Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - May 8, 2011

May 09, 2011 9:51 am ET

The right wing deployed its war-on-terror heavy hitters to Sunday's political shows to proclaim that waterboarding — or "enhanced interrogation" — was what got us to Osama bin Laden. Former Vice President Dick Cheney (R) said those methods got us "the early leads" while his daughter Liz claimed CIA Director Leon Panetta credits the bin Laden intelligence to harsh interrogations, Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) insisted they played "a significant role," and former Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld (R) said "it's clear" that the interrogation program "worked." But the pro-torture right protests too much; there's no clear evidence "enhanced interrogation" led us to bin Laden, and Panetta's comments were not so clear-cut as Liz Cheney claimed. Meanwhile, on CNN, former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) misled viewers about Democratic debt-reduction plans and claimed — wrongly — that the Bush tax cuts haven't helped the wealthy or hurt the rest of us.

CLAIM: Conservatives Claimed "Enhanced Interrogations" Provided Intelligence That Led To Bin Laden

FMR. VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I think we'll know more in the days ahead on a whole range of issues with respect to the bin Laden operation. But as best I can tell from the people I talk with and worked with, whether we talk about Jose Rodriguez who ran the um, counterterrorism program, Michael Mukasey who was the Attorney General, Leon Panetta all have said one way or another that the enhanced interrogation program played a role. That is to say that some of the early leads came out of that program. My guess is that's probably the case that it contributed, just as a number of other factors. [Fox News Sunday, 5/8/11]

FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI: I thought that Mr. Donilon's failure to answer your question spoke very loudly about the fact that waterboarding, enhanced interrogation techniques, played a significant role in this. Maybe not the critical role, maybe the critical role, but certainly a significant role. And it just makes sense. I mean, these kinds of materials are not obtained easily. [Meet the Press, 5/8/11]

FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: But three—three CIA directors, George Tenet, Porter Goss, And General Hayden have all said that the take from those three people who were waterboarded constituted a major fraction of all our knowledge about al Qaeda. The fourth CIA director, Panetta, Leon Panetta, has said very recently on television that some of that information was part of a patchwork or mosaic that led to the attack on Osama bin Laden. So I think that it's clear that in those techniques that the CIA used worked. And to have taken them away and ruled them out I think may be a mistake. [Face the Nation, 5/8/11]

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR (host): Liz, does this reignite this debate as to whether these enhanced interrogation techniques work and should be brought back?

LIZ CHENEY: I think it does. I think the fact that you clearly have the current CIA director saying that part of the intelligence came from enhanced interrogation. [This Week, 5/8/11]

FACT: Role Of "Enhanced Interrogation" Program — If Any — Remains In Dispute

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "Did Not Reveal The Names" That Led To Courier "While Being Subjected To The Simulated Drowning Technique Known As Waterboarding." As reported by the Associated Press: "[Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic." [Associated Press, 5/3/11, emphasis added, via WHEC.com]

While CIA Dir. Panetta Said Individuals Who Were Waterboarded Provided Information Used To Find Bin Laden, He Did Not Say That "Enhanced Interrogations" Produced That Intelligence Directly. In an interview with NBC, CIA Director Leon Panetta said: "In the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information, and that was true here. We had a multiple source, uh, a multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation. Clearly some of it came from detainees and the  interrogation of detainees, but we also had information from other sources as well, from SIGINT intelligence, from imagery, from other sources that we had, assets on the ground, and it was a combination of all of that that ultimately we were able to put together that led us to that compound. So it's a little difficult to say that it was due to just one source of information that we got. [...] No, I think some of the detainees clearly were uh, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I'm also saying that the debate about whether we would've gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always gonna be an open question." [NBC Nightly News, 5/3/11, via MSNBC.com]

Chair Of Senate Intelligence Committee: "To The Best Of Our Knowledge...None Of It Came As A Result Of Harsh Interrogation Practices." As reported by Talking Points Memo: "More and more evidence suggests a key piece of intelligence -- the first link in the chain of information that led U.S. intelligence officials to Osama bin Laden -- wasn't tortured out of its source. And, indeed, that torture actually failed to produce it. 'To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices,' said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a wide-ranging press conference." [Talking Points Memo5/3/11]

Sen. Lindsey Graham: "Idea That We Caught Bin Laden Because Of Waterboarding ... Is A Misstatement." As reported by Talking Points Memo: "Not all Republicans are claiming that bin Laden's killing vindicates torture. At a Capitol press conference Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stood apart from his colleagues in the GOP. 'This idea we caught bin Laden because of waterboarding I think is a misstatement,' he said. 'This whole concept of how we caught bin Laden is a lot of work over time by different people and putting the puzzle together. I do not believe this is a time to celebrate waterboarding, I believe this is a time to celebrate hard work.'" [Talking Points Memo5/3/11, emphasis added]

