Below is a letter of mine that the Spartanburg Herald-Journal published today. It captures my concerns about some of the subtle sleight of hand used in the current debate over extending current tax rates:
I agree with the Herald-Journal’s point that the failure of Congress to take a vote on extending the current tax rates was an example of political cowardice (“Votes not taken” editorial, Friday’s edition). But the rest of your presentation of the issue is misleading, at best.
First, you raise the specter of a tax increase for everyone and the prospect that an average family could see their taxes go up. You fail to note that no one — not Democrats in Congress, not Republicans in Congress, not President Barack Obama — is proposing that. In fact, the only way that outcome could possibly come about is if Republicans in the Senate filibuster to prevent the passage of any bill.
You also misrepresent the president’s proposal. You say it would allow tax cuts to “expire for those who make more” than $250,000. In fact, the first $250,000 of every single family’s income would continue to be taxed at the current rate. For those who make over that amount, the increased rate would apply only to the income over $250,000. In other words, if a family made $251,000, only $1,000 would be taxed at the new, higher rate. That means that this family’s tax bill would increase by perhaps $70 a year.
Lastly, you give a distorted presentation of the estate tax. “Should you be able to leave your money to your children ... ?” you ask. You do not note that in 2009, the first $3.5 million of any estate was exempted from any tax. How many of your readers will leave fortunes of more than that? A few, perhaps, but you suggest everyone would pay the estate tax, and that is simply not true.
I expect the Herald-Journal to champion the interests of the wealthiest Americans. But I also expect it to honestly present the facts when doing so.