During yesterday's big-hug-to-Teddy-Roosevelt speech on the economy, President Obama declared that "Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent—1 percent. That is the height of unfairness." Billionaires who pay just a single percent of their ginormous incomes in taxes? Can you believe it?!?!
Better question: Should you?
Glenn Kessler, who writes The Washington Post's Fact Checker column, decided to look into the source of the data point about billionaire tax rates. Turns out there isn't one. Here's Kessler:
This is a striking statistic. But the only evidence that the White House could offer for it was a TV clip of a conversation on Bloomberg TV, in which correspondent Gigi Stone made this assertion during a discussion about the tax strategies that the very wealthy use to avoid paying taxes. The TV clip was promoted by the left-leaning website Think Progress.
Stone quoted from a Bloomberg News article last month that reported on such tax strategies, which mostly involve complicated ways to defer paying capital gains taxes. But the article never made the one-percent claim. It also noted that the IRS had gotten more hostile to such transactions in recent years.
An administration official conceded the White House had no actual data to back up the president's assertion, but argued that other reports showed that some of the wealthy pay little in taxes. [bold added]
To put it in terms Obama might use: There are some who say that that billionaires pay tax rates as low as 1 percent, but they are just making shit up don't have have any evidence for the claim.