Did you happen to catch this moment from Joe Biden’s campaign rally in Pittsburgh? As he worked to gin up the crowd and convince them that the Bad Orange Man wasn’t doing anything to help the little guy, he decided to take a swing at the 2017 tax cuts. Here’s what he said:
There’s a $2 trillion tax cut last year. Did you feel it? Did you get anything from it? Of course not. Of course not. All of it went to folks at the top and corporations.
Huh. That doesn’t seem to comport with what most reports have been saying. In fact, it was such a whopper that even Glenn Kessler, the WaPo fact checker, was forced to award Uncle Joe with the full four Pinocchios. And when you’ve lost Glenn Kessler (as a Democrat), you’ve developed a problem.
Here we go again. Democrats have long attacked President Trump’s tax cut in misleading ways, just as the president had peddled his own share of falsehoods.
The former vice president has never been known for turning a phrase with precision, but in his opening campaign speech, he told a whopper. Let’s take a look.
As we have explained before, any broad-based tax cut is going to mostly benefit the wealthy because they already pay a large share of income taxes. According to Treasury Department data, the top 20 percent of income earners paid 95.2 percent of individual income taxes in 2017. The top 10 percent paid 81 percent. The top 0.1 percent paid an astonishing 24.1 percent of taxes.
Because there are far more people in the middle class, there are fewer dollars to share per taxpayer when the savings from a tax cut are divvied up. The nonpartisan Joint Committee of Taxation estimates that 572,000 taxpayers will file returns with an income category of more than $1 million, compared with more than 27 million in the $50,000 to $75,000 category and almost 70 million in the under-$50,000 category.
There’s a lot of math to wade through, but Glenn eventually gets around to breaking down how the tax cuts wound up working for everyone, ranging from the very wealthy to the very poor. In the median income range – those individuals making between 50K and 75K per year – 82 percent received tax cuts averaging around $1,000. At the further ends of the income spectrum, it obviously works out differently. The highest earners got large tax cuts because they already pay the lion’s share of the taxes. (The top 10 percent of earners pay 81 percent of the taxes. The top 0.1 percent pay what Kessler describes as “an astonishing 24.1 percent of taxes.”)
But what about the poorest, low-income earners? That came up in Biden’s speech as well. And it’s true that the bottom ten percent on the income ladder didn’t get much of a tax cut to speak of. But that’s because they already pay almost no taxes to begin with. Somebody should pass a note to Joe Biden and remind him not to be afraid of the maths.
So what do we think? Was Joe Biden simply wrong about this because he hasn’t looked into it and didn’t know any better? Or was he lying about it? You’d think someone with that many years working inside the machinery of the legislative branch where tax laws are hammered out would be something of an expert on it., right? And if Joe is out there on the stump lying, I assume that the Washington Post is now under an obligation to call it “lying” and keep track of how often he does that. I mean, that’s the new standard in journalism where democracy dies in darkness and an apple isn’t a banana, right?
A likely explanation is that Biden has already calculated that he can’t run against Trump on claims that the President has done a bad job or that the country is going in the wrong direction. Absent a severe crash next winter, Donald Trump will be running on one of the best economies seen in many years. So Biden has to figure out ways to make success look like a failure, in addition to running on questions of character, morality or what have you. And I suppose part of that strategy is going to be asking voters who they believe about their own paychecks… Joe Biden or their own lying eyes?