Fuzzy Language and Muddled Thinking On Taxes


Fox News has an article on their main page this morning, teased as “Dems Slam Price Tag On Stimulus Plan.”  Stop the presses!  There’s a new stimulus plan?  I know the standard Democrat line is that the last trillion just wasn’t enough – out on the Paul Krugman lunatic fringe, they’re saying two or three trillion more might just usher in Utopia – but how did they manage to sneak another “stimulus” bill into the lame-duck Congress, and why would Democrats suddenly be complaining about the “price tag?”

“Seemingly overnight,” the unsigned article begins, “Congress has another stimulus package on its hands. And this time Democrats, for the most part, are the ones fighting it.”  Wow, that’s a man-bites-dog story if I ever heard one!  What is this bill trying to spend its “stimulus” loot on?  Border security?  Clean elections?

As it turns out, the Fox News piece is just talking about the tax deal between Obama and Republicans:  “The package announced Monday of tax cuts and unemployment aid and breaks for businesses is probably worth north of $800 billion over two years, though Obama administration officials at this point are not putting a price tag on it. That’s just about the value of the spend-heavy stimulus bill from 2009 — the one Republicans assailed for putting too much money on the line for too little gain.”

Ah, so we’re back to “tax cuts” “costing” money again.  Worse, we’re back to describing a deal that keeps tax rates the same as a package of “tax cuts,” which is absurd… according to a later paragraph in the very same article: “After all, the bulk of the package is devoted to keeping tax rates the way they are, as opposed to implementing new rates and policies.”  But then we’re back to “tax cuts” again, in the NEXT SENTENCE: “And the benefits included for wealthy taxpayers are drawing the most ire in the Democratic caucus.”

As Mark J. Perry, professor of economics at the University of Michigan, pointed out in a July 2010 blog post, the Bush tax rates we’re proposing to extend are actually significantly higher than the Reagan tax rates from the 1980s.  Only if we narrow the timeline to 1993 through 2003 can they be accurately described as “Bush tax cuts.”  In other words, only by accepting the righteous inevitability of an endlessly expanding State can you watch marginal tax rates go from 28% to 39.6%, then back down to 35%, and conclude you are observing a “tax cut.”

What are the “benefits included for wealthy taxpayers” in Obama’s deal with the Republicans?  Their tax rates are staying the same.  Well, except for the estate tax.  The agreement would “lower the estate tax to 35 percent – it was scheduled to rise to 55 percent after having been 0 percent this year.”  Fox quotes tax cheat Charlie Rangel (D-NY) saying, “We’re talking about the actual loss of revenue.  We’re talking dollars and cents.” 

Okay, so the estate tax rate is going from zero to 35%, but that’s a “benefit” because Democrats wanted to make it 55%.  Let’s be honest – they probably wanted to make it 100%, so that’s really like a 65% cut in the estate tax we’re talking about here.  Why, it’s almost like we’re asking hard-working Americans to buy monocles, top hats, and martinis for the Evil Rich!

Your brain can get whiplash from trying to follow this tortured logic… and it’s from Fox News, supposedly the media organ of the teabagging Right.  No wonder we can’t have a reasoned discussion about taxes and economic growth, when we’re all expected to choose sides in an active war against reason itself.