Political Animal


June 13, 2011 10:05 AM Bachmann goes 0-for-2 on economic policy

By Steve Benen

Likely Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann chatted with the Wall Street Journal the other day, in an interview that’s generating a fair amount of attention. Pat Garofalo flagged what’s likely the best part:

“In my perfect world,” she explains, “we’d take the 35% corporate tax rate down to nine so that we’re the most competitive in the industrialized world. Zero out capital gains. Zero out the alternative minimum tax. Zero out the death tax.” […]

Her main goal is to get tax rates down with a broad-based income tax that everyone pays and that “gets rid of all the deductions.” A system in which 47% of Americans don’t pay any tax is ruinous for a democracy, she says, “because there is no tie to the government benefits that people demand. I think everyone should have to pay something.”

These are two of my favorites, so let’s take them one at a time.

The first is the notion that Bachmann wants trillions of dollars in tax cuts because corporations are paying too much. As luck would have it, the Center for American Progress recently published a report on this subject, and these two charts help drive home the fact that Bachmann is wildly wrong.

Then there’s the notion that Bachmann, once she’s done slashing taxes on the wealthy and corporations, wants to raise taxes on those who can least afford it.

This comes up from time to time, I continue to find it fascinating. When conservatives complain about too many Americans not paying federal income taxes, they tend to overlook relevant details — such as the fact that these same Americans still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes.

It’s not as if these folks are getting away with something — the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don’t make enough money to qualify.

Moreover, the GOP has a natural revulsion to any tax system, but there’s an eerie comfort with a regressive agenda that showers additional wealth on the rich while asking for more from lower-income workers.

In fact, the drive on the right to increase the burdens on these low- and middle-income families is getting kind of creepy. Some on the far-right have begun calling these Americans “parasites.” Last year, Fox News’ Steve Doocy went so far as to ask whether those who don’t make enough to qualify for income taxes should even be allowed to vote.

But if Bachmann is serious about this, we can only hope this becomes part of the 2012 debate. A prominent GOP presidential candidate wants to slash taxes on the wealthy (again), and raise taxes on the wrong end of the income scale.

I suspect voters would be interested in hearing more about this.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on June 13, 2011 10:13 AM:

    If Republican had their way, when you come to vote, you'd bring a statement from your bank as to your net worth.

    And get a vote for every buck ya got.

    Hey, it's only fair, right?

    Oh, and double the amount if you're a white male.

  • T2 on June 13, 2011 10:19 AM:

    I'll be interested in seeing how many of Bachmann's competitors challenge her statements at tonite's "debate".My money will be on "none".
    I suppose the question should be which one of the dullard's will double down on her ideas and just propose eliminating any taxes at all on all white people making more than $125,000 per year.

  • RMcD on June 13, 2011 10:26 AM:

    Historically, conservatives have never been "anti-tax" as a matter of ideology or policy, only pro-rich. In the founding era, when the main taxes were regressive tariffs, conservatives like Hamilton LOVED taxes while lefties like Jefferson and Paine opposed them. This is true through McKinley in the late-19th century, and only really changes once the progressive income tax starts to replace tariffs at the federal level in the early 20th century.

    More recently, at the state level, conservatives are often willing to raise sales taxes even as they fight like hell against state income taxes. That's how it has gone down in TN over the last decade plus of budget battles, and we're far from alone. And, of course, there's the regular demagogy about "death taxes," etc. at the federal level (one of the few taxes that Jefferson and Paine loved). The tax rhetoric is nothing more than a cover for the class war, and it always has been.

  • walt on June 13, 2011 10:28 AM:

    The mantra that all we have to do is unleash American ingenuity from governmental oppression is a key component of our national neurosis. It's immune to investigation or empirical analysis. It's true because Ronald Reagan said it and he's the greatest president ever. End of story. Oh, and Democrats give our money away to black people.

    GOP fiscal policy is a daydream in the La-Z-Boy of white cultural identity. It's as smart as Michele Bachmann in one of her off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness interviews.

  • Kid Curve on June 13, 2011 10:31 AM:

    It's my impression that the typical Fox News viewer earns only a modest wage. I'm sure that many of them fall into the 47% that Bachmann et al decry and label "parasites". What must they think? "Oh, it's those other/liberal/non-white people who don't pay taxes. My friends at Fox aren't talking about me. Right?"

  • T2 on June 13, 2011 10:37 AM:

    Here's what they think, Kid......they think "all my taxes are going for food stamps to lazy black people, thank's to Obama".

  • bignose on June 13, 2011 10:41 AM:

    "It�s not as if these folks are getting away with something � the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don�t make enough money to qualify."

    ...And they don't make enough money to qualify because the existing Uber-capitalist corporate structure leaves them out of the income stream.

