The Media’s Net Full of Red Herrings

Tim Dunkin The media lie to us. We all know this. So it should come as a surprise when so many conservatives – people who really ought to know better – continue to parrot much of the garbage they hear coming from media outlets.

Whether they’re in panic mode over the scads of media polls that have been cooked so badly that they’re fried to a crisp or if they’re just joining in the Left-inspired tut-tutting over some new Romney “gaffe,” there are a lot of folks on the Right who still seem like they’re letting the “journalists” and Hollywood types do their thinking for them. This has to stop. If we’re going to unite to throw the Obama junta out of office, conservatives need to stop letting the Left play psychological games with their heads. It’s time for our “chicken little” conservatives to start being proactive instead of reactive. The media are dragging America into a net full of red herrings, and you and I need to be sensible enough to rely on what our senses and our common sense tell us, rather than what the media are saying.

Take, for instance, the recent “flap” over Romney’s tax returns. Unlike certain other major Party candidates, Romney has actually released personal documents for public scrutiny (and I’m sure that if he were pressed, he could also provide a genuine American birth certificate, unlike the other guy, and a genuine American college transcript, again unlike the other guy). The Left made a huge issue out of his initial reluctance to release documents that aren’t really anybody else’s business. “Romney didn’t pay any taxes!!!!” opined more than a few on the hard Left, including at least one Senate Majority leader who will remain unnamed for the time being. Of course, then we found out that Romney actually paid $3.1 million in taxes in 2011 alone. Which should have been enough to shut up the critics.

But wait, he only paid a 14.1% tax rate! That’s horrible! Never mind that Romney’s tax rate is assessed on the capital gains scale – because it is derived from, you know, capital gains – and that he actually paid near the top end of the long-term capital gains tax table. Trying to compare this to ordinary income tax is comparing apples to oranges. Further, it was revealed that Romney gave away nearly thirty percent of his income to charity. Compare this with the measly 5.7% that Obama gave in 2007, an increase from the beginning of the decade when he gave less than 1%. When you add it all up, Mitt Romney gave more to charity in one year than Obama has in the eleven tax years since 2000 combined. Certainly he has given more than Sheriff Joe Biden, who despite having a large income as well, gave a stingy 1.5% to charity.

Of course, with the “no taxes paid” meme gone, the Left then tried to argue that it was given to his church, and thus doesn’t really count as charity.

Ignoring for the moment the spurious claim that giving to religious organizations which often, in turn, provide services to the poor and needy in their communities isn’t really charity, the Mormon religion only asks for 10%. So what of the other 20%? Obviously, given to other charities. In yet another spin of the epicycles, Harry Reid and others on the Left then tried to cook up some argument about Romney paying too much in taxes and failing to use too many of the deductions that he could have…for the dastardly purpose of tricking people into thinking he pays a higher tax rate! It’s a conspiracy, I tell you, a conspiracy!

What this all essentially boils down to is that the media and the rest of the Left are simply throwing out distractions to try to draw attention away from the many failures of the Obama administration. In reality, it’s not anybody’s business how much Mitt Romney pays in taxes (since even if you paid a higher personal income tax rate, chances are still very good he paid a LOT more than you did, in absolute dollars, so what are you complaining about?) It’s not any of our concern how much he gives to charity, and to whom. Romney doesn’t have to pay some certain percentage in taxes before he’s paid his “fair share.” What’s more troublesome is not Romney’s tax rate and how much he pays, but the fact that nearly half the country doesn’t pay an effective tax rate, period, and therefore are not paying their fair share at all.

This leads to the second Great Distraction of the 2012 campaign season – Romney’s supposed “gaffe” about the 47%. In a doctored video released by Mother Jones (there are apparently a couple of minutes missing from the video that were probably edited out because they provided inconvenient context to Romney’s comment), Romney was “caught” making the “horribly out of touch stiffly clueless rich guy” observation that there are tons and tons of people in this country who don’t pay anything in, but who take a whole lot out of the federal treasury, and that many of these folks would like to vote to keep it that way. Not exactly news. I and millions of other conservatives have been making essentially the same point for years as we’ve seen the Debt Collapse approaching. Empirically, Romney’s figure is actually right on the mark, and is supported by the fact that Obama consistently pulls about this same exact number in all the (uncooked) polls – he always hovers right around 47%, and can’t seem to break much higher than that. The actual truthfulness and obviousness of this hasn’t stopped the leftist media from making it story number one for weeks (with their own spin to it), to the detriment of news items that are actually important. Nor has it stopped many on the Right, especially among the “purity over practicality” crowd, from concern trolling about how Romney supposedly is alienating millions of voters that he would need to win. They don’t need to worry, however, since 79% of Americans essentially agree with Romney, saying that everyone ought to pay taxes.

Then, of course, you have the issues with the mainstream media polling that we’ve seen lately. Nothing has given the concern trolls fits like the scary, scary numbers coming out of the palaeontological media outlets. Polling shows Obama up big, nationally and in the swing states, Romney is being crushed and might as well give up now, right?

