Teen Vogue pushes factually wrong tax propaganda

April 19, 2022

By Tim Worstall

In a piece about taxes, Teen Vogue tells its young readers a number of things that simply aren’t true as the writer doesn’t understand the U.S. tax system.

There’s the usual sneering reference to how “progressive” the U.S. tax system is, but the truth is that the federal system is much more progressive than any of the European tax systems. Progressive doesn’t mean “high”– it means that the proportion of income paid in tax rises as income rises. The absence of a VAT in the American system means that the U.S. system is more progressive than any European one.

It also makes an accusation of illegal conduct: “The piece ticks off Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla, and other wealthy men such as failed presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist George Soros as among those who evaded federal income tax for whole years.” No, the law and language are very clear on this point. Tax avoidance is legally minimizing taxes paid. Tax evasion is illegally doing so. Employing a journalist who does not know this distinction is not a good look – even though libel is one of those things that famous people have difficulties suing for in America.

The piece manages to get taken in by two pieces of propaganda as well.

As ProPublica recently reported, using a trove of IRS documents on the uber-wealthy over the span of 15 years, “The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year,” in spite of our “progressive” tax system.

The propaganda here is that ProPublica started defining income as things that no tax system, ever, has decided is income. Like the value of shares going up even if they’re not sold. If you invent an entirely new measure, you can prove pretty much anything. But the entire idea – given that no tax system anywhere does or ever has used this definition of “income” — is clearly propaganda.

The other is this:

The National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies ran the numbers for what American tax dollars — which, again, are barely coming from the behemoths of wealth that exist in this country — funded in 2021. The big-ticket items included: Pentagon contractors; nuclear weapons; deportations and border control; federal prisons. Receiving a fraction of those funds: K-12 education; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; renewable energy; homelessness prevention.

That report is here. The problem here is equating the Federal tax system with all taxes, Federal spending with all spending. Look at K-12 education for example. The measure of taxation used here is federal income taxes. Not even state taxes, let alone property taxes and so on. But the spending on K-12 is almost entirely from property taxes. So equating the amount of federal income taxation that is spent upon K-12 is meaningless – unless we desire to compose some propaganda. of course.

As at the top Teen Vogue claims to be educating the influencers of tomorrow. It gains some 4 million visits a month as it does so and of course, it’s more influential than that among teenage girls.


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