Why isn’t this getting more attention?

Bush fails to get deserved credit for tax cut benefits

Handy charts show that the tax cuts helped everyone, but that the richest 20% saw the least help and actually pay a larger percentage of taxes than they did before the Bush cuts. Go check it out.

I don’t see this getting too much attention.

But I wonder how much coverage it would have received if it showed the opposite?


  1. Whether Bush gets the credit for tax cuts isn’t as important as whether the tax cut did any good over the past four years. Maybe we should just let sleeping dogs lie considering the poor economy during his term and today’s deficit.

  2. So…what about all the ‘tax cuts for the rich’ talk? Just let it go on? Even though those that argued that it wasn’t true were right? I’m not saying that this report is the final word, but it deserves just as much attention as all the bleeding-heart coverage the tax cuts got when opponents whined about only the upper class benefiting. I don’t mind letting sleeping dogs lie. I just don’t like to let the media lie.

  3. But what does it show? How is the ‘effective tax rate’ defined and calculated here? Same with the ‘percent of income tax burden’? Are these numbers based on what people ‘should’ pay or what they actually paid? Percentages make it easy to forget the difference in actual dollars made and paid by the different groups. Can we be sure these aren’t the same kind of ‘reporting distortions’ the writer is complaining about?

  4. MP, why don’t you let us know what *you* think these numbers (or the actual numbers that these are intended to distort) show. I have friends that I debate with that often claim ‘but how can you be sure that’s right if you’re jst reading it somewhere?’ when statistics and facts don’t back up their argument, but they don’t say a peep about it when they use statistics to back up their own argument. (I resist the urge to throw their own argument back at them because it’s a cheap tactic.) I’m sure you’re not one of those, just wanted to make sure.

  5. I’m saying that without background information on the figures and methodology there is no ‘proof’ of anything there. Among the assertions: ‘… the 2002 tax cuts allowed for greater deductibility of capital expenses for corporations — a deliberate (and successful) attempt to stimulate corporate capital investment after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.’ His concerns about the methodology used by the CBO is reasonable, but he makes comments that show he is not strictly about analyzing the methodology and data. The proof that the cuts have been ‘successful’ is shown where? I’d have more to say if the income tiers were listed by dollars. If the conversation is about the merits of a graduated income tax vs. flat tax then the numbers seem to show that the ‘Bush tax cuts’ are flattening things (with respect to the effective income tax rate referenced in the chart.) I will give Bush credit for some tax cut benefits. I just can’t tell from the graphs who benefitted. And I’m not convinced by the evidence shown that ‘…all income earners do better.’ This type of claim is qualitative, the data presented is quantitative, and the information to evaluate the data is not there. This is completely separate from the question of whether paying the lowest taxes is the goal we should have.

  6. MP: You’re totally correct that there isn’t a lot of background info on the source of these numbers, but to dismiss them for that lack means ALL numbers (i.e., 99.99% of all numbers everywhere ever reported for anything) also need to be dismissed. I don’t think that’s what you really mean, either, but then why dismiss THESE numbers and not all the other numbers everywhere else. ‘Effective tax rate’ usually means something along the lines of ‘actual percentage of income paid as taxes’ more or less. Is there any reason to think that it means something different here? If yes, point out what. If not, doesn’t it show that the top 20% saw a reduction of 3.0% while the bottom 80% saw an average reduction of 1.725%? If that’s the ‘tax cut for the rich’, so be it. But the ‘tax burden’ (which I’ve always understood to mean the percentage of total taxes collected) INCREASED for the top 20% and FELL for the bottom 80%. How does this show that ‘the burden of taxes has shifted from the wealthy to the middle class.’? Unless I completely misunderstand ‘tax burden’, it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter that we don’t see every number this chart is based on. The chart is a summary in graphical form. Do we need to publish every single income tax return form before discussing tax burden? Unless I’m missing something, or unless this is just plain lying or intentionally misleading, it shows that all the claims of the ‘tax cuts only for the rich’ don’t hold up. And why don’t I hear calls for more documentation when someone says the Bush tax cuts were for the benefit of the wealthy? ‘I didn’t see the entire bill, Bob, or any of the ten thousand pages of economic study that went into it. I don’t believe a word you’re saying.’ That being said, my question was about the coverage, or lack thereof, that this got. Do you believe that there would have been more coverage, less coverage, or equal coverage if the numbers showed that the bottom 80% saw a tax burden increase of 3.8% while the top 20% saw a tax burden decrease of 0.95%? (And if it DID show that, would you be cautioning us against believing it because we don’t have enough of the raw data to back it up?)

