Fact-Check: GOP Candidates On Taxes And Downgrades The U.S. doesn't have the highest taxes in the world ... but it's close if you're talking about corporate taxes.
NPR logo

Fact-Check: GOP Candidates On Taxes And Downgrades

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/465930394/465936607" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Fact-Check: GOP Candidates On Taxes And Downgrades

Fact-Check: GOP Candidates On Taxes And Downgrades

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/465930394/465936607" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we'd like to take some time to review last night's Republican presidential debate. It's the last one before the New Hampshire primary. Throughout the campaign season, NPR's politics team has been fact checking what the candidates are saying. It's a feature we call Break It Down.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RONALD REAGAN: For our friends in the press who place a high premium on accuracy, let me say - there you go again. I can't help it. There you go again.

MARTIN: While a lot of attention was focused on the arguments over experience - with Sen. Marco Rubio taking hits from the governors on stage - a lot of policy issues were debated, including discussion of the candidates' various tax plans. Here's Donald Trump in the debate last night on ABC News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Right now, we're the highest taxed country in the world. Under my plan, we cut not only taxes for the middle class, but we cut taxes for corporations.

MARTIN: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben has been digging into all this. She's here in the studio now. So Donald Trump says the U.S. is the most taxed country in the world. Is he right?

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: No. (Laughter) Flat out no. So the best data on this is from the OECD, which is a group of mostly advanced economies. And according to them, when you're looking at countries with the highest tax rates, the U.S. is about middle of the pack. And if you look at tax revenue, how much the governments take in, the U.S. is actually close to the bottom of the pack. And this is tax revenue as a share of GDP. So that's at about 26 percent in the U.S. compared to Denmark at the other end of the spectrum, which is more than 50 percent. So the U.S. really doesn't take in a whole lot of tax revenue.

MARTIN: So are we talking about personal income tax here? Well, what about the corporate taxes?

KURTZLEBEN: On corporate taxes - this is true. The U.S. really does have a pretty high corporate tax rate. According to the Tax Foundation, the U.S. has the third-highest corporate tax rate in the world.

MARTIN: So Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, also talked about the impact of taxes in his state. Let's listen to what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS CHRISTIE: After New Jersey raised taxes on millionaires, we lost - in the next four years, $70 billion in wealth left our state. It left our state to go where it would be treated more kindly.

KURTZLEBEN: So what he's talking about is what was called the, quote unquote, "millionaire's tax." It was instituted in New Jersey in 2004. This was well before Chris Christie took office. And he is citing a 2010 paper from Boston College, which did find that $70 billion in wealth left the state between 2004 and 2008. But as with all these things, it's not entirely that simple. For example, the author of the paper later cautioned that taxes were just one part of the story, one potential factor in that.

MARTIN: So let's talk about Marco Rubio for a minute. As we mentioned, he was heavily criticized by the various governors on stage for not having as much experience in leadership and decision-making as they do. Now he struggled to hit back, but he did get in this swipe about how Chris Christie managed the finances of New Jersey.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARCO RUBIO: Under Chris Christie's governorship of New Jersey, they've been downgraded nine times in their credit rating. This country already has a debt problem. We don't need to add to it by electing someone who has experience at running up and destroying the credit rating of his state.

MARTIN: Is that a fair charge against Chris Christie?

KURTZLEBEN: I mean, it is true that New Jersey was downgraded nine times during Gov. Christie's tenure in office. However, that's from three different rating agencies, so each of them downgraded New Jersey three times. And this does give Christie the worst record of any governor on that stage in this sense. A couple of quick caveats on this. One, credit rating agencies are taking a long view here. They're looking at a state's long-term fiscal health beyond when Christie may be out of office. And the other thing, governors don't exactly have direct control over their state's economy, so it's hard to really say a downgrade is entirely a governor's fault.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. She's breaking down some of the policy discussion at last night's Republican debate. Danielle, thanks so much for joining us.

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.