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The GOP’s Lies And ‘Monstrous’ Lies

In politics these days, there are lies, “monstrous lies,” and statistics. By lies I mean the mundane nonsense that dribbles out of politicians’ mouths when the facts don’t suit them or they just don’t know any better. By “monstrous lies,” if I can borrow the phrase of the moment, I refer to the grander deceptions swallowed by whole political movements, delusions and deceptions that infect larger issues of policy and worldview.

Statistics in this case, along with pesky facts, help expose and distinguish the two species of falsehood—both of which have been on dramatic display during the GOP presidential primary campaign.

Take, for example, Michele Bachmann, who is practically a walking, talking full-employment plan for journalistic fact-checkers. Appearing at last week’s Republican debate (sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express—does that mean that the Tea Party is now part of the lamestream media?), Bachmann repeated a favorite talking point, that the Constitution forbids states to mandate that their citizens buy health insurance, Romneycare-style. “If you believe that states can have it and that it’s constitutional, you’re not committed” to repealing the Affordable Care Act, she argued. But the conservative case against the healthcare law rests on the notion that because the Constitution does not explicitly authorize such a law, the federal government is barred from instituting one. Since the 10th Amendment reserves powers not delegated to the federal government back to the states, it is constitutional for, say, Massachusetts to require its citizens to purchase health insurance (or car insurance, for that matter). Bachmann’s stance, one blogger at the influential conservative blog Red State argued, is “either ignorance on display or dishonest pandering.”

Bachmann was even more egregious after the debate, when she went on Fox News Channel, and later the Today show, and asserted that Gardasil, the vaccine that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had tried to mandate for Texas schoolgirls, caused “mental retardation.” It’s such whole-cloth twaddle that even the likes of Rush Limbaugh (“she might have jumped the shark”) and the Weekly Standard (“Bachmann seemed to go off the deep end”) blasted her for it.

But Bachmann is literally and figuratively small potatoes, Perry’s arrival having returned her to the lower tier of GOP contenders. And she is minor league compared to Perry in the “monstrous lie” department.

The phrase of course comes from his memorable description of Social Security. “It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’ve paid into a program that’s going to be there,” Perry said at his first presidential debate. “Anybody that’s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and that’s not right.” Elsewhere he has called the program “by any measure … a failure” and cited it as “by far the best example” of an extra-constitutional program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.”

It’s a catchy turn of argument, but one monstrously divorced from reality. His “failure” kept nearly 14 million seniors and 1.1 million children out of poverty last year, according to Census Bureau data. Here are the facts about Social Security: Without any modification, it will pay out full benefits for the next 24 years. Starting in 2035, its trust fund will no longer be able to pay full benefits. Instead it will pay roughly three quarters benefits through 2084, which is as foreseeable a future as anyone can peer into in these matters—a problematic future, but hardly a monstrous one and certainly not an impossible one.

Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has produced 30 policy recommendations, some combination of which could fix the Social Security shortfall. Here’s one: Remove the payroll tax cap so that more wages are subject to the payroll tax. That would make the program solvent for the 75-year window—again, hardly a monstrous situation. (To put it another way, the Social Security shortfall figures to be roughly 0.8 percent of GDP—roughly the same as the cost of extending the Bush tax cuts over the same period.)

Social Security wasn’t the only topic this week of Texas-size Perry misinformation. Obama “had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus,” Perry said. “It created zero jobs.”

This gem—a staple of GOP talking points—earned a “Pants on Fire” rating from PolitiFact, which pointed to several independent analyses that came to quite different conclusions. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the first round of stimulus created or saved between 1.3 million and 3.6 million jobs; HIS/Global Insight put the number at 2.45 million, Macroeconomic Advisers at 2.3 million, and Moody’s Economy.com at 2.5 million. The GOP may disdain jobs that come from public spending (recall Speaker John Boehner’s “so be it” comment when asked about budget cuts leading to fewer jobs), but they cannot seriously argue that the economy would be better off if the ranks of the unemployed were 2.5 million persons more swollen. So instead forgo the inconvenient truth in favor of the monstrous lie.

