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Speaking of Media Malpractice

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Stephanie Mencimer reminds us that there are issues that are even more important — even scandalous! — than Anthony Weiner’s highly consequential penis. It’s the 10th Anniversary of the Bush tax cuts:

Big debt: Between 2001 and 2010, the Bush tax cuts added $2.6 trillion to the public debt, 50 percent of the total debt accrued during that time. Over the past 10 years, the country has spent more than $400 billion just servicing the debt created by the cuts.

Supply-side failure: Far from paying for themselves with increased economic activity as promised, the tax cuts have depleted the public treasury. Tax collections have plunged to their lowest share of the economy in 60 years.

No jobs: Between 2002 and 2007, employment increased by less than 1 percent when the economy was supposed to be expanding. Employment growth barely kept pace with population growth. Between the end of 2001, when the country was in a recession, and the peak of the real estate bubble, er, economic expansion in 2007, the US economy performed worse than at any time since the end of World War II.

Rich people benefit: The best-known result of the Bush tax cuts is that virtually all the benefits were conferred upon people who didn’t need them at all and who didn’t use the money to, say, create more jobs or pay their workers better. Median weekly earnings fell more than 2 percent between 2001 and 2007. Meanwhile, people making over $3 million a year, who account for just 0.1 percent of taxpayers, got an average tax cut of $520,000, more than 450 times what the average middle-income family received.

Make sure to read all of the grim details.

But the 2000 campaign, Gush v. Bore, Gap v. Banana Republic, amirite? I demand more investigation into Al Gore’s highly troubling three-button suits!

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  • p j

    The cake is ordered and the candles are readied for this momentous occasion. Thanks for the memories. Three cheers for the beltway geniuses and to their many apologists who helped distract us from the important business they do for us.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Bush’s tax cuts expired last December.

    As of January, they’re Obama’s and the lame-duck, Democratic-controlled 111th Congress’s tax cuts.

    But somehow they’re still Ralph Nader’s fault, I bet.

    • NBarnes

      Is the operative theory here that path dependance doesn’t exist and that these tax cuts would have been passed ex nihilo by Obama and the 111th Congress if Gore had won Florida in 2000?

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        No the operative theory is that the Obama administration and the Democrats had a choice whether or not to pass these tax cuts last December and they chose to do so. And today that decision is more important than the events that led to the tax cuts being passed a decade ago.

        Of course there’s plenty of path dependency to go around, of course. So, yes, we can complain about Nader, Bush v. Gore, the Lieberman VP choice, the Lewinsky affair, the capture of the GOP by its right wing in the 1970s and 1980s, the economic boom of teh 1990s that led to the budget surplus etc. etc. All of which, no doubt, contributed in some way to these tax cuts being put in place in 2011.

        But when a Democratic Congress passes a policy and a Democratic President signs it into law–especially having seen the first nine-and-a-half years of this policy at work–they bear direct responsibility for that policy.

        It’s frankly bizarre that a post about this policy in June 2011 fails to mention the people who are responsible for its continued existence.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Erp…

          All of which, no doubt, contributed in some way to these tax cuts being put in place in 2011 2001.

          Fixed

        • Scott Lemieux

          The rest is well-trod ground, but I would note that the Lieberman pick (while awful on the merits) was, if anything, an electoral net positive. Basically, it was the only time in the campaign that Gore got positive press coverage.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            I basically think that VP choices don’t matter electorally. But the Lieberman choice had an impact on potential Nader voters. So if one is going to insist that the election was decided by the less than 2% of Floridians who voted for Nader, one needs to consider whether a different VP choice might have changed some of their votes.

            Of course, one would also have to look at the other side of marginal Gore voters and ask whether some folks in Florida voted for Gore because Lieberman was on the ticket…as I always insist in these discussions, elections, especially elections decided by razor thin margins, are complicated things.

            So you’re probably right that, at the end of the day, it’s at least not clear that the Lieberman pick had a negative income on the outcome for Gore.

