Advocating Higher Taxes, Or Just Giving Info? It’s Higher Taxes!

Bradley J. Fikes Bradley J. Fikes 8 Comments

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In the comments to my post  about the deceptively named Middle Class Taxpayers Association, Lucas O’Connor makes three points worth responding to: One false, one irrelevant, and one true.

The false claim is that I criticized the union- and Democratic-backed group because of its ideology. No, the deception is what I criticized.

The "good news" is increased property tax assessments

The "good news" is increased property tax assessments

When groups advertise themselves under a false flag and the media swallows the description, the public interest is harmed. This is true no matter what the group’s ideology. However, the media usually gives a pass to lefty groups and accepts their descriptions at face value. And since I’m a card-carrying journalist, I don’t like the discredit the disrepute this abetting of deception brings to my profession.

I also don’t like it when a reporter with a political agenda is hired from an advocacy journalism job for a sensitive political beat with an “objective” news outlet, and lets his bias leak into news stories.

The irrelevant claim is that I didn’t refute articles that were tweeted by association board member Murtaza Baxamusa. These articles support higher taxes; one claiming Americans are undertaxed, another claiming Americans support higher taxes.

The truth or falsity of these claims wasn’t the focus of my article. It’s the deception. If O’Connor wants to argue that Americans are undertaxed, that’s the subject for a different post. He’s welcome to argue why Americans should pay more taxes over at Two Cathedrals and I’ll link to him.

Third and truthfully, O’Connor points out that tweets I linked to didn’t contain Baxamusa’s words endorsing higher taxes; they were auto-generated headlines.

I would imagine that nobody here finds it reasonable to assume that every word of every title of every article is endorsed as a personal quote when linked on Twitter,” O’Connor wrote.

As a general rule that’s correct. People do sometimes tweet stuff they disagree with (although they usually say when they disagree with it).

But we don’t have to “imagine” what Baxamusa is doing. We can test this empirically, by looking at his Twitter feed. And not all of his tweets come from auto-generated headlines. Some contain his editorial comments.

Trying to make the "Kock" (sic) Bros. look bad is vital for middle-class taxpayers

It's those evil "Kock" Bros., enemy of middle-class taxpayers!

If Baxamusa is just giving information he doesn’t necessarily agree with, we would expect to see a variety of views on the subjects of big business, unions and taxes. But if he’s pushing a line, we would see stories reflecting the progressive/left viewpoint: Big business bad, unions good, taxes good. And paying less taxes through deductions and tax credits is the same as a government subsidy:

Tax deductions are government subsidies

Tax deductions are government subsidies

So has Baxamusa linked to stories arguing we are overtaxed? No. Admittedly, he has on very rare occasions linked uncritically to Carl DeMaio and the Tea Party. However, there are other instances in which he makes his sympathies for higher taxes plain, as well as his opposition to DeMaio and the Tea Party.

DeMaio/Tea Party: Deficit wolf in actuarial sheepskin

DeMaio/Tea Party: Deficit wolf in actuarial sheepskin

Such as in this tweet in which he says:  “Good news on property tax rolls: SD sees 1st increase in property assessments since ’08”. (emphasis mine)

The “SD sees 1st increase in property assessments since ’08” is in the headline to the linked story.  “Good news on property tax rolls:”  was Baxamusa’s editorializing. It’s not in the story headline.

Good news for whom? Certainly not for the middle-class homeowners who are paying more in property taxes!

There are other tweets linking to stories on left-leaning sites purporting to prove that America is lightly taxed, none on the other side.  So either Baxamusa really does think America is lightly taxed, or he’s only giving the side of the issue he doesn’t believe in.

Summing up, the vast majority of his tweets that touch on big business and labor take the predictable theme: Big business bad, labor good.

Lot in common between rapture prophesies & @CalChamber job-killing prophesies

Lot in common between rapture prophesies & @CalChamber job-killing prophesies

And that tweet above is also not taken from a headline, but Baxamusa’s editorial comment.

The LA Times commentary linked to is from another misleadingly named lefty group, the Cry Wolf Project, which the LAT calls “a nonprofit research network that identifies and exposes misleading rhetoric about the economy, regulation and government.” (Take a look at those affiliated with the group, including the hard-left Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect, honoree of the Democratic Socialists of America and ACORN organizer Peter Dreier of Occidental College).

And just so O’Connor doesn’t misunderstand, I’m not protesting the Cry Wolf Project’s leftist agenda here; I’m protesting the deceptive way it describes itself. People can be fooled into thinking they’re getting non-political views when they’re actually getting an agenda.

