Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

A CULTURE OF LYING (PART 1)! Bush will push cuts every year, the Post says. But that’s not what he said as a candidate:

MONDAY, MAY 12, 2003

A CULTURE OF LYING (PART 1): A front-page report in Sunday’s Post helps reveal a culture of lying. Headline: GOP Eyes Tax Cuts as Annual Events. “Congress will soon pass the third tax reduction in as many years for President Bush,” the authors say. “Yet the impressive trio of reductions is but a small step toward the administration’s goal: nonstop tax cuts.” Dana Milbank and Dan Balz then dished out their nugget:

MILBANK AND BALZ: White House officials have told allies they will attempt a new tax cut every year Bush remains in office, and there is already talk of another round.
A new tax cut every year! Milbank and Balz named some sources:
MILBANK AND BALZ: Paul Weyrich, a conservative with ties to Bush, said he was told at a White House meeting that “we intend to try to offer a new tax cut every year”—a view top Bush aides have expressed to a number of business lobbyists. Grover Norquist, an anti-tax advocate who works closely with Bush aides, predicts: “You’ll have a tax cut each year. I state it that way in all of the (White House) meetings, and I never get an argument.”
According to Milbank and Balz, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett didn’t exactly confirm these claims. But unless he was taken out of context, he didn’t exactly deny them either. “Steps in 2001 and beyond have been in the right direction,” Bartlett said, “and the president believes by reducing the tax burden more we can improve our economy.” On yesterday’s Meet the Press, Treasury Sec John Snow sidestepped questions about this article.

Will more tax cuts be proposed every year? According to Milbank and Balz, Weyrich, Norquist, and “business lobbyists” have been told just that. And you’d surely be a fool to doubt it; Paul Krugman’s column in last Friday’s New York Times described the mammoth cut in revenues implied by certain versions of the current tax package. But there’s one major problem with all these tax plans—they fly in the face of what the public was told by Candidate Bush back in Campaign 2000. Even when he debated Gore, Bush was surrounded by a culture of lying (more tomorrow). But the proposals he’s made in the past few years contradict what he said when he applied for his job. The Post story highlights the culture of deceit which now drives budget policy inside Washington.

What did Bush say in Campaign 2000? As of September 2000, budget authorities were projecting a $4.6 trillion federal surplus over ten years. And here’s what Bush told fifty million viewers at the start of Bush-Gore Debate I:

BUSH (10/3/00): I want to take one-half of the surplus and dedicate it to Social Security, one-quarter of the surplus for important projects, and I want to send one-quarter of the surplus back to the people who pay the bills. I want everybody who pays taxes to have their tax rates cut.
Bush’s math was quite fuzzy in this presentation (more tomorrow). But during his more lucid moments, Bush made that highlighted pledge quite clear. Of the $4.6 trillion projected surplus, $2.4 trillion was in “payroll taxes”—payments made to Social Security. Like everyone else in the 2000 race, Bush pledged that he wouldn’t spend that money. His representation was clear throughout. Bush had counted every penny—and when it came to federal tax cuts, $1.3 trillion was all we could afford. Again, everyone said this at the time, press and politicians alike. Everyone said that, with the baby boomers’ retirement approaching, we had to start using those SS surplus to pay down the national debt.

Three years later, Bush’s continuing tax cut plans fly in the face of what he pledged as a candidate. Now we hear that the cuts will continue. But then, a culture of lying has only grown as our vaunted commander-in-chief has turned emperor. All week, we’ll explore that culture of deception—and we’ll look at the trembling members of our national press who know that it shouldn’t be discussed.

TOMORROW: A culture of lying surrounded Bush when he stood on that stage with Jim Lehrer.

HE MUST THINK HE INVENTED THE CALCULATOR: Candidate Bush laid it right on the line: $1.3 trillion was all we could afford. Anything else and we’d have to spend the SS surplus—and he swore that he wouldn’t do that. But Bush got his $1.3 trillion in 2001, and we’re now spending vast amounts of that SS surplus. Result? Weirdly, Bush wants to tax-cut $726 billion more, and “business leaders” are being told that the tax cuts will only continue. Meanwhile, how much is the new proposed cut really worth? Needless to say, our culture of lying obscures all such matters. But Krugman mentioned a figure last Friday. “The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the true cost of the House bill, without the sunset scam, would be $1.1 trillion over the next decade,” he wrote. If you want to know more about “sunset clauses,” read his entire column. Eventually, it will be posted here.

