On March 10, Senator Ted Cruz said the following: “On tax -reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible—not a one of them as good.” It’s no surprise that Republicans in Congress tend to hate taxes and love the Bible, and as Republican rhetoric goes, this is about as anodyne as it gets. The Scrapbook never thought that such a straightforward sentiment would engender controversy, but never underestimate the -media’s desire to willfully misrepresent and dispute the words of politicians they don’t like.
Behold! The Washington Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee decided to make Cruz’s words the subject of the dumbest media “fact check” ever, a prize that regular readers of The Scrapbook know is no small honor:
This is a nonsense fact, something that is technically correct but ultimately meaningless. Thus it is not worthy of a Geppetto Checkmark but neither does it qualify for a Pinocchio.
Cruz makes the point that tax policies need to be drastically simplified, and many Americans likely would support that sentiment. But such a crude comparison, which provides no nuance or context, doesn’t capture why the tax code has become so complex and how it affects taxpayers.
In a way, comparing the raw word count in the tax code to the text of the Bible diminishes the real frustration that taxpayers feel, and the real impact that can occur from improper tax filings. The consequences of not filing your taxes is of far bigger concern than not reading the Bible—legally speaking, anyway. We can’t speak to possible eternal damnation.
We don’t know about eternal damnation either, but taking a statement that you admit is literally, indisputably true and asserting that it lacks “nuance or context” is a journalistic sin. (For the record, the tax code is about five times as long as the Bible.) As for the perverse notion that Ted Cruz—of all people!—is diminishing the “real frustration that taxpayers feel” by making a plainly understood, folksy comparison to help non-CPAs understand how unwieldy the tax code is—well, that’s bizarre at best.
And since when is it Cruz’s sacred obligation to “capture why the tax code has become so complex and how it affects taxpayers” with a throwaway line in a campaign speech? The problems of our unholy tax code are obvious enough to ordinary Americans, even if they seem to escape the Obama administration’s thoroughly corrupt IRS. It would be nice if “fact checkers” applied extra scrutiny to the government that wastes our tax money and buries citizens in red tape, instead of disingenuously nitpicking the politicians who rightly complain about it.
And if they don’t want to be held to basic journalistic standards, then they shouldn’t be taken aback when the rest of us note the irony of their complaints about “nonsense facts” and politely tell them to go to hell.