TRUTH TEST: First presidential debate yields hits and misses


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist KENNETH NULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on October 4, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 16 at 6:25 PM

AUSTIN -- There was no shortage of misleading and suspect statements made by candidates in the first presidential debate of the 2012 election.

The single largest dispute of the night revolved around a claim made by Democratic President Barack Obama regarding Republican opponent Mitt Romney's proposed tax plan.

"Governor Romney's central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut," the president said.

Romney's response was a flat rejection. "I'm not looking for a five trillion dollar tax cut," said Romney. "What I've said is I won't put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit."

The president's argument takes figures from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center which predict Romney's plan would yield $480 billion less in revenue than current policy by 2015, multiplying that prediction over 10 years in order to show $5 trillion in reduced revenue in a decade. The figures are arrived at without closing deductions and loopholes Romney has yet to identify, but says will make up for tax cuts.

"It is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class," Obama argued. "You may keep referring to it as a $5 trillion tax cut," Romney returned. "But that's not my plan."

The bottom line -- It's not Romney's plan, although whether Romney's plan to make up for the revenue lost through tax cuts by closing deductions and loopholes is mathematically viable is unclear.

"Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300," Romney characterized the economy under President Obama. "I'll call it the economy tax. It's been crushing. At the same time, gasoline prices have doubled under the president."

The statement about income is an exaggeration. According to census data, household income adjusted for inflation fell about $2,500 under President Obama and the Household Income Index appears to be on the upswing. It's still a drop, just not by the amount Romney suggests.

When it comes to gas, Romney is right. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the price of a gallon of gas bottomed out at around $1.61 when the recession hit in December of 2008. Today it's about $3.80, which is more than double, yet at the same time it has yet to returned to the high of around $4.11 in July of 2008.

"The last three percent of businesses happen to employ half of all the people who work in small business," Romney said while talking about reducing the tax burden on small businesses. "Those are the businesses that employ one quarter of all the workers in America, and your plan is to take their tax rate from 35 percent to 40 percent."

"Under Governor Romney's definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses," Obama charged. "Donald Trump is a small business."

It's not just Romney's definition. The U.S. Small Business Administration generally uses the measurement of 500 or fewer employees to define a "small business," which could also include wealthy "S" corporations which are taxed at the individual tax rate. Since some of Donald Trump's several businesses could fit that broad definition, he could be considered a "small business owner" if not exactly a "small business" himself.

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