FACT: Detainees Subjected To Harsh Interrogations Reportedly Lied About Identity Of Bin Laden's Courier

Identity Of Bin Laden's Personal Courier Was "Key Break" In Hunt For Al Qaeda Leader. From the Associated Press: "When one of Osama bin Laden's most trusted aides picked up the phone last year, he unknowingly led U.S. pursuers to the doorstep of his boss, the world's most wanted terrorist. That monitored phone call, recounted Monday by a U.S. official, ended a years-long search for bin Laden's personal courier, the key break in a worldwide manhunt." [Associated Press, 5/3/11, via WHEC.com]

Individuals Who Were Subjected To "Enhanced Interrogation" Actually Lied To Interrogators About Names Of Bin Laden Couriers. From the New York Times: "But a closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden's trusted courier and exposing his hide-out. One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of the courier, according to current and former officials briefed on the interrogations. But two prisoners who underwent some of the harshest treatment - including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times - repeatedly misled their interrogators about the courier's identity. [...] In 2002 and 2003, interrogators first heard about a Qaeda courier who used the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, but his name was just one tidbit in heaps of uncorroborated claims. [...] According to an American official familiar with his interrogation, Mr. Mohammed was first asked about Mr. Kuwaiti in the fall of 2003, months after the waterboarding. He acknowledged having known him but said the courier was 'retired' and of little significance." [New York Times, 5/3/11, emphasis added]

State of the Union

CLAIM: Fmr. Rep. Davis Claimed Democrats Have "Opted Out" Of Making "A Meaningful Deal" On The Budget

FMR. REP. TOM DAVIS (R-VA): The president loses an opportunity to get a budget deal, which would have to include Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, these fast-growing programs in government, if you want a meaningful deal on this. And I think they've opted out of that at this point.

FACT: Democrats Have Proposed Multiple Plans For "Meaningful" Debt Reduction That Include Entitlement Programs

President Obama Announced Plan To Reduce Debt By $4 Trillion Over 12 Years Compared To Current Forecasts. As reported by the Washington Post: "President Obama entered the debate about the national debt on Wednesday after months on the sidelines, offering a plan to trim borrowing by $4 trillion over the next 12 years by combining deep cuts in military and domestic spending with higher taxes on the wealthy. In a stinging rebuke to Republican budget-cutters, Obama acknowledged that the debt must be tackled faster than he has previously proposed, but he rejected GOP calls to make fundamental changes to Medicare and Medicaid and to scale back his initiative to expand health-care coverage to the uninsured." [Washington Post, 4/13/11]

  • President Obama's Plan Would Look For Savings In Medicare And Use Program's Purchasing Power To Drive Down Costs. In an April 13, 2011, speech on the budget and deficit reduction, President Obama said:

Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion. My approach would build on these reforms. We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments. We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare's purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market. We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid.

We will change the way we pay for health care - not by the procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results. And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services that seniors need.

Now, we believe the reforms we've proposed to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid will enable us to keep these commitments to our citizens while saving us $500 billion by 2023, and an additional $1 trillion in the decade after that. But if we're wrong, and Medicare costs rise faster than we expect, then this approach will give the independent commission the authority to make additional savings by further improving Medicare. [President Obama Remarks, 4/13/11, emphasis added]

  • President's Plan Includes "Debt Fail-Safe Trigger" To Ensure Debt Reduction At Promised Levels. As reported by the Washington Post: "In fact, the president offered his own alternative Wednesday: a 'debt fail-safe trigger' that would cut spending across the board if lawmakers did not approve policies that would set the debt on a downward path by 2014. The trigger should spare Social Security, Medicare and programs for the poor, Obama said, and should raise taxes by cutting dozens of tax breaks that benefit people and corporations." [Washington Post, 4/13/11]

CBPP: "The President's Plan Stands In Sharp Contrast" To GOP Budget That Would "Increase The Costs Of Providing Health Care To Beneficiaries." According to Robert Greenstein, founder of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The President's plan stands in sharp contrast to the budget plan that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled, and his committee approved, last week.  Unlike the Ryan plan, the President's plan puts all parts of the budget on the table, including defense and revenues.  Unlike the Ryan plan, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found would increase the costs of providing health care to Medicare beneficiaries, the President's plan contains measures to reduce these costs.  CBO estimates that Chairman Ryan's Medicare proposals would substantially raise overall costs per beneficiary.  Ryan's plan reduces federal Medicare expenditures only because it dramatically shifts more of these costs on to the backs of beneficiaries, who CBO says would see the amount they pay for health care more than double by 2022 (for people turning 65 in 2022 or subsequent years).  In short, Ryan's plan doesn't lower health costs; it shifts them.  The President's plan, by contrast, seeks to reduce underlying health costs themselves. [CBPP.org, 4/13/11, emphasis added]