These lies are monstrous because they are not one-offs, but are central to the GOP case—that Social Security (except, they are quick to add, for those currently on it) and the stimulus plan don’t work. So they have real-world policy consequences—see the emerging conservative line of attack against Obama’s American Jobs Act, that it is a stimulus retread. “Four hundred-plus billion dollars in this package,” Perry concluded at the debate. “And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.”

He may be able to do math, but his grasp on the facts is tenuous at best.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, September 22, 2011

September 22, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not About Job Creation Stupid!: I Am A Job Creator Who Creates No Jobs

I am a job creator.

I am not a job creator in the sense that I actually create jobs. I have never knowingly created a job, and my long-term business plan, approved unanimously by my board of directors, does not call for the creation of a single one.

But I am a job creator in the sense Republicans mean when they say “don’t tax our job creators more” (House budget committee Chairman Paul Ryan) or “we cannot increase taxes on the job creators” (House Speaker John A. Boehner). This is because, in the eyes of the government, I am a small business — and, as the House Republicans liketosay, “small businesses are the job creators.”

Like the overwhelming majority of small businesses, I am a one-man operation. And, like most small businesses, I would not hire anybody even if the government dropped my tax rate to zero.

According to Small Business Administration statistics, based on 2009 Census data, 21.1 million of the 27 million small businesses in the United States are “non-employer firms,” which have no workers other than the owner. Of those, 18.7 million are “sole proprietors,” 950,000 are partnerships and 1.4 million are corporations, like me.

When lawmakers talk about small businesses as the engine of growth, they bring to mind entrepreneurs building start-ups from their garages. But when officials talk about protecting the “job creators” from tax hikes, they are mostly protecting a bunch of doctors, lawyers, freelancers, contractors and the like.

On the advice of my accountants, I formed a “C corporation,” which means that, as a legal entity, I am pretty much the same as General Motors and Google. But I run a lean operation. While my business, Ink-Stained Inc., produces the occasional book, TV appearance and speech, it is probably not going to win any best-prac­tices awards.

Disagreement is rare during board meetings at Ink-Stained Inc. world headquarters (my house), because I am the chairman, chief executive, president, treasurer, secretary, chief technology officer and mail-room clerk. Occasionally board members complain about environmental regulations, not because these regulations affect us but because that is what we have heard corporations are supposed to do.

We administer a modest pension plan for our sole employee, and we reimburse a few health-care expenses. We have big, professional-looking checks, and we attempt to keep our accounts balanced, although our chief financial officer (also me) is a lagging performer. We once considered hiring our wife as a consultant to help us organize our finances, but the HR department was unable to come to terms with her. We have so far repelled all attempts at unionization.

I should add that I am in no danger of being caught in the net of President Obama’s proposed millionaires’ tax. I pay the accountants a few thousand dollars, and they make sure I am not paying more in taxes than I should be. (Note to the IRS: They do this in ways that are conservative, entirely above-board and so innocuous that they should not attract your interest in the slightest.)

While there is something absurd about being a one-man corporation, it’s a rational response to an irrational tax code. If lawmakers got serious about tax reform that removed loopholes, the money spent on accountants and actuaries (valuable though they are) could instead be used to grow the economy or to pay the federal debt. But that’s a matter for another day.

At the moment, the Ink-Stained Inc. case study, should the Harvard Business School wish to study it, is a reminder to be skeptical of the “job creator” argument in the tax debate. “It’s a good example of the murkiness of what we mean by small business and the connection to jobs,” William Gale, co-director of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution’s Tax Policy Center, told me. “There’s sort of this notion of small-business innovation and job creation that just doesn’t necessarily hold.”

