Supplemental: The craziness of those crazy tax plans!


Krugman clues Chris Hayes:
How crazy are the budget plans of the current Republican candidates?

Last night, Paul Krugman appeared with Chris Hayes on The One True Liberal Channel. At one point, he compared those candidates' current budget proposals to the proposal of Candidate Bush back in Campaign 2000.

He said the current tax plans are just massively crazier. Hayes seemed surprised by that. Here's how their discussion began:
HAYES (11/2/15): One of the reasons I was excited to have you on tonight is, lost in the sort of reaction to the CNBC debate is the fact that the idea behind the CNBC debate is that it would be the debate focused on economic issues.

KRUGMAN: And they had little of that—

HAYES: And it strikes me that essentially the central domestic policy plank of the Republican Party now is the same as when George W. Bush ran in 2000, which is lots of tax cuts, which will distributionally benefit the wealthiest the most. Is that a fair characterization?

KRUGMAN: Sure. Except the difference now is that the tax cuts are bigger, they're less responsible, and the claims being made for them are even more extravagant. So, you know, Bush looks cautious and statesmanlike compared with the current crop.

HAYES: Really?

KRUGMAN: Yeah! No, it's amazing, actually. We are— I'm starting to look back and I said, "Boy, that was a sane party in the Bush years, by comparison." I mean, this is crazy.
To watch the whole segment, click here.

You can watch the tape to decide of Hayes was surprised by what Krugman said. To our ear, the cable host sounds quite surprised when he says, "Really?"

At any rate, Krugman said that Candidate Bush 2000 "looks cautious and statesman-like compared with the current crop." He said the current budget proposals are "crazy"—that Bush's budget proposal in Campaign 2000 seems sane in comparison.

Plainly, that assessment is true. Unfortunately, CNBC's hapless moderators barely touched on these points last Wednesday night. Instead, they wandered the countryside, throwing out scattershot questions from which they would quickly move on.

All too often, they did so in a snarky, insulting way. Their tone seemed to have been designed in heaven to reinforce GOP talking-points about the press corps' liberal bias.

How hapless were those moderators? We'll examine the question all week. Today, let's recall the size of Candidate Bush's tax cut proposal in Campaign 2000.

You could report the size of Bush's tax cut proposal in several different ways. In part, it depended on whether you included the year 2001, in which the proposed tax cuts wouldn't yet have taken effect. It also depended on whether you included the increased interest costs which would accrue to the federal government after the proposed tax cuts lowered federal revenues.

By the time of the first Bush-Gore debate, the two candidates had long been using different numbers to describe the size of the plan. In that fateful debate, Bush said he would be returning $1.3 trillion to the people through his tax cuts in his first ten years (starting in 2001).

Candidate Gore started counting in the year 2002, when the proposed tax cuts would go into effect. In that fateful first debate, he said Candidate Bush had proposed "a $1.9 trillion tax cut, almost half of which goes to the wealthy."

You can pick the accounting method you like. However you choose to slice it, that was the range within which the debate occurred during Campaign 2000. According to Candidate Bush, he had proposed $1.3 trillion in tax cuts over ten years. According to Candidate Gore, Bush had proposed a $1.9 trillion hit to the federal treasury.

Something else should be said about Bush's proposal in Campaign 2000; we'll note that point below. For now, consider what Krugman meant when he said that Bush's proposal in Campaign 2000 looks cautious, statesmanlike and sane when compared with the current "crazy" proposals.

As Krugman and Hayes continued talking last night, Krugman cited a number. Readers, be forewarned! This is just the start of the current lunacy:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): No, it's amazing, actually. We are— I'm starting to look back and I said, "Boy, that was a sane party in the Bush years, by comparison." I mean, this is crazy.

You know, Marco Rubio, who is now sort of emerging as the establishment candidate, $6 trillion of unfunded tax cuts. Which he claims will pay for themselves, which is deep voodoo. And that's amazing, that a major party has gone that far down the crazy path.
Depending on how you did the accounting, Candidate Bush proposed $1.3 trillion-$1.9 trillion in tax cuts in Campaign 2000. By way of contrast, Candidate Rubio's plan involves $6 trillion in tax cuts, and that's just the start of The Crazy.

