The media’s role in the ‘tax’ talking point

Updated
The media's role in the 'tax' talking point
The media's role in the 'tax' talking point
Austin Frakt/The Incidental Economist

By now, you’ve heard some of the new Republican line on health care reform – tax, tax, tax, it’s a tax – from our guest this Sunday, former South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson. They’re back it it this morning, including on our own The Daily Rundown, when Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom had to mutate it a bit in order to differentiate it from his boss’ “Romneycare” in Massachusetts. (You can judge whether or not he was successful.) 

If they’re counting on winning an election in November on pure semantics (and not, say, actual economics), they’re welcome to try. It may well be the only arrow in their quiver. But today, the most extreme version of that talking point has been effectively flushed down.

But the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein links today to a helpful chart derived from data reported by Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum yesterday (see above). Both echo the same point: no, “Obamacare” isn’t the “largest tax increase in the history of the world,” as Rush Limbaugh put it last week.

I know: breaking news, Limbaugh was wrong about something. But the key is whether or not his listeners and others who hear that talking point of the mouth of Republicans who, say, represent their district, might find it believable. Too many reporters have been thus far treating his misinformation and bloviation as if it is worthy of honest debate, alleges Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall in a spit-hot-fire post about this yesterday:

I’ve got a question: Just how stupid are all you reporters? No, that’s not a rhetorical question. Whether you want to call the ACA health care mandate a tax or not is mainly a semantic point. It’s a penalty or tax or perhaps a tax penalty on people who refuse to purchase health insurance, even after they received subsidies that make it possible. But Republicans are now saying it’s the ‘biggest tax increase in history’ — either of America or the universe of whatever. But this is demonstrably false.

Marshall then cites the Congressional Budget Office report on the law’s mandate, and its determination that it being in place will raise $27 billion over a decade, making it what he calls “one of the tiniest” tax increases in history. Ezra notes that while it does include taxes, agrees, writing that “[i]t’s not even the biggest tax hike in the past 60 years. Or 50 years. Or 30 years. Or 20 years.”

Food for thought. Melissa’s extended discussion about the Supreme Court’s ruling starts below, and continues after the jump.

 

The media's role in the 'tax' talking point

Updated