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July 24, 2012 8:30 AM Ari Fleischer Can Still Crank Out the Dullest Spin

By Ed Kilgore

I wonder what sort of editorial disaster struck the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion section yesterday. Did someone miss a deadline? Were they perhaps planning to run an op-ed on how Mitt Romney’s Olympics service showed his dedication to individual merit as opposed to the “You Didn’t Build That!” ethic?

Whatever happened, the WSJ was somehow forced to resort to the ultimate default-drive column: Ari Fleischer (last achieving notice as damage control maestro for Tiger Woods), in his legendary, mind-numbing manner, cranking out a tedious defense of the wealthy as Atlases threatening to shrug under the weight of an unfair federal tax burden. Just read a couple of lines, and find yourself transported to the salad years of the Bush White House:

President Obama says that “for some time now, when compared to the middle class,” the wealthy “haven’t been asked to do their fair share.”
He’s right that the system isn’t fair, but not because the top 1% pay too little. It is because they pay too much.
Mr. Obama has said that some wealthy employers pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. True, some are able to lower their effective federal tax rate by giving millions to charity. Or because they derive much of their income as capital gains or from tax-free municipal bonds.
But middle- and low-income Americans who do not invest also pay lower rates thanks to the deductions they receive, such as a $1,000 per child tax credit (which phases out for couples who make more than $110,000), or the Earned Income Tax Credit, which no one making more than $50,000 is supposed to receive.

Feel that familiar sense of tedium rushing right back? It gets worse, right up to the less-than-stirring coda:

One reason our country is so divided is because the president keeps dividing us. If taxes need to be raised to fight a war or fund a cause, the president should ask everyone to pitch in. If the need is national, the solution should be national—and that includes all of us.
But that’s not how Mr. Obama governs. We learned during the 2008 campaign that he believes in spreading the wealth around. And recently we learned he doesn’t believe that successful people made it on their own. Without the government, the president tells us, job creators and entrepreneurs would not be able to make it in America.
It’s really the other way around. Without job creators and the successful, the government wouldn’t have any money. So next time Mr. Obama meets someone in the top 1% or even the top 20%, instead of saying they’re not paying their fair share, he should simply say thank you.

Part of me wants to shout at the screen: “Payroll taxes, Ari! What about payroll taxes!” Or maybe: “State and local taxes, Ari; they count, too;” or: “After-tax income, Ari! What about after-tax income?” Or even: “Ever heard of the idea of progressive tax rates, Ari?”

But I know that even if he could hear me, he wouldn’t respond. Communications, Fleischer-style, involves the repetition of the dullest, most mendacious talking points, delivered with that signature soul-deadening lack of flair.

It almost makes Mitt Romney sound like a blithe spirit full of spontenaiety. Maybe that’s the whole idea.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Hedda Peraz on July 24, 2012 8:37 AM:

    All together now:
    "Taxes are bad. We pay too much. You're getting sleeeeepy. . . "

  • terraformer on July 24, 2012 8:52 AM:

    There are so many minions just waiting in the wings to be called forth to splatter venom in support of the wealthy establishment.

    Would that we had a voice and a venue with which to counter the misinformation tsunami. While I am heartened by the efforts of sites such as this and TV personalities such as Maddow and Hayes, they are far too microscopic in comparison.

    The most prescient and effective thing the Right has done is to carefully and methodically plan and carry out their decades-long plan to consolidate media and to create scores of think-tanks whose only purpose is to feed the media machine with drivel such as Fleischer's. Their plan and its obvious success quite amazing, really, to behold - and it'd be laudable if it weren't so misanthropic and evil.

  • SteveT on July 24, 2012 9:03 AM:

    Depending on what statistics conservatives quote, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans pay between 43% and 59% of all taxes.

    But in exchange, that 10 percent of Americans effectively receive complete immunity from all of the laws that we peasants have to obey. In the rare event that one of the Elite is convicted, they end up being fined an amount equivalent to the rest of us being fined $0.25 for speeding.

    The only exceptions are if they commit crimes against people who are wealthier than they are, or they break the same laws over and over until they wear out judicial "deference". And even then the "prison" they're sent to looks and feels more like a health resort.

    Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

  • T2 on July 24, 2012 9:13 AM:

    Fleischer is a GOP shill, paid to pop up and prop up the party line. Don't read him after you've eaten.

  • stevio on July 24, 2012 9:14 AM:

    Many of those who will vote against Obama are those being discussed in Ari's twisted and illogical, if not liar based banter. The poor, mindless, low information Fox voter who for reasons unknown to mankind vote for individuals who immediately make them poorer, dumber, and more likely to stay in that genre.

    Most Third World Countries start out as Third World Countries. The people living in them never had a chance to effect change. Here, we have manufactured this status via electing the leaders who are carefully guiding us to this status. Remarkable.

  • Kathryn on July 24, 2012 9:17 AM:

    Nail on the head terraformer.

  • c u n d gulag on July 24, 2012 9:22 AM:

    Ari's writing make David Brooks' and Bill Kristol's seem like .you're reading Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe.

    I tried to read the whole thing, but I don't think a kilo of coke, some speed, and a pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, could have kept me awake long enough to finish it.

    Ari Fleischer: Insipid mendacity at its very worst.

  • DAY on July 24, 2012 9:22 AM:

    @stevio, re "Fox voters":

    At an early age children are indoctrinated in "articles of faith"- mostly religious in nature, and as they become adults, continue to hold those beliefs.

    They are also raised in a loving, nurturing family that also holds political beliefs. I remember that my father always watched NBC news (in the 50's) rather than ABC or CBS. And the family always drove a Chevy. To this day I have a preference for both, but realize WHY I do.
    "There are none so blind, as those who will not see."

  • kd bart on July 24, 2012 9:23 AM:

    A dutiful whore will perform any act for a buck.

  • c u n d gulag on July 24, 2012 9:26 AM:

    Steve T,
    Yeah, the worst these evil assclowns ever get is a few years of "hard time" - a country club prison with an individual college dormitory-style room, catered meals - and, for the love of God, only a 3-hole golf course!
    OH, THE HUMANITIES!!!

  • Steve P on July 24, 2012 9:32 AM:

    Even as I read this, Chuck Todd is talking about the rugged individualist businessman who's the subject of a Romney ad--who got a pile of cash over the years from various state and Federal business assistance programs.

  • arkie on July 24, 2012 9:38 AM:

    "At an early age children are indoctrinated in "articles of faith"- mostly religious in nature, and as they become adults, continue to hold those beliefs."

    From South Pacific:

    You've got to be taught before it's too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You've got to be carefully taught!

    Barbra Streisand - Carefully Taught and Children Will Listen

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZSt1pgjQdk

  • Anonymous on July 24, 2012 9:46 AM:

    This is pretty rich, coming from Fleischer:

    "One reason our country is so divided is because the president keeps dividing us. If taxes need to be raised to fight a war or fund a cause, the president should ask everyone to pitch in. If the need is national, the solution should be national—and that includes all of us."

    His boss began two wars which, we were assured, were in our national interest but for which, unlike every other armed conflict in our country's history, there was no tax increase to pay for them. But now that Obama is making the pitch to raise taxes on the wealthy to help pay down the debt and invest in education and infrastructure (read: "fund a cause")--both of which they as "job creators" would disproportionately benefit from--Fleischer takes umbrage at this?

  • Peter C on July 24, 2012 9:48 AM:

    Some facts about the Earned Income Tax Credit for Ari and the curious:

    Earned Income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:

    $45,060 ($50,270 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
    $41,952 ($47,162 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
    $36,920 ($42,130 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
    $13,980 ($19,190 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

    Tax Year 2012 maximum credit:

    $5,891 with three or more qualifying children
    $5,236 with two qualifying children
    $3,169 with one qualifying child
    $475 with no qualifying children

    So, a poor single person with no children working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks at minimum wage ... would make $14,500, and would not qualify. Not one of the 'lucky duckies', I guess.

  • Jen S on July 24, 2012 9:56 AM:

    I particularly like the part about raising taxes to pay for a war, which I don't remember his boss ever doing.