Other plans by the leading contenders are much more extensive. Candidate Trump's exercise in lunacy has been scored at $11 trillion, to offer one example.

That's what Krugman had in mind when he said that Bush was relatively sane in Campaign 2000 while the current players are crazy. In a typical manifestation, Hayes didn't seem to know what Krugman meant. He never asked Krugman to state the numbers from Campaign 2000, which are dwarfed by the current numbers.

This brings us back to the haplessness of last Wednesday's debate. CNBC had assembled a trio of made-for-TV cable players who seemed to have little desire or ability to examine the way such budget matters works.

As Hayes noted, "the idea behind the CNBC debate is that it would be the debate focused on economic issues." As it turned out, CNBC's trio of players simply weren't up to this task.

Occasionally, they tried to discuss a few of the candidates' budget plans. Later this week, we'll look at the ways they proceeded.

More often, they flailed about, asking silly questions about polls or about "relationships" involving dietary supplements. Their incompetence was gross, astounding, relentless, routine.

The liberal world couldn't see this. Just like that, our intellectual leaders began insisting that these corporate dopes had actually done a good job.

Just for one brief shining moment, can we talk real talk? CNBC's Three Musketeers were not on the air because they're highly competent.

They were on the air for other reasons. They were on the air because they're telegenic, and because they provided the appropriate demographic mix. One moderator was on the air because he's a legacy player, just like Mika and Willie, his fellow incompetents.

Quintanilla was handsome and Hispanic; Quick and pretty and strawberry blonde; Harwood was handsome and second generation. The fact that they had the combined skill level of a sleeping galoot didn't seem to have occurred to their corporate bosses—and we liberals quickly began to pretend that they'd actually done a good job.

Who's dumber—CNBC's Three Musketeers or us? We'll examine their performance all week. But their work was sad, quite poor.

Those budget proposals are manifestly crazy. As the week proceeds, we'll marvel at the hapless way the moderators approached that remarkable fact.

One more point about Candidate Bush in 2000: In last Friday's column, Krugman snarked a bit about Candidate Bush 2000. We thought this passage was misleading, perhaps a bit deceptive:
KRUGMAN (10/30/15): Consider Mr. Rubio, who has emerged as the leading conventional candidate thanks to Jeb Bush’s utter haplessness. There was a time when Mr. Rubio’s insistence that $6 trillion in tax cuts would somehow pay for themselves would have marked him as deeply unserious, especially given the way his party has been harping on the evils of budget deficits. Even George W. Bush, during the 2000 campaign, at least pretended to be engaged in conventional budgeting, handing back part of a projected budget surplus.
In Campaign 2000, did Candidate Bush pretend "to be engaged in conventional budgeting, handing back part of a projected budget surplus?"

In fact, he did hand back part of a projected budget surplus. Those were very different times. Even after his tax cuts passed in 2001, the OMB and the CBO were still projecting future surpluses!

Once again, let's talk:

Bush proposed less than $2 trillion in tax cuts at a time of large surpluses. At a time of projected deficits, Rubio is proposing $6 trillion in tax cuts; Trump is near $11 trillion.

Hayes didn't seem to know about this. Last week, CNBC's moderators didn't even seem to know where their pitiful factoids had come from.

As liberals, we never stop accepting this level of performance. By late last week, we were grateful just for the chance to claim that Carson had lied!


  1. I, myself, would be quite interested in how Bob Somerby might imagine a useful discussion of tax plans would go- and while he's at it would he touch on whether or not there's a current need for fiscal stimulus and if so whether it should be tax reduction or spending increase based?

    1. SOMERBY: Good evening, I’m Bob Somerby, with my colleagues Carl "Don't Call Me Carlos" Quintanilla, Becky "Strawberries" Quick and John Harwood, who had parents. We’ll be joined tonight by some of CNBC’s other niche filling tokens.