The House Voted On Five Budget Resolutions, Three From Democrats, In April. As reported by the Christian Science Monitor:

On Friday, the House voted on five budget plans for fiscal year 2012, each with dramatically different strategies to resolve the nation's fiscal woes. Here are details of those five plans:

  • The GOP leadership plan, developed by House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, lowered both individual and corporate tax rates and capped government spending as a percentage of gross domestic product. It also significantly overhauled Medicare and Medicaid, shifting costs to individuals and the states. It passed with no Democrat votes, 235 to 193.
  • Democrats on the House budget panel, led by Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, aimed to bring the budget back toward "primary balance" by fiscal year 2018 by freezing nondefense spending for five years, ending tax breaks to oil and gas industries, and not renewing the Bush-era tax cuts. It failed 166 to 259, with no Republican votes.
  • GOP conservatives proposed even deeper cuts in entitlement programs: They'd increase the retirement age for Social Security to 70 and raise the eligibility age for Medicare to 67. It failed 119 to 120, with no Democratic votes. (In a last-minute maneuver, all but 16 Democrats voted "present" - a move that could have allowed the measure to defeat the more moderate Ryan proposal.)
  • The Congressional Black Caucus aimed to cut deficits by nearly $3.96 trillion over 10 years, mainly by increasing revenue - ending, specifically, the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy. It failed 103 to 303. Seventy-five Democrats voted with all Republicans in opposition.
  • The Congressional Progressive Caucus outlined the reduction of deficits by $5.7 trillion over the next 10 years, mostly by increasing taxes by some $4 trillion and cutting defense spending by $2.3 trillion. The measure failed 77 to 347, with 108 Democrats joining all Republicans in opposition. [Christian Science Monitor, 4/18/11, emphasis added]

EPI: Congressional Progressive Caucus's "People's Budget" Ends Federal Deficits By 2021. According to the Economic Policy Institute: "[T]he People's Budget would reduce primary spending by $868.9 billion, increase general revenue by $2.8 trillion, and increase payroll tax receipts by $1.2 trillion over a decade relative to the adjusted CBO baseline. [...] In total, the People's Budget would reduce deficits by $5.6 trillion over 2012-21 relative to the adjusted CBO baseline. The People's Budget is projected to turn from budget deficit to budget surplus in 2021, with a surplus of $30.7 billion ... in that year." [EPI.org, 4/13/11, emphasis added]

  • The Economist: Overlooked CPC Resolution Would Balance Budget A Decade Sooner Than Republican Plan. From The Economist:

Well, here's a test case. Mr Miller's column notes that "the Congressional Progressive Caucus plan wins the fiscal responsibility derby thus far; it reaches balance by 2021 largely through assorted tax hikes and defense cuts." Which is pretty interesting. Have you ever heard of the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget plan? Neither had I. The caucus's co-chairs, Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, released it on April 6th. The budget savings come from defence cuts, including immediately withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq, which saves $1.6 trillion over the CBO baseline from 2012-2021. The tax hikes include restoring the estate tax, ending the Bush tax cuts, and adding new tax brackets for the extremely rich, running from 45% on income over a million a year to 49% on income over a billion a year.

Mr Ryan's plan adds (by its own claims) $6 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, but promises to balance the budget by sometime in the 2030s by cutting programmes for the poor and the elderly. The Progressive Caucus's plan would (by its own claims) balance the budget by 2021 by cutting defence spending and raising taxes, mainly on rich people. Mr Ryan has been fulsomely praised for his courage. The Progressive Caucus has not. [The Economist, 4/22/11, emphasis added, parentheses original]

Congressional Black Caucus Introduced Budget Resolution To Cut $5.7 Trillion From Projected Debt Levels. As reported by ColorLines: "The Congressional Black Caucus this week continued its tradition of releasing an alternative budget - something the caucus says its done nearly every year since 1981. The CBC Fiscal Year 2012 budget restores some of the cuts to funding proposed by President Barack Obama-particularly the cuts that hurt poor people and people of color. Programs like the heating assistance program, community development grants, and Pell grants would all see their funds returned to current levels. It would also increase funding to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund. Crediting 'tough, responsible decisions,' which include allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire, and increasing other tax-based revenue, the CBC claims its budget will save $5.7 trillion on the deficit." [ColorLines.com, 4/14/11]

  • Congressional Black Caucus Has One Republican Member, 42 Democrats. The CBC's website lists Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and 42 Democratic U.S. Representatives as members. [House.gov, accessed 4/25/11]

CLAIM: Fmr. Rep. Davis Implied That Current Tax Policies Do Not Favor The Wealthy Or Hurt The Underclass

FMR. REP. TOM DAVIS: Candy, 51 percent of American households pay no federal income tax, the IRS announced last week. This is hardly a situation where the underclass is being overtaxed and the underclass [sic] are getting off.

