It's a fact-checking bar brawl! Tonight, the Associated Press is pushing back against criticisms from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman that it ran a "stupid" fact-check item on President Obama's deficit reduction speech. The liberal economist took issue with the AP's stance that Obama misled the public by saying secretaries are taxed at a higher rate than millionaires. In its original piece, the AP wrote:
President Barack Obama says he wants to make sure millionaires are taxed at higher rates than their secretaries. The data say they already are...
On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government.
To Krugman, and other liberals such as The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen, this was nonsense.
"It seems as if a number of people in the media have decided that Obama was fibbing when he said that some millionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries," wrote Krugman. "This is, of course, stupid: the operative word is SOME." He goes on to note that since 2004, about 30 or 40 percent of high income earners paid average tax rates of less than 15 percent. Benen punctuated the point. "The fact-check piece made a variety of unfair inferences. Obama never said every millionaire pays lower tax rates than every administrative staffer; he said it happens, it shouldn’t happen, and if we approve meaningful tax reform, it won’t happen."
Pushing back against Krugman and Benen, the AP's director of media relations Paul Colford says the two have their fact-checking wrong. In an e-mail to The Atlantic Wire, Colford writes:
We stand by the story.
President Obama's words, which are quoted directly in the story, create the impression that it's common for million-dollar earners to pay less in taxes than those with more modest incomes. Tax data show that impression is false.
The story takes pains to say that there *are* some instances of the wealthy paying no taxes, or relatively low taxes.
But those were the exception, less than 1 percent of returns filed by millionaires.
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