Last Updated:November 25 @ 11:06 am

Elder: Media Bias, Hypocrisy and Tax Rates

By Larry Elder

If "journalism malpractice" were a crime, Nancy Grace would not be able to keep track of all the trials.

ABC news reporter Jonathan Karl recently said: "Mitt Romney ... made $13.7 million last year and paid nearly $2 million in taxes. His effective tax rate -- 14.1 percent. That's a lower rate than an auto mechanic who made $75,000 in pay."

Not again.

Back in January, anchor Diane Sawyer teased "Mitt's millions" on ABC's "World News": "What Mitt Romney's taxes really show about wealth, taxes and fairness." Then correspondent David Muir informed viewers: "(Romney's) tax rate? In 2010, about 13.9 percent, perfectly legal under the current tax code, which allows Americans to pay a much lower rate, a capital gains tax, when their earnings come from investments, and not a job." Muir cut to a "tax analyst," who said:  "If (Romney) were a doctor or lawyer with the same salary, he would be paying 35 percent (emphasis added)."

It gets worse.

NBC, through MSNBC, employs "civil rights activist" the Rev. Al Sharpton as a talk show host. He regularly rails against Romney and his fellow racist Republicans while supporting the President who wants to raise taxes on the "millionaires and billionaires" who "can afford to pay a little bit more." Sharpton is rich. But he has trouble with the "pay a little bit more" part. According to a recent profile in GQ, Sharpton lives large, in a ritzy Manhattan "bachelor pad." He belongs to an exclusive private club where -- after a television performance in which he rails against the top 1 percent -- he hangs with the top 1 percent.

Though he pushes for tax hikes on the wealthy and demands tax transparency for Romney, Sharpton himself has taken a respite from paying his own taxes. According to the New York Post last December, Sharpton owed $2.6 million to the IRS and almost $900,000 in state taxes. In addition, his nonprofit (in debt by $1.6 million) owed more than $880,000 in federal payroll taxes. But we digress.

NBC's Peter Alexander, on "Today," told his audience in January: "Romney appeared to be knocked off message, promising to share his returns in April and also disclosing that he pays 15 percent in income tax, like many wealthy Americans, but less than many middle class Americans (emphasis added)."

Over at taxpayer supported NPR, its "Morning Edition" co-host Renee Montagne said in January: "Yesterday, Romney did let slip a provocative tax detail. He acknowledged he's probably paying an effective tax rate of around 15 percent. And that's well below the rate that many middle-class families pay (emphasis added)."

One problem. It isn't true -- not even close.

First, as with the purchase of new car, almost nobody pays sticker price. To make Romney's "low" effective tax rate look bad, some news media irresponsibly compare his rate to that of a middle-class taxpayer's top marginal rate.

Just how misleading?

Assume Mr. Auto Mechanic is married, with two children. After offsetting income with exemptions, deductions for things like mortgage interest and assorted tax credits, Mr. Mechanic's effective federal income tax rate -- the percentage of income actually paid in taxes -- is much less than Romney's rate.

The liberal Tax Policy Center reports that 91.4 percent of individual taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $50,000 and $100,000 pay less than 15 percent in taxes. And 43.9 percent of the $50,000-$100,000 AGI taxpayers pay an effective rate between 5 and 9.99 percent, while 4.6 percent of this group pay no federal income tax at all.

Many in the media forget about all those pesky deductions and credits and exemptions. Income tax brackets are marginal rates. The top marginal rate in a taxpayers' tax bracket DOES NOT apply to his entire income from dollar one.

New York Times' David Leonhardt understands this and, to his credit, explains it properly: "This disconnect between what we pay and what we think we pay is nothing less than one of the country's biggest economic problems. ... All told, most households pay less than 15 percent of their income to the federal government because of tax breaks, like the exclusion for health insurance, and because marginal rates apply to only a small part of a taxpayer's income. On the first $70,000 of a couple's taxable income, the total federal income tax rate is only 13.8 percent."

Why does Leonhardt comprehend this, while so many in his profession do not? Consider this.
Previous editions of a widely used high school textbook, "The American Pageant," by Thomas Bailey and David Kennedy, show charts on the federal deficit in historical dollars. When it came to the Ronald Reagan years, the graphic shows a rapidly increasing deficit. But as a share of the gross national product, Reagan's deficits are really much smaller than FDR's. By not showing the numbers as a share of the GNP, their charts make his deficits look outrageous. Of the textbook's depiction of the "outsized" Reagan deficit, University of Dayton history professor Larry Schweikart said, "The appearance to mislead seems intentional."

Well, ABC, NBC, NPR, is it intentional?


Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit



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  1. fallschComment by fallsch
    September 27, 2012 @ 10:03 am

    Of course it’s intentional. If they told the truth they’d have difficulty getting elected.

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  2. CharlieComment by vietnamvet
    September 27, 2012 @ 10:13 am

    Larry Elder: “Why does Leonhardt comprehend this, while so many in his profession do not?”

