INTERLUDE—A standard deception, repurposed: It happened one month ago to the day:
Lawrence O’Donnell, the fiery liberal, uttered a standard old howler.
Once again, Alex Castellanos was the target served to us rubes. But good God! Take a look at O’Donnell’s highlighted statement:
O’DONNELL (6/4/12): On Sunday morning, Bill Clinton was Alex Castellanos’ rhetorical device to use against President Obama. Quote, "Bill Clinton was a new business Democrat. A new Democrat. He wanted to grow the economy. The president’s job, Bill Clinton thought, was to grow it for everybody, not just to redistribute what some Americans have."O’Donnell’s whole analysis was a bit strained. But good God! He actually repeated the famous old RNC howler: Bill Clinton enacted the biggest tax increase in history!
Yes, Alex Castellanos actually does know that the very first order of business for President Clinton when he took office was to redistribute income, to take what some Americans have and give it to other Americans. Something every president, Democrat and Republican, has done since the invention of the federal income tax in 1913.
Bill Clinton didn’t just raise taxes in his first six months in office. He enacted the single biggest tax increase in history. It’s not that the Republican presidents elected before Bill Clinton, Reagan and Bush, were not already redistributing income through income taxation. It’s just that Bill Clinton thought it would be fairer to ask the richest Americans to redistribute more of their income, a little more of their income through the income tax.
Where on earth—where in the world—do they go to find people like this?
In O’Donnell’s case, they went to Hollywood, where their boy was licking the boots of worthless insipid celebrity. But back in the pre-Bush years, O’Donnell was such a reliable Clinton-Gore hater that he still enjoys repeating the groaners which drove that destructive era.
In those days, all good East Coast Irish Catholics at Jack Welch's network repeated these stupid old RNC groaners. O’Donnell loved the hatred so much that he still tends to repeat them!
Bill Clinton enacted the biggest tax increase in history! The famous old claim was always pure crap, but hacks like O’Donnell still repeat it! And now, the hoary old RNC claim is being tricked out again.
In this morning’s featured editorial, the editors mention the repurposed claim, although they are too feckless and lazy to explain how bogus it is:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (7/4/12): Mr. Lew might consider going to a swing state and turning on the television because the debate isn’t going to stop. Republicans are happy to continue it with obvious propaganda like “Obamacare is the largest tax increase in U.S. history.” Countering this attack and, more important, building a foundation of support for a vastly important social change, will require the president and other Democrats to spend more time and more money explaining the law’s benefits, and pointing out that Republicans have no useful ideas to replace it.The editors describe this new claim as “obvious propaganda.” Do readers know this means the claim is wrong?
Do they know how wrong the claim is?
Whatever! To state the obvious, the Times should report this new claim on its front page, complete with a detailed refutation. But we’ll guess that the mighty paper won’t do that.
That would require the Times to name some very major names, including the name of Rush Limbaugh. As a general matter, the timorous Times doesn’t perform such tasks.
Instead, the claim will float around in the stew; tens of millions of voters will get disinformed in the process. Just as they’ve been disinformed in the past by the likes of O’Donnell, among many others.
The biggest tax increase in history! The claim was endlessly aimed at Clinton; now, it’s being aimed at Obama. But one remarkable thing has changed since the Clinton-Gore era. As we see in this Kevin Drum post, a Treasury study was done last year. The study rates the size of federal tax hikes from 1940 on.
The tax hikes are measured as a percentage of GDP. (It’s sophistry to compare tax hikes without making some attempt to adjust for inflation and growth.) Drum presents a simplified list of the fifteen significant tax increases which have occurred since 1950. And sure enough:
Using the Treasury study and an estimate for the health care law, Obamacare rates as just the tenth biggest tax increase. And that isn't the tenth biggest increase “in history.” It's just in the last sixty years!
The health care law does involve tax increases. But no, it isn’t the biggest increase in history, as voters are being told—and neither was the Clinton tax increase of 1993. As you can see from Drum’s chart, Clinton’s tax increase rates as only the seventh largest during that era. As a percentage of GDP, it ranks well behind the Reagan tax hike of 1982, to cite one random example.
That didn’t stop the RNC from its stupid war cry in the Clinton-Gore years. It didn’t stop O’Donnell from repeating that stupid old claim exactly one month ago!
Voters are being misled as we speak about the health care law. On Monday’s Hardball, guest host Michael Smerconism offered another (anecdotal) example.
He discussed the flap about the penalty involved in the individual mandate. Sure enough! Callers to his Philly radio program have been confused about this, he said:
SMERCONISH (7/2/12): Exactly how many people will be affected by the mandate and forced to pay a penalty? It’s not as many as you might think. According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office, quote, "About 21 million non-elderly residents will be uninsured in 2016, but the majority of them will not be subject to the penalty.” In total, about 4 million people are projected to pay a penalty.Don’t worry—GOP operatives are encouraging this particular confusion. That’s why it is very bad practice when trillionaires like David Gregory describe the penalty as “a tax on the American people.”
Chris Cillizza, I can tell you that there’s a lot of confusion out there. I have heard from any number of people on the radio who say, “Well, OK, I’m now being assessed a tax to pay for Obamacare.” And I say, “Well, do you have insurance?” “Yes, I already have health insurance.” Well, you’re not being assessed a tax! They think that they are.
People like Gregory should be clarifying points of confusion, not spreading confusion around. But these people have very weak skills.
Tomorrow, we’ll return to Justice Roberts. We will see what the gentleman actually said about the “penalty” some folk will pay if they don’t obtain insurance.
Did he say that penalty just flat is a “tax?” No, not exactly—he didn’t.
But for today, we take a holiday break. We gaze instead on the myriad ways voters get misinformed!
Who will confront this elite: Obamacare is the biggest tax increase in history!
The claim is utterly bogus, of course. But it will be yelled all around.
The New York Times should spell this out, but we’ll guess it won’t. Nor did the Times speak up in the 1990s when this claim was aimed at Clinton.
The Times was deeply involved in the wars against Clinton, then Gore. So was Lawrence O’Donnell—so much so that he still repeats the RNC’s dumbest old howlers.
Meanwhile, all around the liberal world, the “elites” have agreed that we mustn’t discuss this. One possible example:
Because he’s plainly very bright, Chris Hayes presumably knows all about this. He knows what his exalted colleagues did during the Clinton-Gore years. He may even have noticed O’Donnell uttering his groaner last month.
Chris Hayes is challenging the elites. When will he speak about the elite of which he’s a well-paid part?
A remarkable fact to consider: Currently, MSNBC has five prime-time hosts. Incredibly, three of those hosts were active participants in the wars against Clinton and Gore, the wars which sent Bush to the White House.
Ed Schultz was a loudmouth conservative talker back then. Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell were reliable parts of Jack Welch’s NBC stable.
During the twenty months of Campaign 2000, no one trashed Gore as hard (or as influentially) as Matthews did. No one uttered more howlers and groaners. No one uttered more sexual insults. This very bad man did it all.
As late as October 2000, O’Donnell was still calling Gore a liar on the influential McLaughlin Group—while sitting in one of the show’s “liberal” chairs! He misquoted Gore, then said he had lied. This is a very bad person.
Many people watched McLaughlin in Florida during that era, including all those northeastern transplants. We’re just saying, of course.
Today, these horrible people are being paid to play the fool on our side! Our lizards brains tell us it's very dumb to discuss the way we all got here.