Fox News is smarter than the Times!


Chris Wallace right, New York Times not: Last Friday, we discussed the New York Times’ sad attempt to fact-check a recent Rick Perry ad.

Richard Oppel got lost in the weeds several times—and he failed to notice an obvious oddness about the pledge driving Perry’s ad. To read our post, click this.

The New York Times was lost in the weeds. Yesterday, Fox News wasn’t.

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace interviewed Candidate Perry. Wallace discussed that very same ad—and when he did, he went right to the puzzling problem the low-IQ Times overlooked:
WALLACE (10/30/11): You have a strong record here in Texas of creating jobs, 40 percent of all the new jobs in the last two years here in the state of Texas. You talked about that in your first TV commercial. Let's take a look.

PERRY (videotape): As president, I'll create at least 2.5 million new jobs, and I know something about that.

WALLACE: Governor, here's what I don't get about that 2.5 million jobs. 2.5 million jobs is terrible! That wouldn't be nearly enough for the first four years of the administration. We looked at it. We would roughly need 6 million jobs in the first four years just to stay even with population growth.

So 2.5 million jobs—the unemployment rate would increase! Jimmy Carter created 10.5 million in his first four years.
Perry fumbled and floundered about, trying to puzzle out what had been said. After a decent interval, a very cruel man followed up:
WALLACE: But how do you answer this question? Two and half million doesn't keep pace with the population growth. We would—our unemployment rate would increase under this goal!
How did Perry answer that question? With a bit more bafflegab!

This was an obvious point of strangeness in Perry’s ad. But when the Times reviewed the ad, their man Oppel failed to notice. Instead, the gent got lost in the weeds on several odd points of his own.

We can’t stress this point strongly enough: When it comes to political reporting, the New York Times is not a bright newspaper. It likes to clown around with silly shit from the Dowd/Parker/Bruni contingent. When it does try to discuss real issues, it tends to do C-minus work.

For the record, Jill Abramson is now executive editor of this C-minus newspaper. Two Sundays ago, the Times reviewed her brand new book. It’s called “The Puppy Diaries.”

Her newspaper’s work is often dumb as a rock. According to a reviewer from inside the circle, here’s how she spends her spare time:
STYRON (10/16/11): Let's be real. It's hard to keep a straight face writing about puppies. Animal behaviorists like Alexandra Horowitz may apply hard science to shed light on why your shiba inu isn't interested in the television or your corgi mix likes to eat manure. The good poet—John Galsworthy, Rudyard Kipling—will wrest a sigh from the reader's maudlin breast with paeans to loyal companions long departed. But most dog-crazy writers avoid spilling too much ink on the subject. We're wary of fashioning sentences that are a prose equivalent of the idiotic high-pitched babble we direct at our animals all day long. (Full family disclosure: my husband routinely cradles our 85-pound Labrador in his arms and sings to her, as he did when she was a puppy, the ''Baby Mine'' song from ''Dumbo.'') If we're not sentimental, we'll surely be unoriginal. It's like writing about sex. The opportunity to humiliate oneself lurks around every paragraph.

In "The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout," Jill Abramson, a prizewinning investigative reporter and now executive editor of The New York Times, has vanquished the writer's self-/regarding pose. She plunges into the subject of her dog's first year and comes up with a golden retriever of a memoir. Unaffected, unironic and lovingly goofy, "The Puppy Diaries" is not for the reader who sees life with a dog as a Booth cartoon. But it should hit the wide, heart-shaped mark cultivated by dog fanciers everywhere unafraid to be heard singing lullabies to the furriest members of the family.
Fox News is now smarter than the Times! But through Abramson’s book and Gail Collins’ work with Romney’s roof-strapped setter, America’s defiantly upper-class paper of record remains quite strong in its treatment of puppies.

Fox News is smarter than the Times! But then, do you ever get the feeling that these upper-class folk in their “country homes in Connecticut” may not care all that much?

In her "country home in Connecticut." According to Styron's thoughtful review, that's where Abramson wrote her golden retriever of a memoir. Meanwhile, Oppel was lost in the weeds surrounding that ad—that ad about jobs or whatever.

Wallace saw what was wrong with that ad. The New York Times did not.

Remarkably horrible—but it's the norm!


We’ll clarify what Dean Baker on one basic point: Many observers have already flagged the Washington Post’s remarkably awful “news report” concerning Social Security.

One example: To read Paul Krugman’s reaction, just click here.

The Post’s report was remarkably bad. We’ll discuss it in detail on Wednesday. And by the way, just so you’ll know: This was the featured report on Sunday’s front page. It ran more than 2400 words—and the report was accompanied by a very large graphic.

To see how the Post’s front page appeared, go ahead—just click this.

This front-page report was remarkably bad. That said, we’ll disagree with one part of Dean Baker’s reaction.

Krugman links to Baker’s post. You can go there yourself (just click here). For our money, Baker is one of the heroes of this long fight, thanks to the 1999 book he co-authored with Mark Weisbrot, “Social Security: The Phony Crisis.” (To read the book’s introduction, click this.)

The book is too technical to be fully useful for the general reader. But it’s the strongest effort anyone on our side has ever made in the face of thirty years of disinformation.

In our view, Baker mega-props. But we disagree with part of what he said, or might have seemed to say, at the start of a long blog post:
BAKER (10/29/11): News outlets generally like to claim a separation between their editorial pages and their news pages. The Washington Post has long ignored this distinction in pursuing its agenda for cutting Social Security, however it took a big step further in tearing down this barrier with a lead front page story that would have been excluded from most opinion pages because of all the inaccuracies it contained.

The basic premise of the story, as expressed in the headline ("the debt fallout: how Social Security went 'cash negative' earlier than expected") and the first paragraph ("Last year, as a debate over the runaway national debt gathered steam in Washington, Social Security passed a treacherous milestone. It went 'cash negative.'") is that Social Security faces some sort of crisis because it is paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. [The "runaway national debt" is also a Washington Post invention. The deficits have soared in recent years because of the economic downturn following the collapse of the housing bubble. No responsible newspaper would discuss this as problem of the budget as opposed to a problem with a horribly underemployed economy.]

This "treacherous milestone" is entirely the Post's invention, it has absolutely nothing to do with the law that governs Social Security benefit payments. Under the law, as long as there is money in the trust fund, then Social Security is able to pay full benefits. There is literally no other possible interpretation of the law.
From this opening excerpt, a reader might get the impression that this awful news report is somehow unique to the Washington Post. We don’t think Baker meant to say or imply that. But let’s make sure we’re perfectly clear about the actual truth.

It’s a bit misleading to say that the “treacherous milestone” is “entirely the Post’s invention.” In fact, this milestone has been part of right-wing disinformation for more than twenty years. So too with that “runaway national debt”—and we’re not sure why Baker feels that this report “would have been excluded from most opinion pages because of all the inaccuracies it contained.” It seems to us that presentations like this have been a common part of op-ed culture for the past many years.

This report was horrendous—but it’s the norm. Has been for a long time.

Why has this mountain of disinformation lived such a long, fruitful life? We’ll discuss that point on Wednesday, in part 3 of “Cult of dumb.”

We don’t think Baker meant to imply that this type of disinformation is confined to the Post. But this is a very important point. It needs to be made very clear.

CULT OF DUMB: Painful to look at!


Part 1—Bogus-quoting at will: For perhaps the past twenty year, American’s political discourse has been defined by its terminal dumbness.

How bad has the cult of dumb become? Friday evening, on his New York Times blog, America’s smartest upper-end journalist attempted to quote George Will.

The upper-end journalist is Paul Krugman. For the past decade, Krugman has been the saving grace of America’s upper-end press corps. Twice a week, a person can actually read the New York Times with the expectation that he will learn something. This expectation obtains on Mondays and Fridays, when Krugman’s columns appear.

(For today’s column, click this.)

Journalist Krugman is light-years beyond the press corps’ low-IQ culture and functioning. That’s why it was painful to see him “quote” Will’s forthcoming column in the way he did.

Here’s how it all went down:

Over at Politico (we know!), a teaser “quote” from Will’s forthcoming Sunday column had appeared on Friday afternoon. Did we mention that this “quotation” appeared at Politico, a site which virtually defines the press corps’ low-IQ practices, habits and culture? And sure enough! Politico’s “quotation” from Will pretty much throbbed and pulsed with the suggestion that something about it might be wrong. On its face, the proffered “quotation” simply screamed that it might be misleading, inappropriate—bogus.

On its face, Politico’s “quotation” begged to be handled with care. But so what? The “quotation” made Columnist Will look bad. So the smartest person in the upper-end press corps posted the “quote,” then snarked about what it all meant.

This is the teaser “quote” in question—the “quotation” which was posted by our nation’s smartest journalist:
ALLEGED QUOTE FROM GEORGE WILL: Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from 'data'...Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for THIS?
That “quotation” makes it look like Will is rolling his eyes at the use of data. To see the way Columnist Krugman then snarked, go ahead: Just click here.

