It’s the Taxes (Above all Else)

Unseriousness and lack of conservatism from Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan on Fox News Sunday this weekend:

WALLACE: OK, but let’s assume it doesn’t. The question is, what’s more important to Romney? Would he scale back on the 20 percent tax cut for the wealthy? Would he scale back and say, OK, you know, we’re going to have to raise taxes for the middle class?

I guess the question is what’s most important to him in his tax reform plan?

RYAN: Keeping tax rates down. By lowering tax rates, people keep more of the next dollar that they earn. That matters. That is incentives. That’s pro-growth policy. That creates 7 million jobs. And what should go first…

WALLACE: So that’s more important than…

RYAN: That’s more important than anything. And more importantly, it’s not what deductions are in the tax code but it’s who gets them.

Now, this answer should not be surprising, and I understand why it is appealing.  However, it is another example of profound unseriousness about government and, dare I say it, it is not a conservative idea at all.

First, I understand the appeal because most people, myself included, find a fundamental appeal in the notion that people should keep what they earn and also find the bromide that tends to go along with such conversations, that individuals know better than the government how to spend their money, to have a visceral appeal.   The problem, of course, is that there has to be some level of taxation to have a government, even the most minimal thereof.  As such, we all are going to have to part with some of what we earn as the price for living in a society (indeed, our ability to earn money and retain property disappears without government, so there is an important synergy between me giving up some of what I earn in exchange for a stable environment in which to earn it).  Further it has to be acknowledged that sometimes collective spending is more efficient than the sum of individual spending (and unassailable example would be national defense).   All of this simply points to the fact that taxes are requisite for society, although it certainly does not tell us what the appropriate level of taxation should be.   Still, given the reality of taxes, it might be useful to speak about them as the necessity that they are, rather than always making them sound like theft.

Second, the focus on cutting taxes is indicative of a lack of seriousness about governing.  We have policies in place that cost money, and the reason we are in debt is because we are spending more on those policies than we are bringing in.  As such, hard and real choices have to be made and one cannot promise all the pleasure and none of the pain.   Further, it runs counter to our experience of the last decade.  Cutting taxes did not magically create growth.  A serious person, something that some have alleged to be true of both Romney and Ryan, requires acquiescence to basic facts.

Third, this is not what I would consider a conservative approach, which should be marked by a realistic and responsible approach to finances.  This means taking seriously debts, deficits, and policy obligations while recognizing that a move to a sustainable future will require taxes and spending cuts.  There was a time that I thought “conservative” meant responsible and acknowledgement of reality, even when reality wasn’t pleasant. Perhaps it was never thus, but it is rather difficult to argue that it is the case at the moment.

To promise tax cuts as the sine qua non of policy is to promise an obese person that they can have some more cake and candy and that, don’t worry, the weight will come off somehow.  Because it will, that’s why.

h/t:  Greg Sargent

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    While most of the quoted portion of the interview is standard Republican red meat, I found the line “And more importantly, it’s not what deductions are in the tax code but it’s who gets them.”
    most interesting. Class warfare on behalf of the upper classes strikes again.

  2. Rafer Janders says:

    However, it is another example of profound unseriousness about government and, dare I say it, it is not a conservative idea at all.

    Oh, I wouldn’t say it’s not conservative. Conservatism, in the various forms it’s taken throughout history, has always been, at base, about protecting the power and privileges of the ruling order, of maintaining the status quo. The essence of conservatism is not and never has been “a realistic and responsible approach to finances” — it’s all about keeping the rich on top and the poor on bottom. The rest is window dressing.

  3. john personna says:

    Didn’t Ryan defeat all his own logic when he said these words:

    “It’s revenue neutral.”

    Has anyone asked Romney/Ryan, if it’s revenue neutral, why bother?

    Sure, I’d back a revenue neutral tax simplification in the abstract, for beauty and economic efficiency, but something revenue neutral cannot by definition be a revenue enhancer, nor even a powerful stimulus.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    “…Keeping tax rates down. By lowering tax rates, people keep more of the next dollar that they earn. That matters. That is incentives. That’s pro-growth policy. That creates 7 million jobs…”

    You know…I’m just f’ing tired of this nonsense.
    We have had historically low taxes for over a decade.
    Romney’s own taxes put the lie to the idea that we are a high tax nation.
    So were is the job growth…if low taxes drive job growth…when does that actually…you know…start?
    I like to think the American electorate is not buying this line of BS any more.
    But I don’t have that much faith in us.

  5. john personna says:

    The “it’s revenue neutral” bit, repeated twice, is more clearly quoted here.

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    First, I understand the appeal because most people, myself included, find a fundamental appeal in….the bromide that tends to go along with such conversations, that individuals know better than the government how to spend their money, to have a visceral appeal.

