While talking about Sen. Barack Obama's tax plan, Lou Dobbs falsely asserted that "just about 40 percent of all Americans -- working Americans -- don't pay taxes." In fact, all American workers are required to pay taxes on their wages for Social Security and Medicare, and people in the United States are also subject to excise taxes. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office found that the average effective federal tax rate for households in the lowest quintile of income earners in 2005 was 4.3 percent, while the second lowest quintile paid an average effective rate of 9.9 percent that year.
Discussing Sam Joe Wurzelbacher ("Joe the Plumber") on MSNBC Live, Tamron Hall said that "according to the federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average for a plumber: $45,000. ... I think it would be rude to ask Joe what his income is." But Wurzelbacher's income -- or expected income -- is the issue in determining the veracity of McCain's charge that Wurzelbacher's taxes would increase under Sen. Barack Obama's tax plan.
CNN's Dana Bash noted that Sen. John McCain "is going to try to hit much more on the idea" that Sen. Barack Obama is "going to raise your taxes," but not that the claim misrepresents Obama's tax plan. Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families.
During a preview of the third presidential debate on ABC's World News, David Wright said that Sen. John McCain "plans to present [Sen. Barack] Obama as someone who will raise your taxes" and will "question Obama's judgment and character following from [Gov.] Sarah Palin's charge that Obama has been palling around with terrorists, like former '60s radical William Ayers" without noting the misrepresentations in those attacks.
In the sense that it doesn't practices journalism. Instead, it has a long history, especially with its coverage of Democrats, of simply making stuff up whenever the moment strikes.
Today's a perfect example with a campaign article that's generating buzz online. The piece is headlined, "OBAMA FIRES A 'ROBIN HOOD' WARNING SHOT." Note how Robin Hood is in quotes.
The Post's Charles Hurt reports that during an exchange with a voter "caught on video" (note the high drama), Barack Obama, "let slip his plans to become a modern-day Robin Hood in the White House, confiscating money from the rich to give to the poor."
In fact, what Obama did was explain to a voter the theory behind his tax policy:
"My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
That's sort of Democratic Policy 101 and is hardly newsworthy. Hurt simply did his best to whip the exchange into something controversial. But back to the headline. Why did the Post put Robin Hood in quotes? Was somebody in the article quoted calling Obama Robin Hood? Maybe the voter Obama spoke to, or a tax expert?
No. In fact, the only time the phrase appeared in the article was when Hurt himself introduced it; when Hurt called Obama Robin Hood.
Which means, the Post quoted its own news reporter for the headlines to a news article.
Like we said, the Post doesn't really practice journalism as it's commonly defined.
ABC's Robin Roberts did not challenge Rudy Giuliani's claim that Sen. Barack Obama "wants to raise taxes." In fact, Obama has repeatedly said he would cut taxes for families making less than $250,000 per year, and Sen. John McCain's own chief economic adviser reportedly said that it is inaccurate to claim that "Barack Obama raises taxes."
On MSNBC Live, McClatchy's Steven Thomma asserted that Sen. John McCain will likely attack Sen. Barack Obama "as a tax-raiser, someone who'll take money out of your pocket at the very moment you don't want it to happen." Neither Thomma nor Politico's David Mark, who agreed with Thomma's assessment, noted that claims that Obama will raise taxes and "take money out of your pocket" misrepresent Obama's tax plan.
The first AP article about tonight's debate notes that "Palin said Obama had voted to raise taxes 94 times" -- but fails to mention that number has beed widely debunked. Factcheck.org, for example, calls it "inflated and misleading" and "padded" and noted the figure includes "Double, Triple and Quadruple Counting."
But the Associated Press uncritically reports Palin's charge. Rather than fact-checking Palin, the AP touted her folksiness:
As is her custom on the campaign, she spoke in familiar terms, saying "betcha" rather than "bet you" and "gonna" rather than "going to."
On Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity and Mary Matalin falsely claimed that cutting taxes raises revenues. In fact, several former and current Bush administration economists have stated that tax cuts -- including those passed under President Bush -- produce a net decrease in revenue. For example, Treasure Secretary Henry Paulson said during his confirmation hearing, "As a general rule, I don't believe that tax cuts pay for themselves."
The Washington Post uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's false claim that Sen. Barack Obama "would raise taxes." In fact, the Tax Policy Center concluded that, compared with McCain, "Obama would give larger tax cuts to low- and moderate-income households and pay some of the cost by raising taxes on high-income taxpayers" -- those households earning more than $250,000 per year.
On Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough falsely asserted that Sen. Barack Obama "wants" "higher taxes." In fact, the Tax Policy Center concluded that, compared to Sen. John McCain, "Obama would give larger tax cuts to low- and moderate-income households and pay some of the cost by raising taxes on high-income taxpayers" -- those households earning more than $250,000 per year.
On Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday, Steve Doocy stated that FactCheck.org said it was "true" that Sen. Barack Obama voted for a "bill that ... would increase taxes on people earning as little as $42,000 a year." Doocy added: "[Sen.] John McCain said, 'That was true, you did.' " In fact, FactCheck.org stated that "McCain was correct -- with qualification," adding that the votes McCain has previously cited for the claim were on a measure that "actually would not have altered taxes without additional legislation. ... McCain is referring to the provision that would have allowed the 25 percent tax bracket to return to 28 percent. The tax plan Obama now proposes, however, would not raise the rate on that tax bracket."
On CNN's American Morning, John Roberts did not challenge Mitt Romney's suggestion that, with "an economy in trouble," Sen. Barack Obama will raise taxes. Roberts did not note that, in fact, Obama has proposed tax cuts for low- and middle-income families and for those making less than $250,000 per year.
A Detroit News article quoted a McCain spokesman's claims that Obama would "raise taxes" without noting that Obama has proposed tax cuts for low- and middle-income families.
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.