That’s even more so with Obama’s “Buffett Rule,” under which millionaires would have to pay a higher tax rate than a typical middle-class worker. As a practical matter, most already do. Gale said the rule would raise the taxes on only a few thousand people, perhaps as few as 1,000.

In a nation of more than 300 million, that’s not going to make a dent in job creation. Even the data analysts at Ink-Stained Inc. could figure out that one — that is, if we had any data analysts.

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 21, 2011

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Corporations, Economy, Ideologues, Ideology, IRS, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Boehner In GOP Fantasyland

One wonders why Congress convened its budget-reforming “supercommittee” at all; House Speaker John Boehner (R) on Thursday announced that he’d done all its members’ work for them.

At a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, Boehner articulated a hard-right line on taxes that even the most moderate of Democrats could never accept. Remove loopholes from the tax code, he argued, but “not for the purpose of bringing more money into the government.” Tax increases? Not a chance — they “are off the table,” Boehner said, repeating the dubious argument that planning to raise revenue many years down the road would hurt job creation now. If you’re looking for deficit reduction, Boehner barked, “the joint committee only has one option — spending cuts and entitlement reform.”

A new Bloomberg poll on Thursday reconfirmed voter anger at Washington’s inability to compromise — on budgets, on jobs policy, on long-term deficits. On the same day, the speaker gave a lesson by example of why it’s been so hard.

True, Boehner’s speech followed news that President Obama is scaling back the entitlement reforms he would favor in a long-term budget reform package, retreating from concessions he was willing to make over the summer to strike a debt deal. Both sides, then, are hardening their positions. But Obama’s remains politically braver than Boehner’s, since the president says he still wants to achieve some balance between raising revenue and cutting spending through reforms to Medicare, the protection of which Democrats are desperate to use as a campaign issue.

That is the key to deficit-cutting, drilled home in study after study: You can’t expect to fix America’s finances with tax increases alone or with spending cuts alone. Plans that lack this essential balance would fail either because their math doesn’t add up (the GOP’s Ryan plan) or because they would be reversed the second the other party took control of the government (the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s proposal…and the Ryan plan).

A deficit plan must also be balanced in another way — against premature budget austerity while the economy is sluggish, which Obama designed his latest jobs plan to avoid. Boehner said on Thursday there might be room for limited agreement with Obama. But not much, signalling disapproval of even the sorts of temporary tax cuts that would have been an obvious choice for Republicans for decades — until now.

Boehner might just be gearing up for further negotiations. But the speaker’s demonstration that he and his party are still in thrall to the ideological fantasies he described on Thursday aren’t going to enhance Americans’ confidence — in their leaders, or in their economic future.

 

By: Stephen Stromberg, The Washington Post, September 15, 2011

September 18, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memo To Speaker Boehner: Time To Get Off “My Way Or The Highway” Hypocrisy

In a wide-ranging speech about jobs and the budget on Thursday, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) trumpeted the worthy goals of cleaning up the tax code and reducing long-term deficits, and he had a few promising words about how to achieve them. “If we want to create a better environment for job creation,” the speaker said, “politicians of all stripes can leave the ‘my way or the highway’ philosophy behind.”

Yet Mr. Boehner also insisted that Congress’s Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has only “one option”: the Republican way.

President Obama has proposed a jobs plan, but there’s only one job the GOP wants.

Congress should remove inefficient carve-outs, credits and loopholes in the tax code, he said, but “not for the purposes of bringing more money into the government.” Tax increases “are off the table.” “Spending cuts and entitlement reform” are the only ways the joint committee can reach its $1.5 trillion deficit-reduction target.

Mr. Boehner isn’t the only one toughening his stance as the joint committee gets underway. President Obama is retreating from reforms to Social Security that he was ready to consider during the summer debt-limit negotiations. But Mr. Obama still expresses a willingness to reform Medicare, an ideological and political compromise.