    It does have a visceral appeal. It is also deeply stupid and wrong. Certainly, I know better than the government how to spend on my IMMEDIATE needs — what I want for dinner, what coat I want to buy, etc. But once it gets beyond my immediate needs, I live in a society along with millions of other people, and I have no idea how to spend money in conjunction with them. I have no idea how to allocate money for the police, the fire department, child protective services, sewers, railroad easements, drilling rights, the maintenance of a five ocean navy, etc.

    Whenever you feel that something has a “visceral appeal”, check yourself by remembering Mencken: “For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, clear and wrong.”

  7. Mikey says:

    As such, hard and real choices have to be made and one cannot promise all the pleasure and none of the pain.

    Well, we know you’ll never be a politician, not with an attitude like that.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    First, I understand the appeal because most people, myself included, find a fundamental appeal in the notion that people should keep what they earn

    Sure, but they should also pay for what they use, and it is this part that “conservatives” want to avoid.

    Cutting taxes did not magically create growth.

    No, but electing Romney will magically create growth. Really! Just ask him.

    There was a time that I thought “conservative” meant responsible and acknowledgement of reality, even when reality wasn’t pleasant.

    Ahhh the naivete of youth….. 😉

    To promise tax cuts as the sine qua non of policy

    Steven, tax cuts have been known to rebuild blown engines, plug leaky roofs, and stop dripping faucets. Don’t you know anything? They are the Duct Tape of economic theory!

  9. @Rafer Janders:

    Conservatism, in the various forms it’s taken throughout history, has always been, at base, about protecting the power and privileges of the ruling order, of maintaining the status quo.

    A fair and correct point.

  10. @john personna:

    Has anyone asked Romney/Ryan, if it’s revenue neutral, why bother?

    Yes, that has occurred to me as well. It doesn’t make sense.

  11. C. Clavin says:
  12. homerhk says:

    Thanks JP for raising that point about revenue neutrality and purpose. Reading/listening to RyanRomney the question on my lips is how can a Presidential election be won on the basis of simply rejigging tax policy so that the exact same revenue comes in AND everyone pays the same proportion as they were paying previously? Of course, that’s not the point – the point is that wealthy will get a tax cut and everyone else will pay for that.

    I also note how that study produced by the Tax Policy Centre is now described by Ryan and Romney as ‘discredited’. How exactly has it been discredited? Is it just enough now to say something is wrong and then term it discredited? Ridiculous, really and would be funny if not so deadly serious.

  13. Eric Florack says:

    the topic you’ll recall is getting the economy moving again. Raising taxes ever helps the economy. What Ryan is engaged in here, then, is the recognition of that.

    What’s not conservative about that? That is certainly a fact that liberals above ignoring for generations.

  14. Steven, are you talking about a serious person, or Very Serious People™?

  15. john personna says:

    @Eric Florack:

    But it’s revenue neutral, Eric.

  16. Rick Almeida says:

    @Eric Florack:

    What’s not conservative, Eric, are these two ideas:

    1) “We can have dessert first and worry about vegetables later”
    2) “We should cut taxes, raise the deficit, and still cut services to most people.”

    Even if economic growth is an inherently conservative goal (which it isn’t), there is nothing conservative about “gratification now” or “borrow and cut”.

  17. john personna says:

    @Rick Almeida:

    I think Steven’s original piece and your comment center on what we think is the ulterior motive of the Romney/Ryan plan. We think that there must be some tax cuts hidden in there. We think that must be the reason they don’t name credits and deductions to be eliminated.

    I get that. What’s interesting is that Romney/Ryan can’t stand foursquare for tax reduction. They know the data and that tax cuts do not always generate growth. And so they are using a muted form of semaphore. They want their partisans to believe they are really following the tax-cut-growth plan without them ever saying so.

    Actually, even with them claiming the opposite, that their plan is revenue neutral.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @ Florack…
    “…the topic you’ll recall is getting the economy moving again. Raising taxes ever helps the economy…”
    Well except that Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton all raised taxes and we had the longest run without a recession in modern history.
    A reasonable person, that confronted with facts, might change their opinion.
    I’m betting that you, like all Republicans generally and Romney/Ryan specifically, will simply continue to ignore the facts.

  19. MBunge says:

    @Eric Florack: “Raising taxes ever helps the economy.”

    What evidence is that based on?

    Mike

  20. gVOR08 says:

    Within the Republican bubble, “deficit reduction” is a synonym for “tax cut”. Yes, that’s illogical, but it’s true. Arithmetic has a well known liberal bias.

    Krugman was contemplating whether Ryan knows he’s lying, or is he so innumerate he actually doesn’t recognize his own BS. Personally, I think the question is a false dichotomy to which the answer is “yes”.

    It looks like Romney will at least perform the public service of taking Ryan off the stage with him.

  21. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t see anything in that quote that is not conservative orthodoxy for over the last thirty years, which is an emphasis on lowering marginal income tax rates. Even the sainted Jon Huntsman rejected a ten-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax-hikes.

  22. Eric Florack says:

    Ummm typo.

    Correction: NEVER helps

    Pre coffee, sorry.

  23. mantis says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I don’t see anything in that quote that is not conservative orthodoxy for over the last thirty years, which is an emphasis on lowering marginal income tax rates. Even the sainted Jon Huntsman rejected a ten-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax-hikes.

    In other words, not a damned one of them is fit to govern. At least not in reality. Maybe they would do well in Eve Online or something.

  24. PD Shaw says:

    @john personna: I believe marginal tax cuts arrived at by eliminating deductions (to be named later) will be scored as revenue-enhancing by the CBO. Whether that model is accurate is another question, but it probably cannot be questioned by people who used the model to assume the multiplier effect of the Democratic stimulus.

    I tend to think _significant_ elimination of credits and deductions would increase growth and revenues, but the failure to name what will be eliminated indicates the politics may only result in minimal eliminations.

  25. Eric Florack says:

    @Rick Almeida: Perhaps you’ve neglected the people who actually pay those taxes?

    History shows us that cutting tax rates raises the income at the federal tax coffers… because it also has a tendency to grow the economy. You present this, Rick, as an either/or situation, and that it most certainly is not.
    And let’s have a look at the history of the “Solutions” you clearly support:

    Of course, the pattern starts before this, but

    Let’s start with FDR, who extendedthedepression with his policies. The only thing that got him out of trouble was the attack on Pearl Harbor… which historians tell us he very likely knew about well in advance and covered it up afterward.
    Then along comes Johnson and his expansion of government power and taxing with his “Great Society”, which was an unmitigated disaster for the American economy. .
    Next up, Jimmy Carter, whose presidency was marked by massive inflation,reaching up toaround 15% (Part of which, admittedly was caused by Johnson) massive taxes and massive spending, and an economy which looked hopeless in terms of recovery. When presented with these problems, Carter did what a good little leftist would do… he increased taxes and grew government to theretofore unprecedented levels. He thus made the problems worse. And in typical leftist fashion when presented with these facts, blamed the American people for their “Malaise”. What a leader!
    Next up was Bill Clinton who inherited an economy coming off the longest upswing in the history of the world. By the time he got done, and for the final year of his two-term presidency, the economy was in downward spiral, so much so that the Clinton White House was forced to using accounting tricks to keep a label of “recession” being tied to the result of his policies. The reason he didn’t get us into worse shape was simply that we were in so strong a position from Reagan/Bush when he took over. It took years to recover from his misdeeds.
    And now, of course Obama and company. He’s certainly made a mess of things. And like FDR, may have seen his only means of escape from the noose he’s set himself, being to arrange for a little military action. He knew of the Benghazi attack well in advance and in spite of this actually pulled back the defenses and offered up US personnel to the enemies of the US and afterward, engaged in a coverup about it.

    In all these cases, the stated object of the leftist policies imposed was to create a situation of greater “Fairness’ on the income side of the equation. Yet, every single one of the Democrat presidents saw their policies kill off income gains in every income group BUT the rich… among whom, the Democrat pols count themselves.

    Every time we’ve elected Democrats to the White House, the economy takes a decidedly southward turn.

    Every single time.

    With the pattern this firmly established, why on earth is anyone so shocked at our current situation?

    The patterns are well-established. When the left gains power first thing it does is wage war on the successful. Well, I’ve said this before, but I’ve yet to see an answer… When you make enemies of the successful, when you wage war on those who make money, those who create, those of who know how to make a buck, and those who are thus contributing the most to this society, in order to support those who do not, why is anyone surprised when the economy takes a dump?

  26. Stan says:

    @Eric Florack: Please explain why cutting taxes stimulates the economy but government spending on infrastructure doesn’t.

  27. Stan says:

    @Eric Florack: You’ve mischaracterized the situation when Clinton took office. But I expect you know that.

  28. mantis says:

    @Eric Florack:

    When you’re linking to Ted Nugent as an economics expert, you’ve already won! Great job, bithead!

  29. mantis says:

    @Stan:

    Please explain why cutting taxes stimulates the economy but government spending on infrastructure doesn’t.

    He would, but he doesn’t have time to explain the math. You’ll just have to trust him.

  30. legion says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Yes, that has occurred to me as well. It doesn’t make sense.

    Actually, it makes perfect sense _if_ you recognize what Ryan _isn’t_ saying along with what he _is_ saying. He’s telling _everyone_ “we’re going to keep it revenue neutral” and “we’re going to cut you rates”. The only way that’s possible is, as he notes, by “broadening the base”, as he calls it – cutting out deductions so that people pay something close to the advertised tax rate.

    The part he _doesn’t_ say is the rub – the details on what deductions would be pulled and which classes would be affected (and therefore see their overall tax burden rise). I can absolutely guarantee you he’s not going to raise the capital gains tax. I don’t expect there will be any change to the sweetheart deal hedge funds get either. There _are_ a lot of deductions that high-end earners get that could stand to be removed, but the more adamantly they refuse to give details, the more likely it is that their “plan” is simply to make taxes more and more regressive.

