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Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: Cuts in debt limit deal pay for half of Bush tax cuts

The statement

"The estimated savings of this (debt ceiling) deal only pay for half of the cost of extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts for another decade."

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., in a news release

The ruling

The deal passed by Congress expanded the nation's debt limit to $16.4 trillion — a $2.1 trillion increase that will give the federal government enough money to pay its bills until early 2013.

The measure requires Congress to cut $2.4 trillion out of the budget over the next 10 years.

The deal calls for $900 billion in cuts up front. A recently appointed bipartisan deficit reduction panel is charged with finding an additional $1.5 trillion.

If the committee deadlocks, there's a trigger in the legislation that would enact $1.2 trillion in cuts to domestic and defense spending.

So the total reduction would be at least $2.1 trillion and could be as much as $2.4 trillion.

The Bush tax cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003 and were scheduled to expire in 2010. Congress, at the end of last year, extended them through 2012.

Scott pointed us to Congressional Budget Office reports that say the total cost of keeping the tax cuts through 2020 is $3.9 trillion. Of that amount, $3.3 trillion comes from lost revenues and the cost of interest payments needed to service the additional debt caused by the tax relief.

The remaining $600 billion is the cost of maintaining adjustments to the Alternative Minimum Tax. The Bush tax cuts required many Americans who had once itemized their returns to pay the more expensive AMT. As a result, about 20 million Americans lost part or all of the benefits of the tax relief. Congress came to their aid by increasing AMT exemptions.

Three analysts said it's legitimate to lump together the expense of extending Bush tax cuts for 10 years with the costs related to increasing the AMT exemptions.

So Scott says spending cuts required by the recent debt-limit deal pay half the cost of maintaining the Bush tax cuts through 2020.

Scott figures $2.1 trillion in spending reductions will result from the agreement. The CBO says the total cost of extending the Bush tax cuts through 2020 is $3.9 trillion. That means the spending cuts would equal 53.8 percent of the Bush tax cut costs through the end of the decade.

We rate this claim True.

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: Cuts in debt limit deal pay for half of Bush tax cuts 08/30/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 9:30pm]
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