More Wall Street Journal (and the NYT)

As it turns out if you want actual information, non-distorted even, about the likely-to-pass tax cut proposal, you have to go to the Wall Street Journal. All of the following are on Page 1, above the fold:

  • Bush’s Tax Cut: Victory–at a Cost
  • Bill marked by gimmicks marches past glitches, toward passage
  • How a $350 billion price tag could balloon as high as $810 billion
  • Much of what bill gives will be taken by strapped states, cities
  • Meanwhile, rising deficits force Congress to move toward raising U.S. debt ceiling
  • Sunset provisions overshadow dividend tax cut

You wouldn’t get all this from, for instance, the NYT. There, if you go to the national section you can at least find one story with this subheading: “A hard look at various elements of the $318 billion tax bill shows a plan that could lose $800 billion in tax revenues over 10 years.” But continuing with it’s slanted coverage, consider this graphic (click to enlarge):

Click to Enlarge

What’s wrong with this? I looked at it and I thought, “Hey, at least this works out ok for middle income families with income around $41,000, particularly if they have kids”. Then I thought, “But of course the marriage credits have a two year sunset”, and then I thought “Hey, what’s this about ‘Assumes’ and ‘capital gains of:’ and ‘dividend income of:’ and then putting in $500 for each.”

That’s patently absurd. Families making $41,000 per year do not–outside of tax-sheltered retirement accounts–have remotely near this amount of capital gains and dividend income. If the NYT wants to make stuff up (or hire Deloitte and Touche to do so), why not just assume they get all of their income from stocks? How does this fiction affect the numbers? Well there’s $1000 of fictional stock-based income that will be taxed at 15% instead of 28%, which means the savings for the $41,000 family are overstated by $130–an 11% over statement of the benefit. Similarly, though I’m less certain on this point, $30,000 per year in stock income for families in the $530,000k and over bracket seems on the low side. So this assumption understates the top-end benefits of this tax plan. One more thing: where’s the row for “Annual Household Income of $18,000”?


UPDATE: The NYT assumption may be more biased than I thought. From the NRO: “Lower-bracket taxpayers will pay a 5 percent rate [on capital gains and dividend income] for the 2003-2007 period and zero percent in 2008”. This mean that part of the savings come from the fictional $1000 in stock income being taxed at 5% instead of 28%, meaning the fake savings would be $230 (tax on $1000 is $50 instead of $280) instead of $130, if the NYT used the new 5% rate. 5%, or 50%, it doesn’t matter what the rate is, since the dividend income for that bracket is way, way, below $1000. Based on a CNN story that I can’t find anymore, only 28% of filers indicated some dividend income and 63% of those made more than $100k per year in income.