This is how bad information spreads. Channeling Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson, Mort Zuckerman — the billionaire real estate and media mogul — claimed on MSNBC Tuesday that Republicans on the super committee had broken with their anti-tax orthodoxy and proposed to increase taxes, modestly, on upper income Americans.
He pins this on Samuelson, who seems to take his cues directly from super committee Republicans. “Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania proposed a tax “reform” that would raise income taxes by $250 billion over a decade,” Samuelson writes. “First, he would impose across-the-board reductions of most itemized deductions and use the resulting revenue gains to cut all tax rates. Next, he would adjust the rates for the top two brackets so that they’d be high enough to produce the $250 billion. All the tax increase would fall on people in the top brackets.”
This is a funny way of saying the burden of the Toomey plan would fall largely on the middle class, and would constitute an effective tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. There’s no white paper on Toomey’s plan and no CBO analysis. But based on what Republicans and Democrats have provided the press, we know it would have raised tax revenue from the current Bush-era baseline by $250 billion. However, it did this by first lowering the current rates across the board, including for the super-rich, and then wiping out or scaling back tax deductions, expenditures, credits, etc. in order to make up for the lost revenue. According to Democrats, the GOP wasn’t willing to entertain raising capital gains taxes at all — which suggests logically that the incidence of Toomey’s plan would be quite regressive.
That’s what Democrats concluded. That’s what the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded. And to boot, it would have locked in the sub-Bush tax rates permanently, to make it nearly impossible to yield higher tax revenues for future deficit reduction.
Republicans on the Super Committee claim otherwise, and that’s why you’re seeing the claim repeated in the press. But that doesn’t mean the math backs it up.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.