Facts Exempt: Network News and Taxes

3. An increase in the complexity of an already mammoth tax code is not newsworthy.

Out of 58 stories focusing on last year's budget deal, only two of them mentioned that the deal made the tax code more complicated, in direct conflict with promises made during the 1996 campaign and with the Republican Party’s agenda of tax simplification.

"With this new budget deal comes a whole new set of tax breaks and tax rules," NBC's Tom Brokaw told viewers of the August 5 Nightly News. "And then remember last year’s presidential campaign when everyone agreed the current tax code should be scrapped or at least simplified.

Well, guess what? They have actually made it more complicated." Correspondent Gwen Ifill then called the changes "tangled new rules that will prove a bonanza for tax preparers and lawyers." She pointed out that "last year Americans spent $230 billion on tax preparation," and that while "taxes may be going down…the cost of doing your taxes is headed up." But Ifill’s report was a lonely exception to the rule.