  • Bernard HP Gilroy on June 13, 2011 10:52 AM:

    We should have more than 47% of the population paying income taxes. We should achieve this by enhancing the revenue of that 47%, helping them earn more and thus qualify to pay income tax. We can do that by stimulating the economy. And we can pay for that by returning the top income tax rates to where they were back in the halcyon days of Ronald Reagan.

    So apparently Michelle Bachmann wants to raise taxes on the rich. Sign me up.

  • Mnemosyne on June 13, 2011 11:08 AM:

    IIRC, the biggest reason why so many people don't pay taxes is because of the deduction for mortgage payments on their houses, not because of low incomes per se. I make about $40K a year and I absolutely DO pay income tax -- it's right there on my pay stub every week, for fuck's sake. And since we don't have a house or kids or any of the other things that allow you to take large deductions, I get a refund of maybe 1/4th or 1/3rd of what I paid in.

    So, sure, let's eliminate the mortgage deduction and solve the "problem" that conservatives are constantly whining about. Of course, they only think that deduction should be eliminated for other people, not themselves.

  • flyonthewall on June 13, 2011 11:09 AM:

    "Oh, it's those other/liberal/non-white people who don't pay taxes. My friends at Fox aren't talking about me. Right?"

    One look at median earnings across the states will show that red states earn considerably less than blue states and many would fall into that 47% who don't pay taxes because they do not earn enough. I say bring it on to the double wide owners of America.

  • Goldilocks on June 13, 2011 11:42 AM:

    "In my perfect world.." money would grow on trees, which would be great for the trees since people would stop cutting them down and start planting them everywhere.

    I think I'll run for President.

  • iyoumeweus on June 13, 2011 12:17 PM:


    1. A REVERSE INCOME TAX PROGRAM for lower and middle class wage earners instead of taxes being withheld from paychecks the government would add additional income with the goal to provide additional income to those most likely to spend the income on goods and services thereby reducing poverty and create jobs.
    30,000 15,000
    40,000 10,000
    50,000 5,000
    2. INCOME TAX all income from all sources wages, interest, dividends, capital gains, bonuses, funds shall be taxed on a graduated % within each bracket NO DEDUCTIONS..
     $50,000 to 60,000 7%
     60,000 to 100,000 7% to 10%
     100,000 to 150,000 10% to 20%
    150,000 to 200,000 20% to 30%
    200,000 to 250,000 30% to 40%
    250,000 to 1,000,000 40% to 50%
    1,000,000 to 10,000,000 50% to 60%
    Above $10,000,000 straight 70%
    3. SOCIAL SECURITY Change the pay roll tax by reducing it from 6 to 5 per cent on the first $100,000 which would be matched by the employer then a graduated upward tax on all earnings (gross income) above that amount. Such a tax could look something like this:
    The first $100,000 5%
    $100K 1M +1%
    $1M - 5M +2%
    $5M - & above +3%
    Everything paid above the first $5,000 would be a tax deduction. In other words a person making one million dollars would pay $5,000 on the first $100,000 and $9,000 on the remaining $900,000 for a total of $14,000. Someone fortunate enough to be making $10,000,000 would pay $5,000 plus $9,000 plus $80,000 or 2% on the next $4M and $150,000 or 3% on the final $5M for a total of $244,000 or 2.44% of earnings of which $239,000 would be tax deductable.
    A. Eliminate all corporation taxes on profits which are paid out to shareholders but tax dividends as income B. Tax all corporate advertisement at a rate of 50% ie.: for every $1 spent on advertising $.50 goes to government C. Tax all corporate lobbying and campaign contributions at 100% ($1 for $1) D. Tax all bonuses over $10,000 at a rate of 45% E. Tax all penalties, fines and punitive forfeiture at 25% F. Tax all profit not paid out as a dividend to shareholders at a rate of 15% G. All legitimate business expensive can be declared as a deduction except those in items b e. H. Impose a special tax on the profits of all corporations and businesses which out- source jobs, build manufacturing, research and development facilities abroad and keep all or some financial accounts in foreign nations. I. The following loopholds shall be closed: 1) active financing tax deferral for financial firms [this exception for foreign source income allows multinational financial firms to avoid tax on their worldwide income by allowing these firms to establish captive foreign financing subsidiaries], 2) dividend deduction on foreign source income earnings from U. S. controlled foreign subsidiary corporations, incorporated overseas [enables firms to avoid repatriating foreign earnings] and 3) the debt tax shield [deductibility of corp. debt interest payments for foreign firms].
    A. Open Medicare or create some other form(s) of public option for health insurance which must compete with private insurance companies.
    B. Allow Federal government to negotiate with PHARMA industry to lower drug prices.
    C. Allow VA Hospitals to care for low income non-veterans.
    D. Carry out the Medicare/Medicaid cost reductions mandated by the Affordable health Care Act so that the growth can be slowed. Putting these provisions into action fully and as soon as possible is the best way to reign in spending.
    A. Cut farm subsidies by 30%.
    B. Cut military budget by following the recommendations of the Sustainable Defense Task Force report which targeted cuts in: strategic capabilities, conventional forces, operational expenses, procurement strategies and eliminating unnecessary weapons systems. There is broad agreement that savings can be had without sacrificing national security. Estimated to be $100/yr
    C. Eliminate all subsidies for fossil fuels including production credits and charge all petroleum companies full price for all well inspections.
    D. Eliminate all subsidies on corn ethanol.
    E. Increase fees on all Federal lands used for: lumbering, grazing, mining and other for profit activities. In some cases a percentage of the profit may be negotiated to protect the peoples interests.
    The ILB would be funded at $300B to start and added to in increments of $50B to $100B per year until fully funded at $1T. Any elected unit of government may barrow from the ILB. Terms of the loan would be a 10% match to be repaid over a 25 year period if not sooner at 3% interest. Private corporation both for and not for profit may barrow from the bank provided the projects are for public use or benefit of all citizens and are infrastructural in nature. Terms and conditions would vary in accordance with the law. The bank may be use to fund low energy green construction, transportation improvements (highway, rail, airport or port), water and sewage systems, electrical facilities, structures and grids, rural broadband connectivity and mass transportation (buses, mini-buses, light rail and fast rail transportation systems).
    Corporations, companies, businesses, limited liability concerns and any other similar organization organized for profit are to be created by the individual states and can be regulated by all levels of government in accordance with state and federal laws, rules and regulations. Under no circumstances shall they be considered or equated with being a person(s), individual (s) or citizen(s) .

