MSNBC's Chuck Todd on the December 7 "Daily Rundown" was uncharacteristically heated in his opposition to the compromise between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans on extending the Bush tax rates.
Interviewing a Treasury Department official, Todd used flawed statistics to malign the proposed two-year extension of tax breaks for all families as unacceptably expensive.
"The cost of this is astronomical though," proclaimed the NBC Political Director. "The payroll tax cut means essentially borrowing from the Social Security trust fund to do this temporary payroll tax. I mean, it's 120 billion, that's a lot of money!"
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Gene Sperling, counselor to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, refuted Todd's characterization of the tax debate, pointing out that extending the current tax rates would merely prevent a tax increase from taking effect at the end of the year.
"First of all, let's remember we're just extending the middle class tax cuts," Sperling corrected. "We're not adding something new."
But before Sperling could finish his thought, Todd interrupted to reiterate his flawed theory: "But wait a minute, didn't you budget – hang on – everybody has budgeted assuming though that they wouldn't expire on the wealthiest."
Given the context of the discussion, it can be assumed Todd meant to claim that federal budget planners had been operating under the assumption that Congress would let taxes increase for at least the wealthiest Americans.
Despite Todd's attempt to frame the debate as a fiscally irresponsible tax cut for the rich, the former Clinton economic adviser continued to set the record straight.
"That's just not true," asserted Sperling. "Feel free to look through our budget. We have always assumed it would be extended. Almost everyone in the economy assumed it was going to be extended."
This is the second time in as many days Todd has spun the tax debate. As MRC Vice President for Research and Publications Brent Baker reported, Todd was displeased last night over the "lost revenue" if Congress extended the current tax rates.
A transcript of the relevant portions of the program can be found below:
The Daily Rundown
December 7, 2010
9:18 A.M. EDT
CHUCK TODD: Hey, Gene, the cost of this is astronomical though. Half a trillion dollars next year is getting added to the deficit. One hundred twenty billion dollars, the payroll tax cut means essentially borrowing from the Social Security trust fund to do this temporary payroll tax. I mean, it's one hundred twenty billion, that's a lot of money!
GENE SPERLING, counselor to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: Okay, first of all, neither of those is quite right. First of all, let's remember we're just extending the middle class tax cuts. We're not adding something new. I don't think it's right to say that's an additional three hundred billion dollars.
TODD: But wait a minute, didn't you budget – hang on – everybody has budgeted assuming though that they wouldn't expire on the wealthiest.
SPERLING: That's just not true. Feel free to look through our budget. We have always assumed it would be extended. Almost everyone in the economy assumed it was going to be extended. So what you should look at are the new and additional measures like the hundred and twenty billion dollar payroll tax cut. But that is the kind of thing you need in an economy with 9.8 percent unemployment if you're serious, not about politics, but about actually bringing the unemployment rate down. And when you do something like that, you protect every penny of Social Security. You make sure that there is not one penny of loss to the Social Security trust fund. This is going to be very good for workers. It's one time, it's temporary. It won't have an effect on the long-term deficit and if we don't get growth going better in 2011 or 2012, that's going to hurt our deficit numbers in 2014 and 2015 as bad as anything else.
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.