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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 10, 2012/ 20 Tamuz, 5772

Obama's misleading tweet on Romney's taxes

By Glenn Kessler




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | “FACT: In 2010 and 2011, Romney paid less than 15% in taxes on $42.5 million in income—much less than what many middle-class families pay.”

— Tweet by @BarackObama, July 3, 2012

We are avid readers of tweets by @BarackObama, though of course it is not the president himself but his campaign team that posts them. We are also very curious when politicians claim they have uttered “a fact.”

 So, is it really true that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who is very wealthy, pays a tax rate “much less” than “many” middle-class families?

 

The Facts

 Romney released his 2010 tax return and an estimate of his 2011 return earlier this year. He earned a little more than $20 million each year, a good chunk of it in capital gains and dividends, which are taxed at a preferential rate as low as 15 percent.

But that’s not the only reason why Romney’s tax rate is at that level. He also donates about 14 percent of his income to charity, which gives him a pretty big tax deduction. (As we have noted, President Obama in 2010 also gave about 14 percent of his income to charity.)

Indeed, Romney gives about as much to charity — $3 million — as he pays in taxes. Those itemized deductions are counted against income that would ordinarily be taxed at a 35-percent rate. We figure that without those donations to charity, his effective tax rate would be at least 19 percent.

(For more information, see the nifty interactive graphic by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center showing how Romney’s and Obama’s tax returns match up against a typical middle-class family. You can see that Obama’s itemized deductions also lowered his effective tax rate, compared to the rate for Vice President Biden, who had fewer deductions.)

 Nevertheless, the Obama campaign is correct that the former Massachusetts governor paid about 15 percent of his gross adjusted income (that’s line 37 on the tax return) in taxes. But is that “much less” than what many middle-class families pay?

 First of all, most of Romney’s taxes are federal income taxes. He pays relatively little in payroll taxes because the 6.2 percent Social Security tax maxes out once you earn a certain amount — $110,100 in 2012. Romney in effect earns that much by Jan. 3.

 But for most Americans, payroll taxes are the biggest tax item. (And that’s not even including the share paid by employers. Most economists say employers pay for payroll taxes by cutting their employees’ wages.)

 People often confuse marginal tax rates with effective tax rates. Marginal rates are what you pay on each additional dollar of income, so that can be as high as 35 percent. The effective tax rate is the percentage of taxes you pay after deductions, adjustments and the like.

 The Congressional Budget Office and Internal Revenue Service have produced estimates for effective tax rates, but the data are relatively old — 2008 and 2009, respectively. Both also have limitations. The IRS data rely on information from actual returns, but thus miss people who don’t file tax returns; the CBO tries to compensate by using estimates of income from untaxed sources and for people who don’t file tax returns. There are also issues concerning what types of income to include in the definition.

To keep things simple, we are going to rely on a chart of effective federal tax rates produced by the Tax Policy Center. The chart shows the effective tax rate as a percentage of AGI, divided into quintiles, with the values based on a concept known as cash income. (Here’s a definition.) Cash income is not quite the same as adjusted gross income, but Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center said the AGI numbers in the charts would provide the closest apples-to-apples comparison to Romney’s tax return.

Using the Tax Policy Center analysis, we will present the data two ways — without and with the employer-paid share of payroll taxes.  The income figures are rounded. The first method is the closest equivalent to Romney’s tax return.

Effective Tax Rates (taxes paid on tax return)

Bottom 20 percent (0-$17,000):         -5.8 percent

Second 20 Percent ($17,000-$33,500):  1.3 percent

Middle 20 percent ($33,500-59,500):  9.2 percent

Fourth 20 Percent ($59,000-$103,500): 12.9 percent

Top 20 Percent ($103,500+):  20.6 percent

 

Effective Tax Rates (also including payroll tax paid by employer)

Bottom 20 percent (0-$17,000):         1 percent

Second 20 Percent ($17,000-$33,500): 7.8 percent

Middle 20 percent ($33,500-59,500): 15.5 percent

Fourth 20 Percent ($59,000-$103,500): 18.7 percent

Top 20 Percent ($103,500+):  24.3 percent

 

 First, one can see that for all the rhetoric about high taxes in the United States, most Americans pay a relatively small percentage of their income in taxes. Second, Romney had an effective rate of 13.9 percent in 2010 and 15.4 percent in 2011, which gives him a higher rate than 80 percent of taxpayers in the first method and puts him just about in the middle of all taxpayers in the second method.