George Will is a horrible columnist. Mocking him felt very good; it was pleasing to pseudo-liberals. But what was the obvious warning sign in that alleged “quotation”—the “quotation” which had been pimped by one of the dumbest upper-end press corps sites in the land? Of course! A sensible person would have been scared by that dot-dot-dot—by that pulsing, throbbing ellipsis. Something of some indeterminate length had been omitted from Will’s “quotation!” And uh-oh! Once his entire column appeared in the Washington Post, we could all see what it was:
WILL (10/30/11): Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?
For the record, that was the end of Will’s column, He was complaining that Romney is, as his headline declares, a flip-flopping, inconsistent “pretzel candidate.”

Sad. That alleged quotation had disappeared an “although,” a “but” and an “and!” Due to these deletions, the alleged quotation misrepresented what Will had actually said. In reality, Will had actually written a column about Romney’s lack of fundamental beliefs. As he ended, he was complaining that Romney lacks “ideology,” not that he is inclined to use “data.”

Will’s basic point was of course correct. In all honesty, there was nothing untoward about the way he ended his column.

To an intelligent observer, that proffered “quotation” should have been suspect on its face. A liberal world which wasn’t in thrall to The Dumb would have been reminded of Campaign 2000, when George Bush was sent to the White House on the basis of two years’ worth of “quotations” like this—“quotations” the mainstream “press corps” ginned up to use against Candidate Gore.

But the liberal world is in thrall to the dumb—has been so for a good many years. Our side loves to call their side dumb—but our side is also sunk quite deep inside a low-IQ culture. Among a hundred other things, our side has always agreed not to discuss that dismal 2000 campaign—the campaign we lost due to bogus "quotations." We have agreed to keep ourselves dumb in this and a hundred more ways.

No, it doesn’t really “matter” that Krugman bogus-quoted Will. But Krugman is, by a factor of ten, our smartest upper-end journalist. What does it say about our political and journalistic culture when even he “quotes” people this way? When our most basic intellectual practices are so weak and uninformed? When we’re so much in thrall to the dumb?

Please note:

Some liberals will read those two passages from Will and say that they mean the same thing. Our lizard brains will instruct us to think that Will was not bogus-quoted. Our lizard brains will know this is true because Columnist Krugman is part of our tribe—and Columnist Will is not.

No way on earth was Will bogus-quoted! If your brain is reading that “quote” that way, guess what?

When it comes to the cult of dumb, you may be part of the problem.

Tomorrow: Let’s all talk about Herman’s ad!

Wednesday: Lori’s front-page “news report”

Spawn of Dowd: The planet’s least likely job!


This just in from Maureen Dowd’s silly-bill "research assistant:" The liberal world seems unable to notice. But the New York Times’ political writing is relentlessly fatuous. Dumb.

Just consider this morning’s Political Memo by Ashley Parker, one of the fatuous newspaper’s hottest “political” writers.

Parker is 28 or 29 years of age. She seems to be a graduate of Penn. And even at her tender age, she seems to have mastered the silly-jill style of her post-journalistic newspaper. Here’s how she starts today’s flyweight piece about Romney:
PARKER (10/29/11): Mitt Romney likes rules.

The former governor of Massachusetts likes following the rules, explaining the rules and pointing out to others when they, heaven forbid, break the rules. At the most recent Republican debate in Las Vegas, Mr. Romney inadvertently cast himself as the Enforcer when he tried mightily to ensure that every candidate received their allotted response time.

“Rick, I’m speaking, I’m speaking, I’m speaking, I’m speaking. You get 30 seconds. The way the rules work here is that I get 60 seconds, and then you get 30 seconds to respond, right?” Mr. Romney said, all while Gov. Rick Perry of Texas interrupted and talked over him.

“Anderson?” Mr. Romney said, turning pleadingly to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who was moderating the debate. (Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota beseeched the moderator by his first name, as well, and it has become something of a running joke among the traveling press corps to call out “Anderson? Anderson?” when things go awry.)

At the same debate, Mr. Romney turned to Mr. Perry and explained, “You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking, and I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you got to let both people speak. So first, let me speak.”

He delivered the line as if the only thing standing between both himself and Mr. Perry and the presidency of the United States was a lesson or two in manners for polite society.
Where do they get these people?

For our money, Romney’s conduct at that debate was far less striking than that of Perry, who had plainly decided to talk over Romney, or than that of the hapless Cooper, who simply stood there pickin’ and grinnin’ as this nonsense unfolded. But it shouldn’t be a question of who was “at fault” in this utterly pointless affair. This style of “reporting” is utterly vapid. If we liberals can’t see that (and plainly, we can’t), we too are part of our failing nation’s existential problem.

Parker is typically silly today, both in her topic selection and in her presentation and judgments. But so what? On-line, her piece appears under her own marquee (“PARKER ON THE TRAIL”). In the hard-copy Times, it scores a large presentation as a “Political Memo.”

Parker seems to be on the come at this upper-class pseudo-newspaper. For us, this raised an obvious question: Who is Ashley Parker?

This morning, through an incomparable search, we achieved a partial answer.

Who the heck is Ashley Parker? As it turns out, Parker boasts one of the least likely resumé lines ever achieved on the planet. Brace yourselves! For five years, Parker served as “research assistant” to prize-winning Maureen Dowd!

Tell the truth: Would anyone ever have guessed that “research” was involved in a Maureen Dowd column? Let alone the level of research that would have required a full-time assistant? On April 3 of this year, Parker sat with Anthony DeCurtis to discuss life as Dowd’s top assistant. The forum was conducted by the Kelly Writers House, a Penn organization.

Luckily, the session was taped. In an unexpected gift to posterity, the first 8:23 has been posted on YouTube. (Headline: “Ashley Parker talks about working with Maureen Dowd.”) If you click this invaluable link, you can watch this empty-headed young post-journalist telling the world how great it was to work for someone as special as Dowd.

(Parker on Dowd: “If she wasn’t such an amazing boss and an amazing mentor and an amazing person to work with, I would not have stayed for as long as I did.” Our reaction to that? Unlikely! If you watch the full tape, you will hear an unintentionally comical story about the way Dowd helped Parker get her first piece published at the Times, under the aegis of the “On Language” column. Please! Young strivers don't walk away from big-time connections like that. Although the burden of all that reserarch really must have piled up.)

That tape is highly instructive about the mental horizons of the folk who populate the successor to the American press corps. At the aforementioned link, you can also read a preview of the Parker event. Presumably, the piece was written by someone within the Kelly House orbit:
KELLY WRITERS HOUSE: Ashley Parker is a reporter for the New York Times and a distinguished Penn alum. While at Penn she won both the Rolling Stone Journalism Award and the Nora Magid Prize. She was hired as Maureen Dowd's assistant at the Times, and, to the surprise of no one who knew her in school, soon became a hilarious recurring character in her boss's award-winning op-ed columns. In her own writing and reporting, Parker has defined a smart, sly voice, whether analyzing with anthropological zeal the arcane language of her younger sister ("The Ling"); chatting with then Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama, for a profile of his ever-present "body man" Reggie Love; or limning the works and days of "All the Obama 20-Somethings" for the Sunday Times Magazine. Parker will be discussing her work at the Times, and the thrills and perils of forging a career in the fraught world of contemporary journalism.
For the record, Parker’s role as “a hilarious recurring character in her boss's award-winning op-ed columns” was, in fact, extremely limited, although you'd never know it from watching Parker pimp this nonsense with DeCurtis. Second point: When this profile refers to Parker’s “smart, sly” voice, it actually means to say “fatuous.”

No modern nation can run on this fuel. We want to note, as we often do, the gender politics here.

We’ll take a guess. We’ll guess that the Times is grooming Parker as a type of Dowd successor. Within the throwback sexual culture of our modern “press elite,” this is the type of role that is typically reserved for women. The New York Times has two female columnists, Dowd and Collins. Each specializes in the folderol that comes from the type of press personage we would call the fatuous witty girl. (We choose that noun advisedly.) At present, the Washington Post is developing its own version of this throwback type in the person of Alexandra Petri. You can read her latest silly submission in today’s Post. Click here, then click once again.

It’s hard to imagine these papers hiring men to write this particular type of drivel. Unless, of course, you consider Frank Bruni, the Times’ first openly gay columnist. Among its various upper-class ills, our modern press elite seems to be committed to a strange type of throwback gender politics. Women and gays are for silly-bill shit. The straight men pretend to be serious.

We strongly recommend that tape. Who on earth would ever have dreamed that Maureen Dowd had a research assistant! A modern nation can’t function this way.

Left alone, yours won’t survive.

In fairness: In fairness, Parker started with Dowd in 2005. This means she didn’t serve as “research assistant” on the topic of the embarrassing clothing worn by Howard Dean’s dowdy, embarrassing wife. On the other hand, most of the work for which Dowd was trashed by public editor Clark Hoyt in 2008 was penned during Parker’s smart, sly tenure. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/08.

Hoyt complained about the gender-trashing Dowd had dished to Candidate Hillary Clinton and to Candidate Obama. He said this about Dowd’s gender-trashing of Clinton: “[T]he relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton...left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed.”

Did Parker, with her famously “smart, sly voice,” conduct the “research” for those columns? In the part of that session presented on tape, DeCurtis didn’t ask.

