Today's Washington Post includes an article about voters' misperceptions about the presidential candidates' tax plans -- an article that fails to clarify much about their actual proposals. Here's how the Post explains the distribution of the candidates' tax cuts:
If voters hear any part of Obama's message, it's his vow to treat taxpayers differently depending on their income. Under his plan, lower- and middle-income workers would see large tax cuts, while families in the top 1 percent of the income scale would see an average annual tax increase of nearly $100,000, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
McCain, by contrast, vows to cut taxes for all families, but his plan would concentrate those benefits among the same families who would suffer under Obama. While middle-income families would see an average tax cut of about $321 under McCain, according to the Tax Policy Center, families in the top 1 percent would see an average tax cut of nearly $49,000.
Notice anything missing? The Post tells us the "average tax cut" for "middle-income families" under McCain's plan: $321, according to the Tax Policy Center. Is that more or less than such families would get under Obama's plan? That's a fairly basic question, and one you would think an article about the candidates' tax plans would answer. But the Post says only that under Obama's plan, "lower- and middle-income workers would see large tax cuts." Well, great. How large? More than under McCain's plan? Less? The Post doesn't tell readers. Is it any wonder that voters don't understand the candidates' tax plans?
For the record, the Tax Policy Center -- the very organization the Post relied on for its information -- says Obama would give bigger tax cuts to middle income taxpayers than McCain would:
The Obama plan would reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income families, but raise them significantly for high-bracket taxpayers (see Figure 2). By 2012, middle-income taxpayers would see their after-tax income rise by about 5 percent, or nearly $2,200 annually. Those in the top 1 percent would face a $19,000 average tax increase—a 1.5 percent reduction in after-tax income.
McCain would lift after-tax incomes an average of about 3 percent, or $1,400 annually, for middle-income taxpayers by 2012. But, in sharp contrast to Obama, he would cut taxes for those in the top 1% by more than $125,000, raising their after-tax income an average 9.5 percent.
On Studio B, Carl Cameron said, "Fifty-eight days before the elections, and the Obama campaign is accusing the McCainiacs of lying about this 'bridge to nowhere' issue." He went on to claim of Gov. Sarah Palin, "Now, she didn't ask for the bridge, nor did she ask for the money. ... [W]hen people say, 'Sarah Palin asked for earmark money or pork,' it's just inaccurate." In fact, in an op-ed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Palin wrote that in 2008, her administration "requested 31 earmarks, down from 54 in 2007" and that "the federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship."
On CBS' The Early Show, Maggie Rodriguez did not challenge McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt's claim that "Senator [Barack] Obama has a plan to raise" taxes, even though McCain's own chief economic adviser has reportedly said it is inaccurate to say "Barack Obama raises taxes." Rodriguez did not point out that, in fact, Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families and raising them only on households earning more than $250,000 per year.
Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee falsely claimed that, under Sen. Barack Obama's health-care plan, "the government will be in control," and that "we're going to be rationing it." In fact, Obama has not proposed government-run health care. Indeed, Obama's website specifically states that, under his proposal, individuals "will not have to change plans."
During an appearance on Fox & Friends, Donald Trump claimed, "The worst thing that can happen [in this economy] is everybody has to pay double and triple the taxes, and that's what [Sen. Barack] Obama is looking to do." Fox & Friends co-hosts did not challenge Trump's claim, even though it is false. Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families and raising taxes only on households earning more than $250,000 per year in income.
On his radio show, Neal Boortz described "single mothers receiving public assistance" as "welfare broodmares" -- a "broodmare" is "a mare [a female horse] kept for breeding." Boortz previously referred to "welfare brood mares" in a "Nealz Nuze" post on his website.
The Washington Times uncritically repeated the McCain campaign's false claim that Sen. Barack Obama "oppos[es] ... tax cuts for small businesses." In fact, Obama supports tax cuts for small businesses, including "eliminat[ing] capital gains taxes for small businesses" and "provid[ing] a refundable credit of up to 50 percent on [health care] premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees."
In a blog post, New York Times reporter Larry Rohter claimed that in a statement in a September 2007 op-ed that "[i]f we kept the payroll tax exactly the same but applied it to all earnings and not just the first $97,500, we could virtually eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall," Sen. Barack Obama was laying out his plan to address future shortfalls in Social Security. Rohter misrepresented the statement, claiming that Obama has now changed his position. But in the op-ed, Obama did not present removing the payroll tax income cap as his "plan" but, rather, as "[o]ne possible option."
A Washington Post article on young evangelical voters stated that one such voter is "leaning toward [Sen. John] McCain because she shares his economic views and is afraid that [Sen. Barack] Obama will raise taxes," but did not note that Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families, or that McCain's own chief economic adviser has reportedly said it is inaccurate to say that "Barack Obama raises taxes."
The Denver Post, ABC News, and The Washington Post all uncritically reported that Sen. John McCain, during an August 14 appearance in Aspen, Colorado, responded to criticism that he had changed his position on President Bush's tax cuts by stating he originally opposed them because they were not accompanied by spending reductions. None of these outlets noted that when McCain voted against the tax cuts in 2001, the reason he gave in his Senate floor statement was not that they were not accompanied by spending cuts but, rather, that "so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief."
The headline of a Washington Post article read: "Obama Tax Plan Would Balloon Deficit, Analysis Finds." But while the headline focused on Sen. Barack Obama, the article itself reported that the Tax Policy Center found that Sen. John McCain's tax plan would add $5 trillion to the national debt while Obama's plan would add $3.4 trillion.
The Los Angeles Times uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain asserting of Sen. Barack Obama, "[H]is plan is to raise your taxes and spend more of your money," without noting that the claim is false. Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families, and McCain's own chief economic adviser has reportedly said it is inaccurate to say that "Barack Obama raises taxes."
In an editorial, The Washington Times asserted that President Bush "had very high poll ratings (80 percent to 90 percent) throughout his first term" and went on to say that during his tenure, he "reduced unemployment to still record-levels." In fact, Bush's approval ratings peaked between 80 percent and 95 percent in September 2001 before trending downward through the end of his first term, which he finished at around 50 percent. Additionally, the unemployment rate under Bush after the 2001 recession bottomed out at 4.4 percent in March 2007 -- a higher level than when Bush took office in January 2001, when the rate was 4.2 percent.
On Hugh Hewitt's show, the Politico's Mike Allen said that "Senator [John] McCain had a good week last week" and stated it may be because of the McCain campaign's "Celebrity" ad, which "suggested [Sen. Barack] Obama is going to raise taxes." Allen did not note that the claim is false. In fact, Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families, and McCain's own chief economic adviser has reportedly said it is inaccurate to say that "Barack Obama raises taxes."
In a Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove claimed that "[Sen. John McCain] opposes tax increases and [Sen. Barack] Obama favors them." In fact, Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families, and McCain's own chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, has reportedly said that it is inaccurate to say that "Barack Obama raises taxes." Moreover, McCain himself recently suggested he would be open to raising Social Security payroll taxes.