      Tonight we celebrate seventeen years since the outbreak of the War on Gore with another futile reminder that facts don't matter. For those of you unfortunate enough to have been fact deprived due to unspoken guild rules. fifteen years have passed since Gorge Bush and Al Gore appeared in a Presidential Debate. Tonight our candidates have sixty seconds to respond to a question, thirty seconds to a rebuttal, and must wait several while I describe the tax and budget proposals of George Bush in the year 2000, proposals which were ignored and thus resulted in thousands of Iraqis staring upward from their graves asking why?

      How crazy were those proposals of George Bush in 2000?
      Not very if you look at the proposals the lunatics on the stage tonight have made. Listen carefully, this is the first attempt made at outreach to you wonderful people by members of my tribe, and if you don't follow along I will repeat it at least a dozen times more. Remember, this is not bias you are hearing. These are facts so clear even gap toothed fans of Rachel Maddow can understand.

    2. Haha.

      No, but those moderators were useless. Truly.

    3. CNBC is useless. And if you review Howler archives, you will find, except for covering Russert and Matthews when they were on that network last century, Somerby barely acknowledged it existed. Now it is yet another shining example of liberal failure. This is a notion Bob shares with the Republican Presidential candidates, the ones with ten or fourteen crazy tax plans Bob has yet to detail.

  2. Just for one brief shining moment, can we talk real talk? Harvard's Three Musketeers of '69 went on to some degree of fame not because of their intelligence. Al Gore Jr. was handsome and squired into jobs his daddy held before him by doting parents. His suck up ability to meet parental expectations even inspired half a character in a sappy made-for-a-screenplay novel. Tommy Lee Jones parlayed a sarcastic veneer into a modestly successful acting career playing sarcastic, irascible but often loveable second bananas. Bob Somerby achieved fame by occasionally being mentioned in bios of the other two.

    All were white men when that mattered.

    1. There is no point to your post except, I guess, to malign Somerby (and his college friends) in unfair and misleading ways. What crap.

    2. If there was no point to my post what point is there to this:

      HOWLER: "Just for one brief shining moment, can we talk real talk? CNBC's Three Musketeers were not on the air because they're highly competent. ....One moderator was on the air because he's a legacy player, just like Mika and Willie, his fellow incompetents.

      Quintanilla was handsome and Hispanic; Quick and pretty and strawberry blonde; Harwood was handsome and second generation."

      I guess you could say Somerby's point is that he can channel Alex Castellano, whom he defended against Rachel Maddow over the 77 % pay gap, and who otherwise came to fame as the author of Jesse Helm's attack ad on affirmative action.

  3. Let's follow the numbers. I suspect we may not fully understand what all these figures represent.

    Bush estimated his proposed tax cut at $1.3 trillion. Presumably this is based on static, rather than dynamic, scoring. It represens the reduction in federal income tax collected over ten years.

    Bob compares Bush's tax cut to proposals by Trump and Rubio. Therefore, I presume that the figures for these two proposals also represent the reduction in tax collected in ten years, using static scoring.

    Bob (or is it Krugman?) says the figure for Trump's proposal is $11 trillion. Presumably that means tax reduction of $1.1 trillion per year. I found an official report saying that the total federal income tax collected in 2012 was $1.18 trillion. So, a cut of $1.1 trillion would appear to eliminate almost the entire income tax collected. This seems not to make sense. Now, income tax collected tends to grow over time; a more precise calculation wouldn't be this ridiculous. Still, it's still hard to believe. I suspect there are aspects of the figures that I don't understand.

    1. "Our analysis finds that the plan would reduce federal revenues by $11.98 trillion over the next decade. However, it also would improve incentives to work and invest, which could increase gross domestic product (GDP) by 11 percent over the long term. This increase in GDP would translate into 6.5 percent higher wages and 5.3 million new full-time equivalent jobs. After accounting for increased incomes due to these factors, the plan would only reduce tax revenues by $10.14 trillion."

      The Tax Foundation
      Analysis of Trump Tax Plan

    2. Thanks Anon. I thought there might be some difference in how the numbers were presented. But, no. Trump's plan looks nuts.

  4. David in Cal writes:

    "it's still hard to believe. I suspect there are aspects of the figures that I don't understand."