The New York Times tries to analyze that!


Your nation’s C-minus newspaper: We’re constantly struck by the low wattage of the New York Times’ political writing.

Latest example: Yesterday morning, Richard Oppel tried to fact-check an ad.

The ad belongs to Rick Perry. In our view, analyzing Perry’s words was a bit too much for the Times.

This is the text of Perry’s ad, which deals with jobs jobs jobs. In the ad, the candidate seems to make a rather obvious claim on his own behalf:
PERRY: As president I’ll create at least two and a half million new jobs, and I know something about that. In Texas we’ve created over one million new jobs while the rest of the nation lost over two million. I’ll start by opening American oil and gas fields. I’ll eliminate President Obama’s regulations that hurt other sources of domestic energy like coal and natural gas. That will create jobs and reduce our reliance on oil from countries that hate America. I’m Rick Perry and I approve of this message.
Oppel tried to analyze that. We’d have to say he failed.

For starters, consider the number of jobs Perry says he’ll create as president. The promised number is oddly low, as Steve Benen notes in this earlier post. Let’s go beyond what Benen wrote: In Bill Clinton’s eight years in office, more than 20 million new jobs were created. (To see Paul Krugman say that, click here. The more typical claim on Clinton’s behalf is “more than 22 million new jobs.”)

It’s odd that Perry promised only 2.5 million jobs. Unless you read the New York Times, where a point like this won't be noticed.

Second, consider Oppel’s attempt to evaluate Perry’s claim about job creation in Texas. This strikes us as a very weak attempt at analysis:
OPPEL (10/27/11): In the ad, Mr. Perry also focuses on job creation—as opposed to unemployment—and it is easy to see why: Texas’ unemployment rate has risen over the last two years as the national rate dropped. (Different surveys are used to calculate the two measures; possible explanations for the seemingly contradictory numbers include more Texans working more than one job, or fewer self-employed people report finding work.)
Strange. Oppel wanders off into the weeds concerning the way unemployment rates are calculated. As he does, coherence flees the scene; we’re still not entirely sure what he means when he refers to “the two measures” and “the seemingly contradictory numbers.” At any rate, he never tells us what the Texas unemployment rate actually is. It has risen in the last two years, he says, even as the national rate has dropped. But how high has the Texas rate risen? How does it compare to the national rate? How does Texas compare to other states?

Times readers never get told.

A similar problem occurs when Oppel discusses the number of jobs created in Texas during Perry’s tenure. We’re puzzled by certain parts of this passage. And isn’t something missing here too?
OPPEL: According to federal data, Texas has gained over a million jobs since Mr. Perry became governor, as he says. But Mr. Perry chooses his words carefully, and there may be a reason: Early in the campaign he was criticized for suggesting he deserved credit for new jobs in Texas when economists cited other factors, like a strong oil economy and relatively mild housing problems.
Here again, Oppel seems to get lost in the weeds. He says Texas has gained over a million jobs during Perry’s tenure, just as Perry claims in the ad. But for unknown reasons, Oppel thinks Perry has “cho[sen] his words carefully” in the ad about this particular matter. Here and at the end of his piece, he wastes time musing about this impression. In the process, he fails to evaluate the rather obvious claim to expertise which Perry makes in the ad.

Perry says Texas gained a million jobs—while the nation was losing two million. It sounds like Texas has done something right on the jobs front.

Plainly, that is Perry’s suggestion. Lost in the weeds about “choosing words carefully,” Oppel fails to evaluate this implied claim. Perry says he knows a few things about creating jobs—and he cites two numbers to buttress his claim. Oppel never attempts to discuss the relevance of the second number.

This problem persists right up to the end of his piece, where Oppel offers his overall view of the ad. We find this appraisal baffling:
OPPEL: If Mr. Perry can convince voters that his policies can create jobs, it could help him in states where many people have been spent long, frustrating periods looking for work. And unlike, say, tax proposals, which voters are more efficient at determining what would be better for them, the jobs issue may be more confusing. And it may be easier for Mr. Perry to convince people of his record by using one clean number that avoids discussion of whether jobs data—or unemployment data—is the most appropriate measure, and also avoids questions about who, or what, truly deserves the credit.
We find that appraisal baffling. In our view, there’s nothing confusing or nuanced about the claim Perry makes in the ad. Will any viewer find himself puzzled by the conflict between jobs data and employment data? Will anyone doubt that Perry is saying that he deserves the credit for the Texas job growth?

Maybe some voter on Mars will be puzzled. That implied claim by Perry is the whole point of the ad.

Rather plainly, Perry seems to say that he created a lot of jobs in Texas while the rest of the nation was losing jobs. “I know something about that,” he says about job creation.

But does he know how to create new jobs? Based on the numbers he cites in his ad, is there good reason to believe him?

Oppel flounders and thrashes around. Pity the fool who buys the Times expecting to sort out such questions.

OCCUPY THE TEA PARTY: Is the glass 99 percent full?


Part 4—Digby should leave the tribe: Are Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party really “natural allies?”

We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves—but then, that isn’t exactly what Matt Taibbi said in his recent Rolling Stone post. As you read, let your inner parser’s freak flag fly! Examine his words with great care:
TAIBBI (10/17/11): The Rush Limbaughs of the world are very comfortable with a narrative that has Noam Chomsky, MoveOn and Barack Obama on one side, and the Tea Party and Republican leaders on the other. The rest of the traditional media won't mind that narrative either…

What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that's a story our media won't want to or know how to handle.
After we finish parsing his words, what did Taibbi actually say? Let’s paraphrase his words in some places: He said that Occupy Wall Street should be able to find “natural allies” among Tea Party supporters—among “the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party.” He said those millions of middle Americans should be on the same page as the Occupy folk “about most of the key issues.”

Should middle Americans who support the Tea Party be on the same page as the Occupy folk? It’s obvious why Taibbi might say that, though we think his subsequent explanation overthought things a bit. After all, those middle Americans who support the Tea Party are getting looted by the top one percent, just like the Occupy people are! They’re paying massively too much for health care, just like people in the blue tribe. In part for that reason, their wages have tended to stagnate, just like the wages of their blue friends and purple neighbors. And when the Masters of the Universe blew up the financial system, they were left in the rubble too. As Taibbi explains, our nation’s too-big-too-fail banks “have put millions of ordinary people out of their homes thanks to a massive fraud scheme for which they were not punished, owing to their enormous influence with government and their capture of the regulators.”

Many of those middle Americans in the Tea Party queue have been defrauded by this scheme too. Their politicians are owned by the top 0.1 percent too, just like many of the pols who are favored by the blue tribe.

For all these reasons, the Occupy movement “should” be able to find allies within the Tea Party. Of course, there are many obstacles to such alliances—and no, such alliances aren’t necessarily required. After all, only about twenty percent of American adults say they support the tea party movement. In theory, the blue tribe could build a powerful movement without winning any of those people over to its side.

In theory, the blue tribe could do things that way. But why do we love the idea of such an approach so dearly? We often find ourselves asking that question when we read Digby’s reactions to the types of possibilities suggested by dreamers like Taibbi.

Digby has made many valid points about the Tea Party movement. But good gravy, how she loves to see the glass half empty! Last Saturday, she posted about Kate Zernike’s New York Times report, which noted that leaders of certain professional Tea Party orgs were attacking the notion that their group's members bore any similarity to those beasts in the Occupy movement. For us, the highlighted passages capture the self-limiting, uber-tribal reactions to which Digby is strongly inclined:
DIGBY (10/22/11): Speaking of which, Kate Zernike, who wrote Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America, has written a piece in today's NY Times that backs up the impressions I wrote about in my Al Jazeera piece earlier this week: the Tea Party and OWS are not the same animal:


There is a bizarre need on the part of quite a few liberals to believe that the right really agrees with them, they just don't know it. They think that there is a potential "transpartisan" ideological Grand Alliance that will come together across all these artificial boundaries to work toward a common purpose. It's pretty to think so, but it isn't any more realistic than President Obama's odes to post-partisan leadership that would transcend ugly ideology and "change the way Washington works" were.

It is possible that the Occupy Wall Street movement will keep a majority of the public on its side. I fervently hope it does. But it won't win everyone and certainly not hardcore Reactionaries whose very identities are formed by their opposition to liberalism. You go with the culture you have, not the one you wish you had.
Many straw men had to die to sustain that level of tribal intransigence. Questions:

Who in the world would ever have thought that the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street “are the same animal?” Which liberals have the “bizarre believe that the right really agrees with them, they just don't know it?” Does anyone actually think that? (Digby often explains what others think without naming or quoting any such people.) Most perfectly, note the final warning, the warning which virtually defines The Tribal Imperative: The Occupy movement will never “win everyone,” Digby savvily says.

Our blue tribe will never “win everyone!” Did anyone ever think different? Could that be what Taibbi imagined or meant? Has anyone ever raised such a straw man as they discussed these two movements?

