— President Obama, Sept. 5, 2011
The president’s Labor Day speech in Detroit featured an assertion that contained a number of warning signs that it might be an errant fact: “biggest middle-class tax cut in history.”
First of all, anytime a politician claims he or she has done something historic, watch your pockets. That’s usually a dubious claim.
Then, “biggest” can mean all sorts of things. If we are talking about dollars, then are they inflation-adjusted or measured against the overall economy? Raw dollar figures are essentially meaningless without that context.
Finally, the “middle-class” modifier. What’s the definition of “middle-class”? There are many ways one could slice and dice that classification.
Clearly, President Obama wants to demonstrate he’s a tax-cutter. And certainly White House officials have been frustrated that the $116 billion Making Work Pay tax cut was largely unnoticed by Americans.
We decided to put the president’s claim to the test.
We took an informal survey in our office and asked people what
they thought the president’s statement meant. Everyone agreed he was
claiming the biggest tax cut in terms of dollars. After all, he talked
about “putting more money in your pockets.”
Imagine our surprise when the White House responded that he wasn’t talking about dollars at all.
“The point the president was making is that there is not a tax cut that has been enjoyed by such a broad section of the population,” an administration official said, pointing to a report that said that 95 percent of working families received some kind of tax cut under the Making Work Pay provision in his stimulus bill.
Huh? (Continues here)