The Washington Post's popular Fact Checker political column isn't known for being particularly balanced when it comes to choosing which statements to dissect. So, it was surprising when the column's author Glenn Kessler, who usually chooses to go after statements made by prominent Republicans, fact-checked a tweet made by President Obama.
On July 3, @BarackObama tweeted, "FACT: In 2010 and 2011, Romney paid less than 15% in taxes on $42.5 million in income—much less than what many middle-class families pay." Kessler decided to dig into this statement and gave it "3 out of 4" Pinnochios on the Fact Checker scale.
Kessler found that Romney's tax rate is lower for several reasons - the most important being the fact that the 6.2% Social Security tax maxes out after an individual's first $110,000 in income, which Romney meets early in the year. Kessler pointed out that, "for most Americans, payroll taxes are the biggest tax item," but for Romney this does not apply because he already pays the maximum.
Also adding to Romney's supposed lower tax rates are the way that his income is taxed. Much of his income, $20 million in 2010, comes from returns on investments which can only be charged at a maximum rate of 15 percent. The rest of his deductions come from the $3 million that he gives to charity each year, which equates to 14 percent of his annual income. Without these hefty charitable donations, Kessler says that, "his effective tax rate would be at least 19 percent."
A nifty analysis by the Tax Policy Center at the end of Kessler's article makes the falsity of Obama's tweet even clearer. According to the analysis -- without the payroll taxes to skew the rates -- Americans earning less then $17,000 pay negative 5.8 percent in income tax, those in the $17,000-$33,500 bracket pay 1.3 percent, those in the $33,500-$59,500 pay 9.2 percent, those in the $59,000-$103,500 bracket pay 12.9 percent and those in the $103,000+ bracket pay 20.6 percent. Since middle class families pay 9.2 to 12.9 percent in income taxes, Obama's claims are completely unfounded.
If anything perhaps Kessler was a bit too kind, holding back from giving Obama 4 out of 4 Pinocchios.