Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reflections on the Debate (Johnston, Iowa)- No. 2

The third question of the Repub Presidential debate of December 12, 2007 came on the issue of taxes, arguably the GOP's favorite issue to demagogue. Des Moines Register vice president and editor Carolyn Washburn asked:

Who in this country is paying more than a fair share of taxes relative to everyone else: the wealthy, the middle class, the poor or corporations? (This is, as worded, actually a very good question).

Back to the pander scale, with 0 being straightforward and honest, 5 being top-notch pander. In reverse alphabetical order:

Thompson: "Five percent of Americans pay over half the income taxes in this country. 40 percent of Americans pay no income taxes at all. I think we need to concentrate on preserving the tax cuts of '01 and '03."

Translation: Let's cut everybody's taxes- especially those of the upper class. ("Five percdent of Americans pay over half the income taxes.) Pander: 4.

Tancredo: " Everyone that is presently paying tax, you could be -- you can make a case that they're paying too much. The reality is, of course, you need a different system entirely. We do need to move away from this archaic -- a system that taxes productivity, which is what we do, to a system that allows for a fair tax. I believe in that."

Translation: I want to cut everyone's taxes, and who can argue with something called a "fair" tax? Pander: 4.

Romney: "I don't stay awake at night worrying about the taxes that rich people are paying, to tell you the truth. I'm concerned about the taxes that middle class families are paying. They're under a lot of pressure. Gasoline's expensive. Home heating oil, particularly in the Northeast, is very difficult for folks. Health care costs are going through the roof. Education costs and higher education are overwhelming. And as a result, we need to reduce the burden on middle-income families in this country."

Translation: I care about the middle class. (No one loses a vote supporting the middle class, but where did he say the progressive middle tax should be cut?) Pander: 1.

Paul: "The most sinister of all taxes is the inflation tax and it is the most regressive. It hits the poor and the middle class. When you destroy a currency by creating money out of thin air to pay the bills, the value of the dollar goes down, and people get hit with a higher cost of living. It's the middle class that's being wiped out. It is most evil of all taxes."

Translation: See Romney. Pander: See Romney.

McCain: "I know that I'm happy to say low-income Americans, except for payroll taxes, don't pay taxes, but we've got to reform the tax code. Nobody understands it. Nobody trusts it. Nobody believes in it. And we have to fix it. And we can't raise taxes as our Democrat friends want."

Translation: I'm not really going to commit myself to anything except "reform." But in case you heard that I believe in working across the aisle, don't you believe it. That's why I'm using the noun "Democrat" as an adjective, to let you know I understand they're the enemy. Pander: 2.

Keyes: "who have spent overboard into deficits after promising us on the Republican side that they would limit the government, and then produced the highest budget deficits in the history of our country."

Translation: These politicans are just making me sick. Pander: 0 (not so wise to criticize Repubs in a Repub debate by implying, accurately, that they're even worse than the Democrats).

Hunter: "The tax that we're all paying that doesn't help anything -- it doesn't go to defense, it doesn't go to the roads, it doesn't go to medical care -- is the $250 billion-plus that we pay each year not to the federal government, to the Treasury, but to prepare our taxes, defend our taxes, and for the massive cost of the IRS. That's all overhead -- 250 billion-plus dollars. What we ought to do is have a system -- the fair tax system is a good one, or a flatter tax or a simpler tax, because that young couple that pays 1,450 bucks in taxes may pay $450 to their tax preparer. That's a second tax."

Translation: Huckabee advocates a "fair" tax but I can promise you it won't be progressive, so all those people of modest means, who generally don't vote for us, anyway (or do, because we throw a hot button cultural issue at them at election time)
will pay as much as the more affluent. Pander: 4.

Huckabee: "Over 80 percent of the American people know that the tax code is irreparably broken. I would lead one to a fair tax, and that means that the rich people aren't going to be made poor, but maybe the poor people could be made rich."

Translation: Under my system, the poor get rich, and the richer get richer! Everybody wins! It's Christmas every day! Not as complete a pander as Giuliani's response on the debt, but stated more succintly. Pander: 5.

Giuliani: "A flatter tax, a simpler tax that you could file on a one page, as an option, would be a good idea. Reducing the corporate tax, as I suggested. Reducing income tax rates across the board, which would mostly benefit the middle class. That's where the focus should be. But we've got to reduce taxes across the board, and we should give the death penalty to the death tax. It really is a very unfair tax."

Translation: You keep asking me about economics, I'll stay on message and give you the same answer each time. Reduce all taxes, especially for that guy who inherits property worth a few million dollars, which I'm going to continue to call the "death tax" until one of you cowards in the media has the guts to correct me. Good pandering, made all the better when he misleadingly claims "reducing tax rates across the board, which would mostly benefit the middle class." (Well, yeah, because there are a lot more middle class than upper class persons, but a wealthy individual makes out a lot better than the middle class person when the progressive income tax is cut.) Pander: 5.

Mitt Romney won't make this mistake again. A Republican debate, and he says "I don't stay awake at night worrying about the taxes that rich people are paying, to tell you the truth." A pretty radical suggestion for a Republican, it seems to me.

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