Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why I don't trust corporate media

Last night CBS Evening news did a story that purported to compare the impact of Obama’s and McCain’s tax plans on three separate Ohio families.

If I recall, all three families had three children. The story discussed some of the details of each candidate’s plan (special credits, deductions, rate changes, etc.), then used an Ohio CPA to crunch the actual numbers of these three families.

The first family had an income of $32,000, the second family had an income of $64,000 and the third family had an income of $213,000.

The CPA determined that the first family would see no change in their taxes under McCain’s plan but would get a refund of $2,200 under Obama’s. The second family would save $225 under McCain’s plan and $500 under Obama’s.

Unfortunately, we never found out how the plan would impact the third family. Instead, rather than provide a specific answer as they did with the first two people, the story focused in on Obama’s plan to raise the top two marginal rates from 33% to 36% and from 35% to 39.6%, respectively. Due to deductions and exemptions, these top rates would only apply to people with income of $225,000 or more. It should also be noted that these are marginal rates and not effective tax rates, meaning the higher rate only applies to the income earned above the $225,000 threshold. All the income below that threshold would be taxed just as it is now.

Rather than give us the actual numbers, the CBS Evening News story pointed out that the third family was nearing the line where the new marginal rates on Obama would kick in. “If this business owner were to make more next year, they could find themselves in the 33% bracket which under Obama will become the 36% brackets” said the reporter. They then cut to the taxpayer who says he’d be hurt if his taxes went up 8% (from 28% to 36%).

This is dishonest and deceitful reporting for a couple reasons. First, why didn’t they compare apples to apples and just tell us how the plans would effect the three families? Additionally, as I pointed out above, the rate increase Obama support is at the margin, so the third family’s taxes wouldn’t be going up by 8% even if they got that $12,000 bump in income.

I believe CBS Evening News has enough resources to get this story right and that this was a blatant attempt to distort the information and change the impression on viewers. There can be no other explanation other than media bias.

I’m not a member of the Democratic Party or an Obama partisan, but I believe we need accurate and truthful information to make good decisions. I was particularly interested in this story so I could learn something relevant to my profession, unfortunately, CBS let me and the rest of America down.


Brian C. Setzler, CPA said...

I'm fairly new to blogging and wondered if anyone read my blog.

Well, I'm proud to say that the fine people over at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting ( did. They posted a reference to my story on their website. You can read what they wrote here:

I've been a member of FAIR for many years and in the interest of full disclosure, I actually sent them a copy of my CBS Evening News letter, but I'm still proud that such a fine organization liked the work and linked back to my original post.

Brian C. Setzler, CPA said...


FAIR actually turned this story into an action alert on 9.22.08.

You can read more about the issue here: