Sunday, April 20, 2008

John McCain’s Taxes - New York Times Still Can’t Get It Right

This is the sort of story that even The Times couldn’t mess up, especially when they assign it to a veteran reporter supported by an army of experienced, highly paid editors. All it involves is John McCain – more probably his tax accountant – giving The New York Times copies of McCain’s 2006 and 2007 tax returns, and then the veteran reporter and supporting army of editors turns out the story.

What could be simpler?

This is the story. McCain releases tax returns - Papers for wealthy wife, who files separately, aren't made public, Barry Meier, New York Times, Saturday, April 19, 2008.

Apparently nothing is simple enough for The New York Times. Although The Times reports that John McCain released his 2006 and 2007 income tax returns, The Times chose to report totals for the two years instead of the individual amounts for each tax year. Fair enough. I can handle that, although it did make me scratch my head a bit when McCain’s Navy pension was reported as $114,854.

Whoa, I said. I knew Navy Captain McCain had served about a year longer than the 21.5 years I served in the Air Force, and that he retired as a Captain (O-6) whereas I retired as a Major (O-4), but that wouldn’t make his retired pay triple mine. I checked another source and found it was only $58,358 in 2007, substantially but reasonably higher than mine.

Why did The Times choose to lump two tax years together? It makes no sense to me.

But then I read the clinker in The New York Times report. To quote The Times, “He had additional untaxed income, including $114,854 from his Navy pension.” (Italics and bold print courtesy of me)

(UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times finally showed a hint of a nose for news by investigating and disclosing the nature of John McCain's tax-free Navy pension, and that it was determined based on the injuries and torture he suffered at the hands of the barbaric North Vietnamese - wasn't there a Geneva Convention issue invoved in their treatment of POWs? Or does that only apply to the United States and unlawful combatants? The New York Times, meanwhile, amply demonstrated profound ignorance of military matters to go with its shocking lack of news sense.)

(Please read the comments following this post to see the correction to my statement a reader provided. John McCain did report that his Navy pension was tax free. However, The Times did not follow up to find out and explain why normally taxed income was tax free. The commenter suggests it has something to do with McCain's injured and/or POW status, and he has been proven correct. In any case, there is a story here that The Times missed because of their ignorance of military issues. Their reporting of this issue still leaves its readers with more questions than answers.)

No wonder civilians think we retired military have it soft. Ignorant reporters and editors give their overwhelmingly civilian readership the impression that military retirement income is untaxed, when it is taxed just like any other income. The only untaxed income some military retirees will receive is Social Security, and even that is taxed if we dare to have other earned income before reaching full Social Security entitlement age.

The Times reporter and editors are not the only egregiously military-ignorant people in influential places. A few years ago California had a cadaverous Senator named Alan Cranston. One slow news day Senator Cranston decided he should grab a headline, so at a news conference he loudly bemoaned and protested military “double dippers.” According to Senator Cranston, it was almost criminal that military members would serve to retirement, retire, draw retirement pay, get a civilian job and finally pay into Social Security, and then retire from that job and draw both Social Security and military retirement; ergo the label “double dipper.”

What Senator Cranston did not know, secure in his cocoon of ignorance of the military, was that the military members paid into Social Security their entire careers, and that it was the Federal civilian employees who didn’t. Federal civilian employees would earn a civil service retirement, all the while not paying into Social Security, then get a civilian job, pay Social Security, retire from it, and then draw both a government pension and Social Security.

Dumb Democrat Cranston, sanctimoniously trying to point criticism at the Liberal-despised military, was actually casting stones at one of the most loyal Democrat constituencies, public service employees. Today, 29 percent of state and local government employees, and most Federal civilian workers hired before 1984, are still not in Social Security. All the military, going back to 1957, paid into Social Security.

Congress finally woke up long enough to throw Federal employees hired after 1984 into Social Security. Those Federal employees hired before 1984 knew a bad deal when they saw it, and most wanted no part of Social Security, even though it is a Federal government program, and they were Federal government employees.

Given this vast trove of Liberal ignorance of the military, it’s no surprise that The Times messed up a simple report about John McCain’s taxes. Just like they messed up on military murder rates, and CBS News messed up on reporting veteran suicides.

To Liberals, ignorance of the military is bliss, and they are nothing if not blissful.

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