  31. mattb says:

    @mantis:

    When you’re linking to Ted Nugent as an economics expert, you’ve already won! Great job, bithead!

    You missed a few days ago when he linked to Dick Morris as an authority on polling.

  32. Rob in CT says:

    That is a really impressive reality distortion field you’ve got there, Eric.

  33. Moosebreath says:

    bithead,

    “Every time we’ve elected Democrats to the White House, the economy takes a decidedly southward turn.

    Every single time.”

    This is completely and utterly false. To the contrary, under every measure of economic health, from GDP to jobs created, stock markets to national debt, since WWII the record of Democrats far exceeds that of Republicans.

    For example, here’s the stats on employment.

  34. john personna says:

    @PD Shaw:

    We know that both sides “supply” some inputs which should be outputs for CBO models. Obama and Romney, for instance, posit GDP growth rates hitting 4% fairly soon, rather than letting the CBO generate them from prior patterns.

    That said, it is particularly disingenuous to speak of CBO “models” of the Romney or Ryan plans because they go far further than Obama or precedent in simply asserting things. Romney cuts the headline rate and then tells the CBO to assume revenue neutrality.

    So of course with those inputs the CBO cannot avoid the math. With 4% GDP growth (an input) and tax rate neutrality (an input) the unavoidable conclusion is increased net revenues.

    Of course it’s all a fairy tale.

    I tend to think _significant_ elimination of credits and deductions would increase growth and revenues, but the failure to name what will be eliminated indicates the politics may only result in minimal eliminations.

    It strikes me that if you are going to make this argument, you have to do it specifically and cannot do it generally. When we have a choice of taxing A or B, we have to examine A and B for growth potential.

    I mean what’s the math, forgetting fairness issues and concentrating on GDP, for the home mortgage deduction? Does eliminating it create enough other spending to compensate for the reduction in home sales?

    I might be on board for many of these changes, but I want to see them. I think the “generic” argument is BS, particularly when it is suggested as a driver for high growth. Increased economic efficiency is going to have good cumulative benefits over the long term. It is not going to make everyone run down to the bank, empty their accounts, and spend spend spend.

  35. C. Clavin says:

    Florack’s knowledge of history is the biggest indictment of the Public School sytem that I have ever seen.

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Eric Florack:

    History shows us that cutting tax rates raises the income at the federal tax coffers…

    Riiiiiiiiiiiiggghhht……..

  37. john personna says:

    @legion:

    Just a reminder that there doesn’t have to be such a hidden plan. There can be a promise of 20% headline rate cuts, a promise of closed deductions and credits, and nothing beneath it. There doesn’t have to be any math.

    Again, one rumor I’ve heard is that the “plan” such as it is came from Romney’s political advisers and not his economic team. They thought it sounded good, versus other plans, at the campaign level. According to that story no one, ever, ran numbers with actual deductions or credits specified.

  38. john personna says:

    (Is it really that audacious to believe there is no list, and that is the reason Romney and Ryan will share no list?)

  39. Rob in CT says:

    Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on Eric. His grandparents probably recently gave him this (advertised right here at OTB!):

    BROCK THE LLAMA

    This book clearly explains the differences between capitalism and socialism. The illustrations are beautiful and we believe the material is so important that we have puchased one for each of our grandchildren. We can not recommend this book highly enough.” — Verified Amazon Review

    This is the sort of drivel that sells on the Right, I guess.

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Colbert:

    The middle class is broken down by the side of the road and Paul Ryan is driving up in a black windowless van and saying, “Get in. Don’t ask where are we going, it would take too long to explain. Just get in.”

    “And it puts the lotion on it’s body.”

  41. C. Clavin says:

    “…Every time we’ve elected Democrats to the White House, the economy takes a decidedly southward turn…”

    Anyone suprised that Eric Florack is exactly wrong? In fact…the economy does better under Democrats.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-25/democratic-presidents-are-better-for-the-economy.html

  42. Rob in CT says:

    And that’s just the most easily debunked claim.

    There’s also the tax cut revenue increase fairy. One could dig up the Bruce Bartlett column that discusses that one at length (short version: the feds get ~30 cents on the dollar back due to increased economic growth, according to a former Reagan WH economist who studied it. And one should not that marginal rates were higher then), but what would be the point. Everyone here is familiar with it, and it would just bounce right off Eric.

    And on and on. Hence reality distortion field. It’s literally a parallel universe thing. Eric lives in the Red Universe (hence the lack of coffee) 😉

  43. Rick Almeida says:

    @Eric Florack:

    A) I pay taxes. Plenty of them.
    B) You don’t know what policies I support.
    C) I prefer delayed gratification to immediacy, discipline to license, and enlightened self-interest to unrestrained id.

    In other words, I’m a pretty conservative dude. That’s why I can’t be a Republican.

