Taxes: Sheltered From the Truth

Yesterday Campaign Desk tipped our hat to the Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel for his detailed dissection (subscription required) of a misleading statement in President Bush’s stump speech. Then today in the concluding paragraphs of the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s coverage of the president’s stop in Columbus we came across the same statement reprinted without challenge from the reporter:

Bush also used the speech to attack Kerry’s plan to repeal the tax cuts for people earning more than $200,000 a year, saying the middle class would have to pay more in the end.

“When they say, ‘Tax the rich,’ those are the folks who have got the accountants to see to it they don’t pay tax, so guess who gets stuck with the bill?” Bush said. “You are going to get stuck with the bill.”

It’s irresponsible for the Plain Dealer to leave its readers with the impression that Bush’s rhetoric is true. As Wessel, the Journal’s deputy Washington Bureau Chief, pointed out, this assertion leads to a discussion over Subchapter S companies such as small businesses, farmers, and ranchers that are subject to tax increases if they earn enough money. But, as Wessels notes, “the bulk … don’t make enough to fall into the top bracket. They won’t pay more under Mr. Kerry’s plan.”

In other words, while a few Subchapter S companies, along with individuals earning more than $200,000 would see tax increases under Kerry, the vast majority of Americans would not. That is a fact that every American reading campaign coverage deserves to know.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.