Audit Notes: marginal taxes, a redesign for core readers, Murdoch

An NYT's anecdote's confusion goes uncorrected

The New York Times flubs some reporting on how investors and well off people are bracing for higher tax rates:

Kristina Collins, a chiropractor in McLean, Va., said she and her husband planned to closely monitor the business income from their joint practice to avoid crossing the income threshold for higher taxes outlined by President Obama on earnings above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

Ms. Collins said she felt torn by being near the cutoff line and disappointed that federal tax policy was providing a disincentive to keep expanding a business she founded in 1998.

“If we’re really close and it’s near the end-year, maybe we’ll just close down for a while and go on vacation,” she said.

What Collins is saying, as Kevin Roose points out at New York, is that she has no clue how taxes actually work. If you make $250,001 and move into a higher tax bracket, that new rate only applies to the $1. Your first $250,000 isn’t affected at all.

Most people just flat don’t understand marginal tax rates. The Times does, but by not pointing out that people like Collins are wrong, it helps further misimpressions about them.

For a nice, concise explanation of how moving into higher tax brackets actually affects what you pay in taxes, see Kevin Drum’s “Handy Tax Table for Innumerate Rich People.”

— I’ve talked a lot over the years about how newspapers should focus on serving their loyal readers online and forget about catering to junk traffic. The News Tribune in Tacoma (and its McClatchy sister down I-5 in Olympia) says it’s doing the same thing with the print paper:

On Tuesday, we plan to launch our latest redesign of The News Tribune. Brace yourselves. We’re about to do something radical.

We’re going to design a newspaper for newspaper readers…

For decades, the newspaper industry designed papers for people it hoped would read them. We ran giant headlines to entice nonreaders to grab a paper out of the sidewalk box. We splashed fancy type here and there to look cool and modern. We dreamed up layouts for the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic that didn’t much read the paper.

This says quite a bit about the reduced ambitions of newspapers, not least because it seems to make sense. We’ll see how it’s actually executed, but this is an experiment worth watching, particularly with a backing soundtrack of ragtime silent movie tunes:

The look also hearkens back to old-time newspapers when covers routinely had eight or 10 story starts.

— You have to read Michael Wolff in The Guardian on Rupert Murdoch and the Jews. Murdoch stepped in it this weekend with this tweet:

Wolff, who spent lots of time with Murdoch for an authorized biography, has the explosive background (emphasis mine):

Gary Ginsberg, his long-time aide - part chief-of-staff; part PR consigliere - was often hurt and confounded by Murdoch’s jibes, insensitivities, and humor (there was the Christmas every executive desk got a crèche by order of the boss). Once, with me, Murdoch got into a riff about Jewish groups and money: how they were good at tricking him out of his dough.
And yet, as soon as he focused his business attentions on the US and New York in the mid-seventies, he started to hire Jews as his closest advisers. His support for Israel has been absolute. Arguably, it is his support for Israel, and for neoconism in general (for many years, he owned and funded the losses of the Weekly Standard), that helped solidify rightwing support for Israel. (I was once at an Anti-Defamation League dinner where Rupert Murdoch presented Silvio Berlusconi an award for meritorious conduct with respect to the Jews.)
I think that Murdoch, a man not so much paranoid as he is realistic about his enemies, is parsing what he sees as “‘good Jews” from “bad Jews”. Jews are just another subset of the people who are for him or against him, who he either has to manage or isolate. Along with his open dislike of Muslims - once, he explained to me his theory about how Muslims often married close cousins, therefore depressing their general IQ - and his geopolitical views about world domination, supporting Israel, I believe, is a way to win the support of what he perceives as the good Jews. (That is, if you support him, you are a good Jew.)


Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,