  44. stonetools says:

    Republicans on tax cuts:

    1. Tax cuts are always the right solution.

    2. When the math proves that tax cuts are the wrong solution, see Rule 1.

    It’s not clear that Ryan knows that the math doesn’t add up( Its likely Romney-Harvard MBA- knows) but that’s unimportant. What’s important is that Romney and Ryan conform to the gospel according to Nordquist, which is that taxes cannot be raised for any reason.

    I am more convinced than ever is that the only way back to sanity on the budget is to sweep out the whole sorry lot who signed onto Nordquist’s pledge. I’m hoping for a wave election sweeping the Democrats back into power. Say what you like about them, at least they didn’t pledge to ignore arithmetic.

  45. mantis says:

    @stonetools:

    1. Tax cuts are always the right solution.

    Tax cuts do everything. They slice, they dice, they cure cancer. They mow your lawn and pick up the kids from school, get rid of unwanted facial hair and embarrassing age spots.

    Step right up.

  46. Rafer Janders says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Let’s start with FDR, who extendedthedepression with his policies. The only thing that got him out of trouble was the attack on Pearl Harbor…

    I love conservatives who parrot the claim that the New Deal was a failure, and that the only thing that got us out of the Great Depression was World War II…because they never seem to realize that World War II was essentially New Deal II: Electric Boogaloo. It was the Stimulus on Steroids. It was the Mother of All Bailouts.

    Once the war started, the government essentially took over the American economy. It instituted wage and price controls and flooded the market with war bonds, Treasury bills and bonds and other sovereign debt instruments. In addition, it mandated that many industries that had been serving the public were re-geared for government production. Washington basically went to every large auto plant, airplane plant, ship plant, steel mill, cotton mill, lumber mill, tool and die maker, wool shearer, weapons and munitions manufacturer, industrial engineering company, shipping concern, etc. etc., and said to them “guess what? You’re working for Uncle Sam now.” It drafted ten million American men into the military, thus putting them to work directly for the government, and indirectly provided work for tens of millons more in the factories and farms that supplied the military.

    So when conservatives fall back on their “it was the war that did it” claim, they’re essentially admitting that it took massive Keynesian stimulus to pull the country out of the Depression.

  47. Montanareddog says:

    All spending is taxation – deficit spending is merely deferred taxation (or intent to defraud if you are going to default on your debts).

    The GOP complain that the Democrats and liberals/progressives are all high taxation in order to bribe voters with their own money; but deficit spending in expanding economies (which exploded under Reagan and Bush II) are worse forms of bribing electors with their own money because they are also transferring Americans’ money to the United States’ creditors. And, worse still, bribing voters with their descendants’ money.

    The Obama administration is also running huge deficits but in a recession, that is arguably the correct thing to do according to conventional economic theory so we can cut him some slack if he gets serious about proposing a way forward out of the mess as the economy recovers

    Paul Ryan is supposedly a policy wonk – but anyone serious about policy would be defining the level of spending that they propose and how they propose to fund it; his argument that tax cuts for everybody and electing Romney will fix everything just demonstrate that he is a charlatan.

    Romney has one policy goal – get Mitt Romney elected. He has no philosophy of government to undergird a policy approach. But Ryan the faux-wonk, is, in reality, an ideologue; a social Darwinist intent on implementing a devil take the hindmost agenda because he believes that is the moral approach, regardless of the real world consequences.

  48. C. Clavin says:

    I guess the nurses haven’t brought Florack his coffee yet.
    Perhaps they are afraid to give him hot flluids or sharp objects.

  49. jukeboxgrad says:

    Florack, you should clean up your prior lies (example) before posting a bunch of new ones.

  50. jukeboxgrad says:

    ozark:

    tax cuts have been known to rebuild blown engines, plug leaky roofs, and stop dripping faucets. Don’t you know anything? They are the Duct Tape of economic theory!

    That’s brilliant, thank you. And you get extra credit for knowing it’s not ‘Duck.’

  51. jukeboxgrad says:

    florack:

    Raising taxes never helps the economy

    Of course. Under Ike, the top marginal rate was 92%, and that’s why the Fifties are known as a time of economic collapse.

  52. jukeboxgrad says:

    Florack’s knowledge of history is the biggest indictment of the Public School sytem that I have ever seen.

    I’ve been assuming he was home-schooled. Even more likely he’s still being home-schooled, and is planning to soon enter middle school.

  53. george says:

    @Eric Florack:

    History shows us that cutting tax rates raises the income at the federal tax coffers… because it also has a tendency to grow the economy.

    So the way to really get enough federal taxes to pay for the military is to reduce taxes to say 1%, right? Think of all the overseas policing we could do if we really took reducing taxes seriously. Maybe we should even go to 0.1%, and just swamp everyone with our miltary. Because cutting is always the best solution.

