Kerry's Tax Plan(s)

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According to John Kerry, he will raise taxes on the highest tax bracket, those earning above $200,000 of taxable income. At the second debate, someone asked him to speak directly into the camera and say in simple and unequivocal terms that he would not raise taxes on anyone who earned less than $200,000. He did that. I discovered that his tax plan on his website says this also, but it also says something else in fine print significantly below that. It says he will raise taxes on people who earn less than 200,000, even as low as $87,000 for a member of a married couple filing separately.

What's worse is that it contradicts itself in close succession. The plan repeats his claim that the middle class tax cut will be kept: "Kerry's health and education plans would be paid for by rolling back the Bush tax cuts that only benefit families making over $200,000 (all families would still keep the middle-class tax cuts)." Then it says, "Specifically Kerry would: Restore the top two tax rates to their levels under President Clinton." Then it lists three more items. One of them directly affects people well into the middle class range: "Maintain the phase-out of personal exemptions and itemized deductions (PEP and PEASE)." Phasing out an exemption or decuction by reducing it does result in a net tax increase. The more obvious problem, though, is that he said that under no circumstances would he raise taxes on anyone earning lower than $200,000, and his plan repeats this claim a few times. Yet the plan also says that he'll return to Clinton-level taxes for the top two tax brackets, which means he'll raise taxes on the second level, which is lower than $200,000. Presumably he knows what his plan says. I'm not sure why he's so confident that he has a plan that will solve all these problems if he doesn't know what that plan is. That means he's lying. It's not too bright to run your campaign on the issue of honesty when you can lie through your teeth when someone asks you to speak simply and honestly into the camera and say you won't do something while at the same time to keep talking about your plan that will do exactly what you said you won't do. Thanks to Jason Smith for pointing this out. Jason's other claim is also highly interesting if true, but I can't substantiate it and didn't see any of the numbers backing it up.

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An Encouraged Read. from Honzo, knowing that I know that I do not know anything worthwhile. on November 1, 2004 2:14 AM

I would recomend everyone going over and giving a good read-over to Jeremy and Wink's posts over at Parableman. One is for Bush, the other is for Kerry. Kerry's Legislation of Morality Single Issue Voter Why I'm not voting for... Read More


I have read at least two reasons for Kerry's infamous flip-flopping:

1) Kerry has a lot more people to please than Bush. Simply put, there are a lot of interest groups, powerful politicians, prominent party leaders, and not a few deep-pocketed donors who all have different says and wishes and desires and wants. The only way Kerry can hold on to at least their fleeting interests is by saying and doing things that these people want to hear and see. This accounts for the flip-flopping now made famous by the media. Bush, on the other hand, has a far simpler and more cohesive base, and my impression is that he is a lot more comfortable with himself and with his mission to disagree with a lot of people if necessary on important points. Bush not only must point out Kerry's inconsistency, but he needs to show his spine and guts (and heart) in order to beat Kerry.

2) Kerry's campaign, like his supporters, is run more chaotically than that of Bush, because of the aforementioned hodge-podge of people. I have heard it said that, while it could handle Howard Dean's grass-root campaign (think militia against guerillas), Kerry's campaign is having a far more difficult time against the Bush campaign (think militia against disciplined military). Bush has selected Karl Rove as his principal campaigner and the top of his campaign hierarchy. Rove is known for his "take-no-prisoner" style of campaign, and the command structure is very clearly delineated.

Yes gr1d, but you are essentially saying that Kerry is an opportunistic liar. I agree and it appears to be something that he has been publically doing since 1971.

I don't know how much of a real lie this is. There are a number of problems:

First and foremost, the numbers like $87,500 and so on in the second level are based on adjusted gross income, and my feeling is that Kerry is talking about net income which hasn't factored in all sorts of deductions and credits which would typically (although there may be exceptions) mean that those effected are over or very close to (Even the second level) a net household income of $200,000.

Secondly, the use by Jason Smith of $80,000 for married filing seperately as some way to show how much the middle class would be impacted is a stretch. Typically, married filing seperately is a status used by couples who are seperated or who have not finalized their divorce and legal liability issues are involved. Such a status is usually temporary and for the purposes of the tax law both incomes represent the total household income, since only one of them can claim any children as dependents, even though the other may have legitimate child support expenses. In other cases, some couples may find a lower tax bill if one of them has an unusually high itemized deduction such as medical bills or buisness expenses. In that case, although one of them, individually, would pay higher taxes by filing married - seperately, combined the two of them they have an overall lower tax bill. In short, the income for married filing seperately is only half the story since it is usually only half the income.

