August 01, 2008

Tax Foundation Debunks Anti-Obama Tax Smear

You don't have to have a thousand unread messages in your inbox to believe that sometimes email is a bad thing. An example: apparently an anti-Barack-Obama screed has been circulating via email that lists a dozen of Obama's alleged tax proposals, all of which (in the email) amount to taxing basically every American. Each of these proposals makes it sounds like he's going to go after everyone's firstborn son.

But as the Tax Foundation helpfully points out, basically every assertion made in this email is false.

Some of the assertions in the email ("Obama would tax all capital gains on home sales at 28 percent") can't possibly be reasonably construed from anything Barack Obama has ever said or written. In other words, it's not a matter of some knucklehead doing his best to understand Obama's plan and just mis-interpreting it. Somebody went out and just lied-- made up a bunch of the nastiest stuff they could think of about Obama and called it the truth.

Hard to say how far afield this email has traveled. A quick Google search on specific phrases within the email reveals that it can be found on some very entertaining websites. For example, next time you find yourself poking around on "," you can find the email here. The Iowa John Birch Society is all over it too. While it's distressing to see it posted approvingly anywhere, the good news is that each of these web forums allows readers to comment, and sensible folks have already pointed out that the email in question is completely unsubstantiated.

More pernicious is a website with the harmless-sounding name that has posted the offending email in its entirety, in apparent approval of its contents right here. As long as this idiot wants to keep shelling out $20 a year to own this web domain, he can leave the anti-Obama email in all its unexamined glory as long as he wants.

Of course, in the end, if any American voter reads the anti-Obama email and believes it uncritically, that's their fault for being lazy. And one could optimistically hope that no one would be that lazy. But the underlying problem is that tax policy is complicated enough that it's not all that easy to verify or (as is universally true in the case of this email) disprove assertions about candidates' tax plans.

And even if people don't explicitly believe the specific assertions made in the email, the theory animating the sender was probably that if you tell a lie enough times about someone, it does affect your perception of them-- even if you don't explicitly believe it's true.

Someone I respect greatly, who is nonetheless a pessimist about human nature, once gave me the following metaphor for how elections are won and lost: presidential campaigns are like a picture window. One party has a red magic marker and the other candidate has a blue magic marker. Every time the Republicans run an ad, they're putting a red dot on the window, and every time the Dems run an ad they're putting a blue dot on the window. If, on election day, there are more blue dots than red dots, the Democrats win.

If my friend's metaphor is wrong, then this scurrilous anti-Obama email doesn't matter. But if he's right, maybe it does.

Which is why the Tax Foundation deserves kudos for taking the email apart point by point and showing that it's full of lies.


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