Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sublime Bloviations: "PolitiFlub: The employee contribution to Social Security"

It's not often PolitiFact alters their standards so quickly on the exact same topic, but it happens. 

We spotted it right away and PFB editor Bryan White was on the case with his latest update regarding the recent flurry of tax related campaign flyers factchecks PolitiFact's been writing.

This one is pretty obvious. Let's see if our readers can spot it.

Here's PolitiFact's standard for determining tax contributions for Obama's hypothetical $50,000/year worker that pays a higher tax rate than someone making $50 million (bold added):
We asked two researchers at the [Brookings Institute] ... for their advice on how to factor in payroll taxes. They estimated that combining the workers’ share of the payroll tax with the employer’s share -- the usual practice among economists -- would mean an extra 15 percentage points for our hypothetical middle-class worker, and less than 2 additional percentage points for the high-income taxpayer.  Adding these to the percentages we previously found for the income tax alone produces a new, "final" rate of 22 to 23 percent for the construction worker...
Obama's final rating: Half True.

Here's their standard for determining the facts of Herman Cain's statement that "every worker pays 15.3 percent payroll tax":
What we found is that Cain is counting both worker and employer contributions to payroll taxes to arrive at the 15.3 percent number.
Cain said, "Every worker pays 15.3 percent payroll tax." That's not accurate. Workers only pay half that...You can reach that number only by including the half of the tax that employers pay.
If this sound went through your head just now; welcome to our world.

Instead of boring you with the rating they gave Cain, we suggest you head over to Bryan's article and read the whole thing

Once there you will find a deeper analysis as well as a handy chart Bryan has created that shows how PolitiFact has used one standard or the other in various tax fact checks.

Extra Credit: Guess which party benefits from the alternating definitions of what constitutes a tax contribution.

And if you haven't done so check out our recent reviews on this tax issue here and here.


  1. In our survey of the cases (which I believe is complete), only Democrats benefit unless we count lesser harm as a benefit. Republicans were the party harmed in two of the three cases of harm and the Democrat case was questionable given the overall questionably favorable rating.


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