Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 30, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE 50% SOLUTION....I'm afraid I pretty much agree with Mark Schmitt's criticism of Chuck Schumer's new book. As a policy goal, "let's reduce a bunch of random stuff by 50%" is ridiculous, and as a political message it's such an obvious gimmick that I can't believe it's going to have any traction at all with ordinary voters. Even your average couch potato is sophisticated enough to see through this.

Kevin Drum 2:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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Even your average couch potato is sophisticated enough to see through this.

Probably only 50% are that sophisticated... ;-)

Posted by: NTodd on January 30, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

schumer the dem leader who went on The Daily Show and repeated the rethug lie that dems are out of touch with middle class (white) voters and to beholden to special interest.

Posted by: klyde on January 30, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I felt 50% better after reading this....

Posted by: Carol on January 30, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a 50% for you: Nobody should have more than 50% of their income go to taxes. We should work on that.

Posted by: American Hawk on January 30, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

senate term limits now!

Posted by: travy on January 30, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

I am an average couch potato, and a deeply unsophisticated one; and yes, I saw through it.

Posted by: Spirit on January 30, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

A worthy goal would probably be a 50% reduction in the numbers of books published by New York Senators.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on January 30, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ahhhh, Schumer is one of those pols who occasionally adds something interesting to the debate, but never says anything that makes you stop what you are doing and think, "God, that's great."

He seems to be continuing in that fine tradition here. Right now I am listening to him on Fresh Air on NPR with Terry Gross.

Tune in on line to WRNI AM, Rhode Island and listen to Schumer and (gag) Kyle.

Posted by: Keith G on January 30, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

The thinking is: People bought into simplistic and clearly insane ideas and voted for Bush, so you can never go wrong underestimating the intelligence of the American majority.

And Hawk nails the only problem in the world. That, and gay marriage.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 30, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

"schumer the dem leader who went on The Daily Show and repeated the rethug lie that dems are out of touch with middle class (white) voters and to beholden to special interest. "

Yes, and he showed the way to correct this problem is to make up a fake white middle class family to connect with.

I wish I was kidding.

I wish just one interviewer would ask "Isn't making up a fake family just allowing you to project your own opinions into an echo chamber? Shouldn't you be talking to real people, instead of inventions that simply agree with what you tell them they believe?"

Posted by: Mysticdog on January 30, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen him on every show on the tube in the last week saying that the Dems have no plan, they need to get one, and here it is. I've been mad that he adopted the Repug talking points. Then it occurred to me last night that he must have written this book before the November elections - and he was assuming the Dems would LOSE. That is the only way this theme makes sense. Why else do you put out a book that attempts to explain why your party is FAILING?

My other theory is that he hopes that after seeing how low Senators will go to make a buck, the people will go along with increasing their salaries by 50% if they agree not to write books while in office.

Posted by: Dawn on January 30, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure why 50% is a gimmick. It seems more realistic than pledging to eradicate problems altogether.

Are the UN's Millennium Development Goals ridiculous just because they aim to do things by halves? A lot of countries are on their way to meeting many of these goals, which, to my mind, is a good thing.

The fact that the proportion of people in Bolivia without sustainable access to drinking water will most likely be halved by 2015 seems like a good thing to me.

But maybe I'm just stuck in a philosophy of "fifty-percentism."

Posted by: sean on January 30, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Schumer (or more likely a staffer) even looked at the comments in the thread after they were posted.

Posted by: MNPundit on January 30, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, nobody does pay more than 50% of their income in taxes. Remember that high tax rates are marginal rates, SS/Medicare taxes are capped, etc.

I guess that explains why Republicans are able to fool people with their demagoguery on taxes: The people they fool are idiots who don't have the slightest understanding of how taxes work.

Posted by: What's wrong with Mallard Fillmore on January 30, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Nick, it helps when you're a web developer by trade ;)

Posted by: Derrick on January 30, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Schumer really was awful on The Daily Show. Boring and tired. Even Jon seemed bored.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on January 30, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

50% butter and 50% sour cream for me!

Posted by: mr. potato head on January 30, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Well, color me deeply unsophisticated, but my impression watching him on the Sunday talks and the DS was not that he thought his prescriptions were comprehensive or that his fake family (I did cringe when he kept referring to them by name; i.e. "the Baileys this...the Baileys that...") was the shizzle itself but rather that this was part of the rebranding of the Democratic Party as the party of the middle class. Perhaps he ~is~ using the "just keep saying it and people will believe it" approach, but here it's someone saying it. Along with the other branding efforts going on (Webb-Tester-style populism, for example), we may get somewhere. Anyway, I didn't walk away TOTALLY disgusted and disillusioned.

