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A DISCUSSION YOU’VE NEVER HEARD! In a discussion you’ve never heard, Bruce Bartlett seconded Krugman: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

UPDATE/MONDAY, AUGUST 1: Assuming Congress keeps the rail lines open, we will be returning to full service on Tuesday, August 2.

It’s not a bad time to be pooling resources: We’re off on a mission of national import. Actually, we’re attending a wedding tomorrow. It’s not a bad time to be pooling resources! If the highways are still open, we’ll be back at the start of the week.

A DISCUSSION YOU’VE NEVER HEARD: How foolish is your national discourse?

This foolish:

The Washington Post is one of our most important “newspapers.” Yesterday, on its op-ed page, this ludicrous statement appeared:

PHILLIPS (7/28/11): As the founder of Tea Party Nation, I feel confident in saying that the Tea Party understands what so many in Washington seem to have forgotten: We do not have a debt crisis. We have a spending crisis. There is only one way you get to a debt crisis—you spend too much money.

That highlighted statement is dumb-beyond-stupid. The statement is utterly stupid. If you have tapioca in place of a brain, you can see that it makes no damn sense.

That statement is lame-beyond-gong show. And yet, it lies in the sweet spot of your nation’s clown-inspired political culture. We’ve been a low-IQ culture for decades now, with the career liberal world playing an active, well-compensated role in the process.

The sheer stupidity of that statement makes it familiar within our culture. But its point of view is also iconic: Our political culture is all about the denigration of taxes. The conservative and corporate worlds have built a multiverse of anti-tax theoretics, much of which is aggressively stupid. By way of contrast, the liberal world calls people racists and occasionally says it’s pro-choice.

After that, we nap.

The drumbeat of anti-tax dogmatics is familiar to every American ear. The liberal world has been loo lazy, too feckless, not quite poor enough to create an alternate story. But in the past week, we have seen two major players express views on taxation we found quite surprising. Their views are part of a discussion you have never heard.

The first such person is Paul Krugman. Last Friday, he appeared on the Charlie Rose show. As we noted a few days ago, he made the following statement:

KRUGMAN (7/22/11): What the long-run solution to the U.S. budget problem is, is controlling health-care costs. It means more of the kinds of things that were already in the Affordable Care Act. A lot of serious, serious efforts to bring the rate of growth of health-care costs down, bending the curve—horrible metaphor, but bending the curve, which we know can be done because other countries do it. And then we need revenue. In the end, we’re going to need three, four percent of GDP in additional revenue. You can get some of that by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, but we’re going to need more than that.

Krugman said we should dump the Bush tax cuts—and he said that we will need even more revenue after that! Regarding the need to dump all the Bush tax rates, we’ve seen that view expressed on-line—by Jonathan Chait, for instance. But we don’t think we’ve ever seen it discussed in a major news org. We’ve never seen that view debated or analyzed by a major newspaper or on a major news program.

Does Krugman’s prescription make sense? We don’t know. We’ve never seen it discussed! By way of contrast, we’ve heard every fool thing a mammal can say about the need to lower taxes. Judson Phillips stepped up in that column to remind us of this fact: There is no anti-tax statement so balls-out stupid that it won’t be afforded a prominent spot in our nation’s discourse.

Krugman says we need lots more revenue. But then, someone made a similar statement on Thursday evening’s Hardball. Chris Matthews was faking away as he always does—usually, with Joan doing cartwheels, splits and flips to tell us how great he is. On this occasion, Matthews’ guest was Bruce Bartlett, “former deputy assistant treasury secretary under the first George Bush and a policy adviser to Ronald Reagan.” Before long, Bartlett also endorsed a return to the Clinton tax rates:

MATTHEWS (7/27/11): It gets back to the numbers. A $14 trillion debt, half of it is from Bush, and almost half of that is from the tax cut. Another portion is from the prescription drug bill. And the whole rest of that really is from a lousy economy under Bush and these two wars he came up with.

BARTLETT: Well, that’s right. We—the Republicans keep saying that tax cuts are the key to prosperity. Well, the 2000s is evidence that that’s not true. And also we raised taxes in 1982. They said it would be a recession. We raised taxes again in 1993. They said it would be a recession. We had booming economies in the 1980s and 1990s. I think if we went back to the taxes we had the 80s and 90s, we’d be a lot better off.

MATTHEWS: What is the argument against the kind of tax policy— Well, let’s just say it again. It seems to me we had a heck of a great economy in the 90s, with a tax rate for people in the higher brackets of about 39.6, as opposed to 35, right?

BARTLETT: Right.

