The sad, sad story of Wiley – a cautionary tale

wile-e-coyoteThere’s a reader – let’s call him “Wiley” – who keeps spamming me and other local journalists with political chain-letter screeds that more often then not are false, easily disproved with only the briefest research. Wiley’s latest came today.


Well, maybe not the biggest, Wiley.

I opened the attachment, and this was the forwarded message:

Starting in 2011 (next year folks) your W-2 tax form sent by your employer will be increased to show the value of whatever health insurance you are given by the company. It does not matter if that’s a private concern or Governmental body of some sort.

If you’re retired? So what; your gross WILL go up by the amount of insurance you get.
You will be required to pay taxes on a large sum of money that you have never seen.
Take your tax form you just finished and see what $15,000 or $20,000 additional gross does to your tax debt. That’s what you’ll pay next year. For many it also puts you into a new higher bracket so it’s even worse.
This is how the government is going to buy insurance for 15 % that don’t have insurance and it’s only part of the tax increases.

Not believing this I researched the summaries and here’s what I’m reading:
On page 25 of 29: TITLE IX REVENUE PROVISIONS- SUBTITLE A: REVENUE OFFSET PROVISIONS – (sec. 9001, as modified by sec. 10901) Sec.9002. “requires employers to include in the W-2 form of each employee the aggregate cost of applicable employer sponsored group health coverage that is excludable from the employee’s gross income.”

Joan Pryde is the senior tax editor for the Kiplinger letters. Go to Kiplinger’s and read about 13 tax changes that could affect you. Number 3 is what I just told you about.

Why am I sending you this? The same reason I hope you forward this to every single person in your address book. People have the right to know the truth because an election is coming in November and we need to vote wisely, voting is not a popularity contest. If we like how our city, state and federal government employees are working, vote the same. If not, GET THEM OUT!

rulings_tom-pantsonfireSo I Googled the message’s first sentence and immediately found three reputable websites debunking this garbage. The St. Petersburg Times’s Pulitzer-winning PolitiFact.com might’ve put it best, giving this chain letter its “pants on fire” rating.

Employers will have to start listing the cost of insurance in tax year 2011 (appearing on the W-2s that workers get in 2012, but “that amount will not be taxed,” PolitiFact reports. “Current law excludes health insurance from taxable income, and there’s nothing in the health care law that changes that.”

The new health insurance law eventually will penalize those without any insurance at all; the W-2 reporting requirement is to help the IRS verify coverage, it noted. It also checked the Kiplinger article that the e-mail referenced, finding it says the value of the health care insurance reported on the W-2 “is not considered taxable income.”

“So the e-mail’s own evidence refutes its premise,” PolitiFact concludes. “Assuming the e-mail’s author read that Kiplinger entry, we can only conclude that this is a deliberate attempt to upset and mislead voters. This sort of fear mongering rates a Pants on Fire.”

Read similar debunkings of this same letter at snopes.com and the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org.

Dear readers, the Internet is a many-splendored thing – an endless font of information, entertainment and opinion at your fingertips and in your inbox. But lots of the information it provides – particularly on political matters – is false, written maliciously by people with axes to grind but too lazy or craven to find facts to support their stances. Don’t be taken in by it; always check the facts for yourself (especially before you forward it to me, for crying out loud).

More of Wiley’s greatest hits, after the jump…

Back on June 17, Wiley sent out an email under the subject line “VERY IMPORTANT!! HB 1388 Passed.”

“This just proves the news media cover up of serious news and bills that they don’t want the public to know about. Along with our gutless politicians that allow America to be taken over by our ENEMIES!” he wrote in the body of the e-mail. “HIEL (sic) OBAMA welcome to AMERIKA!”

The attached chain e-mail says:

My Fellow Americans,
You just spent $20,000,000 to move members and supporters of Hamas, a terrorist organization, to the United States ; housing, food, the whole enchilada.


Whether you are an Obama fan, or not, EVERYONE IN THE U.S. needs to know….
Something happened…HB 1388 was passed, behind our backs. You may want to read about it… It wasn’t mentioned on the news… just went by on the ticker tape at the bottom of the CNN screen.

Obama funds $20M in tax payer dollars to immigrate Hamas Refugees to the USA . This is the news that didn’t make the headlines.

By executive order, President Barack Obama has ordered the expenditure of $20.3 million in “migration assistance” to the Palestinian refugees and “conflict victims” in Gaza .

The “presidential determination”, which allows hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with ties to Hamas to resettle in the United States , was signed and appears in the Federal Register.

Few on Capitol Hill, or in the media, took note that the order provides a free ticket replete with housing and food allowances to individuals who have displayed their overwhelming support to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in the parliamentary election of January 2006.