For the maintaining the phase out situation, this seems like a case where some exemptions are already scheduled to be phased out. Kerry's "refusal" to not maintain the phase-out is not a new tax proposed by Kerry. Rather, it is a new tax proposed by whomever originally proposed to phase out those exemptions. The complaint here seems a little nit-picky, since it wasn't Kerry that originally scheduled these exemptions to be phased out.

While no one number may sufficiently cover all cases, I see nothing intentionally deceptive about John Kerry's "$200,000" limit on tax raises, or using that as a figure to explain who would be impacted by rolling taxes back to clintonian levels. Rather, it seems like a reasonable estimate of the type of net household incomes that would be impacted. I am sure that you can find particular exception cases or nit-pick concerning phased out exemptions that were not scheduled on Kerry's watch, but for the most part I would consider it a stretch to say that it is a lie.

The $200,000 figure is derived from the minimum someone in the top tax bracket earns. Kerry has said that repeatedly. He has referred to it as the top tax bracket repeatedly. You must not have read the post I linked to, because all of the figures for the second tax bracket are below $200,000. Here they are:

$143,500 if you're Single
$174,700 if you're Married and Filing Jointly
$ 87,350 if you're Married and Filing Separately
$159,100 if you're a Head of Household

Even if you want to ignore the Married Filing Separately category (though see below for reasons not to), and even if you want to allow for rounding up to the next $10,000, the only honest figure would be $150,000, and that's rounding quite a bit up for single people.

As for married filing separately, what you say is not necessarily true, and it needs to be if Kerry is going to use terms like 'all' and 'none', which he has repeatedly done. We had to file separately our first year of marriage because I was a resident of NH (where my parents lived) until I got married, while my wife had been a resident of NY the whole year. I made far more money than she did that year, since her only income for half of it was a very part-time work study job. I imagine many people do similar things, since NY requires it, and many people from different states live in NY after they get married.

(Irrelevant note: I hadn't looked at these numbers before. Now I know what the marriage penalty is. People in my situation in the lowest bracket are helped by marriage. If you make more money, being married really is being taxed considerably.]

This was already mentioned in one way or another in the thread, but I'll mention it again. It was originally claimed, "Phasing out an exemption or decuction by reducing it does result in a net tax increase." And this was said to be evidence that Kerry would raise taxes on some people making under $200,000, and, thus, had lied. To my ear, it is incorrect to classify continuing with an already-planned phase-out as a tax increase. No more taxes will be collected than was already planned and demanded by current tax law.

Consider: would you call a plan to crack down on corporate tax fraud, which if implemented would result in the IRS collecting the legally required amount of taxes from corporations, a plan for a tax increase? I think not. I'm thinking of the continuation of the phase-out in the same way.

Right. I'm aware that you can see it otherwise, but you can see it as a tax increase, and saying something that some will think as conflicting with his other statements is itself a problem for him. The other issue was my main point, and that seems to be a real problem for him and not just a perceived one.

you are ignoring the adjusted gross income vs net household income issue. This is not a deceptive "lie".

If you want a deceptive lie, consider Bush's statement on stem cell research "I am the first president to authorize stem cell research", which he has made on several occasions. First of all it is not technallicaly correct since Clinton authorized stem cell research at the end of his second term. Secondly, the statement is designed to make people think that Bush is pro stem cell research when in fact Bush's position is one that would render research nearly useless. It's intent is to make people think one thing when Bush intends to accomplish something else. It is a lie in that it misinforms people of Bush's position and his future actions.

On the other hand, when Kerry says he will not raise taxes on those above $200,000 and that he will roll back taxes on the top two tax brackets to clinton levels, these are not contradictory or deceptive. The $200,000 refers to the net income, while the numbers you cite refer to the adjusted gross income (usually line 34 or thereabouts on form 1034), which include credits and deductions. After that correction is made, Kerry's statement is basically correct, and you can not claim that it is intentionally deceptive.

Married filing singly has a built in assumption that it is only half the income. Sometimes this assumption causes taxes to be higher and sometimes it causes taxes to be lower. Tax law is complicated and while some exceptions may exist, the general impact of rolling back taxes on the top two brackets is that those households that make less than $200K (NET!!!!! NOT GROSS as listed in the figures!!!!) would, in most cases, not be impacted. It is a reasonable figure that mostly hits the spot, and lets people know of the direction that his tax policy will be headed in. There is no intrinsic or built in deception, IT IS NOT A LIE.

That is very different from Bush's statement on, say, stem cell research.

I didn't ignore it. I gave an argument against thinking that's what he means.

Bush's point on the stem cell research was to destroy the lie that he had banned it, a lie that Kerry has been happy to perpetuate. He hadn't banned it. He hadn't even banned federal funding on it. He had just restricted the funding to cases where the embryo was already dead.

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