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An Unbalanced Presentation of Taxes

Reported by Ellen - September 7, 2004 -

The upbeat opening of FOXNews.com's National Sales Tax Promoted as Fairer System lets us know that Fox has decided for us that this new Republican idea, like all other Republican policies, is probably a good one:

"The IRS and all payroll taxes should be scrapped and replaced with a national sales tax that would require the poor to pay nothing, some tax reform advocates are proposing as an ideal plan to rejigger the U.S. tax code."

Reporter Peter Brownfeld provides quotes from the plan's supporters and from its detractors, mostly about what the required tax rate would be instead of focusing on the bigger issues of who stands to gain, who to lose. While highlightiing the Republican plan to exempt poverty-level households, Brownfeld largely ignores the reasonable concern that lower-income households above the poverty line ($9,310 for a single person, $18,850, for a family of four, according to Fox) would likely bear a disproportionate burden. See, for example, The Brookings Institute's Don't Buy The Sales Tax which states, "when examined closely, the simplicity breaks down, payments would be close to impossible to collect, and the tax's fairness would be, at best, questionable."

Instead, Brownfeld provides a lot of statistics and quotes from Rep. John Linder, R-Ga., apparently Brownfeld's major source for the story. The quotes from Linder's opposition are less specific, such as John Kerry's, ""If [Bush] has his way, every trip to the supermarket will feel like a visit to H&R Block and every day will be April 15," and "'It's not worth the tremendous pain that it would cause for a questionable promise of success in the long run,'" said Adam Kovacevich, communications director for Inez Tenenbaum, the Democratic candidate for Senate in South Carolina who is facing a national sales tax advocate, Republican Rep. Jim DeMint.'" Apparently, Democratic number-crunching is less newsworthy than Republican's.