Refuting the Big Lie Against the Buffet Rule

Mitt and the GOP argue against President Obama’s Buffet Rule or any other tax increases for very rich people by claiming that if you tax the “job creators,” you both reduce revenue and destroy growth so that everybody suffers.  This is complete and utter garbage, this is their “big lie,” but they have to figure out how to convince more people to vote against their economic interests than just the abortion/gay marriage/guns crowd.  They need to con some people from the middle or they lose.

So that’s why I was thrilled to see an op-ed, in the Wall Street Journal no less, “High Tax Rates Won’t Slow Growth,” by Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez, that calls out the big lie.  Diamond won the Nobel Prize for economics and is an MIT professor emeritus.  Saez is an economics professor at U. C. Berkeley and winner of the very prestigious John Bates Clark medal.  From the op-ed:

“The share of pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% of earners in the U. S. has more than doubled to about 20% in 2010 from less than 10% in the 1970s.  At the same time, the average federal income tax rate on top earners has declined significantly.  Given the large current and projected deficits, should the top 1% be taxed more?  Because U. S. income concentration is now so high, the potential tax revenue at stake is large.

“But will taxable income of the top 1% respond to a tax increase by declining so much that revenue rises very little or even drops?

“According to our analysis of current tax rates and their elasticity, the revenue-maximizing top federal marginal income tax rate would be in or near the range of 50% to 70%….  Thus we conclude that raising the top tax rate is very likely to result in revenue increases at least until we reach the 50% rate that held during the first Reagan administration, and possibly until the 70% rate of the 1970s.

“But will raising top tax rates significantly lower economic growth?  In the postwar U. S., higher top tax rates tend to go with higher economic growth — not lower.  Indeed, according to the U. S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic analysis, GDP annual growth per capita (to adjust for population growth) averaged 1.68% between 1980 and 2010 when top tax rates were relatively low, while growth averaged 2.23% between 1950 and 1980 when top tax rates were at or above 70%.

“By itself, a suitable increase in the taxation of top earners will not solve our unsustainable long-term fiscal trajectory.  But that is no reason not to use this tool to contribute to addressing this problem.”

I wish every voter would read this op-ed.  Mitt and the GOP aren’t just wrong about taxing the rich, they know they are lying about it.  We need to send them a message in November that “Populus vult decepi” may have been true in ancient Rome, but it isn’t true here, and it isn’t true now.

Mitt’s New Hampshire Neighbors Prefer Obama

President Obama is leading Mitt in New Hampshire among likely voters, 51-42%.

Obama’s favorables/unfavorables are 50/47, while Mitt’s are a pathetic 36/51.

New Hampshire just sent Tea Partier Kelly Ayotte (backed by Sarah Palin!) to the Senate in 2010, but they can’t stand Mitt.


Mitt’s Strategy Depends on Our Being as Stupid as He Thinks We Are:

From “The Amnesia Candidate,” Paul Krugman, NYT:

“Mr. Romney constantly talks about job losses under Mr. Obama.  Yet all of the net job loss took place in the first few months of 2009, that is, before any of the new administration’s policies had time to take effect.

“Overall employment in the Obama years has been held back by mass layoffs of schoolteachers and other state and local government employees.  But private-sector employment has recovered almost all the ground lost in the administration’s early months.

“Oh, and where have those mass layoffs of schoolteachers been taking place?  Largely in states controlled by the G.O.P.:  70 percent of public job losses have been either in Texas or in states where Republican recently took control.

“Basically, the G.O.P. [at the federal level] has blocked the administration’s efforts to the maximum extent possible, then turned around and blamed the administration for not doing enough.”

The Keys to Obama’s Fate

Politico says the election will turn on these five economic questions:*

Can Obama convince voters the economy is really getting better?

Can Romney convince voters the “Obama economy” is a failure?

Who can better connect with an anxious nation?

What will the real economy do beyond the political rhetoric?

What events could still change everything?

* “It’s Still the U. S. Economy, Stupid,” Ben White

Today in The Times, On This Blog Back in February

Last February 29, I posted “Tea Party Excess in the States Will Help President Obama Win.”  I wrote in part:

“People who thought they were voting for smaller, more efficient government [in the states in 2010] found that once these candidates were sworn in, it was all abortion , all the time. … Angry voters showing up to fix things in their state houses will help President Obama stay in the White House.  I believe there will be reverse coattails in 2012.”

