Do your own homework to disarm the hype

Two recent news items are very instructive regarding the need for Americans to look beyond the headlines to get the full story and be better informed citizens as a result. Michelle Obama, the wife of presidential contender and Senator Barack Obama, was accused in many circles of having taken a shot at Senator Hillary Clinton, her husband’s primary opponent, when she stated, “If you can’t run your own house, you can’t run the White House.” Upon further examination, it’s pretty clear that she made the comment in describing how she was managing their family to deal with the rigors of the presidential campaign:

“One of the most important things that we need to know about the next President of the United States is, is he somebody that shares our values? Is he somebody that respects family? Is he a good and decent person? So our view was that, if you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House. So, so we’ve adjusted our schedules to make sure that our girls are first, so while he’s traveling around, I do day trips. That means I get up in the morning, I get the girls ready, I get them off, I go and do trips, I’m home before bedtime. So the girls know that I was gone somewhere, but they don’t care. They just know that I was at home to tuck them in at night, and it keeps them grounded, and, and children, the children in our country have to know that they come first. And our girls do and that’s why we’re doing this. We’re in this race for not just our children, but all of our children.”

Not so sinister, is it? The next time someone says the press quoted them out of context, they may be telling the truth.

Let’s apply the same test to a recent report by Maryland’s comptroller, Peter Franchot, which stated that 68 out of the largest 132 Maryland employers paid no Maryland corporate tax in 2005, making it appear that these companies were tax evaders. This statement, however, is meaningless. There are numerous legitimate reasons why corporations might not owe income taxes, to include not making a profit during the tax year, legal deductions of net operating losses, and tax credits and preferences designed to attract businesses to the state.  Moreover, companies pay a host of other taxes, to include sales taxes and property taxes. In fact, the income tax is generally a fraction of the total taxes a typical company pays. The specter of the greedy corporation doesn’t loom nearly as large when one takes the time to examine the issue thoroughly.Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”  The information is out there if you look. Don’t count on the headlines to educate you; the responsibility of being a fully informed citizen rests with you.