Scamming the Rubes

Let us be clear: No one at the White House is talking about ending Bush’s tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 year. You can scour news stories and White House announcements all you like, and the Obama Administration’s intentions regarding the Bush tax cuts have been completely clear since the 2008 campaign.

For example, on television last week Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner discussed letting tax cuts expire for those making more than $250,000 a year, which would affect 2 to 3 percent of all Americans. At a press briefing yesterday, Robert Gibbs said “The President said that, as he had committed to in the campaign, he would not allow the tax cuts for the middle class to expire.”

However, if you’re getting your news from the Republican Noise Machine, you wouldn’t know that. You’d think everyone’s taxes will be going up.

Today the Usual Tools on the Right Blogosphere are frantically linking to a new “tax calculator” at the Heritage Foundation website. The calculator is supposed to tell how how much YOUR taxes will go up if the Bush tax cuts expire. In their announcement on the calculator, Heritage uses an example of “a married couple with two children under 17 earning $45,000 a year with no other income” who will, Heritage says, owe an additional $3,002 in taxes next year if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire.

Heritage provides absolutely no evidence for its assertion that the Obama Administration plans to allow all the tax cuts to expire. But of course rightie bloggers assume that what Heritage says must be true, so like good little tools they are properly outraged about “the largest tax increase in United States history.”

(Note: in rightiespeak, “the largest tax increase in United States history” refers to any change in tax code whatsoever, when enacted by a Democratic Congress.)

What’s important to remember is that Heritage speaks for its founders and benefactors, who are (according to Sourcewatch)

* Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
* Scaife Foundations: Sarah Mellon Scaife, Scaife Family, Carthage
* John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.
* Castle Rock Foundation
* JM Foundation
* Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation
* Philip M. McKenna Foundation, Inc.
* Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation
* Roe Foundation
* Rodney Fund
* Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation
* Orville D. and Ruth A. Merillat Foundation
* Bill and Berniece Grewcock Foundation
* Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation
* William H. Donner Foundation
* Walton Family Foundation
* Armstrong Foundation
* John Templeton Foundation
* William E. Simon Foundation

These are foundations set up by families wealthy beyond our imaginations who use rightie think tanks like Heritage to push policies to protect their wealth. The rightie think tank infrastructure exists to push a number of policies that benefit the extremely wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

One of their more successful propaganda strategies is to convince the rubes that tax increases proposed only for the mega-wealthy are really aimed at everyone, including the hypothetical married couple with two children earning $45,000 a year. Thus the rubes can be stirred up into fear and anger about tax increases that will not touch them at all. (See, for example, “GOP Fairy Tales” by Kevin Drum.)

Another organization pushing the propaganda that President Obama intends to raise taxes on lower-income earners is Americans for Tax Reform, headed by Grover Norquist. ATR is an astroturf site established by the following foundations (according to SourceWatch):

* Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
* Carthage Foundation; see Scaife Foundations
* JM Foundation
* John M. Olin Foundation
* Sarah Scaife Foundation; see Scaife Foundations
* R.J. Reynolds
* Philip Morris
* Tobacco Institute

Norquist and his good buddy Jack Abramoff also scammed some Indian tribes into giving money to ATR. Apparently the chiefs were told they had to make the donations in order to have access to President Bush.

BTW, according to Lori Montgomery at WaPo, here’s the reason the Bush tax law was written to expire in ten years:

The cuts were written to expire to allow the bill to pass Congress under fast-track budget rules, known as reconciliation, and avoid a filibuster in the Senate. Just like the final piece of Obama’s health care overhaul, the tax cuts needed only 50 votes to win Senate approval, instead of the 60 required to shut down a filibuster.

Under reconciliation, legislation may not increase the deficit beyond a 10-year “budget window.” Because the tax cuts would have increased the deficit, Republicans had to write them to expire in 2011.

In other words, Congress knew full well that the tax cuts would not magically increase revenue and pay for themselves, although of course no one on the Right was admitting that in public. And never forget that those tax cuts are the single biggest cause of the current federal budget deficit, the same deficit righties shriek about whenever a Democrat proposes any policy whatsoever.