            • Scott Lemieux

              But the Lieberman choice had an impact on potential Nader voters.

              I think this is pure post hoc. Leaving aside the lack of systematic evidence, but I had debates in real life and online with a lot of Nader voters, and 1)all were determined to vote for Nader well before Holy Joe was added to the ticket, and 2)I don’t remember anybody thinking it was a significant issue contemporaneously. After Iraq, when Lieberman went from a run-of-the-mill sanctimonious wanker to a truly malignant political force, Nader voters now remember Lieberman as being a major factor, but at the time I think the impact of the pick even on the small subset of Nader voters was trivial.

              • Incontinentia Buttocks

                As someone involved in the Nader campaign here in Oklahoma, I have very different recollections about reactions to the Lieberman pick among those on the Gore/Nader fence. But the plural of anecdote is not data, so I’m not sure either of our recollections proves much of anything. I return to my revised conclusion (which more or less agrees with your exception to my list above): Lieberman, like most VP picks, was probably not much of a factor in the outcome of the 2000 presidential race.

                As far as Lieberman’s toxicity goes, I think the real post hoc view is the notion that Holy Joe wasn’t so bad before 2001. He was truly malignant during the Clinton impeachment mess. In 1995, he cofounded with Lynn Cheney the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a major culture war organization on the right. His 1988 run for the Senate (against actually liberal Republican incumbent Lowell Weicker) was largely funded by Bill Buckley.

                • astonishingly dumb hv

                  Lieberman, like most VP picks, was probably not much of a factor in the outcome of the 2000 presidential race.

                  Offering VP to Nader, just offering it, would’ve been worth votes.

                  Offering VP to Lieberman was the slap in the face, declaring “I don’t need to compromise with the left, I need to lean right.” When Lieberman started his religious shtick, I then became happy to dispute with Mr. Gore whether or not he needs the votes of the progressive base. Turns out: yes.

                • Offering VP to Lieberman was the slap in the face, declaring “I don’t need to compromise with the left, I need to lean right.”

                  Doesn’t this analysis ignore the rather-important fact of the relative numbers of people slightly to Gore’s left vs. those slightly to Gore’s right?

                  Pauline Kael, who never really said this, doesn’t know a single person who would have been turned off by a VP offer to Nader.

                • astonishingly dumb hv

                  numbers

                  joe from Lowell, I freely admit I was unable to find the relevant numbers to which you refer. Which is a darned shame, because numbers really turn me on!

                  I’m glad you found them!

                  Please share with me the numbers to which you refer.

                  Absent those numbers, I am very likely to operate by demographics which might suggest that pursuing the dwindling, vanishing “center” while neglecting the base might not be wise…

                  The electorate is much more polarized than it used to be, and there are a lot fewer actual swing voters, so the margins of victory are a lot smaller than they used to be.

                  … which I have on very good authority.

              • Bruce Baugh

                I know that it turned a significant number of my friends in the computer game business from weakly Democratic-leaning voters to non-voting bystanders. The combined anti-their-livelihood advocacy history from Tipper Gore and Joe Lieberman made them feel that there was some real risk of further governmental pressure against their industry.

                Obviously the election didn’t hinge on the votes of folks in that sector, but it was one more thing the Gore campaign could have done differently and come out (I think) stronger for doing so.

              • astonishingly dumb hv

                I think this is pure post hoc.

                Pure? Challenge accepted.

                Link to complainers in 2000. I will be happy to add more, but only one link per post due to moderation policy. Please alert me in advance how many links will suffice.

                Lieberman’s pick deeply offended me and lots of other liberals I spoke to. So I match your anecdotal evidence there. (Luckily, no link required!)

                …I would note that the Lieberman pick (while awful on the merits) was, if anything, an electoral net positive…

                What a measurable assertion!

                That would’ve been a great place to use your one-link-per-comment.

            • So you’re probably right that, at the end of the day, it’s at least not clear that the Lieberman pick had a negative income on the outcome for Gore.

              It’s also not clear how the presence of Nader in the campaign influenced Gore’s VP selection.

