Last Friday, I published a column assessing NPR's coverage of Mitt Romney's released tax returns. I agree with critics that the main stories did not address the justifications for Romney's low tax rates on high income. Nonetheless, I concluded that the limited context in the stories of comparing Romney's low rates to what most Americans pay was fair. My view was that you either give all or none of the analysis for, and against, the favorable tax rates on investments that wealthy financiers and investors such as Romney get in comparison with what most of us pay on wages.
I also reached out to Tom Herman, the former Tax Report columnist at The Wall Street Journal, where I myself worked for nearly a decade. I asked Herman for his expert opinion as one who has written extensively on this issue, and for a business audience. His reply on whether the NPR stories should have provided more context on rate justification:
My short answer is: It depends on how much time and space you have. But in general, I would say no. When writing or broadcasting routine stories about Mitt Romney's taxes, journalists don't need to delve into the many reasons for taxing capital gains at lower rates than ordinary income. That is a lengthy subject. However, I do think that would make an excellent separate story. There is also the issue of how "carried interest" should be taxed.
I have to admit that I breathed a sigh of relief that he agreed with me.
An engaging debate, meanwhile, developed among readers in the comment section. I wanted to share a sample of what I found to be a worthy and interesting discussion.
Kev G (MandoGroh) wrote:
Please remember, while we want everyone to pay an equal share in taxes, "rich people" are not bad people. "Poor people" are not bad people. We are all just people, and we all need to focus on what is best for the future children of this country and world. Everyone's, not just your own.
Samuel Howard (Samiam_2012) wrote:
I love NPR and all, but they are trying to justify going over Romney's tax contributions with a fine-toothed comb looking for anything that "might" look suspicious. Are they going through this process for the other candidates? NPR is still totally missing the point of why so many people are upset with their coverage of this issue.
Chris Jones (cj51) wrote:
The clarity and fairness of this report is everything one could hope for, as a listener and reader. Thank you for maintaining objectivity when so many are wanting to jump on one side of the issue or the other, without full understanding of all the issues involved.
Now, let the chips fall where they may without the bombastic rhetoric so many approach this topic with, without all the facts and history at hand. There really is a lot to consider, especially where we are going as a nation, when fairness and reason are so often left by the wayside, in favor of digging in one's political heels.
As we approach the general election season, we will, undoubtedly, hear more on this topic. I am happy to keep exchanging opinions beginning now.