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Networks Lead With Calling Obama’s Tax Hike a ‘Tax Cut’

President’s plan would raise taxes on wealthy in 2013, and everyone after one year, but ABC, CBS and NBC favor tax-cut talk.

President Obama announced his plan to hike taxes on people making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000 by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. But that wasn’t the way the three broadcast networks framed the story on July 9 and 10. Instead, 87 percent of the stories started off by calling the action a “tax cut.” Twenty-five percent made no mention of tax increases at all.

On those two days, ABC, CBS and NBC evening and morning shows aided the administration by first talking about tax cuts rather than tax hikes in most stories. Out of the 8 news reports, 7 labeled or described the proposal in terms of extending a tax cut first, before anyone in those reports mentioned that taxes would go up for some people. Two of the 8 stories completely ignored the tax hike side of the story.

None of the stories reminded viewers that, if passed, taxes would rise for everyone after one year - conveniently after the presidential election. Obama’s move would kill the Bush tax cuts that have been in place for more than 10 years - some of them at the end of 2012 and the rest after 2013.

NBC “Nightly News” July 9 kicked its story off with “TAX CUTS” on screen under the president’s picture as anchor Brian Williams said, “Obama reopened the debate over those so-called Bush-era tax cuts, he wants to extend them, but not forever and not for everyone.”

The same night, an ABC “World News” report said absolutely nothing about taxes going up. Instead Diane Sawyer said Obama “moved a big piece on the political chess board. He called on Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for anyone making less than $250,000 a year. But he said let voters decide on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans on Election Day.” An NBC “Today” story on July 10 also ignored tax increases entirely.

There was something else missing from the networks. Conservative economic analysts were absent from the network stories (only political opponents were quoted) about Obama’s tax proposal, in spite of the fact that Obama himself implied in 2009 that tax increases can hurt a struggling economy. Answering a question from someone who said raising taxes in a recession would hurt the economy, Obama said “He’s right. Normally you don’t raise taxes in a recession which is why we haven’t. And why we’ve instead cut taxes, so I guess what I’d say to Scott is ‘Your economics are right, you don’t raise taxes in a recession’.”

In addition to leading 87 percent of the stories with talk of tax cuts rather than tax hikes, at least two reports gave administration officials time to promote Obama’s views on taxes. And in one CBS report, Norah O’Donnell  made the totally illogical claim that somehow letting taxpayers keep more of their own hard-earned money would “cost taxpayers.” She oddly stated that Obama’s plan for a one-year partial extension would “cost taxpayers” $150 billion. But of course, she also made sure to attack Romney’s plan to reduce everyone’s taxes, fretting that it would “cost” $850 billion over 10 years.

NBC interviewed former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on July 9 for 3 minutes and 52 seconds. That interview began with a discussion of tax cuts, although Savannah Guthrie noted that it “would have the effect of a tax increase” on the rich. “Today” did not give a similar segment to anyone in opposition to the plan.

Predictably, Gibbs claimed “millionaires and billionaires, they don’t need a tax cut. They’re not struggling in this economy, they’ve done well.” Guthrie didn’t point out that this talking point is misleading because Obama isn’t merely proposing to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, but any individuals making more than $200,000 year: a difference of at least $800,000.

White House political strategist David Plouffe was also interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on July 10, following Jonathan Karl’s report about the tax plan. Karl did a better job than most by pointing out that it is a “call from the President to raise taxes on the wealthy” and quoting presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s description of the plan as a “massive tax increase on job creators and on small business.” But ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic operative for the Clinton administration, still gave Plouffe time to promote Obama’s as a tax cutter and attack Romney, without giving a spokesperson from the other side time to do that.

With the economy still struggling - a mere 80,000 jobs gained in June and GDP at a meager 1.9 percent growth rate - even some Democrats are opposed to raising taxes on anyone right now. ABC’s Karl even noted that the Obama plan has “zero” chance of passing in Congress and even has opposition from “some Democrats, particularly in the Senate, who, again, say raising taxes on anybody is a bad idea right now.”

On July 11, voting on the plan was blocked by both parties, by Democrats first and then Republicans, according to Associated Press. That story also said that 2.5 million households made at least $250,000 in 2010 and that “an estimated 940,000 taxpayers reporting business earnings will earn enough money to their taxes rise in 2013 unless lawmakers act.”

Conservatives argue that would have a big negative impact on the economy. A Heritage Foundation analysis by Curt Dubay, warned that Obama’s “misguided plan would hurt Americans at all income levels because it would slow job creation.”

Dubay explained in a chart using Treasury Dept. data that “More than 4 million businesses in the U.S. have employees and file their taxes under the individual tax code. President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on incomes over $200,000 a year would raise the taxes of 1.2 million of them. These business, however, earn almost all the income of this group. They are the most successful and therefore biggest job creators.”