I’ll give that unnamed Bush staffer credit.* It is possible to create an alternate reality — if only for a time — given the willing complicity of all those watching (and transmitting) the useful fantasies of the powerful. Just look at the success the Koch brothers’ subsidiary political arm, aka the GOP et al. have had in persuading so many that wealth transfers to the rich are the solution to all ills.
Hence the significance Bruce Bartlett’s entry today in The New York Times Economix Blog, in which the former Reagan, Bush I, Ron Paul and Jack Kemp policy advisor writes that, in essence, the entire Republican presidential field is lying about taxes to the American people.
He doesn’t quite put it that way — but he comes pretty close:
For years, Republicans have [said] …over and over again that taxes in the United States are exceptionally high and the primary obstacle to growth, and that a huge tax cut would do more to raise growth than any other policy.
For example, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has proposed reducing the top statutory income tax rate on individuals to 25 percent and abolishing the taxation of interest, dividends and capital gains. The Tax Policy Center estimates that this plan would reduce federal revenues by $8 trillion over the next decade.
Governor Pawlenty contends that unprecedented growth will result — to such an extent that there will actually be no revenue loss at all.
I am not picking on Governor Pawlenty; all of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination support similar policies, and not one has criticized him for making outlandish claims.
Yup — that’s as card-carrying a
GOP conservative (per commenter wvng below) stalwart as you can get, stating as fact (which it is) that the fundamental Republican position on tax policy is “outlandish.”
Now this is, or ought to be obvious.
Bartlett here is actually responding to critics of an earlier post in which he made the following points:
The economic importance of statutory tax rates is blown far out of proportion by Republicans looking for ways to make taxes look high when they are quite low. And they almost never note that the statutory tax rate applies only to the last dollar earned or that the effective tax rate is substantially lower even for the richest taxpayers and largest corporations because of tax exclusions, deductions, credits and the 15 percent top rate on dividends and capital gains.
The many adjustments to income permitted by the tax code, plus alternative tax rates on the largest sources of income of the wealthy, explain why the average federal income tax rate on the 400 richest people in America was 18.11 percent in 2008, according to the Internal Revenue Service, down from 26.38 percent when these data were first calculated in 1992. Among the top 400, 7.5 percent had an average tax rate of less than 10 percent, 25 percent paid between 10 and 15 percent, and 28 percent paid between 15 and 20 percent.
The truth of the matter is that federal taxes in the United States are very low. There is no reason to believe that reducing them further will do anything to raise growth or reduce unemployment.
Remember, this is just propaganda from your typical
liberal conservative economist with longstanding ties to reliably anti-tax members of the Republican party. Also, note, that along the way in that post Bartlett called out the conservative punditocracy as, again, liars:
Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal recently asserted that Democrats were trying to raise the top income tax rate to 62 percent from 35 percent. But most of the difference between these two rates is the payroll tax and state taxes that are already in existence. The rest consists largely of assuming tax increases that no one has formally proposed and that would be politically impossible to enact at the present time.
Ryan Chittum, in Columbia Journalism Review, responded with a commentary that called the Moore analysis “deeply disingenuous.”
Nevertheless, one routinely hears variations of the Moore argument from conservative commentators. By contrast, one almost never hears that total revenues are at their lowest level in two or three generations as a share of G.D.P. or that corporate tax revenues as a share of G.D.P. are the lowest among all major countries.
This is what apparantly appalled Bartlett’s readers, and this is what prompted him to … well, not defend himself, but to double down on the key point:
A typical middle-class family, on the other hand, is paying less in federal taxes than it has since 1967. Its marginal rate is also down substantially since it peaked in 1982 at 31.7 percent. The well-to-do family, too, has seen its average and marginal tax rates decline substantially.
Of course, these data do not prove that taxes are not too high. That is a subjective judgment related to issues of fairness and the value that people assign to the government benefits they receive in return. Many in the Tea Party talk as if the value of government is zero; consequently, they would probably complain about any tax level above zero.
Nevertheless, it is clear that federal taxes have not been rising and are, at least in historical terms, lower for most taxpayers than they have been since the 1960s.
There is a famous line from the history of mathematics: “God made the integers. All else is the work of man.”
That quote has had plenty of glosses, but let me appropriate it here to describe what Bartlett has just done. We have real numbers about taxes. We know what they are, and Bartlett in both of the cited posts provides handy historical references to allow any reader to trace the trajectory of those numbers. They are facts, chunks of experience quantified, and they have autonomy: Moore’s claim that a 35% rate is really a 62% rate is not a matter of interpretation; it’s just wrong.
But, of course — as Moore’s sin illustrates — what we do with such numbers, the calculations we perform, the conclusions we draw from them, the interpretations we derive or force on them, why, all those are down to us. It’s no god’s nor FSM’s fault when we turn the actual knowledge we have into fashion accessories cloaking choices too ugly to pass unadorned.
That’s what Bartlett, seemingly now irrevocably committed to the reality — or perhaps, better — the integer-based community, is actually saying here. To reiterate: a leading
Republican conservative policy thinker and economist has just demonstrated that the entire Republican presidential field is talking nonsense about fundamental economic policy. The implication couldn’t be more clear: if these views gain direct power over US policy, WASF, even more than usual.