Have you ever heard the old saw about the perfect being the enemy of the good? With Digby, the totality often serves as the enemy of the some. Since we’ll never win everyone over, we shouldn’t waste our time trying for some! In this way, the tribal mind screams a prehistoric imperative:

Do not speak to “those people!” Do not engage with those people at all! For the record, Digby’s headline said this: “Never the twain shall meet.” For whatever reason, gloom like that makes tribal adepts feel good.

Digby made many valid points about these two movements in her recent long piece for Al Jazeera (click here). But in her writing, we routinely see the prehistoric impulse which badly limits the blue tribe’s options. To the tribal mind, “those people” will always be all alike! Digby routinely betrays this impulse about those people in the Tea Party. For one recent example, click here:
DIGBY (10/19/11): I keep hearing how well behaved the Tea Partiers were compared to Occupy Wall Street, what with their polite and well-mannered rallies and all. They are all over the place, getting face time as the supposedly civilized face of American protest, recalling the glory days of their "peaceful" movement.

They were anything but civilized. I'm just going to re-run this one again because I think it says everything that needs to be said.
To prove that “they” were “anything but civilized,” Digby showed tape of a few Tea Party people behaving unattractively. To Digby, this bad conduct by a few people “says everything that needs to be said.” But then, as we have occasionally joked: To Digby, if one Tea Partier spits on the sidewalk somewhere, that means all forty million have done it.

For a similar “the glass is 99 percent empty” approach, consider the way Digby excerpted a recent CNN poll. The poll included a survey of Tea Party supporters’ views toward “Wall Street bankers and brokers.” Digby selected one especially gloomy result:
DIGBY (10/24/11): In case you were wondering: 65% of Tea Partiers have an unfavorable opinion of OWS. And perhaps most unsurprising is the fact that they have the greatest faith in Wall Street of all cohorts in the poll, even believing that they are honest in much higher numbers than the rest of the country. (They do agree that they're greedy, but I'm guessing they see that as an admirable quality.)
Digby was happy to note that the glass was 65 percent empty. But the CNN poll also recorded these views among Tea Party supporters:

Forty-seven percent said Wall Street bankers and brokers were dishonest. 62 percent said they were greedy. 66 percent said they weren’t community minded. 58 percent said they were overpaid. People who want to build a wider American political movement might see possible paths in those survey results. But tribal minds are always looking for reasons to avoid engaging with “those people.” After all, we'll never get everyone in their tribe to see things in our perfect way!

Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve read Digby for years. We wish she wasn’t so heavily tribal; in our view, it tends to hold her back. That said, there’s always hope for improvement! Back in September 2010, Taibbi himself was somewhat dumbly mocking “those people” in the Tea Party tribe. To refresh yourselves, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/1/10.

In our view, Taibbi has come a long way! There may be hope for the tribal mind yet—and for the growth of a long-term, wider American movement, built out from the basic math which says that all us chickens are the 99 percent.

Digby makes an important (old) statement!


Something you can’t even hear on cable: In this post, Digby make an important statement about the projected deficits being frisked in that super-committee. There is nothing new about her statement. In our head, we link it to Jonathan Chait.

There’s nothing new about this statement. But it’s almost never said:
DIGBY (10/27/11): Assuming you agree that it's important to cut the deficit right in the middle of an epic economic downturn, which I don't, keep in mind that simply letting the Bush tax cuts expire—in other words, going back to the tax rates in effect in 2001—will cut the deficit in half. Soooo, are these cuts to the safety net (which will impact people like this) really all that "reasonable?"
For clarity’s sake, this means letting all the Bush tax cuts expire—not just those on the highest earners.

Let us add one point to that highlighted statement. Going back to the Clinton-era tax rates will cut projected deficits in half—and this will bring projected deficits into line with what budget experts think is a manageable level of debt. In other words, the whole debt crisis goes away the moment the Bush tax cuts expire.

How inept is the liberal world? To what extent has the liberal world failed to gain purchase in the discourse? Chait's efforts notwithstanding, very few voters have never heard what we just said. Most people have never heard that the debt crisis goes away the moment the Bush tax cuts expire—the moment we simply return to the Clinton-era tax rates.

(Update: Here's David Leonhardt stating this point, with a link to Chait.)

You never hear that said on cable. Most voters have never heard it at all. But that’s because our side is very weak—weak in the head; weak in the heart; addicted to silly name-calling and personality-driven cable clowning.

We liberals have been lazy, weak and ineffectual for a very long time. We aren’t very smart. And we aren’t extra-moral.

And here’s the part that’s really a puzzle: We can’t get over ourselves!

Close enough for cable!


To his credit, Lawrence O'Donnell didn’t miss a beat: Rather plainly, Chris Matthews’ reprogramming still isn’t complete.

On Tuesday, Matthews rather weirdly lamented the nation’s high taxes. Last night, as circuits popped and smoke puffed from his neck, the repurposed fellow said the following to a White House spokesperson:
MATTHEWS (10/26/11): Well, here’s somebody taking the fight at you. Here he is, Paul Ryan, who everybody likes because he was tough on budget-cutting. But he’s also an Ayn Rand ideologue of the objectivist school. He’s pretty far right when you get to— Here he is accusing President Obama of playing class warfare.
Matthews then played tape of Ryan, “who everybody likes because he was tough on budget-cutting.”

Presumably, Matthews meant to say this: “Here he is, Paul Ryan, who everybody likes because he’s Irish Catholic.” Whatever! As Matthews continues to get reprogrammed, the chips still sometimes fail.

The things you hear on cable TV! No, it doesn’t exactly matter. But we were struck by a puzzling statement uttered on last night’s Last Word.

Lawrence had booked Dorian Warren, an assistant professor at Columbia, to help him discuss income inequality. For the most part, Warren seemed perfectly competent during his short segment—although anyone who read yesterday morning’s New York Times could have said the same things he said. Weirdly, though, at one early point, Warren emitted this howler:
WARREN (10/26/11): It’s hard for Americans to believe the United States is the most unequal of all advanced industrial democracies. We are more unequal that Western Europe, for instance.

And most explanations are that it’s the economy, it’s the labor market. When in fact, this is due to politics and tax policy. Our tax policy has changed over the last 30 years so that the top rate, at 70 percent at one point, is now all the way down to 28.
Say what? We’ve watched the tape a good number of times. There’s just no doubt what Warren said about tax policy in the past thirty years. (Click here, scroll ahead to 3:15.) Quite plainly, he said the top (federal income tax) rate was 70 percent at one point (true). And then, he plainly said that it now stands at 28.

The top rate did go from 70 percent down to 28 during Reagan’s tenure. But it went back to 31 percent under Bush the elder, then to 39.6 percent under Clinton. Today, the top rate stands at 35 percent.

This is very high-profile stuff. It has been the stuff of endless high-profile debate during the tenures of each of the past five presidents. How could an assistant professor at Columbia say what Warren said?

We’ve watched the tape a good many times. There’s little doubt about what Warren said. To his credit, Lawrence didn’t miss a beat. Of course, he knew this statement was wrong. But Lawrence is serving on cable news, a medium which really should be known as “cable narrative.”

Warren was taking the appropriate line. Regarding his puzzling factual claim:

Rather plainly, Warren's statement was close enough for cable!

Bill O’Reilly’s ongoing disgrace is shared by our biggest newspapers!


Keeping the tribes far apart: In his October 17 blog post for Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi said that some on the right will “attempt to portray Occupy Wall Street as a puppet of well-known liberals and other Democratic interests.”

As a prediction, that wasn’t half bad. But in truth, Taibbi vastly understated the types of efforts now being made by folk like Bill O’Reilly.

As he teaches the red tribe to fear the blue, Mr. O has been an unvarnished disgrace. Editorial boards have shared this disgrace—but first, let’s get clear on the type of fear Mr. O has been peddling.

O'Reilly has been pimping Big Fear and Big Hate. Last night, he started his show in a way which has become quite familiar:
O’REILLY (10/26/11): More violence from the Occupiers. That is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo.

Last night in Oakland, California, some Occupy Wall Street protesters tried to defy police orders and march on City Hall. At least five protesters were arrested, several injured, along with two police officers who were also hurt. Police estimate nearly 1,000 demonstrators took part in the clash last night.

And in addition, more anti-Semitism is surfacing among the Occupiers:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (videotape): And I'll say that the Jews control Wall Street, Google Jewish billionaires, Google Jews and the Federal Reserve Bank, Google Jews and Wall Street. America's finances controlled by the Jews, Wall Street, the media, the legal profession. The Jews commit more white-collar crimes than any other ethnic group on the earth.

O'REILLY: Now in the face of that, a CBS News poll asked Americans from what you have heard or read do you generally agree or disagree with the views the Occupy Wall Street Movement hold? 43 percent say they agree; 27 percent disagree; 30 percent unsure.

Now, Talking Points believes that reflects the media coverage of the Occupiers, most of it favorable to them despite the violence and anti-Semitism.
The best thing you can say for that is that it's idiotic.

The use of that videotape was a classic case of “nut-picking.” O’Reilly used the words of a single nut to demonize a whole movement.

But O’Reilly has been at this project for weeks, pimping the anti-Semitic line hard. Last night, Dick Morris helped him establish this sad, ugly point. “It's only beginning to come out that they are anti-Semitic, that the Muslim groups are involved and stuff like that.” So Morris thoughtfully said, serving as Mr. O’s first guest.

This is stupid, disgraceful stuff. On the other hand, one has to say that it tracks the way we liberals went “nut-picking” with respect to the Tea Party movement.

We liberals nut-picked that movement’s racists, and Fox is now nut-picking anti-Semites. Your tribal mind will instruct you to say this isn’t the same thing at all!

Sorry. It pretty much is. In some ways, our nut-picking was even worse, since we used gong-show “surveys” by hapless professors to (vastly) extend the range of our side’s R-bombs and B-bombs.

(Today, the bigots support Herman Cain. Though we can explain that too!)

Mr. O’s second guest last night was the ever-brilliant Ann Coulter. At one point, O’Reilly asked her to comment on Obama’s sympathetic statements about the Occupy movement. In her reply, Coulter showed a second way Fox abuses the reds to keep them hating the blues:
COULTER: I would say this would not be half as annoying if he were not buddying around with his pals at Goldman Sachs and Citibank and Solyndra and all of his rich friends. I mean, you were asking Dick Morris earlier how is it that 43 percent of Americans can say they sympathize with the goals of Occupy Wall Street? I think it's very simple. It's because of the name “Occupy Wall Street.”

In point of fact, these people are not against Wall Street. They are walking right past George Soros' house and protesting outside Rupert Murdoch's apartment. Well, you know the name of the group isn't “Occupy Producers of Products We Disapprove Of.” They say “Wall Street.” I agree with them and I think they are ruining a good cause.

When Wall Street is not behaving in a free market way, taking bets, speculation, risk-taking—all of that isn’t good for the economy. But when the bets go bad and they go running to their Democrat friends in the White House from Bill Clinton to President Obama and get bailed out by the American taxpayer, that is not a free market. And I think all Americans should be angry about that sort of crony capitalism.
Wall Street got bailed out by Obama! Plainly, that’s what the average viewer would think based on what Coulter said. What was O’Reilly’s response to this disinformation? He said this:

“All right, Ann. Thanks very much, as always.”

O’Reilly has been a total disgrace as he has waged his moronic, hate-drenched campaign. But then, so have the editors of our biggest newspapers.

How long can this sort of thing persist before such leading citizens speak? Answer: O’Reilly can keep this up until the cows come home! The New York Times is too afraid to complain about this sort of thing from Fox—always has been. Besides, those editors like to drop their own bombs! This morning, they drop the N-bomb (“Nativists!”) right in the headline to their latest name-calling editorial.

The editors are afraid to challenge the likes of O’Reilly. Instead, they wage tribal war against southern whites. (For their readers, it’s highly therapeutic!) And of course, they enjoy throwing their own tribal bombs. Do these High Manhattan Buffoons ever leave home without them?

Taibbi pretty much called this shot. Divide and conquer! It’s how the plutocrats win.

Even Huddy pitched in: Late in last night's O'Reilly program, Juliet Huddy appeared for her weekly spin-bath.

"We begin with the Council on American Islamic Relations," Mr. O said. "Apparently, they support the Occupiers!"

The Muslim groups support the Occupy movement! Huddy is paid to be blonde—and to play along. Last night, she accomplished both tasks.

OCCUPY THE TEA PARTY: Taibbi’s warning!


Part 3—Love of profit, love of the tribe: Are Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement in some way “natural allies?” That’s what Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi said, in this recent blog post.

We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves. But there are obvious links between the people who comprise these two movements.

If you doubt that, just consider a well-rendered point in Nicholas Kristof’s new column. In a piece about the Occupy movement, Kristof explains the functioning of the aberration known as “crony capitalism:”
KRISTOF (10/27/11): To put it another way, this is a chance to save capitalism from crony capitalists.

I’m as passionate a believer in capitalism as anyone. My Krzysztofowicz cousins (who didn’t shorten the family name) lived in Poland, and their experience with Communism taught me that the way to raise living standards is capitalism.

But, in recent years, some financiers have chosen to live in a government-backed featherbed. Their platform seems to be socialism for tycoons and capitalism for the rest of us. They’re not evil at all. But when the system allows you more than your fair share, it’s human to grab. That’s what explains featherbedding by both unions and tycoons, and both are impediments to a well-functioning market economy.
Kristof says those grasping financiers are “not evil at all.” We have no idea how he could know such a thing; he is kissing the ass of the upper-class world when he types this instant disclaimer. Strivers like Kristof must do such things to maintain their own high stations. They must also draw instant moral equivalence between grasping tycoons and weak unions.

In these instant scripted asides, Kristof maintains his viability within the system. But as he explains those tycoons’ conduct, he paints a very basic portrait. This is what he says:

It’s human nature to grab too much—if you’re allowed to do so!

It’s human nature to grab too much! Everyone understands this fact; everybody in Occupy Wall Street, everyone in the Tea Party movement. In fact, everyone on the face of the earth understands Kristof’s basic concept:

It’s human nature to grab what you can. Left alone, many high rollers will overreach. This is why we need regulation.

Tycoons need regulation! Everyone in each of these movements understands this bone-simple fact. Such basic facts provide the basis for creating a movement which might merge the energies of the full 99 percent—merging those who see social issues one way with those who see them another.

The basic math of the Occupy movement says we’re all in this together. All of us in “the lower 99” are being looted by the top one. This is a powerful, ancient understanding—and it lies at the very heart of Occupy Wall Street’s messaging.

All of us are being looted! Red and blue together! This helps explain why Taibbi said these two groups are “natural allies.” We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves, but we do recommend his basic insight. We also recommend a warning he offered in his post.

According to Taibbi, current conditions could—and should—produce a larger movement. We shouldn’t be locked into “red” and “blue” camps when everyone is getting looted. But for various reasons, many people are comfortable with existing “culture war” battle lines. This led to Taibbi's wide-ranging prediction, one we shouldn’t ignore:
TAIBBI (10/17/11): There is going to be a fusillade of attempts from many different corners to force these demonstrations into the liberal-conservative blue-red narrative.

This will be an effort to transform OWS from a populist and wholly non-partisan protest against bailouts, theft, insider trading, self-dealing, regulatory capture and the market-perverting effect of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks into something a little more familiar and less threatening, i.e. a captive "liberal" uprising that the right will use to whip up support and the Democrats will try to turn into electoral energy for 2012.

Tactically, what we'll see here will be a) people firmly on the traditional Democratic side claiming to speak for OWS, and b) people on the right-Republican side attempting to portray OWS as a puppet of well-known liberals and other Democratic interests.


The Rush Limbaughs of the world are very comfortable with a narrative that has Noam Chomsky, MoveOn and Barack Obama on one side, and the Tea Party and Republican leaders on the other. The rest of the traditional media won't mind that narrative either, if it can get enough "facts" to back it up. They know how to do that story and most of our political media is based upon that Crossfire paradigm of left-vs-right commentary shows and NFL Today-style team-vs-team campaign reporting.

What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that's a story our media won't want to or know how to handle.
According to Taibbi, the traditional media are most comfortable with the red/blue story. More significantly, he says that some warriors on both the red and blue sides will want to maintain that way of seeing the world.

Taibbi cites Rush Limbaugh by name. For ourselves, we’ve been struck by the tribal reactions of Digby.

Are these movements “natural allies?” We’d say that construct is a bit strong. But current conditions give progressives a chance to do something liberals have long avoided. Progressives have the chance to inform the full electorate about the way the world has been working, about the way the top one percent have been looting everyone else.

Tea party folk have been looted too. They pay way too much for their health care too, just like Occupy folk. Their wages have stagnated just like those of their more liberal brethren. Their politicians are getting purchased, just like those on the blue side—if not more.

As Occupy Wall Street helps focus attention on the looting that has transpired, true progressives would work very hard to build understandings within all our tribes—those of the right, left and center (so-called).

But here’s something else about human nature: Some people dearly love the tribe. Some people love the tribe too much, just the way some tycoons dearly love their profits.

Digby has made some perfectly valid points about the obvious differences between these two movements. But, good lord almighty and land o Goshen! How some of us do love the tribe!

Tomorrow: What Digby has said, right and wrong

For part 4 of this series: Click here.

Birther madness: Sherr was more at fault!


Because he was asked: Why did Rick Perry discuss Obama’s birth certificate with Parade magazine last week?

All in all, we can’t tell you.

On cable “news” in the past two nights, you have seen the usual stooges speculating about Perry’s strategy and motives. In this morning’s Washington Post, Ruth Marcus did a bit of the same, then voiced some sensible thoughts:
MARCUS (10/26/11): The matter of Obama’s birth certificate should be a closed case. It is astonishing that a sitting governor, no less a serious candidate for president, would stoop to playing this game.


The country is facing serious problems. This will be a fateful election. Voters deserve better than scare tactics and drivel.
We agree that this should be a closed case. We agree that voters deserve something better than this tired old drivel.

Is it astonishing that a governor would stoop to discussing this drivel? If so, the same is true of a major "journalist." With that in mind, let us be the first to criticize Parade’s inane Lynn Sherr.