Of course, that is the House, not the White House, proposal. But has anyone heard a word from Bush about how these proposed tax cuts have gone way too far? By the way, if you read the Krugman column, you’ll remember how Bush dealt with similar “sunset clauses” when the 200l tax cut was passed:

KRUGMAN: Needless to say, the [2001] bill was silly by design. The administration didn’t intend to compromise: it fully expected to get the sunset clause repealed in a future Congress. And President Bush was soon out there ridiculing the way the tax cut was programmed to expire, implying that the expiration date was imposed by scheming liberals, when in fact it was a trick perpetrated by his own Congressional allies.
President Bush would behave that way? Oh yes! A culture of lying surrounds the great man. Bought-and-sold journalists know not to notice—but you can read more in THE HOWLER all week.

The Daily update

SIMPLY PUT, AN ASTONISHING DOCUMENT: It’s hard to grasp how empty our press corps is—but sometimes our pundits just break down and show us. Last Thursday, Margaret Carlson was writing Day 4 of her vacuous, weeklong “diary” for Slate. By Thursday, Carlson had apparently spent enough time telling us about her weekday luncheons, her gooey desserts, her clothing strategies and her home renovations. Now she wanted to skim the week’s “issues.” As usual, she didn’t have the slightest idea what she was talking about:
CARLSON: Now that , [sic] I want to upgrade my “Diary” and talk about the issues of the day. Dick Cheney running again? Is the Pope Catholic? Maybe it doesn’t matter whether those weapons of mass destruction are ever found. Evil—some of it anyway—is gone. Bush could land on the carrier twice, and I wouldn’t whine. Speaking of whining about that, isn’t Sen. Robert Byrd himself the king of government spending and cost overruns? He’s paved over West Virginia and gotten every federal building to move there. It’s not for him to complain about the marginal cost of Bush going out to meet the carrier as opposed to waiting on shore.
It’s not for Byrd to complain about cost? Good, because Byrd didn’t utter a word on the subject. “I join with the President and all Americans in expressing heartfelt thanks and gratitude to our men and women in uniform,” the sibilant solon said last Tuesday, speaking on the floor of the Senate. “But on this point I differ with the President: I believe that our military forces deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and not used as stage props to embellish a presidential speech.” Byrd said nothing about financial costs. He said that Bush had used the troops for a cheap photo-op. “To me, it is an affront to the Americans killed or injured in Iraq for the President to exploit the trappings of war for the momentary spectacle of a speech,” Byrd said. “This is not some made-for-TV backdrop for a campaign commercial.”

Two day after Byrd’s address, Carlson wanted to talk about issues. And it took her exactly five lines before—reciting a standard RNC spin-point, of course—she baldly misstated what Byrd had said. Of course, in her overview of this issue, she managed to pander even harder. “Bush could land on the carrier twice, and I wouldn’t whine,” the scribe said.

But then, Carlson’s “diary” is simply astounding from beginning to end. Read to see how she spends her week—and ask yourself if there’s any way she could possibly know what’s happening in the world, or have considered viewpoints. On a week when she’s spending large chunks of time traveling around to promote her new “book,” Carlson fills the rest of her days with luncheons, renovations, and inane, idle chatter. When she does get around to discussing the “issues,” she runs straight to Bill Bennett’s gambling—a silly personality issue which gets her chatting about Bennett’s wife. (“When, about Day 3 of the story, Bennett said he wouldn’t be gambling any more, dropping the guise that it was an extension of church bingo, I knew Elayne had finally gotten to him.”) When she gets to a serious issue—WMD—she tosses off a one-sentence thought. Once again, of course, that one-sentence thought came straight from the RNC.

Transparently, Carlson knows nothing—except approved spin. And incredibly, she can recite such spin three years later! Here we see the mind-numbing way she opens her Thursday report:

CARLSON: If this is Thursday, it must be Richmond. I’m like a politician now, scheduled to the minute by other people. Not to excuse Al Gore, but I can understand how he could end up at a Buddhist temple and not know what he was doing there.
Gore “didn’t know what he was doing at the Buddhist temple?” Gore, of course, said nothing like that. In fact, Carlson is channeling a bogus spin-point recited by McCain all through Campaign 2000. McCain’s presentation was utterly false; everywhere else, this is referred to as “lying.” But the corps loved McCain—he’d been cast as “straight-shooter”—so he could dissemble as much as he liked. Three years later, Carlson—who knows nothing on earth but the cost of dessert—is still tossing off his misstatements. Transparently, Margaret Carlson knows nothing but spin. And almost all of her spin is misleading.

One wishes that one could be more polite about this remarkable diary. On the one hand, it’s amazing that Slate put such nonsense into print. On the other hand, Carlson’s diary is an astonishing document—one that shouldn’t be missed. If rational thought somehow survives, future generations will gape at the emptiness found in each of this diary’s pages. And they’ll ask an obvious question—why we let such empty vessels steward our national discourse.