The question, which so far answers itself, is whether or not the media as a whole, and not just some (albeit prominent) blog-contributor, will pick up on this theme, and present the choice in 2012 as that between destructive fantasy and reality.
I live in hope, but not in expectation.
Bartlett himself demonstrates why. This is the very last line of his post:
Those who assert that taxes are rising or are at confiscatory levels simply do not know what they are talking about.
That may be true of some — but people like Pawlenty or Romney or Gingrich, any of them, really, have no such excuse. Pawlenty governed a state for two terms. Romney, we are told, is a smart money man. You get the point. They do know what they are talking about, and they choose to divorce themselves from the facts.
These are not potential Presidents.
Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est.
Images: Vincent van Gogh, The Corridor at the Asylum, 1889.
Martina Schettina, Fibonacci’s Dream, 2008.
It is worth noting that Bartlett left the republican party some time ago, saying he won’t return until they admit that their policies have failed and adopted rational policies. So he is not a card-carrying member of the GOP. He is, however, a card carrying conservative in the Sully version of that word.
@wvng: too right. Fixt.
Meanwhile, because we can’t afford nice things anymore, you have people robbing banks to the tune of a single dollar so that they can get health care in prison.
Nit: you transposed the last two digits in the date for the van Gogh. It should be 1889 not 1898.
The conservative fairy tale that lower taxes will result in increased revenue always reminds me of the old joke:
An accountant tells his boss that the company is actually losing $10 on each product they sell. The boss thinks for a minute and says “That’s OK, we’ll make it up on volume!”
We’ve got a very tax-phobic citizenry. Tossing out numbers like “62% of your income is being taxed!” doesn’t pass even the most cursory self-inspection. I know how much my rent and my food bills cost. I know how much I spend on my car and how much goes to my clothes and my entertainment and my retirement savings. If the government was taking 62% of my salary, I’d freak’n notice.
The numbers don’t matter. It’s just the idea of being taxed at all that bothers people. And the reason it bothers people is because they don’t see where their money is going.
I pay rent, I live in my house, I’m happy. I buy a burger, I eat, I’m happy. I pay taxes and it just goes down the black hole. I don’t get any customer satisfaction from that extra 8% sales tax my state and city level on me. I don’t see meaningful improvements in my roads or my public safety or my health.
Over the last 30 years, my government has not been spending my money wisely. It’s gone to wars and prisons and pensions and health care for old people that hate me. Fuck that. Why would I want to pay one red cent to this parasitic system?
So sure taxes are low. But they’re never low enough.
@Roger Moore. Yup, fixt.
@ Zifnab – do you live in somalia ?
Thanks for noticing that it’s possible to “create reality.” For the uninitiated, this is called “making demands,” otherwise known as “politics.” I have been to your reality-based community, and it is depressing. Someone should really do something about that.
Also, you have bad taste in art.
Davis X. Machina
It’s not fresh-water economics. It’s not salt-water economics. It’s holy water economics, right out of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Tantum Ergo.
Praestet fides supplementum
Faith will provides whatever is necessary to the failure of the senses.
What’s the quote, something like “it’s hard to get a man to believe something when his paycheck depends on his not believing it.”
And as for taxes, “taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” Americans have a greedy-child problem: they want a bunch of stuff and they don’t want to pay for it.
Granted a lot of our taxes are spent on things that large majorities of us don’t want, which basically points to corruption of the system, but who keeps voting these corrupt people into office? Who are the uninformed fools who allow themselves to be bamboozled at every turn, all the while celebrating our “exceptionalism”? “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”
“Democracies get the governments they deserve.”
sadly… they are.
Last night on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, Bartlett claimed that nobody in the Reagan administration ever said cutting taxes increased federal revenues. If true, when did republicans decide to push this fabrication? Did it start during the Bush era when GW said, “You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase” or before?
Somalia never got any infrastructure. The infrastructure I’m using was bought and paid for back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. And the maintenance I pay for makes up the barest fraction of my tax bill. We’re not blowing $700 billion / year resurfacing highways.
Well, except for those who do know what they’re talking about, and know it’s useful to scream this all the time, and it becomes believed, and because they think that any degree of taxation of them is robbery.
Remember, the Bush Jr. regime argument for the big tax cuts for the wealthy was that the existence of the surplus meant people had been taxed too much, so the money should be returned to them.
Therefore, their opposition to the notion of government budgets with both revenues and expenditures is total.
In god we trust; all others bring data.
The thing is, I can understand why so few individuals rely on data for their decision-making. I really can. We’re not designed for it. But what I can’t understand is why so few organizations–either public or private–do so. Data-driven decision-making is exactly what organizations are supposed to be good at. And, in my experience, they’re not at all. Hardly any of them do it with measurable success. Government is probably, given the bureaucratic nature of the institution, better at it than most. And it’s pretty bad.
Google “Laffer Curve.” The term was coined by some journo in the 70s but Laffer had been on about it for a while before that. He passes the buck for his stupidity to Keynes, of all people, and Ibn Khaldun, who needless to say was talking about a slightly different conception of taxation in 14th century North Africa than Laffer was looking at in the 20th century US.