Now we learn that he is allowing thousands of Palestinian refuges to move to, and live in, the US at American taxpayer expense.

These important, and insightful, issues are being “lost” in the blinding bail-outs and “stimulation” packages.

Doubtful? To verify this for yourself: www.thefederalregister.com/d.p/2009-02-04-E9-2488


WE are losing this country at a rapid pace.

Wrong again. In fact, it’s another “pants on fire!” (Wiley, you must be running out of pants pretty quickly… I think Kohl’s is having a sale…)

As PolitiFact.com, FactCheck.org and snopes.com note, HR 1388 (not “HB” 1388, as there’s no such designation) is the Serve America Act, which reauthorizes and expands the AmeriCorps program first established in 1993 and doesn’t have a blessed thing to do with Palestinians. In fact, there has been no act of Congress doing anything like what the e-mail describes.

As the liar’s email invites you to “verify,” President Obama did issue a presidential memorandum on Jan. 27, 2009 – a week after he was sworn into office – answering the United Nation’s plea for help in aiding Gaza Strip residents displaced by fighting between Hamas and Israel by authorizing the Secretary of State to spend up to $20.3 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund. Here’s his memo, and here it is in the Federal Register. As the State Department explained a week later:

Of the $20.3 million in new ERMA funds, $13.5 million will go to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), $6 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and $800,000 to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). These organizations are distributing emergency food assistance, providing medical assistance and temporary shelter, creating temporary employment, and restoring access to electricity and potable water to the people of Gaza.

It didn’t, however, authorize any Palestinian immigration to the United States. And it’s little different from President George W. Bush’s May 2007 determination authorizing $29.5 million for “humanitarian needs resulting from conflicts in Somalia, Sudan, and Chad” plus “breaks in the food pipeline for refugees in Africa, and in the West Bank and Gaza.”

But wait, there’s more!

On June 23, Wiley forwarded me a chain e-mail about comments supposedly made “a few weeks back” by Andy Rooney on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” A brief excerpt:

I think that if you feel homosexuality is wrong, it is not a phobia, it is an opinion.

I have the right ‘NOT’ to be tolerant of others because they are different, weird, or tick me off.

When 70% of the people who get arrested are black, in cities where 70% of the population is black, that is not racial profiling; it is the Law of Probability.

Although this gives me more insight than I ever wanted into Wiley’s worldview, even the briefest search reveals this has been debunked again, again and again – Rooney never said it.

In fact, Rooney himself debunked this on national TVfive years ago. “There’s a collection of racist and sexist remarks on the Internet under a picture of me with the caption ‘ANDY ROONEY SAID ON 60 MINUTES,’” he said. “If I could find the person who did write it using my name I would sue him.”

Any info on that, Wiley?

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Argh, same thing, all the time! If anyone excluding the far-right and the left (so that would be center right leaning) are interested in the truth at al, it is time to stop the chain letters, and tell the far-right as well as the left to take their propaganda and shut up already!

  • Tom

    The Wileys of the world are obsessed with and controlled by their own irrational fears, and they try to spread those fears to others.

    But as the great (conservative) political philosopher Edmund Burke said: “No passion so effectually robs a mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

  • Bill P.

    Thanks for taking the time and effort to debunk this nonsense, Mr. Richman. We need more reason (based on fact) and less emotion in our political debates. I think that I will be visiting http://www.PoliFact.com from time to time to keep abreast of their latest reports — but please keep us informed on “Political Blotter” if PoliFact posts anything else that is a “must read” for Bay Area citizens.

  • Sandeep P.

    Hey, the cautionary tale even applies to statements by President Obama:

    “I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”

    –Candidate Barack Obama, Sept. 12, 2008

    “If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.”

    –President Barack Obama, Feb. 24, 2009

    In 2001 and 2003, the GOP Congress enacted several tax cuts for investors, small business owners, and families. These will all expire on January 1, 2011:

    Personal income tax rates will rise. The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxed). The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent. All the rates in between will also rise. Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates. The full list of marginal rate hikes is below:

    – The 10% bracket rises to an expanded 15%
    – The 25% bracket rises to 28%
    – The 28% bracket rises to 31%
    – The 33% bracket rises to 36%
    – The 35% bracket rises to 39.6%

    Higher taxes on marriage and family. The “marriage penalty” (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child. The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level. The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut.

    The return of the Death Tax. This year, there is no death tax. For those dying on or after January 1 2011, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates over $1 million. A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones.

    Higher tax rates on savers and investors. The capital gains tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 20 percent in 2011. The dividends tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 39.6 percent in 2011. These rates will rise another 3.8 percent in 2013.

  • Josh Richman

    Here’s a good story on the political debate over how/whether the income tax cuts will expire.