With someone like fellow Rostrafarian Richard Rider, his biases are up front. He’s against higher taxes, and wants to see them lowered, or at least not raised.  And the Cato Institute openly admits it’s a libertarian think tank.  That’s honest disclosure.

It’s all about truth in advertising.

So if your idea of a taxpayer group in one that thinks more taxes are better, the Middle Class Taxpayers Association is the group for you.

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(DISCLAIMER: This is my opinion, not necessarily that of my employer, the North County Times).

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Comments 8

  1. Bradley,

    While I agree with the gist of your post and most everything you say in it, I do have trouble understanding how the headline “SD sees 1st increase in property assessments since ’08″ could not be considered good news. This isn’t a case of tax rates going up; this is a case of property values going up and/or people moving up into more expensive houses.

  2. Bradley,

    When you pen your articles for the NC Times, do you disclose that you are a libertarian political activist?

    I disagree that you think liberal groups are described by its tilt less often than conservative ones. I’m sure it would take an aggregation of news articles going back years to find the real answer, but the SDCTA, the Lincoln Club, NUSIPR, Pacific Institute, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers, AFP, AEI, etc. have all successfully avoided discosure in news articles … especially with local media: You could never get a reporter to say SDCTA is a business-backed group, a corporate group, a right-leaning group, or one that by many accounts was established with the original intent of running organized labor out of town.

  3. Post
    Author

    Hi Alger,
    Property values are not necessarily going up, it’s the assessments that are going up. There are some unhappy homeowners out there — read the comments to the story.

    Homeowners wishing to fight the increased assessment have to go through an appeals process. That’s where a taxpayers’ group would be really useful, to make sure the assessments were really valid, and not just an attempt to raise more tax revenue. So Baxamusa’s glee at higher tax revenues is inexplicable from that perspective.

    But it all makes sense if Baxamusa’s true concern is protecting the jobs of public employee union members, and the pose about defending taxpayers is a sham.

  4. Post
    Author

    Jefferson,
    When you pen your articles for the NC Times, do you disclose that you are a libertarian political activist?.

    Unlike the reporters I criticize, I keep my bias out of my news stories – -you’re welcome to search them for any signs that I’m trying to stealthily infiltrate Libertarian beliefs into my news articles. Start with this article I just wrote on aquaculture.

    I have openly discussed my beliefs on blogs, where I’ve more freedom to express opinions. No deception there. And as far as being an “activist” goes, I’ve never worked for or contributed money to a Libertarian candidate.

    I practice what I preach.

  5. Post
    Author

    Jefferson,
    I disagree that you think liberal groups are described by its tilt less often than conservative ones. I’m sure it would take an aggregation of news articles going back years to find the real answer, but the SDCTA, the Lincoln Club, NUSIPR, Pacific Institute, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers, AFP, AEI, etc. have all successfully avoided discosure in news articles … especially with local media: You could never get a reporter to say SDCTA is a business-backed group, a corporate group, a right-leaning group, or one that by many accounts was established with the original intent of running organized labor out of town.

    It’s good practice for reporters to indicate who is behind all groups, not just the ones they personally oppose. So if I write about the SDCTA or any other of the groups you mention, I’ll keep your point in mind.

    If you can find specific examples where a right- or libertarian- leaning group’s agenda is not being mentioned in the local media, please post it here, and I’ll take a look at it.

  6. SDCTA sometimes favors tax increases (and here I differ with them, but that’s not the point). Their big interest is efficient government, but that does not preclude tax increases. I suspect that historically they have supported over half the school bonds (which all come with a tax increase) on the ballot.

    Now, show me the tax increases that the labor unions or their flunky, union-funded stealth “research and educational” organizations (such as SD CPI) have opposed, or the tax cuts they have favored. Best of luck!

    Indeed, the unions and their bogus organizations favor even regressive sales tax increases (Exhibit A — Prop “D”). Every dollar of sales tax a local public employee union member pays comes back to them tenfold in the form of higher pay and benefits.

    The left (controlled by the labor unions) cares far more about union members than they care about the middle class — let alone the poor.

  7. Seldom is Cato, Reason, Heritage, or other right-of-center think tanks quoted in the paper without “conservative” or “libertarian” tacked on to describe the outfit. And that’s just good reporting.

    Sadly, too many left wing propaganda mills don’t get the same treatment. I’ve written about this double standard often.

  8. Bradley,

    I have no doubt about Baxamusa’s motives; you may even be understating them. My only point was that increasing valuations, which are caused either by increasing home prices or by people moving into homes that cost more than the homes they are leaving, is a good thing. We have had a few years of declining home values and stagnant sales. In my opinion, any change in that trend is good news.

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