Why did Perry discuss the birth certificate with Parade? Let us be the first to tell you: In part or in whole, because he was asked! In part or in whole, because Lynn Sherr wasted everybody’s time—and lowered everybody’s IQ—by raising this stupid old topic.

According to the full Parade transcript, it was Sherr, not Perry, who brought this drivel up.

Everyone has whacked Perry for answering. Isn’t it time that sensible people whacked Sherr for asking? Or would that break guild rules?

Let us be the first to tell you: The Q-and-A’s about the birth certificate weren't included in Sunday’s hard-copy Parade. If you read your entire Parade magazine, you didn’t see a single word about this stupid topic.

You have to go the longer, unedited interview to access the now-famous exchange about the birth certificate. And it’s Sherr, not Perry, who raises the topic in that transcript (click here).

No one, including Marcus, has asked why Sherr re-introduced that drivel into the conversation. So let us be the first to ask: As a nation, why do we tolerate hacks like Sherr? Hacks who stage these stupid charades? Hacks who play these low-IQ games? Hacks who pretend to be journalists?

Perry has continued to discuss this topic—for example, when asked about it by John Harwood. He has been criticized for taking a semi-joking approach. But in the full interview with Sherr, it’s clear that he was giving joking answers to earlier questions on other topics.

Why did he talk about the birth certificate? In part or in whole, because he was asked! Because he was asked about this drivel by a journalist who ought to apologize and admit she’s been playing the fool.

Here at THE HOWLER, we’re tired of “journalists” like Sherr. We’re also tired of people like Marcus, who wouldn’t criticize the Sherrs if their lives were at stake. Between Candidate Perry and Journalist Sherr, we would say Sherr was more at fault in the return of this stupid old drivel. But in the press corps, you don’t criticize your peers.

Darlings! It just isn’t done!

Marcus also wastes everyone’s time in her column with remarks about Herman Cain’s on-line ad. But then, everyone in the cable “news” world started with these same topics last night. They’re silly and stupid and fun to discuss. They're perfect for very dumb, disengaged posers, the kind you find on cable.

We live in a downward-spiraling, low-IQ world. The dumbness is putting your nation in peril.

“Journalists” have been mired in this drivel every dumb step of the way.

If you don’t like the Perry plan, just watch a different channel!


DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW THIS WORKS: Does anyone know how the Perry plan works? Watching cable TV last night, we were reminded of the old joke, the one called Goldberg’s Law:

“The man with one watch always know the time. The man with two watches is never quite sure.”

So it was as we watched the pundits describing this tax plan last night. How does the Perry tax plan work? If you watched one channel, you might think you know. If you watched two, you aren’t really sure.

Let’s run through a set of cable hosts and guests, several of whom are clearly part of the cable TV booboisie:

Chris Matthews, Hardball: Let’s give this big dumb nut-case some credit for once. It’s always hard to tease a coherent statement from Matthews’ nightly rants. But on Monday, he seemed to be saying that everyone pays the same percentage of their income under “flat tax” plans.

That wasn’t true of the Forbes tax plan. It isn’t true of the Perry proposal. And by gum! Last night, Matthews had adopted a different rant altogether! Plainly, someone had re-scripted this big dumb cable nut.

By last night, Matthews’ basic complaint was even accurate! But not before he kicked things off with this off-message statement:
MATTHEWS (10/25/11): Now [Perry] is going into taxes. Taxes bother people. They’re heavy in this country, maybe not as heavy as they have to be at some point, but they’re heavy already. They hurt people. And here he is with this plan. Now, I’m going to ask you guys what you think of this so-called plan. He unfurled his economic plan today. The plan gives taxpayers the option of playing a flat 20 percent tax, or they can keep their old rates. The plan also calls for lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 percent.
Taxes are heavy in this country? Taxes are about as low as they have ever been! Obvious explanation:

Chris hasn’t completed his reprogramming from the Jack Welch days. At times, he still emits the bumper stickers of the side for which he once whored. But give him credit! Once he got last night’s rant in gear, he remembered what he was being paid to say now. He didn’t pretend that everyone would pay the same percentage of income under Perry’s plan. Instead, he advanced an accurate criticism, complaining that the Perry plan “would overwhelmingly help the wealthiest Americans...It’s clearly aimed directly at helping the rich.”

Chris didn’t mention the larger problem—the fact that this plan would drain the treasury at a time when we need more revenue. But give him credit! At $5 million per year, a flea-ridden poodle can only learn so many new tricks in a day.

Let’s move to the evening’s contradictions:

Jim Angle, Special Report: On last evening’s Special Report, viewers got a fairly good idea about the way those per-person exemptions work. Bret Baier called on reporter Jim Angle to “break it all down:”
ANGLE (10/25/11): The centerpiece is a flat tax of 20 percent for corporations and individuals...Perry's plan to keep deductions for home mortgage interest, charitable contribution, and state and local taxes along with the $12,500 exemption per person make the tax less flat, but for those who might be thinking about leaping into an entirely new tax system, allowing a choice may be comforting.


That didn't stop the Obama campaign from launching an early attack arguing the Perry plan would, quote, "shift the greater share of taxes away from large corporations and the wealthiest on to the backs of the middle class." But with all the deductions, a family of four would have to make substantial more than $50,000 to face any federal income taxes.
Let’s give Angle some credit. That last highlighted statement was clear and concise—and it was even accurate! A family of four earning 50K owes nothing under this plan!

Bruce Bartlett, the Last Word: Doggone it! Just when the viewer thought he understood, he might have switched over to the Last Word. Lawrence did mention those per-person exemptions. But look what Bruce Bartlett said!
O’DONNELL (10/25/11): This is a massive, massive tax cut for the very rich. It’s presented as “you have your choice which way you want to go.” But it’s clear at the top end of the income structure in this country, there’s only one way to go and that would be with his flat tax.

BARTLETT: Well, it’s worse than that because it’s a massive tax increase for a very large portion of the American population. I don’t know the exact figures, but I would guess probably any family making less than $50,000 a year or so is probably going to pay more under Perry’s plan than they do now.
Say what? According to Angle, a family of four earning 50K (or below) owes nothing under this plan. According to Bartlett, any such family is probably going to pay more under Perry’s plan than they do now—perhaps even “massively” more!

We’re not even saying that’s wrong. But by now, a cable viewer might well have been confused.

O’Donnell’s reaction to this dramatic claim? He simply moved ahead to his next preplanned topic.

Austan Goolsbee, OutFront: The former Obama aide guested on CNN’s brand new OutFront, one of cable’s most horrific “news” programs. Erin Burnett is about as dumb as it ever gets on cable—and she plainly tilts the news toward the plutocrat world-view. Besides that, she is constantly scrunching up her face in one of her trademark “I’m the cutest puppy you ever saw” looks. And unless we’re mistaken, she and her producers are trying to steal a bunch of highly annoying Maddow shtick.

Burnett was horrible all night long. But look what Goolsbee said:
BURNETT (10/25/11): Austan Goolsbee, does it surprise you that 47 percent of Americans have a positive view of a flat tax?

GOOLSBEE: No, not especially because I think in these polls, they are confusing radical simplification with reducing the top marginal rates. Most polls—and we've known this for 20 years. We're kind of “back to the future” on this stuff. When you actually show that the top 1 percent of people get a gigantic tax cut and 90 percent of people’s taxes go up, suddenly the support for the flat tax goes way down.
Is that accurate? Under the Perry proposal, would 90 percent of people’s taxes go up? Burnett didn’t ask.

Tom Foreman, Anderson Cooper 360: We rarely look to Cooper for clarification. He’s too busy furrowing his brow so viewers will know he cares.

Last night, things were different. Cooper threw to Tom Foreman, asking him to explain the tax plan. Foreman played tape of Perry saying this: “Taxes will be cut across all income groups in America.” Foreman took things from there, stressing the current lack of clarity about some ways this plan would work:
FOREMAN (10/25/11): That's a big, big claim, Anderson. Let's look at some of the facts here.

Certainly under his plan it looks like there would be lower taxes for wealthier people. There's be lower corporate tax rates for companies, no tax on dividends or capital gains, no inheritance tax. Those are things that generally tend to favor people who have a lot of money. They're the ones who benefit from those sorts of things.

But what about everybody else? Well, that's a different matter. He's talking about a $12,500 exemption before you pay taxes. That's higher than what we currently have. So you can argue that's better for people at the lower end of the spectrum. If you have two parents and one child, for example, they easily go over $36,000 before they start paying an income tax of any sort.

But then he's talking about a 20 percent flat rate over that. So the problem here— When I say “the part we don't know,” Anderson, is— For all of the 95 percent we know here, the 5 percent could have tremendous details and that could make a big difference.

What kind of breaks do people lose at the lower end of the scale? Things like the earned income tax credit. Do they still get credit for that in the long run? There are many, many, many details left in this, Anderson. So the bottom line is, when we judge this one, we have to say this is really a case of it being at best true but incomplete.
Foreman seemed to say that programs like the EITC may be terminated under the Perry plan. That may explain a point of confusion in today’s New York Times news report.

