Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - November 28, 2010

November 29, 2010 10:03 am ET

The political talk shows were relatively uneventful yesterday, but Arizona's two Republican senators both took time out of their holiday weekend to spread dishonest conservative talking points. On CNN's State of the Union, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended his widely ridiculed stance on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," wrongly insisting that the military's ban on gay and lesbian troops "is working." On NBC's Meet the Press, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) argued that the Senate does not have time to ratify a nuclear arms treaty in the lame duck session because they have to prevent "the largest tax increase in history," which is a bald-faced lie. Pressed on his position, Kyl eventually explained that he cannot support New START right now because of concerns about "modernization" and missile defense — a sentiment that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) echoed on Fox News Sunday — even though the general in charge of missile defense said the treaty will make his job easier and President Obama increased the budget for modernizing our nuclear arsenal. Kyl also repeated the debunked talking point that allowing upper-income tax cuts to expire would disproportionately hurt small businesses.

State Of The Union

CLAIM: Sen. McCain Claimed That "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is "Working"

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): [T]he fact is, this was a political promise made by an inexperienced president or candidate for presidency of the United States. The military is at its highest point in recruitment and retention and professionalism and capability, so to somehow allege that this policy has been damaging the military is simply false. So the fact is that this system is working, and I believe that we need to assess the effect on the morale and the battle effectiveness of those people that I -- those young Marines and Army people I met in forward operating bases that are putting their lives on the line every day.

FACT: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Damages Our National Security

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Harms Military Readiness. According to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" expert Dr. Nathaniel Frank: "Far from protecting military readiness, the policy has harmed it, sacrificing badly needed personnel that is replaced with less qualified talent; undermining cohesion, integrity, and trust through forced dishonesty; hurting the morale of gay troops by limiting their access to support services; wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars; invading the privacy of all service members-gay and non-gay alike-by casting a cloud of suspicion and uncertainty over the intimate lives of everyone in the armed forces; and damaging the military's reputation which makes it harder to recruit the best and brightest America has to offer." [The Palm Center, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Detailing The Damage," August 2010]

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Contributes To Shortage Of "Mission Critical" Personnel. According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, "since its enactment, this outmoded law has cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of service men and women who were working to keep our country safe.  Since 1994, the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy has resulted in the discharge of more than 13,000 military personnel across the services including approximately 800 with skills deemed 'mission critical,' such as pilots, combat engineers, and linguists. These are the very specialties for which the military has faced personnel shortfalls in recent years." [Center for American Progress ActionFund, 3/2/09]

Meet The Press

CLAIM: Sen. Kyl Suggested That Letting The Bush Tax Cuts Expire Would Result In "The Largest Tax Increase In The History Of The Country"

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ): It is, and it's more a view of reality rather than policy.  If the leader of the Senate, Senator Reid, were to allow a couple of weeks for full debate and amendment of the resolution of ratification, then theoretically there would be time.  But he has made it clear that he has a different agenda in mind.  And I, I think clearly they've got to set some priorities here.  Are they going to deal with the funding of the government for the remainder of the fiscal year?  They've got to do that.  Are they going to deal with the issue which is on everybody's mind, that you mentioned earlier, and that is to ensure that we don't have a big tax increase, the largest tax increase in the history of the country.  These are higher priority items.  And if we do those things and then potentially deal with some of the other political issues that Senator Reid has said he wants to deal with, in that event then there would not be time to do a START treaty as well.

FACT: Expiration Of Bush Tax Cuts Would NOT Be The Biggest Tax Hike In History

PolitiFact: Neither The Expiration Of All The Bush Tax Cuts Nor Those For High Earners Would Be "The Largest" Tax Hike In History. According to the non-partisan PolitiFact.com, in an analysis of a similar claim made by Sarah Palin on Fox News Sunday:

We ran the number with some help from tax experts and found that if only the tax cuts for high earners expire, the resulting tax increases would not be the largest in history. Tax increases for high earners would be roughly 0.4 percent of GDP in the first year they take effect. That's significantly less than a 1982 tax increase signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. The tax increase resulting from the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 came to 1.23 percent of GDP when the tax changes were fully implemented, four years after the law's passage.