The fact that “Laffer Curve” is a homophone with “Laugher Curve,” which would be a more appropriate term, is purely coincidental.
As always an excellent post Tom! I love the paintings – particularly on point.
(you’re book on Newton and the Counterfeiter is the top of the list for my house’s evening read-aloud – I’m really impatient to finish Sense and Sensibility so we can start it!)
On “You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase” I think it is a matter of “how much.” Clearly, tax cuts are a form of deficit spending that can be used to stimulate the economy. Different tax cuts result in different levels of economic activity that, in turn, generate various increases in tax revenues. In no case that I am aware of do tax cuts generate sufficient revenue to counteract the revenue cost of the cuts. Moody’s has done a lot of work on this. Republican cuts to the wealthy are the least stimulative of the bunch.
The correct way to frame it is as “net tax revenues.”
The peak of the Laffer Curve is (for the US) somewhere between 60 and 70 percent. Not marginal, by the way, but TOTAL tax burden of between 60 and 70 percent.
Oh, for cryin out loud! Do we need to have another lesson in the nature of democracy? Christ. You used to know this stuff, Zifnab. What is up with you? Are you currently having a stroke of some sort? Do we need to get you medical attention so that you can regain your faculties?
“God made the integers. All else is the work of man.”
I first came across this line in Sayers’ Gaudy Night. Once again, Tom Levenson, you’ve referenced one of my favorite books in the world, whether you intended it or not.
And back on topic: it seems there actually are a few sane and articulate GOPpers out there, who possibly hold the well-being of the American people slightly higher than the fortunes of the Republican party. Moar, plz.
bemused @ 13.. The comments about the laffer curve are correct but Grover Norquist has been given a megaphone because he is the new god of the gop.
When I asked my wingnut BIL why he was voting for SoCal carpetbagger Tom McClintock for congress instead of his decorated vet Democratic opponant, the answer was, “Because Barbara Boxer wants to raise my taxes.”
Never mind he’s likely in the WSJ “luckie duckie” income category, paying little or no income tax and well out of anybody’s tax increase crosshairs. It’s the very concept of a nation that has the temerity to tax anybody, for anything. Never mind all those government services and fancypants wars and social security and medicare, etc. everybody’s happy to use.
You cannot have an actual conversation with these people, at least not an exchange of ideas, facts and trends–you know, the elements that usually comprise a conversation. (Much less a certified Adult Conversation(tm) [RNC 2011].)
I’m about fed up with politics right now. Bartlett can say anything he wants, it won’t help. We’re all God’s little bellyachers now, we’re all being screwed out of what we deserve, we’re all superb while everybody else is unfair and a liar.
In short, we are all children.
zifnab is right… This is what people think.. The MSM took the megaphone and gave it to the gops and didn’t challenge them on their lies.
edit..do not blame the messenger
I’m just playing devil’s advocate for a moment. Yes, I support social security. Yes, I support medicare. Even if I’m not going to see any direct benefit for decades.
But from a layman’s perspective, taxes drain your money into a black hole. Government services appear from thin air. People aren’t connecting the dots anymore (if they ever were). And when they do, they see the lines pointing to the giant money sink-holes in the Middle East or to some right-wing boogie-man like the Federal Reserve or uppity negroes eating t-bone steaks and driving Cadillacs.
The tax cut you got and the longer line at the DMV are simply not related in any meaningful sense.
What amazes me is how many lower middle class people support the fair tax. I don’t know what the average income is for those that listen to talk radio, but they would be in for a rude awakening. If someone mentions it to me, I simply say that I’m not a fan of regressive taxation.
I don’t know if you’re just having a shitty spell or are taking a more permanent turn to teabagger crankiness, but either way, get the fuck over it. What, have you been following highway-maintenance expenditures for the last decade? Are you imagining some “crime wave” sweeping the nation (when crime rates are historically low)?
Either way, my taxes helped pay for your education, and the development of those intertubes you’re typing on, and for the national debt that takes up one big fucking chunk of federal payouts.
That’s all part of the bill we all owe. Yes, plus stupid shit you and I didn’t want, like our luxury war in Iraq. That’s no excuse for trying to be a freeloading cheapskate. Pay your share of the bill and quit whining.
Edit: OK, I see the devil’s advocate comment. But the above is exactly how I see it: these are our bills. Pay up. Don’t like the results, change things, but you still gotta pay the bill.
Alan in SF
It would be a lot easier to make the case that more and more tax cuts for the rich and corporations were outlandish if one of our two political parties opposed such cuts.
For those helping to rebut these issues with the relatives. The point of confusion is this:
Back in the Reagan era, the argument was that every dollar of taxes cut at the 50% rate would result in more than a dollar of GDP growth (which is almost semi-obvious if you assume that excess tax revenues will eliminate debt). The economists were hoping that the resulting GDP growth would then result in about $.30 of increased tax revenue, which is ballpark of what happened. So they eliminated $1 of taxes and expanded the economy enough to create jobs that then resulted in $.30 in taxes being collected. Nobody under Reagan promised that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. They promised that the tax cuts would expand the economy to the extent of the cuts, which it did. People ever since have been confusing the economic growth with the tax revenue growth and arguing that tax cuts pay for themselves.