20 thoughts on “Scamming the Rubes

  1. And now people will point to the Heritage Foundation’s phony “calculator” as proof that they are right. A well-packaged lie on the Internet is as good as fact for most folks.

  2. It’s quite the game they play. Kind of a cross between chess, Monopoly and 3-card monty.
    They use race to divide people, hoping the rubes never realize that it’s really class that’s the issue.
    On tax cuts, they get the vast, vast majority, like the Bush cuts, but they gave us table scraps (like the $300, or whatever amount it was, taxable refund) to feel like we benefited, too. They threw us a bone, wasn’t that kind of them?
    Oh, but they democratize the end of the tax cuts as ‘tax increases’ that won’t just hit them, the Kings, Queens, Knights, Bishops and Rooks. Oh no, they’ll tell you, it’ll hit hardest on the poor pawns who make $45,000 or less and have kids. And besides, if you increase OUR taxes, we’ll have to increase YOUR rent on Marvin Gardens and Mediterranean Avenue just to be able to afford our Boardwalk and Park Place palaces. And if you have to sleep at the railroad, or hop trains like hobo’s to try to find better opportunity, well, you have no one but yourselves to blame.
    Ane they need these “Think Tanks,” and organizations to come up with new ways of telling the rubes, “Hey, you were so close the last time to figuring out where the card was, let’s play one more time because I don’t want you to go home broke, how much you got on you? Put it all down, I know you’ll win this time.”
    Look the game is about over grifters. A lot of us rubes and marks don’t have any money left. You can’t trick us into gettin bad change for a $50 or $20 bill when all we have left is pocket change. We’re ‘gamed’ out. Besides, how can I make change for a penny?
    But, who am I kidding? They’re nowhere near the end of rubes and marks. They maintain the ones they have and also create new ones every day on FOX, talk radio, and right wing columnists. They’re told that it’s ‘the others’ that are mooching off of them, the hard working people.
    “We’re the same as you are, really! This increase won’t hurt just us, it’ll hurt you more. Now, go out and stop it. Besides, remember the American Dream? Keep following it and maybe someday you’ll be as rich as us, and won’t want even more going to ‘the others.'”
    Never mind that the vast majority of us, white, black, brown, yellow and red, ARE “THE OTHERS!”
    Those “Think Tanks” and organizations are nothing more than Wingnut Welfare sponsored Colleges for Grifters. And in their version of 3-card Monty, the winning card is always the race card.

    BTW: Peggy Noonan, of all people, put down her fishbowl-sized martini and wrote a great column on Shirley Sherrod and how that WHOLE video should be shown in schools as a ‘teachable moment.’
    I’m waiting to read about her retirement any day now.
    Any day now…

  3. For starters, the Reagan/Bush tax cuts sucked $2 1/2 trillions out of the budget – how do all those Rethugs screaming about the deficit at the same time screaming about the expiration of the tax cuts reconcile these facts. They don’t, they can’t.

    Looked up income distribution in the US and found these deplorable figures: People making less than $25K/year – 47%; people making $75K – $100K/year – 5.20%. So who the hell makes over $250K/year? Since the less than $50K/year are 75% of us and $50K – $75K/year are 13% of us? I absolutely can’t make sense of these figures. Can anyone else?

  4. Finally found an income figure that makes fools out of Heritage and its requisite group of hangers-on. There are 116,011,000 households in the US. 1.93% of all households had annual incomes exceeding $250,000/year in 2007. Does that mean that 1.93% will be paying higher taxes if the cuts expire? Yes indeedy – and more power to them.

  5. BTW: Peggy Noonan, of all people, put down her fishbowl-sized martini and wrote a great column on Shirley Sherrod

    I read that in my MILs WSJ this weekend. I had to reread it, because I thought I must be missing her point. After all, she’s so wrong so often!

  6. Re the Peggy Noonan article, which actually is quite lovely — the comments are something else again. In the near future Noonan will be compelled to write more “red meat” pieces re-establishing herself as a true conservative, or else she will suddenly announce that she will give up her column in order to spend more time with her family, if she has one.