    Because they realize that their audience does not know the difference, and they use that ignorance to make the public believe something which is not true.

    Simply stated, they are LYING to their audience.

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  3. nancyjComment by nancyj
    September 27, 2012 @ 11:10 am

    This truly is the problem. We penalize people for success and pay for everyone else.
    If we had a tax code whereby everyone, with no exceptions, pay the same rate with no deductions:
    1-people would know what they owe
    2-there would be no special ones, such as members of the
    house and senate.
    3-people might be able to save some.
    4-people would know exactly how the government wastes their
    money. (and it is the people’s money)
    Note: people might even care that our country is sending $1.5 billion dollars a year to Egypt, a country that hates us now and is killing Christians.

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    • billwvComment by billwv
      September 27, 2012 @ 11:46 am

      Egypt and Libya under the governance of the Muslim Brotherhood have ‘state sponsored’ terrorism and I wonder how much of the foreign aid was directed to the ‘terrorists’ i.e. how many of the weapons used did we actually pay for? And how much of the training of these Obama sponsored ‘terrorists’ did we train with American dollars?

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  4. joe93Comment by joe93
    September 27, 2012 @ 11:38 am

    The media didn’t bash Jean Francois Kerry and his millions during the ’04 race. Such short memories they have!

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    • KAHR50Comment by KAHR50
      September 28, 2012 @ 8:35 am

      It was mostly his wife’s.

      So earning money must be evil while marrying money is OK.

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  5. conserveusa38Comment by conserveusa38
    September 27, 2012 @ 11:58 am

    Here is another thing that they have all blown up for their advantage….his comment about the 47 percent. It is very true that many people in this country have become and are dependent on the government. They believe that Obama owes them and should give them money. We have become a welfare country instead of an independent country. I will never forget the news covering when all those people were in line after Obama got elected and they were asked what they were doing there. One woman replied….” I am waiting for my Obama money” if that does not say it all, what does?

    His comment was accurate though I do not think it is 47 percent. I do not know the figures. But how many are taking advantage of the system? I have an example from being in line at the grocery store today.

    I got in line and was behind a couple and a baby. They had a Wic voucher. They tried to get all this food they that was not accepted. The man was dressed very nicely. I was stuck behind them for 25 minutes and could not move since I had already put all my things up. I saw them outside Ina brand new car, smoking. Do you really think they were poor? I know what poor is. So it really bothers me when people take advantage of the system…if they were. Many do.

    The ones who do? They don’t want Obama out. They want more and more freebies. There are many legitimate people who need help in our country and they lose out due to people using the system.

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  6. conserveusa38Comment by conserveusa38
    September 27, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    Oh and the media *****. They will never start reporting the truth. She’s are so biased they make me sick!

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  7. BuzzComment by Buzz
    September 27, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

    Everyone seems to be forgetting that Obama has given the poor, the middle class, all of us, a massive “tax” on gas via his anti-oil anti-energy policies. If you drive 30,000 miles per year you are paying an Obama energy policy penalty of almost three thousand dollars per year! 3 grand! That is just the beginning of the pain we will experience because we know Obama said, in his own words, that “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket”. Obama’s words and deeds are decimating the poor, eviscerating the middle class, and putting a stake through the heart of America!

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  8. BobinmsComment by Bobinms
    September 27, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    What are we doing discussing Ronmey’s tax return…AGAIN. First this is old news. Responding just keeps it alive and does no good. That’s what the Dems want. Further, the Dems have succeeded in getting us off point, which is what a dismal job Obama has done. We play right into their hands when we let them put us on the defensive. IGNORE THEM. Stay on the offensive.

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  9. centslessComment by centsless
    September 27, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

    To support the truth ‘first we kill all the journalists’. I wish they were doing their duty as protected by the first amendment. Instead, they report half of what they should, and they often use the truth in such a way as to ‘tell a lie’. The frustration caused is enough to promote violent unrest. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that.

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  10. phunyfarmComment by phunyfarm
    September 27, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    Fair Tax – eliminates all the confusion
    You buy something, you pay tax
    One day hopefully…
    So many completely out of control issues have to be dealt with now. God Bless R/R for being brave enough to take on the challenge.

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  11. Eagle OneComment by Eagle One
    September 27, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

    “Well, ABC, NBC, NPR, is it intentional?”


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  12. Pingback: Elder: Media Bias, Hypocrisy and Tax Rates – GOPUSA | Tax Bracket

  13. makesenseComment by makesense
    September 27, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

    It is interesting to note that no one in the media, after mentioning that Romney paid only 14% because his income is mostly from investments, ever adds that the rates on investments are lower than tax rates on regular salary income because Investments are very risky. The media never mention that one can lose all his investments whereas, working people’s salaries are always paid. Many people who do not invest therefor think this is unfair to them. And these are the people who will vote for Obama.

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