Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 14, 2011

THE EXTRAORDINARY TIMING OF JIM DEMINT AND MIKE PENCE.... Almost immediately after President Obama's budget proposal was released, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) issued a statement condemning it. As the right-wing senator put it, the White House's budget "would push us over the edge into generational debt." He added that policymakers need to "save our nation from the coming fiscal crisis."

Around the same time, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) issued a similar response to the White House budget plan, insisting it would "not get the debt or deficit under control." He added that policymakers must embrace "fiscal discipline" for "the sake of our children."

About two hours later, DeMint and Pence unveiled the "Tax Relief Certainty Act." It would, according to their joint press release:

Make permanent the 2001 and 2003 individual income tax relief for all hard-working Americans -- preserving the 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33% and 35% income tax brackets, rather than allowing President Obama and Democrats to increase the top tax bracket to 39.6% and increase taxes on the lowest earning Americans in the bottom 10% bracket;

Permanently repeal the immoral and unfair death tax, which increases from 35% to 55% on Jan. 1, 2013. Permanent repeal of the death tax would increase GDP by $118.8 billion and lead to $23.3 billion per year in new federal revenue;

Prevent the tax increase on capital gains and dividends income for all Americans, rather than allowing the Democrats to increase the rates to 20% from the current 15%; and

Permanently patch the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).

Honestly, it's like having a policy debate in a Lewis Carroll novel.

These guys, like their right-wing brethren, have spent the entire day saying that deficit reduction, debt reduction, and fiscal responsibility are the most important problems facing the country. That's wrong, but that's their argument.

On the exact same day, the exact same conservatives presented a plan to pass massive tax cuts, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, without a plan to pay for any of it.

In other words, in the morning, DeMint and Pence want to make the deficit better, and in the afternoon, DeMint and Pence want to make the deficit worse.

Anyone who takes these clowns seriously really isn't paying close enough attention. Indeed, if our political discourse made more sense, every Republican whining today about the president's budget would be asked (a) whether they demanded expensive tax cuts late last year without any way to pay for them; and (b) whether they contributed to Bush/Cheney leaving a $1.3 trillion deficit for Obama to clean up.

Steve Benen 3:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Sounds like the TRiCk Act to me.

Posted by: K in VA on February 14, 2011 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

As long as they can get away with saying that tax cuts create jobs and reduce the deficit, they will keep on saying it. Not just out of stupidity, although I think that has something to do with it, but this is the way to perpetually "starve the beast". When deficits continue to be high due to tax cuts, "they have to cut spending more". Working out pretty well for them too!

Posted by: apmat on February 14, 2011 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

>>Anyone who takes these clowns seriously really isn't paying close enough attention.>>

Among the groups not paying close enough attention are the US media and US voters

>>Indeed, if our political discourse made more sense>>

Alas, it doesn't

Posted by: foosion on February 14, 2011 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

It's actually very simple. It proceeds from a few basic axioms.
-- Tax cuts are in all ways good, especially those on corporations and the wealthy.
-- Spending cuts are good insofar as they affect lower-income and/or non-white people, or Democrats, or make liberals mad.
-- Deficits matter only as a political football. (Cf. Cheney, "Reagan showed deficits don't matter.")
Similar axioms apply to regulation and to social issues.

Posted by: bleh on February 14, 2011 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Anyone who takes these clowns seriously really isn't paying close enough attention."

I totally agree. Obama should stop taking these clowns seriously by adopting their narrative. Whatever position he takes, they will move a few more light years to the right of that.

If Dems really adopted an approach consistent with their principles (and maybe moved to the left of that), we might start having a meaningful conversation.

Posted by: bdop4 on February 14, 2011 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

we are so screwed.

Posted by: Jamie on February 14, 2011 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

They will do it as long as the "liberal media" allows it by not pointing out the rank dishonesty of this garbage - which means forever.

Posted by: Mark-NC on February 14, 2011 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

They're worried about the US being a Welfare State.
Well, we DO have a Welfare State in this country - for the wealthy and corporations.

The rest of us are here to pay for their benefits.

It's really amazing that this remarkably stupid and ignorant country has lasted as long as it has.
Over half our voters are completely brainless.

Oh well, never mind the 3rd one, 4th World, here we come!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 14, 2011 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

So the inheritance tax is "immoral"? Really? Is that in the Bible somewhere? I can understand the argument (although I don't agree with it) that the inheritance tax is unfair, but "immoral" leaves me speechless. Take that Teddy Roosevelt!

