John Boehner–Philosopher?

Republican House Speaker John Boehner has made a counter-offer to the White House on tax cuts. As the New York Times reports today (12/17/12), the new offer is that tax hikes would only apply to millionaires. The move, according to the paper, “has already changed the terms of negotiations to avert a fiscal crisis in January.” That seems a little much, especially since this tax cut for the wealthy would still be paid for with  cuts to programs like Medicare.

The strangest part, though, was this:

With Friday’s exchange, the president and the speaker put aside their philosophical argument over whether higher tax rates would hurt “small businesses” and “job creators” and began wrangling only over price.

In what sense is this debate “philosophical”? The two sides disagree about who is affected by an increase in the marginal tax rate for the wealthy.  Boehner and most Republicans say this hurts “small business” owners. In reality, this is highly misleading; the number of small businesses affected is tiny.

This notion has been attacked many times, often by economist and press critic Dean Baker. One of his recent pieces about this (10/4/12) critiqued the New York Times for an entire piece detailing the supposedly “philosophical” differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. As he pointed out, the examples of Romney’s “philosophic” approach were really evidence that he either didn’t know what he was talking about when it came to things like taxes or gas prices, or that he was doing what politicians often do: representing the interests of the powerful people and institutions that wanted him to be elected president.

To classify these positions as somehow “philosophical” obscures the reality that they are not based in fact. And it makes them sound more like deep convictions based on some sort of  pursuit of the truth. 

It would be a lot more useful to say that Boehner’s comments about protecting “small businesses” have little basis in fact. But to say so would look like bias.




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.