Anatomy Of A Slime

Posted earlier is a condemnation of the deceptive practices used by Tredyffrin Township Republicans in this year’s school board election, with a thoughtful commentary on how it affects a community needing to solve a school funding crisis.

Stack of TTRC Campaign PostcardsHere is quick documentary proof that the statements used against TTDem school board candidates were not merely misleading, but outright fabrications—knowingly repeated in mailings and handouts from the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee.

First, some baseline information.

  • To reiterate, there was no earned income tax question on the November ballot.
  • There was no process underway to impose an earned income tax.
  • The only hint of action about an earned income tax was a study by citizen volunteers, commissioned by the whole T/E school board, composed of 6 Republicans and 3 Democrats, and largely pushed by the chair of the board’s finance committee, Kevin Mahoney—himself a Republican.
  • The study was fully informational—that is, it would provide facts and statistics and have no administrative impact.
  • Four Democratic candidates running for the school board had all publicly stated opposition to an earned income tax.

Now, some deceptive highlights of the Great Earned Income Tax hoax, found in four excerpts from TTRC campaign literature.
Excerpts From Lying CardsStriking, and very calculated, is how the language used in the TTRC mailers grew more brazenly false with each card.  First and purposefully confusing is using the term “Democrat School Board Team,” which obscures whether we are indeed talking about candidates or whether there is some sinister team of Democrats already on the school board. At any rate, the cards first tell us the team “wants”—they want to “impose” a new tax. Then, another card, they want to “implement” an income tax. The Republican language next shifts to the team “has begun the process of creating a new tax.”

Finally, the last handout of their campaign indeed says the “Democrat School Board Team has begun the process of implementing a new income tax on top of the property taxes you already pay.”  Holy cow, it is already happening, voters! These Democrats are not even in office, but they are already implementing.

You will notice that the “new” tax is always described in the Republican literature, very broadly,  as a New Income Tax, which is of course a different order of being than an Earned Income Tax.  An EIT applies only to wages and net profit. It does not include retirement income, interest and dividend income, corporate income, unemployment compensation or social security income. Tredyffrin Republicans did not want voters to know that any earned income tax would only apply to 40% of Tredyffrin taxpayers–and a significant portion of that group are already paying an EIT if they work in municipalities other than Tredyffrin–most which accrues to those districts rather than Tredyffrin.  Keeping their language misleading, Tredyffrin Republicans wanted the other 60% of township voters, not potentially affected by an EIT, to be very scared nevertheless.

In addition to misleading language, the other TTRC trick is the old tried-and-true visual sleight of hand.  See those 2 stacks of money, representing current property tax and new income tax, in their literature.  They are big, equal-sized stacks, visually designed to lead uninformed voters to believe Democrats are about to double their taxes.

Deceptive language and visual tricks are not really laughable, because the false assertions succeeded in driving up voter turnout from 28 percent in 2009 to 37 percent this year. More participation in an election is generally a very positive development. But not when you are knowingly fostering misinformation and driving mistaken, confused voters to the polls. That is poisoning the well of democracy.

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