Apr
27
2009

The Post Stands Up for the Poor Rich

Today the Washington Post devoted front-page real estate to an examination of how some wealthy people who don't think of themselves as wealthy will suffer under Obama's proposed tax plans. Their primary example is Gail Johnson, who, along with her husband, earns about $515,000 in a typical year from the chain of preschools and after-school programs they own:

"You hear 'tax the rich,' and you think, 'I don't make that much money,' " said Johnson, whose Rainbow Station programs are headquartered near Richmond. "But then you realize: 'Oh, if I put my business income with my wages, then, suddenly, I'm there.' "

The piece claims that, under Obama's plan, Johnson's federal taxes would increase by 19 percent, or $23,000.

As economist Dean Baker points out, Johnson's situation "would describe that of less than 1 percent of all small business owners, so it is difficult to understand why such a person would be prominently featured in an article on President Obama's tax plans."

The Post piece goes on to note that "Republicans argue that those who fall into the upper brackets tend to be firms with the greatest capacity for job creation"–a claim which, as Baker writes, contradicts extensive economic analysis.

Also interviewed for the piece are the chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a VP at the National Foreign Trade Council, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, and two other small business owners likely to pay more in taxes under Obama's plan–all critics of the plan, except for the last small business owner, tacked on at the very end as the Post's apparent effort to distinguish its reporting from pure PR for the wealthy.

Post writers Lori Montgomery and V. Dion Haynes report that Johnson says she and her husband actually take home "substantially less" than their taxable income, and that potential tax increases would face her with a difficult choice:

"You can try to pass it on to consumers. But if you raise tuition, you put pressure on family budgets," she said. "For us, we're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea."

Or, gee, maybe you could try to get by with a post-federal tax income of $372,000 a year instead of $395,000.

Jim Murphy, the other critical small business owner interviewed, "said his accountant estimates that Obama's proposals could add $60,000 to his $120,000 tax bill."

"Said his accountant estimates"? Is this what passes for reporting at the Washington Post? Apparently so, at least when the coverage is of the embattled upper class.

About Julie Hollar

Managing Editor of Extra! Magazine
Julie Hollar is the managing editor of FAIR's magazine, Extra!. Her work received an award from Project Censored in 2005, and she has been interviewed by such media outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Agence France-Presse and the San Francisco Chronicle. A graduate of Rice University, she has written for the Texas Observer and coordinated communications and activism at the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. Hollar also co-directed the 2006 documentary Boy I Am and was previously active in the Paper Tiger Television collective.