BARTLETT (4/6/07): The original supply-siders suggested that some tax cuts, under very special circumstances, might actually raise federal revenues...Higher revenues from lower taxes? As Yglesias noted, Giuliani himself made this sort of implausible claim in accepting Forbes endorsement last week—and the mainstream press corps said nothing about it. As he continues, Bartlett explains what the original supply-siders actually thought about their first famous tax cuts. No, they didnt think their cuts would produce extra revenue. Repeat slowly: They didnt think that:
But today it is common to hear tax cutters claim, implausibly, that all tax cuts raise revenue. Last year, President Bush said, ''You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase.'' Senator John McCain told National Review magazine last month that ''tax cuts, starting with Kennedy, as we all know, increase revenues.'' Last week, Steve Forbes endorsed Rudolph Giuliani for the White House, saying, ''He's seen the results of supply-side economics firsthand—higher revenues from lower taxes.
BARTLETT: As the staff economist for Representative Jack Kemp, a Republican of New York, I helped devise the tax plan he co-sponsored with Senator William Roth, a Delaware Republican. Kemp-Roth was intended to bring down the top statutory federal income tax rate to 50 percent from 70 percent and the bottom rate to 10 percent from 14 percent...Duh. Furthermore, Bartlett writes, our belief that we might get back a third of the revenue loss was always a long-run proposition. Even the most rabid supply-sider knew we would lose $1 of revenue for $1 of tax cut in the short term, because it took time for incentives to work and for people to change their behavior.
We believed that our tax plan would stimulate the economy to such a degree that the federal government would not lose $1 of revenue for every $1 of tax cut. Studies of the 1964 tax cut showed that about a third of it was recouped, and we expected similar results. Thus, contrary to common belief, neither Jack Kemp nor William Roth nor Ronald Reagan ever said that there would be no revenue loss associated with an across-the-board cut in tax rates. We just thought it wouldn't lose as much revenue as predicted by the standard revenue forecasting models, which were based on Keynesian principles.
So there you have it, again, from Bartlett, whose clarity weve praised in the past (for example, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/5/02). Duh! As a general matter, tax cuts do not increase federal revenues; that sort of thing could only happen under very special circumstances. Bartlett has explained these points many times, but the Giulianis feel free to keep spouting nonsensical nostrums—knowing that our mainstream press corps will politely stare into air when they do. And of course, Sean Hannity will keep repeating the implausible claims which Bartlett derides in this mornings column. His listeners will have little way to know that theyre being misled—played for fools.
Why is Hannity free to proceed? Because the mainstream press corps has refused, for two decades, to make the points that Bartlett is making. They respect the sovereignty of the kooky-con intellectual ghetto; under the rules they have long accepted, the Hannitys can say any damn thing they please, and our mainstream scribes will stare into air, pretending that they havent noticed. They can tell us that tax cuts produce higher revenues. They can say Mars is warming, so Gore must be wrong. They can produce best-selling books filled with ludicrous claims, and no one will say a damn thing about it. In fact, they can say any damn thing they want, and our mainstream journalists will stare into space. Journos lives are simpler—better by far—when they let these deceptions slide by. Its just so much easier not to engage with the nasty, kooky-con hustlers who have made such a joke of our national discourse. Why not let them say what they please—while we type high-minded thoughts about our various health plans?
Yep! Giuliani can say that tax cuts produce higher federal revenues. Fred Thompson can say that Mars is warming. And crackpots like the Swift Boat Veterans can continue to publish their butt-crazy books. For at least fifteen years, our discourse has been conducted in a long hall of mirrors—because big mainstream journos have endlessly refused to challenge this endless cracked pottery. Its part of their Millionaire Pundit Values—the code of dishonor that will always exist when a mainstream press corps opinion leaders are Nantucket-based multimillionaires.
Sean and Rush have always been off-limits. Our mainstream press corps agreed long ago—they can say any damn thing they please. Only the Bartletts are allowed to contradict them—and the Bartletts are few and far between. And this corrupt culture will never change unless liberal elites—at mags like Matts—scream and yell and holler about it. Matts column this week was right as rain. But it was just a small start.