Was it a good plan? Well, maybe, in the short term. It helped balloon the national debt, but it did help create jobs – which is a tradeoff most Democrats might be willing to make today. So why not do it again? First, there are no taxes at the 50% rate. The highest taxes are quite a bit lower than that, and eliminating that $1 in taxes will create less in GDP growth.
Let’s say that under Reagan you cut the rate from 50% to 33%, an effective rate cut of 1/3. For every $6 someone earned in the top bracket before, they paid $3 in tax under the old rate, and under the new rate they’d pay $2 in tax. So there’s our $1 in tax cuts. It took the $6 earned and turned it from $3 retained and put in the economy into $4 retained and put in the economy (assuming every dollar is put back into GDP, which is unrealistically high). So, we expanded GDP $1 for every $6 earned.
Today we have a top rate of, say, 33% and let’s propose to cut it to 25%, an effective cut of about 25%. For every $12 someone earned in the top bracket before, they pay $4 in taxes but under the new rate would pay $3. So theres our $1 in tax cuts. But here it takes $12 and turns it from $8 retained to $9 retained. Here we only expand GPD $1 for every $12 earned. It’s only half as effective, but does exactly the same damage to the deficit. Further, under the old plan, that $1 in tax cuts was seen as a 33% increase in retained dollars (my net income goes up from $3 to $4 – or 33% on those last dollars) whereas the same $1 in cuts today would only be seen as a 12.5% increase in retained dollars (my net income goes up from $8 to $9 – 12.5% on those last dollars). If my income went up 33%, I’d probably go to town and spend quite a bit of it – economic growth. If my income goes up 12.5%, I’m not going to treat it the same way. Being in a high tax bracket and being aware of changes in my net income (unlike a movie star in a high tax bracket), I’m probably pretty conservative with my money and I’ll spend some of that 12.5%, but I’ll bank some as well.
The economic benefits get diluted as the tax rate goes down. You have to exempt more and more income to get that $1 of economic growth (which still does the same $1 of damage to the deficit), the psychological effect of those retained dollars to the taxpayer are much lower because they are proportionately small, and the effect on GDP as a result is smaller and therefore the amount of that $1 in tax cuts that ultimately turns into jobs and sales and whatnot turns into waaaaaay less tax revenue than it did back when you were cutting a higher rate. And this is why when Rachel Maddow puts up that big chart of ‘multiplicative effects of stimulus spending’, things like food stamps (which by definition go directly into the economy dollar for dollar) are better deals than tax cuts which get diluted at every stage, and as the tax rate drops they dilute even more rapidly.
The only time tax cuts pay for themselves is when the tax rate is up north of 75%, and only when you need to stimulate job growth. In the 50s, with <5% unemployment, cutting taxes from those super-high 90% brackets wouldn't have done shit. Today, even though unemployment is high, the tax rate is low enough that cuts won't do shit either. We'd be better off cranking up taxes on the super-rich to 11 and dumping that money back into the low-end of the economy and rebooting the whole system.
Yes, I see “Fair Tax” bumper stickers every day all around Atlanta, and I expect you do too. But so far, none of my acquaintances has mentioned it — at least not in my hearing.
I think one of the reasons that the Republicans have been so successful in their anti-tax jihad is that they’re exploiting our American mentality that if a little bit is good, more is better, and an excess is best of all. So if cutting taxes a little bit is good for economic growth, than zero taxes must be far superior to that because it’s cutting them even more, amirite?
Humans are horrible at risk analysis and basic statistics. Politicians seem to take advantage of that all the time.
And, sadly, neither are your vote for longer prison sentences for non-violet criminals and the lack of money for art and music at your local school or fixing potholes on the road to work. And the reason that nobody pays attention to this stuff is because there isn’t a coherent political campaign to point it out. There used to be people showing what you got for your tax money, so people could see just how cost effective programs like public health departments are. Today’s liberals seem to be unwilling to defend the monetary value of the programs they advocate. Is it any wonder we have trouble convincing people to pony up to pay for them?
None of this is news, though, to those who won’t hear it. I am an accountant, I deal in taxes when the season comes. Here is the issue – everyone says “my taxes are too high” even though they have no f$%king idea how much they paid. Their calculation of “high taxes” are usually based on a.)withholdings or b.)refunds. The actual tax burden? They couldn’t tell you.
Which is why the “my taxes go to lazy browns” can perpetuate. Last year they got $5K back because they installed an energy efficient roof. What do they expect this year? $5K back. When they only get $1K back, their taxes are too high. Why are they too high? Because all of their money goes to lazy browns. An effective campaign for this would be what they get from the government, and how much they pay. As it stands, people have no idea about either.
I think 80% of everyone or ( make that 73%?) understands very little about government except:
-that they vote and things are supposed to happen ( who they vote for automatically votes in congress/etc exactly the way that person would)
-Wars never really cost much
-All politicians lie.
