Claim Check: Linda McMahon on Middle-Class Taxes and Job Creation

by Categorized: Claim Check, Data, Employment, Finance, Politics Date:

If there is one topic on which the candidates for U.S. Senate in Connecticut have most consistently confused voters, it is the issue of federal income taxes. And Republican Linda McMahon continues that trend with a television ad revisiting familiar ground on taxes as well as job creation.

“On key issues, compare the candidates,” the narrator instructs. “On cutting middle-class taxes, Linda McMahon’s plan saves the average Connecticut family $500 a month. But Congressman Chris Murphy voted to raise middle-class taxes three times.”

We’ve evaluated — and challenged — the first part of that assertion multiple times, but the campaign continues to make the claim, albeit with slight modifications. For the record, under no scenario does McMahon’s plan save the average Connecticut family $500 a month, and there are two flaws with the campaign’s calculation.

First, to reach that savings figure, the campaign selected a family income of $125,000 to represent the average family in the state. But that income amount is far higher than the actual average family income, and using an artificially high income figure significantly overstates the savings.

Moreover, the purported savings do not represent a cut from a family’s current tax liability, but rather a reduction compared to what a family would pay next year if the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of 2012, leading to an across-the-board jump in taxes.

In this television spot, the McMahon campaign has attempted to mitigate that problem by adding a disclaimer in small type, noting that the savings are “Beginning in 2013.” But in the absence of a clear disclosure that the savings are based on a possible future jump in tax rates, it is misleading to tout that savings calculation.

McMahon’s plan does provide a cut in taxes for families earning between roughly $70,000 and $140,000. But the average Connecticut family would see a savings of no more than about $82 a month — not $500. And the “typical” Connecticut family — earning the median family income in the state — would see little or no change under her tax plan.

The McMahon campaign has vigorously defended its methodology, saying that because the Bush tax cuts are set to automatically expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts, it would be illegitimate to compare her plan to anything other than the post-expiration tax rates.

But that insistence has not extended to the campaign’s analysis of Murphy’s votes on taxes. The McMahon ad cites three Congressional votes to support its assertion that Murphy voted to raise middle-class taxes three times. One of those was the vote approving the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — which Murphy supported and which includes what has since been defined as a tax penalty for those who do not obtain insurance.

The other two votes were more traditional taxation votes: considering bills to extend the Bush tax rates beyond the end of the year. Republicans had been unified in favoring the extension, while many Democrats favored extending the lower rates only for families earning less than $250,000 a year.

Murphy was among those who opposed extending the cuts for wealthy taxpayers, and he voted in August, as well as in December 2010, against bills that extended the tax cuts for all. Both bills passed.

It is not a fair claim to assert that Murphy’s ‘no’ vote last August amounted to a vote to raise taxes on middle-class Americans, as the vote on that bill was not Congress’ only opportunity to consider extending the rates before the session ended.

The McMahon camp is on more solid ground with the December 2010 vote. That vote came right before Congress was recessing for the year, and had the bill been rejected, rates would have jumped the following January for all taxpayers, including the middle class, even if only temporarily until Congress worked out a compromise.

But is a vote to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire a vote to “raise” taxes? We deem that the most reasonable description, given how long the lower rates have been in effect. But it’s the opposite of the approach the McMahon campaign took in calculating the savings from her tax plan.

In short, the McMahon campaign is attempting to have it both ways. When evaluating the impact of her plan, the campaign set the baseline as the rates that would be in effect if the Bush tax cuts expire, thereby boosting the apparent savings. But when evaluating the impact of Murphy’s votes, the campaign set the baseline as the rates currently in effect, allowing them to say he voted to raise taxes.

Which is it? As noted above, in the absence of a clear disclaimer to the contrary, most voters will define tax increases and tax cuts as changes to what they are currently paying. As such, McMahon’s figures for her own tax plan are insupportable, and only the December 2010 vote can fairly be described as a vote to raise taxes on the middle class. (The Obamacare vote is more complicated, as most middle-class families will not pay a tax penalty under the law, and the penalty was not a “tax” at the time Congress passed the law.)

The ad also takes up the issue of job creation, with the narrator proclaiming: “Linda created 600 good Connecticut jobs, and has a detailed jobs plan. Murphy is a career politician and his jobs plan is still a ‘work in progress.’ “

Those 600 jobs, of course, are a reference to McMahon’s former role as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, based in Stamford. As noted before in this space, public records indicate that WWE’s Connecticut employment during McMahon’s tenure likely peaked at close to — but not quite — 600 jobs.

As for the rest of the claim, McMahon does have a jobs plan at, and her campaign is free to describe it as “detailed.” That’s a matter of opinion not subject to fact-checking.

And Murphy was quoted last June as saying his jobs plan was a “work in progress.” Murphy’s campaign has insisted that line means only that his plan is, by design, in a state of perpetual revision and improvement. But the quote is accurate, and it is not out-of-bounds for the McMahon campaign to use it to advance the claim that her jobs plan is more polished that her opponent’s. That, too, is a subjective judgment beyond the scope of Claim Check.