FACT: In The Decade Since The Bush Tax Cuts, Income Inequality Increased Dramatically While The Economy Stagnated

During Bush Years, Household Income Declined For First Time On Record. According to a report by the Center for American Progress: "The Bush economic cycle saw the first decline in median household incomes of any cycle since 1967, when the Census Bureau began tracking household data."

[Center for American Progress, February 2009]

Since 2001, Wealthiest 1 Percent Have Seen Income Skyrocket While Bottom 80 Percent Have Seen Incomes Shrink Or Remain Constant. Mother Jones prepared a chart based on Congressional Budget Office data showing the differences in average income and share of total income between different groups in the country over time:

 [Mother Jones, March/April 2011]

Bush Tax Cuts Followed By "The Slowest Average Annual Growth Since World War II." As the New York Times' David Leonhardt explains:

Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.

The competition for slowest growth is not even close, either. Growth from 2001 to 2007 averaged 2.39 percent a year (and growth from 2001 through the third quarter of 2010 averaged 1.66 percent). The decade with the second-worst showing for growth was 1971 to 1980 - the dreaded 1970s - but it still had 3.21 percent average growth.


Is there good evidence the tax cuts persuaded more people to join the work force (because they would be able to keep more of their income)? Not really. The labor-force participation rate fell in the years after 2001 and has never again approached its record in the year 2000.

Is there evidence that the tax cuts led to a lot of entrepreneurship and innovation? Again, no. The rate at which start-up businesses created jobs fell during the past decade.

[New York Times, 11/18/10]

OMBwatch: "Income Growth Has Become Increasingly Concentrated At The Top Of The Income Scale." According to OMBwatch.org: "Though the Bush administration continues to laud the strength of the economy and the success of its economic and tax policies, a large percentage of Americans are continuing to struggle to make ends meet as income growth has become increasingly concentrated at the top of the income scale. Income inequality, in fact, is at an all-time high, illustrating that current tax, budget, and wage and employment policies are all not working in favor of average American families." [OMBwatch.org, 3/21/06]

FACT: Because Tax Cuts For The Wealthy Did Not Produce Promised Economic Growth, Programs For The Disadvantaged Will Be Cut To Pay For The Bush Tax Breaks

Bush Tax Cuts Result In Tax Increases Or Dramatic Benefit Cuts For 80 Percent Of Households. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

When the tax cuts ultimately are paid for, the costs will be very large and the choices difficult, especially given the bleak long-term deficit outlook.  Once the tax cuts are fully in effect, their annual cost will be equal, in today's terms, to the entire annual budgets of the Departments of Education, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans' Affairs, State, Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency combined.  If the tax cuts are extended without offsets, balancing the budget in 2012 will require cutting Social Security benefits by 36 percent, cutting defense by 40 percent, cutting Medicare by 55 percent, or cutting every other program other than Social Security, defense, Medicare, and homeland security (including education, medical research, border security, environmental protection, veterans' programs, and programs to assist the poor) by an average of almost one-fourth.  For most Americans, keeping the tax cuts at the cost of implementing any of the above options would be a bad bargain.

Even if the tax cuts' costs are eventually paid for through a more balanced package of spending reductions and progressive tax increases, data from the Tax Policy Center show that, on average, the bottom four-fifths of households will lose more than they gain from the combination of tax cuts and the financing for them.  That is, once the need to pay for the tax cuts is taken into account, the 2001 and 2003 "tax cuts" are best seen as net tax cuts for the top 20 percent of households, as a group, financed by net tax increases or benefit reductions for the remaining 80 percent of households, as a group. [CBPP.org, 5/9/08, emphasis added]

Bush Tax Cuts "Have Gone Disproportionately To High-Income Americans." According to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities: "The tax cuts enacted in recent years have gone disproportionately to high-income Americans.  In 2007, the 0.3 percent of households with incomes above $1 million received about $120,000, on average, from the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, according to estimates by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.  In contrast, households in the middle of the income spectrum received tax cuts averaging $740.  The Tax Policy Center estimates also show that the tax cuts represent a larger fraction of income for high-income households than for low- or middle-income households, a clear indication of these tax cuts' regressivity." [CBPP.org, 5/9/08]

