Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 20, 2010

CANTOR'S CONFUSED CASE.... House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) takes his case for more tax breaks for the rich to the Wall Street Journal today, hoping the public realizes why he and his Republican cohorts are going all out to protect millionaires from 1990s-era top rates.

Lest there be any doubt why we are so determined to fight -- instead of going quietly and giving President Obama his way before Congress bolts for the elections -- the GOP has two primary motivations. The first concerns the pain that tax increases threaten to inflict on our economy over the short term. The second is to stop the slide under our current leadership towards becoming a stagnant European-style welfare state with limited individual opportunity and entrepreneurship.

This is, by the way, the same dimwitted conservative who thought the debt crisis was so serious, the United States ran the risk of becoming Greece. Now, however, Cantor is on board with throwing billions of dollars onto the debt, just so long as it comes in the form of tax breaks for people who don't need them.

Cantor may or may not realize this, but what he's "determined to fight" is a modest increase in the top marginal rate. The tax burden facing all Americans would still be lower -- in many cases, quite a bit lower -- than during the Clinton era. Indeed, the Democratic plan to give the middle class a break would even benefit the rich on the first $250,000 of their income.

I don't imagine Cantor wrote the op-ed himself, but I'd be curious to see him defend it. A Clinton-era top rate would inflict "pain" so severe that it threatens the economy? No serious economist believes this. Indeed, if a Clinton-era top rate is such a killer, why did the economy thrive in the 1990s? For that matter, under the Obama tax policy, rates would still be lower than they were for most of Reagan's presidency. Does Cantor think Reagan-era tax rates were so confiscatory that they crushed America's economic dynamism?

What's more, Cantor's silly rhetoric about "a stagnant European-style welfare state" is just so tiresome. If Cantor wants to sit at the big kids' table, he's going to have to get over these cliches. A 39.6% top rate will not stifle "individual opportunity and entrepreneurship." I can say this with confidence because this and higher rates never undermined "individual opportunity and entrepreneurship" before.

I'd also love to know how Cantor explains the lost decade of the Bush/Cheney era. Republicans got the tax rates they wanted, the regulatory structure they wanted, the economic policies they wanted, and there was no hint of a "stagnant European-style welfare state." Nearly a decade of weak growth, stagnant wages, and non-existent job creation later, we know that Cantor's way simply doesn't work.

We tried it; it failed; there's no point in repeating failure and hoping for a different result. The fact that Cantor wants to hold middle-class breaks hostage in order to protect ineffective breaks for millionaires and billionaires tells us a great deal about his priorities, values, and understanding of the world around him.

Steve Benen 2:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

Cantor doesn't want to sit at the big kids' table. He wants to crouch beside the adults' table, capering and yapping for their amusement and gratefully gobbling the crumbs they toss him.

He doesn't care if what he's saying is nonsense, as long as it earns him another tasty morsel from his master.

Posted by: Joey Maloney on September 20, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Cliches is all that they have.
They haven't had a new idea since Goldwater was a pup. They have to use the combination of fear and xenophobia. That, and the constant cries against the 'socialism' that seems to be moving Europe a Hell of a lot further along than us in the past few decades.
You got what you wanted for 10 years.
It was the greatest economic catastrophe in almost 80 years.
Come back when you have some new ideas. Until then, STFU, and let the adults try to fix what you ruined.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 20, 2010 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if anyone has calculated how much the average wage earner would have to make in order to be subject to the increased marginal rates that will effect those who make over $#250K in taxable income? Figure in deductions for mortgage interest, pre-tax retirement plan contributions, HSA contributions, etc, and I'd bet that the actual breakpoint for having to pay any additional taxes is well over $300K

Posted by: orogeny on September 20, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know why you persist in engaging these declarations by Republican hacks as if they were in any way meaningful statements of policy. Cantor doesn't care about defending his op-ed; he isn't interested in explaining anything, much less Bush/Cheney economics. The only policy he and his pals care about is tax cuts and his only goals are to garner a Republican majority in Congress and cut taxes.

In order to do that he parrots the phrases that dimwits like Frank Luntz tell him tested well with the last round of focus groups. To wit: "European," "welfare state," "limited opportunity and entrepreneurhip." See also "socialist" and "job-killing."