-taxes are too high
People are looking for simple answers, they don’t/can’t/wont’t take the time from job+family+a little leisure to read how 1967 taxes for upper tax bracket were 90% or whatever. Republicans and many Dems pander to this viewpoint to get votes.
The budgetary process/tax structure is far too complex for many to reasonably deal with. Deem and Pass ditto. All of these processes are mostly opaque(less so now, but still obtuse). I bet most of the frosh congresspeople don’t understand until about 3 years in, how the lawmaking process works.
I fear the whole rubeish goldbergish federal (and state) structure is so messy that no effort can be made for fundemental reform, but rather patching at the edges, until a Damoclean sword is introduced. And then the excrement will not hit a fan, but rather a jet turbine.
SiubhanDuinne @ 22 “few sane and articulate GOPpers out there”
Actually Bartlett makes clear he is an ex-Goper.
I’ll point out that, when I’ve seen signs on the highway pointing out that repairs/improvements were being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, some large chunk (a third?) have been vandalized, commonly with “OBAMA SUXX” or “SOSHULIZM.”
Edit: I still think it was (and would be) a good idea, especially since it was a pretty in-your-face refutation of the idea that the act wasn’t doing any good.
The New Deal era points out that if people want a functional government, vote for it, and keep up the pressure on it, then government will become reasonably functional. Today, we don’t want that – too many people prefer to vote to screw their neighbor based on cultural resentments of whatever reason.
The “funny” thing about the Laffer curve is he drew it on a napkin & it had no numbers anywhere on it. It was just a goddammed bell curve. While it is probably true that there is a optimal tax rate, after which increases actually reduce revenue, it is quite clear we are nowhere near it. In fact the fact that every tax cut has caused a significant decrease in revenue tells us that we are on the left-hand side of the bell & should be raising rates. Its all wild-ass guessing where the optimal point might be but there was a link here some months ago to a great article suggesting it is about 65% (I’ll have to see if I still have the link at home).
We can probably live quite well short of the peak income but we have to stop both halves of the something-for-nothing crowd that dominates these discussions.
Citizen_X! I agree.
Taxes are too low. That is an obvious fact: we’re running a deficit, there can be no other reason. Yeah, those wars, if that’s the right term, are largely to blame for it. But, the majority of Americans either supported them or were too indifferent to protest them.
So, it’s time to pay up. “Conservatives” seem to prefer the serfdom-and-barons thingie over a free, prosperous society. I wipe them from my shoes.
I hear this. And this sort of thinking is prevalent throughout our society. We take our operational support for granted in pretty much every aspect of our lives. While the Masters of the Universe at Goldman Sachs are measuring their take-home pay by the wheelbarrow, the support staff there are probably considering themselves lucky to have a job in this economy. “Tone-deaf to irony” could easily be the epitaph of our times.
That said, sometimes the layman does surprise me and sees and understands more than I expect. And when that happens, it’s usually because his perspective hasn’t managed to trickle up to the Village yet so I don’t see it until I encounter him directly. Which really means that my greatest hope is that the layman isn’t always so seamlessly interchangeable with a stroke victim. (no offense to stroke victims–recovering or otherwise–since you should already know that you probably weren’t all that savvy at the time of the incident)
So let’s step back for a moment and ask ourselves how the US got to be so wealthy in the first place? It certainly didn’t hurt that the Europeans colonists who came to America obtained access to a vast ecological bounty the likes of which was no longer available anywhere in the Old World (and hadn’t been for at least a millenium) on account of the post-Columbian demographic catastrophe suffered by the native Americans. The business of America has been exploiting the advantages of nearly free real estate (and all of the knockover benefits from that economic bounty) from the early 16th Cen on. It is no wonder we want a bunch of stuff and don’t expect to have to pay for it. Reprogramming that instinct is going to take a long time and is going to be really, really painful.
Here’s the real problem:
Total household net worth is about $57T. US GDP is $14T. We have 400 people sitting on 2% of the nation’s net worth, which if we taxed it at 50% would increase GDP in one year by 5% and roughly match the 2009 stimulus bill. You simply cannot pile up all of the nations money in a handful of people and expect to have a functional economy unless you tax their income faster than they can earn it (north of 50%).
Had a “discussion” last summer at a family reunion (wife’s side) with a wingnut cousin (stop me if you’ve heard this joke before).
Affluent lawyer, late 40s, lived in CA his whole life (Bay area).
Among his many other absurd and loudly proclaimed pronouncements (Obama hates the Constitution, Democrats are all socialists, it’s the left who are the real racists, Palin was persecuted by the media, etc.) was a real whopper – he claimed he paid more than 50% of his income in taxes.
I said that was absolutely ridiculous. No one in America pays that much in taxes, not even close.
He insisted it was true, so all I could say (which ended the “conversation”) was that he really ought to look a little deeper into tax law and then find a new financial advisor/accountant, since his current one was obviously scamming him due to his ignorance of the law and embezzling his money and calling it “taxes”. That got a rise out of him.
My final words to him (as my wife nudged me hard in the ribs, spilling my beer) were something along the lines of, ”Who do you think you’re kidding? I know that you know you don’t pay anything like that in taxes, and so does every other adult here. We all know it’s bullshit”. He walked away with a smug look on his face, as if confident he had won the day (we avoided each other the rest of the time).