No matter how you slice it, his tax rate is not significantly lower than the tax rate paid by middle-class Americans.

 The Obama campaign countered our analysis by pointing out that the tweet used the phrase “many,” not “most,” and by providing a dictionary definition showing that “many” means “a large amount.” The campaign also noted that a White House report showed that while the median tax rate for Americans with income between $50,000 and $100,000 is 13 percent, some 3 million face effective tax rates above 21 percent.

Under the campaign’s logic, this translates into Romney paying a rate “much less” than “many” Americans, though with the same data, one could say that many more pay a lower rate than Romney.

It is not our job to determine whether that is a good or bad thing. The U.S. tax system is designed to be progressive, meaning the rich are generally expected to pay higher taxes than the less wealthy. Politically it may not be smart for Romney, with an annual income topping $20 million, to end up with a tax rate so similar to middle-class tax rates. But we are also reminded of Judge Learned Hard’s observation in 1935:

“Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the Treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes. Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.”

 

The Pinocchio Test 

The Obama campaign’s tweet relies on a very slippery “fact.”

Romney, by receiving much of his income in capital gains and dividends and giving millions of dollars to charity, is certainly able to keep his effective tax rate relatively low, especially compared to a wealthy person who earns much of his or her income in salary. But, even so, Romney still pays an effective tax rate that is higher than the tax rate paid by most Americans.


 

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An award-winning journalism career spanning nearly three decades, Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street. He was The Washington Post's chief State Department reporter for nine years, traveling around the world with three different Secretaries of State. Before that, he covered tax and budget policy for The Washington Post and also served as the newspaper's national business editor. Kessler has long specialized in digging beyond the conventional wisdom, such as when he earned a "laurel" from the Columbia Journalism Review



Previously:

02/21/11: The claim that 98 percent of Catholic women use contraception: a media foul

12/29/11: Ron Paul and Ronald Reagan (Fact Checker biography)

12/08/11: Romney versus Gingrich: a Super PAC's over-the-top ad

12/08/11: Obama's Kansas speech: some suspect facts

11/18/11: The Obama campaign's spin on the Romney tax plan

09/27/11: Obama' strained symbolism at an Ohio River bridge

08/25/11: Obama's claim that GOP is holding up trade deals

08/11/11: Obama's claim that the debt problem can ‘go away’

06/22/11: AARP's misleading ad about balancing the budget

05/24/11: A rare Geppetto for Paul Ryan's assertion on Obama's hidden top marginal tax rate

05/16/11:Obama administration boasting about border security

05/11/11: Kathleen Sebelius's outrageous claim that cancer patients would 'die sooner' under the GOP Medicare plan

05/09/11: A gusher of oil rhetoric

05/04/11: The Obama administration's odd claims on export growth

04/28/11: How effective are sanctions in ‘changing behavior’?

04/14/11: ‘Biggest cuts in U.S. history’? Well, no.

04/08/11: Nancy Pelosi's absurd math on senior citizens losing their meals

04/06/11: Hillary Clinton's uncredible statement on Syria

03/25/11: Libya, Obama and the tragedy in Darfur

03/22/11: Gifts of bogus statistics for the health-care law's birthday

03/21/11: Mitch McConnell's not-so-happy birthday greetings for the health care law

03/10/11: A job-loss statistic produced out of thin air

03/10/17: A budget analogy that earns a Geppetto checkmark

03/10/11: Four pinocchios for the American public on the budget

03/09/11: Obama and the White House's ‘halfway’ fixation with the budget

03/08/11: Foreign policy braggadocio on Libya and AIDS

03/07/11: Democrats keep misleading on claimed budget ‘cuts’

03/01/11: Mike Huckabee is on to something here, but jumped the gun

02/25/11: Harry Reid's illusory $41 billion in budget cuts


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