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Bush Ad Is “Troubling” Indeed

The President's ad recycles bogus claims, then tells only part of the story about Kerry's position on tax breaks for couples and children.


A Bush Cheney ’04 ad released April 1 repeats several misleading claims that FactCheck.org has de-bunked before. It also adds something new, saying Kerry repeatedly opposed tax breaks for married couples and families — breaks that Kerry has repeatedly and consistently said he would preserve.


Bush released yet another attack on Kerry April 1, an ad appropriately named “Troubling.” The Bush ad recycles a couple of bogus claims we’ve de-bunked before — a misleading claim that Kerry voted for “higher taxes” 350 times and a claim that “Kerry’s plan will raise taxes by at least $900 billion.” We pointed out previously that the 350-vote figure is so off base that it actually counts some Kerry votes for tax cuts as votes for “higher taxes.” And as we said earlier, the only tax “plan” Kerry has proposed is to repeal Bush’s tax cuts for those making $200,000 a year or more, while giving some additional tax breaks to those further down the income scale.

Bush Cheney ’04 Ad:

Bush: I’m George W. Bush and I approve this message.
Announcer: John Kerry’s record on the economy: Troubling.
He opposed tax relief for married couples 22 times. Opposed increasing the child tax credit 18 times. Kerry supported higher taxes over 350 times.
He even supported increasing taxes on Social Security benefits, and a 50-cent a gallon tax hike for gasoline.
Now Kerry’s plan will raise taxes by at least $900 billion his first 100 days.
Kerry and the economy: Troubling.

Kids and Couples

New in this Bush ad is a statement that Kerry voted repeatedly against tax relief for married couples and opposed an increase in the per-child tax credit. But the ad fails to tell the whole story — omitting Kerry’s oft-repeated promise to preserve both those tax breaks.

It’s true Kerry has been a dependable vote against Republican-sponsored tax cuts in the past, and some of those votes were clear-cut votes against Republican proposals to give tax relief to married couples and families with children. Indeed, on July 18, 2000, Kerry even cast a vote against a marriage-penalty relief bill that most Democrats didn’t go along with: he was one of only 19 votes in favor of stripping the tax cuts out of a House-passed measure called the “Marriage Tax Penalty Relief Reconciliation Act.”

But many of the votes the Bush campaign includes in its totals were votes against large Republican-sponsored bills that also contained such things as rate reductions for the most affluent taxpayers and reductions in capital-gains taxes and taxes on large estates. And some other votes were on bills to set budget targets but which would not actually legislate any tax changes, or on complex parliamentary motions and not directly on the bills themselves. So whether Kerry voted precisely 22 times against marriage-penalty relief or 18 times against the child tax credit is a matter of opinion, and debatable.

In his defense, Kerry claims to have voted four times in favor of marriage-penalty relief. Using the standards of his Republican critics, three of those votes should count — they were for very broad Democratic bills that contained many items other than tax breaks for families and couples. However, one of the four votes, on April 5, 2000, wasn’t for a bill that would have produced tax relief at all — it was for a meaningless, non-binding “sense of the Senate” resolution that was so non-controversial it passed 99-1.

It’s a similar story with Kerry’s record on increasing the tax credit for families with children. He (like nearly all Democrats in the Senate) voted repeatedly against Republican measures, but also at times supported Democratic alternatives that went nowhere.

Whatever his past votes, Kerry now is firmly on the record promising to retain Bush’s tax breaks for couples and kids. Bush’s ad doesn’t mention that, of course.

During the months of jousting for the Democratic presidential nomination, Kerry repeatedly criticized Democratic opponents Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt for proposing to repeal an increase in the per-child tax credit and relief for the so-called “marriage penalty” along with the rest of Bush’s cuts.

At the October 27 Democratic candidates debate in Detroit, for example, Kerry attacked Dean by saying Dean’s proposed repeal of the entire package of Bush tax cuts would force one family to “pay $2,178 more in taxes because they lose the child credit to raise their children, they pay a penalty for being married again.”

Kerry still hasn’t wavered from that. Here’s what his Web site says now:

JohnKerry.com: Specifically, he (Kerry) wants to protect the increases in the child tax credit, the reduced marriage penalty and the new tax bracket that helps people save $350 on their first level of income. He strongly disagrees with Democrats who want to repeal these tax cuts because it would cost a typical middle-class family with two children an additional $2,000. These families are often already struggling with higher health care costs and higher state and local taxes. (Emphasis added.)

Gasoline & Social Security, Again

Other elements of the ad we’ve dealt with before: Kerry’s support for a 50-cent increase in the gasoline tax was limited to a couple of newspaper quotes 10 years ago, and he doesn’t support such a tax now. And the the increased tax on Social Security he supported was passed as part of the Clinton economic plan in 1993 and still falls only on the most affluent 10 to 20 percent of retirees. Proceeds go to shore up Medicare.

Overall, Bush’s ad strives to give the impression Kerry plans a massive tax increase on middle-income people, the exact opposite of what Kerry says he’d do.


Bush Cheney ’04, “Bush-Cheney ’04 Ad Facts – ‘Troubling’ ” News Release 1 April 2004.

John Kerry for President “Bush Releases Misleading and “Troubling” Ad” News Release 1 April 2004.

Democratic Presidential Debate Detroit 27 Oct 2003.

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 106th Congress – 2nd Session  S.Amdt. 3875 to H.R. 4810 (Marriage Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000 ) Vote #213 18 July 2000.

U.S.  Senate Roll Call Votes 106th Congress – 2nd Session S.Amdt. 2914 to S.Con.Res. 101 Vote #53 5 April 2000.