But the key assertions in this spot relate to taxes, and on that topic, the McMahon campaign continues to make claims that fail under scrutiny. As such, we rate this ad “Significantly Misleading.”

View McMahon’s ad below. Click here for more Claim Check columns, and here for information on how we analyze political ads.

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22 thoughts on “Claim Check: Linda McMahon on Middle-Class Taxes and Job Creation

  1. Ferd

    Linda McMahon taking credit for those jobs is like Mrs. Hewlett and Mrs. Packard taking credit for all the jobs at HP.

  2. Tito

    Your article would have been much clearer if you had left the following paragraph out, or at least the comments related to “if.” Whether as an individual or a business I have always been taught to plan with the current law in place…early in my career we were “burnt” by anticipating law changes. While I am hopeful that some change may be made given all the dreary economic forecasts, with so many last minute decisions I have lost a bit of faith that progress may be made.

    “Moreover, the purported savings do not represent a cut from a family’s current tax liability, but rather a reduction compared to what a family would pay next year if the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of 2012, leading to an across-the-board jump in taxes.”

    1. william111

      Mike, She is honest hard working and makes a difference She has my vote and my families vote.
      Murphy is a Dodd (the crookS) cloan.
      Go linda

  3. jj

    It is clear both sides are using the Bush tax rate reductions exactly the same. Murphy says Linda wants 7 million for herself and none for the rest of us. Yet the middleclass will continue to get the same rate reductions they are getting now. He is playing the same tune. Yet his and the democratic PAC’s ads are just somewhat misleading according to the HC. Maybe now that the polls show a slight lead for Linda, the HC needs to balance that with a harsher rating for Linda’s ad.

  4. Craig Taylor

    Seems like the Courant had to do a lot of gymnastics to justify a claim of significantly misleading!

    “It is not a fair claim to assert that Murphy’s ‘no’ vote last August amounted to a vote to raise taxes on middle-class Americans, as the vote on that bill was not Congress’ only opportunity to consider extending the rates before the session ended.”…Seriously?

    That is true of every legislative issue. Anything voted on today could come up for another vote tomorrow or next year. That does not change the fact that on that day in August, Murphy had an opportunity to vote yes or no on preserving lower tax rates for ALL taxpayers – which includes the middle class. He voted NO. And the Courant was right, that wasn’t the last chance for him to vote on that issue, and when it came up again, he voted NO once again! No matter how you try to put lipstick on that pig, it doesn’t change the fact that Murphy voted NO twice on legislation that would have prevented a tax hike on the middle class.

    As far as Obamacare, plenty of opponents were calling it a tax before the Supreme Court did the same, and who else but the middle class is likely to pay it? The poor are covered by Medicaid and the rich can certainly afford coverage, so that leaves the middle class as the most likely ones to not afford coverage and forced to pay this tax. And, Chris Murphy voted to make that tax a law.

    The Fact Check needs a reality check!

  5. It's all the same BS from Both sides.

    Once again will she just go away when she loses this time or are we going to have to keep seeing her at every election………………………………She has been a liar from the get go but then again most politicans are so she isn’t cornering the market on BS.
    She is used to phoney stories look how many she and hubby have come up with over the years for wrestling story lines.

  6. bill

    so far i have seen enough half truths from both candidates so i am not showing much in suprise.I still believe Murphy has helped this State sink itself in the last twenty plus years. You cant just tax the people/business to death as this State has been doing and claim to not have a hand in it.I will still Vote for Linda because she still has better options and fresh blood/energy is what we need.I dont even want to hear from a candidate that has been collecting a check for 20 years and still promises what he can do when he had too much time to not do it already.Murphy had his time and now its his time to ride out into the sunset. Another reason we need term limits. This State needs a major overhaul with career politicians.

  7. Just paying attention

    Murphy voted twice to end the Bush Tax Cuts….that is a vote to RAISE TAXES! Once the Pro Left Courant is slamming the republicam, and distorting Fact.

    Murphy voted 2 times to raise taxes by ending the Bush Tax Cuts! Linda will spend $30-50 million to get a $7 Tax break?…..where is the benefit to Linda? Even it the $7 Million tax break was true….she spent $50 Million to get it, a benefit just does not exist!

    We have Obamacare because if Murphy had gone to the committe meeting he would have known what was in the bill and voted NO….But having gone to just 20% OF THE MEETINGS, HE DID NOT DO HIS JOB…Vote him out!

    1. Robyn

      Oh my goodness, get off the attendance at committee meetings already.

      If you were a Congressman, I am sure your attendance would be similar to Murphy’s. Quite often, it is physically impossible for a Congressman to attend all committee meetings. The important thing is, do you do your homework (like reading and understanding bills on which you are voting) and do you show up for votes on the bills? THAT is your job, and Murphy has shown up for those votes 97% of the time – can you tell me that you have shown up for your job 97% of the days your business is open (that means even vacation and sick days)? Do you attend all meetings (even when there is a scheduling conflict or the meeting is out of town and you don’t have telecommuting as an option) that you are supposed to attend? I’m pretty sure that answer would be no. You get notes and review what was discussed. You people that keep spouting the Committee Meeting attendance statistic really don’t have a clue as to how Congressional business is accomplished.

