Failing a put-up-or-shut-up challenge

The White House and congressional Democrats want to cut the payroll tax for another year, paying for it with a surtax on millionaires and billionaires. Congressional Republicans, true to form, have balked. Pressed for an explanation, GOP officials invariably say the surtax on the very wealthy would be bad for small businesses.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) argued this week that “it’s just intuitive” that many small-business owners, who report company profits on their individual taxes, would hire fewer workers after getting “hit with a tax increase.”

This gave NPR a good idea: maybe the public should hear from some of these small-business owners. (thanks to D.M. for the tip)

We wanted to talk to business owners who would be affected. So, NPR requested help from numerous Republican congressional offices, including House and Senate leadership. They were unable to produce a single millionaire job creator for us to interview.

So we went to the business groups that have been lobbying against the surtax. Again, three days after putting in a request, none of them was able to find someone for us to talk to.

Then NPR put out the same challenge on Facebook, and it only heard from small-business owners who said the opposite of what Republicans are saying.

When asked for an explanation, Thune told NPR “most small-business owners who are out there right now” agree with the Republican argument.

Fine. Name one.

It’s such a simple challenge. If Republicans are right, the examples to bolster their point should be practically everywhere. So why would they struggle to offer a single example? Because the GOP talking points only work when there’s no scrutiny.

For the record, the Republican claim about small businesses and the millionaires’ surtax has already been debunked. Indeed, the irony of the larger argument is that if the GOP blocks an extension of the payroll tax break, Republicans will be increasing taxes on small businesses.