Posted by: Daddy Love on January 30, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, nobody does pay more than 50% of their income in taxes. Remember that high tax rates are marginal rates, SS/Medicare taxes are capped, etc.

Wrong. Payroll taxes are about 7-8% (including employer contributions, which would otherwise be salary). State income taxes can run as high as 10% or so. Federal income tax can be as 30% effective. Throw in property tax and sales tax, and you have another 5% easy. That's over half right there.

Posted by: American Hawk on January 30, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Let's reduce Israeli Congressional representatives by 50%.

Posted by: Brojo on January 30, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Could we say that this plan is too clever by half?

Posted by: Steven Donegal on January 30, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

oh, you mean you think people are actually going to read schumer's book?

i saw him with it on the daily show, but i thought it was just another one of these books for show. it's for lobbyists and other inside-the-beltway groupies to buy, i figured, and available at speaking engagements as something for chuck to put his autograph on. i confess that what might be in the actual text never crossed my mind.

but i hope the ghostwriter got paid a decent amount for her work.

Posted by: zeke L on January 30, 2007 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Overall tax rates can be determined by looking at state and federal revenue, dividing it GSP and GDP. Government revenue is nowhere near 50% of state/national product. More like 20% (Fed) + 8% (State); or easily less than a third. Please.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on January 30, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

a-h: Payroll taxes are about 7-8% (including employer contributions, which would otherwise be salary). State income taxes can run as high as 10% or so. Federal income tax can be as 30% effective. Throw in property tax and sales tax, and you have another 5% easy. That's over half right there.

move to iraq.....

i hear bremer capped taxes at 15%..

its a capitalist nirvana...

if you ignore the explosions..

Posted by: mr. irony on January 30, 2007 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Saam-- The overall tax rate is 'only' one third, but it should never be more than half for anybody. If the state gets more than half your income, then you're not a citizen: You're a vassal of the state.

Mr. irony-- If you want to be a vassal of the state, move to North Korea. This is America.

Posted by: American Hawk on January 30, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

(I know it's wrong but I can't resist.)

Excuse me, Mr. Hawk, but when Bush sets up Star chambers, and abolishes habeus corpus- that's when you become a vassal of the state.

Still, your remarks are of value, as an indication of your warped point of view.

Posted by: serial catowner on January 30, 2007 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Serial catowner-- Since neither of those things have happened, I can only assume you're postulating some alternate hypothetical universe. I'm dealing with the real world here, when some people are forced to be vassals of the state because they can't even keep half of their own income.

Posted by: American Hawk on January 30, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Frequency Kenneth: "As somebody who has often criticized the Democrats for relying on gimmicks and talking points rather than principles ..."

And as the Good Lord knows, the Republicans would never, ever stoop to anything so crass.

I realize that simple things like actual facts roll off of you like water off a duck's back. But I'm really hoping that you'll read the hyperlinked article, F.K., and that maybe next time you might - just might -- think twice before coming on this site to spew your rabid (and easily debunked) John Birch-inspired nonsense

Think about it. Would it be nice to participate as a principled conservative, and actually contribute something credible and intelligent to the conversation?

Wouldn't it feel good to really be taken seriously, and not be ridiculed as a complete ignoramus and fool -- just this once?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 30, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

What's wrong with taxes,Don't you want a strong america,Do you want to pursue wars anytime anywhere,Do you not want to give multibillion dollar companies corprate welfare. And if you don't like to pay taxes don't make so much money.Trust me the less you make the happier you will become.NO, Find me one rich happy person, Just one. Thankyou>>

Posted by: john john on January 30, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey Ward: A worthy goal would probably be a 50% reduction in the numbers of books published by New York Senators.

An excellent suggestion. However, despite being non-plused by Chuck's ghost written entry, I'd still voting for killing Hillary's book.

Posted by: alex on January 30, 2007 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Is there anyone out here who pays close to half there income in taxes, anyone, anyone, at all.Just as I thought another publican strawman.

Posted by: john john on January 30, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk: "Wrong. Payroll taxes are about 7-8% (including employer contributions, which would otherwise be salary). State income taxes can run as high as 10% or so. Federal income tax can be as 30% effective. Throw in property tax and sales tax, and you have another 5% easy. That's over half right there."

