On taxes, President Barack Obama wants to raise "the top rate to 44.8 percent."
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in a speech in Chicago
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The ruling: MOSTLY TRUE
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gave a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago on Monday. In it, he criticized President Barack Obama on tax policy.
Ryan said that his own budget plan makes "the tax code simpler, flatter, fairer, more globally competitive and less burdensome for working families and small businesses. By contrast, the president says he wants to eliminate deductions, but he also wants to raise rates. That includes raising the top rate to 44.8 percent."
A reader e-mailed us to ask whether the president really wants to raise rates to 44.8 percent, since the most widely discussed Obama tax proposal is to reinstate marginal income tax rates that were in effect for the wealthiest taxpayers before approval of tax cuts proposed by President George W. Bush. Obama's proposal to let Bush's tax cuts lapse would raise the top marginal income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent - not to the 44.8 percent that Ryan cited.
Ryan's spokesman Conor Sweeney sent us a document with the reasoning Ryan used to get to the 44.8 percent.
Here's the relevant portion:
Top statutory rate, 2010: 35 percent
Expiration of 2001-03 lower rates, 2011: 39.6 percent
PEP/Pease provisions reinstated, 2011: 41.6 percent
Net 2.3 percent Medicare tax on wages/salary: 43.9 percent
0.9 percent nondeductible Medicare tax, 2013: 44.8 percent
Ryan's staff made some assumptions about those percentages that would be open to critique. But even if you don't buy Ryan's assumptions, the most he'd be off in his final number is about 2 percentage points.
Now, how about the way Ryan described his number?
Usually, we've seen politicians use the term "the top rate" to refer to the marginal income tax rate for the highest tax bracket, not that tax rate plus several other taxes. But when we asked both liberal and conservative economists what they thought about Ryan's phrasing, most were largely untroubled.
So, the figure Ryan used is close to what the tax rate would be if Obama's agenda is followed, and a cross-section of economists we asked thought that Ryan's presentation of that number was reasonable. On balance, we rate it Mostly True.
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