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November 13, 2012

Fact check: Would tax hike on wealthy kill 700,000 jobs?

"The president wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. But what that does is it net loses 700,000 more American jobs that are really from people who need those jobs."

— Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, on Fox News, Nov. 8

"According to Ernst & Young, raising the top rates would destroy nearly 700,000 jobs in our country."

— House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Nov. 9

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The presidential election is over. Time to get ready for the fiscal cliff!

The fiscal cliff is the looming end-of-the-year expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and the automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act. The double whammy would likely sink the economy, though Democrats and Republicans disagree on the best approach for resolving the problem.

For his part, President Barack Obama has long urged retaining the Bush tax cuts for workers making less than $250,000, but letting tax rates (and some other provisions) rise for the wealthiest Americans. Republicans have opposed this, in part because they say it would harm small businesses that organize themselves so earnings or losses are passed though to the shareholders — who then are taxed at the individual tax rate.

Rep. Pete Sessions, however, went further and claimed on Thursday that hundreds of thousands of people would lose their jobs if Obama's proposed tax increase went into effect. And Boehner on Friday repeated the claim at a news conference. What's the math behind this claim?

The Facts

According to an aide, Sessions obtained his figure from a study prepared last year by two economists at Ernst & Young for the Independent Community Bankers of America, the National Federation of Independent Business, the S Corporation Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — all opponents of the president's agenda.

That might be the first clue that this is potentially not a neutral document. One of the authors is also a former official in George W. Bush's Treasury Department.

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