And, by the way, how do these mental geniuses figure that eliminating the inheritance tax will increase GDP and Federal revenue? Is that backed up by any credible analysis or do they just make this stuff up as they go along?

Posted by: DRF on February 14, 2011 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

All weekend, I saw Republican after Republican saying that we had to adopt their draconian spending cuts because “WE’RE BROKE”.

But we’re only broke because of their numerous rounds of tax cuts for the Rich & Corporate.

Posted by: Joe Friday on February 14, 2011 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Steve sez: "These guys, like their right-wing brethren, have spent the entire day saying that deficit reduction, debt reduction, and fiscal responsibility are the single most important problems facing the country. That's wrong, but that's their argument."

DC Democrats like President Obama, on the other hand, have spent the entire day saying that deficit reduction, debt reduction, and fiscal responsibility are the single most important problems facing the country. That's wrong, but that's their argument.

Good thing Tweedledee is so different from Tweedledum!

Posted by: Tom Allen on February 14, 2011 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

I love how they framed the Estate Tax. How repealing it will increase the GDP and bring in an additional 23.3 Billion, without even mentioning the larger loss of revenue. They frame it like it'll make the Gov money instead of cutting their own stream.

Posted by: evinfuilt on February 14, 2011 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Many people seem to miss a major point about GOP fiscal policy. Republicans believe in only one thing concerning the finances of the US. They believe that they shouldn't have to pay taxes to Washington under any circumstances. Recall that Bush first cut the Clinton taxes because, as he said, the budget was threatening to produce a surplus. Then Bush wanted to cut more of the Clinton taxes, because, as he argued, the budget was threatening to go into deficit. And finally, Bush refused to tamper with his low tax rates because as he claimed raising taxes would endanger his war on terrorism. There is only one constant . . . Republicans hate taxes and the reasons why they hate taxes are, even to them, immaterial.

Posted by: Luschnig on February 14, 2011 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

The rhetorical strategy here is to decouple tax cuts for the affluent from the deficit debate. The only way to lower the deficit, so the argument goes, is to "reduce spending." And the Dems buy into that narrative because they're terrified about challenging the powerful.

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on February 14, 2011 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

You just don't get it. Government is a mechanism for helping the rich become richer. We need to shrink government so that millionaires can keep more of what their workers make for them. We shrink gov't by cutting programs that help the non-rich. Then the rich won't have to pay any higher taxes than anyone else. It all makes perfect sense.

BTW, Pence and DeMint are two of the stupidest people in Congress and neither really understnads how the gov't works. But that doesn't mean they don't understand this simple principle.

Posted by: Mimikatz on February 14, 2011 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

There is a rather unpleasant place in Hell awaiting these most duplicitous men. They would do well to reread Dante!

Clowns elected to office have no fiduciary credibility, and are throwing shit into the fan to see if the American electorate can tell if it is indeed shit on the wall, or merely a fresco of Republican petard coating any kind of responsible debate on deficit reduction, job creation and equitable tax policy.

Pence and DeMint -

Two baffoons who dispell
any doubt, by their timely
pronouncement, they are -

DeCrepit and Dense!

Posted by: kevo on February 14, 2011 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

What you guys don't understand is that when people think the government is going to take more of their money, they decide to produce less. When the government takes less money, people tend to go out and earn more money for themselves, which will move them up in the tax brackets and then the government will end up getting more taxes.

Why tax the money people inherit, when it has been taxed once already when the person that died, earned it? If this money is not taxed, it will give the person that inherited it more money so they can invest it. And when they invest it and make money from that, it will be taxed via the capital gains tax. That is how the government will get more money.

Let the people have the money they earn and they will be movitated to go out and earn more. Then the government will get more in taxes. Take more money away from people and they will think "what is the use of making money, when it will just be taken away in taxes", and they will not work as hard. And then the government will get less money in taxes.

Posted by: CommonSense on February 14, 2011 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK


That may have made sense when the top tax rate was 90% (or even 70%) and we didn't owe more than other countries owed us, but to say that someone is going to not produce because the tax is 39% instead if 35% while we owe 14 trillion dollars and have a 1 trillion dollar deficit this year is ridiculous. People start and grow businesses if they have a product or service that other people will buy. If nobody else has any discretionary income no matter how low taxes are, the business will fail because of lack of customers.

Posted by: atlliberal on February 14, 2011 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK


Your argument seems to be that when a person earns money, they have to pay tax on it. But if a person gets given some money, without doing anything themselves to earn it, that money should not be taxed. That makes no sense at all.

