Political Animal


December 09, 2011 10:20 AM Failing a put-up-or-shut-up challenge

By Steve Benen

The White House and congressional Democrats want to cut the payroll tax for another year, paying for it with a surtax on millionaires and billionaires. Congressional Republicans, true to form, have balked. Pressed for an explanation, GOP officials invariably say the surtax on the very wealthy would be bad for small businesses.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) argued this week that “it’s just intuitive” that many small-business owners, who report company profits on their individual taxes, would hire fewer workers after getting “hit with a tax increase.”

This gave NPR a good idea: maybe the public should hear from some of these small-business owners. (thanks to D.M. for the tip)

We wanted to talk to business owners who would be affected. So, NPR requested help from numerous Republican congressional offices, including House and Senate leadership. They were unable to produce a single millionaire job creator for us to interview.

So we went to the business groups that have been lobbying against the surtax. Again, three days after putting in a request, none of them was able to find someone for us to talk to.

Then NPR put out the same challenge on Facebook, and it only heard from small-business owners who said the opposite of what Republicans are saying.

When asked for an explanation, Thune told NPR “most small-business owners who are out there right now” agree with the Republican argument.

Fine. Name one.

It’s such a simple challenge. If Republicans are right, the examples to bolster their point should be practically everywhere. So why would they struggle to offer a single example? Because the GOP talking points only work when there’s no scrutiny.

For the record, the Republican claim about small businesses and the millionaires’ surtax has already been debunked. Indeed, the irony of the larger argument is that if the GOP blocks an extension of the payroll tax break, Republicans will be increasing taxes on small businesses.

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.


Post a comment
  • Hedda Peraz on December 09, 2011 10:24 AM:

    They are afraid to come forward, because they know they will be placed on Obama's Enemies List, and targeted by the IRS.

  • artsmith on December 09, 2011 10:29 AM:

    Why is everyone missing a basic business/tax issue here? Hiring someone for your business is a BUSINESS EXPENSE! A business owner's income is net profit from the business. The tax increase would be on what is left over after the business expense. The two are really unconnected, which may be why Thune et al. can't find anyone.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on December 09, 2011 10:31 AM:

    It is so simple to frame, Democrats.
    Just send a Luntz-O-Gram

    The Wealthy don't create jobs
    Customers create jobs

    Customers = Jobs

    Even got a bumper sticker for you

    Give them stimulus , give them infrastructure rebuild jobs , they will have money to spend .

  • c u n d gulag on December 09, 2011 10:34 AM:

    Remember, the Republicans recently included Exxon-Mobil in its list of 'small business owners.'

    Maybe NPR should expand their search and include them, BP, and the Koch Brothers?

    Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

  • Grumpy on December 09, 2011 10:38 AM:

    I've been reading this blog since Drum was doing it, and a certain pattern has emerged. Republicans, it turns out, are awful people.

  • Mudge on December 09, 2011 10:41 AM:

    Mr. Rogers had the Land of Make Believe. It appears that after Mr. Rogers' death, Republicans have fully homesteaded it. It will be completely obvious when King Friday is made their presidential nominee.

  • Lifelong Dem on December 09, 2011 10:42 AM:

    It's just intuitive! You don't need evidence for the things you just know are true!

  • Th on December 09, 2011 10:46 AM:

    I can name small business owners who make over a million bucks a year - lobbyists.

  • T2 on December 09, 2011 10:47 AM:

    pretty standard GOP Big Lie tactic. Establish your position, claim widespread popular support for that position. When it doesn't turn out to be true, simply claim widespread popular support for your position again. and again. and again. This works because the Media lets it work.

  • SYSPROG on December 09, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Hey Hedda? You REALLY had to dig on that comment didn't you? I believe it was NIXON that had an enemies list and used the government to go after people...but WHATEVER. The REASON that the GOP can't find anyone is because this is a TALKING POINT. It's not REAL. It's Luntz's way of trying to distract. And GRUMPY? Yes, they are horrible people. If you don't believe that then the argument that 'they should wear the colors' of the corporations they support should be a no-brainer.

