If everyone here in this audience was dead in the middle of the middle class,” Albert Gore declared in Tuesday’s debate against George W. Bush, “then the tax cuts for every single one of you, all added up, would be less than the tax cut his [Bush's] plan would give just one member of that top, wealthiest 1 percent.”
I booed and hissed until my throat hurt. That nasty top 1 percent! They really are the source of all things ugly and evil. But then I scratched my head. Were Gore’s figures believable? Might he be “exaggerating” again?
The answer soon came from the diligent watchdogs at Americans for Tax Reform. “In fact, that was not true,” said Damon Ansell, AFTR’s vice president of policy. “Gore’s allegation was way off the mark, yet again.” AFTR’s Chad Cowan dug deeper into the numbers. He added up census figures for male and female wages and calculated an average U.S. salary for 1999 of $32,287. Bush’s plan would offer an American earning that sum a $300 tax cut. That means the 145 people the Gore-Lieberman campaign says were in the St. Louis debate audience would share total Bush tax cuts of $43,500. Gore’s villain, who earned $330,000 — most likely through embezzlement — would see a Bush tax cut of $12,864.
So, here again, Al Gore lied. This is neither an embellishment, nor an exaggeration. This wasn’t even close. The audience’s aggregated Bush tax cut was 338 percent larger than Bush’s tax relief for that awful rich guy who deserves neither respect nor, even, a passport.
Interestingly enough, under the AFTR’s assumptions (single people, no dependents, standard deduction), neither the wonderful, loving average Joes and Janes in the crowd nor that horrible, hypothetical fat cat get any tax relief from Gore. They are equal recipients of $0.00 in tax justice from Al Gore.
Assuming instead that some audience members would receive Bush’s marriage-tax relief, his doubling of the $500-per-child tax credit, and other tax cuts, their combined Bush tax relief would be even higher, giving them even more total tax reductions than Bush’s affluent ally would see. This is precisely the opposite of what Gore claimed.
So why did Gore run so far from the truth?
Maybe he is hopelessly naive and believes anything he hears.
Perhaps he is not as smart as people believe, having dropped out of Vanderbilt Law School and Vanderbilt Divinity School, and simply became bamboozled by these numbers.
Or it could be that Al Gore is smug, arrogant and — despite some recent bad ink about his rocky relationship with the truth — still willing to say anything to get elected. It’s an outrage that Gore does so with the confidence that the press will overlook most of his lies (though clearly not all of them). Here again, regarding Gore’s false figures about Bush’s supposedly slim middle-class tax cuts, the media were as silent as the T in sorbet.
Many reporters and commentators have said that Gore exaggerates and embellishes. That’s not the problem. If he tells people he’s an inch taller than he actually is, that’s an exaggeration. That would not prevent him from serving with distinction as president. But when Gore says of the Earned Income Tax Credit, “I was the author of that proposal. I wrote that” — even though it became law in 1975 and he was sworn into Congress in 1977 — that’s not an exaggeration.
That’s a lie.
When Gore says he inspected fire damage with FEMA Director James Lee Witt in Parker County, Tex., in 1996 when he actually never toured those fires with Witt or anyone else, that’s not an embellishment. That’s a lie.
And when Gore says the illegal Buddhist temple fundraiser was not a fundraiser — despite his own e-mail in which he refers to it as a fundraiser — that’s not an enhancement. That’s a lie.
With just 18 days to go before the election, Al Gore’s ambitions are better served by lazy, liberal apologists in the press corps than by easily refuted calls for class warfare.