  54. C. Clavin says:

    Romney/Ryan have been getting beat up on this for a while. You know the worm has turned when Fox News starts asking about it. If the numbers worked they would answer the question. They don’t work. So they don’t answer the question.
    There is something ugly in Romneys tax returns…so he doesn’t release his tax returns.
    They don’t know anything about Foreign Policy…so as Schuler says; there is no there there…only platitudes.
    They don’t have a Health Care policy.
    They don’t have an Immigration policy.
    But as I understand it Romney did start preparing debate zingers back in August.
    Worst. Campaign. Ever.

  55. JohnMcC says:

    Just would interject that there’s a significant moral/ethical content to the GOP economic agenda. Lowering taxes and flattening taxes encourages the successful to be more successful–confirming them as the deserving and worthy members of society. Welfare and redistribution support the least successful–creating craven dependency.

    Even if low and flat taxes combined with minimal gov’t welfare programs constitute poor economic plans, they still are to be preferred to any alternative.

  56. C. Clavin says:

    “…Lowering taxes and flattening taxes encourages the successful to be more successful…”

    Link please.

  57. Rob in CT says:

    Successful != ethical/morally good.

    But yes, the conservatives have their morality plays. So do liberals, and at times they get silly too.

    But in reality, it’s not nearly so simple as Jack worked hard and saved his money so he’s rich and Jane was lazy and has poor impulse control so she’s poor. Not nearly.

  58. LCaution says:

    @george:

    Reduce taxes to say 1%

    Top marginal tax rate under Eisenhower was 91% with no slick ways to avoid. Top marginal tax rate now is about 38% – sorry can’t check for precise # now – and, as we have seen with Romney, the effective rate on the wealthy can be 10%, maybe lower.

    But for 30 years, Conservatives have been demanding ever lower marginal tax rates. I have long wanted somebody to ask a Conservative (Doug?) this question: is there a tax rate, progressive or flat, at which point you will be satisfied? Give me a number, any number, that will stop your demand for a lower tax rate.

  59. Rob in CT says:

    Top marginal tax rate under Eisenhower was 91% with no slick ways to avoid

    I’m not sure that’s true. It’s my understanding there were lots of deductions available (in part, the AMT was designed to deal with that, right?). That said, it’s also my understanding that the top 1% paid a significantly higher effective tax rate back then.

    Top marginal tax rate now is about 38%

    Presently 35%. Would go up to 39.6% if the “Bush tax cuts” expire.

  60. JohnMcC says:

    @C. Clavin: Well, how fortuitous that I have a rainy day and happened to drop in here again. Usually I don’t follow up and am somewhat in awe of the effort that some of the very frequent commenters must make. But that’s off-topic….

    I admit that claiming a low rate and flat tax would be good for ‘the successful’ was sort of sui generis; but it’s my understanding that it is what the right-wing side of the world holds as plainly true and so used it. It is not exactly what I believe. Since the art of growing rich might for some folks involve leading a less successful life in ways that I value, for example. Or in some fields might involve ethical compromise.

    But the Heritage Foundation steps up to the plate, so I don’t have to argue their side. See their multi-faceted wet dream at: http://savingthedream.org/
    Pay particular attention to the sections on taxes and entrepreneurs.

    Now — my friend Mr Clavin, is this by way of disputing the claim that there is an over-riding moral element to conservative economics, or were you just curious?

  61. anjin-san says:

    @ Florack

    Next up, Jimmy Carter, whose presidency was marked by massive inflation,reaching up toaround 15%

    Shockingly, your forgot to mention that the economy was an ongoing train wreck all through the 70’s, and that Carter’s Republican predecessors grappled unsuccessfully with high inflation and unemployment during their administrations.

    Carter was a poor president, but a serious read of history tells us that he inherited a very, very weak hand. And he was the guy who appointed Paul Vlocker – the man who cleaned up the mess.

  62. anjin-san says:

    Florack’s knowledge of history is the biggest indictment of the Public School sytem that I have ever seen.

    If you go to his blog, he will tell you all about how he is a “keen” student of history. You can’t make this stuff up. This is the guy who once spent a day arguing that the military is not part of the federal government and that South Vietnam was on the brink of victory in the mid 70s, but Frank Church handed victory to the north.

  63. @anjin-san:

    If you go to his blog,

    No thanks.

  64. Mikey says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    And you get extra credit for knowing it’s not ‘Duck.’

    Is so! Duck Tape

  65. JohnMcC says:

    @Rob in CT My yankee friend — I agree that morality tales are found everywhere and that “successful = wealthy = deserving” is one of the most fatuous to be found.

    Without being a bore, let me explain that going back to the Protestant Reformation (in particular to Jean Calvin) there has been a kind of background noise to capitalism, sometimes soft and othertimes loud and plain-spoken, that the “elect” were/are pretty much synonymous with the “rich”. When I was in college (and dinosaurs roamed the earth) the best description of this was in a book that was even in those days a kind of old one called ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Rise of Capitalism’.

