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.
Instead, today, NWA Times published an unsigned editorial attacking those who set the record straight:
“Pryor spoke to the Rogers Rotary Club last week and talked about the nation’s debt crisis. During his presentation, he made the logical argument that part of the solution lies in reforming the federal tax code. As an example, Pryor commented that the code allows 45 percent of citizens to pay no federal income tax and relies on the remaining 55 percent to pony up. That, he reasonably concluded, appears to be unfair and in need of reform. It was clear to everyone in the room that Pryor was talking about federal income taxes. The story about the speech that appeared in this newspaper also makes the reference clear.”
That is not true. The NWA Times report does not make any reference to federal income taxes, just to the “tax system”. (The original article is not online available any more so I posted a cutout, below.)
“However, a self-described liberal blogger issued a withering rebuke of Pryor’s remarks, saying that he was pandering to the largely conservative Northwest Arkansas business community by repeating a canard that poor people don’t pay taxes. Using the time-tested strategy of selective omission, the blogger excoriated Pryor for throwing poor people under the bus, that the Senator knows good and well that they pay all kinds of taxes, even if they are exempt from the federal income levy.”
It is unclear which blogger they refer to here. This blog has not accused Pryor of “pandering to the largely conservative Northwest Arkansas business community”, nor has Blue Arkansas or Arkansas Blog. None of these blogs taking up the debate have employed “selective omission” – they all simply quoted from NWA Times’ own report. A google search of the phrase “pandering to the largely conservative Northwest Arkansas business community” doesn’t turn up anything either. These editors are clumsily building a straw man, attacking an unnamed blogger and laying words in their mouth that nobody actually used. Tellingly, the editors cannot quote a single statement that the unnamed blogger actually got wrong. Their strategy is to dismiss the blogger’s criticism on ideological grounds. That is a lot easier than making an argument and backing it up with factual evidence. It’s just another example of how the Murdochized media operates.
This editorial looks like a pretty desperate attempt at damage control by a newspaper that got caught screwing up in its core business – which, one assumes, consists in informing readers and reporting facts (and notably, they just had to retract from another screw-up involving judge Mary Ann Gunn). Two points deserve special attention: first the editors’ childishly referring to unnamed bloggers, apparently afraid that people might actually want to read for themselves who got it right. Second, the real issue at hand – that the working poor may not be paying federal income taxes but they do pay plenty of taxes and accusing them of free-riding is lowliest demagoguery – gets obfuscated by a bunch of editors who care more about saving their own face than about the truth. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Finally, for some reason, Boozman’s transgression doesn’t get the attention it deserves, with the debate focusing on Pryor.
- Perfidious poor, a good article by Ernest Dumas in Arkansas Times
- Refuting the “50% don’t pay taxes” Canard, by fayfreethinkers.com
- The New Resentment of the Poor, New York Times
- Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult
- Soaking the poor, state by state
The World of Class Warfare – by Jon Stewart
- The Daily Show – World of Class Warfare – Warren Buffett vs. Wealthy Conservatives
- The Daily Show – World of Class Warfare – The Poor’s Free Ride Is Over
Cutout of the NWA Times front page article in question: