Friday, August 3, 2012

Americans for Tax Reform: "Responding to Politifact on Olympics and Taxes"

Do PolitiFact staffers actually read the statements they rate? It's stuff like this that implies they don't.

At issue is PolitiFact's rating of a recent Americans for Tax Reform claim that set the Internet abuzz:

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PolitiFact found the claim to be Mostly False. Americans for Tax Reform responded and made quick work of PolitiFact's sophomoric attempt at fact checking (emphasis in the original):
ATR's primary claim is that the prizes are taxable, not that all medalists will necessarily owe $9,000 in taxes.  Poltifact admits that after they checked with their own experts, it was confirmed that prizes awarded would be taxable.  On this finding alone, the verdict should have been "mostly true," at least.
They're right. The original ATR article that PolitiFact rated emphasized the onerous tax policies of the U.S., not the specific cost.  By focusing on the $9,000 figure, PolitiFact is able to fish out a kernel of ambiguity from an otherwise factually solid article. But even with their myopic focus, PolitiFact still manages to flub this check:
ATR consistently said that prizes were taxable "up to" a 35% marginal tax rate.  We deliberately used this language because we know that Olympians will pay taxes at whatever marginal tax rate they happen to find themselves in this year.
Remember back in the olden days when PolitiFact passed out Mostly True ratings for demonstrably false numbers as long as the claimant was "citing figures from memory"?  Apparently some qualifiers are more equal than others.

ATR goes on to explain in detail how the $9,000 figure itself is a perfectly accurate example. Make sure to read the entire post to see the step-by-step take-down of PolitiFact's bupkis.

The story here is PolitiFact found a solid, honest criticism of the U.S. tax code and had to resort to distortion and gimmicks to cast a pall over the entire article. ATR presented a legitimate example that illustrated its political position. PolitiFact found that claim accurate, and then editorialized to brand ATR with the mark of dishonesty. 

That's not what a non-partisan fact checker is supposed to do.

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