The Mattopian Blahg

29 March 2020

Note: I earned both a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder. You know the place. It’s where — as the humorous saying goes — your news is delivered further to the left every day. Journalism is a personal passion; I’m proud of my degree. But I’m appalled by the current state of journalism. The vast majority of the media today is not performing true, objective and unbiased journalism. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The vast majority of the media is agenda-driven and is, as a result, doing the public a major disservice. Here is one small — but impactful — example of the sloppiness in today’s news reporting.

Do journalists file tax returns?

Here’s why I ask: most don’t understand how to report on tax issues. It’s so bad out there, I wonder if they’ve ever seen a W-2 or looked at a tax return.

Consider the CARES Act. While one of the astonishing things is the government came up with this clever acronym so quickly (it stands for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), it’s also surprisingly easy to follow how the individual stimulus check is calculated. The text in the act itself is easier to follow than most of the media coverage about the Act.

It’s all based on the tax filer’s Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) – an actual tax return line item everybody can identify quite easily.

And yet one report after another doesn’t bother to explain that very simple – and extremely important – criterion. Instead, almost all of the reports I’ve seen have referenced generic terms like “earnings” or “income.” The worst make reference to how much a person “makes.”

Come on, guys. It’s not that hard.

Review the full H.R. 748 (you can even download it as a PDF). Go to page 55.

I’ll make it easy. Here’s the relevant text:

(a) IN GENERAL.—In the case of an eligible individual, there shall be allowed as a credit against the tax imposed by subtitle A for the first taxable year beginning in 2020 an amount equal to the sum of—

(1) $1,200 ($2,400 in the case of eligible individuals filing a joint return), plus
(2) an amount equal to the product of $500 multiplied by the number of qualifying children (within the meaning of section 24(c)) of the taxpayer.

(b) TREATMENT OF CREDIT.—The credit allowed by subsection (a) shall be treated as allowed by subpart C of part IV of subchapter A of chapter 1.
(c) LIMITATION BASED ON ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME.—The amount of the credit allowed by subsection (a) (determined without regard to this subsection and subsection (e)) shall be reduced (but not below zero) by 5 percent of so much of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income as exceeds—

(1) $150,000 in the case of a joint return,
(2) $112,500 in the case of a head of household, and
(3) $75,000 in the case of a taxpayer not described in paragraph (1) or (2).

Let’s break it down. The full $1,200 stimulus for a single filer is limited to those with an AGI of $75,000 or less. For those with an AGI greater than $75,000, subtract $75,000 from your AGI and multiply the result by 5% (.05). Subtract that value from $1,200 to find the amount you’ll receive. (Of course, if this value is a negative, you don’t owe money; it simply means you won’t receive a stimulus check.)

Many reports go into a verbose explanation that the amount decreases by $5 for every $100 of income/earnings/“what you make” over the $75,000. Cumbersome. But, yes, the same answer.

Too much math? Kiplinger has a calculator.

This reminds me of the hilarity surrounding reports Michael Bloomberg could’ve given every American $1 million instead of spending it on his presidential campaign. (Reality check: it would’ve been more like one dollar and 50 cents.)

Sorry, Brian Williams (MSNBC) and Mara Gay (New York Times editorial writer). I know math is not your thing, but math is everywhere, whether you like it or not. Maybe you guys should find a different line of work so more competent journalists can serve the public’s interest more successfully.

And, by the way, thank you for being so silly in quoting from the feed of Mekita Rivas, a true Twitter twit. Based on her (currently private) Twitter feed and (currently private) website, she appears to be the go-to person for absolutely nothing of substance. I doubt this self-described “fitness snob” even knows how to count calories.

Anyway, we all needed the laugh at your expense.

I don’t want to hear about how this is all the result of the rush to be first in covering a topic in the fast-paced world of social media. Bologna. Being first — and wrong — does nobody any good. Being first — and confusing — isn’t helpful. That argument is a total cop out. I refuse to accept it. Quality counts. Quality matters. Being second — and accurate — will naturally lead to a better reputation, which is far more valuable in the long run.

Come on. Is there any doubt journalism needs some serious reform as a profession? If these “professionals” can’t even cover the simple things with accuracy, how can the public trust them to successfully investigate and dissect the complicated challenges facing the world? It’s easy to make the case they can’t, they don’t and they won’t until the public grows more vocal about the egregious lack of integrity, objectivity and honest analysis in the media today.

Newer   |   Older

Share The Mattopia Times

Follow @MattopiaJones

Contact Address book

Write Matt
Visit the Speakers Corner
Subscribe to Mattopia Times

Support Heart

Help Matt live like a rock star. Support MATTAID.

It's a crazy world and it's only getting crazier. Support human rights.

Search Magnifying glass

The Mattsonian Archives house more than 1,700 pages and 1.5 million words. Start digging.