Anyone really think this clown actually believes he pays more than 50% of his income in taxes?
Fucking fascists are all fucking liars. Every last fucking one of them, from top to bottom and everyone in between.
Martin (31) – Not true, at all. Reagan cut taxes in 1981. When the cuts went into effect, we went into a very nasty recession. So the next 2 tax bills were increases, and we recovered.
There is just no empirical work that shows tax cuts lead to growth. Angry Bear has quite a bit on the history of growth following changes in US tax rates. There were a bunch of follow ups, eventually book length, finding that the fastest growth was after years with no significant change.
Who is this Bartlett, some Kenyan anti-colonialist socialist, who faces Mecca while he drinks the blood of aborted babies and recites Reagan’s Second Inaugural in backwards Latin, then plants his seed in the virgin womb of an illegal alien, so his demon spawn will grow up to take over the world?
He’s definitely my kind of guy!
Cliff in NH
If you run into problems explaining where taxes go, and wish there was a receipt telling people where their taxes go… there is a app for that:
In a tangential reply to Zifnab upstream, we have had now almost four decades of “government is the problem” messaging from the media and political sphere. This is a generational belief now that impacts almost everyone under 45 years of age — even on the left/progressive side. We have also embraced the politics of division and “shout down” of any opponent, making civil discussion of alternatives or shades of gray choices, almost an impossibility.
We desperately need competent government and leadership. We desperately need and informed public who understand with a modicum of intelligence that government and the private sector are not “either/Or” choices – we must balance them. Of course, to balance, you have to share information and listen and not demonize in draconian all or none arguments that continue to misinform almost all our serious discussions about anything important.
I understand that you are throwing up a strawman. But you are just reiterating the same tired observation that we all have and that is that reasoning and deliberation is in way short supply.
Rather than restating the obvious — how do we or what do we do to change this? What will get through that there is no such thing as no government — unless you want Somalia? Yes, there is misallocation and downright ripping off of government funds, but can we start with the NEED for good and competent government then figure out how we can clean it up?
After watching Stephen Moore suffer several full-face-plant mega-fails on Bill Maher’s show, it’s astounding that this goober still has a job.
Cliff in NH
Also, too, there are bills trying to be passed:
S. 437: Taxpayer Receipt Act (GovTrack.us)
H.R. 1583: Taxpayer Receipt Act of 2011 (GovTrack.us)
Fair Tax: The word “fair” sounds so nice. Saying everyone pays the SAME PERCENTAGE sounds fair. But people don’t consider the PROPORTIONALITY issue. Five percentage of $100 is is $5 and the person keeps $95. But five percent of 1,000 is $50 and the person keeps $950. It’s the same percentage but it takes a larger chunk of the lower amount and leaves less buying power.
Slightly OT: (Via The Mahablog) How the rich spend their money:
In macro-economic terms the point of steeply progressive taxation is to get stagnant hoarded wealth back into circulation in the high-velocity parts of the economy, i.e. the lower and middle classes. We desperately need that.
It isn’t just about wealthy individuals either. Corporations are sitting on enormous cash reserves right now. Much higher corporate tax rates would encourage them to do something else with that money: reinvest it in R&D or infrastructure, spend it on payroll, return dividends to shareholders, or almost anything, which would be far more productive from the standpoint of the larger economy than what they are doing with it now, which is exactly nothing.
On some level this will never end because there is money to be made on it. In addition, people find comfort in wrapping themselves in the sort of team based politics that only helps to fuel this. It happens on both sides, and any attempt to overcome it will never be successful so long as the moves made by the “other side” are always cast in the worst possible light.
There was a very brief window when this blog used to be a place that the ideas of both sides could share the same space. I think it lasted a summer, maybe a touch longer.
Good and competent are nice feeling sort of words, but to be actionable you will need more precise definitions of what it means for a government to be good and competent.
Wait a minute, I thought they were spending their money to help grow the economy and create jobs? WTF?
That is a good app! I really like how they had an Income Level option as well. And the way you can drill down–what is that? Two levels?–on each of the categories…nicely done! Although I’d love it if it went even further and you could click all the way down to a video of a person working on a project in that category. But that’s because I’m a sap and love to see people talk about the work they do…especially when I feel slightly responsible for the job they do.
All in all, two thumbs way up on that app! Thanks for sharing.
Yep. This is why a teabagger on Medicare can show up at a rally bitching about taxes, without seeing any sort of conflict.
This country is full of morons. You can tell them all day long why something is a bad idea… They won’t listen. Morons learn by doing things the wrong way, and getting burned. Learning vicariously is not possible for these people.
I read the other day that more than 50% of “conservative” Republicans oppose the Ryan plan… The solution will ultimately involve eliminating the services those people rely on. Then, and only then, will the light bulb go off.
It’s not possible to have a conversation with someone who’s both protected from the results of their bad decisions, and too stupid to evaluate things on merit.
Well, we can start by examining what it is not: directly spending the better part of $1T invading a country that posed no strategic danger to us.
Well, if wealth and not income were taxed at equal proportions, you’d get something quite progressive.
