Rep. Paul Ryan Doesn't Deny Tax Cuts For The Rich Failed, Can't Explain Why They Are Important

September 14, 2010 10:53 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

This morning, Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appeared on NBC's The Today Show to promote their new book, Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders.  During the interview, host Meredith Viera asked the trio why Republicans are bent on giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, given that the Bush tax cuts failed to produce meaningful economic growth.  Ryan, who did not contest Viera's premise, responded by repeating the oft-told lie that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would affect 50 percent of small business income. 

VIERA: [T]hese tax cuts have been in existence for quite a while, these Bush tax cuts.  If they were designed to stimulate the economy and to create jobs, they didn't succeed.  So what's so good about them?

RYAN: Well, first of all, remember, half of all small business income will have a huge tax increase in January.  70 percent of our jobs come from small businesses.  So the last thing you want to do in an economy like this with 9.6 percent unemployment is have a big tax increase on small businesses, which is the engine of job creation in America. 

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The reality — which House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) acknowledged this weekend — is that just 3 percent of small business owners would be affected by the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the top two income brackets.  Furthermore, many wealthy individuals who earn income from sources other than a regular job (speaking engagements, consulting, etc.) can report their earnings as "small business" income.  Regardless, Ryan is distorting the facts: according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts would affect 50 percent of all business income, but that does "not imply that all of the income is from entities that might be considered 'small.'"

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