Claim: A new advertisement endorsed by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that is airing on KLAS-TV Channel 8 includes a portion of the first presidential debate during which Romney said: "Look at the evidence of the last four years. Under the president's policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They're just being crushed. Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300 … I'll call it the economy tax."
Verdict: Partly true and partly misleading. The ad sources Romney's comment about the declining income to a Sept. 25 report from Sentier Research of Annapolis, Md. Unlike other studies quoted by Romney and President Barack Obama, Sentier's resume of clients suggests it is politically neutral in its analysis of household data. Sentier reported that household median income nationwide averaged $50,678 in August. That was $4,453 less than in December 2007, when the recession officially began under Republican President George W. Bush, and $3,040 less than in June 2009, when the recession officially ended in Democrat Obama's first year in office. The numbers show that middle-income Americans are still experiencing financial pain more than three years after the recession officially ended.
Where the ad turns misleading is the implication that the decline in income is due to "the president's policies." The Sentier report made no mention of Obama or any political policies that caused income to decline. Instead, Sentier offered straightforward analysis such as a $543 decline in income from July to August that the company attributed to increases in consumer prices after they declined from April through July. "It is obvious that recent trends in prices have been heavily influenced by the sharp rise, subsequent fall, and sharp rise again in the price of fuel at the pump," Sentier reported. The report also stated that unemployment stood at 8.1 percent in August, down from 9.1 percent a year earlier, and that the median number of weeks individuals were unemployed fell from 21.8 to 18 over the same period.