Jul
10
2012

NYT: Tax Factchecking Is for the Editorial Page

The New York Times has a piece today (7/10/12) that pairs Obama's tax announcement with Republican attempts to kill Obamacare, presenting both as "politically charged proposals." It's hard to see how the two are at all similar, but the Times attempts to make the connection, noting that "lawmakers worry about alienating people who like expanded health coverage or tax cuts."

That actually confuses matters even more. The vast majority of people would get a tax cut under the Obama plan. Repealing Obamacare would do a lot more harm to a lot more people–i.e., the ones "who like expanded health coverage." It's a strange policy comparison to make.

As if that weren't bad enough, the Times piece, by Mark Landler and Jonathan Weisman,  fails to do simple factchecking of Republican claims about the Obama tax plan:

He [Obama] said that 98 percent of households and 97 percent of small businesses would receive a tax cut under his plan. But Republicans said the president’s proposal would amount to a broad tax on small businesses because many business owners report their profits as personal income.

There you go: Obama says A, Republicans say B.

People who know these debates know this GOP counter-argument is old–and it was bogus then, too.

Times reporters apparently don't want to challenge Republican talking points. But thankfully the paper has an editorial on the same subject:

Republicans argue that letting the high-end tax cuts expire will hit small businesses and impede hiring. That is nonsense, and based on an overly broad definition of "small business," which counts any taxpayer who reports business income as a business owner, including lawyers and accountants working in partnerships, corporate executives who sit on other firms’ boards and shareholders in "S-corporations," business organizations that can employ thousands of workers. Using a more reasonable definition of small business–for instance, having income and deductions of less than $10 million–a recent Treasury analysis found that only 2.5 percent of small-business owners would face higher taxes from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Of those who would be affected, most are unlikely to reduce hiring or investment because of ample deductions for business expenses.

So the Republican argument is nonsense–at least according to the Treasury Department. Why can't a reporter say this in a news story? Since they often don't seem to want to do this, why in the world would Republicans ever stop saying it?

P.S. Lest someone think this is a problem unique to the New York Times, here is today's Washington Post:

House GOP leaders…charged that the president's plan would raise taxes on small-business owners.

"President Obama is still asleep at the switch when it comes to our economy and jobs," House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) said Monday. "In the wake of another weak jobs report, the president is doubling down on his quixotic call for the same small-business tax hikes that have been routinely rejected by the House and Senate."

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul echoed that sentiment, calling Obama's proposal "a massive tax increase." She added that it "proves again that the president doesn’t have a clue how to get America working again."

Obama said his plan would cover 98 percent of the working public and 97 percent of small-business owners.

So reporter David Nakamura had enough space to get two quotes from Republicans to push their bogus line on small business owners–but not enough room for reality.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.