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RUSH AND SEAN’S EXCELLENT NONSENSE! Why must Dems craft a Rush-of-the-left? Bruce Bartlett helps to explain it:


RUSH-OF-THE-LEFT: Helped by our incomparable nagging, E. J. Dionne has become a go-to guy on issues of media bias. On last Saturday’s Reliable Sources, he continued to argue the incomparable view that “liberal media bias” is a thing of the past. Meanwhile, in the wake of last week’s New York Times piece, Fox NewsWatch pundits tried to imagine what a “liberal Rush Limbaugh” might look like. Here was Neal Gabler’s assessment:

GABLER: I think it would violate the precepts of liberalism. I mean, what makes Rush Limbaugh work as an entertainment vehicle…is that he has a Manichean vision of the world, he has a very simple message, and he has got a cadre of people who love to hear repetition again and again and again, the same things. If you had those things, you may not have liberalism.
We don’t agree with Gabler’s assessment, although no one would want a Rush-of-the-left who dissembled and spun the way Rush does. What might a “Rush-of-the-left” really look like? Today, we’ll offer one obvious idea: A Rush-of-the-left would go after Rush. American citizens need to be told when Rush and his ilk are spreading twaddle. The mainstream press has avoided this duty for years. It’s time that Dems took up the challenge. Today, an incomparable example:

WHY DEMS MUST LEAD THE FIGHT: Bruce Bartlett was on his game once again (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/5/02). In last Wednesday’s Washington Times, the conservative economist once again punctured a prime piece of talk-show mythology. Bartlett was making his New Year’s resolutions. “I resolve to do more in the future to correct the economic misinformation that appears in the news pages of major newspapers,” he said. Here’s the example he picked:

BARTLETT: A good example of this is the myth that the budget deficits of the 1980s resulted from a trick—some would even call it a lie—played by Ronald Reagan and a group of supply-side economists…Based on something called the “Laffer Curve,” they are said to have asserted…that there would be such an outpouring of work, investment and economic growth that higher revenues would be collected at lower tax rates.
“This whole story is, of course, complete nonsense,” Bartlett writes. “No one in a position of authority ever said any such thing.” Bartlett spells it out further:
BARTLETT: As economist Bill Niskanen wrote in his book, “Reaganomics” (Oxford University Press, 1988): “Supply-side economics does not conclude that a general reduction in tax rates would increase tax revenues, nor did any government economist or budget projection by the Reagan administration ever make that claim.”
In defending Reagan, Bartlett notes the obvious (as did Niskanen). As a general rule, it’s absurd to claim that lower tax rates produce higher revenues. Did any Reaganite ever say different? On that matter, we cannot judge. But in last week’s column, Bartlett makes the obvious point. In almost all instances, lowered tax rates produce lower revenue. Duh! In general, you can’t get higher federal revenue by lowering the rates of taxation.

Why is Bartlett due high praise? Because this bit of “nonsense” is a treasured piece of dim-witted talk-show conservatism. Indeed, Rush has told dittoheads, for years and years, that Reagan’s lowered ’81 tax rates produced higher federal revenue. Others sing the silly song too. Here was Sean Hannity on last Friday’s H&C, chatting with Dem consultant Vic Kamber:

HANNITY: The point is that we’re overtaxed.

KAMBER: Our deficits are getting bigger. We’re not getting out of debt in this country. And George Bush is calling for greater tax cuts. That’s baloney, that’s ridiculous.

HANNITY: Well, John F. Kennedy knew it, Reagan knew it. Reagan doubled revenues.

All good cons knew what Sean was saying—revenues doubled under Reagan because he cut those tax rates. But why did revenues grow under Reagan? For the same reason revenues always grow—due to population growth, productivity growth and inflation. Sean and Rush keep telling cons that revenues grew because of the cuts. That is sheer nonsense, as Bartlett notes—but how are dittoheads supposed to know that? How are dittoheads supposed to know when Rush and Sean just keep telling them different?

For the record, why must Dems take up this challenge? Because the mainstream press corps would eat live worms in a pit on Survivor before it would challenge Rush’s spinning. The relevant quote is Bill Clinton’s:

CLINTON: They have an increasingly right-wing and bellicose conservative press. And we have an increasingly docile establishment press.
Millions of Americans do believe that lowered tax rates produce higher revenue. They believe it because Rush has said it for years—and because the mainstream press corps refuses to speak. Democrats need to find new ways to address the dissembling of Rush and his clones. Dittoheads need to know that they’re being deceived—and it’s time that Dems learned how to tell them.

BARTLETT’S BLIND SPOT: Just how silly is the claim that lower tax rates produce higher revenue? Here’s a longer passage from Bartlett:

BARTLETT: Supposedly, [Reagan officials] sold Congress and the American people a bill of goods by saying the 1981 tax cut would lose no revenue…[T]hey are said to have asserted…that there would be such an outpouring of work, investment and economic growth that higher revenues would be collected at lower tax rates.

This whole story is, of course, complete nonsense. No one in a position of authority ever said any such thing. And even if they had, how can one possibly believe that a skeptical Congress and a liberal news media would allow anyone to get away with it?

Alas! Even Bartlett buys the myth of a “liberal news media.” In fact, the “liberal news media” has allowed talk-show cons to spread this treasured piece of “nonsense.” That’s how our modern media actually works. Dems have to learn to confront it.

ONE MORE BIT OF STANDARD NONSENSE: Hannity alluded to another bit of Standard Nonsense—the treasured notion that Kennedy was a hero of low tax rates, while Clinton was Mr. Big Tax Man. The reality? Kennedy lowered the marginal rate—to 70 percent! Clinton raised it—to 39.6! But how does our modern discourse work? Laughing in his listeners’ faces, Rush makes invidious comparisons between Clinton and Kennedy on this score—and he never mentions the relevant numbers. Dittoheads deserve to know that they’re being misled—and only Dems, with a Rush-of-the-left, will ever be willing to tell them.

TOMORROW: The tomfoolerism has started again. Is John Edwards just another Huey Long?