George Will promoted a "key issue" of a lobbying group in his Washington Post column just two weeks after giving the keynote address at its conference.
Journalism ethicists have recently raised concerns about Will's ethical practices, and have urged greater transparency and disclosure in his Post columns. Will has been criticized for failing to reveal his connections to Wisconsin's conservative Bradley Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a massive political group backed by the industrialist Koch brothers.
Will wrote an August 15 Washington Post column criticizing the "distracting crusade against the minor and sensible business practice called 'inversion,'" in which corporations leave the United States for a country with a lower corporate tax rate. He added that a "sensible corporate tax rate would be zero. This is so because corporations do not pay taxes, they collect them, necessarily passing on the burden as a cost of doing business. And studies suggest that corporations' workers bear a significant portion of the burden."
Will gave the keynote address to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Retail Advocates Summit on July 30 in Washington, D.C. NRF is a trade and lobbying organization that represents "the interests of the retail industry through advocacy, communications and education." The group's annual DC summit brings "retailers who are passionate about policies they believe in can come to Washington to be advocates for change."
The summit listed as one of its "key issues" "Lower business tax rates," writing that "Corporate tax reform would benefit retailers in a number of ways, like allowing companies to make decisions based on business strategies rather than tax implications and increasing investment and job creation by passing along tax reduction to their customers."
NRF states on its website that it "has led the retail industry's push for tax reform and is an original steering committee member of the RATE Coalition, which represents a broad range of industries dedicated to the issue. In the course of dozens of meetings with lawmakers, policy experts and opinion leaders, and through reports and testimony, NRF has emphasized that reform of the existing tax system--not bumper-sticker proposals to abolish the IRS or scrap the tax code--is the proper path to economic prosperity."
The lobbying group posted a July 22 public policy article arguing that inversions are "evidence of the need for the United States to reform its federal tax system" in the form of lower corporate taxes.
Will, who is also a Fox News contributor, is represented by Washington Speakers Bureau, which lists his fee as "$40,001 & up." NRF did not respond to a request for comment.
The Society of Professional Journalists recently updated its Code of Ethics to include new provisions regarding transparency. The group's ethics chair cited Will's AFP disclosure failure as an example of a conflict journalists should attempt to avoid.
Heritage Foundation chief economist Stephen Moore was caught using incorrect statistics to mislead readers about the relationship between tax cuts and job creation in the United States.
On July 7, Moore published an op-ed in The Kansas City Star attacking economic policies favored by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. The op-ed claimed that "places such as New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and California ... are getting clobbered by tax-cutting states." Moore went on to attack liberals for "cherry-picking a few events" in their arguments against major tax cuts, when in fact it was Moore who cited bad data to support his claims.
On July 24, The Kansas City Star published a correction to Moore's op-ed, specifically stating that the author had "misstated job growth rates for four states and the time period covered." The editorial board of the Star inserted this annotation to Moore's inaccurate claims:
Please see editor's note at the top of this column. No-income-tax Texas gained 1 million jobs over the last five years, California, with its 13 percent tax rate, managed to lose jobs. Oops. Florida gained hundreds of thousands of jobs while New York lost jobs. NOTE: These figures are incorrect. The time period covered was December 2007 to December 2012. Over that time, Texas gained 497,400 jobs, California lost 491,200, Florida lost 461,500 and New York gained 75,900. Oops. Illinois raised taxes more than any other state over the last five years and its credit rating is the second lowest of all the states, below that of Kansas! (emphasis original)
On July 25, Star columnist Yael Abouhalkah explained the correction in more detail. Abouhalkah wrote that Moore had "used outdated and inaccurate job growth information at a key point in his article" and that Moore should have used data from 2009 to 2014, rather than from 2007 to 2012. Abouhalkah also argued that "the problems with Moore's opinion article damaged his credibility on the jobs issue."
Moore's credibility on "the jobs issue" is not the only troubling aspect of his economic punditry. Moore was recently brought on as the chief economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation after serving for many years on the right-wing editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and as a go-to economic commentator on Fox News. Moore has a history of disparaging reasonable economic policies in favor of fiscally irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and painful spending cuts to vital programs.
Moore has referred to unemployment insurance as a "paid vacation" for jobless Americans and bizarrely claimed that laws guaranteeing paid sick leave for full-time workers were "very dangerous for cities." Moore spent years basely claiming that the Affordable Care Act would reduce job creation, seamlessly transitioning from one debunked talking point to the next along the way. He is also an outspoken opponent of increasing the minimum wage, claiming that even a moderate rise in wages would result in a "big increase" in unemployment. In a recent foray out of the safety of right-wing media, Moore's anti-living wage spin was easily cut down by CNN anchor Carol Costello.
The original intent of Moore's Star op-ed was to garner support for tax cuts enacted over the past two years by Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS), which The New York Times and other outlets have labeled "ruinous." The tax cuts have been such a dramatic failure that more than 100 members of the Kansas Republican Party have sworn to help replace Brownback with a Democrat willing to reinstate taxes and spending at their previous levels.