    First DinC, understand your sources, Somerby and Krugman.

    Somerby is someone who openly asks "Who's dumber—CNBC's Three Musketeers or us?" He admits "you could report the size of Bush's tax cut proposal in several different ways" but never tells you if that is true for the proposals of the candidates. He only gives us one figure for each of only two candidates and nothing for the others running. In fact we do not know if the term we will come to use is for the eight others on the stage in the main debate, or all fourteen running. The easiest way to cut through the confusion is just to remember the simple description that fits however many proposals there are: Compared to the Bush 2000 proposal, they are just "massively crazier."

    We know you may think "massive" is one of those "fuzzy" words misused on a journalistic basis by people in a profession that is lazier than liberalism itself. That could be true. Unless proven otherwise.
    We all know what "crazier" means, however.

    Your other possible source is Professor Krugman. PhD. MVP. A leading journalism expert recently described him as having "reacted in an unintelligent, childish way to last Wednesday night's debate." He engaged in "deceptive practices" offering work that was even worse than "unskilled, pitiful, unintelligent, not real serious, clueless...journalistic conduct."

    I am not sure which one you will find more credible. Somerby or Krugman.

    1. As I said above, I agree with both Somerby and Krugman. Trump's tax cut looks nuts.

    2. Good for you David in Cal. That is basically what John Harwood said in the very first question of the debate addressed to an individual candidate. Glad you, Krugman, and Somerby are on the same page five days later.

      You see John Harwood, who apparently was only part of the panel because his father was once a reporter, is the one who brought up the Tax Foundation's analysis of Trump's tax plan. It was part of his characterization of Trump's "comic book version of a Presidential campaign." I suppose he could have called it crazy like Krugman and Somerby instead, and that would have avoided charges of liberal bias.

      We'll never know. Somerby disappears Harwood's question about Trump's proposals altogether.

    3. Wish there were some way to disappear your comments.

    4. Anon 11:01 -- I wish you didn't lump me with the odorous John Harwood. I didn't find a written text of the debate, but found a recording on you tube. I think I found the question you referred to.

      What I said may be similar to the essence of what Harwood said, but he sure didn't say it right. He should have pointed out that total income tax collected is under $2 trillion a year and Trump proposed cutting that amount by $1.2 trillion a year. Then, he could have asked Trump how he'd make ends meet. Instead he made a dumb, childish, offensive comment, likening Trump's campaign to a comic book.

      The questioner is supposed to ask questions, not offer views and opinions. Even if his views are accurate, it's not his job to tell people what to think. Furthermore, that "comic book" metphor made for a bad debate. It didn't encourage a useful, informative discussion. Rather, it stopped discussion in its tracks.

    5. Yes. labeling it crazy, or saying it made the Bush 2000 proposal look sane in comparison would have been a much better place to start.

    6. Pretending that's what Somerby suggests the moderators should have done is your own little strawman, you trollfuckwit.

    7. Yeah, pardon the poor trollfuckwit and his strawman. How could he pretend such a suggestion from the guy who put "crazy" in the headline for this post twice.

      Poor trollfuckwit may have been been too literal in interpreting Somerby making fun of Chris Hayes three times for acting "surprised" by saying "really" when Krugman pronounced Bush "sane" compared to Bush 2000.

      How could it be anything other than a literary device for Somerby to say of Krugman's assertion, "Plainly, that assessment is true. Unfortunately, CNBC's hapless moderators barely touched on these points last Wednesday night."

      I, like you and most readers know, when Somerby says something is plainly true we should not expand on it by pretending Somerby is suggesting something.

    8. DinC here you go:

    9. Sorry, I should have said "Somerby making fun of Chris Hayes three times for acting "surprised" by saying "really" when Krugman pronounced Bush "sane" compared to the current candidates.

    10. I agree with DinC. the comic book metaphor was unfortunate.

      I think the odorous John Harwood should be as roundly criticized as Rachel Maddow was. Harwood, after all, focused on the border wall and making Mexico pay for it. He ignored Trump calling Mexicans rapists, which Maddow did as well, except for criticizing Bush.

