Fact Checking The Fact Checkers

Our guest blogger is Adam Jentleson, the Communications and Outreach Director for the Hyde Park Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Today, the St. Petersburg Times ran a piece implying that our claim that John McCain wants to give the 5 biggest oil companies in the U.S. a $4 billion per-year tax break is inaccurate because it takes facts out of context. “The claim wrongly implies that McCain is proposing a special tax cut for oil companies,” they write.

We have to agree with the Times/Politifact on one score – it’s true that McCain is not just proposing a tax cut for the big oil companies. He also wants to give huge tax breaks to the big health insurance companies ($710 million a year for UnitedHealth alone), the big retailers ($1.4 billion a year for Wal-Mart alone), the big banks ($1.3 billion a year for Bank of America alone) – you name the big corporation, McCain wants to give them a huge tax cut.

Altogether, McCain’s tax plan would give $175 billion per year in tax breaks to corporations, including $45 billion a year to the top 200 corporations alone.

It is also true that McCain’s tax cuts for big corporations are only half the story. The other half is that McCain’s tax plan also stiffs the middle class. Nearly 60% of the benefits in McCain’s corporate tax cuts go to the top 1% of individuals. And when you factor in McCain’s health care plan, millions of middle class families who have not gotten a raise since 1998 could end up paying higher taxes under McCain’s proposals.

So that’s the full context of our oil company tax break statistic; it is highly misleading for the Times and Politifact to imply that the context changes its meaning. To the contrary, the full context throws into even starker relief how McCain’s tax plan is dramatically tilted towards big corporations and the very wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

In short, the Times’ attempt to rebut our argument completely ignores the argument itself. We assume they would be critical of candidates’ efforts to employ such a tactic, and wonder why they allow themselves that same liberty.