              Did the likely loss of some number of votes on his left lead him to want to pick up a few more on his right?

              Did the closeness of Florida make the choice of a Jewish VP well-known for his old-fashioned moralism a little more attractive?

              • Incontinentia Buttocks

                Totally agree with this.

                As I said during our last Nader-related thread, third-party candidates affect elections in complicated ways; it’s not simply a matter of shifting some votes away from one or both of the major party nominees.

                • I also agree with your point that the ridiculous closeness of the Florida vote makes effects so small that they would normally be irrelevant into matters of major significance.

              • wengler

                It would’ve but Buchanan cleaned up the Jewish vote in Palm Beach County.

          • Bart

            It is “well-trod ground” here, but her article should appear on the front page of every paper in the country, but, sadly, never will.

          • Furious Jorge

            Bob Graham would have been a better pick. All he would have had to do is spend three months driving from Miami Beach to Pensacola and back, and Florida wouldn’t have been in play – Jeb! or no Jeb!

        • mpowell

          Normally you would have a good argument here, but in the particulars of the case you’re just wrong.

          The Bush tax cuts were extended because the economy could not afford a tax hike at the moment. You may disagree with this, but until a bunch of conservative economists become goldbugs for political reasons, economists of all stripes would have agreed that the economic conditions in Dec 2010 called for more, not less, stimulus. And certainly the Bush tax cuts were not the best stimulus option. But by that time, as is common knowledge around here, the Democrats no longer possessed a 60 seat majority in the Senate so they had to pass bills palatable to Republicans, not to mention their most centrist wankers. And that’s where path dependency hit the hardest. Obama spent some time trying to see if he could get a bill through Congress that only extended the tax cut for the bottom 99%.

          In the sense that economic conditions are not worse because the Bush tax cuts were extended in Dec 2010, yes, Obama bears primary responsibility for that. If you want to criticize him for this, well, go right ahead. But in the sense that the tax cuts are regressively distributed? I think it’s pretty clear that it was the original legislation that had quite a bit more to do with that.

          • Scott Lemieux

            The Bush tax cuts were extended because the economy could not afford a tax hike at the moment.

            Well, some upper-class tax cuts would be fine, but the effect of letting the tax cuts would have been a massive anti-stimulus, which would have been both bad for the country and bad politically. Of course, a package should have been passed without the upper-class cuts, but that was more the congressional Dems than Obama.

            Now, if Obama doesn’t let the tax cuts expire when they come up again — which is more than likely — then I agree that they’re his.

            • I think it is quite likely that Obama and the Democrats let the tax cuts expire.

              In the lame duck session at the end of 2010, the Democrats had a great deal of high-priority legislation that they wanted to pass, and could pass, before the next Congress, as long as the Senate was allowed to operate. You know, piddly little efforts like a nuclear arms limitation treaty and DADT repeal. The cost of getting the Senate legislative session up and running was to extend the tax cuts.

              In this Congress, the Democrats have virtually no legislative agenda, because they know they aren’t going to be able to pass anything through the House. The Senate Republicans thus don’t have anything they can offer the Democrats in exchange.

              In addition, the Democrats’ public standing is going to be a great deal stronger in 2012 than it was in the depths of the 2010 election season.

              • Scott Lemieux

                Well, that’s the optimistic scenario. I’ll believe a majority of the Senate being willing to face claims that they “raised taxes” in an election year when I see it.

                • Well, I’ll believe that raising taxes is a political winner when I see it…but, don’t you remember the issues polling over the Bush Tax Cuts expiring in the fall of 2010? The Democrats had already won the public opinion fight on that issue, and did so during a period when the Congressional Democrats were extremely unpopular.

                  And now, we’re seeing the idea of raising taxes presented as the alternative to slashing Medicare. I don’t think the familiar dynamics of tax-cut politics will necessarily define the issue next year.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Oh, I’m not saying that raising taxes would hurt most Democrats electorally, but it doesn’t matter what I think.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              Well, some upper-class tax cuts would be fine, but the effect of letting the tax cuts would have been a massive anti-stimulus, which would have been both bad for the country and bad politically.

