Last week, the Medicare trustees finally released their long-delayed annual report into that program’s finances. It confirmed the program remains on shaky fiscal footing, concluding the Medicare trust fund that pays for hospital inpatient expenses will become insolvent in 2026, just five short years from now.
President Joe Biden helped contribute to the deterioration in Medicare’s finances. By using a questionable tax loophole to avoid payroll taxes on more than $13.5 million in income from 2017 through 2020, Biden and his wife Jill dodged nearly $395,000 in Medicare taxes, along with more than $122,000 in taxes that fund Obamacare.
But you won’t find any mention of this in corporate media, so I decided to do a little digging to find out how and why.
Saturation About Trump’s Taxes, Little About Biden’s
I examined Politico, a publication many “inside-the-Beltway” types read. It showed a yawning gap between coverage of Joe Biden’s tax affairs compared to coverage of his predecessor.
Between January 21 and August 9 of this year, Politico ran at least 20 separate stories about Donald Trump’s taxes. By contrast, during the same period this year, Politico appears to have run only a single story related to Biden’s taxes, when the Bidens released their returns in May.
That story spent many more paragraphs talking about Trump not releasing his taxes (seven) than it did about Biden’s questionable use of this tax loophole (one). Therefore, some may consider what initially looks like a 20-to-1 disparity of stories about Trump’s taxes vis-à-vis Biden’s more like a 21-to-1, or 21-to-0, gap.
The May story on Biden’s taxes mentioned the Biden administration now wants to close the tax loophole the Bidens recently exploited, but only in passing. As best I can tell, no one from Politico has explored this issue in any depth when discussing the president’s proposed tax increases.
Politico has published articles noting Republicans promoted provisions in the COVID bill even though they voted against the measure. But I have yet to find a single instance of a reporter pointing out that Biden takes credit for Obamacare all the time, even though he went out of his way to avoid paying the taxes that fund that law.
I won’t argue the legal controversies about Trump’s taxes aren’t newsworthy—they clearly are. I have also previously stated that Trump should have released his taxes as president, and should get held to the same legal standard as everyone else if he did in fact violate any tax laws.
But Biden’s taxes are just as relevant as Trump’s, if not more so, given a combination of factors. Those include that Biden is the current president, as opposed to the former president. Also, unlike Trump, Biden has publicly advertised himself as a paragon of virtue regarding his taxes and financial affairs.
In February, Politico published an Associated Press article recounting how “Biden told [People] magazine a folksy story about rejecting the advice of an accountant who had told him years ago that he could bill the Senate for some of the gasoline he pumped into the family car. Biden said he told the accountant: ‘Here’s how I look at it: The foul line is 15 feet away from the basket. Never get me closer than 17 feet, because it really is a matter of the public trust.’” Politico’s reporters know information that would directly rebut Biden’s claims about the propriety of his taxes, but have largely ignored such information.
The Treasury secretary Biden nominated, Janet Yellen, pointedly did not use the loophole the Bidens did to dodge payroll taxes the millions she received in speaking fees. It again raises an obvious question—Why did Biden use a loophole his own Treasury secretary thought improper to use?—that Politico, and corporate media in general, refuse to ask.
Biden also wants to raise taxes by trillions by demanding “the rich pay their fair share,” yet arguably did not do so himself. In fact, the (leftist) Tax Policy Center has described his tactics as “pretty aggressive” and legally questionable.
As noted above, the budget Biden released in April proposed closing the loophole Biden and his wife Jill spent the past four years exploiting—and the Politico reporters who covered the release of Biden’s taxes know that fact. Yet what kinds of articles has Politico chosen to focus its energies on instead? Hard-hitting stories like these:
- “‘It just symbolizes everything:’ Bidens bring presidential PDA back to the White House;”
- “‘It’s not the dog:’ What’s really behind the White House dog’s biting problem”
- “Ticket sales are moving slowly for the coming Trump-O’Reilly stadium tour”
Incompetence, Or Double Standards?
