While fact-checking the first presidential debate, the Times itself stumbled over its "facts." Saturday's Check Point, "From the Debate State, Some Distortions ," featured individual items reported by Larry Rohter, Jackie Calmes, Julie Bosman and Michael Luo. But Rohter's part of the fact-checking could use some fact-checking itself.
There are two apparent problems with Rohter's item on Tax Policy, excerpted here:
Mr. McCain charged that Mr. Obama voted "to increase taxes on people who make as low as $42,000 a year."
Mr. Obama interjected, "That's not true, John. That's not true." Mr. McCain's claim has been called "simply false" by the nonpartisan FactCheck.org .
It is based on Mr. Obama's vote for Senate Democrats' nonbinding budget resolution for fiscal 2009 that assumed all of President Bush's 2001 tax cuts would expire as scheduled in 2010. But Mr. Obama has promised that he would retain all of Mr. Bush's tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year. Mr. Obama has proposed other tax breaks for the middle class as well. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has concluded that 95 percent of families with children would get a tax break under Mr. Obama's plan, significantly more than under Mr. McCain.
Actually, FactCheck's presidential debate scorecard defended McCain on that charge. FactCheck.org did call "simply false"a chargethat McCain made against Obama's tax plan back in August, but defended the one McCain made in the presidential debate, as shown below:
Obama denied voting for a bill that called for increased taxes on "people" making as little as $42,000 a year, as McCain accused him of doing. McCain was right, though only for single taxpayers. A married couple would have had to make $83,000 to be affected by the vote, and anyway no such increase is in Obama's tax plan.
The key distinction is between "people" and "families."A previousMcCain charge that families making $42,000 would pay more in taxes is a charge that FactCheck decried as "simply  false " back on August 8:
A Spanish-language radio ad claims the measure Obama supported would have raised taxes on "families" making $42,000, which is simply false. Even a single mother with one child would have been able to make $58,650 without being affected. A family of four with income up to $90,000 would not have been affected.
So, what McCain said about "people" (at least single people) making $42,000 having their taxes raised by the measure Obama supported was correct.
That 95 percent is impossible since one-third of those who file with the IRS are "non-payers," people who end up paying no tax or get money back which exceeds their payments. Obama plans to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and create other credits. For those for whom the credits surpass their tax obligation, those are not tax cuts, but spending hikes or federal giveaways akin to welfare.