Today's edition of Fox News' "straight-news" program America Live featured a segment on Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's new tax plan. Far from being "fair and balanced," the segment was policy advocacy in the guise of a news report -- it presented Perry's proposal in a positive light, featured only sympathetic commentators, and paid lip service to criticisms of and deficiencies in the new plan.
The segment featured video of Steve Forbes -- a longtime evangelist for the idea of a flat tax as well as a prominent Perry adviser -- arguing in favor of the plan, along with conservative economist Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute. Opposition to the plan was represented only by anonymous quotes from "Obama campaign aides" and "the Obama campaign team," as read by correspondent Jim Angle. The content of the segment presented Perry's plan as a "solution," argued that "economists say it offers big benefits," and brushed aside the vital issue of how much revenue Perry's tax plan would generate.
Here's how host Megyn Kelly introduced the segment:
KELLY: Hot from the race for the White House, a new solution to America's tax mess.
Not a "campaign plan." Not a "proposal." A "solution."
After describing the plan and showing a clip of Perry selling the plan, Angle read a quote from "Obama campaign aides" stating that "the Perry plan would, quote, shift a greater share of taxes away from large corporations and the wealthiest onto the backs of the middle class." Angle then asserted that the plan's "supporters say offering a choice and generous exemptions makes clear that is not the case." This was followed by footage of Forbes and Hassett selling the plan.
Next, after describing more of Perry's plan, Angle claimed that "many countries around the world have gone to a flat tax, and economists say it offers big benefits."
What Angle didn't say is that, at least as of 2008, every country that used a flat tax was either small, poor, or Russia -- not necessarily comparable to the United States. For an economist who says the plan "offers big benefits," Fox again turned to Hassett, who claimed that the Perry plan would "help firms create jobs for folks who are currently unemployed, and so it'll make poor people better off."
Angle concluded the segment by saying that "the only question is what the revenue implications are, Megyn. Perry did not talk about that, but he did say he'll seek a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and aim for a balanced budget by 2020."
This is a stunning statement. First of all, Angle completely sidesteps the crucial question of how much federal revenue this plan will raise, while uncritically repeating Perry's claim that he'll "aim for a balanced budget by 2020." Of course, the unexplored revenue implications will have a direct bearing on the federal deficit and whether or not a President Perry would be able to achieve that goal. Beyond that, Angle's claim that "revenue implications" are "the only question" surrounding Perry's plan is inaccurate and unfair.