The Obama campaign claims that a Princeton economist’s findings support its assertions about Mitt Romney’s tax plan, but the economist says that’s not exactly true.
The Obama campaign wrote in a press release on Sunday, “Harvard economist Martin Feldstein and Princeton economist Harvey Rosen both concede that paying for Romney’s tax cuts would require large tax increases on families making between $100,000 and $200,000.”
But Princeton economist Harvey Rosen’s paper analyzing Romney’s tax plan didn’t exactly look at families making between $100,000 and $200,000. Instead, it analyzed families making more than $100,000 per year and families making more than $200,000 per year. The second group is part of the first group, and Rosen did not separate the two.
Rosen told the Weekly Standard in an email that he felt that the Obama campaign misrepresented the paper on a broader level too. “I can’t tell exactly how the Obama campaign reached that characterization of my work,” he wrote in an email to the publication.
Rosen’s paper did find that families making more than $100,000 per year would have to pay $81 billion more in taxes under Romney’s tax plan, a 12 percent increase. But his paper did not explicitly say whether these families, whose incomes he assumes would be rising, would actually pay a higher tax rate.
Rosen’s conclusion that Romney’s tax plan is mathematically possible rests on a questionable assumption: namely that Romney’s tax cuts for the rich would lead to robust economic growth. In fact, economic growth sharply slowed during the Bush administration, when President George W. Bush cut taxes for the rich. Brad DeLong, economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, also notes that President Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts for the rich did not lead to much stronger economic growth either.
A number of analysts, including those at the Tax Policy Center, have found that Romney’s tax plan would have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to be mathematically possible. But Rosen may not be in that category. His analysis first would need to separate middle-class families from rich families for us to know.
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Bonnie Kavoussi is an economics reporter at The Huffington Post.