Fact Checking the Mitt Romney Tape and the Reaction
CNBC Senior Correspondent
Speaking at an Air Force Association seminar last October, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley warned about the potential automatic cuts on top of the cuts already proposed in the Obama administration’s budget.
“We are the smallest Air Force since 1947,” Donley said. “Our sense is, there’s not much waste to be found there.”
Still, the comparisons between today and 1947 — or 1917 — are somewhat simplistic since they do not account for changes in technology or warfare.
Romney’s comments about defense spending drew scant attention compared to his comments about Americans who do not pay income tax. Those comments are still rippling across the campaign landscape and leading to more crosscurrents with the facts.
The pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action quickly put out a new ad that repeats some old factual stretches.
“Romney will make things even tougher (for the middle class),” the ad says, “raising taxes by up to $2,000 to give multimillionaires a $250,000 tax break.”
Romney has promised to cut marginal tax rates by 20 percent.
In fact, Romney has promised to cut marginal tax rates by 20 percent across the board.
The charge about a $2,000 tax increase for the middle class comes from an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that says if Romney also keeps his promise to make his tax cuts revenue neutral, it would require “deep reductions in many popular tax benefits ranging from the mortgage interest deduction, the exclusion for employer-provided health insurance, the deduction for charitable contributions, and benefits for low and middle-income families and children like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit.”
Following that analysis, the TPC said, the average family making less than $200,000 a year with children would see a $2,000 tax increase (a family with the same income and no children would see a modest tax cut).
The ad’s claim that Romney would use the supposed $2,000 tax increase on the middle class to fund a $250,000 tax cut for multimillionaires is even more dubious. The figure comes from a different TPC analysis that considers the Romney plan without the so-called “base broadeners” that would make it revenue neutral.
Under that analysis, a family making $200,000 would also receive a tax cut, but at around $4,000 it would be much smaller in percentage terms than the millionaires’ cut. Regardless, Priorities USA Action appears to be cherry-picking its numbers from two different analyses, to create a scenario that bears little resemblance to what Romney has proposed.
The Romney campaign, meanwhile, struck back at the furor of the secret fundraiser video by unearthing a tape of its own. It includes audio of then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama in 1998 appearing to endorse redistribution of wealth — a concept that is anathema to conservatives. Romney seized on the tape during an interview with Fox News.
“We have two very different views about America. The president’s view is one of a larger government,” Romney said. “There’s a tape just came out today with the president saying he likes redistribution. I disagree.”
(Read More: Have Romney's Closet Advisers Failed Him? - Kudlow.)
Obama’s comments came during a 1998 conference at Loyola University of Chicago entitled “Conference on Chicago Research & Public Policy; linking Chicago Globally & Locally.”
In the discussion, which has been confirmed by the Obama campaign, he bemoans examples of poor public policymaking that feed what he calls “a propaganda campaign against the possibility of government action and its efficacy.” (Read More: Wall Street Hopes for Romney, but Expects Obama to Win.)
Obama calls for a restruction of government systems to “facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot.”
It is not the first time he has been accused of favoring redistribution of wealth, which was also a Republican campaign theme in 2008.
But if Obama did come into office favoring redistribution of wealth, he did not succeed, at least in his first term.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the share of wealth held by the top 10 percent grew to 74.5 percent in 2010, from 71.5 percent in 2007.
—By CNBC's Scott Cohn