MATTHEWS: And that is the one that the rich bitch about, to use a crude term. And yet that didn’t hurt the economy and it helped balance the budget.

BARTLETT: Well, that’s right. And don’t forget also that Ronald Reagan raised the capital gains tax rate to 28 percent in 1986 and now it’s only 15 percent. And of course, the wealthier you are, the more of your income comes from capital gains.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Last night, we showed the 400 richest people in the country, whose average income is $270 million a year, pay about the same as a poor person pays. They pay about 18 percent.

BARTLETT: That’s right, of income taxes, that’s right.

MATTHEWS: Whereas the middle class and the upper middle class, who think they are the majority of the country, and they actually are, they’re paying a higher rate.

BARTLETT: That’s right. I don’t think there is any question that we would have positive economic effects if we went back to the Clinton-era tax rates.

Six days after Krugman endorsed the Clinton tax rates, Bartlett did the same. To watch the whole segment, click here.

(In fact, Matthews’ discussion the previous night seemed to concern all federal taxes, not just federal income tax. On each program—no surprise here!—he was too clueless to say.)

Is Bartlett right? Would it make sense to return to the Clinton tax rates? We’ll say it again: We don’t know. We’ve never seen it debated! You currently live in a country where every damn-fool statement about lowering taxes is rushed into our greatest newspapers—where the very idea of raising taxes is treated like Ross Perot’s crazy aunt, the one he keeps down in the basement.

Two more points, then we’re off:

In what way was Matthews faking (as always)? This is what this massive phony said as he continued:

MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Why don’t economists say this that you’re just saying? How come I need to drag you on the show?

Matthews has hosted Hardball for thirteen years. Until this week, he has never discussed such topics, as of course he knows. Neatly repurposed by MSNBC, he now pretends that he’s puzzled by this issue’s very low visibility.

This man is a consummate fraud. He knows why this general outlook has enjoyed a low visibility. He and his corporate owners helped keep it out of view for years—the corporate owners who made him rich as he worked to send George Bush to the White House. In 1999 and 2000, no broadcaster came close to Matthews as a criminally aggressive Bush hack.

One final note:

Joan will be out there doing back-flips about the greatness of Chris. “Gimme a C,” she’ll convincingly cry. “Gimme an H! Gimme an R-I-S!”

People like Walsh have also agreed to keep such naughty views smothered. And by the way, please recall what happened this week when Teresa Tritch made that long-overdue statement.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Teresa Tritch came out and said it! We will post her statement again. Her statement is very important, unless you want to live in a world defined by the world’s dumbest claims:

TRITCH (7/24/11): A few lessons can be drawn from the numbers. First, the Bush tax cuts have had a huge damaging effect. If all of them expired as scheduled at the end of 2012, future deficits would be cut by about half, to sustainable levels.

Say what? If the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, “future deficits would be cut by about half, to sustainable levels?” If Tritch is right, our current “crisis” would end on the very day the Bush tax cuts expired!

Thanks to the work of the career liberal world, no one in this sprawling country has ever heard anyone say this.

As Andrew Leonard noted this week, a string of liberals jumped Tritch’s bones on Monday, pimping a slightly ill-advised graphic all around town. We liberals made her queen for a day. After that, things went quiet.

We liberals love it quiet.

But even when we were having our fun, what did none of our tribunes do? As far as we saw, none of them bothered to ask if Tritch was right in what she said! Just two weeks ago, after all, David Leonhardt published a claim that seemed to be quite different. But in the low-IQ world of the “career liberal,” shit like this don’t count:

LEONHARDT (7/13/11): So what kind of tax increases do Americans support? The old-fashioned kind. Seventy-two percent support raising taxes on income above $250,000, according to a recent New York Times/CBS poll, and a large majority likewise favor raising Social Security taxes on the affluent.

In the end, the most likely tax increase may be the one that's already on the books. On Jan. 1, 2013, all the Bush tax cuts—on the affluent and nonaffluent alike—are set to expire, which would solve roughly one-quarter of our long-term deficit problem. If Republicans have their way, all the tax cuts will be extended. If the Democrats have their way, most of them will be.

Who has it right, Leonhardt or Tritch? We can’t tell you, for obvious reasons. Instead, we offer this point:

You live in a defiantly low-IQ world. You live in a very dumb political culture; you have for many years. This world features aggressive players like Phillips, for whom no statement is too goddamned stupid. It also features fiery “career liberals;” they’re generally cast as the Washington Generals. They’re too lazy and feckless to care about much. Attention spans won’t be impressive.

People like Phillips push hard every day. The same is true of reviled Grover Norquist.

People like Phillips push hard every day. On your side?

Not so much.