Fact checkers have been notoriously left-leaning in their insistence on nitpicking things Republicans say while ignoring major lies told by Democrats.
For example, on Monday, The Washington Post’s fact checker refused to give Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez any Pinocchios for her blatantly false claims about her Green New Deal FAQ. Instead, the checker went after President Donald Trump.
But also on Monday, the Post decided to actually fact check leading 2020 presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) over a tweet claiming that Trump’s tax cuts were actually tax hikes on the middle class.
“The average tax refund is down about $170 compared to last year. Let’s call the President’s tax cut what it is: a middle-class tax hike to line the pockets of already wealthy corporations and the 1%,” Harris tweeted that afternoon.
The tweet was referring to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) report showing the average tax refund was down 8% compared with last year.
“Boy, talk about a non sequitur that turns out to be nonsensical and misleading,” wrote fact checker Glenn Kessler.
Thankfully, Kessler notes that the size of a tax refund has nothing to do with whether someone paid more in taxes. The tax law enacted by Trump changed withholding tables, and even though the IRS told people to update their W-4 forms, most Americans didn’t.
About 80% of all taxpayers received a tax cut thanks to the law, according to the Tax Policy Center. Because the withholding tables changed, Americans’ paychecks were bigger — meaning they kept more of their own money.
But when that happens, it will also, in most cases, mean one gets a smaller refund.
“Though few people look at this way, a smaller tax refund means you gave less of a loan to the U.S. government over the course of the year. Ideally, you should end up with no refund or tax dues,” Kessler wrote.
The fact checker then goes back to the second part of Harris’ tweet, where she claims taxes were raised on middle-class Americans so the wealthy could get more money.
“As we have explained before, any broad-based tax cut is going to mostly benefit the wealthy because they already pay a large share of income taxes. According to Treasury Department data, the top 20 percent of income earners paid 95.2 percent of individual income taxes in 2017. The top 10 percent paid 81 percent. The top 0.1 percent paid an astonishing 24.1 percent of taxes,” Kessler wrote.
Even after an email exchange with Harris’ spokesman, Kessler gave the California senator four Pinocchios, designating her tweet a “whopper.”
Harris was correct that tax refunds are down an average of 8% in the first week of data. If congress allows these tax cuts to expire in 10 years — which is unlikely — then taxes would be raised.
“But Harris presented these facts without nuance or qualification, making it appear as though the smaller tax refunds were evidence of a tax hike on the middle class. In reality, the size of a tax refund reflects nothing about the size of a tax cut or tax increase — and at least in 2018, the vast majority of middle-class Americans can expect to pay less in taxes as a result of the Trump tax law,” Kessler concluded.