              Well the political part of the equation is a matter of speculation, but it’s simply not the case that letting all the cuts expire would have been economically disastrous.

              Paul Krugman, for example, was arguing last December that the Democrats should have done exactly that.

              • mpowell

                You can claim that letting them expire would have been okay, but you can’t assert it as a matter of course. I would argue otherwise.

            • mpowell

              This is basically what I was saying. There was no choice for Obama not to extend most of the cuts and politics forced him to extend them all in order to accomplish this.

      • Murc

        What IB said.

        These tax cuts required direct action from Obama and the Congress to remain in force. If they’d had to actually repeal them, okay. Different story. God knows its hard to get anything past the Senate.

        But they didn’t have to repeal them. All they had to do was nothing. They affirmatively renewed them. So, yeah. These belong to Bush AND Obama now. It’s Obama’s signature on a piece of paper authorizing them to keep going.

    • bob mcmanus

      Thirded. They are Obama’s tax cuts now.

      • pete

        Hmm, so you’re going to give Bush Jr credit for social security? I mean, W tried to kill it but accepted that he couldn’t, so now he owns it?

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          False equivalence: neither Obama nor Congressional Democrats tried to kill the tax cuts in toto, which would have simply required inaction on their part. Their preference was killing some of the package and renewing other parts of it. Unable to do that, they chose to renew them all.

          To actually kill Social Security, Bush would have had to pass legislation “reforming” it.

          • pete

            Sure, it’s false equivalence; it’s ridicule. The concept that Obama “owns” something we all know very well he did not and does not favor is pure nonsense. See joe from Lowell’s comment immediately below, he’s apparently nicer than I am.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              What do you mean he didn’t favor it?

              He favored the compromise package that included it.

              His preference was to let some of the tax cuts expire and renew others of them.

              Failing that, his preference was renewing them all, but for only two years, in exchange for a variety of other political concessions.

              That this preference was conditional does not make it any less his preference.

              • That this preference was conditional does not make it any less his preference.

                This is quite wrong, you know. How many women have preferred rape to death when their first choice was unavailable?

                The conditionality of preference is pretty damn important if you’re going to start parceling out responsibility.

        • Oscar Leroy

          Pete, that Social Security comparison is just stupid.

          • pete

            Hmm, think I might have been making a point? The entire discussion about ownage is stupid.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              So you’d be in favor of no longer calling them the “Bush tax cuts”?

              • pete

                Now you are being offensively stupid. The use of established shorthand is not the same thing at all.

                • astonishingly dumb hv

                  offensively stupid

                  IB, if you aren’t going to use that in your handle, may I?

                • Offensively Stupid Incontinentia Buttocks

                  Apparently when you wrote “the entire discussion about ownage is stupid” what you meant to say was “the entire discussion about ownage is stupid if it concerns Democrats.”

    • Metaphors are supposed to illuminate an underlying point, not obscure it.

      What is “they’re Obama’s” supposed to mean? That the public is going to attribute those tax cuts to the Democrats as much as the Republicans? Yeah, right.

      That Obama bears equal moral responsibility with the Republicans who argued for them and favored them, because he accepted something he didn’t want as the cost of getting other policies he wanted? I think most people are better able to understand the concept of tradeoffs and accepting sub-optimal outcomes than, for instance, people who continue to defend the honor of Saint Ralph.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        The tax cuts are Obama’s and the Congressional Democrats’ insofar as they would no longer exist had it not been for legislation passed by a Democratic controlled Congress and signed into law by Obama.

        Yes, their passage and signing into law reflected political compromises, just as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and most of the policies of the Bush Administration (including, it should be said, this tax cut package’s “middle class” component) reflected such compromises. Unless a party controls the White House, the House, and a sixty-seven vote supermajority in the Senate, some sort of compromise is almost always necessary.

