Among the reporting on Mitt Romney’s unfortunate comments at a private fundraiser, it’s interesting to see the mainstream media’s subtle attempts to try to redefine the nature of the income tax. Most Americans presumably (and rightly) think of the income tax as a tax on, well, income. The press corps, however, is trying to portray it as a tax only on (relatively) high levels of income—in other words, as a sort of luxury tax (on the upper middle class). Even President Obama hasn’t gone quite this far rhetorically.
At the Wall Street Journal (where only the editorial page leans right), the account reads, “[Romney’s] comments could be read as unflattering to Obama supporters broadly and to millions of people who hold jobs and in many cases pay payroll taxes, but who don’t earn enough to pay the income tax.” Note the subtle use of “the,” rather than “any,” before “income tax”—thereby suggesting that the true nature of the tax is that of a (low-level) luxury tax, not an actual income tax. (It’s worth keeping in mind that anyone who doesn’t pay income tax doesn’t contribute a dime to national defense or any other aspect of federal spending apart from entitlement programs.)
The slant from Yahoo! News is even more evident, as that outlet reports that “Romney seems to be referring to the estimated 47 percent of Americans who did not owe federal income taxes in 2011 because their incomes were so low that they qualified for a tax credit, or because they didn’t work at all.” This tone suggests that it’s almost a given that those with incomes “so low” — that is, in the bottom half of Americans — wouldn’t pay any income tax whatsoever but would instead get a tax credit at taxpayers' expense. After all, shouldn’t the top 53 percent “pay their fair share”?
As in a myriad of other ways—“undocumented workers” versus “illegal aliens”; reports of so-and-so’s “opposition to abortion rights” (as opposed to “opposition to abortion”), with no corresponding mention of anyone else’s “opposition to the right to life”—the press subtly yet consistently adopts language that shifts the public debate onto turf more favorable to the Left. But conservatives need not play along.