Reading comprehension problem, or willful mischaracterization (aka lie)?

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on December 3, 2002

I was skeptical upon reading New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's latest column attacking the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

[C]arping critics of the conservative movement have been known to say that its economic program consists of little more than tax cuts, tax cuts and more tax cuts. I may even have said that myself. If so, I apologize. Emboldened by the midterm election, key conservative ideologues have now declared their support for tax increases - but only for people with low incomes.

Krugman's Exhibit A (the source of the vast, right-wing conspiracy) is the The Wall Street Journal. Is it advocating raising taxes on low-income people as Krugman claims? I suspected that couldn't be true.

It turns out I was right. You can find the Journal editorial Krugman cites here. Krugman's characterization of the editorial as advocating higher taxes for the poor is an outright lie. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

Here is the relevant portion of the Journal editorial:

This complicated system of progressivity and targeted rewards is creating a nation of two different tax-paying classes: those who pay a lot and those who pay very little. And as fewer and fewer people are responsible for paying more and more of all taxes, the constituency for tax cutting, much less for tax reform, is eroding. Workers who pay little or no taxes can hardly be expected to care about tax relief for everybody else. They are also that much more detached from recognizing the costs of government.

All of which suggests that the last thing the White House should do now is come up with more exemptions, deductions and credits that will shrink the tax-paying population even further.

What the Journal is suggesting that the tax code not be used as a method of redistribution of wealth -- and that everyone should pay some income taxes -- even if it is a relative pittance compared with the wealthy.

While I am not necessarily opposed to having the very poor exempted from income taxes -- it's certainly a subject worthy of debate.

Nowhere in the article does the Journal advocate raising taxes on the poor.

Krugman is a liar.

End of debate.


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December 2002



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