If you let all the Bush tax cuts expire, the tax increase would come to just above 2.2 percent of GDP. Clearly, that would be larger than the Reagan tax hike of 1982. But it would be smaller than one of the tax increases passed during World War II -- the Revenue Act of 1942, which is estimated at 5.04 percent of GDP. [PolitiFact.com, 8/1/10, emphasis added]

FACT: Democratic Leaders Favor Extending Tax Cuts For 97 Percent Of Americans

Speaker Pelosi: High-End Tax Cuts Should End. According to The Hill: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday rejected extending tax cuts for the wealthiest tax bracket that are set to expire at the end of the year. Pelosi took off the table a short-term extension of those cuts floated by some lawmakers in her own party. 'No,' the speaker said at her weekly press conference when asked if the cuts for the highest bracket should be extended. 'Our position has been that we support middle-class tax cuts. ... I believe the high-end tax cuts did not create any jobs, increased the deficit and should be repealed,' she said." [The Hill7/22/10, emphasis added]

PolitiFact: Dems Consistently Say Only Tax Cuts For Wealthiest Will Be Allowed To Expire. According to the non-partisan PolitiFact.com, in their analysis of an allegation from Rep. Mike Pence that Democrats want all tax brackets to rise:

Do Democrats want every tax bracket to rise, as Pence suggests? In a word, no.

For many months, Democratic officials have consistently said that they intend to let only the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals lapse. The cutoff they usually suggest is $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. President Obama campaigned on just such a plan, and we've logged those promises into our Obameter campaign promises database.


Pence is right that every tax bracket will go up if the law is not extended. Still, we think the claim that Democrats don't want to extend the law is inaccurate. While the legislative drafting is still in process, the Democratic majority in Congress has made clear that it plans to extend tax cuts for all but the top couple percentage points of the income distribution. So it's highly misleading for him to say that Democrats actually want to see all the bill's cuts expire. Indeed, Pence's comment verges on a scare tactic.

[PolitiFact.com, 7/22/10, emphasis original]

Reuters: "Two To Three Percent Of Americans" Are Affected By Democrats' Proposals. According to Reuters: "Lawmakers are mulling the renewal of tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 under former president George W. Bush that expire at the end of this year. President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress want to extend the lower rates for individuals earning less than $200,000 or couples making less than $250,000. About two to three percent of Americans fit into the upper income categories." [Reuters7/21/10]

Treasury Secretary Geithner: We Will Extend Middle- And Lower-Income Provisions Of Bush Tax Cuts. According to the Wall Street Journal: "The Obama administration will allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire on schedule, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday, setting up a clash with Republicans and a small but vocal group of Democrats who want to delay the looming tax increases. Mr. Geithner said the White House would allow taxes on top earners to increase in 2011 as part of an effort to bring down the U.S. budget deficit. He said the White House plans to extend expiring tax cuts for middle- and lower-income Americans, and expects to undertake a broader revision of the tax code next year. 'We believe it is appropriate to let those tax cuts that go to the most fortunate expire,' Mr. Geithner said at a breakfast with reporters." [Wall Street Journal7/23/10, emphasis added]

New York Times: Obama Plan Leaves Much Of The Bush Tax Cuts In Place. The New York Times prepared an infographic showing where President Obama seeks to change Bush-era tax law, and where he intends to leave it unchanged:


[New York Times7/25/10]

CLAIM: Sen. Kyl Repeated Talking Point That Ending The Bush Tax Cuts For The Wealthy Would Hurt Small Business Owners

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ): Our position, the Republican position is, and I think we're pretty unanimous on this is that there should be no tax increase on anybody, particularly in this time of very difficult economic difficulties for people in all parts of the country, and especially for the job creators, the small business folks, who would get hurt the most by a tax increase.  They're the ones who create the, the job opportunities and, frankly, represent about 25 percent of all of the workers in the country.  They don't need their taxes raised and, frankly, that can be done in this lame duck session if we have the time to do it, we sit down and work it out, and focus our priorities there rather then on some of the other things that I mentioned earlier.

DAVID GREGORY (HOST): But that's a no, you would not, you would not vote for a middle class tax cut extension if did not include, did not include upper earners?

SEN. KYL: We don't believe taxes should be increased on anyone.  Those so-called upper earners that you're talking about are the very small business folks that I'm talking about.

FACT: The Republican Definition Of "Small Business" Includes Massive Corporations, President Obama, and Billionaires

Bush Economist: Businesses Republicans Define As "Small" Are Actually "Very Large." According to the Washington Post: "Alan Viard, an economist in the Bush White House who is now at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed that many firms represented in the top tax brackets are hardly small. Economically, that doesn't matter, he said: Obama would still be raising taxes on a significant source of jobs and economic activity. Politically, however, it's a very different matter to raise taxes on a Wall Street hedge fund than it is to tax your neighborhood dry cleaner. Which is why Republicans continually define pass-through entities of all sizes as small businesses, a position Viard called a 'fallacy.' 'How can it be that 3 percent of owners are accounting for 50 percent of small business income? Those firms they're owning can't be all that small,' Viard said. 'And that's true. They're very large.'" [Washington Post, 9/17/10, emphasis added]

By Defining All "Pass-Through" Entities As "Small Businesses," Republicans Are Counting A Wall Street Firm Worth $54 Billion As "Small." As reported by the Washington Post:

The thing is, some of those businesses are not particularly small. In fact, they're quite large.

