Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 10, 2009

IT DOESN'T MEAN WHAT HE THINKS IT MEANS.... Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, has a reputation for knowing what he's talking about. Keep that in mind when reading this exchange between Ryan and Sean Hannity last night:

HANNITY: You talk about the demonizing: This has become a mantra, tax cuts for the wealthy, Republicans don't care about the poor. They've been very effective in their bumper stickers and slogans and propaganda. How do you convince people that this benefits everybody ... when the Democrats are out there saying you don't care about the poor, which I know is a lie. But what's the answer?

RYAN: Well, look, what we're proposing is we're going to give taxpayers a choice. You can have the current tax code with all of its loopholes and bells and whistles, or if you want a simplified system that fits on a postcard, two rates, 10 percent and 25 percent. It's progressive.

Now, we've joked over the years about the Republican drive to "create their own reality," but let's be clear: they're not allowed to create their own dictionaries.

A "progressive" tax system has a certain meaning -- to over-simplify a bit, those who have more, pay more. What Ryan has recommended isn't "progressive" in the slightest, because it gives enormous breaks to the wealthy, while increasing the tax burden on everyone else. That's the opposite of a "progressive" structure.

Maybe this is why the White House hasn't had more productive policy discussions with congressional Republicans. They think a $21 billion increase in defense spending is a "cut"; they think a five-year spending freeze is stimulative; and their top budget guy thinks a regressive tax system is "progressive."

It's pretty tough to find common ground between sensible and nutty. When GOP officials wonder why they haven't played a more substantive policy-making role, this should be a pretty big hint.

Steve Benen 4:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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two rates, 10 percent and 25 percent

The funniest part of this plan is that for all the complaints about raising the top marginal rate, the highest earners are comforted by the fact that they have the option of continuing to use the current tax code. And most of them would, because it would cost them less due to deductions and cap gains taxes.

Posted by: Danp on April 10, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

As if the job market wasn't already horrible enough, along comes the GOP: putting satirists everywhere out of work.

Posted by: Monty on April 10, 2009 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree with CB on this one. Yes the plan is absurd. But it *is* progressive taxation. Very discrete, but it is.

Progressive taxation isn't defined by change from the current system (which is already progressive). The definition is taxing wealthier people more. Taxing wealthier people at 25% and poor people at 10% is definitely progressive.

An absurd plan, but definitely progressive.

Posted by: Franklin on April 10, 2009 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

I have differ with Steve on this one. Ryan is correct--their proposal is, by definition, progressive. As income rises, the rate rises.

We have to avoid getting caught up on the ridiculous right-wing framing that liberals are against people getting rich (we're not), or that we want wealthy people to pay more taxes (we don't). Ryan's proposal would be okay with me if we had no poverty and adequate funding to meet our needs. But we have poverty and we don't have adequate funding. Therefore, our current graduated structure is necessary plus the higher top rates that Obama is proposing--at the very least.

The issue isn't that Ryan's proposal isn't progressive. It is. The issue is that it's a permanent structure that would increase poverty, shrink the middle class, lead the federal government into bankruptcy almost overnight and turn us into a third-world country.

Posted by: CJ on April 10, 2009 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

In case I'm not being clear: the plan would be *less* progressive than our current system, but it would still be progressive.

Benen's shrillness lately is wearing a bit thin. What happened to the calm convincing voice of The Carpetbagger Report? Does Olbermann faux outrage sell more space or something?

Posted by: Franklin on April 10, 2009 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

I second Franklin & CJ -- standing alone, Ryan's proposal clearly is a progressive system.

Ryan's proposal, however, is FAR more regressive than our current system. So Ryan was misleading to act like his proposal somehow would make the tax system more progressive.

Posted by: J on April 10, 2009 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "It's pretty tough to find common ground between sensible and nutty."

Wrong. There is nothing "nutty" about the Republicans.

They are not "nutty". They are LIARS.

They know exactly what they are proposing. They know that they are proposing to enrich a tiny, ultra-rich minority at the expense of everyone else. They know that the overwhelming majority of the American people reject such policies.

That's why they know they have to LIE.

It's pretty tough to find common ground between truth and LIES.

But of course, Steve Benen will call Republicans "nutty", and "foolish", and "ignorant", and "silly", and "crazy", and "delusional" all day long.

But he will never, ever, ever call them LIARS.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 10, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand... Ryan could just as well have meant progressive as in the primary (first) definition in the online dictionary.com, i.e.

"favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, esp. in political matters: a progressive mayor."

Steve might be reading more into this than was meant.

Posted by: pencarrow on April 10, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

When you add the 15% payroll tax, there is nothing progressive about this proposal.

Posted by: Danp on April 10, 2009 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, a rate structure with 10% and 25% brackets is progressive, it's just not as progressive as what we have now.

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on April 10, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK


It’s not propaganda or a lie Hannity. It is the truth. Every time a republican opens their mouth it becomes increasingly obvious…they are only concerned with the wealthy. When was the last time republicans came up with legislation that benefited the poor?

What is so disgusting about Hannity is he constantly runs propaganda as truth while accusing truth tellers of producing propaganda. He has supporters that are incapable of scrutinizing his rhetoric and applaud everything he says. It’s sadly amusing to see how millionaires use their propaganda to rally up the poor to protect their wealth. Since Reagan the tax burden on the wealthy has dropped from 90% on capital gains to 32%. Obama wants to raise it to 35% on every dollar “after” the first $250k. And these millionaires are complaining and try to convince the poor they will pay higher taxes.