Many, many in the lower middle class and the poorer class do think the republican cut taxes will be good for them. They also think if they stick with voting R, they too will have much more money in their pockets if not become fabulously rich. I’ve heard a few admit this. When they can have utter faith in these fantasies coming true, then it’s a snap to believe all their hardships are solely the Dems’ fault.
Apart from the purely political aspect (inequality tending to reinforce itself via the rich buying politicians), it’s not inequality per se that’s the problem. The problem is that the inequality is a result of parasitic rent collection.
@ ThatLeftTurnInABQ #52
Because the hoarded wealth will go looking for a home, historically in risky and unregulated financial “creativity” (that is indistinguishable from gambling). Of course, it all eventually implodes, a very few get even wealthier, and the losses get socialized.
Perhaps so. That said, war by whatever name it is called, has been a tool of American foreign policy for pretty much every administration. Any calculation of what is considered good or competent will need to take this into consideration. The idea that we will simply not have any more wars, while a nice notions, seems at this point a stretch.
You know, Makewi, this “it happens on both sides” false equivalency is just sorry, tired bullshit.
It’s simply not true, anymore than claims about alleged “confiscatory” tax rates over 50% (or whatever) are true.
Do both “sides” (let’s call them “left” and “right”) engage in “team based politics”? Of course they do, that’s what politics is all about – competing demands that eventually get down to an either/or decision (aka, “voting”).
And do some on the left sometimes engage in questionable and even downright wrong (ethically and factually) political practices and pronouncements, even falsely accusing – even unfairly “demonizing” or trying to “shout down” – the right about this or that thing?
Sure they do, being human and all.
But there is just no comparison between the left and the right on that. The right is far, far worse, by every measure and in every direction. Examples abound, and you know it.
“good and competent” government starts with the people that are selected to be in it. Competence to me means having the intellectual, educational and value based capacity to design and implement programs and activities that benefit people and are fair. Good, follows that. When all that make it to government are chronies with links to businesses and organizations that will benefit from their decisions, right off, you are on the wrong foot.
As you know, its pretty difficult to give you a couple of superficial definitions, but you know that having crooked, unaccountable people in office is not good or competent. You also know that even the most well meaning make mistakes — valid mistakes.
I would say that its pretty hard to have people in government who do not respect the valid role of government. That is what I believe we had under the majority of administrations in the last 40 years or so and that has hugely impacted the quality of not only decisions that government has made, but also slopped over into the private sector, which is experiencing poor leadership every bit as profound. In sum, we are definitely NOT in a golden age of leadership — or of responsible citizenship either…
How do you feel about term limits?
Snarki, child of Loki
Yes, that’s very true! Growth of MINUS 500 percent is unprecedented in the USA.
Why, Pawlenty will bring to his treatment of the US economy the same “talent” and “expertise” that he did to the I-35W bridge.
I think that the voters exert term limits on those who are in office. I think term limits (artifically imposed), actually can hamper good governance by eliminating experienced office holders and allowing the election of leaders only interested in the short term impacts of their decisions. Who cares if your policies have terrible consequences in year 10 if you are only around for years 1 through 5?
There is no short cut for having citizens retain responsibility for when someone needs to leave office.
Sure, Elle, engage the fucking fascist all you want, but realize you’ll get no farther than I did with my wife’s wingnut lawyer cousin and his utterly disengenuous claims about paying over 50% of his income in taxes.
Fascists lie and obfuscate. It’s fundamental.
Is anyone with a brain in their head surprised at the substance of the post here (that the entire cadre seeking the fascist nomination for president are lying through their teeth about taxes)?
That good little brownshirt trolls like Makewi show up to mis-direct, rather than attempt the impossible task of refuting the post (or admit that the entire set of presidential candidates on “his team” are total lying fucks about such basic and ultra-important political topics like taxes) is no surprise, either.
Even that’s only correct to the extent that the $1 in taxes cut was financed by deficit spending, since the government was already spending that $1. If, on the other hand, the $1 in taxes cut resulted in a $1 cut in government spending, GDP wouldn’t have increased at all. (Ignoring differing multiplier effects from the private vs. government uses of that $1).
DFH @ 71 —
I’m acquainted with Mankewi through his comments here. While I do not share his views, it doesnt hurt me to be civil. He can do what he wants or say what he wants but I don’t think I need him to define how I behave. He has been civil to me so I will be civil to him but tell him what I think and believe.
Believe me, I am not perfect and have been known to pop off at some of the more extreme characters who comment here from time to time. So I am not above calling a commenter a name or two. That said, it really doesnt convince them or me of anything and sure gets everyone used to calling each other names as an end in itself. As much as I sometimes do it, can’t say that it really helps anything much and usually I get all worked up and in a bad mood. Also.
Just sayin… raising the rhetoric really ends up being the successful game for the Repubs and right wingers. It makes everyone look distorted and helps obscure their craziness with projecting our own…
I’ve seen hundreds of those signs, but never one vandalized in that manner. But I’ve got to say that those signs are a huge rhetoric fail. They should have said, “funded by THE STIMULUS ACT”, since most people have no idea what the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” is.