        But, at the end of the day, parties and presidents bear responsibility for policies that they vote for and sign into law.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          And it is hardly “defending the honor of Saint Ralph” to hold that actions taken by the Obama administration in 2010 are not his responsibility.

          • And it is hardly “defending the honor of Saint Ralph” to hold that actions taken by the Obama administration in 2010 are not his responsibility.

            No, but throwing But somehow they’re still Ralph Nader’s fault, I bet. irrelevantly into a conversation in order to make any criticism of Nader look shoddy is.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              I do, indeed, think that Ralph Nader–like other factors contributing to Bush taking office in 2001–bears virtually no responsibility for decisions made by a Democratic White House, a Democratic-majority House, and a Democratic-majority Senate in December 2010.

              And that’s not because I think that Ralph Nader is politically blameless in some more general sense.

              • Great. And you felt the need to bring up Saint Ralph, why, exactly?

                Nobody had written a word attributing the actions of Democrats in 2010 to Nader, but you felt it was vital to make sure you irrelevantly proclaimed his innocence.

                • jeer9

                  Because introducing Ralph Nader into an LG&M thread is fun.

                • Offensively Stupid Incontinentia Buttocks

                  Because Nader’s the reductio ad absurdum of attempts to blame questionable actions by Obama and the Democrats today not merely on the Bush administration but on the manner in which the Bush administration came to power, as this post unfortunately does.

                • astonishingly dumb hv

                  Nobody had written a word attributing the actions of Democrats in 2010 to Nader, but you felt it was vital to make sure you irrelevantly proclaimed his innocence.

                  Technically, if you had any capability to scroll around in a thread, you would see that the original mention of Nader by (OS)IB was a) in the context of portraying a wide variety of factors and b) dismissive.

                  joe from troll, do you not get timestamps on your client or something?

        • The tax cuts are Obama’s and the Congressional Democrats’ insofar as they would no longer exist had it not been for legislation passed by a Democratic controlled Congress and signed into law by Obama.

          You still haven’t defined what “are Obama’s and the Congressional Democrats'” means. It’s a vague phrase that conflates several different concepts – for instance “bear responsibility for” vs. “favor.”

          But, at the end of the day, parties and presidents bear responsibility for policies that they vote for and sign into law.

          To differing degrees, depending on the circumstances. A politician who votes for an omnibus spending bill that includes amendments he opposed bears much less responsibility for the content of those amendments than a politician who voted for the amendments, or who voted for a stand-alone bill that included the contents of those amendments.

          And think about procedural votes such as cloture motions. There are all sorts of procedural tricks that can be pointed to in order to produce an impression about a politician’s position that is at odds with his actual position.

          In addition, politicians bear responsibility for bills they don’t vote on and don’t pass when they could have, even if the mechanism they use to kill it is inaction that doesn’t leave any trace in a voting record. I doubt you’d be holding Obama and the Congressional Dems blameless for their failure to pass DADT repeal if they’d simply refused the tax-cut deal and the bill never came up.

      • Oscar Leroy

        “That the public is going to attribute those tax cuts to the Democrats as much as the Republicans?”

        They should. They might not, but they should. Obama and the Democrats passed a second round of tax cuts that expired last year as their creators intended. They are his cuts. George Bush bears absolutely no responsibility for them anymore.

        And let’s not pretend that the only path forward was the one Obama took. He stood up as firmly as a doormat. If he were smart and/or brave he would have let them expire and then fought the Republicans for a new, middle class tax cut only.

        • that expired last year as their creators intended.

          Wait wait wait – George Bush, Tom Delay, and the Republican Party intended the tax cuts to expire?

          That was their plan and purpose when they drew up the bill – to have some tax cuts for a few years, and then have them expire?

          I respectfully disagree.

          George Bush bears absolutely no responsibility for them anymore.

          I less-respectfully disagree. That’s moronic.

          If he were smart and/or brave he would have let them expire and then fought the Republicans for a new, middle class tax cut only.

          And then you could come here and complain that the “Homophobe in Chief” deliberately failed to pass DADT repeal. Win-win!

