Claim: A new advertisement endorsed by Republican-leaning issue advocacy group Crossroads GPS that is airing on KLAS-TV Channel 8 quotes then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as saying in 2008: "If you're a family making less than $250,000 a year, my plan will not raise your taxes." Narrator: "Untrue. Middle class Americans face a huge tax increase because of Obamacare. Now Obama claims Mitt Romney will raise middle class taxes. Also untrue. Romney's plan lowers middle class tax rates by 20 percent. Barack Obama, dishonest on taxes because he's failed on jobs."
Verdict: Partially true and partially misleading. Republican foes weren't happy when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats. But Republicans wasted little time reminding Americans of the fact that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the majority, equated the insurance mandate to a tax Congress had the authority to approve. It's true that the health care law could pose a financial burden on many Americans who don't have insurance. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported to Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, in 2010 that the minimal insurance plans available under the law would cost individuals at least $4,500 and families at least $12,000 in 2016. The CBO estimated separately that in 2016 penalties for those who didn't want insurance would be the higher of $695 for individuals or 2.5 percent of a household's income.
One problem with the ad, though, is that it doesn't define "huge tax increase" or even the "middle class." Obama has defined middle class families as those making up to $250,000 a year, and Republican presidential nominee Romney has said that middle-income Americans are those who earn as much as $250,000 annually. Labeling something as a huge tax increase depends on where one falls along the middle class spectrum. Another problem with the ad is this: the CBO reported in July that in 2009, Obama's first year in office, the average federal tax rate for households was 17.4 percent, the lowest rate since at least 1979. Taxes actually went down in his first year in office because of tax breaks included in the 2009 economic stimulus package. The CBO estimated that the average federal tax rates "probably remained near their post-1979 low levels in both 2010 and 2011." Because this fact is ignored in the ad, it's unclear whether someone who pays the penalty for refusing insurance will wind up with a "huge" tax increase compared to where the tax rates were before Obama took office. While it's true that Romney has proposed across-the-board 20 percent cuts in marginal income tax rates, it's unclear whether middle class taxpayers would actually see their taxes shrink by that amount. That's because Romney hasn't said which tax breaks he intends to reduce or eliminate in a bid to broaden the tax base.