Among the firms Republicans want to protect from new taxes, according to research by House Democrats: The management team at Wall Street buyout firm Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR), which recently reported more than $54 billion in assets managed by 14 offices around the world. Auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, a household name with operations in more than 150 countries. And the Tribune Corp., which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun.

KKR, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Tribune, it turns out, are organized as "pass-through" entities - companies that typically avoid corporate taxes by reporting profits on the individual tax returns of their owners, managers or shareholders. [Washington Post, 9/17/10, emphasis added]

Bloomberg: GOP Definition Of Small Business Includes "George Soros, Most Movie Stars And Obama Himself." According to Bloomberg:

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says President Barack Obama wants to subject half of all small-business income to a tax increase, a move that he says would strike a blow at the U.S. job-creation engine.

McConnell's numbers only add up if you consider people like billionaire investor George Soros, most movie stars and Obama himself small-business owners, tax experts say.

That's because the lawmaker is basing his figure on a broad definition of the term that experts say includes authors, actors and athletes who employ few if any workers. It also encompasses businesses that many people wouldn't consider small, such as Soros's hedge-fund firm and major law partnerships. [Bloomberg, 9/20/10]

Republican Definition Includes Athletes, Authors, And Other Non-Employer Tax Filers. According to Businessweek: "McConnell's 50-percent-of-income figure is based on a July 12 finding by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a House-Senate panel that analyzes tax issues, that half of about $1 trillion of business income in 2011 will be reported on some 750,000 personal tax returns filed by people who pay the top marginal rates. He calls those small businesses. Yet the report says the data 'do not imply that all of the income is from entities that might be considered 'small.'' Almost 20,000 of those businesses, for example, had receipts of more than $50 million, it says.  Besides Obama, McConnell's 50 percent figure includes authors, actors, athletes, and others who employ few if any workers, as well as hedge fund firms and major law partnerships most people wouldn't consider small. 'We are being over-inclusive in our use of small business income,' says Edward D. Kleinbard, a former staff director of the Joint Committee on Taxation who is now a University of Southern California law professor." [Businessweek, 9/23/10, emphasis added]

FACT: Only A Tiny Fraction Of Small Businesses Fall Into The Top Two Tax Brackets

CAP: "Exceedingly Few Small Businesses" Fall Into Top Tax Brackets. From the Center for American Progress: "Exceedingly few small businesses will be affected if the Bush tax rates for the rich expire, and those that are will be making enough money to be paying in the top two income tax brackets. At the end of the day, just 12 percent of the revenue raised by allowing those tax breaks to expire will be paid by business people with employees, according to the Congressional Research Service." [Center for American Progress, 11/15/10]

FactCheck.org: "Only 2 Percent" Of Those Reporting Business Income Face Higher Taxes Under Demoratic Proposal. According to FactCheck.org: "[O]nly 27 percent of all upper-income tax filers report business income that accounts for more than half of their wages. It's likely that a small-business owner would make most of his or her income from the small business... In the end, it's unclear exactly what percentage of these top earners are truly small businesses. What is clear, however, is that we're not talking about all that many small businesses in the first place. The vast majority of individuals who report business income or losses are not making upwards of $200,000 a year. In fact, only 2 percent of all those reporting business income in 2009 will earn enough to fall in the top two brackets. As we explained back when Obama's tax plan was attacked on the campaign trail, the overwhelming majority of these mom-and-pop shops we hear about would not see their taxes go up under Obama's proposal." [FactCheck.org, 3/6/09, emphasis added]

Just 12 Percent Of Money Raised By Increasing Top Rates Comes From "Small Businesses With Actual Workers." As reported by Businessweek: "The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which analyzes issues for lawmakers, largely agreed with Obama in a Sept. 3 report that considered only taxpayers with employees. Its conclusion: Small businesses with actual workers would pay only about 12 percent of the higher taxes. 'Across-the-board tax cuts for high-income individuals are not efficiently targeted to small businesses,' wrote author Jane G. Gravelle." [Businessweek, 9/23/10, emphasis added]

Allowing Tax Cuts For The Rich To Expire Will Not "Adversely Affect Small Business And Job Growth." According to the Congressional Research Service, "Research has shown that tax cuts directed to high income taxpayers have a small stimulative effect because they tend to save any additional income. Increasing tax rates for the richest 2% of taxpayers (by allowing the high income tax cuts to expire) will likely neither significantly decrease consumer expenditures nor adversely affect small business and job growth." [Congressional Research Service, 10/27/10, internal citation deleted for clarity]

CLAIM: Sen. Kyl Suggested That New START Would Impede Nuclear Modernization And Missile Defense

