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Six numbers to ignore from the presidential campaign

This is the tax increase that middle-class families will supposedly face if President Obama is re-elected, according to the Romney-Ryan campaign. As the GOP candidate for vice president, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), put it Oct. 13, “President Obama refuses to get serious about spending. And given the president’s preference to raise taxes, just to pay the interest on the debt that the president has racked up and proposed, a middle-income family will see their tax bill grow by $4,000 a year.”

The figure comes from a blog post published by the conservative American Enterprise Institute think-tank based on some AEI research, but the institute wasn’t estimating the cost of specific Obama proposals. Instead, it was estimating how much of the taxes paid by those making $100,000 to $200,000 would go to paying interest on the national debt. By that measure, Romney and Ryan will “raise” tax bills by $2,732, FactCheck.org reported, adding, “That’s nonsense, too.”

 (Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / MCT)
President Obama has repeatedly said that the Medicare “voucher” plan proposed by GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan would raise seniors’ costs by $6,400 a year. The figure comes from a study by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which used projections from the Congressional Budget Office to estimate out-of-pocket costs that future retirees would face under the budget Ryan proposed -- a year and a half ago. Yes, Mitt Romney endorsed that budget earlier in the campaign, but Ryan has changed his proposal significantly, and Romney has his own plan for Medicare. According to the Romney campaign, that plan would provide subsidies large enough to cover the cost of at least two different insurance plans offering at least as much coverage as traditional Medicare.  (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press )
In both of his debates with President Obama, GOP rival Mitt Romney has asserted that there are “23 million” Americans “out of work.” That figure combines estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of people who are out of work -- the unemployed, who number about 12 million -- with part-time employees who’d rather be working full-time -- the underemployed, about 8.6 million -- and those who’ve given up finding work or are only marginally attached to the labor force -- 2.5 million. It’s fair to say these people are struggling to find enough work, but Romney’s statements imply that they’re all jobless. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)
To deflect criticism about the fatal attack on the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the Obama campaign has accused GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of proposing to cut $300 million from the budget for embassy security. As Vice President Joe Biden put it in his debate with Ryan, “the congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for.” But there was no such reduction in Ryan’s budget, which didn’t specify a funding level for embassies. Instead, the figure was derived by the Obama campaign by assuming across-the-board cuts to all discretionary programs based on the overall spending caps the budget proposed. That’s quite a stretch, especially considering how Republicans have sought to cut social programs in order to maintain spending on security-related needs.  (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have repeatedly accused President Obama of “cutting” $716 billion from Medicare in order to offset the cost of the 2010 healthcare law. Those “cuts,” which Ryan incorporated into his own budget proposals, don’t reduce the benefits provided by the core Medicare program, however. Instead, they reduce the subsidies paid to private insurers through the Medicare Advantage program and trim the rate increases that doctors and hospitals are slated to receive. Critics of the changes say that Medicare Advantage customers are likely to lose some of the extra benefits that program provides. But contrary to its original purpose, Medicare Advantage has been less efficient at delivering benefits than traditional Medicare has been.  (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
President Obama often asserts that his GOP rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, wants to cut taxes by $5 trillion. As Obama put it at the second presidential debate on Tuesday, “Along with what he also wants to do in terms of eliminating the estate tax, along what he wants to do in terms of corporate [tax cuts], changes in the tax code, it costs about $5 trillion.” The Obama campaign arrived at that figure by extrapolating from an estimate by the Tax Policy Center (a project run by the centrist Brookings Institute and the liberal Urban Institute) of the revenue sacrificed in one year by Romney’s proposed reduction in tax rates. But that’s misleading because it ignores the other half of Romney’s proposal for the tax code, which is to roll back deductions, credits and exemptions. Granted, Romney hasn’t specified which of those breaks he would eliminate, or the total value thereof. He’s simply said that, after factoring economic growth, the changes in tax law would neither increase nor reduce the federal deficit. Talking about the cost of the tax plan by looking only at the rate cuts and not the offsetting reduction in tax breaks is like saying a rainbow is red, yellow and orange.  (Scott Eells / Bloomberg)