          • pete

            OK, Joe, so maybe you’re not nicer than me. But you are more patient, or at least I’m more defatigable.

        • George Bush bears absolutely no responsibility for them anymore.

          Right, just as Harry Truman bore absolutely no responsibility for containment policy after January 1953. Because his successors didn’t reverse it.

  • mds

    On the bright side, Obama did get the continuation of extended unemployment benefits for all those additional unemployed people, if not an extension for those already beyond 99 weeks. And renewing the cuts in toto was supposedly the price for floor action on DADT and New START. Not to mention that if Congress had previously passed a renewal of only the $250K and below cuts, it would have partially defanged the GOP. But too many members of the Dem caucus couldn’t have that.

    Still, the good news is that these cuts are still set to expire automatically … in the middle of the 2012 campaign season. Unlike 2010, no one’s going to blink from accusations of raising taxes on the middle class then.

    • if Congress had previously passed a renewal of only the $250K and below cuts

      ….then they would have done so with a few Republican votes in the Senate. Name ’em.

      Still, the good news is that these cuts are still set to expire automatically … in the middle of the 2012 campaign season. Unlike 2010, no one’s going to blink from accusations of raising taxes on the middle class then.

      Unlike 2010, the Democrats won’t have a list of important legislative initiatives that they want to, and can, pass as long as the Republicans cease blocking Senate business. And, unlike 2010, the Democrats will be more popular than the Republicans.

      I remember several people asking, “Would anyone rather have this fight in 2012?” Um, I would rather have just about any political fight at any other than the fall of 2010, because that was just about the historical low point for the Democrats’ relative political strength.

      • Murc

        Wait, hold on, the tax cuts expire BEFORE the 2012 elections?

        I thought after for some reason.

        • No, you remembered correctly. They’re scheduled to expire after the elections, but the fight over whether to let them expire will take place during the 2012 election campaign.

          • Oscar Leroy

            Don’t worry everyone: Obama has promised that the rich won’t get any more tax cuts. Just like he did last time.

            • Just like he did last time.

              Link?

              • Ten bucks says Oscar provides a link to Obama stating his policy preference, and then pretends it was a promise comparable to the one he recently made.

                Or refused to reply entirely.

                • jeer9

                  Damn, joe from Lowell is entertaining – in a One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest kind of way of course.

              • Malaclypse
                • Ten bucks says Oscar provides a link to Obama stating his policy preference, and then pretends it was a promise comparable to the one he recently made.

                  I win.

                • Malaclypse

                  You realize I’m not Oscar, right?

                  Beyond that, I’m not certain how you can argue that a stated policy preference, which is clearly achievable (since all he needed to do was “nothing”) is not a promise.

                  Look, I’m not saying that some promises get broken in the real world, and sometimes need to be broken. But can we at least not pretend that Obama did not, specifically, promise to end the Bush cuts on the rich? Because really, pretending he did not run on this is just silly.

                • On the internet, no one can tell you’re a dog.

                  Beyond that, I’m not certain how you can argue that a stated policy preference, which is clearly achievable (since all he needed to do was “nothing”) is not a promise.

                  Congratulations. For my part, I’m not certain you can fail to see the difference between an “I would…” statement and an “I refuse to…” statement, absent a quite determined effort.

                  Particularly in light of the question Obama was responding to: “John McCain says you’re a tax and spend liberal,” which Obama responds to by describing a set of policy positions intended to outline his beliefs on taxation.

                  But can we at least not pretend that Obama did not, specifically, promise to end the Bush cuts on the rich?

                  I’ll do you the favor of pretending that your confusion here is a pretense, and does not reflect your genuine understanding of either English or politics.

                • would/wo͝od/Verb
                  1. (expressing the conditional mood) Indicating the consequence of an imagined event or situation: “he would lose his job”.
                  2. Used to give advice.

                  prom·ise/ˈpräməs/
                  Noun: A declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that guarantees that a particular thing will happen.
                  Verb: Assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange something; undertake or declare that something will happen.