      1. jj

        Robyn, are you saying Murphy lied in his ads? He accused Linda of not telling the truth about his record, but you say she was correct, but you say it’s ok because it’s not an important part of the job. Murphy does not assert that, he merely spun the conversation to his voting record and claims that Linda lied. Murphy lacks the political courage to state what you claim is normal SOP for Congressmen and Senators. I get that you want to have it both ways but either Linda was telling the truth and Murphy lied or you and the HC are wrong about his committee attendence record. Many congressmen, briefly leave a hearing to vote then return to the hearing, perhaps the walk back and forth is too much for him.
        It is telling when confronted by uncomfortable facts Murphy does not volunteer the truth but tries to change the subject. His rent and mortgage problems he blames on not talking to his wife, all past due notices aside.
        As for me, I am willing to excuse him from doing all parts of the job by electing someone else to do it instead of him. If that person chooses to skip committee hearings I hope that they have the will to explain why and not accuse someone of lying.

  8. Stephen Patrick

    A tissue of lies is Linda McMahon’s campaign. Vulgar new money drawn from an even more vulgar franchise, Linda is another measure of how far the GOP has fallen from its once patrician roots. Working families who vote for this ambitious fraud are beyond the reach of reason, chickens voting for Col. Sanders. Jesus wept.

  9. Jackie Larkin

    Linda McMahon is taking a page from the Presidential debate where Romney told lie after lie with a straight, smiling face. The truth is that Linda McMahon is not qualified for a senior political position like the senate. Even her own party-Lowell Weicker and Chris Shays-have said she is not qualified to be in the senate. Weicker worked with her on the board of WWE so he has first hand experience. She is buying the election. Wake up Connecticut. She is not qualified to represent us.

    1. jj

      Why don’t you fact check Obama’s lies. He spun quite a few of them that night.

      Lowell is a hypocrite, he takes WWE money and insults Linda. Yet he is your standard of honesty!?

      Murphy has accomplished next to nothing in his political career. He whines about attack ads by Linda, all the while he and his proxies lie in their ads, the HC says both sides have used the Bush tax rate reduction in the same way but that’s about it. Your guy has lied about his rent and mortgage problems, his excuse was/is that he didn’t talk to his wife is pretty lame. Linda said he didn’t attend 80% of his committee hearings he accuses her of lying by saying he voted 92% of the time, typical sleight of hand by Murphy. Vote for who you want but don’t even try to convince me you applied any critical thinking in this process.

  10. CSquare

    The ad is significantly misleading…as they all are. The only jobs McMahon “created” are the WWE jobs. The only jobs government can “create” are government jobs and government-funded jobs. You need more tax revenues for that, not less — unless she’s proposing to pay for those jobs herself. Ignore all the ads and vote for the candidate who has the core competencies to be a good United States Senator: intelligence, a proven commitment to public service, a thorough knowledge of domestic and foreign policy issues and an ability to function in a legislative setting. Or is that too obvious? Connecticut has an illustrious galaxy of former U.S. Senators, both Democrats and Republicans — the position shouldn’t be for sale to the highest bidder.

    1. jj

      Wow, should she create jobs for her competitors too or should she make GE, and other companies higher new workers? As a private citizen she can only do so much. I see you lack an understanding how independent companies determine based on their own needs whether they should higher more workers. If she took credit for the jobs at the many venues that WWE uses or people who work for the advertising agencies she also uses you would attack her for taking unfair credit for jobs she didn’t directly create. Much like the jobs Murphy is trying to take credit for in Waterbury.

      Democrats took credit for creating the census jobs that were available during the time of the stimulus package. These jobs were totally separate from it but were counted just the same. Where are those jobs now? Answer they were temporary and long gone.

      If the stimulus was given directly to the taxpayers you would have recieved about 67 thousand dollars to use to save your house and pay for food and gas.Instead we get a busway between New Britain and Hartford. When you rely on the government to create jobs they are not the same as the jobs that were lost. The government is not supposed to be the main job creater, but should be a job enabler. Taking money away from businesses so that the government can create them instead is stupid. Each level of government has overhead and requires a percentage of every tax dollar to manage their efforts. If you leave the money for the real job creators and allow them to actually feel confortable in expanding their businesses they will hire more workers. Why do you want to turn our country into another Greece? Socialism is a failed experiment yet you seem to be convinced that the government knows best.

      If Linda is trying to buy the senate seat then you must concede that Murphy is selling it to special interests and PAC’s.

      Public service itself is not a prerequisite for public service, being a failure in the house of representatives is not an endorsement for the senate.

  11. Ian W. Bain

    Linda McMahon is nothing more than
    a glorified Carnival Barker.
    This ad makes it very clear.
    She will say anything to get people to play her game.
    The prizes offered … Chrome plated plastic trinkets.
    Grade-school children are attracted to small, shiney objects. Come on people! This isn`t even funny!
    I don’t want to live in the state known for putting
    Linda McMahon on the floor of The U.S. Senate.

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