obama's policies, Karl Rove and Fox & Friends highlighted a Rasmussen poll finding that 66 percent of respondents believe America is "overtaxed." In doing so, Rove and Fox & Friends completely obscured the fact the vast majority of Americans paid lower federal taxes this year as a result of Obama's policies; moreover, the Rasmussen poll they cited also found that most respondents overestimate the tax rate paid by the average American.

Mythmaking: Rove, Fox & Friends blame Obama for Americans feeling "overtaxed"

Rove: 66% believe the nation is over-taxed because "[u]nder President Barack Obama taxes are going up -- a lot." From Rove's April 15 Wall Street Journal column:

A recent Rasmussen survey reported that 66% of Americans believe the nation is over-taxed. There's a reason. Under President Barack Obama taxes are going up -- a lot.

House Ways and Means Committee Republicans have issued a summary of the 25 tax increases signed into law by Mr. Obama so far. They total $670 billion over the next 10 years, including 14 tax hikes (including an annual tax on every insurance policy and an annual tax on brand-name drugs) that break Mr. Obama's solemn 2008 campaign pledge never to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year.

Kilmeade: "[W]hen people say wow, I feel overtaxed, they're pointing right to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." During the April 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade cited Rove and claimed that "there's been 25 tax increases since Barack Obama took office in 2008, so when people say wow, I feel overtaxed, they're pointing right to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue":

KILMEADE: Karl Rove writes today in the Wall Street Journal that yeah, that is true, 66 percent of Americans feel like they're overtaxed. However, so far the Republicans own this issue, not that they're the only ones who have supported taxes in the past. But right now it's Democrats that are just amping it up to the tune of $670 billion dollars. According to these statistics, there's been 25 tax increases since Barack Obama took office in 2008, so when people say wow, I feel overtaxed, they're pointing right to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Bolling: "Is it a surprise that only 66% think we're overtaxed?" On Fox & Friends, guest host Eric Bolling asked Fox Business analyst Stuart Varney, "Is it a surprise that only 66 percent think we're overtaxed?" Varney stated," Yes, it is, because people look at their paycheck and then they look at their take-home pay and they say, wait a minute, there's a difference between the two. I'm paying too much in tax. That's where it comes from. But I don't think people realize -- I don't think America realizes just how dependent we are on the so-called wealthy, the rich, to pay our bills."

In fact, Obama cut taxes for Americans this year

William Gale: "[T]axes are literally at their lowest in decades." CBS News reported on April 15 that "taxes are at their lowest levels in 60 years, according to William Gale, co-director of the Tax Policy Center and director of the Retirement Security Project at the Brookings Institution." CBS News further reported:

"The relation between what is said in the tax debate and what is true about tax policy is often quite tenuous," Gale told Hotsheet. "The rise of the Tea Party at at time when taxes are literally at their lowest in decades is really hard to understand."

Bruce Bartlett: "[F]ederal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president." Bruce Bartlett, former adviser to President Reagan and Treasury Department economist under George H.W. Bush, wrote on March 19 that "federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president. And given the economic circumstances, it's hard to imagine that a tax increase would have been enacted last year":

As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president. And given the economic circumstances, it's hard to imagine that a tax increase would have been enacted last year. In fact, 40% of Obama's stimulus package involved tax cuts. These include the Making Work Pay Credit, which reduces federal taxes for all taxpayers with incomes below $75,000 by between $400 and $800.

According to the JCT, last year's $787 billion stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year. The Tax Policy Center, a private research group, estimates that close to 90% of all taxpayers got a tax cut last year and almost 100% of those in the $50,000 income range. For those making between $40,000 and $50,000, the average tax cut was $472; for those making between $50,000 and $75,000, the tax cut averaged $522. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama's policies.

