Ellen Dalton Keeps On Ticking

Sun Sentinel critic "Ellen Dalton" sent this screed a few days ago, but just now getting around to posting it. It refers to a story in the newspaper about the way property tax cuts might hurt the housing market. It doesn't make sense to Dalton. Or to me. But our good Ellen is irate over it and the Pulp isn't about to let a rant go to waste. So here goes:

I know you have backed off the Sun-Sentinel bashing, but you REALLY have to call bullshit on this story - and the deeper issues. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/realestate/sfl-flbproptax0810sbaug10,0,4206161.story

Real estate agents complaining that proposed tax cuts could be HURTING home sales? Come on.

So where do we start with this gem? First, there's a lead that hedges, saying that tax cuts "could" be hurting home sales. Way to waffle on your story, Robin Benedick. Of course, there's no evidence to back this up. Just a few quotes from Realtors who aren't very

busy these days. Then, in typical Sun-Sentinel fashion, it goes on to quote a few whiny Realtors alleging that buyers are sitting on the sidelines because they're worried about cuts to government services if the tax-reform passes. OK. Sure.

And does the story actually quote one of these "worried" non-buyers? Of course not. In fact, the story ends with a quote from someone who says they're "watching" the tax issue and will buy eventually. And then, this person admits that they aren't buying because the MARKET IS TOO VOLATILE, not because proprty taxes might go lower. So their "real person" (an invaluable and required tool in any "hyperlocal" journalist's toolbox) is actually worried about POSSIBLE LOSS OF EQUITY IN A VOLATILE MARKET, not the "problem" of lower taxes dooming government services.

Does the reporter even look to an economist or outside expert to validate whether lower taxes might drive away buyers? Of course not. Imagine the idiocy of this conversation in someone's home: "Gee honey, we better not buy that house because taxes might go down, and we might actually pay less than we expected every month."

And here's where it gets really interesting: This dog of a "story" appears on the SAME DAY that the Sun-Sentinel is running a story about "worried" Boca Raton officials considering the possibility of forcing city employees to switch from a traditional pension plan to a 401(k) plan. And there's a story about how the middle class, "affordable" communities in Broward County and Palm Beach stand to lose the most revenue if the property tax reform passes. But buried in an infobox with the story is this disclosure: Ten communities in Palm Beach County would lose at least 10 percent of their tax base if voters agree to the new tax breaks in January and all of those who benefit then switch. Others would lose only a minor amount of revenue.

Then here's the real story line: The VAST MAJORITY (three fourths; 28 of 38 communities) of Palm Beach County municipalities stand to lose only a MINOR amount of revenue under tax-break plan.

But, of course, that's not sensational. And it doesn't sell papers. But it's THE TRUTH.

So, in one day, the Sun-Sentinel serves up THREE "gloom and doom" stories about the "problems" created by lower taxes. At best, this is is a case of inept reporters and editors being spun by the government machine that feeds them all their stories. At worst, it's a concerted effort by the paper's overwhelmingly liberal reporting and editing team to scare people away from even considering supporting the property tax amendment.

So is it simple and naive ineptitude or a more sinister agenda? That's for the Pulp readers to debate, but three stories -- all with similar themes -- in the same day certainly doesn't look good.

Ellen Dalton Greenacres, FL