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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Sunday Replay

It may be August, but there is no vacation from politicians getting things wrong on the Sunday talkfests. We found Sen. Jon Kyl misstating facts about immigration and Sarah Palin miscasting the Democratic position on the Bush tax cuts – as well as overestimating how much it would cost Americans if they were allowed to expire.

Palin’s Palm Wrong on Tax Cuts

Sarah Palin misrepresented the Democratic position on extending the expiring Bush tax cuts. Echoing a recent GOP talking point, the former Alaska governor said on "Fox News Sunday":

Palin: Democrats are poised now to cause this largest tax increase in U.S. history. It’s a tax increase of $3.8 trillion over the next 10 years, and it will have an effect on every single American who pays an income tax.

That’s not true; Democrats are "poised" to do no such thing. President Obama and the Democratic leaders in Congress have long proposed extending the bulk of the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003. Hearings have begun in the Senate Finance Committee on that very subject.

It is true that if all the Bush cuts were allowed to expire on Jan. 1 next year, it would mean an increase for "every single American who pays an income tax," just as Palin said. It would mean the end of such popular items as the 10 percent bottom rate (which used to be 15 percent before the Bush cuts) and the $1,000 per child tax credit (which used to be $500), among other provisions aimed at middle-income taxpayers. But that’s not what Democrats are proposing, let alone what they stand "poised" to accomplish. President Obama campaigned on a promise to extend all the Bush cuts for persons making under $200,000 a year (and families earning $250,000), and his proposed budget for next year would deliver on that. Democratic House and Senate leaders have taken generally the same line. Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeated that Sunday on another weekend public affairs program, in fact.

Furthermore, the $3.8 trillion figure that Palin referred to (and wrote down on the palm of her hand, "so I didn’t say 3.7 and then get dinged, you know, by the — by the liberals") is far too high.

Palin referred to it as "this expiration of the Bush tax cuts," but it includes more than that. It is actually a 10-year estimate from the Republican staff of the Ways and Means Committee. A spokeswoman for the GOP staff told us that the $3.8 trillion figure includes both the 10-year effect of the expiring Bush cuts — which the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee puts at $2.7 trillion — plus an additional $1.1 trillion resulting from the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT would raise taxes for millions of middle-income Americans because it was never indexed for inflation on a permanent basis. Obama now proposes to do just that, while Bush merely extended temporary, year-to-year "patches."

Immigration Inaccuracies

On CBS’ "Face the Nation," Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl falsely stated that property crimes are up in Phoenix.

There was this exchange between the Republican senator and host Harry Smith:

Smith: Because one of the things that’s come to light over the last couple of weeks is in some of these border towns that were thought to be susceptible to law-breaking of illegal immigrants, crime is actually down. Crime in Phoenix, for instance, is down significantly over the last couple of years.

Kyl: Well that’s — that’s a gross generalization. Property crimes are up. Certain violent crimes on certain parts of the citizenry are up.

Kyl’s wrong about property crimes — at least as of 2008. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the property crime rate in Phoenix has gone down every year since 2002, when it was 7,095 per 100,000 city residents. In 2008 — the most recent year available on the bureau’s website — the rate was 5,214 per 100,000 residents. The 2009 Preliminary Uniform Crime Report released by the FBI in May reported that the number of property crimes in Phoenix declined from 82,689 in 2008 to 65,617 in 2009.

The senator didn’t say which violent crimes are up. Overall, the violent crime rate in Phoenix was 659 per 100,000 in 2008 — the lowest of all the years listed on the Bureau of Justice’s website, which covers the period from 1985 through 2008. The FBI’s preliminary data for 2009 suggests the trend is continuing, showing a decline in the number of violent crimes in Phoenix to 8,730 in 2009 from 10,465 in 2008.

The Immigration Policy Center wrote about the decline in crime statewide on its website June 17: "The latest crime statistics released by the FBI confirm … that Arizona is in the midst of a years-long decline in violent crime … despite the growing number of unauthorized immigrants in the state during those same years. … [And] that the numbers of violent crimes as a whole, and murders in particular, have been trending downwards for years in Arizona’s three largest cities: Phoenix, Tucson, and Mesa."

And once again, we heard that, as a result of illegal immigrants, Phoenix is "called the kidnapping capital of the United States," Kyl said. This claim stems from a Feb. 11, 2009, ABC News article, which didn’t say how the news organization reached that conclusion, as we previously noted.

Kyl also stated he was "very disturbed to see a memorandum that’s being circulated within the Department of Homeland Security … basically talking about non-legislative ways to achieve amnesty." The memorandum sparked a group of senators to write a letter July 26 to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressing concern about a "large scale" offer of amnesty. The truth is that DHS has been quietly using administrative policies such as "parole" – which, in immigration terms, means allowing people in the U.S. illegally to stay in the country, rather than leave, while pursuing legalized status – since last spring to allow military families to stay together. The memo discussed other options that could be used to help certain groups of immigrants. "To be clear, DHS will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation’s entire illegal immigrant population," a spokesman for the department said in late July.

— Brooks Jackson and Melissa Siegel