A key exchange from tonight's debate:
BUSH: ... Now, he says he's only going to tax the rich. Do you realize, 900,000 small businesses will be taxed under his plan because most small businesses are Subchapter S corps or limited partnerships, and they pay tax at the individual income tax level. ...
KERRY: ... Ladies and gentlemen, that's just not true what he said. The Wall Street Journal said 96 percent of small businesses are not affected at all by my plan.
And you know why he gets that count? The president got $84 from a timber company that owns, and he's counted as a small business. Dick Cheney's counted as a small business. That's how they do things. That's just not right.
BUSH: I own a timber company?
That's news to me.
Need some wood?
Most small businesses are Subchapter S corps. They just are.
BUSH: I met Grant Milliron, Mansfield, Ohio. He's creating jobs. Most small businesses -- 70 percent of the new jobs in America are created by small businesses.
Taxes are going up when you run up the top two brackets. It's a fact.
Bush's befuddled response will help get this exchange more media play, and the stream of consciousness that follows is a nice touch. So what's the truth? From Dick Cheney's favorite website:
President Bush himself would have qualified as a "small business owner" under the Republican definition, based on his 2001 federal income tax returns. He reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise.
(via Atrios, in case you can't get through to factcheck.org).
The only problem is that these are 2001 data on Bush. But the main point - that Bush's 900,00 figure is greatly exaggerated - clearly stands, and anyone who wants to argue over whether it was okay to use the 2001 number will have to keep repeating Kerry's point.
Kerry's carelessness about the details around Bush's small business income compares favorably to Bush's carelessness with a more important number: Al Qaeda members captured or killed. Some unreleased numbers claim that 75% of known Al Qaeda leaders have been captured (out of no more than 100 known leaders - and perhaps much less). Tonight, Bush (mis-)used this number twice:
I vowed to our countrymen that I would do everything I could to protect the American people. That's why we're bringing Al Qaida to justice. Seventy five percent of them have been brought to justice.
Of course, we're going to find Osama bin Laden. We've already 75 percent of his people. And we're on the hunt for him.