Well, no. The problem with these polls is that they are complete and utter bunkum. And that’s not just wishcasting, either. For a poll to be accurate, one of the conditions that must be satisfied is that the demographics – the gender, the racial breakdown, the age distribution, and the ratio of partisan affiliation – of the sampled population must reflect the population at large of the location being polled. If you take a poll of North Carolina, then you try to make the demographics actually match the population of North Carolina, bonus points if you can do so by region within the state. Polling 1000 people in North Carolina (which would give a 3.1% margin of error at a 95% confidence level), but only questioning people in inner city Greensboro or in the rural Appalachian part of the state would not give you accurate results for the state as a whole. Tilting your demographic one way or another can skew the results of a poll. And many pollsters, especially those being engaged by media outlets and who are thus giving the media folks the results they’re paying for, are doing just this to lean their polls towards Obama.

They are doing so by scrambling up the partisan identification models underlying their numbers. Most of these pollsters are using partisan affiliation models that heavily favor the Democrats, such as that which existed in 2008, a Democrat high water mark where Democrats outnumbered Republicans by about five percentage points in this country. However, Republicans now outnumber Democrats nationally by 4.6%, more than a 9% difference from 2008. But some media polls I’ve seen have sampled populations where Democrats outnumber Republicans by as much as 10% or more. Obviously, a poll where Democrats are heavily overrepresented, while Republicans are underrepresented, is going to give the result of a large Obama lead. But the result can’t be said to be anywhere near approximating reality. So if you’ve ever wondered how Obama can have such big leads in these polls, when the reality on the ground around you is that the economy is worse, we’re weak on terrorism, real income is dropping, the government is more corrupt than ever, gas prices are through the roof, and there seems to be no enthusiasm for the President, but a lot of it against him – well, here’s your answer.

One innovation on this poll-cooking that I’ve been seeing lately is that both Republicans and Democrats will be oversampled (the GOP usually by 4-5%, the Democrats by as much as 15%), while Independents are heavily undersampled (often by 20% or more). This works to give the media polls the same Obama-supporting results because Independents have consistently been leaning towards Romney, and there is evidence that they’re beginning to solidify behind him even more as the election approaches. Undercounting Independents, then, has much the same effect of artificially reducing the level of support stated to be for Romney, and inflating the President’s numbers. Different technique, but the same result, reflecting the same dishonesty.

This type of poll-cooking is used at the state level just as it is nationally. Hence, it affects the swing state polls as much as it does the national polling. It’s all designed to dispirit Republicans and conservatives.

The reality, however, is that the numbers being given by reputable non-media polling houses like Rasmussen are the more accurate, because they use up-to-date demographics and other techniques for improving accuracy. These groups are not in the tank for Obama because they’re not being hired to satisfy a media narrative – they’re contracted to actually give a realistic picture of the lay of the electoral land. Notably, Rasmussen and other houses have the race virtually neck-and-neck, even giving Romney slight leads when leaners are included or only likely voters are considered. Further, this is the culmination of a trend where Romney has been slowly but steadily gaining on Obama over the past few weeks. In other words, Obama isn’t actually way ahead of Romney – he’s slowly slipping behind him. So don’t go into panic mode when see one of the fake polls with NY Times/ABC/NBC/fill in the blank attached to it. The race is close, Romney’s not blowing Obama out either, so it’s important that everyone get out and vote for Romney, and get all your friends to do so as well. Getting out the vote will be key in this race, and this will be a lot easier if the concern trolls will stop dispiriting everyone else.

The reason why the media are desperately wanting the American people to hook these red herrings one after another is readily apparent. They’re trying to distract us from the real news because the real news reflects so poorly on Pres_ent Obama.

After all, this is an administration that is presiding over the worse economic slowdown since Jimmy Carter – and which is largely responsible for that slowdown. This administration has been forcing fuel and energy prices higher and higher by denying drilling off our coasts and by forcing coal-fired power plants to close and coal mines to shut down. Record numbers of Americans are on food stamps and other forms of government dependency. This President’s policies have destroyed thousands of business and millions of jobs. American manufacturing capacity continues to slip. American economic freedom continues to decline. American real income for real families continues to recede. Yet, American taxes paid by the productive classes – the middle class, the small business owners, the professionals, and so forth – continue to rise. They’ve mishandled their foreign policy role, making us appear weak, indecisive, and addled all across the world. They spent American money and military power to put Islamists into power all across the Middle East, and then invited the blowback of attacked embassies and a dead ambassador at the hands of the very people they were funding and supporting. They’ve alienated our allies all across the globe.

So it’s really no surprise that Obama and his surrogates in the media want us talking about Romney’s tax returns instead of this administration’s failures. It’s time for us to get smart and stop letting them get away with this. Let’s focus on what’s really important, instead of fishing for red herrings in Obama’s polluted lake.