Facts Exempt: Network News and Taxes

2. Tax relief should not be only for taxpayers.

There were 18 stories about the debate over whether to extend the child tax credit in last year’s budget deal to the non-taxpaying working poor. But again, conservative arguments were largely left out of reports. Only six of the 18 reports mentioned the conservative argument that such an extension constituted welfare instead of tax relief.

exempt2According to Dan Rather, on the June 13 CBS Evening News, the Republican proposal was unacceptable to Clinton "because it does not apply fully to working women and especially poor women who take a tax deduction for child care." On the June 19 World News Tonight, ABC’s John Cochran reported that "House Democrats sent out women members to trash Republican tax cuts which offer nothing to low-income workers, who pay Social Security taxes, but no federal income taxes." (He failed to point out the flaw in the argument that the credit was a refund on Social Security taxes paid; namely, if it was, then recipients' future Social Security income should be lowered to reflect the change, but wasn’t.) Over at NBC, on the July 29 Nightly News, Claire Shipman counted it a victory for the White House that President Clinton was able to get "a $500 per child tax break that extends to the working poor." None of these stories included the argument that tax relief for non-taxpayers is welfare.

Other reporters were more balanced. NBC’s David Bloom, on the June 16 Nightly News, told viewers "that the President believes [the credit] should also go to four million low-income working families, even those that don’t pay taxes. Republicans say that is not tax relief, that’s welfare, and vow that unlike the fight over disaster relief money, this time they are not backing down." And Bloom’s NBC colleague John Palmer, on the June 29 Nightly News, included a soundbite in his story from Republican Senator Don Nickles making the point.