If you treat everything described in ordinary conversational English by an airline ticket as the same, you can get some decisions right, but for many, you need to discriminate within the broad category. Same with taxes: Mitt Romney pays sales taxes, property taxes, automobile and gasoline excise taxes on at least a pair of Cadillacs, state income taxes, airline ticket excise taxes, others I can’t think of at the moment, and federal income tax. He and his spox have meticulously said “taxes” without qualification when everyone is thinking about the last of these; today, he did it again, saying he never paid less than 13%. Even if he means “income taxes”, Massachusetts income tax is more than a third of that, and we don’t even know what denominator he’s referring to (AGI, gross income, taxable income) or whether he’s talking about his marginal rate or average.
Why has no reporter ever insisted he define his terms in this very salient conversation? It’s very simple - “Have you ever paid less than 13% of your annual gross income in federal income taxes?” – and not doing it is simply journalistic malpractice.