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ): But specifically to your question, there are a series of issues that relate, first off all, to provisions of the treaty itself and how it deals with missile defense and conventional prompt global strike and some other issues.  Secondly, you have the question of modernization, which is the thing that Senator Durbin pointed out that I had been primarily focused on. And third, you have questions extraneous to the treaty but within the context, which is, is this all that's standing between us today and the administration trying to negotiate even deeper, further cuts, which it's indicated that it wants to do in its march toward global zero, something that a lot of us disagree with. [Meet the Press, 11/28/10]

CLAIM: Sen. Graham Suggested That New START Would Limit Missile Defense Programs

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It would be good for the United States and Russia to enter into the START treaty if it is a good treaty. The question for me, are we sure, are we absolutely certain that we can proceed with missile defense development apart from the START treaty? It is my belief you cannot allow the START treaty to interfere with the missile defense of this nation. [Fox News Sunday, 11/28/10]

FACT: General In Charge Of Missile Defense Says New START Will Help, Not Hinder, Missile Defense Efforts

Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly: "The New START Treaty Has No Constraints On...The Ballistic Missile Defense System." In testimony before the House Armed Forces Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly said: "The New START Treaty has no constraints on current and future components of the BMDS development or deployment. Article V, Section 3 of the treaty prohibits the conversion of ICBM or SLBM launchers to missile defense launchers, and vice versa, while "grandfathering" the five former ICBM silos at Vandenberg AFB already converted for Ground Based Interceptors. MDA never had a plan to convert additional ICBM silos at Vandenberg and intends to hedge against increased BMDS requirements by completing construction of Missile Field 2 at Fort Greely. Moreover, we determined that if more interceptors were to be added at Vandenberg AFB, it would be less expensive to build a new GBI missile field (which is not prohibited by the treaty). Regarding SLBM launchers, some time ago we examined the concept of launching missile defense interceptors from submarines and found it an unattractive and extremely expensive option." [Gen. O'Reilly Testimony, 4/15/10]

Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly: New START Treaty "Actually Reduces Constraints On The Development Of The Missile Defense Program." In testimony before the House Armed Forces Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly said: "Relative to the recently expired START Treaty, the New START Treaty actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program. Unless they have New-START accountable first stages (which we do not plan to use), our targets will no longer be subject to START constraints, which limited our use of air-to-surface and waterborne launches of targets which are essential for the cost-effective testing of missile defense interceptors against MRBM and IRBM targets in the Pacific area. In addition, under New START, we will no longer be limited to five space launch facilities for target launches." [Gen. O'Reilly Testimony, 4/15/10]

  • Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly Serves As Director Of The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency. According to his biography on the Missile Defense Agency website: "Lieutenant General Patrick J. O'Reilly is the Director for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), Office of the Secretary of Defense, Pentagon, Washington, DC. In this capacity, he oversees MDA's worldwide mission to develop a capability to defend deployed forces, the United States, Allies, and friends against ballistic missile attacks." [MDA.mil, accessed 11/14/10]

AP: New START "Doesn't Place Any Practical Constraints On Missile Defense." According to the Associated Press: "The treaty doesn't place any practical constraints on missile defense. The document's preamble, which is not legally binding, acknowledges a link between nuclear weapons and missile defense. It's an assertion that was accepted by George W. Bush's administration: The point of missile defense is to counteract nuclear-tipped missiles." [Associated Press, 11/19/10]

FACT: President Obama Has Requested 10% Boost In Funding For Missile Maintenance

President Obama's 2011 Budget Requests 10% Increase In Funding For Organization That Maintains Our Nuclear Stockpile. According to the Arms Control Association: "For Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, the Obama administration is requesting $7 billion, a 10 percent increase, in funding for weapons activities in the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees the U.S. nuclear stockpile and production complex. The administration plans to spend an additional $5 billion on NNSA nuclear weapons activities over the next five years." [Arms Control Association, 4/27/10]

We Are Constantly Modernizing Our Weapons Arsenal. As the Brookings Institution's Stephen Pifer explained, "We [the US] take a missile frame and we modernize it, and we refurbish it, whereas the Russian practice is to take a missile, they use it for 15 years and then they replace it completely. So you'll see new numbers coming up on the Russian side and you may think that, gosh, the Americans are still deploying these 1970s missiles. I suspect when they retire the last Minuteman III in 2030, it may have three of the original bolts on it from 1970 but it's going to be a very different missile." [Arms Control Association, 12/9/09, emphasis added]

  • US Presently Has 5,113 Nuclear Warheads. As the Financial Times reported, "In an announcement timed to coincide with the opening of the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation conference in New York, the Pentagon said it had a nuclear stockpile of 5,113 warheads as of September 30 2009." [Financial Times, 5/4/10]