Uh, my point isn’t that we should have no more wars, though all things being equal fewer would be better. My point is that we shouldn’t have any more wars that (a) cost a fantastic amount of money, (b) do nothing to promote the national strategic interest.
@72 Tonal Crow:
I myself didn’t understand what Martin was getting at.
Tonal – 72 – nope, the extra buck goes into a bond purchase & the net direct effect is zero. At least empirically, nobody has shown any growth benefit of tax cuts, least of all the 1981 which was followed by a killer recession.
It would be an interesting conversation, I think, to get into the details of what it means to “benefit people” and “fair”. This starts to get into the area of the proper role of government, where the differences between the “sides” start to really come out. If you want to have responsible citizens though, you need to be able to come up with a range of ideas on what they should be looking for. A way to measure if their reps are meeting the definitions.
I know what your point was. Your first point requires a crystal ball and your second is a debatable point.
You mean a treasury bond purchase? In that case, yes, the tax cut has no effect on GDP, but serves only to increase the federal deficit, unless it’s also accompanied by $1 in government spending cuts, in which case it reduces GDP by $1 times some multiplier.
That’s my understanding as well, though I’ve never read a scholarly analysis of the topic. Do you know of one?
I cuss sometimes. It’s not meant to be “civil”, obviously.
Your choice to be civil with the likes of Makewi is surely yours to make, and I have (and should have) no say in that.
But for over 40 years I’ve not felt the need to be civil to fascists, enemies of mankind that they are (makes me a joy at family reunions, as recounted above).
You can consider me to be “name-calling”; I consider it calling a spade a spade.
And Makewi, for all his “civility” and feigned sadness over a lost time “when this blog used to be a place that the ideas of both sides could share the same space”, is a fascist, a brownshirt, and – in this venue – a troll (the “fucking” modifier was added solely for emphasis).
I’m not interested in “convincing” him of anything, only in pointing out his obvious fascist brownshirt trollery. Like mis-directing rather than engaging with the topic of the post.
YMMV, of course.
Tonal – Mike Kimel has a book & blog that are the closest I’ve seen to looking at the record rather than the theory.
It seems to be that term limits also encourage machine politics: if your party is organized enough you can rotate the same bunch of party hacks through the available elected positions and guarantee them lengthy careers. As a bonus, they don’t have to stick around and pay for any decisions they made in any particular office.
@ericblair: It also seems likely that term limits would accelerate the revolving door between government and business. With no chance of a stable legislative career, legislators will *need* to use their terms to further their post-legislative monetary interests.
Well, keep in mind that the Laffer Curve *is* real, but we’re nowhere near it.
The Laffer Curve is like a supply/demand price graph, where there’s a point that will maximize profit.
Imagine the top marginal rate is 90%. If you pay yourself an extra million, you’ll take home $100,000. Well, you’ll *never* pay yourself that extra million. You’ll find *something* that’s tax deductible to use the money on. You’ll hire your mistress as a “personal secretary” because her salary only costs you ten cents on the dollar. You’ll donate to charity. You’ll hire extra workers just to make sure product quality is top notch. So, the feds don’t get that 90% tax rate.
The lower that top rate is, the more likely people will take the money as income instead. The more money goes home as income, the more money is taxed, and that can mean a revenue increase.
Of course, if you drop it low enough, you start losing money. At a top marginal rate of 30%, there’s not much difference between that and 25%. Dropping the top marginal rate by 16.67% (30% to 25%) is *not* going to increase income paid enough to offset the decrease in rates.
That’s where we are now. Dropping the rates won’t increase revenue.
So, why did revenue increase under Bush? Well, primarily because the economy keeps growing, unless something hideous goes wrong. And remember, his tax cuts were staggered.
I agree, in principle, that most of the debate should be on “where to draw the lines” regarding roles/policies of the government. I also recognize that where I draw the line will never match up with where others will draw the lines so I am generally open to compromise and not getting all that I want.
What I hate, and what I believe is more than evidenced enough over my lifetime, is there is no honest debate from one side.
I try and engage people of all political stripes because I think it helps me learn and come to the best possible outcomes. But when I engage people on the right, say for example on health care reform, I start with this – “Do you believe the system needs reform?” if the answer is yes, then I go “Do you believe we need to, in some fashion, subsidize those who can not afford it?”. If the answer is yes, I ask why, after they have already told me the ACA is Hitler reborn, “What would you do differently, as the ACA is essentially the historical Republican health care system fix?”. And the answer, always, is “Something else”.
No specifics, no plans, no addressing the problems. Just “something else”. And then they act as if they have solved the problem and they move on. “Something else” is code for “nothing, I don’t really want what I said I did, but I said it because if I don’t say those platitudes my horns will show”.
We get trolls on here all the time going “so wheres your plan lefty?”. And within minutes several people have chimed in with exactly what they want. Concrete, actual policies which can be measured and have historically proven to be successful. Every single time. Not once from anyone on the right.
The modern right wants to talk a good game about “caring” but when push comes to shove to get something done it’s always “something else” and they punt down the road and do things counter to what they publicly say the care about.
‘deeply disingenuous’ is such an elegant substitute for ‘lying’…