In the last debate, Sen. Obama said, “We both want to cut taxes, the difference is who we want to cut taxes for. . . . The centerpiece of [McCain's] economic proposal is to provide $200 billion in additional tax breaks to some of the wealthiest corporations in America. Exxon Mobil, and other oil companies, for example, would get an additional $4 billion in tax breaks.”
That $200 billion figure is false. Yet FactCheck.org and most reporters never bothered to ask Mr. Obama where he came up with it. FactCheck.org did discover that Mr. Obama’s claim about “$4 billion in tax breaks for energy companies” came from a two-page memo from the Center for American Progress Action Fund — a political lobby headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, with tax issues handled by two lawyers, Robert Gordon and James Kvaal, former policy directors for the John Kerry and John Edwards campaigns. Those lawyers confused average tax rates (after credits and deductions) with the 35% statutory rate on the next dollar of earnings, so that cutting the latter rate from 35% to 25% would supposedly cut big oil’s $13.4 billion tax bill by 28.5%, or $3.8 billion. That is not economics; it is not even competent bookkeeping.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, by contrast, correctly notes that, “Senator McCain has called for the repeal and reform of a number of tax preferences for oil companies,” which would raise the oil companies’ taxes by $5 billion in 2013.
I already knew that the Democratic ticket was misleading people about McCain’s proposal to cut corporate tax rates; I just didn’t realize just how misleading it was being. Too bad the McCain folks didn’t come out early with a response along these lines.