Monday, April 25, 2011

Sublime Bloviations: Michele Bachmann and Taxing the Top 1 Percent

PolitiFact Bias editor Bryan White recently exposed a blatant inconsistency in PolitiFact's treatment of their favorite target, Michele Bachmann, and Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge.

Over at his blog, Sublime Bloviations, Bryan takes us on a trip back to a forgotten time historians refer to as "March":
Remember the good old days when it was easy to tell what type of taxes a politician was talking about? When Marcia Fudge said many large corporations pay no taxes at all, a journalist could simply assume that she was talking about income taxes and do a fact check based on that assumption.

Things are more complicated these days with evil Republicans in office.
More complicated indeed.

It seems Bachmann went on the the Today show and made a statement that PolitiFact just had to check:
"Well, remember, again, already the top 1 percent of income earners pay about 40 percent of all taxes into the federal government. So if you want to talk about fairness, the top 1 percent are paying 40 percent of all of the income."
Seems like a pretty straightforward statement to rate. And any news outfit with objective and consistent standards would be able to determine the validity of Bachmann's comments quite easily. Unfortunately, as Bryan notes, PolitiFact doesn't have that luxury:
In the bygone days of yore, that would be "40 percent of all income taxes into the federal government," or at least the interpretation would amount to the same thing.
Bryan goes on to explain in detail the dual methodology PolitiFact uses for the different fact checks of Bachmann and Fudge, and also brings up yet another example of their rigid as prairie grass recognition of "misspeaking":
We can thus continue to build our picture of the PolitiMath theorem by noting that PolitiFact takes a range of error from 42 to 76 percent as a "False" numbers claim, setting aside for the moment the fact that the most important thing about a numbers claim is the underlying message. If Bachmann's underlying message was that the top 1 percent pay much more than 1 percent of the total tax income for the U.S. then she's out of luck this time. She's likewise out of luck if she misspoke.

Bachmann would have been right if she’d said, "the top 1 percent of income earners pay about 40 percent of all income taxes into the federal government." But she didn’t say that -- and even if she had, her decision to focus on income taxes, rather than looking at the whole federal tax picture, would have presented the numbers in such a way that wealthier Americans would look more heavily taxed than they are.
Likewise, Fudge would have been right if she'd said "There are corporations in this nation, some of the biggest corporations in this nation, who do not pay income taxes when they fail to show a profit after claiming their deductions." Oh, wait. PolitiFact rated Fudge "True" for her inaccurate statement and Bachmann "False" for hers. That's some pretty impressive inconsistency.
With PolitiFact we're finding out the only consistent thing is their inconsistency. Bryan does a superb job of exposing that. For readers interested in the comprehensive review of the differences, we recommend you read the entire post.

Correction 4/27/11: Hat Tip to alert reader Ron Binns for pointing out I had goofed by referring to Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge as "Martha". Whenever errors occur our policy is to make corrections transparent and acknowledge them once they're fixed. Fudge's name has been updated. Thanks Ron!-Jeff

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