  7. Heritage is technically right, if all the tax cuts expire everyone will see taxes go up, of course Obama has stated a gazillion times that if you make 250 grand or less your taxes will not increase. I don’t understand why Obama and the dems in congress always fight the message war with one arm tied behind their back. They need to come out with a specific proposal (maybe a bill-novel concept) that states the new tax rules, end the speculation and fear mongering by the richies right-wing media whores.

  8. Ending the tax cuts on the richest brackets isn’t going to be enough to pull us out of this hole. The private sector is hoarding money en masse, and the public sector is too constrained by its existing deficit and arbitrarily set limits on spending to actually produce many new projects and jobs.

    The two of these facts combined mean that we need to raise taxes and raise spending together. The beauty of income tax increases on the wealthy are that they kill two birds with one stone. First, high rates discourage savings and make profiteering more difficult. This generates demand among the wealthy to spend more (primarily on business expenses and consumer goods) in order to legally evade taxes by reducing profits. Secondly, high taxes on the rich constrict the money supply. That is usually a bad thing by itself, except that the Federal government has a very easy way to increase the money supply — deficit spend.

    It’s important that the public sector get its spending priorities straight, of course. If you spend by dumping money into unproductive ventures like wars, the return gained domestically is almost nothing.

    This is in the context of artificial and unnecessary wars like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In a real war of territory and global control between nations, armies, and fleets where victory or defeat means the gain or loss of massive amounts of resources and a huge differential in industrial capacity, the case is very different. This was the case with World War II. Of course, when things don’t work out for the losers of such wars, they often lead to even more wars. See World War I — if the Allied victors had agreed to completely nullify Germany’s foreign debts after the war, we very well might have avoided Germany’s total economic collapse, which was of course the primary impetus for the rise of the Nazi regime. Vengeance, unfortunately, overcame good reasoning and foresight.

    In any case, the point is that wars are just about the most economically unproductive activity possible unless you’re willing to kill a great many people and directly steal most to all of the resources they previously owned. Not a viable stance morally, and not really even a viable stance practically. Regardless of economic and political power or technology wars are mostly won by those who make best use of combined human labor with industry. With a relatively small labor pool and an increasingly shrinking industrial base, the United States is no longer in any position to be fighting conventional wars, and certainly not against the world’s rising powers in China and India. Further, a unconventional war using biological or nuclear weapons is out of the question by default. Any offensive use of such weapons in this age would render a country immediately morally and practically bankrupt, a world pariah.

    Economically, politically, socially, and in several other respects, ending useless wars would be a good start to recovering the state of the country. If the roughly trillion dollars spent on Afghanistan and Iraq had been spent entirely on domestic infrastructure in the energy, transportation, construction, and similar sectors, we’d be in a very different place today.

    I don’t really understand why many politicians fail to make the case (or lack the courage) for big changes in taxes and spending policies like these. You’d think that spending more on useful projects would be politically favorable since it not only creates jobs but creates actual tools and networks with independent value at the same time. You’d also think that cutting taxes on the lower brackets while raising them on the higher brackets would work politically, since very few people are in the high brackets and many in the lower brackets. It is supposed to be a democratic system, is it not ?

    The best explanation for why things are not working in a representative democracy is that too few people are voting and too many people are ignorant. I am optimistic that the massive growth of the internet has made it much less costly to inform people and create an impetus to vote, even if it is biased towards younger generations. Perhaps it is also part of our problem that our demographics have shifted too much toward the elderly, who tend to resist big changes in policy and action.

  9. Of course Nooners has family!
    There’re Uncles Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, Cousin Bud, Aunt Tia Maria, among others.
    When I saw an opinion piece by her in the NY Post this Sunday, I was prepared for her usual drunken, or hungover, ‘I’m sooooo smart’ conservative tripe. After I read it I had to reread it. I couldn’t believe it came from her. It was a really good piece of writing.
    And she’ll be told that this will have to stop, or else she will lose her endowment as a pundti at the WSJ and on TV.

  10. If the Democrats cannot pass legislation that permit the Bush tax cuts to expire for only those earning over $250K, the Bush tax cuts will expire for all, raising everyone’s taxes as the Heritage Foundation claims. Can the Democrats muster the wherewithal to accomplish this seemingly benign legislation, especially now that the deficit is the talk-of-the-town? Since the Republicans are expected to filibuster, can reconciliation be used to satisfy the President’s wishes? What other avenues are possible? It’s pretty clear that the truth of the matter isn’t important.

