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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Idaho Newspaper’s Inspired Effort

The Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho, says it likes to check the many press releases it receives for “both spin and accuracy” before publishing them. We applaud that effort. In fact, a release from Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho was recently the subject of a full-page fact check for the paper’s Sunday opinion page.

The Times-News received an Oct. 4 press release announcing that Crapo had joined Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois to introduce legislation capping the capital gains and dividend tax rates at 15 percent. It states that if the rates expire as scheduled in 2012, when added with a 3.8 percent tax from the health care law beginning in 2013, it “would mean effectively a 58 percent higher tax rate on capital gains and as much as a 189 percent higher tax rate on dividend income.”

That’s all accurate, according to the paper’s analysis. But it noted that “much of the data is represented to look scarier than it might actually be.”

For example, the 3.8 percent tax mentioned in the release applies to the net investment income of high-income individuals and to some home sales with a net profit of more than $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for married couples. The majority of people wouldn’t have to pay it. (FactCheck.org also wrote about that claim.) The paper also writes that the “189 percent higher tax rate” on dividend income would apply only to those making more than $380,000 in earned income who also have a lot of investment income. And it highlighted mysterious references in the press release to the potential effects of higher taxes on seniors, as well as farmers and ranchers.

In summary, the Times-News wrote that “our elected officials should stick with the facts, and help educate us in making up our minds, instead of trying to guide us through selective representation of the data.” We couldn’t agree more.

— D’Angelo Gore

Note: A special thanks to former FactCheck.org staff writer Justin Bank for bringing the Times-News’ piece to our attention.