There are only two seeming possibilities to the disparity in Politico’s coverage. The first is that the reporters don’t know a newsworthy story when it hits them in the face. This scenario doesn’t really add up, however, given that 1) Politico’s reporters know Biden wants to close the loophole he exploited and 2) Politico has shown a willingness to cover politicians’ alleged double-standards, as in the case of Republican lawmakers and Democrats’ “COVID relief” bill this spring.
The other, more likely, explanation lies in applying double standards to Republicans and Democrats. Recall that Politico is the same publication whose employees went into a full-on meltdown when Ben Shapiro wrote for its Playbook newsletter earlier this year. Given the seething rancor in its newsroom when Politico gave a platform to a conservative, it’s entirely possible that ideological bias, and a desire to protect the left’s “Dear Leader,” has led its reporters to overlook Biden’s tax problems in a way that they haven’t for Trump.
Ironically enough, at the time of the Shapiro kerfuffle in January, Politico staffers called the decision to let him write for Playbook “especially confusing given the newsroom’s welcome efforts over the last year to cover issues related to race in a more intentional, elevated, thoughtful way.” Yet, for all its supposed focus on “equity,” Politico wouldn’t run a story on how Biden stiffed paying Obamacare taxes that fund health coverage for poor black kids because he was too busy renting this mansion outside Washington:
Politico Provides Answers—But Not a Response
I asked Politico to comment on my findings and received a response from Brad Dayspring, the paper’s vice president for marketing and communications. (Disclosure: More than a decade ago, Dayspring and I worked in the same Capitol Hill office for roughly one year.)
Dayspring referred me to several articles that in his view constitute examples of “stories holding President Biden and his Administration accountable to their words and actions.” Some of those articles, such as an August piece on immigration, focused on policy, while some focused more on process, Beltway gossip, and personalities.
But as to the specific concerns I raised regarding the disparity between coverage of Trump’s taxes and coverage of Biden’s, Dayspring would say only the following: “As I’m sure you understand, coverage decisions made by editors and the editorial process to report out stories is an internal matter, but I have passed along your opinion to relevant editors for their consideration.”
Actually, I don’t understand. If a government agency had a 20-to-1 gap in the way it treated a particular issue, no reporter in his right mind would accept that agency brushing off inquiries about the gap as “an internal matter.”
So why did Dayspring think he could avoid tough questions about this tangible gap in Politico’s reporting by sloughing it off as “an internal matter?” Does Politico think the transparency and accountability it claims to apply to government agencies should not apply to its own coverage?
More to the point: I raised the issue of Biden’s taxes—and specifically Politico’s lack of coverage of it—with two senior Politico editors last October 11. More than 11 months later, exactly nothing has changed, as my research demonstrates. So I don’t understand why my former colleague Dayspring would suggest I should think “passing along my opinion” to editors might matter now when it quite obviously hasn’t for months.
Just a few days ago, in a story discussing Biden’s response to the disappointing August jobs report, Politico once again exhibited open preferences for leftists. The reporter duly noted the president’s comments about the need for the rich to “pay their fair share”—without saying a word about how Biden refused to pay his “fair share.” It demonstrates how remarks like “we’ll pass along your opinion” amount to a patronizing dismissal of conservative viewpoints—and, for that matter, anyone with the temerity to challenge the accuracy and tone of Politico’s “reporting.”
Don’t Treat Readers as Fools
Dayspring’s response epitomizes why large swathes of the country hate the media. I empathize, because nothing sticks in my craw more than people who hide behind power to avoid admitting their own screw-ups—which is exactly what Dayspring, and Politico, chose to do. I’ve said it before in other contexts, and I will repeat it here: If you make a mistake, own it. But Politico and its editors pointedly refused to do just that, which could create bigger problems.
Much of Politico’s revenue comes from the sale of its “Politico Pro” content, for which lobbying firms and other Beltway-type organizations pay thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars per year. Regardless of their political affiliations, these firms may find it difficult to justify that kind of expenditure if Politico deliberately ignores important issues like Biden’s taxes, and the implications of the same.
More to the point: I don’t believe these types of sophisticated institutions will much tolerate a publication that treats their customers as suckers—much as Politico seems to assume. This means the institutional arrogance Politico appears willing to display could end up becoming its undoing.