In this puzzling, unexplained graphic, the Times shows many households paying no tax under the Perry plan. But it shows them better off under current law, in which they actually get money back from the IRS! In the graphic, the Times makes no attempt to explain how this works, a typical move from the Times. Richard Oppel makes a fleeting, unhelpful reference in his news report. But then, what else is new?

It’s always murky in the Times. On cable TV, we’re in the wild west. Do you understand how this tax plan would work?

We’ll take a guess: No. You do not.

Coming later today: Rick and the birthers (and Sherr)

Scam watch: If you don’t like the Perry plan, just read a different newspaper!


The Post revives an old scam: Yesterday morning, Rick Perry released his “flat tax” proposal in little-known Gray Court, South Carolina—population 1021 in the year 2000.

Do you understand what Perry proposed? Different news orgs have described the proposal in amazingly divergent ways.

We recall the old joke about New England weather: If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while! It’s a bit like that with the Perry tax plan:

If you don’t like what Perry proposed, just read a different newspaper!

For starters, consider the way the plan is described in two of our most famous newspapers. Consider the way it’s described in today’s Washington Post—and in the New York Times.

Let’s start with the Times. For figure filberts, the Times provides a chart showing how different families would be affected by Perry’s proposal. (To examine that graphic, click here.) Meanwhile, here’s how the often befuddled Richard Oppel begins his news report:
OPPEL (10/26/11): Gov. Rick Perry of Texas unveiled a plan on Tuesday to scrap the graduated income tax and replace it with a 20 percent flat rate. By throwing out rates as high as 35 percent and eliminating estate and investment taxes, the plan would grant a major tax cut for the wealthy. It is the centerpiece of an ambitious proposal that aims to overhaul political sacred cows like Social Security and Medicare while slashing the federal budget.

Mr. Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, said his proposal would also offer benefits to middle-class Americans by giving a $12,500 deduction for every member of a household while preserving exemptions for state and local taxes, mortgage interest and charitable contributions for anyone making less than $500,000. He said anyone could still file under the current code, and he also pledged to lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, from 35 percent.
Is it basic facts you’re after? Oppel provides at least two basic facts in those opening paragraphs:

First, Perry’s plan would employ a single tax rate of 20 percent. (Oppel calls this a "flat rate." We wouldn't.)

Second, that tax rate would be applied to income only after the tax-payer has applied “a $12,500 deduction for every member of a household.”

Each of those facts is important. If you didn’t know that second fact, you’d be hard-pressed to understand most of the data found in that aforementioned New York Times graphic. For example, you would have a very hard time explaining this pair of facts:

Under Perry’s new proposal, a family of four earning $31,000 wouldn’t owe any income taxes at all, according to the Times graphic. A family of four earning $69,800 would owe only $2140—roughly three percent of their income.

You simply couldn’t understand those facts if you didn’t know about those per-person exemptions. Applying that “20 percent flat rate,” you would assume that a family of four earning $31,000 would owe roughly $6200 in income taxes! You’d assume that a family of four earning $69,800 would owe $13,960.

That makes the reporting in today’s Washington Post quite amazing. The Post’s reporting is hard to fathom. Truth to tell, it resembles a scam.

Start with Karen Tumulty’s front-page report in today’s hard-copy Post. Tumulty offers an overview of the tax proposals of various GOP candidates. She turns to Perry’s proposal first. Here’s the way she describes it:
TUMULTY (10/26/11): Latest to put forward a blueprint is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a former front-runner who fully embraced a number of long-standing and far-reaching conservative goals.

"My plan does not trim around the edges," Perry said as he announced it Tuesday in South Carolina.

The centerpiece is a proposal that would give individuals the option to pay a 20 percent flat tax. Perry also would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent; eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains; make deep, unspecified cuts in federal spending; and establish individual retirement accounts outside the Social Security system.
Tumulty cites the “20 percent flat tax”—but she doesn’t mention those large per-person exemptions. Her report runs 1400 words, but she never mentions those exemptions at any point.

Good grief! If you don’t know about those per-person exemptions, you don’t have the slightest idea how the Perry proposal works! But Tumulty’s bizarre omission doesn’t seem to be some sort of oversight or accident. On-line, the Post also offers this long report on the Perry proposal, a report by the often befuddled Perry Bacon. (Bacon’s report does not appear in the hard-copy Post.) Like Tumulty, Bacon cites the “20 percent national flat tax” involved in the Perry proposal. But he never mentions those per-person exemptions either.

How strange! Bacon links to Perry’s op-ed piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the piece in which Perry unveiled his proposal. In that op-ed piece, Perry described the $12,500 per-person “standard deduction” quite early—right there in his fourth paragraph! Why then did Bacon fail to mention this part of the plan in his reporting? Why did Tumulty follow suit?

We don’t know the answer to that. But we’ll make two observations:

First: You can’t understand the Perry proposal if you don’t know about those per-person exemptions. In that sense, the Washington Post has grossly failed to explain this proposal. The error is astonishing—vast.

Second: This is precisely the way the Dole campaign mischaracterized the Forbes “flat tax” proposal in 1996. During that year’s New Hampshire campaign, the Dole campaign ran the most deceptive series of TV ads in American presidential history. Basically, the campaign lied to Granite State voters in a gross, extended, deliberate way. (For our earlier report, click here.)

At the time, the Washington Post and the New York Times basically averted their gaze from the Dole campaign’s gross misconduct. By way of contrast, the Boston Globe explained the Dole scam rather clearly. It wasn’t real hard to do.

This morning, the Washington Post seems to be reliving those halcyon days of yore. Dole disappeared the Forbes per-person exemptions. This morning, the Post follows suit with Perry.

Is this morning’s remarkable error being committed for a purpose? We have no idea—but the Post’s reporting is simply astounding. In our experience, Bacon is often befuddled, but Tumulty is quite sharp. What explains the Post’s presentation? We have no idea.

That said, if you don’t like the way the Perry tax plan is being explained, we’ll suggest that you read a different newspaper! In this morning’s New York Times, it’s largely sunshine for those families of four.

In this morning’s Washington Post, cold chilly winds seem to howl.

Later today: If you don’t like the Perry tax plan, just watch a different channel!

OCCUPY THE TEA PARTY: Postponed due to awful reporting!


Postponed until tomorrow: Due to remarkable “flat tax” reporting, part 3 of our incomparable series will be postponed till tomorrow.

For part 2 of this award-winning series, go ahead: Just click here.

Flat tax watch: Imagine all the tax plans!


Oppel and experts fail: Now that Perry has proposed a tax plan, the plan will be scored by the Tax Policy Center. A sane discussion will ensue among those who want such a trinket.

But the New York Times has floundered and flailed in its run-up to this event. Yesterday, Richard Oppel massively failed in this news report. No, it doesn’t exactly “matter”—although as the dumbness piles up, the broader discussion can get very dumb. But this is the dumbest part of Oppel’s hapless report: ht
OPPEL (10/24/11): Independent analysts say it is hard to imagine a flat-tax plan that would not be very regressive compared with the current system. Right now, the highest tax rate for many middle-income earners is 15 percent, while the richest Americans are subject to a 35 percent rate on much of their income.

“If you’re going to get the same amount of revenue, someone has to pay the price,” said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. “The rich pay less, the poor pay nothing, and the middle class bears the burden.”
That is really dumb.

As we noted a few days ago, it is supremely easy “to imagine a flat-tax plan that would not be very regressive compared with the current system.” It simply requires a high tax rate with a high exemption. (All the major Republican plans have included substantial exemptions.) For example: Institute a single tax rate of 40 percent, with an exemption of $150,000 for a family of four. Or maybe $250,000! With a tax rate of 60 percent!

Under such a plan, the highest earners would pay much more. Mid-level earners would pay much less. No Republican would ever propose such a plan, of course. But that isn’t what Oppel was saying—even though he should be saying that, so his readers will be exposed to the logic of these Republican plans.

Duh. If it’s "simplicity" the GOP craves, they can get it with a high single rate. But the GOP isn’t seeking simplicity. The GOP is actually seeking lower tax rates on the rich! Oppel should open his big fat yap and let the public hear that.

Are you kidding? It’s easy to imagine a “flat tax” (single-rate) plan which would be hugely progressive as compared with the current system. That said:

Why can’t Williams imagine such a plan? You know how it can be with these experts!

Why can’t Oppel imagine such a plan! People! He works for the Times!

Flat tax watch: Drum versus Matthews!


The actual shape of the problem: Kevin Drum offers his initial take on the Perry tax plan. He pities the fools who have to score it. But please note the shape of the problem as he diagnoses it:
DRUM (10/25/11): But can we please spare a moment for the people who are really going to suffer because of this? Yes, I'm talking about whichever poor schlubs at the Tax Policy Center draw the short straw and have to go through the dreary motions of scoring this. We all know the basic answer, of course: Perry's plan represents a massive tax cut for the rich and a huge loss of revenue for the federal government. But we want numbers, dammit! Not that they really matter, since once they're produced we'll merely be told that they represent old-fashioned static thinking. What we need is a shiny new dynamic scoring of Perry's plan that takes into account the fact that it would, as James Pethokoukis puts it, "supercharge growth." I assume he tweeted that with a straight face, but on the internet you never know, do you?
We assume Drum’s assessment will be borne out by the poor shlubs who score Perry’s plan. But please note: According to Drum, the main problem is the fact that the plan will create a huge loss of revenue, principally by lowering taxes on the rich.