Willingness on both sides is essential. Reams of expert studies have found that any deal to significantly reduce long-term deficits must achieve a balance between money-saving reforms to increasingly expensive entitlement programs and a sizable boost in federal revenue. Plans that don’t reflect this balance would fail because their math wouldn’t add up, they wouldn’t be politically durable, or both.

While planning for long-term fiscal sustainability, Congress also cannot risk enhancing economic hardship now by moving too quickly toward budget austerity. Mr. Obama’s recently announced jobs plan seeks to avoid this with new spending and temporary tax cuts that economists say will help guard against a double-dip recession. Here, too, however, Mr. Boehner indicated Thursday that the chances for cooperation with Republicans is limited, saying that he doesn’t favor “short-term gimmicks.”

Poll after poll has shown that Washington leaders’ inability to surrender ideological ground is poisoning Americans’ faith in their national leadership — perhaps even in the very institutions of government. Mr. Boehner and his party should live up to the speaker’s own standard — and leave the “my way or the highway” philosophy behind.

 

By: Editorial Board, The New York Times, September 16, 2011

September 18, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Crisis, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Tax Increases, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed, Wealthy | , , , | Leave a comment

GOP ‘Jobs Agenda’ Revives Ineffective Business Tax Giveaway

This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) released a memo outlining the House GOP’s supposed “jobs agenda.” In addition to being an assault on organized labor and recommending the elimination of environmental regulations that save tens of thousands of lives every year, the document proposes reviving some of the GOP’s favorite tax cuts, including the so-called “20% Small Business Tax Deduction.”

This particular idea made an appearance in both an “economic plan” that Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) presented to President Obama in 2009 and the GOP’s 2010 Pledge to America. The policy would allow businesses to deduct 20 percent of their income from their taxes, and in Cantor’s words, “immediately free up funds for small business people to retain and hire new employees, and reinvest in and grow their businesses.”

However, as Citizens for Tax Justice pointed out in 2009, there is little reason to think this tax break would be anything but a boondoggle:

The Republican plan proposes to allow a “small business” to take a tax deduction of 20 percent of its pretax income, whether the small business is a corporation or a sole proprietor. The plan defines a “small business” as one with 500 or fewer employees. It makes no distinction based on income. A “small business” making $100 million would get to deduct $20 million of its income right off the top. (Apparently, a company with slightly more than 500 employees would have an incentive to lay off staff to qualify for the tax break!) […]

A business tax cut is just about the least effective stimulus measure Congress could possibly enact. The tax cuts put more money in the hands of business. But there is very little correlation between a corporation’s cash position and its plans for investment—whether expanding capacity or hiring new employees. Businesses invest in expansion when they believe there will be an increase in the demand for the goods and services they provide. If they don’t anticipate a sales increase, they won’t expand no matter how many tax breaks the federal government gives them.

And the Center for American Progress’ Christian Weller noted in 2010 that, while the credit is restricted to business with fewer than 500 employees, it’s still “an ‘upside-down’ tax break that gives the largest benefits to those who already have the highest incomes” because the amount of the deduction is contingent on which tax bracket a business files in (the higher the tax bracket, the more the deduction is worth):

A deduction reduces the taxable income and thus the taxes that somebody has to pay. A business owner with lots of business and other income will thus get a government subsidy of 35 cents for each dollar in deduction, while a small business owner in the 15 percent tax bracket will get 15 cents for each dollar in deductions…Larger businesses could easily use this windfall to outcompete smaller businesses. A larger business owner with a 35 percent marginal tax rate will get a benefit that is 133 percent greater than the benefit that a smaller business owner with a 15 percent marginal tax rate gets for each dollar in tax deduction.

But for the GOP, this idea is so good that it’s worth bringing up over and over again.

 

By: Pat Garofalo, ThinkProgress, September 3, 2011

September 4, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Businesses, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Economy, Environment, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Small Businesses, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployment | , , , | Leave a comment

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