Posted by: Yokel on September 20, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

The White House and the Democratic Party has failed to fight strongly against these Republican ideas for 2 years, so no matter how wrongheaded they may seem to folks who look at the facts, the Cantor view has appeal to many (thanks to Chamber of Commerce and corporate money, Rush L., Glenn Beck, Fox, etc). Since most polling entities think the Republicans are gonna take the House, Cantor will soon be in a position of power. Thus, the real question is, will the Dems as a Minority party in the House have the courage to stick together and oppose Cantor, or will the blue dogs sell out the Dems and vote with Cantor? I'm thinking they'll sellout and vote with Cantor and the Republicans.

Posted by: curm on September 20, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Voodoo socialism

Kantor's cant:

The second is to stop the slide under our current leadership towards becoming a stagnant European-style welfare state with limited individual opportunity and entrepreneurship.

Reality:

30 Statistics That Prove The Elite Are Getting Richer, The Poor Are Getting Poorer And The Middle Class Is Being Destroyed

I am still waiting to hear someone ask the socialism shouters: If the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, how is that we are sliding into socialism? Isn't what is happening THE BLOODY FUGGING OPPOSITE of socialism?

Posted by: koreyel on September 20, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

orogeny,

"I'd bet that the actual breakpoint for having to pay any additional taxes is well over $300K"

$350,000+

Posted by: Joe Friday on September 20, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Repetition is key to countering GOP cliches. We tried it your way. It failed. You got the tax policy you wanted for a decade. It failed. The Bush-era tax cuts were a Republican stimulus plan. They failed. The tax cuts were designed to create jobs. They failed.

Failure is the preferred GOP policy position.

Posted by: danimal on September 20, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Of course "Cantor's way simply doesn't work", but that's not the point. To these Republicans, pragmatism is not a pertinent criterion. Their worldview holds that taxes should at all times and in all circumstances be lowered, never raised. There's a budget deficit? Lower the taxes. There's a surplus? Taxes are too high. Arguing that it's been tried and failed is meaningless to them.

Posted by: Decatur Dem on September 20, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Also: go to the WSJ site, join, and start leaving comments there. It really does move some talking points, I remember when what we coalesced on here about the wrong of privatizing Social Security started showing up in people's letters to Editors etc. The WSJ has even more viewers. And it helped to have critics pile on columnists like Laffer when he wrote that Laff-able piece on how right it was to cut top rates.

Posted by: Neil B on September 20, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

And what Koryel said. For more about that slide, agree or not with their overall take:
http://monthlyreview.org/100601mcchesney-foster.php

Posted by: Neil B ' on September 20, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

koreyel

Posted by: '' '' on September 20, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Microsoft was started in 1975. The top marginal tax rate was 70%. Oh the stifling.

Posted by: Mudge on September 20, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

"What's more, Cantor's silly rhetoric about "a stagnant European-style welfare state" is just so tiresome."

I just returned home from a European vacation, and I can tell you that any country or continent that charges money to use public toilets is NOT socialist.

Seriously, the right's continual demonization of all things Europe represents the height of idiocy, and the fact that such rhetoric actually persuades some people is pretty fucking scary.

Posted by: Chris on September 20, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Let's do some numbers:

If I earn $1,000,000.00 for a given tax year, I don't think I pay $390,000.00. Figure in a brazillion ways of claiming deductions, exemptions, and whatevertions and, viola, my tax rate drops to below $100,000.00, or 10%.

Meanwhile, say I earn 25K a year, and can do diddly with exemptions, and nothing beyond the standard deduction, my tax rate is set at close to 15%, roughly 3.2K per year.

We are quick to rush to the aid of the rich, but we neglect the plight of the poor(er).

I know a flat tax sucks, but how else will the rich actually add to the tax coffers at an equitable rate?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on September 20, 2010 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, this is the same bullshit the guy was selling on Tom Ashbrook's NPR show this morning. You really have to hand it to Republicans -- they are masters at marketing a shit sandwich.

Posted by: karen marie on September 20, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Those are the two key points:

1. Everyone who pays taxes gets a break; only income over $250,000 is taxed at the Clinton-era rates.

2. We tried it their way under Bush; we got not propserity for all but a financial collapse. Why try the same thing again?

