Democracy Soup

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Emily Friedman writes a clueless story about rich people who don’t understand taxes to win the Media Putz

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on March 12, 2009

Emily Friedman

In the world of Media Putzdom, we have given the award to some heavy hitters, the names you expect to win the award a lot: Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Beck, Coulter. But everyone once in a while, there is a media moment so outrageous even a newcomer can attain the level set by these classic putzes.

So who in the hell is Emily Friedman?

Friedman is a reporter for ABC who wrote the story on people trying to lower their income to less than $250,000 to not pay for “Obama’s tax increase.” She interviewed several people and “experts” on the tax code. But the people interviewed, the experts, and Friedman herself didn’t understand the tax code.

They didn’t understand marginal tax rates; they didn’t understand that only the amount of money past the quarter-million mark gets taxed, and that the tax margins for that income bracket dwarfed tax rates under Ronald Reagan.

In a mainstream environment where a tax cut for everyone making less than $250,000 is portrayed as a “tax increase,” this story was by far the stupidest of those articles, and one of the stupidest stories of all-time.

Friedman quotes a Lafayette, La. based 63-year-old attorney who didn’t want to be named. When you read what she says, you can see why she asked Friedman for anonymity. But in a light feature story, why would you need to hide someone’s identity?

A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told ABCNews.com that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law.

“We are going to try to figure out how to make our income $249,999.00,” she said.

“We have to find a way out where we can make just what we need to just under the line so we can benefit from Obama’s tax plan,” she added. “Why kill yourself working if you’re going to give it all away to people who aren’t working as hard?”

Then we have the “wisdom” of a dentist from Boulder, Colorado, Dr. Sharon Poczatek, who at least went on the record.

“I’ve put thought into how to get under $250,000,” said Poczatek. “It would mean working fewer days which means having fewer employees, seeing fewer patients and taking time off.”

The dentist was willing to give up money — $70,000 worth — so she wouldn’t pay a little more tax on that amount. Given that 94% (at least) of all Americans make less than $100,000 for a year, few of them would turn down an extra $70,000, regardless of how much tax was paid on the money.

Poczatek argued that by reducing her income from her current $320,000 to under $250,000 by having her dental hygienist work fewer days and by treating fewer patients, she would avoid paying higher taxes on the $70,000 that would be subject to increased taxation if Obama’s proposal is signed into law.

“I’d like these people to know that we pay a lot of taxes, and have been paying a lot of taxes through the past administration,” said Poczatek. At $320,000, the dentist would have received the Bush tax cuts, the same ones that Obama wants to let expire. In fact, while many on the left are suggesting Obama kill the Bush tax cuts now, the president is content to let them run out naturally, increasing money for those who make that much. Dr. Poczatek is clearly not aware that she was getting a break over the last eight years.

The story was so badly written that ABC was forced to run this slight correction that needless to say, is very understated:

Yesterday ABC News published a version of this story which some readers felt did not provide a comprehensive enough analysis of Obama’s tax code for those families making $250k or more. ABCNews.com has heard those concerns and after review has decided to post an updated version of the story below.

The correction should have been more along the lines of:

“Yesterday, ABC News printed a clueless story about how rich people are serious misguided when it comes to tax policy. Our reporter, Emily Friedman, in an environment of true financial suffering, took valuable economic resources and devoted them to a poorly written story about clueless rich people. And clearly she didn’t understand what she was writing. ABCNews.com has heard those concerns and after review has decided to erase the memories of those who read the story.”

Often, journalists cover stories where they don’t have much knowledge or depth of knowledge. But if Friedman didn’t understand the tax rates, she should have asked. If she didn’t understand how it would look for people to read about the audacity of rich people turning down money, then perhaps she needs to learn that before she ever writes again.

As of now, the story has 922 comments, so perhaps ABC wanted a story that would drive traffic to its Web site. However, a story can be well-written and still get a lot of comments. This one didn’t even come close. But her story did win Emily Friedman the Media Putz of the week.

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Written by democracysoup

March 12, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

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