Today, the New York Times has a front-page story saying the same thing — “Concern in G.O.P. over State Focus on Social Issues,” by Michael Cooper:

“Some Republican strategists and officials, reluctant to be identified because they do not want to publicly antagonize the party’s base, fear that the attention these divisive social issues are receiving at the state level could harm the party’s chances in November, when its hopes of winning back the White House will most likely rest with independent voters in a handful of swing states. … One seasoned strategist called the problem potentially huge.”

It Matters Whether You Were Born on Third Base or You Hit a Triple

From “Why the battle over Mitt Romney’s ‘silver spoon’ upbringing matters,” Greg Sargent, WaPo:

The upbringings of Obama and Romney — and the contrast between them are relevant not just because presidential races are a clash of personalities and biographies. They also bear directly on the basic policy argument between the two men over how best to create opportunity and shared prosperity, a central dispute in this campaign.

“Obama argues that government needs to play a larger role in facilitating opportunity, via more investments in education, financial aid, and so forth. He cites himself as an example of someone who might not have been able to advance in life without such assistance.

“Romney, by contrast, argues that the government activism to combat inequality Obama advocates amounts to government-enforced “equal outcomes,” or worse, the politics of “envy” and “class warfare.” Romney insists that rolling back government and unshackling the private sector is the best way to combat inequality, by creating opportunity, shared prosperity and social mobility. Romney, too, has cited himself as proof of what the private sector can accomplish along these lines, if only we’ll let it. He has directly equated his own success with the benefits that “free enterprise” can shower on anyone.

“In other words, both men are citing themselves as walking emblems of their own policy visions. No one is claiming that Romney didn’t earn his money or that he isn’t a very hard worker. But if Romney is going to argue that his own success proves that unshackling the free market is the primary way to facilitate broadly shared prosperity and opportunities for those who currently don’t share in either — and that Obama’s call for more government efforts to promote both would be counter-productive — the early advantages Romney enjoyed are directly relevant to the debate.”  Emphasis added.



In Ohio, None of the Above

From “For President and Romney, Ohio Hurdles,” Sabrina Tavernise and Jeff Zeleny, NYT:

“The battle for Ohio is on, but for many voters here choosing between President Obama and Mitt Romney is like trying decide between liver and brussels sprouts — a selection they would rather not have to make.

“But putting together a winning strategy in Ohio will be a mighty challenge for both men, given that more than half of the state’s electorate…is white and working class, a group that both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have had a particularly hard time connecting with.

“Many have not felt the effects of the modest recovery that has lifted the economy here in recent months, leaving them unenthusiastic about the president.  At the same time, Mr. Romney is seen as awkward, unsympathetic and distant, a fundamentally uninspiring alternative.”

I predict President Obama will win Ohio again, maybe not by the four percent he did last time, but a .4 margin would still give him those 18 electoral votes.  I think the unpopularity of Gov. Kasich, an arrogant, obnoxious over-reacher, helps the President and hurts Mitt by association.

I’m glad the author referenced liver and brussels sprouts to capture the unappealing choice.  After the Supreme Court arguments on Obamacare, we really need to give the broccoli growers a break.

Mitt’s 2012 Playbook from 2002

Over at Talking Points Memo, Benjy Sarlin has an excellent story (“How Romney Used the Same ‘Rubber/Glue’ Strategy in 2002”) about the history of  Mitt’s plan to turn President Obama’s accusations right back on him:


“Mitt Romney quickly established a knee-jerk ‘I know you are, but what am I?’ response to Democratic attacks in the first days of the general election, recycling attacks against his own campaign to paint his opponent as a flip-flopping, Harvard-educated rich guy who wants to end Medicare.   As it turns out, it’s a strategy he’s used to success before.

“Back in 2002, Romney’s gubernatorial opponent, Shannon O’Brien…accused Romney of profiting off layoffs at companies bought by Bain Capital.  Democrats were confident it would be an effective attack — after all, Bain’s layoffs were widely credited with helping derail Romney’s 1994 Senate run.  Romney’s response this time, however, was devastatingly clever:  Accuse the Democratic ticket of — you guessed it — profiting from Bain’s layoffs.”  Italics in original.

Sarlin goes on to quote at length from a 2002 article in the Boston Herald.  The whole thing is worth a read.