      As we know, if Harwood wanted to start with immigration instead of Trump's plainly crazy tax plan, then he should have compared him to Dylan Roof, the Charleston church killer. He should not have used the "comic book" metaphor.

      Harwood should have said "That was an amazingly stupid and ugly presentation. In the most obvious sense, Donald Trump is Dylann Roof.....Donald Trump is a deeply disgraced, repellent figure."

      Harwood didn't begin to say that.

      That said, we don’t live in a rational world.

  5. What also needs to be said is that these people are campaigning on the dire complaint that we MUST NOT hand our children and grandchildren massive debt. You hear this at every town hall and stump speech. Yet....their tax plans do exactly that. This seems so obvious, that this should be repeated over and over, and yet these two things are rarely said together.

  6. Didn't Somerby spend his first post this morning attacking Krugman for not mentioning the tax plans of the Republican candidates, all the while knowing about Krugman's characterization of those plans as crazy on MSNBC last night.

    And Somerby attacked Krugman for being deceptive this morning?
    Christ, is there no level of hypocrisy Howler fans won't put up with?

    1. No, he attacked Krugman for calling candidates grifters without evidence.

    2. "Here's the worst part of Friday's column. As he rampaged about the grifters, Krugman largely failed to discuss the utterly crazy budget proposals those ten candidates have made."

      Bob Somerby

      Guess you would largely like to disappear that comment too. And in your own mind you have.

      Don't worry. You aren't the only one who thinks Bob's shit doesn't stink. Bob does too.

    3. For ourselves we wouldn't say @ Midnight lied.

  7. I would say that W did pretend to do actual budgeting (yeah I have to say W to distinguish now from Jeb). Back in October 2000 in my LTTE that tipped Iowa into Gore's column (ha ha) I called the surplus "imaginary". Maybe I was wrong, since I could not have predicted the Iraq invasion - the one they pretended would pay for itself. But ultimately the surplus was even less real than Harold Hill's band.

    Also, one more point when Obama made most of the Bush tax cuts permanent after his re-election that was ANOTHER $3.7 trillion in tax cuts - heavily tilted towards the rich. $1.3 trillion to the richest 5% according to CTJ.

  8. Let's stipulate that the age of Howard K. Smiths, Walter Cronkites, Edward R. Murrows, et alii, is past us, and that the likes of Dan Rather, having messed with too many Bushes too many times, is today interviewing aging rock stars between talent shows and tribute acts on some faraway cable channel, the newsman's equivalent of sleepin' wit' de fishes.

    Given that, I can't see that the CNBC moderators were significantly worse than T-shirt Boy at CNN or any of the other talent-deprived entertainers given us in this Golden Age of Ailes.

    Were they prepared for the onslaught of dis-information zombie Rep-bots? Why should they have been? It used to be that a politician's lies would be restricted to sneaky little tricks of reframing and circumlocution -- not brazen, fat-bosomed Goebbels-style Big Lie lies. These candidates reminded me of Michael Corleone testifying before the Kefauver Committee -- without the unflappable dignity.

    The panel, being the unremarkable little Alices they are, had not been practicing believing six impossible thoughts before breakfast when they were pulled through the looking glass hapless before the mad tea party that had entrapped them. Carl and Quick and Hardy Har Harwood are only little people within the news-entertainment matrix. Don't be harsh on them. Leave them alone and let them have their little careers. Trust me, being demonized from time to time by those they would presume to report on is part of being a rodeo clown for right win zealots. They're professionals and can take pies in the face and being dunked in cold water.

    I didn't see any specific mention of this, but if W. seems a statesman today by comparison, it's because he bought his election with tax cuts amidst a roaring economy (Clinton's) and budget surpluses as far as the eye could see (a temporary demographic trifecta pointed out in '96 in Perot's graphs).

    Today's con-men are buying their elections in the context of a rotting infrastructure, no industrial policy and a history of tax cuts to the wealthy being invested overseas, all based upon a doctrine of reverse Keysianism debunked by repeated woeful experience.

    1. Excellent analysis Jeeves. But what about our melting culture?