Just making it worse

Last week, I wrote about inaccuracies (OK, I called them lies!) in the San Francisco Chronicle.

This week, the editor of the online version of the Chronicle, SFGate.com, notified me that they had made a "clarification" (since removed, without comment) to the column. However, the clarification just compounded the inaccuracies.

My response follows:

Mr. Moffitt:

Thank you for your response. However, the clarification was wholly inaccurate and in many ways makes the inaccuracy worse.

First, the clarification continues to insist that taxes would increase for poor families unless they earned less than $36,000. This is not true. The 17% tax applies only to income earned over $36,000 for a family of four, meaning that a family earning $40,000 would pay only $680, and a family earning $50,000 would pay only $2380. In most cases this would mean a tax cut, not a tax increase for these families.

Second, the clarification calls families of four earning less than $36,000 “truly destitute.” In 2003, the poverty line for a family of four was $18,810. Calling a family earning nearly double the poverty line “truly destitute” shows how disingenuous your writers are willing to be in order to make a political point. Indeed, the median household income for African-Americans is significantly less than $36,000. Does your paper want to go on record calling the vast majority of African-Americans “truly destitute?”

I appreciate SFGate’s attempt to correct an error. However, given the extreme inaccuracies in both the original column and in the clarification, a full correction is warranted, both in the online and print editions.


W.C. Varones

UPDATE: I got an e-mail back from the online editor, saying "We feel no correction is warranted." Not that I asked how they feel. What is the paper's correction policy and how on earth can it justify refusing to correct a demonstrably false statement?

Despite Moffitt's feeling like a correction would be a total bummer, man, SFGate has again changed the online version of the column. They removed the nonsense about the "truly destitute" earning less than $36,000. They also changed Sorenson's assertion that Forbes wanted to raise taxes "for the poor" to "for many of the poor." I guess if Sorenson's definition of "many" is as loose as his definition of "the poor," he might be able to find a way to distort this into being true. There are probably some people somewhere in America making $60,000 or so who might pay more taxes under the Forbes plan. $60,000 should certainly qualify for "poor" in Sorenson's world, if $36,000 is "truly destitute."

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