Anyone reading Plunderbund knows the truth about the tax changes in the recent Kasich budget: raise state spending, cut income taxes (a policy that favors the wealthy the most), increase the sales tax (a policy that hurts the poor and middle class the most); and slash help for local governments and education.
So how has Kasich’s biggest media fan covered the budget?
The Columbus Dispatch continues its practice of lazy journalism when it comes to Ohio Republicans. The worst form of lazy journalism is to “report the controversy.” This means that, as the Managing Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review explained, reporters become passive recipients of news, rather than aggressive analyzers and explainers of it. The Dispatch simply reported “both sides of the story,” and did not perform any analysis that allowed readers to gain a deeper understanding of the true impacts of the Kasich budget.
The worst examples are from Sunday June 30. An article entitled “State income tax a real divide for parties” is a textbook example of lazy journalism. The article is just a series of backs and froths about taxes. Like this: “Republicans argue that the [income] tax is punitive — taxing work, investment and risk-taking. . . . But Democrats see the tax as one that provides fairness, because those who earn more pay more, especially under a progressive system like Ohio’s.” Even small efforts at including facts – like the fact that a sales tax is regressive – is softened by a “but.” See: “The sales tax is more regressive, meaning it affects lower- and middle-income people more than those with higher incomes, but Republicans note that Ohio’s exemptions on food, housing and prescription drugs soften the impact.”
The article on the budget bill signing was no better – it includes mention of the significant tax changes – in the first to last paragraph.
When the Dispatch did dig deep, it focused on minor policy measures that will impact about zero people substantially contained in the budget bill, including changes to railroad warning requirements from a whistle to a bell, extension of the two-cent per gallon of wine tax revenue for the Ohio Grape Industries Fund, and allowing for permanent dog registration, rather than annual.
Cincinnati Enquirer, show “Ohio’s Greatest Newspaper” how it’s done: two must read articles on changes in the tax laws contain some real journalism.
On July 7, the Enquirer published a Watchdog piece titled “WATCHDOG: Will new tax cuts help small businesses.” The article concludes that an “analysis of the new tax cut – pitched as a big boost for Ohio’s small businesses – finds that most will save just a few hundred dollars a year.”
The Enquirer article prints the Kasich claim that the tax cut makes Ohio more attractive to small businesses and will lead to more hiring. The article then does this amazing thing for Ohio Journalism – Dispatch, pay attention here – the paper not fact-checks the claim and asks an expert: “an analysis of state tax data suggests few businesses will be able to add new employees. . . ‘It’s just not going to have a lot of impact,’ said Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economic Center.”
A July 5 Enquirer article is even more direct in assessing the impact of the new budget on average Ohioans. “WATCHDOG: Property-tax levies mute Ohioans’ gains on income and sales tax” The article by Chrissie Thompson starts with a little Republican v. Democrat back and forth but then does what a journalist should do: ask “What is the truth?” The conclusion: an average Ohioan in Hamilton County may pay up to $400 more in property taxes but receive a $47 tax cut from the new budget. That’s a pretty raw deal.
What do we conclude from all this: the truth about Kasich is out there, but like Agents Scully and Mulder, if you live in Central Ohio you have to search for it. Outside of Columbus, and especially in Cincinnati, there is still some good journalism still going on.