October 04, 2004,
Donald Luskin, in his August 19 NRO article “Squeezed Out,” sullied National Review with baseless attacks on my reputation.
He asserted that Paul Krugman’s endorsement of my best-selling and national award-winning book, Perfectly Legal, gives me my “liberal credentials.” Yet Jack Bogle, a premier capitalist, and Lou Dobbs, surely no liberal, also endorsed my book.
Luskin also attacked my integrity over my July 29 New York Times “claim” that the I.R.S. said that the incomes of Americans fell for two consecutive years, 2001 and 2002. He said I “cleverly” avoided facts in an accompanying chart and that my piece was “designed to trash-talk the Bush economy.”
The chart should have used inflation-adjusted figures, making it consistent with my text. Imperfect coordination between graphics and reporter is hardly grounds to attack my integrity, especially since Luskin knows real from nominal incomes.
Even so, the income “increases” Luskin cited from the chart were infinitesimal and may be due to people falling into the upper reaches of lower statistical categories.
My piece was designed to report important new income and tax data. Belying Luskin’s partisanship charge, my references to President Bush showed that income taxes fell primarily because of factors that are not his responsibility: the stock market drop, the recession (on its way before he took office), and changes in compensation practices.
Luskin wrote that I gave a false impression because the data show that “the richer you were, the worse you got hit” and asserted that the Times would “never admit” that the rich got poorer during the Bush administration.
Did Luskin read my report? I wrote that the higher one stood on the income ladder the greater the fall. Taxpayers making $10 million plus were reduced by half. One of eight making over $200,000 fell below that level. And I explained why.
For 38 years I have signed my work, winning a wall of awards including a Pulitzer, for reports that are enterprising, fearless, and rounded, the last a point that even Luskin grudgingly acknowledged at his personal blog.
As a reader of National Review for more than four decades I am appalled that you publish Luskin’s jaundiced tripe.
David Cay Johnston
... the problem lies in Johnston’s distinct and loaded ideological perspective ... “[O]ur tax system now levies the poor, the middle class and even the upper middle class to subsidize the rich.” ... Those who already believe this stuff out of deep-rooted ideological conviction will love to hear it repeated in the book.
As to my judgment that Johnston’s August 27 New York Times story is deceptive, the fact is that the chart accompanying the article showed taxable incomes falling from 2000 to 2002 only for taxpayers with taxable incomes above $100,000. For everyone else the majority of taxpayers taxable incomes rose over the period. And it is a fact that the story begins with the statement “The overall income Americans reported to the government shrank for two consecutive years,” without making reference to the fact that this “overall” result is due entirely to income declines among America’s highest-income taxpayers. While the story makes various distinctions among income groups, it never states the fact that incomes rose during the period for those with taxable incomes below $100,000.