FACT CHECK: Democratic ad makes unfair claim against Duffy - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

FACT CHECK: Democratic ad makes unfair claim against Duffy

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

A new political ad running against Congressman Sean Duffy accuses him of raising taxes on the middle class.

But Duffy is a conservative Republican who has supported cutting taxes.

As part of our ongoing effort to examine the ads that run on the airwaves, Newsline 9 took a look at this ad to see if it's based on fact or fiction.

The ad begins with the announcer making this claim: "Congressman Duffy shifted the tax burden on us, voting to raise middle class taxes over a thousand a year."

This ad is from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a group devoted to electing Democrats to Congress. It's not surprising the group is slamming Duffy. But that claim is surprising.

Did Duffy really vote to raise taxes?

Let's look at the facts. The DCCC says Duffy's vote for the Paul Ryan budget plan earlier this year was a vote to raise taxes on the middle class, even though the plan proposes lowering tax rates for everyone.

The group cites an August 2012 news article from ABC News about a study written by the staff of the Joint Economic Committee chairman, Bob Casey, who's a Democrat.

That report said middle class jointly-filing households earning $50,000-$100,000 would pay $1,358 more in taxes under the Paul Ryan plan.

How did they arrive at this conclusion?

The report said the tax hike would happen if the government reduced tax deductions on mortgage interest and charitable contributions, and if it taxed insurance benefits, and 401(k) plans.

But here's the problem: the Paul Ryan budget plan doesn't specify which tax preferences would be cut, if any. So the report is based on an assumption.

Newsline 9 talked to several economic experts about this. Joseph Rosenberg, a research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said in an email, "The bottom line is there were not enough specifics in the Ryan budget that allow one to definitively say the overall impact on tax burdens."

Ron Haskins, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, echoed that thought. In an email to Newsline 9, he said, "it is impossible to know the distribution of impacts of any set of tax code changes…until the exact tax preferences that are going to be altered or repealed to broaden the tax base are specified."

Other experts agreed, saying while Democrats are justified in their skepticism of the Paul Ryan plan, their claims of higher taxes on the middle class are shaky—at least, until more specifics about the plan are revealed.

So, Sean Duffy did vote for the Paul Ryan plan, and there's an important debate to be had about that plan, and who wins and loses. But accusing Duffy of voting to raise middle class taxes is unfair, and that claim is supported by only an assumption.

Congressman Duffy is up for re-election this year. His challenger is Democrat Pat Kreitlow, a former state senator.

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