The Media Make Terrible Tax Accountants

Politico’s Ben Smith examines Hillary Clinton’s tax returns and finds this interesting:

The interesting part, of course, is the roughly $18 million that the summary doesn’t account for.

Jeez, I wouldn’t let him balance a ten year old’s checkbook.

Here’s the meat of the controversy. Financial guru Smith adds up these numbers from Clinton’s summary of her tax records for the past eight years:

  • Senator Clinton’s Senate Salary: $1,051,606
  • President Clinton’s Presidential Pension: $1,217,250
  • Senator Clinton’s Book Income: $10,457,083
  • President Clinton’s Book Income: $29,580,525
  • President Clinton’s Speech Income: $51,855,599

He comes up with $94,162,063. That’s about $16 million less than the $110 million her returns show. Smith’s first mistake is that his calculation shows an $18 million discrepancy instead of the actual $16 million. But beyond that simple math error, Smith is imagining a controversy where none exists. A quick look at the returns show that the Clinton’s earned $16.5 million dollars on capital gains and real estate investments. They were accounted for in the summary which was prefaced with “Including, among other items…” The summary never pretended to itemize every source of revenue.

Controversy solved! But not until after the media picks up this non-scandal and turns it into another prospective Whitewater. Dick Morris, in an appearance on Fox News, jumped on it about 30 seconds after the returns were made public. He went on to allege that the “missing” funds were connected to all manner of evil like phone scammers and the Emir of Dubai.

This article is not intended to defend Clinton, but to indict the media. This sort of ignorant, sensationalized, pseudo-analysis can and will be used to damage any candidate the press wants to disparage. It needs to be exposed and should never be tolerated.

When I (a lowly artist) can quickly and easily see the explanation that professional journalists, with resources to consult experts, cannot see, it is nothing less than shameful on the part of the press. This is why media reform should be at the top of every activists list of priorities.