AP article or White House press release?

A December 21 Associated Press article on President Bush's expected tax reform proposals used the same language as the White House to describe Bush's agenda on taxes. And the article quoted five supporters of that agenda but no dissenters.

AP economics writer Martin Crutsinger opened the article by unquestioningly referencing “President Bush's campaign to make the tax code simpler, fairer and more pro-growth.” This description echoed nearly verbatim a December 15 White House economic fact sheet that advocated for Bush's tax reform agenda by contending that “America's taxpayers deserve, and our future economic prosperity demands, a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system.” After noting opposition in Congress to a proposal to “eliminate state and local income tax deductions” that would “nick” Democratic-leaning states more than they would hurt Republican-leaning states, Crutsinger wrote: “The money, though, has to come from somewhere.”

Rather than providing a balanced report and analysis of Bush's likely proposals, the article featured comments from five individuals, all of whom are supportive of the Bush administration and its tax agenda and three of whom are current or former Bush administration officials:

  • "'The president has said he wants to look at all the options that would make the code fairer, less complex and more growth oriented,' Treasury Secretary John Snow said in an interview."
  • "'There are only a handful of things where there is real money and that is where people are going to have to look,' said Glenn Hubbard, who was a key architect of tax policy as Bush's first chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers."
  • Pamela Olson, assistant treasury secretary for tax policy, “agreed that a radical overhaul of the tax code could prove too daunting for Bush 'because the whole economy is built around the current income tax.'”

Two of the individuals quoted represent conservative organizations:

  • "'Our members think the current tax code is way too complicated, but given the realities of the budget deficit and the embedded interests in the current tax code, it is very hard to make major changes,' said Dan Danner, senior vice president for public policy at the 600,000-member National Federation of Independent Business [NFIB]. His group campaigned in the early 1990s to “Sunset the Code” and replace it with a simpler tax system."

    The NFIB Political Action Committee gave $750,416 in contributions to federal candidates in 2004; 98 percent of that amount went to Republicans. The AP reported on November 4 that the NFIB “welcomed Bush's reelection.”

  • "'These things may seem like incremental steps, but if he can do even some of them, it would be a tremendous boon for the economy,' said Stephen Moore, head of the conservative Club for Growth."

    Stephen Moore is president of the political action committee Club for Growth, a group committed to electing candidates that favor lower taxes. Moore is also a contributing editor for the conservative journal National Review who claimed in a November 17 column that polygamy is a “core value” of the American Left and suggested that liberals “create a workers' paradise off the shores of France” where “You can all speak French, allow Janet Jackson to show both her breasts, create a cradle-to-grave welfare state, drink Starbucks lattes, read the New York Times every day, scramble the satellite signal for Fox News, and worship your new leader, Michael Moore!”