AP: "You wouldn't know it by the Tax Day rhetoric, but Americans are paying lower taxes this year." The Associated Press reported on April 14, "You wouldn't know it by the Tax Day rhetoric, but Americans are paying lower taxes this year, even with increases passed by many states to balance their budgets." While noting that in future years, some taxes may increase for some Americans, the article said that "Tax Day rhetoric" does not match the reality of Americans' tax burdens today. From the article:

Congress cut individuals' federal taxes for this year by about $173 billion shortly after President Barack Obama took office, dwarfing the $28.6 billion in increases by states.

[...]

The massive economic recovery package enacted last year included about $300 billion in tax cuts over 10 years. About $232 billion was in cuts for individuals, nearly all in the first two years.

The most generous was Obama's Making Work Pay credit, which gives individuals up to $400 and couples up to $800 for 2009 and 2010. The $1,000 child tax credit was expanded to more families, and the working poor can qualify for as much as $5,657 from the Earned Income Tax Credit.

There were also credits for qualified families who buy new homes or make energy improvements to existing ones, as well as tax breaks to help pay college tuition or buy new cars.

CBS: "Poll Reveals Most Americans Don't Know They Got a Tax Cut." A February 5-10 New York Times/CBS News poll found that only 12 percent of respondents "think the Obama Administration has ... decreased taxes for most Americans." CBS wrote that "[o]f people who support the grassroots, 'Tea Party' movement, only 2 percent think taxes have been decreased, 46 percent say taxes are the same, and a whopping 44 percent say they believe taxes have gone up." Media Matters for America has noted that conservative media figures including Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal, columnist S.E. Cupp and Fox Forum columnist Peter Roff have denied that Obama cut taxes.

Rasmussen poll found majority believe "average American" pays 30 percent or more of their income in taxes

The April 8-9 Rasmussen Reports poll cited by Rove and Fox & Friends found that 66 percent of respondents say that "[a]s a nation" America is "overtaxed." However, the poll also found that 55 percent of respondents believe that "the average American" pays 30 percent or more of their income in "all federal, state and local taxes." Eighty-one percent of respondents said the average American pays over 20 percent of their income in taxes.

But vast majority of Americans pay taxes at lower rates

Citizens for Tax Justice: Eighty percent of Americans paid a total effective tax rate of less than 30 percent. An analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice states that in 2009, the bottom 80 percent of income earners paid less than 30 percent of their income in total taxes, including all federal, state and local taxes:

taxchart1

Tax Policy Center: Eighty percent paid less than 20 percent of income in federal taxes in 2009. Tax Policy Center data states that the bottom 80 percent of income earners paid an average effective tax rate of less than 20 percent in 2009 for all federal taxes including individual income, payroll, corporate income and estate taxes. The top 20 percent of income earners paid 22.9 percent of their income in federal taxes in 2009. The Tax Policy Center provides the following chart:

taxchart2

Tax Policy Center: Middle income family paying near lowest federal income tax rate in decades. The Tax Policy Center states that the average federal income tax rate for four person families earning the median income is 4.6 percent for 2009, lower than for any other year listed (through 1955) except for 2008. For families earning twice the median income, the average federal income tax rate is 12.6 percent, lower than any point before 2002. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides the following chart based on this data:

taxchart3

Tax Policy Center: It's a "myth" that "Americans are overtaxed." Rosanne Altshuler and Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center wrote in an April 4 Washington Post op-ed that the claim that "Americans are overtaxed" is a "myth," noting that "we pay far less than people in other wealthy countries." Altshuler and Williams stated: "In 2006, taxes in 30 of the world's richest countries averaged 36 percent of GDP; only Mexico, Turkey, South Korea and Japan had tax rates lower than ours. And taxes in many European countries exceeded 40 percent of GDP because these nations offer more extensive government services than the United States does." By comparison, "[i]n 2007, federal, state and local taxes claimed about $3.8 trillion, or 27 percent of U.S. gross domestic product."

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
Person
Brian Kilmeade, Karl Rove, Eric Bolling
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends
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