When Right-Wing Tax Spin Goes Unchallenged

The Republican Party is in something of a bind. Many oppose White House efforts to extend–and perhaps increase–a Social Security payroll tax cut next year. This might sound strange, since if conservatives are supposed to be fond of anything, it’s tax cuts.

So they have some explaining to do. They’re given a valuable assist when journalists, thanks to the conventions of corporate media, will print their words with little in the way of critical analysis. Take this from today‘s Washington Post (12/7/11) by Rosalind Helderman:

A Republican Party that has for decades benefited from a commitment to lower taxes is now finding itself on the defensive on the issue, as members face a deep split over a Democratic plan to extend a payroll tax reduction.

What might normally be a no-brainer for most congressional Republicans is being resisted by many tea-party-conscious members who oppose what they consider a short-term gimmick that would worsen the federal deficit and siphon money from Social Security.

These Tea Party Republicans are concerned about the effects of a tax cut on the deficit? For real? It’s the kind of thing that a reporter might challenge by, say, quoting a critic who would point out this absurdity. But the piece gives readers an array of Republican and conservative quotes, with one comment from Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.

Then again, the claims of the politicians actually quoted could stand to be factchecked too. Like this one:

“The president’s suggesting we raise taxes on small-business folks to give a temporary one-year tax holiday and make job creators pay it off over the next 10 years,” said freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.). “That’s not the way you grow this economy.”

That “tax on small business owners” line refers to the White House plan to pay for the payroll tax break with a surtax on millionaires. Republicans claim that this would devastate small business owners don’t stand up to scrutiny, something the New York Times pointed out yesterday:

But Jenni R. LeCompte, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, said the proposed surtax “would affect only a very, very small number of small-business owners.”

“Only 1 percent of all small-business owners have adjusted gross income over $1 million and would be affected by this surcharge,” Ms. LeCompte said, citing a new study by Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.