A Fox News correspondent blamed the Obama administration's tweaks to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) announcement that it would no longer estimate the total cost of the law, and suggested that the changes may increase deficits. In fact, the CBO and budget experts explained that the CBO routinely stops providing budgetary estimates once a law is implemented, and that the CBO's estimate that the ACA would reduce the deficit remains correct.
Weekday broadcast and cable evening news coverage of the economy during the past three months focused heavily on policies aimed at spurring job creation and economic growth despite the general lack of input from actual economists. A Media Matters analysis reveals that several topics -- taxes, spending cuts, deficit reduction, economic inequality, minimum wage -- have become highly polarized among major networks.
For two years, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been peddling the theory that the IRS intentionally leaked its donor list to a gay rights organization as part of an Obama administration conspiracy. Two separate investigations and a ruling by a Reagan-appointed judge have debunked that theory. But right-wing media, which have widely touted NOM's initial accusations, have largely ignored or denied the conspiracy theory's demise.
In the spring of 2012, an IRS employee inadvertently leaked an unredacted list of NOM's donors in response to a public records request. The pro-equality group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) got its hands on the list, highlighting past contributions to NOM by prominent conservatives like then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Noting that key HRC officials were prominent supporters of President Obama's re-election campaign, NOM alleged a conspiracy between the organization and the Obama administration aimed at embarrassing NOM and its supporters.
In April 2012, NOM filed a formal letter of complaint to the IRS. Conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and The Weekly Standard touted the complaint, focusing particularly on the revelation that Romney was one of the group's donors. For most of the next year, however, media interest in the story was scant.
That changed in the spring of 2013. In May, U.S. Attorney General Eric holder ordered the FBI to begin a criminal probe into allegations that the agency had targeted tax-exempt conservative political groups. While the IRS actually scrutinized progressive groups more extensively than conservative ones, the IRS "scandal" became a rallying cry for right-wing media. The controversy also meant newfound interest in NOM's allegations against the agency.
Mainstream and conservative media outlets were quick to pick up on NOM's call for an investigation into the IRS's activities.
The Wall Street Journal 's James Taranto spotlighted NOM's claims in a column on the IRS controversy, asking "How pervasive is the Obama IRS scandal?":
From the June 20 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News provided the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) a forum to peddle its baseless theory that the IRS intentionally leaked its donor list - ignoring that a Reagan-appointed federal judge has dismissed that theory as having "no evidence."
In 2012, a low-level IRS official inadvertently leaked an unredacted list of NOM's donors in response to a public records request. When the list ended up in the hands of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a pro-marriage equality group, NOM alleged that the Obama administration had colluded with the HRC to embarrass NOM and its donors. Investigations by the acting commissioner of the IRS and Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George turned up no evidence that that was the case, and even NOM co-founder Maggie Gallagher conceded that the leak was the mistake of a "low-level employee."
Still, NOM sued the IRS for punitive damages. On June 3, Reagan-appointed U.S. District Court Judge James C. Cacheris smacked down NOM's conspiracy theory, calling it "unconvincing" and "unpersuasive," and writing that NOM had "failed to produce a shred of proof." However, Cacheris allowed NOM's claim for legal fees and any proven damages from the unintentional leak to proceed - which was enough for NOM to claim victory despite the humiliating blow Cacheris dealt to its central claims.
On the June 15 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, host Shannon Bream interviewed NOM chairman John Eastman about the group's effort to win those damages. Bizarrely, neither Bream nor Eastman noted Cacheris' ruling, without which NOM's claim wouldn't be proceeding. But Bream did allow Eastman to inveigh against the IRS for leaking NOM's tax documents "to a gay and lesbian activist" - making no mention of the fact that that leak has repeatedly been found to have been unintentional:
From the May 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the April 15 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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On the last day to file federal taxes, Fox host Stuart Varney complained that the wealthiest Americans "already pay for almost everything," ignoring the fact that tax rates for the richest Americans have steadily declined in recent decades mirroring rates paid by most Americans.
On the April 15 edition of America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer highlighted a Congressional Budget Office report finding that the top 20 percent of income earners in the U.S. pay over 90 percent of federal income tax money. His guest, Fox Business host Stuart Varney, wondered whether it was fair:
VARNEY: You hear it all the time, don't you? Tax the rich some more because they can afford it. Well you may be surprised to hear that wealthier people already pay for almost everything. Let me repeat the number you just gave. 20 percent - the top 20 percent of income earners pays over 90 percent of all the federal income tax money.
Do you think that's fair, Bill? If I may ask you a question. Do you think it's fair that that minority pays for everything for the vast majority?
Fox News has repeatedly resisted calls to raise taxes on the wealthy and on corporations over the past year, often peddling a number of myths about the connection between top tax rates and economic growth.
In honor of Tax Day, here's Fox News protecting the rich over the past year:
Fox News attacked the Obama administration for announcing a delay to the Affordable Care Act that resembles administration delays by other presidents, such as President Bush's 2006 delay of the Medicare Part D penalty.
From the March 22 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In:
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From the March 20 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News has repeatedly made the false claim that liberal states lose billions of dollars due to tax flight, but tax flight is a well-debunked myth, and the most recent study Fox cited only showed that income tax and state-to-state migration were correlated factors.