The House GOP's Budget Cuts Trillions From Safety Net Programs To Finance A Further Tax Cut For The Wealthiest Americans

Debt Commission Chairmen: Ryan's Budget Cuts To "Safety Net Programs" Would "Disproportionately" Affect "Disadvantaged Populations." In a statement calling Rep. Ryan's budget proposal "a positive step," the leaders of the president's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — former Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles — wrote: "The plan largely exempts defense spending from reductions and would not apply any of the savings from eliminating or reducing tax expenditures as part of tax reform to deficit reduction. As a result, the Chairman's plan relies on much larger reductions in domestic discretionary spending than does the Commission proposal, while also calling for savings in some safety net programs - cuts which would place a disproportionately adverse effect on certain disadvantaged populations." [Simpson-Bowles Statement, 4/5/11, emphasis added, via The Hill]

CBPP: Two-Thirds Of Ryan's Spending Cuts Would Come From Programs Targeted At Low-Income Americans. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget plan would get about two-thirds of its more than $4 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years from programs that serve people of limited means, which violates basic principles of fairness and stands a core principle of President Obama's fiscal commission on its head. The plan of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who co-chaired President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, established, as a basic principle, that deficit reduction should not increase poverty or inequality or hurt the disadvantaged. The Ryan plan, which the chairman unveiled in a news conference, speech, and Wall Street Journal op-ed today, charts a different course, turning its biggest cannons on these people." [CBPP.org, 4/5/11, emphasis added]

Ryan Budget Cuts $2.9 Trillion From Medicaid, Low-Income Housing Support, Food Stamps, And Pell Grants For Low-Income Students. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Cuts in low-income programs appear likely to account for at least $2.9 trillion - or about two-thirds - of this amount. The $2.9 trillion includes the following three categories of cuts:

  • $2.17 trillion in reductions from Medicaid and related health care. The plan shows Medicaid cuts of $771 billion, plus savings of $1.4 trillion from repealing the health reform law's Medicaid expansion and its subsidies to help low- and moderate-income people purchase health insurance.
  • $350 billion in cuts in mandatory programs serving low-income Americans (other than Medicaid). The budget documents that Chairman Ryan issued today show that he is proposing $715 billion in cuts in mandatory programs other than Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but do not specify how much will be cut from various programs (although they imply that cuts in the food stamp program will be large). In this analysis, we make the conservative assumption that savings from low-income mandatory programs (other than Medicaid) would be proportionate to their share of spending in this category. Thus, we derive the $350 billion figure from the fact that about half of mandatory spending other than for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security goes for programs for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. This likely substantially understates the cuts that the plan would make in low-income programs. The Ryan documents show that $380 billion in cuts would come from programs in the income security portion of the budget (function 600), and the overwhelming bulk of the mandatory spending in that category goes for low-income programs. The documents also show $126 billion in mandatory cuts in the education, training, employment, and social services portion of the budget (function 500), which, based on the discussion in those documents, would likely come mainly from cuts in the mandatory portion of the Pell Grant program for low-income students.
  • $400 billion in cuts in low-income discretionary programs. The Ryan budget documents show that he is proposing $1.6 trillion in cuts in non-security discretionary programs, but again do not provide details about the size of cuts to specific programs. (The documents do identify some major low-income program areas, including Pell Grants and low-income housing, as prime targets for cuts.) Here, too, we make the conservative assumption that low-income programs in this category would bear a proportionate share of the cuts. Thus, we derive the $400 billion figure from the fact that about a quarter of non-security discretionary spending goes for programs for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. [CBPP.org, 4/5/11, emphasis original]

The GOP Plan Cuts Income, Capital Gains Taxes On The Rich To Levels Not Seen Since Herbert Hoover Was President. From the Center for American Progress:

There's a nice symmetry to the House Republican budgeteers' idea of cutting the top tax rate for the very wealthy to 25 percent. The spending side of their budget would go a long way to giving us Herbert Hoover's economy, so why not have their tax rate on the rich match Hoover's? In fact, we haven't had a top rate that low since Hoover lost his re-election bid to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.

Of course, for those today with the very highest incomes, most of their income is taxed as capital gains, which for most of our history has gotten a special low rate. The rate now is 15 percent. It was 12.5 percent under Hoover. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chief architect of the House plan, thinks it ought to be zero. [Center for American Progress, 4/13/11]