Creeping Kit Seelyism: Finally, the New York Times has explained a basic point.
How the heck would that Buffett Rule work? Jackie Calmes has the honors:
CALMES (2/14/12): [Obama] rousingly promoted his initiatives to make college more affordable and to train workers for health care, the sciences and advanced manufacturing. And he called for Warren E. Buffett and other wealthy Americans to pay an income tax rate no lower than what secretaries pay. Mr. Obama’s “Buffett Rule” would set a minimum 30 percent rate on income above $1 million, replacing the current alternative minimum tax that increasingly hits upper-middle-class taxpayers.In the highlighted passage, we're told that the minimum 30 percent rate would affect income above $1 million. According to Calmes, lucky duckies will get cadged for 30 percent, but only on income above that amount. But wouldn’t you know it? In typical New York Times fashion, Calmes’ report is accompanied by a graphic which explains the rule in a murkier way, suggesting something quite different.
According to the graphic, the Buffett Rule “would institute a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for millionaires.” To many readers, that will imply that someone earning a million bucks will have to fork over 300 grand. How hard would it have been to repeat Calmes’ more precise formulation? At the Times, such basic distinctions rarely so much as get noticed.
They’ve been fumbling with this topic for weeks. They still can’t step in the same river twice.
The New York Times is our most famous newspaper. Quite often, though, its front-line reporters just aren’t all that sharp. Consider what Katharine “Kit” Seelye writes in this morning's paper.
Seelye got famous in Campaign 2000 for her endless snide advances on Gore, including one completely accidental misquotation. This morning, in our hard-copy Times, she reports on Mitt Romney. In her usual pitiful way, she explains what Candidate Romney once suggested and said:
SEELYE (2/14/12): “We’re not conceding anything to Romney on the economic front,” said John Brabender, a senior Santorum adviser.Did Romney really say that “later?” Yes he did—about ten seconds later, when he was asked to explain the statement he made ten seconds before. And that's not all:
He said Mr. Santorum’s plans would also address the needs of the poor, a group which Mr. Romney suggested he was not concerned with, saying later that he is focused on the middle class.
Did Romney “suggest” he was not concerned with the needs of the poor, “saying later” that he is focused on the middle class? In fact, he said he wasn’t concerned with the very poor (or the very rich), instantly explaining what he meant—that the very poor (and the very rich) weren’t going to be his focus.
We’ve followed Seelye’s work through the years, so we weren’t surprised by her fumbling. But in a nation of 310 million souls, it’s always surprising to see the way the Times plays the game.
These people aren’t good at explaining things, whether it’s the Buffett Rule or that much-hyped Romney remark. By the way: That second paragraph by Seelye doesn’t appear in her on-line report. Was it removed because it's a mess?
We have no idea.