29 May 2004
Rewriting the Media’s Formula On Taxes
by Craig J. Cantoni
May 28, 2004
The media’s formula for covering tax and spending issues is as unintelligent, unoriginal and unimaginative as teenage girls who copy the latest fashion trend from Britney Spears.
The standard formula is to quote individuals and special interests on the receiving end of taxes instead of taxpayers on the paying end, thus leaving the impression that there is overwhelming support for higher taxes.
...an article last year in the Arizona Republic about a state budget deficit quoted 12 people who were either public-sector employees or on some government program. All 12 were in favor of higher taxes instead of spending cuts. No self-interest there. Not one person with the opposite view was quoted. No biased reporting there.
Worse, the story made no attempt to put taxes and spending in context. Like virtually every story on the subject, it was silent about the tax burden of average families and how much the burden has increased over the generations. The reporters were either ignorant, lazy, had an agenda or were sheep-like followers of the journalism herd.
In case they miss the point, none of the foregoing explanations is a compliment—not that it matters to reporters and their editors. Even after their unbalanced reporting has been exposed, and even with the establishment media losing market share, they continue writing articles solely from the perspective of tax takers. ”Hey, it’s the formula, stupid!” is their refrain, and ”Hey, the New York Times does it!” is their excuse.
What would a different formula look like? The following fictitious article shows how a story on taxes might be written to reflect the views of taxpayers.
Taxpayers fed up with state spending
by Bill Balance
The possibility of higher taxes for education and day care has many taxpayers upset.
”Federal spending alone costs the average Arizona family $20,000 per year,” said Steve Sanchez, the owner of a landscape company in Gilbert. ”With state and local spending thrown in, I’m working four months of the year for the government.”
Joan O’Brien of Scottsdale had similar sentiments. ”I’m fed up with the public education establishment repeating the canard that Arizona ranks low in per-pupil spending. The fact is, we rank near the middle, and the average household pays about $190,000 in public education taxes over the lifetimes of the heads of the household.”
”Half of my income already goes to the government,” lamented Craig Cantoni of Scottsdale, ”and the majority of that goes to other people and special-interest groups in the form of entitlements and subsidies. The Democrats talk about fairness, but they refuse to say how much more my wife and I should pay to achieve their utopian view of fairness.” Cantoni went on to describe how his poor immigrant grandparents could afford to send their kids to parochial school, because tax rates in the early 20th century were only about a third of today’s rates.
Melody Carter, a state employee and single mother of four toddlers, had a different opinion. ”How do they expect me to make ends meet on my lousy salary without state assistance for day care?” She refused to explain what happened to the father of her children, why she keeps having children she can’t afford, and why she thinks that she is entitled to other people’s money. ”My personal life is nobody’s business,” she said angrily as she stormed off.
State Representative Robin Wright, a Democrat, was asked if she thought it was fair for a family to pay half of their income in taxes. ”What a mean-spirited, selfish question,” responded Wright. ”People should be happy to help the poor. It’s the compassionate thing to do.” Wright refused to say how much she pays in taxes and how much she gives to charitable causes.
Republican State Representative Susan Poole laughed when she was told about Wright’s comment. ”Typical redistributionist. Yes, people have a moral responsibility to help the less fortunate, but Wright fails to understand that people don’t have a right to other people’s money. Besides, forced compassion is not compassion. That’s why private charity is best for the giver, the receiver and society as a whole.”
Todd Talbot, the director of the Copper State Tax Research Foundation, called the compassion issue a ”red herring,” explaining that over half of Arizonans now get more back in entitlements and government services than they pay in taxes. ”Unless you’re a socialist, you can’t tell me that over half of the population is poor and deserving of other people’s money,” said Talbot.
Talbot believes that the nation has reached the ”tax-tipping point,” which is the point where ”the majority of voters begin to beggar the minority of voters.” His final comment was sobering: ”The fatal flaw of the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights is that there is nothing in the law to stop the majority from taking all of the minority’s money.”
Judging by the angry reaction to the latest tax proposals, many Arizonans seem to agree with Talbot.
Is the preceding fictional piece biased? Perhaps, but less so than the formulaic reporting of the establishment media. Would news stories similar to the fictional piece change public opinion about taxes and spending? Yes, and that’s why the establishment media won’t change the formula.
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Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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