THE PROBLEM WITH HIPPIES: This takes us back to that unfortunate e-mail Josh Marshall published this week. For the record, if the primary election were held today, we would probably vote for Edwards. But that e-mailers dim-wit complaints about Clinton do deserve a stronger response than the one Josh offered. Josh made some perfectly valid points. We thought wed go a bit further.
Fury outrage hiss spit snarl! Lets hope the mailer is seven years old. Here was his tedious, detailed complaint about Vile Clintons fund-raising:
E-MAIL TO JOSH: There needs to be some attention paid to the fact Hillary Clinton didn't actually compete head-to-head on a level playing field with Barack Obama. Does any one honestly think Hillary would have raised $26 million without the help of her husband Bill? The Clinton campaign needs to be pressed on how much Hillary raised at her events and how much was raised by Bill. I suspect she would have reported something close to what Edwards did, $14 million. The New York Times reported last week that Bill was used in 17 fund-raisers over the course of 6 weeks by the Clinton campaign this quarter. Lets say he only raises a quarter million at each event, which is low-balling it considerably, he brings in $4.25 million. Barack on the other hand raised $26 million without the star power of the biggest name in democratic politics. Even more so, the Clinton campaign did not report the overwhelming first quarter numbers they were widely expected to report. The media needs to question why Clinton only reported raising money from only 50,000 contributors when there have been news reports she has access to a list of 250,000 supporters her and Bill have maintained over 20 years. And the American people need to ask themselves if its fair that Bill finances his wife's campaign.Again, lets hope this mailer is seven years old. He or she has devoted beaucoup time to pondering Clintons troubling advantages. Boo hoo hoo—its so unfair! But he or she shows no understanding of the dis-advantages Clinton is carrying. But then, e-mails like this help us see the problem with hippies. They show the potential down-side to the increased participation of such folk in our net-rooted politics.
EISENR (4/3/07): It was 3 a.m. in Italy on Jan. 29, 2003, when President Bush in Washington began reading his State of the Union address that included the now famous—later retracted—16 words: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."So far, so good, the analysts cried—although they balked a bit at retracted. But otheirgod! They began to roll their eyes and cry when they read Eisners odd second paragraph:
EISNER (continuing directly): Like most Europeans, Elisabetta Burba, an investigative reporter for the Italian newsweekly Panorama, waited until the next day to read the newspaper accounts of Bush's remarks. But when she came to the 16 words, she recalled, she got a sudden sinking feeling in her stomach. She wondered: How could the American president have mentioned a uranium sale from Africa?Here we go again, they cried. In fact, Bush hadnt mentioned a uranium sale, they complained; as they could see right in paragraph one, he said that Iraq had sought such a sale, not that a sale was completed. But four years later, the Washington Post still hasnt resolved this basic distinction. And sure enough, in paragraph 3, another conundrum came in:
EISNER (continuing directly): Burba felt uneasy because more than three months earlier, she had turned over to the U.S. Embassy in Rome documents about an alleged uranium sale by the central African nation of Niger. And she knew now that the documents were fraudulent and the 16 words wrong.According to Eisner, Burba knew that some documents had been forged. But to state the obvious, the fact that those particular docs were fake didnt mean that some other sale couldnt have happened. And it surely didnt mean that Iraq hadnt sought uranium at some point, the thing that Bush had claimed.
EISNER/ROYCE (page 3): The shocking sentence, which topped off a litany of evidence against Saddam Hussein, was central to the Bush administrations attempt to rally public support for the likely invasion of Iraq. But the statement that night [1/28/03] was particularly surprising to many members of the American Intelligence Community, as Bushs assertion appeared to be based on information they had already dismissed as lacking credibility. Within hours, Bushs charge was questioned and criticized, and the statement became the single most controversial point in the State of the Union speech. After the March 20, 2003, invasion, pundits began to refer to the presidents claim, in shorthand, as the 16 words.Every word can be defended as technically accurate—but that account is also slippery. You might not realize that Bushs shocking statement produced absolutely no public discussion in the days and weeks which followed his speech. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/28/03. Scroll down to The Daily update.) And you might not realize that Bushs claim was never described as the 16 words until July, after Wilsons column appeared. The first such usage in Eisners own Post came on July 13, 2003, for example. But yes, thats after March 20.