Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mass GOP misleads on Benson, Tsongas

I realize that any headline that starts with "Mass GOP misleads..." is like reporting "Dog bites man," but this item on in response to Congresswoman Niki Tsongas's endorsement of State Rep. candidate Jen Benson was just too much of a lie to pass up:
"It's no surprise that Niki Tsongas would endorse a fellow tax and spend liberal like Jen Benson," Barney Keller, spokesman for the Massachusetts GOP, told "Niki Tsongas voted for the largest tax hike in American History, which would raise taxes on those making as little as $31,850."
There are two good whoppers in the span of one short paragraph. First, how exactly has Barney determined that Jen Benson is a "tax and spend liberal?" Certainly it can't be based on her record in the Lunenburg School Committee. Benson and the school committee doesn't have the power to tax, and they can only spend what they are given by town meeting. I suppose that the Mass. GOP just assumes that every Democrat must be a "tax and spend" candidate, but they can't really be that lazy, can they?

What's that, you say?

Secondly, the attack on Niki Tsongas is demonstrably untrue. The national GOP has attacked Barack Obama using the exact same $31,850 mark. Just three days before the story, revealed that the claim was incorrect:
What Obama voted for was a budget resolution that would have allowed most of the provisions of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire. In particular, the resolution would allow the 25 percent tax bracket to return to its pre-2001 level of 28 percent. That bracket kicks in at $32,550 for an individual or $65,100 for a married couple. (The McCain campaign relies on an AP article which puts the cutoff at $31,850, but that figure is from 2007, not this year.) So the McCain campaign claims that anyone making "as little as $32,000" would be affected by the rate increase.

But as those of you who have filled out a 1040 know, that's not actually how income taxes work. We don't pay taxes on our total earnings; we pay them based on our "taxable income." The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center's Eric Toder told that "people with taxable income of $32,000 would have a total income greater than that." In 2008, anyone filing taxes with single status would be entitled to a standard deduction of $5,450, as well as a personal exemption of $3,500. So to have a taxable income high enough to reach the 25 percent bracket, an individual would need to earn at least $41,500 in total income, while a married couple would need a combined income of at least $83,000.
So it turns out that not only did Tsongas not vote for a tax increase--in fact she voted to uphold the law that President Bush signed in 2003--but the tax bracket would not change for someone earning only $31,850. Only singles with no dependents and no itemized deductions who earned over $41,500 would be affected by the change in tax policy that President Bush signed in 2003.

I suppose it would be too much to expect the state Republican machine (the Edsel that it is) to at least be the slightest bit accurate in their attacks, but I would hope that a political news site such as would at least acknowledge that the claims of the GOP's press flack had been discredited in the days before the attack.

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