Friday, September 23, 2011

Fact Check the Obama/Buffett Rule

It really is hearten to see that the Buffett Rule has made it onto the Obama Campaign website. So, let's add a little bit of advanced math to the "Friday Facts"
0.3%: Americans who would be impacted by the Buffett Rule, all making over $1 million a year.
Hmmm...follow the link to the original article:
The White House said the Buffet rule would apply to the top 0.3% of wage earners, and noted that 22,000 people making more than $1 million a year in 2009 paid less than 15% of their income in taxes.
So clearly, it is not 0.3% of Americans, but 0.3% of wage earners or households. Big difference.

According to the WSJ article, 237,00 tax payers reported incomes over $1 million in 2009. Doing some math (237,000 / 0.003) yields 79,000,000 people. And here, I thought the US population exceeded 290 million. This is questionable math given that there are 142,450,589 million returns filed in 2008, this number is a little weird.

There are other issues in the post, but let's focus on this next one:
276%: Amount the average income of a millionaire grew from 1995 to 2008.
Follow the link. That is not correct. It is the top 400 whose income went up that much.
By 2008 -- the most recent year available -- the aggregate income for the top 400 soared to nearly $66 billion, or more than $164 million in adjusted gross income per return.

That amounts to a 276 percent increase.
It is not even clear if the same 400 people in 1995 as were present in the 2008 sample. Perhaps they are entirely different people. In fact you could bet on it!

So, there is some deception here, and these were the obvious ones. Where else might there be deceptive figures?

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