  • Tess on July 24, 2012 10:10 AM:

    "Atlases threatening to shrug"

    Thanks, Ed. That quote alone was worth the read.

  • Rabbler on July 24, 2012 10:16 AM:

    It's the veiled threat that gives the argument teeth. As time goes on we more desperately need what scraps they throw to us. Make no mistake, they can do us harm. They do it even without trying to do so.

  • ZC on July 24, 2012 10:16 AM:

    In Ari's defense (no! stay with me!) if you put in all the payroll taxes and the state taxes, you are not going to shake the percentages he references that much ... the top 1 / 20 have most of the income in the country these days, so it's going to stand that they pay most of the taxes.

    However, I've always felt there's a different way to look at this. Why not make the moral standard not what % of the country's income you make, but what % of the country's -wealth- you control? The top 1% according to Forbes control / own like 43% of the nation's wealth. By the time you get to the top 20%, that's nearly all of it.

    Wealth inequality is far wider and more wide-sweeping than income inequality. Looked at that way, the 1% are doing fine, tax-wise.

  • bluestatedon on July 24, 2012 10:19 AM:

    If you ask a typical white GOPer over the age of 50 what was the best era in our country's history, a large, large percentage of them will respond "the 1950s" for all the usual reasons you would expect: everybody respected the flag, there was no war on Christmas, a man could work at a man's job and support the whole family, mothers baked apple pies all day, people went to church every Sunday and never took the Lord's name in vain, etc. etc. etc.

    Very conveniently, they'll completely ignore the fact that marginal tax rates were vastly higher than they are today, and membership in labor unions was at a vastly higher rate than today.

    And Ari Fleischer is now and has always been completely full of shit.

  • exlibra on July 24, 2012 10:22 AM:

    So next time Mr. Obama meets someone in the top 1% or even the top 20%, instead of saying they’re not paying their fair share, he should simply say thank you. -- Fleshy Ari

    It's digs like that, from the snotty self-appointed Masters of Universe, which keep me sending money to my preferred candidates. I think Ari has just secured a nice birthday gift for President Obama.

  • g on July 24, 2012 10:37 AM:

    "spreading the wealth around"

    So hard-hitting Ari is still fighting the 2008 election? Better bring in Joe the non-Plumber.

  • beejeez on July 24, 2012 10:50 AM:

    Two points:

    Someone with half a brain needs to gun down this canard that the wealthy need all that money so they can create jobs. No. Everybody creates jobs. Just buying a quart of milk helps create jobs for thousands of people, from the grocer to the grocer's doctor, including Wall Street investors.

    I'm thinking that maybe the way to appeal to wealthy people whining about their tax rates is to point out that the much higher tax rates paid by their mom and dad engendered the economy under which they have prospered. Who are they to assert they should sacrifice less than their forebears? Are they better people? Are they less prosperous than their predecessors?

  • dweb on July 24, 2012 11:00 AM:

    Ari's timing is just exquisite: He issues this pile of steaming animal excrement AFTER a study finding that the wealthy are using offshore accounts to shield $20-30 TRILLION from in-country taxation....that means NO taxes at all.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jul/21/offshore-wealth-global-economy-tax-havens

  • Joe Friday on July 24, 2012 12:06 PM:

    Fleischer: "the system isn't fair, but not because the top 1% pay too little. It is because they pay too much."

    I suggest Willard make that Bizzaro World view the centerpiece of his campaign.

    A sure-fire winner.

  • Anonymous on July 24, 2012 2:21 PM:

    Okay, I concede, Ari is right ... because the wall of deductions available to the 1% are totes equivalent to the $1000 deduction available only if you make less than $50,000/year and have a kid.

  • Anonymous on July 24, 2012 2:23 PM:

    SteveT sez, on July 24, 2012 9:03 AM:

    Depending on what statistics conservatives quote, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans pay between 43% and 59% of all taxes.

    Sure, but the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans also owns 90% of the country. If they want to keep it, they should pay for it.

  • mk on July 24, 2012 11:13 PM:

    "Depending on what statistics conservatives quote, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans pay between 43% and 59% of all taxes."

    Which is considerably less than the percentage of wealth they possess.