A Story Too Good to Let Die

Barack Obama is a liberal. Liberal, liberal, liberal! And you know what that means -- he's going to raise your taxes. Why is he going to raise your taxes? To give government more money to spend. Why does he want government to have more money to spend? Because he's a liberal. Lather, rinse, repeat.

One thing we know about circular reasoning is that it's never actually correct. Cause and effect can't be the same thing, yet in a circular argument, that's what you're asked to believe. Obama wants to raise taxes, because he's a liberal -- and he's a liberal because he wants to raise taxes. Logically speaking, this argument has as much value as "because I said so, that's why."

Since this argument is so shaky, the right needs to constantly be on the lookout for evidence to back it up. Sure, the teabaggers are convinced that Obama already has raised their taxes, but they live in a world without logic, where the assertion is all it takes to establish fact. If you want other people to believe that the administration and Congress has raised their taxes, then the administration and Congress are just going to have to raise people's taxes.

So you can imagine the glee with which Republicans greeted the headline, "President Obama's budget seeks an end to tax break for the middle class." That headline, based on a Reuters story, ran in the DC newspaper The Hill.

Grappling to contain record deficits, President Barack Obama is seeking to end a middle-class tax break he once said would be permanent.

The $3.8 trillion budget request rolled out by the White House on Monday would renew the Making Work Pay tax credit for fiscal 2011, but then would have it sunset.

That’s a switch from last year, when Obama’s budget called for making the tax credit permanent.

Ah ha! The rightwing blogosphere went nuts with the story, which later turned out to be untrue. The Hill kept the story up, but altered the content so much that the story no longer justified the headline -- or was even internally consistent. For their part, Reuters could no longer stand by the story at all. They pulled it. People following links to their content get a notice saying the story is "wrong and has been withdrawn... There will be no substitute story."

See, the tax cuts that would sunset were only for people earning over $250,000 a year. Not for everyone as the original story had reported. This was in no way a "middle class tax increase."

But hey, examples of circular reasoning bearing out are understandably rare, so this story was just too good to let go. At the Libertarian LewRockwell.com, Paul Craig Roberts insisted that $250,000 counts as "upper middle class." At Power Line, Scott Johnson insists that -- despite being pulled -- the Reuters story was mostly true. Others say -- without any evidence at all -- that the story is entirely true and that this is an example of "Obama censorship."

OK, so $250,000 is "upper middle class." I guess -- if you're extremely generous with your definition of "middle." People earning $200,000 or more make up 4.2% of Americans. In fact, the tax would hit only half of those, with about 2% hitting that percentile. Let's put this into perspective; if people within the top 2% are upper middle class, then people belonging to the bottom 2% are lower middle class. This means that middle class families are living in boxes in alleys.

What we learn from this is that, no matter what, a story showing Obama raising taxes on the middle class will not die, because it won't be allowed to.


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