  7. Without background information, I can’t accept that numbers ‘prove’ anything. Even with the background information I’m still usually inclined to give a ‘suggest’ rather than a prove. I have not made any claims contrary to this hypothesis, and can see the possibility that these numbers contradict some of the political hyperbole from the left. The idea of a tax ‘burden’ is interesting. I wonder if the use of the word burden is intended to be prejudicial? Perhaps not, but how one defines this concept is critical to debating it. Should everyone have the same tax burden? Should the tax burden be proportional to your income, or to the portion of society your income level represents? For that matter, what counts as income? If your company pays for your car, should the value of that car be considered income? I welcome a discussion on these ideas, but I will not accept those numbers as proof of anything. Regarding the ‘coverage’ of the story, a person I know – we’ll call him my boss – is often worked up about ‘coverage’. As we’ve discussed, in the absence of a liberal media conspiracy, isn’t this story likely the victim of the same mysterious ‘what the heck is news and who decides’ process that _everyone_ complains about? Didn’t Michael Powell tell us that the internet and cable tv make up for any deficiencies in the traditional press? Sorry if I missed your main point about coverage of stories.

  8. Okay. The numbers only ‘suggest’ instead of ‘prove’. As I said earlier in my response to Mike, I’m not saying that this report is the final word. It doesn’t ‘prove’ anything, unless maybe that the ‘tax cuts only for the rich’ might be a little overstated. Which was the point of the original article that I linked to. As for ‘burden’, I might be wrong about the meaning of ‘tax burden’. I don’t care what it’s origins were, I only care what it means in the context of this discussion. If I’m wrong about the use of ‘tax burden’ here, I apologize. I am taking it to mean ‘percentage of total taxes paid’ as in an 82.1% tax burden means that the group being considered pays 82.1% of all taxes collected. If you add up the values for the 20% brackets in the chart, you get 99.9%, so I’m taking it to mean what I think it means. If it does, in fact, mean that, then the chart shows that the share of taxes paid by the top 20% of income earners (or are we going to debate the use of the word ‘group’ in the chart versus the word ‘earners’?) has increased since the Bush tax cuts. Every other group decreased. Square that with John Kerry’s remarks: ‘Over the last four years, the burden of taxes has shifted from the wealthy to the middle class.’ That’s what the article is about. My post is about the coverage this is getting in the traditional media. I don’t care what the specific formula used to calculate the numbers in the chart was. I don’t care where the use of the word ‘burden’ originated. I don’t care if the burden is rightly or wrongly adjusted. I don’t care if taxes are too low considering our current spending level. If this chart showed that Kerry was right and that the top 20% saw a decreased burden and that the middle and/or lower brackets saw an increase, it would be ALL OVER nearly every single media outlet. Network TV. Major newspapers. Cable TV. Most major internet news outlets. This chart doesn’t help the candidate that four out of five dentists prefer, so it gets this level of coverage instead. Or do you think I’m wrong?

  9. Rereading my last comment makes me think I was too harsh in my delivery. In fact, I wasn’t trying to be harsh at all. I was just trying to point out that the article seems pretty clear cut, unless it’s lying, about contradicting the ‘tax cuts for the wealthy’ talk and that the CBO report would have received different coverage if the message had been different. I won’t change my previous comment due to the ‘journalistic integrity’ that I try to maintain on this site. But I want to make it clear that I hope we can debate issues on my site, including a little harshness at times, without getting personally nasty. I have my opinions and I’m quite often pretty sure of my position, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to discuss it. Most MO readers are at least slightly to the Right, but I hope that doesn’t dissuade any and all from speaking their mind about something I write.