    • If the Democrats cannot pass legislation that permit the Bush tax cuts to expire for only those earning over $250K, the Bush tax cuts will expire for all, raising everyone’s taxes as the Heritage Foundation claims.

      It’s far more likely the Dems will be spooked into renewing all of the tax cuts. I don’t think there’s much support among the Dems for letting the entire tax law expire, but there are a few Dems who are talking about voting with the Republicans to keep the tax cuts for the rich as well.

      The politics of the thing is that the people currently shrieking about the deficit — the Republicans — refuse to acknowledge that the tax cuts are the cause of the deficits. And there is genuine concern among Dems that cutting taxes to the middle class could slow economic recovery.

  11. The best explanation for why things are not working in a representative democracy is that too few people are voting and too many people are ignorant.

    Even at that I think the system is so skewed by powerful special interests that the not voting aspect of that statement is nullified. I offer Obama’s decision to continue on in Afghanistan to support my belief. I really don’t think the Taliban are going to acquire Pakistan’s nuclear weapons any time soon.

    The ignorance aspect holds true.

  12. OK, you know what, let’s try “RIGHT WING HEAVEN!”
    Let’s not tax ANYONE!
    Not the poor.
    Not whatever is left of the ‘Middle Class.” (Yeah, I know this doesn’t make any sense, ’cause that’s who they want to tax, and the only one’s who’re left, but I’m on a roll!!!!!!!!).
    Not the rich.
    Not any companies.
    Not imports.
    Not exports.
    Not anyone.
    Not anything.
    Not no-where.
    Not no-how…

    You want it.
    You got it.
    You deal with it.
    Let’s see how you deal with it.
    It’s on your heads.
    When the riot’s start, don’t whine to us.
    Let’s see what you do to save your own and your families necks.
    My guess would be, uhm, taxes.
    Taxes tend to blunt the peoples desire to cut off your worthless necks with sharp guillotines.
    But do feel free to to test that theory. Guillotines are a Hell of a lot less expensive than CPA’s. And I think the CPA’s would prefer not to defend you. They’d probably like a nice little trim to a harsh cut!
    But, keep on ‘keepin’ on.’ Let’s see where you, we, end up.
    You want to find out?
    Ok, let’s go.
    You have a couple of candidates in Rand and Angle that are willing to take you there.
    Enjoy the trip.
    BTW – When it doesn’t work out in your favor, I prefer my rich people medium-rare, with a basic baked potato, some Chianti, and some fave beans…

  13. Gulag..You better have them well done..eating under cooked pigs might get you trichinosis.

  14. the Bush tax cuts will expire for all, raising everyone’s taxes as the Heritage Foundation claims

    Again: NOT TRUE. The very top income bracket, and some specific lower-income taxpayers, would see their taxes increase. As a member of the vast, minimal-deductions, workaday middle, I received no tax cut in 2001, other than the bribe of “300 big boys” that Gulag mentions in his first comment. This morning, NPR repeated the same false meme that “most Americans” would see a tax increase if the entire package were allowed to expire, then went on to clarify the specific affected groups who, in fact, aren’t most Americans.

    As maha points out, the most likely scenario is everyone’s tax cuts will be renewed, including the wealthiest Americans, who shrugged the burden onto the middle’s shoulders ten years ago and are long overdue to take up their fair share.

  15. “As maha points out, the most likely scenario is everyone’s tax cuts will be renewed, including the wealthiest Americans, who shrugged the burden onto the middle’s shoulders ten years ago and are long overdue to take up their fair share”

    You know that is most likely. But can’t we smell ourselves? Why can’t folks see what overwhelms them. A lousy two years later the corporate folks reprogrammed us. It seems everything is forgiven, all we know is times have been tough since the neoconsuperfratboy stepped down. It is still gonna be a base election. If liberals sit back and wine how Obama is milk toast, the republicants could and will win some seats. They seem way too fucked up to win enough seats to change the speakership, but us bleeding hearts could give it away. Somebody needs to get the fuck off neutral, and start shifting gears.

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