Sorry but if you’re making over $250k/yr you’re doing just fine…but these greedy bastards have the nerve to complain and laughingly call it a “redistribution of wealth” when it is actually a redistribution of “taxes”.

It doesn’t prevent the wealthy from getting richer but it does keep the poor from getting poorer.

If we were to roll back the Reagan tax cuts we would have enough money for public national health care for all like Medicare, free higher Ed., the ability to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. And the funds for switching to alternative energy. All the while the rich would still be rich and getting richer and we would have back our middle class.

Hannity stands in direct opposition to all of this telling us that no one should be able to touch his millions (he earned-haha). What he stands for is a monarchy where there is a king and princes and knights…a royal court of which of course he would be a member solely based on the fact that he’s rich. Government should only be in the business of protecting his wealth and the means he uses to gain more…and that is the basis of the republican party as it stands today . Hannity and the republicans are a minority and don’t speak for the people.

The revolution they think they are going to bring about will actually be a civil war where the government of and for the people defend themselves against these wealthy oligarchs that own the banks and wall street and the republican party. Revolutions always end up getting the wealthy killed and usually by the very people they pay to protect them

Posted by: bjobotts on April 10, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

"...Benen's shrillness lately is wearing a bit thin. What happened to the calm convincing voice of The Carpetbagger Report? Does Olbermann faux outrage sell more space or something?"
Posted by: Franklin on April 10, 2009 at 4:41 PM |

Bullshit Steve. If anything you are not being shrill enough dealing with the new "lunacy" of republicans. It's the Rush/Beck mentality that dominates...it is their calling for "revolution" that will end up a "civil war" that cries for the need to up the condemnation of their bogus activities.

Bachmann is after all an elected member of congress and she is pure looney tunes.

Franklin and cohort's criticism is unsupported opinion. Funny, but note the number of comments directed at "is it progressive" which really just misses the point of no matter what you call it, it is another attempt to protect the holdings of the wealthy. Yes most Americans DO think the wealthy should pay a much higher tax rate and have no sympathy for those with millions and billions crying that they may have to pay more on their next million. Boo-Hoo. Consider it mandatory titheing to your country. We must regulate their greed for them as they are incapable of doing it themselves and will end up destroying our economy in its name.

btw...a "real" tea party would be to go and rob those holding tea parties to prevent the rich from paying higher taxes or screwing up the economy so we have to spend and borrow just to get it straightened out again.

Posted by: bjobotts on April 10, 2009 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Danp you are right, I forgot that this time. I say, take off the FICA cap, no cut for cap gains, and let the rates be like maybe 12% and 28%. When FICA adds to high salaries it would be like 36%.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on April 10, 2009 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, you're arguing that the proposal is more regressive than the existing structure, which is true, but technically the structure of their proposal is still "progressive". Unless they are proposing to tax the first amount 25% and everything thereafter 10%. THAT would be regressive. But if they are saying tax the first $30000 (or however much) at 10% and everything thereafter at 25%, it's still technically progressive, but only barely, and more realistically should be called flat, since there are only two brackets, 10% and 25%.

Posted by: Rian Mueller on April 10, 2009 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Maybe this is why the White House hasn't had more productive policy discussions with congressional Republicans. They think a $21 billion increase in defense spending is a 'cut"; they think a five-year spending freeze is stimulative; and their top budget guy thinks a regressive tax system is 'progressive'."

I keep tellin' you folks. They're from Bizarro World. Just because they've mastered not saying Hello for Goodbye and Goodbye for Hello, don't be fooled.

Posted by: Joe Friday on April 10, 2009 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Sure his plan is progressive, but ...

If you consider the current system deductions and EIT the poorest are paying 0% and Ryan wants to increase it to 10%. Seems bad for those folks. And, the current system is going to be in the mid-30s% and Ryan wants to decrease it to 25% which seems like a cut for wealthier folks.

Typical Republican stuff, increase on the poor, decrease on the rich.

If you want a simpler system you need to do away with all deductions (as he does) and find out what the effective rate needs to be for a revenue-neutral flat-rate system. It's somewhere in the mid-20s%. To keep the poor from being pushed off the cliff's edge you need some kind of deduction which keeps most of them from having to pay.

The poor, and lately the middle-class, are feeling a big pinch and increase their taxes from 0% up to 10% isn't helpful.

Obama's plan cuts taxes for the poor and any reform plan would have to keep that effective outcome -- progressive or not!

Posted by: MarkH on April 10, 2009 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

If Americans could vote on this, they would love it because they would THINK it would cut their taxes, an most people have no conception about the relationship between paying tax and getting police protection, military protection, free schools, fire departments, parks, streets, road, bridges, regulation of banks, financial institutions and the stock market, etc, etc, etc.

Geez, most Americans think their affected by the "death" tax, fer crissakes.

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 10, 2009 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mark,

"If you want a simpler system you need to do away with all deductions (as he does) and find out what the effective rate needs to be for a revenue-neutral flat-rate system. It's somewhere in the mid-20s%."

Nope.

The Joint Committee on Taxation of the Congress scored the misnamed "Fair Tax" plan, which proposes a flat 30% rate (23% tax-inclusive), and it estimated that it would actually require a flat 57 percent tax rate (36% tax-inclusive) to equal current federal income tax revenues.

Keep in mind that for the past eight years, current federal income tax revenues have also come up hundreds of billions of dollars short annually, resulting in massive federal budget deficits.

Posted by: Joe Friday on April 10, 2009 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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