NWA Times shooting the messenger – Updated

This is rich. NWA Times attacks “liberal bloggers” for quoting their own report. Last week, Arkansas Media Watch pointed out a Northwest Arkansas Times report (copy of cutout below the fold) according to which Senator Mark Pryor had made the wrong and insulting statement:

Pryor said various tax breaks have created a system in which 45 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes. “It’s hard to have a fair tax system where only about half the people are paying,” he said.

This blog pointed out that most Americans do pay taxes (payroll taxes, gas and sales taxes etc.), even those too poor to pay federal income taxes. The issue of wrong or misleading statements about tax fairness has been in the air lately. Pryor’s Senate colleague John Boozman is on record with a similar wrong statement: “51 percent of the public don’t pay any federal taxes”. A recent, well researched New York Times editorial pointed out the fallacy in these claims.

Arkansas Media Watch has not only criticized the two Senators for making inaccurate statements, but also the local media for letting them get away with inaccurate statements. Pryor’s office has now maintained that Pryor was misquoted. Arkansas Media Watch has contacted NWA Times (editors Greg Harton and Lisa Thompson and publisher Rusty Turner) twice (on August 24 and 29) and requested clarification. No response.

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Pryor on taxes

UPDATE, April 17, 2012: While Senator Pryor’s office in the below statement claims that Pryor is concerned about millionaires not paying their fair share in taxes (“It is maddening that hundreds of millionaires pay virtually no federal income taxes, and this should change”), Pryor recently joined Senate Republicans in voting down President Obama’s proposal for a minimum tax on income millionaires (the “Buffett rule”). What does Pryor really stand for? A fairer tax system, or tax privileges for the super rich? His actions unambiguously point to the second.

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Michael Teague from the office of Senator Pryor emailed Arkansas Media Watch a clarification regarding Pryor’s remarks about tax fairness. Full text below the fold. It is essentially the same account as recently given by John Brummett: Pryor allegedly was misquoted.

AMW has asked NWA Times editor Greg Harton and journalist Larry Henry for confirmation what Pryor actually said and they have not responded. This is not reassuring. The newspaper pretends to have a policy of correcting any factual mistakes. So far this hasn’t happened. Let’s hope that the newspaper takes the incident seriously and is more careful in its future reporting.

On the other hand, Pryor’s clarification still raises some issues. Pryor expresses concern “that 1,470 taxpayers who earned $1 million or more paid no federal income taxes in 2009”. But a statement like “It’s hard to have a fair tax system where only about half the people are paying”, assuming it is meant to only refer to the federal income tax, seems to imply that more of the working poor and the elderly should be paying income taxes. Or does Pryor think half the people are millionaires? When you care about tax fairness, why would you single out just one component of the tax system? Why discuss only “the inequities in the federal income tax system, [as opposed to] city, state or even sales or excise taxes” – not to mention federal payroll taxes?

The full statement from Mark Pryor’s office below the fold:

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