  • SteveT on December 09, 2011 10:50 AM:

    The real bit of news is NPR, which has a history of being a willing stenographer for Republican lies, actually challenging one of them.

    The mainstream media, including NPR, is neither liberal nor conservative. But it is a strong defender of the status quo and of "conventional wisdom". For many, many years the mainstream media has stuck with the "conventional wisdom" that Republicans are fiscally responsible and economically wise, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

    Perhaps it was the legacy of both Democrats and Republicans falling all over themselves to extoll the virtues of Alan Greenspan. But whatever the reason, the bloom seems to be off the rose. The Republicans' inability to do simple arithmetic and their habit of making obviously false claims is catching up with them.

    If this is a trend rather than an anomaly, it could be the single most important factor in who wins next year's elections.

  • Anonymous on December 09, 2011 10:59 AM:

    Hedda Peraz on December 09, 2011 10:24 AM:

    They are afraid to come forward, because they know they will be placed on Obama's Enemies List, and targeted by the IRS.

    Hedda, you owe me a new keyboard. Nice to begin the morning on a good belly-laugh! Thanks!

  • jcrcket on December 09, 2011 11:02 AM:

    Anonymous @10:59 was me. Sorry - hit post too soon.

    It was that funny!

  • chi res on December 09, 2011 11:02 AM:

    Hedda Peraz = Hedd [u]P er az

    (much better than "Al", if you ask me)

  • meander on December 09, 2011 11:28 AM:

    The same thing happened (and would probably continue to happen) during debates about the Estate Tax, where Republicans and some bought-and-paid-for Democrats will shriek that the estate tax is killing family farms.

    David Kay Johnston's "Perfectly Legal" has this about use of farmers as props to help the heirs of the Walmart fortune, Paris Hilton, and other American aristocrats keep amassing obscene amounts of wealth:

    [----Begin Quote----] (Markers are used for the quote because blockquote doesn't work on more than one paragraph in this comment system)

    Soon after President Bush took office, both the White House and the American Farm Bureau Federation were asked for information identifying families who had lost their farms to the estate tax. After all, both had said repeatedly that to save the family farm, the estate tax had to be killed.

    Weeks passed by without any answer. The White House could not find one example.

    The best that the Farm Bureau could do was R. Elaine Gunlad, whose California grape vineyard was hit hard when her husband died unexpectedly and she had to mortgage the land to pay taxes on his estate. But that case was two decades old--and Congress made sure is could never happen again in 1981 when it voted to defer estate taxes until the death of the second spouse.

    Of course, even the White House and the Farm Bureau might have just been unable to find specific cases to support their rhetoric. So a reporter and a photographer from the New York Times traveled through the richest crop-growing counties in Iowa, knocking randomly on the doors of farmers...Not one of them had ever heard of a farm lost to the estate tax. Nearly all of them wanted to keep the estate tax, but with a higher threshold before any tax was due.


    Neil Harl, an Iowa State University economist whose tax seminars are so well attended that he is a household name among Midwestern farmers, search far and wide for three decades for a farm lost to estate taxes without finding a single one. "It's a myth," Harl said. (pp. 71-73)

    [-----End Quote-----]

    There used to be articles on-line by Johnston on the subject -- the NYT, where Johnston used to work, would be a place to start.

  • Jimmy 7 on December 09, 2011 11:45 AM:

    Conservative unicorns. I still want to meet the Vietnam Vet that was spit on by hippies and frightened so much that he told everyone.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on December 09, 2011 11:47 AM:

    Say what!!!! You mean to say that the yahoos in the Millionaire/Billionaire Boys' Clubs, who were previously quite happy to write and circulate unsolicited and verbose open letters to Obama on his "class warfare", have mysteriously become "[un]willing to talk about their personal taxes on national radio"? Well that's one loud chorus of cricket chirping...

  • Josef K on December 09, 2011 11:54 AM:

    Fine. Name one.