    I read (forgive me for not citing references) that Mr Romney in his role as Mormon pastor would have youth groups to his home to enjoy the pool and marvel at the luxury as a way of leading them to see that their best future lay in moral behavior and hard work. And hooray for him! But that is compatible with Dr Weber’s thesis that the myth of “successful = wealthy = deserving” still is heard behind the music.

  66. jukeboxgrad says:

    the myth of “successful = wealthy = deserving” still is heard behind the music

    Thank you, that is quite interesting and important, not boring at all.

  67. jukeboxgrad says:

    Is so! Duck Tape

    Well, yeah. I know. A brand of duct tape known as Duck Tape. It’s kind of an interesting etymological chicken-and-egg thing. I think they decided to take advantage of the fact that a lot of people were already saying it that way. Both clever and annoying.

  68. jukeboxgrad says:

    lcaution:

    Top marginal tax rate under Eisenhower was 91%

    In ’52 and ’53 the top rate was 92% (link).

  69. Rob in CT says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Oh, believe me, though I’m younger than you I’m aware of the “protestant work ethic” thing. My father talked about it a lot when I was growing up. Not that he believes the theology (he mocks it openly, which gets him into trouble at the Senior Center from time to time). He does absolutely buy the work ethic part, though. He’s routinely point at Latin America and say that they didn’t do well because they were founded/taken over by Catholics. He’s an upper class Brit born in 1925, ya know? It’s simple. Work hard and you win. Poor? You’re probably lazy. Or maybe you’re a victim of liberals who are from the government and here to help.

  70. Barry says:

    @Eric Florack: “Let’s start with FDR, who extendedthedepression with his policies. The only thing that got him out of trouble was the attack on Pearl Harbor… which historians tell us he very likely knew about well in advance and covered it up afterward.”

    Anybody who thinks the FDR extended the Great Depression doesn’t know enough to even be called a liar.

  71. jukeboxgrad says:

    rob:

    Poor? You’re probably lazy.

    Link:

    I vividly remember that he [GWB] made a comment saying that people are poor because they’re lazy

  72. anjin-san says:

    @ Rob in CT

    My dad was the same way. He was a strident atheist, but loved the idea of the protestant work ethic, it was a subject I heard a lot about growing up. His parents cut him off because of a disagreement over which university he would attend, but he went on to become quite successful anyway.

    Of course having a rocket scientist IQ helped him quite a bit, and he never seemed to quite get that a lack of success might have something to do with a lack of the necessary tools – it always came back to a lack of effort or some other character defect.

  73. jukeboxgrad says:

    There’s also the tax cut revenue increase fairy. One could dig up the Bruce Bartlett column that discusses that one at length (short version: the feds get ~30 cents on the dollar back due to increased economic growth, according to a former Reagan WH economist who studied it.

    I don’t know where that article is, but here’s a different Bartlett column that’s pretty relevant (6/12/12):

    The Fiscal Legacy of George W. Bush … In January 2001, [CBO] projected that the federal government would run a total budget surplus of $3.5 trillion through 2008 if policy was unchanged and the economy continued according to forecast. …

    The projected surplus was primarily the result of two factors. First was a big tax increase in 1993 that every Republican in Congress voted against, saying that it would tank the economy. This belief was wrong. The economy boomed in 1994, growing 4.1 percent that year and strongly throughout the Clinton administration. …

    During the 2000 campaign, Mr. Bush warned that budget surpluses were dangerous because Congress might spend them, even though Paygo rules prevented this from happening. … This was the primary justification for a big tax cut. … The 2001 tax cut did nothing to stimulate the economy, yet Republicans pushed for additional tax cuts in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008. … According to the C.B.O., by the end of the Bush administration, legislated tax cuts reduced revenues and increased the national debt by $1.6 trillion. …

    Putting all the numbers in the C.B.O. report together, we see that continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 – enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.

    Republicans continue to insist that tax cuts are highly stimulative, often saying that they add nothing to the debt, when this is obviously ridiculous.

    Conversely, they are adamant that tax increases must not be part of any deficit-reduction package because they never reduce deficits and instead are spent. This is also ridiculous, as the experience of the Clinton administration clearly shows. The new C.B.O. data confirm these facts.

    (Emphasis added.) On the other hand, I’m not sure if we should take him seriously, because he included a bunch of links but never once cited Ted Nugent or Dick Morris.

    Clinton raised taxes and the result was a federal budget surplus, a booming economy, and a projection to completely eliminate the national debt by 2011. Bush cut taxes and the result was record deficits, doubling the national debt, and the worst crash since the Depression. Therefore every Republican knows what we need now: more tax cuts!

  74. LC says:

    @Rob in CT:

    It’s simple. Work hard and you win. Poor? You’re probably lazy

    I’ve never understood that argument. It is so patently untrue. Look at migrant farmworkers or people working 60 hours/week at 3 different jobs none of which pay a minimum wage. It’s an absurd argument to make on a global scale – although it may, indeed, be true for a particular person.