You know what, Hawk? I'm calling you on this. You need to provide us with the links to the credible documentation, i.e., official federal and state tax rates, that conclusively proves that the average American pays over 50% of his or her income in taxes.

I'm not going to waste my time posting stuff that refutes your suppositions. That's too easy on you, and by that time you're on to other nonsense.

This time, you need to prove what you say is true. No glittering generalizations or anecdotes from think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute -- I want to see the "for real" details and actual cited government sources.

I'm betting that you won't do it -- and that's why you're all meringue and no filling.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 30, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Donald-- Any AMerican paying more than 50% in taxes is unacceptable. I never said the 'average' American does, so I won't try to prove that.

California state taxes are 10%: http://swz.salary.com/salarywizard/layouthtmls/swzl_statetaxrate_CA.html

Federal is 35%. Factor in that it's only 35% after a certain level, and we can knock it down to 30% or so as an estimate: http://www.irs.gov/formspubs/article/0,,id=150856,00.html

That's 40% right there.

Throw in 5% for payroll (it's capped, which I've factored in). 45%.

Want to own a house? Yeah, that's going to cost you in property tax. Then, add on sales tax. Once you're in the high brackets, giving half your income to the state is basically unavoidable.

That took five minutes of googling. Geez.

Posted by: American Hawk on January 30, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

OT:

Hey Egbert,

I posted a proposal for you in the "Death of Glaciers" thread.

Check it out and get back to me. :)

Posted by: Simp on January 30, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk

"If the state gets more than half your income, then you're not a citizen: You're a vassal of the state.

Interesting spin in your frame, and of course, what IS true about America is that you're entitled to your self-serving opinion.

But the OTHER thing that's true about America (and other modern democracies) is that we can decide to tax ourselves at any damn rate we please to provide the government services we want to provide. Your opinion notwithstanding, it is utter bullshit to assert that doing so would make us the equivalent of medieval vassals.

You don't even have your history right: Vassals were freemen who voluntarily subjected themselves to the authority of a leader from whose distribution of loot they could expect to be fed, clothed, armed, and, in the later Middle Ages, rewarded with land and loot. You are probably thinking (to the extent that you do) of serfs, who were tied to the land though birth, and who were forced to labor on the fields of land owners, in return for protection and the right to work on their leased fields. Needless to say, none of the peoples of the Middle ages got to vote their government into or out of power as we do.

And we do. Disagree with the results of our elections if you wish, but calling it slavery is insulting to the generations of free men and women who built this country you tear down.

Posted by: Daddy Love on January 30, 2007 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

A word on behalf of 50%.

It avoids the ridiculousness of debating whether or not we can solve problems. It also avoids frightening voters by reassuring them that the solutions chosen will be pragmatic and measured. I think it shows that Democrats are serious about governing, and can make a real difference without ideological or fiscal extremism.

Posted by: TG on January 30, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk, are you dishonest or ignorant on taxes?

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on January 30, 2007 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK
Federal income tax can be as 30% effective.

To reach 30% overall rate in federal income tax, you have to have about $418,515 in income subject to federal income taxes (more if some of that is taxed at the favorable rates applicable to long-term capital gains.)

Anyhow, I disagree with your magical 50% standard as some kind of valid normative standard. As long as the marginal rate is less than 100%, more income earned means more income retained, and as long as that is the case, the citizen is not an economic vassal by virtue of tax rates alone (an argument for some kind of de facto vassalage on some other basis might be made, but that's a different argument, to which tax rates are almost certainly only peripherally relevant.)

Posted by: cmdicely on January 30, 2007 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Even your average couch potato is sophisticated enough to see through this.

but not apparently Michiko Kikutani.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 30, 2007 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

AH understanding of basic math is is ahhh jee Bush like.So there you Have it The President of the United states posts as Anerican Hawk,There can't be two people this stupid in America so AH has to be Bush.Mr President do our country a favor and do a Nixon PLEASE.

Posted by: john john on January 30, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's a tactic for getting larger goals eventually. consider Social Security: initially, not everyone was covered. Or consider fuel independence fot the US: if we could cut oil imports in half over 20 years, that would be a major achievement. To be an absolutist on tactics is to guarantee that you never achieve anything. If the many factions competing for attention on energy and global warming were to settle now for half of what they are demanding, the US could achieve substantial progress over the next 5 years, and go on to the next step.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 30, 2007 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK
consider Social Security: initially, not everyone was covered.