                • Hogan

                  In the words of Sam Spade, “Of course you lied when you first came to the office, but that doesn’t count, because we didn’t believe you.”

                • PS, Mal: did you notice the heading directly above the quote you linked to?

                  Proposals
                  “I would roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans back to the level they were under Bill Clinton.”
                  — Fox News interview, April 2008

                  pro·pos·al/prəˈpōzəl/Noun
                  1. A plan or suggestion put forward for consideration or discussion by others.
                  2. The action of putting forward such a plan or suggestion.

                • Joe, did you notice the headline above that?

                • The misleading headline, which they contradict on the next line?

                  Yup.

                  Here’s what else I noticed: that the quote includes a link to the transcript.

                  Question: John McCain is going to go after you as another classic liberal tax and spender.
                  OBAMA: Well, I’m going to go right back at John McCain, because look at his tax proposals. He just went out there and not only wants to continue some of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, he actually wants to extend them, and he hasn’t told us really how he’s going to pay for them.
                  It is irresponsible. And the irony is he said it was irresponsible. When George Bush initiated these tax cuts in 2001, he said, “This is shameful.” He said that it offended his conscience, he said, for us to give tax breaks to the wealthy, particularly at a time of war.
                  Well, somewhere along the line, you know, his conscience took flight because he was looking to get nominated for the Republican — as the Republican nominee.
                  And so I’m happy to have that debate. If you look at my approach to taxation, what have I said? I said I would cut taxes for people making $75,000 a year or less. I’d cut taxes for seniors who are making $50,000 a year or less.
                  It is true that I would roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans back to the level they were under Bill Clinton, when I don’t remember rich people feeling oppressed.
                  In terms of capital gains, I’ve suggested we might go back up to 20, because…
                  WALLACE: You suggested 28.
                  OBAMA: Well, what I’ve said is I certainly would not raise it higher than it was under Ronald Reagan, but the fact is that I’m mindful that we’ve got to keep our capital gains tax to a point where we can actually get more revenue.
                  But that’s not something that’s going to affect the average person with a 401(k) when people start talking about how, “Well, there are, you know, millions of Americans who own stock,” most of them own stock in 401(k)s where their taxes are deferred and they pay ordinary income taxes when they finally cash out.
                  And in terms of raising the payroll tax — raising the cap on the payroll tax, right now everybody who’s making $102,000 or less pays 100 percent of payroll tax on 100 percent of their income.
                  There are about 3 percent to 4 percent of Americans who are above $102,000 in income every year. So if you want to talk about who’s middle class, me giving cuts to folks making $60,000 or $70,000, and potentially asking more from friends of mine like Warren Buffett, who — I have no idea what he made last year — you know, that’s a debate I’m happy to have with John McCain, because it’s the people making $75,000, $50,000, $60,000 who are hurting.
                  And when John McCain promises tax cuts to corporations that are not paid for, then what we are doing is loading up this nation with debt. And if we’re not paying for it now, our kids and our grandkids are going to have to pay for it. And I think that’s objectionable.

                  Laying out one’s policy preferences is not a promise.

                  Stating that one will “refuse” to do something is. One is a statement about what one would like to do, to prefer to do, while the other is a statement about definite intent.

                  Not to recognize that Obama has made a much different statement today than he did on the campaign trail is just silly.

                • I can Google more if you want. It’s pretty obvious to the Times that it was a campaign promise, and it’s obvious to others. Should I bother to find stronger language?

                • DocAmazing

                  Apparently, campaign promises are not meant to be taken with any seriousness.

                • Malaclypse

                  Joe, if that was not a “promise,” please give me an example – any example – of a promise, and explain the difference.

                  He had the power to do what he said he would, and chose not to. Now, it is fair to argue that keeping the promise now bore unacceptable costs. I think that is wrong, but it is an argument. But arguing the promise was not really a promise is, once again, just silly. This is beneath you.