When a person knows they are going to inherit a large amount of money without work, they tend to produce less that when they know they have no money coming, and they have to go earn money to live. By your logic, this would indicate that we should tax inheritance more.

This country was founded on the American dream, of people making their way on their own hard work, rather than being born to riches like the moneyed aristocracies of Europe. By eliminating the inheritance tax, you are ensuring the protection of large hereditary fortunes and creating a moneyed class. That's not the American way.

Your name belies your lack of sense.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on February 14, 2011 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Hey CommonSense, (BTW, you need a new name- the one you're using is as inapt as you can get) it really works the other way. If you cut a person's taxes, they work the same or less, because that way they still have the same take-home pay and can spend more time with their families. (Unless they are dollar-worshiping greedy bastards that don't care about anything else but money.) In fact there is absolutely no evidence that hours worked varies with tax rate. A person gets a job and works whatever hours are required by that job. Most strive for a job that pays more and keeps hours within reason. Claiming that increasing taxes causes people to work less is monumentally stupid.

Posted by: Tim H on February 14, 2011 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK


None of what you wrote makes a lick of sense.

Most Americans are not "producers" who have determine the amount of money they earn in a given year. Mostly, they're paid wages by their employer and have no control over how much.

Why not tax Thurston Howell IV, when he inherits the old man's estate? It's income, isn't it? Why should we tax inherited income differently than wages? Why should young Thurston get millions of dollars tax-free? He didn't get it from "producing" anything. He didn't earn it by the sweat of his brow. He got it by being lucky enough to have a rich dad. By the way I'm amused that you want to abolish the estate tax, but are fine with the capital gains tax. Don't see that point of view too often.

Posted by: Doctor Whom on February 14, 2011 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Permanent repeal of the death tax would increase GDP by $118.8 billion and lead to $23.3 billion per year in new federal revenue;"

Those are awfully specific figures to cite for such a vague statement of "principle" - ignoring, as usual, any negative effects on current income stream. Have Messrs. DeMint and Pence backed up this claim with any further analysis? Or is "analysis" and hard numbers merely evidence of liberal bias?

Posted by: Jay C on February 14, 2011 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

I am writing this for the strictly single purpose of providing a fair warning .
The event that is sure to arrive and which shall trigger the violence is this ...

When (not if) any individual or agency promotes or otherwise indicates that honorable individual A and honorable individual B are the two dumbest clucks in the coop , I shall scream .

Posted by: FRP on February 14, 2011 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Make permanent the 2001 and 2003 individual income tax relief for all hard-working Americans -- DeMented and Pence-wise-pound-foolish

Put it like that... Provided we really *did* limit the tax cuts to "all hard-working Americans", I'd be OK with it, since it excludes the upper 5% or so who don't do squat, but loll around. What does puzzle me however, is this: when Obama proposed to do *just that*, both of those geniuses were foaming at the mouth at the very idea.

Posted by: exlibra on February 14, 2011 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the national debt and annual deficits large enough to carry the debt into future generations. And if I remember correctly, a Democrat, Clinton worked with congress to eliminate the deficit. What happened next? Eight years of GOP rule and the potential for inter-generational deficits as far as the eye can see.

Posted by: tec619 on February 14, 2011 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Ever see a movie character that is whiny greedy manipulative, kind of like Nellie Olsen? That today's republicans.

Yeah, tec619, republican can run the bills up plenty and then play the dumb airhead about it.

Posted by: Silver Owl on February 15, 2011 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, OK. The people who believe that their imaginary sky friend likes to perform daily magical tricks for them (and smite their enemies) ALSO believe that if the government takes in less money, it takes in more money. Makes sense to me.

Posted by: rabbit on February 15, 2011 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

The way democrats talk about tax relief shows how clueless they are. No one can take you seriously when you talk about the "cost" of a tax cut or how "expensive" they are, or how we're "giving money to the wealthy." No money has ever been "given" to the wealthy. The government only takes money from those that have earned it--it never gives money. Democrats seem to have this skewed sense of reality where everyone's hard earned money already belongs to the government, and if they allow people to keep some of it, it is some sort of gift bestowed upon them. Tax cuts are not spending proposals, and describing them as such is just asinine. No one should have the government take more than a third of their income, and it should not even be an option for politicians to cover up their excesses by taking more. If Obama wants to reduce the deficit, then he needs to focus solely on cutting spending, just like everyone with a finite income must do.

Posted by: JP in CA on February 15, 2011 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK



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