    Depends upon your definition of "small", I suppose. You could argue each Congressional officeholder is a "small business" unto themselves (some not-small at all, admittedly).

  • RepublicanPointOfView on December 09, 2011 11:55 AM:

    We believe what we believe and we hold the truth of what we believe to be self-evident!

    And we ain't gonna let no damn facts interfere with our enlightened truth!

  • 57andFemale on December 09, 2011 12:14 PM:

    Sigh. That we still have to have this insane discussion. My husband and I are a 'small business'. We're so small that we're the only employees; and yes, after expensing every dime that we spend on the business half of the 'profit' must be listed as income.

    That number is laughable. In order for this surcharge to kick in a 'small business' must have to claim $2,000,000 PROFIT, after taking out every and all expense, for which the small business owner would have to claim that full $1,000,000 on his taxes. That's a decent profit, if you ask me.

    If that same small business owner wants to lower his tax liability, here's a news flash for [allegedly] dim Republicans: he will do so BEFORE he claims his profit, with BEFORE TAX dollars, you Republican liars/nitwits. It's one of the reasons that when tax rates are higher, there is more investment. Duh.

    Let's be very clear: the only people who benefit from this Republican nonsense are those who would like to have more money to spend on private jets and uber-special baseballs at Sotheby's. They don't create one single job. Unless you count the sales girl at Tiffany's.

  • Peter C on December 09, 2011 12:29 PM:

    The problem at the core of our current political situation is that the Republicans have discovered that with proper manipulation of the media there is no punishment for the commission of political fraud. They feel no shame and the charge of hypocracy does not sting them, so they've built their entire party on their skill at glibly lying.

  • paul on December 09, 2011 12:46 PM:

    In general, when someone tells me that working the same will get me less money, my response will be the work more so that my income increases.

    But the rich aren't like that, I guess.

  • bdop4 on December 09, 2011 12:48 PM:

    Sorry, but if you own a business and report over $1 million in compensation, it's not a small business. I don't care what the IRS says.

    But we all knew that.

  • bcinaz on December 09, 2011 3:02 PM:

    When it comes to the economy and taxes, Republicans are like a Cargo Cult. Somehow magically, "Job Creators" will create jobs, especially when there is no consumer demand for their goods and services. And the more downward pressure on wages, the closer a family comes to moving out of the middle class, closer to poverty, the more that family will spend on consumer goods and services - again it's Republican magic.

    Also too, a country doesn't lose any Super Power points when their bridges and damns collapse as a result of negligence - these things just happen. In the real world when Democrats aren't President - these things just fix themselves. MAGIC!

  • Mistress Tia Live on December 09, 2011 3:31 PM:

    As a small business owner of TWO small businesses (and not, incidentally a millionaire, lol) I can say that this is just yet another example of how big business and lobbyists have taken over our country! Sad state of affairs indeed :(
    Tia Mills

  • Area Man on December 09, 2011 5:48 PM:

    This reminds me of the time when some farming association took a stance against the estate tax, ostensibly because Republicans kept saying that the estate tax primarily hurts farmers. The NYT or some paper asked them for an example of a family farm that had been lost to estate taxes, not because they were skeptical, but because they wanted an example to use in a story. They were unable to find one. It's not that they had a hard time finding a good example, they simply could not find even one single instance in which a family farm was lost due to estate taxes. Needless to say, this has not stopped Republicans from lying about the issue.

  • farta fartaz on December 10, 2011 1:00 AM:

    Hedda Peraz on December 09, 2011 10:24 AM:

    "They are afraid to come forward, because they know they will be placed on Obama's Enemies List, and targeted by the IRS."

    What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    [I see someone is parody-impaired. Say the name out loud a few times, until it registers that what you're saying is "head up her ass." Are you sure you're sharp enough to hang with this crowd? --Moderator]

  • chi res on December 10, 2011 12:17 PM:

    Are you sure you're sharp enough to hang with this crowd? --Moderator

    The name "farta fartaz" should have been your first clue.