Not everyone is covered now, either.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 30, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

See through what? Is this like the new Contract With America?

Posted by: Average Couch Potato on January 30, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

as a practical/tactical matter, the Democratic majority in the Senate is slight and fragile. They have the choice between little accomplishments worked out with the president or no accomplishments in defiance of the president.

cmdicely: Not everyone is covered now, either.

How about: not all classes now covered by SS were originally covered.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 30, 2007 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

nyberg: "American Hawk, are you dishonest or ignorant on taxes?"

I'd say both. As Hawk said, it only took five minutes of Google-ing to come up with his answers and sources, without paying any attention to the fine print and caveats.

But hey, when you've got an ideological point to make, who has time for the little things -- like details?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 30, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Here is a comparison of tax rates (scroll down for Exel tables). Some countries go over and well over the meaningless 50% that American Gawk is whining about; others, like the US don't.
Of course, what is important that American taxes are too low because they don't bring in sufficient funds to pay for America's Republican government deficits. I would think that every honest, god-fearing RepubliConTarian would immediate urge a higher rate for their Bush government to make up the $550 billion shortfall which raises our national debt annually.

Posted by: Mike on January 30, 2007 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Mike raises an interesting point.

Back when the government was running a surplus (remember that?), the standard line from movement conservatives was that a surplus simply means that we're overtaxed. After all, it's our money, and if the government has any extra, then it should give it right back to us.

The obvious corrolary is that a deficit means that we're undertaxed. After all, it's our deficit, and if the government lacks the cash to finance all its obligations, it should take it right away from us.

Oddly, I haven't heard much support of this from Limbaugh, et al. Hawk, did you ever claim that the surplus showed that we were overtaxed???

Posted by: keith on January 30, 2007 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

In the meantime, I'm still looking for rich people making close to that AH "Absolute Limit" of 50% who feel that with their latest raise, they have become just another "vassal of the state". You know how well that's gonna go over down at the country club.
But since we're so bold about "absolute" percentages being so important:
At what percentage of GDP do national deficits become not just financialy imprudent, but irresponsible?
At what point does military spending as a percentage of GDP makes us a military state?
Remember, your answers must be absolute to achieve the required devisive effect.
DK2

Posted by: DK2 on January 30, 2007 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

Aren't we in an era of the 50% solution now?

I can't be the only one who has noticed that we've only got around 50% of the liberty, 50% of the rights, and 50% of the Constitution we had before.

Posted by: cvcobb01 on January 31, 2007 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

The average couch potato:
1) proudly allows others to think for him - not realizing that nothing could be more unAmerican

2) avoids cognitive disonance by not thinking - a true hedonist is very difficult to disconcert with politics or science

3) When confronted with uncomfortable realities exerts his freedom to switch channels

4) If conspiracies tediously make those uncomfortable realities unavoidable, reflexively searches for dogma, regardless of how dubious its origin, to justify his bigoted/greedy beliefs

We are all subject to delusion; its just that many of us dont know it.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on January 31, 2007 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

Although I like Chuck, he is a DLC tool...

Posted by: John Sully on January 31, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

The Iraq study group says the training of Iraq police has not gone well, well DAH, Bush throws this country into a war over his damn lies and expects our troops to train a bunch of people that was brought up on killing one another, so pull our troops out of harms way and let them sand niggers do what what they do best, let them continue to kill one another the Iraqis will do the job for the United States without losing any more of our service men and women. All Bush the LIAR is after anyway is the oil, because there only two things Bush is good at lieing and stealing from others.

Posted by: Al on January 31, 2007 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Which voters is he trying to appeal to? Is he running for something other than a shoe-in seat in NY?

Posted by: KathyF on January 31, 2007 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

" (including employer contributions, which would otherwise be salary)"

LOL, you can't possibly really believe that?

I find it wonderfully ironic that as your income moves into the rarified air of mansions and car fleets and yachts that you become more a "vassal of the state".

Bill Gates - Vassal of the State
Arnold Swartzenager - Vassal of the State
Paris Hilton - Vassal of the State.

Guys earning $3.15 an hour + tips at a cheep ass burger joint -proud, free americans.

Hawk, you are a joke.

Posted by: Mysticdog on January 31, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK


a-h: Mr. irony-- If you want to be a vassal of the state, move to North Korea.


a-h...do you ever get tired of being the..

victim?

Posted by: mr. irony on January 31, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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