Monday, September 24, 2012

The Meaning of Words

It's one thing when false information is presented in opinion pieces, but when it's presented in news pieces, that's a horse of a different color.  For instance, we have this from Reuters by way of yahoo news.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he thinks it is "fair" that he pays a lower tax rate on his investment income of $20 million last year than someone who made $50,000 annually.

Now, I strongly suspect that most readers would read this as asserting that the average taxpayer who makes $50,000 pays a higher federal tax rate than does Mitt Romney.  But of course, this isn't true.  Courtesy of the TPC, we can see that taxpayers in the $40,000 to $50,000 range average 12.1% in total federal taxes (excluding imputed corporate taxes) while taxpayers in the $50,000 to $75,000 range average 14.5%.  Asserting that people earning $50,000 pay more than Romney simply flies in the face of the numbers.

Or maybe the authors meant to argue there is some taxpayer who makes $50,000 who pays a higher rate than Romney.  This latter statement is almost certainly true but not, I think, a reasonable inference from the quoted paragraph.

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