If you don’t like the tax code, just wait: If you don’t like the tax code, just wait!
At one time, this bromide concerned New England’s famously changeable weather. Now, it applies to the tax code too—and it is especially true if you read the New York Times.
Three days ago, we thought the Times had finally explained the much-discussed “Buffett Rule.” Jackie Calmes limned the rule in a coherent manner. We figured she knew her shinola:
CALMES (2/14/12): Mr. Obama’s “Buffett Rule” would set a minimum 30 percent rate on income above $1 million.That at least made sense. If you had income above $1 million, you would have to pay 30 percent on that part of your income, unless you owed a higher rate under the prevailing tax code. But this morning, the Times has flipped again! Right in her opening paragraph, Annie Lowrey re-reconfigures:
LOWREY (2/17/12): President Obama has made the Buffett Rule, mandating that millionaires pay at least 30 percent of their incomes in taxes, the centerpiece of his campaign for “fairness.” But look for it among the myriad tax changes the White House detailed in the 2013 budget proposal it released this week, and you will not find it.When it comes to what a person would owe, Lowrey’s highlighted explanation is massively different from Calmes’. And people do care about that!
This is very basic stuff, but the Times just can’t get it right. From one day to the next, the great newspaper can’t even find a way to be consistent.
That said, Lowrey’s report is built around some actual news: There is no Buffett Rule! The Obama Admin has included no such provision in its new proposed budget. Lowrey quotes some bafflegab from the Admin about this rather surprising fact. Deep in her piece, she describes a real proposal which was introduced in the Senate:
LOWREY: While the White House has declined to make the Buffett Rule a concrete proposal, Democrats in Congress have forged ahead. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, independently came up with the idea for a minimum tax for the wealthy, and made a proposal after Mr. Obama mentioned it in his State of the Union address.We’re not sure what language that final highlighted passage is in. Later, we’ll run it through our Bing translator and see how it comes out in English. In fairness, if you fight with it for a while, you can possibly figure it out. But what a giant bowl of murk that whole final paragraph is!
The proposed law, the Paying a Fair Share Act, eliminates all deductions for the wealthy except their charitable contributions. After that, they must pay a 30 percent minimum tax on the balance of their income.
The law includes a phase-in, to avoid taxing Americans making $1 million at much higher rates than others making $999,999. If the taxpayer makes between $1 million and $2 million, the tax bill is only a fraction of the difference between taxes owed under current law and taxes as determined by the Buffett Rule.
("After that, they must pay a 30 percent minimum tax on the balance of their income?" Exactly one paragraph later, that statement turns out to be wrong. Or so it seems.)
You live in a nation of 300 million. Given that rather large number of people, the intellectual skills at the top of the heap are often quite surprising. Writers at the New York Times have a very hard time explaining things, even things which are very basic. Meanwhile, Willie Geist seems to think this about federal taxation: "Most Americans pay a rate of around 35 percent.”
He's on the TV machine thingy.
We’ve sometimes said they can’t explain squat. You’re right! We should add squadoosh!