                • Campaign “promises” – if we’re using that word to refer to the statements Obama made about the policies he favored – are meant to be taken seriously as statements of the candidate’s beliefs, not as statements of specific action that are certain to occur. How old are you that you need the difference explained to you?

                  Joe, if that was not a “promise,” please give me an example – any example – of a promise, and explain the difference.

                  Sure. Obama’s statement today – “I refuse to extend the Bush tax cuts” – is a statement about what specific actions he will take. It goes quite a bit beyond saying what he thinks the best policy would be, or what course he intends to pursue. It’s the same as the difference between saying he supports DADT repeal, and the specific statement he made saying that DADT repeal would be passed in the 20090-2010 Congress.

                  I’ve explained this difference to you over and over. You can play the “You can’t make me say it!” game if you want, but don’t expect me to keep playing with you.

                • So saying “I refuse to” is more promisey than saying “I will”?

                • Malaclypse

                  So when I told my wife “I will forsake all others,” that was not, in fact, a promise. I should have stood up and said “I refuse</em to fuck other women." Got it. It does lack a certain eloquence, you must admit.

                • Let me turn this back on you, since I’m tired of doing all the work (“Explain blah blah blah” “OK, here’s my explanation.” “Not good enough! Explain more!”): are you really, in front of everyone, going to pretend you don’t see any difference between Obama’s statements that he would let the tax cuts lapse – at some indefinite point – and his statement today that he will not renew the again?

                  Furthermore, are you really going to say, here in front of everyone, that eliminating the Bush tax cuts in 2012 would be breaking the “promise” he made to get rid of the Bush tax cuts?

                  “I’m going to get a gas fireplace installed.”

                  “I refuse to go another winter without getting a gas fireplace installed.”

                • So when I told my wife “I will forsake all others,” that was not, in fact, a promise. I should have stood up and said “I refuse</em to fuck other women." Got it. It does lack a certain eloquence, you must admit.

                  Good lord, are you this stupid or this desperate?

                  Keep playing dumb. You’re not even trying.

                  I’ve lost interest. You’ve put your back against the wall, and there is nothing that’s going to get you to admit anything.

                  So, I’m done.

                • Obama’s statements that he would let the tax cuts lapse – at some indefinite point –

                  Was there some indefinite point when they would lapse? Or was there some specified time coming up when they would lapse? I fergit.

                  I WILL SMUSH A BIG CREAM PIE INTO JOE FROM LOWELL’S FACE!

                • Malaclypse

                  With certain notable exceptions, Obama has kept his word on tax hikes for the rich.

                  With certain notable exceptions, he will certainly follow through in 2012.

  • Oscar Leroy

    “the Lieberman pick (while awful on the merits) was, if anything, an electoral net positive”

    Right, because if your running mate is a Jewish New Englander who doesn’t lock up either New England or the Jewish vote in a swing state like Florida, he was sure a darn good choice.

  • wengler

    I think the most important thing to emphasize is that they didn’t work. Much of the time during Reagan’s term and Bush II’s term the US government was able to go wild with the credit card. That worked to pick up the economy going into the mid-80s. In the mid-2000s? It didn’t work at all.

    Our entire economic model, with free trade derived from various incentives to help war-torn foreign economies after WWII, and devolving into a full-blown program in the 90s and 00s, is designed to destroy the US economy and impoverish the American people. And even deficit spending can’t bail it out now.

  • Anonymous

    This thread is an object lesson in the confusion that can result from the multiple meanings of the word responsibility, and people ignoring those multiple meanings when it’s convenient for ax-grinding purposes.

    • Holden Pattern

      “Responsibility” is a noun much like “torture” in its malleability.

      “Responsibility” is all situational: for example, the team wearing your jersey is “responsible” when something goes well, but not for anything else. In that case, it’s a bad break, or the ref made a bad call, or the dog ate their homework, whatever happened was inevitable, or it was part of a much bigger secret plan, or something. Your team works in mysterious ways, this is the best of all possible worlds, everyone who says anything else is naive or stupid or has an axe to grind, or is really working for the other team, etc. etc.

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