  • pluege on June 13, 2011 12:29 PM:

    the trouble with the tax arguments is that progressives have allowed the greedheads to get away with only talking about half of the equation: the tax part. The real issue isn't taxes at all - its disposable income, that amount of money left overt to tickle ones fancies after paying for basic necessities: like food, housing, healthcare, education.

    In talking disposable income, the untaxed that bachmann and her disgusting ilk are so concerned about getting away with something typically have NEGATIVE disposable income, as in not having enough income for basic necessities. And when talking disposable income, the greedheads that bachmann is so concerned about are getting ripped off, effectively pay no taxes at all because they are typically in a position to demand the income they want to pay for the disposable income they desire (in servitude to their typically psychotic greed).

    What it really comes down to, is the republicans (and democratic supports) looking to further burden the already squashed, are sick disgusting individuals that twist reality and facts to suit their sick disgusting greed obsessed putrid soul purposes.

  • Chuck on June 13, 2011 1:05 PM:

    In order to become part of the 47% that don't pay income taxes, you have to have an Adjusted Gross Income less that $26,000 per year (married, two kids).

    I'm a lot more concerned that almost half of Americans make so little than I am that they don't pay taxes.

  • meander on June 13, 2011 1:49 PM:

    "and in many instances, property taxes."

    To nitpick an otherwise great post, EVERYBODY pays property taxes, but renters pay them indirectly. Part of the rent is certainly going to pay the building owner's property tax -- they definitely aren't paying them on their own out of the goodness (or evilness, depending on the landlord) of their heart.

    And, if taxes are so bad, why isn't Bachmann celebrating the fact that 47% aren't paying income taxes (47% in her alternate universe, anyway). That should be a major accomplishment of the Reagan revolution, right?

  • T-Rex on June 13, 2011 2:07 PM:

    Who needs the votes of the people at the low end of the income scale? There are lots of easy ways to keep them away from the polls, and to shut down organizations that try to get them registered.

  • Redshift on June 13, 2011 2:20 PM:

    the trouble with the tax arguments is that progressives have allowed the greedheads to get away with only talking about half of the equation: the tax part

    Exactly. Nobody likes paying taxes, so any time you're drawn into talking only about taxes, you're arguing on wingnut turf designed for you to lose.

    And it's even worse than that -- it's a conservative caricature that liberals want higher taxes on principle, like conservatives always want lower taxes. In fact, liberals want effective government programs that promote the general welfare, and want the tax revenue necessary to pay for them, rather than running massive deficits like conservatives do. But by being drawn into an argument about taxes in isolation, and arguing in favor of taxes, they can pretend it's evidence for their liberal caricature.

  • Redshift on June 13, 2011 2:22 PM:

    And mysteriously, even with the Wall Street Journal calling people who pay no income taxes "lucky duckies," and the obsessive hatred conservatives have for taxes, they still don't take the easy step of cutting their income to join them.

    Funny thing, that.

  • Goldilocks on June 13, 2011 2:29 PM:

    @iyoumeweus : No Public Financing of Political Campaigns? - would go some way to removing corporate control of elections as per point 8 in your most interesting scheme.

  • Peter on September 13, 2011 5:27 PM:

    Bachmann didn't serve in the military, so she is stealing the liberty won by those who did.