During the ABC News-Facebook debate, moderator Charlie Gibson suggested that the Democratic presidential candidates' proposals to roll back or let some of President Bush's tax cuts expire would affect middle-class families, adding, “If you take a family of two professors here at St. Anselm, they're going to be in the $200,000 category that you're talking about lifting the taxes on.” According to the U.S. Census, however, the median income for a U.S. household is $48,451, and the mean household income is $65,527; and only 3.4 percent of U.S. households have an income of $200,000 or more.
During the January 5 ABC News-Facebook Democratic debate at St. Anselm College, in Manchester, New Hampshire, moderator and ABC's World News anchor Charlie Gibson suggested that the Democratic presidential candidates' proposals to roll back or let some of President Bush's tax cuts expire would affect middle-class families. After Gibson noted that the Democratic candidates are “all talking about letting some of the Bush tax cuts lapse,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) replied that they would roll back “tax cuts on the wealthiest of Americans, not the middle class.” Gibson continued: “If you take a family of two professors here at St. Anselm, they're going to be in the $200,000 category that you're talking about lifting the taxes on.” In fact, contrary to Gibson's suggestion that $200,000 is a typical, middle class household income in the United States, the U.S. Census Bureau's data for 2006 -- the most recent year available -- place the median household income at $48,451, and the mean household income at $65,527. According to the Census data, only 3.4 percent of U.S. households have an income of $200,000 or more.
Gibson did not cite a source for his assertion that a family of two St. Anselm professors would make more than $200,000 in taxable income, an assertion that was met with laughter from the audience and the remark from former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) that: “I don't think they agree with you.” According to the American Association of University Professors, a full professor at St. Anselm in 2006-2007 had an average salary of $77,400 (not including other taxable benefits given to St. Anselm faculty).
From ABC News' January 5 broadcast of the ABC News-Facebook Democratic debate:
GIBSON: Senator Edwards, I will take this question to you -- but you raised the issue of the economy right now. And we have a housing crisis in this country.
CLINTON: Yes, we do.
GIBSON: We have an energy problem in the cost of energy, and we now have a jobs problem. We have, when we are -- and you raised the 'R' word, recession -- when we are approaching recession, it is consumers who have spent us out of recession in most cases. You're all talking about letting some of the Bush tax cuts lapse.
CLINTON: Yeah, but Charlie, the tax cuts on the wealthiest of Americans, not the middle class tax cuts. One of the problems with George Bush's tax policy has been the way he has tilted it toward the wealthy and the well-connected.
GIBSON: If you take a family of two professors here at St. Anselm, they're going to be in the $200,000 category that you're talking about lifting the taxes on. And --
EDWARDS: Oh, I don't think they agree with you.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): I'm not sure that that --
CLINTON: That may be NYU, Charlie; I don't think that's St. Anselm.
GIBSON: Two public schoolteachers in New York?
EDWARDS: Charlie --
GIBSON: But that is -- you're in a situation where you're taking money out of the economy.
CLINTON: Look, if we set the cap where I'm saying, at 250,000 and above, that's a very small percentage. And what I want to do is fix the alternative minimum tax; create these new job opportunities, primarily through clean, renewable energy; but also, get back to where middle-class families get the kind of tax relief that they deserve, which they really haven't been getting under George Bush.
EDWARDS: Can I say --
GIBSON: Go ahead, yeah.
EDWARDS: Thank you. What you see happening in America today -- if you're president of the United States, and you're looking at this from altitude -- is you see very few Americans getting wealthier and wealthier. You see the biggest corporations in America, profits through the roof. Exxon-Mobil just made $40 billion -- record profits. All of that happening at the same time that we have 47 million people with no health care; 37 million who will wake up in this country tomorrow worried about feeding and clothing their children.
Tonight, 200,000 men and women, who wore the uniform of the United States of America and served this country honorably, will go to sleep under bridges and on grates. It's time for us to say, and it's time for the president to say, “Enough is enough.” This is a battle for the future of our children. This is a battle for the middle class. Let's take jobs, which we haven't talked about. We've touched on a lot of other things, but we haven't talked about jobs. We've had a trade and tax policy that is bleeding American jobs, and all it has done is pad the profits of the biggest multinational corporations in America. You talk about professors here at this college. Let me say --
GIBSON: Well, I shouldn't have done that, apparently.