Posted by: Mimikatz on September 20, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Keep in mind, Karen, we have marginal tax brackets in this country, meaning the 39% only applies to those dollars earned over $250,000. Also, Sweden has lots of entrepreneurs and innovation and they have socialism. Even if you have a flat 50% tax rate, if you already make $3 million, what difference does it make if you now only make $1.5 million? You are still rich! Plus, the Swedes have free cradle-to-grave health care, fee edu*tion and a comfortable pension for all citizens.

Dumbass Americans don't realize that 95% of them would be much better off under a socialist system.

Posted by: Sam Simple on September 20, 2010 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

[...] if a Clinton-era top rate is such a killer, why did the economy thrive in the 1990s? -- Steve Benen

Oooh, ask me, ask me, I know! According to my hairdresser's boyfriend, it's because it took that long for Reagan's tax cuts to bear fruit. And then came Clinton, monkeying with the taxes, which resulted in the tanking of the economy in the zeroes. Simple explanation for simply pre-programmed minds :)

Posted by: exlibra on September 20, 2010 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone who pays taxes gets a break; only income over $250,000 is taxed at the Clinton-era rates.

This is the point that does not get stressed enough. Even if the democrats get everything they want, the wealthy will still pay less than they dis before the 2001 tax cuts.

Posted by: Stephen on September 20, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

FYI: The Right Wing party line on Bush's economic policies is that they "created 8 million jobs". While I haven't studied the data lately, I'm sure that this bs line has it's root in the truth. Namely that at some point, during the 8 yrs. of Bushonomics, there were 8 million more paychecks than there were in January 2001, and don't give them any nonsense about population growth. 8 million jobs is 8 million, and how many has 0bama created?
Are you better off than you were 6 or even 10 years ago should be the message of this election unless we all want to be sharing a van down by the river.

Posted by: Mike on September 20, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you forgot to mention that during the Bush/Cheney era, Republicans also got the wars they wanted. And that has hurt our economy tremendously. Money poured into Iraq is money not spent on projects at home.

Posted by: josef on September 20, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Now that you pushed the car out of the ditch, can we have the keys back?"

"No, you can't!! You don't know how to drive!"

Posted by: Texas Aggie on September 20, 2010 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

for anyone who hasn't read it, i highly recommend thomas geoghegan's excellent book, "we're you born on the wrong continent" about the socialist hell-hole of european social democracy.
i'm ready to move.

Posted by: mellowjohn on September 20, 2010 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Cantor, like all Republicans, is to sound like the title of Johnny OneNote. The soultion to any problem is a tax cut. Infantile.

Posted by: sparrow on September 20, 2010 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

"...becoming a stagnant European-style welfare state with limited individual opportunity and entrepreneurship."

I'd say we are already half way there. That is, we already have the stagnant, European-style employment situation with limited individual opportunity and entrepreneurship. We just let the lucky duckies suck on air, instead of providing them with a decent public help to get back on their feet.

Posted by: Vince on September 20, 2010 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

becoming a stagnant European-style welfare state with limited individual opportunity and entrepreneurship."
You mean like Germany? Nobody does austerity like the Germans, well, except for the socialist payments to employers to keep people employed. usw.

Posted by: Tom M on September 20, 2010 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Under Eisenhower- a Republican, mind you- the top marginal rate was no lower than 91%, and for a time was 92%. According to Cantor, the US economy must have been absolutely horrible during the 1950s, rather than the strongest economy that the world has ever seen. There was also much stronger union representation during the 1950s, another thing which Cantor's kind tell you should destroy an economy.

It's remarkable how consistently wrong the right wing has been on economic matters in the US for the past ~100 years.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on September 20, 2010 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

You know what really kills individual "opportunity and entrepreneurship" in this country? Our insane health care system. Had a nice and innovative small business. Had to moth-ball it because we could not afford health insurance anymore. And continuing to tie health insurance to employment puts business this country at a major competitive disadvantage against the rest of the industrialized world. Cantor wants voters to believe that life in Western Europe and Canada must resemble some Stalin-Era Soviet Dystopia. I guess he's just fortunate that many voters are just that ignorant.

Posted by: TC58 on September 21, 2010 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

Every time they mention Europe, I'd like them to have to mention the actual top tax rates in Europe. Just sayin' I mean, I don't really know HOW MUCH tax they have to pay in Europe, so if they're comparing us to Europe, I'd really like them to give me some numbers.

Posted by: Monkey Brains on September 21, 2010 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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