    I’m not wealthy, but I’m not poor. I’m not the brightest bulb in the world, but I’m not the dimmest. I’ve worked hard all my life. But I am acutely aware that most of what I have accomplished started with the right genes, middle-class parents, and the right environment. I don’t understand people like Romney, born to wealth and privilege, who attribute everything solely to their own efforts.

    Is it possible to escape rural or urban poverty and become successful, even wealthy? Sure. But it is rare and takes a set of circumstances, including good genes, that aren’t exactly common.

  75. Mikey says:

    @jukeboxgrad: I was being facetious, I know the brand name is a play on the common malapropism.

    Besides, as far as I’m concerned, it’s “100 mile-an-hour tape.”

  76. The Q says:

    Hey Erik, we can forgive your above typo (leaving out the N on never) due to lack of coffee, but the rest of your dreck we’ll blame on your utter stupidity and willful ignorance.

    What is really the tragedy is that about 40% of the GOP is about as clueless a dolt as you are.

    And Florack, you haven’t a clue on FDR. He was so ineffectual and his policies so wrong that we elected him in landslides 4 times, so go shovel your senseless drivel and wingnut “he made the Depression worse” BS to those idiots on the right that live in a bizzarro world of lunacy.

  77. gVOR08 says:

    @Eric Florack: A few years ago I did a spreadsheet showing GDP growth as a function of party in the White House since WW II. Any number of published sources have done the same or similar exercises. We all find the economy does better with Democrats in the WH. In fact, it had Krugman mumbling to himself a few years ago because the correlation was very clear but he didn’t really see any explanation in policy that would lead to such clear short term effects. Personally, I don’t think it’s policy, I just think Democrats are less likely to do something really dumb, like start two foreign wars and cut taxes.

    If memory serves, I used GDP data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Where do you get your data? On this planet?

  78. Rob in CT says:
  79. Rob in CT says:

    @LC:

    There’s another part to it, that helps make it more acceptable, I think. My father firmly believes in the idea of generational decline. First generation hard worker moves up in the world. Second generation maintains. Third generation is a loser who blows the fortune. Social mobility! All is well!

    It’s bullshit, but it’s comforting.

  80. jukeboxgrad says:

    mikey:

    I was being facetious

    Sorry, my mistake. I realized you were being facetious and I didn’t make that clear.

    “100 mile-an-hour tape.”

    Cool, I never heard that before. I had to look it up. And then I ended up reading this and this, and it looks like I had the etymology backwards. I guess it was called “duck tape” before it got called “duct tape.” Darn, learn something new every day on the interwebs.

  81. jukeboxgrad says:

    rob:

    There’s the Bartlett article I was talking about.

    Excellent, thank you. I like this part:

    In short, there is no evidence whatsoever supporting Gov. Pawlenty’s view of the Reagan tax cuts or Sen. McConnell’s view of the Bush tax cuts. They didn’t pay for themselves and there is no reason to think that further tax cuts will, either. Republican economist Alan Greenspan confirmed this fact last year on “Meet the Press.” Asked whether he thought that tax cuts pay for themselves, as Republican leaders had said, Greenspan replied, simply, “They do not.”

    So who says tax cuts don’t pay for themselves? Alan Greenspan, that’s who. Nice.

    What a character. He also said this:

    I think Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we’ve had in a while

    Link, link.

  82. Eric Florack says:

    Well except that Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton all raised taxes and we had the longest run without a recession in modern history.

    Thing is, the Republicans raised tax takes, not tax RATES… they were trying to be actually far and not vindictive against the successful.

    Anybody who thinks the FDR extended the Great Depression doesn’t know enough to even be called a liar.

    Actually, the research came from UCLA. Wanna try again?

  83. Mikey says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    I guess it was called “duck tape” before it got called “duct tape.” Darn, learn something new every day on the interwebs.

    Me too–I also thought it was “duct tape” first.

    I still call it “100 mile an hour tape” which always gets a questioning look from my non-veteran friends.

  84. jukeboxgrad says:

    which always gets a questioning look from my non-veteran friends

    Yup, that’s definitely the look I had on my face when I read your comment!

  85. jukeboxgrad says:

    florack:

    the Republicans raised tax takes, not tax RATES

    More bullshit from a serial bullshitter. Republicans did indeed raise “tax RATES.” For example (link):

    1982 – Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA) passes. … Raises the federal unemployment tax (FUTA) wage base from $6,000 to $7,000 and the FUTA tax rate from 0.7 percent to 0.8 percent.

    Yes, Republicans didn’t raise “tax RATES,” except for when they did.

    the research came from UCLA

    Oddly enough, even UCLA economists can sometime be found “arguing in spectacularly bad faith” (link).

  86. anjin-san says:

    Interesting that bithead regards research from UCLA as being handed down from a burning bush. Well, as Krugman said: “This is a deliberate attempt to fool readers, demonstrating that there is no good faith here.”

    They were looking to fool people, and the senior member of our OTB flock of fools lapped it up like cream…