Tax & Spin

Tax & Spin
Five Ways the Media Distort Tax Issues

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June 26, 2005

     Reporters often get it wrong when covering taxes and the economy. Their economic errors go uncorrected, leaving the audience with a slanted perception of taxation and government. With the assistance of the National Taxpayers Union, the Media Research Centers Business & Media Institute has compiled five mistakes journalists commonly make along with suggestions for more accurate coverage.

1) RICH & POOR: Reporters often talk about tax cuts for the wealthy and look only at the gross amount of taxes paid instead of the percentage of income.


When President Bush said that a lot of the tax benefits from his tax cuts have gone to middle-class Americans, I think Senator Kerry had a pretty good debating point to make, to say a lot of the tax cut, the absolute dollar figures, have gone to wealthier Americans. Thats been one of the Democrats main talking points. I dont think he hit that particularly hard.
ABCs Mark Halperin during live coverage of the final
presidential debate on October 13, 2004.

Six hundred billion dollars over 10 years. The presidents proposal would accelerate tax cuts already planned for the years 2004 to 06 across the board, including tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The presidents plan would give the most to the rich and reduce tax receipts in the short term, but the White House argues you have to spend money to make money.
John Roberts, CBS Evening News, January 6, 2003

Right: Reporters should consider the percentage of income each person is paying in taxes (since progessivity is measured not in terms of gross taxes but in terms of taxes as a share of income). Heres a chart for easy reference which shows the steep progressivity of the federal income tax (federal payroll taxes since they are tied to later benefits are not progressive):

2002 Federal Individual Income Tax Data