Sunday, August 17, 2014

News as drivel or drivel as news?

Here's a story  that's gotten traction across Canadian media platforms for a couple of days now.

This particular iteration of the story is titled "Sask economist criticizes report on taxes v necessity spending".

The gist of the "story", although you'd never know it from this example, is that Canadians pay more in tax than they do for the necessities of life like food and shelter.

I've read the Fraser Institute report that this story is based on. They managed to come up with their alarmist conclusion by counting taxes and royalties paid by oil companies as taxes paid by consumers. They justify this sleight of hand by claiming, correctly, that oil companies pass their expenses, including taxes, on to the consumer.

Every company in the world passes all their expenses on to the consumer, but calling those costs "tax" charged to the consumer is a novelty I've never seen before.

That's probably the only newsworthy thing about this Fraser Institute report.

Nevertheless, news editors across the land decided they had a "story" here.

The Saskatoon/CTV version of this "news story" is particularly lame for several reasons.

  • It tells you economist Erin Weir objects to the story, but doesn't tell you why, other than 1961 was a bad year for a baseline. Why was 1961 a bad year for a baseline?
  • It identifies Erin Weir as an economist, but not as an economist employed by a major labour union.
  • It tells us that the study came from the Fraser Institute, which it identifies as a "think-tank", which is true as far as it goes. The Fraser Institute is a far-right think tank that hates all taxes and is rabidly anti-labour.
So while we have the potential for a meaningful debate between a labour economist and an anti-labour "think-tank", instead we get nothing.

That's just shabby journalism.

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