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Princeton Economist Harvey Rosen: Obama Campaign Misrepresenting My Work On Romney's Tax Plan [UPDATE]

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OBAMA HARVEY ROSEN
President Barack Obama speaks at the “30 Days to Victory” fundraising concert, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Los Angeles, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) | AP

The Obama campaign claims that a Princeton economist's findings support its assertions about Mitt Romney's tax plan, but the economist says that's not exactly true.

"Harvard economist Martin Feldstein and Princeton economist Harvey Rosen both concede that paying for Romney’s tax cuts would require large tax increases on families making between $100,000 and $200,000," the Obama campaign wrote in a press release on Sunday.

(This post has been updated to include quotes from an interview with Harvey Rosen.)

But Princeton economist Harvey Rosen told The Huffington Post in an interview on Tuesday that there is no way that this claim is accurate. "My paper doesn't say it, doesn't imply it," Rosen said.

He said that, if anything, his paper reached the opposite conclusion about Romney's tax plan. "The paper shows that if you look at individual taxpayers with incomes of $200,000 or more, there is sufficient revenue from base broadening and growth to make up for the revenue lost from lower tax rates. Therefore, there is no need to make up revenue from groups with below $200,000."

The paper, he said, analyzed total tax revenue, not effective tax rates, from families making more than $100,000 per year and families making more than $200,000 per year, not the intersecting group of families making between $100,000 and $200,000 per year.

"I guess [the Obama campaign] didn't read what I did very carefully," he said.

Earlier, Rosen told the Weekly Standard in an email that he felt that the Obama campaign misrepresented the paper. "I can’t tell exactly how the Obama campaign reached that characterization of my work," he wrote in an email to the publication.

Rosen's paper did find that families making more than $100,000 per year would have to pay $81 billion more in taxes under Romney's tax plan, a 12 percent increase. But his paper did not explicitly say whether these families, whose incomes he assumes would be rising, would actually pay a higher tax rate.

Rosen's conclusion that Romney's tax plan is mathematically possible rests on a questionable assumption: namely that Romney's tax cuts for the rich would lead to robust economic growth. In fact, economic growth sharply slowed during the Bush administration, when President George W. Bush cut taxes for the rich. Brad DeLong, economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, also notes that President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts for the rich did not lead to much stronger economic growth either.

Rosen clarified in his interview with HuffPost that his paper provides different scenarios for income growth -- ranging from 0 percent to 7 percent -- and that Romney's tax plan is mathematically possible when assuming modest income growth.

A number of analysts, including those at the Tax Policy Center, have found that Romney's tax plan would have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to be mathematically possible. But Rosen told The Huffington Post that he disagrees.

"I am saying that mathematically it can work," Rosen said. "It is mathematically possible."

CLARIFICATION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of the headline of this post indicated that Rosen's study was about Romney's personal taxes. The study analyzes his tax proposals.

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