LA Times, Chicago Tribune uncritically reported McCain's misrepresentation of Obama's tax plan

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

The Los Angeles Times uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's claim that Sen. Barack Obama "proposes" to raise taxes on small businesses, while the Chicago Tribune reported McCain's accusation that Obama "clearly wants to" raise such taxes. In fact, as FactCheck.org wrote in response to a prior McCain claim that Obama would increase taxes on small-business owners: "[T]he overwhelming majority of those small-business owners would see no increase, because they earn too little to be affected."

In an October 20 article, the Los Angeles Times uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's October 19 comment at a campaign rally that, "I won't raise taxes on small businesses, as Sen. [Barack] Obama proposes, and force them to cut jobs." Similarly, the Chicago Tribune uncritically reported that McCain said, "If I'm elected president, I won't raise taxes on small businesses, as Sen. Obama clearly wants to do, and force them to cut jobs." In fact, as FactCheck.org wrote in response to a prior McCain claim that Obama's plan would increase taxes on small-business owners: "[T]he overwhelming majority of those small-business owners would see no increase, because they earn too little to be affected. Obama's tax proposal would raise rates only on couples making more than $250,000 or singles earning more than $200,000."

According to a September 30 Tax Policy Center report, "Under current law, the 10 percent income tax bracket will disappear in 2011 and the 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent brackets will increase to 28, 31, 36, and 39.6 percent, respectively. ... Senator Obama would extend the 10, 15, 25, and 28 percent tax rates but restore the 36 and 39.6 percent rates imposed on the highest income taxpayers." These changes would apply to small-business owners who pay individual income taxes on their profits. According to an April 27, 2007, Tax Policy Center study, only 1.5 percent of tax units with small-business income fall above the current 28 percent tax rate. Additionally, Obama has proposed tax cuts for small businesses, including the "Obama Small Business Health Tax Credit," a "refundable credit of up to 50 percent on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees."

By contrast, an October 20 Associated Press article reported that while McCain "told Fox ... that small businesses would be forced to cut jobs under Obama because their taxes would climb," "[o]nly a small percentage of American small businesses generate incomes above $250,000, and most owners of such enterprises would not be affected under Obama's tax plan."

Additionally, the Los Angeles Times reported, "In Toledo, which is near the town where Joseph Wurzelbacher challenged Obama on his tax plan, McCain cited the now-famous plumber to press his argument that his opponent's agenda would hurt businesspeople in a time of economic stress," but did not note that Obama's plan would not increase his taxes according to reports of Wurzelbacher's income and of the income of the company he has expressed interest in purchasing. According to an October 16 report by The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, "Court records from a divorce show Mr. Wurzelbacher made $40,000 in 2006." In an October 16 blog post, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper wrote that according to ABC News' Chris Bury, Wurzelbacher "acknowledged that he wants to purchase the plumbing business for $250-280,000, not that he would net that much in profits. He would make much less, he said." Tapper also noted that "Wurzelbacher this morning told ABC News' Diane Sawyer that he was talking about, in Diane's words, the prospect, the hope that someday he would make $250,000." Further, in an October 17 article, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company Wurzelbacher has expressed interest in purchasing "reported sales this year of $100,000."

From the Tribune article:

In Ohio, McCain cast himself as the better choice for middle-class workers and small-business owners.

"If I'm elected president, I won't raise taxes on small businesses, as Sen. Obama clearly wants to do, and force them to cut jobs," McCain said at a rally at Otterbein College. "I will keep small business taxes where they are, help them keep their costs low and let them spend their earnings to create more jobs."

From the LA Times article:

The Republican candidate held two rallies in Ohio, rushing through his standard speech so quickly that he left both ahead of schedule. At the convention center in Toledo, which was half-full, the crowd barely responded at times to his applause lines.

In Toledo, which is near the town where Joseph Wurzelbacher challenged Obama on his tax plan, McCain cited the now-famous plumber to press his argument that his opponent's agenda would hurt businesspeople in a time of economic stress. "I won't raise taxes on small businesses, as Sen. Obama proposes, and force them to cut jobs," he said.

McCain had invited Wurzelbacher to join him Sunday, but the burly Everyman rebuffed the offer and instead took his son and father to New York City, where he appeared on a Fox News talk show hosted by former GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. McCain is scheduled to campaign in the area again at midweek, and aides said the invitation stood.

Wurzelbacher has acknowledged that his taxes would actually be cut under Obama's proposal, but McCain and Palin continue to intone his name frequently to try to connect with swing voters who are increasingly skeptical that the duo can be trusted to fix the economy.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
Network/Outlet
Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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