Lying with Statistics
Tim Russert like to show "statistics", because, well, statistics don't lie. Today he showed Howard Dean this:
|Married Couple, 2 children, 40k Income||pays $45 post tax cut, paid $1,978 before the tax cut||Repealing the cut is a $1,933 tax increase (or a 4,296% increase)|
However, these numbers are just part of an American's tax picture because they only represent income taxes. Time and time again the Bush Administration and the GOP focuses only on income taxes, when for most Americans, that is only a small fraction of their total tax picture. Here are some other taxes most of us pay:
- Payroll Taxes (8% of income less than 80k -- 16% for self-employed)
- Property Taxes
- Sales Tax (in NY, 8.25%, MA 5%)
- State and Local Taxes
What does that do to the 4,296% increase?
Howard Dean focused on the source, the Treasury Department. However, these numbers are probably "right"--just very misleading. The Democrats need to force the GOP to give total tax figures, not focus in on one part of the overall tax picture. Also, the graphic that Tim Russert showed did not specifically say that these numbers were only income tax, but I am sure that they are. The GOP and Bush are usually very careful to always say "Income Tax" so I would bet that the original US Treasury source does say that, and Meet The Press just made a mistake -- but, it would be great if the Treasury Dept. actually left it off (because that's just a flat out lie).
When a Democrat is shown tax data, they should ask if the data includes all taxes or just income taxes. If the answer is "just income taxes", then they should go into a diatribe about how the GOP manipulates the debate with distorted data, and that it is the responsibility of the media to question the source -- that they must not perpetuate the idea that income tax is the only tax we pay. Also, the media should not just report the data they are shown, but instead should "stress test" the inputs -- what if it were 1 kid, what if it was a single parent making $32k, what if it's no kids and $50k. What about these same families with a payroll exemption instead of a tax cut? They don't do it because they are lazy, so we need to demand that they do it.