That’s not what you heard if you watched last night's simpering segment on Hardball. On that program, you were told that the problem with a flat tax proposal is that it forces middle-income people to pay the same tax rates as the rich. That isn’t true, and that isn’t the problem with what Perry has proposed.

As noted, Hardball’s Chris Matthews never knows what he’s talking about. Nor does this fact seem to bother him. This is the remarkable way he closed last night’s program, To watch the full statement, click this:
MATTHEWS (10/24/11): Let me finish tonight with this: Deceit.

It’s one of those human behaviors everyone can get their arms around. You know when you see it—when a guy sells you a car with serious problems but makes a point not to share them with you. You know, when some guy claims not to be married but is. When someone you trust shows you they know just how to take advantage of your trust.


I know a great deal about politics, practically nothing about high finance. All this talk of derivatives and credit default swaps leaves me hanging. I still don’t get what a hedge fund guy does or what “arbitrage” means.

So when I saw Margin Call, a powerful, clear-cut movie about good, evil and the people that get caught having to choose and people who get lured into doing what they’re paid off to do or threatened with losing if they don’t do, I loved it. Finally, I could see the basic fact of what happened at Lehman Brothers and all the rest. I could see the choices people were led to take, or decided to take.
Matthews complaining about deceit is like monkeys complaining about smelly poo. But we were especially struck by the highlighted passage.

Matthews has been paid in seven figures at least since 1999. According to press reports, he was paid roughly $1 million back then; he’s paid $5 million now. It’s fairly clear that he has been paid for doing the bidding of his powerful owners—especially his original owner, conservative GE chairman Jack Welch. In 1999 and 2000, Matthews sold his soul to the Noston-accented devil, working to send George Bush to the White House and leaving Al Gore for dead.

No one lied and deceived the public the way this vile person did.

Matthews has been paid massive sums for more than a decade now. In all that time, he hasn’t bothered getting himself up to speed on the topics that drive our modern political culture. He doesn’t know how high finance works—nor has he bothered to find out. He knows it when he sees, though, in a good, simple-minded movie.

Matthews is one of the giant confidence men in American history. In the person of Walsh and Maddow and Corn, the liberal world has been kissing his ass for many years now, and will never cease to do so. They will never tell you what this man did.

This horrible man puts bucks in their pockets. Isn’t it great to be a part of our high-minded “liberal” world?

Plutocrat watch: The mayor owns them all!


Wife of Brian, life of Ezra: Last Monday, David Carr penned the Standard Press Corps Profile of regular guy Brian Williams. All the standard hooks were there, though Carr waited a while before making his way to these guild-mandated chestnuts:
CARR (10/17/11): It is that wink, along with the impression that he actually knows his way around a Target store, that makes him appealing. He is like the local anchor that we love to watch, the funny one, the nice one, the handsome one, except he talks to almost eight million people every night about global and national matters.


He swears he would happily go to work at NY1 if he got fired tomorrow. (In fact, during Hurricane Irene he sat in for an hour on WNBC, the local New York affiliate, just to give the anchors there a break.) Mr. Williams is talent, but he skews normal and is the kind of guy who would be happy working as a volunteer fireman, which he has, or the type who didn’t finish college because he got interested in other things, which he also did.
So humble he shops at Target. Check!

Worked as a volunteer fireman. Check!

Didn’t finish college. Check! And don’t say why he dropped out (to go to work in the White House.)

Carr dragged his heels before doing his duty. Then, as he continued, he dropped this big loud bomb:
CARR (continuing directly): Because he is busy getting ready for the new show, and I am on deadline, we met at the Midtown apartment he shares with his wife, Jane, who covers education for Bloomberg Radio, and with his daughter, Allison, an actress who will soon appear on the HBO series “Girls.”
Say what? Williams' wife covers education for Bloomberg? Question: Is there anyone in the mainstream press corps who isn’t part of the Bloomberg cult—who isn’t on retainer from the billionaire mayor, who isn’t in some manner or fashion paid to pimp his ideas?

Most likely, somebody isn’t. But it probably wouldn’t be Ezra Klein, who seems to be cashing checks from every source in the land.


Last March, Klein penned a rather strange column in the Washington Post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/11). We thought it was odd for two reasons:

First, the column was very dumb. Second, it dealt with public schools, a topic Klein rarely discusses.

What made the column so strikingly dumb? In the Standard Scripted Dumbkopf Manner, Klein bashed and trashed those public school teachers and their infernal unions. He specifically praised a New York City org established by the queen, Michelle Rhee.

We were puzzled by the piece, both because of the subject matter and because it was so scripted and dumb.

Does this supply our explanation? Click that link, and you will see that Klein went on the dole from Bloomberg just a few weeks after writing that piece. Truly, these people shop themselves around like there’s only one buck left on earth.

Bloomberg is into the wife of Brian—and he’s into Darling Ezra. He’s deeply into Charlie Rose (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/13/11).

In the world of post-journalistic insider trading, who doesn’t this billionaire own?

The correct way to profile Brian: Some years ago, we helped you see the official standard way to profile the regular guy Brian Williams. For part 1 of our hard-hitting three-part report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/4/07.

Monday night lights: Flat tax, soft heads, can’t win!


The New York Times just keeps trying to explain the flat tax: When it comes to domestic politics, the New York Times does truly terrible work.

Yesterday, in this news report, the sad newspaper continued to bungle its reporting of the emerging “flat tax” issue. For unknown reasons, Richard Oppel chose to start his report like this, with the first of many bungles:
OPPEL (10/24/11): As several leading Republican presidential candidates embrace a flat tax as a core campaign position, one contender stands out in not doing so: Mitt Romney, who has a long record of criticizing such plans and famously derided Steve Forbes’s 1996 proposal as a “tax cut for fat cats.”
Did Romney “famously” deride the Forbes flat tax proposal? Actually no, he didn’t. It’s true that Romney spent $50,000 on TV ads that year—on ads which attacked the Forbes proposal. But there was nothing “famous” about this action, in real time or later.

Did Romney “famously” deride that proposal? Sorry. That’s a novel.

According to the Nexis archives, this “famous” action was barely mentioned in the press in real time. According to the Nexis archives, the Washington Post mentioned Romney’s action just once, in a fleeting, single-sentence reference. According to the Nexis archives, the New York Times never mentioned Romney’s action at all.

Romney wasn’t a big deal at the time; his action wasn’t “famous.” Indeed, when did the New York Times first mention his “famous” action? Just last Thursday, in this variously bungled report by Catherine Rampell and Oppel! Romney’s action is so “famous,” New York Times first heard about it for the first time last week!

Nothing will turn on the silly bit of novelization which started Oppel’s “news report.” But this morning, we learn what Rick Perry’s “flat tax” proposal is—and we see how hapless the pre-reporting of this topic has been.

What has Candidate Perry proposed? In this morning’s New York Times, John Harwood explains:
HARWOOD (10/25/11): The plan includes a flat income tax rate of 20 percent, but it will also allow any taxpayer the option to remain under the current system, according to a person involved in the Perry campaign. Under current tax law, the wealthiest Americans face a marginal tax rate of 35 percent for much, if not most, of their taxable income

In addition, the plan has a $12,500 deduction for each person in a household, so, for example, two parents with one child would have the first $37,500 of income excluded under the plan.
Duh. As anyone could have predicted, the Perry proposal includes a substantial per-person deduction/exemption—a possibility the Times failed to discus in its hapless pre-reporting. For that reason, the Perry “flat tax” system would in fact be “progressive.” A family of four earning $50,000 in taxable income would pay no income tax at all. But these percentages would be paid by families with higher incomes:
Percentage of taxable income paid by a family of four:
With $75,000 income: 6.7 percent
With $100,000 income: 10 percent
With $200,000 income: 15 percent
With $1,000,000 income: 19.99 percent
Here we see one of the comical paradoxes of modern Republican “flat tax” proposals. Yes, a single tax rate is used—but because of the exemptions, families end up paying widely varying portions of their income. Under the Perry proposal, different families would pay anywhere from zero percent of their taxable income up to almost twenty percent. Or as Dick Armey wrote in his unintentionally comical 1996 book, The Flat Tax: “The flat tax is progressive” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/11/04).

Given the fact that Perry has been working with Armey and Forbes, anybody could have foreseen that his plan would be “progressive”—that it would impose a higher burden on higher earners. Anybody could have foreseen this except major American “journalists.” Last night, for example, the always clueless Chris Matthews thoroughly bungled this topic during a masterfully uninformed segment on his grotesque cable program, Hardball.

Matthews, one of our biggest buffoons, never knows what he’s talking about. Last night was no exception. In a thunderous segment about the flat tax, he made misleading statements throughout. Eventually, he offered the know-nothing foofaw which follows. In this statement, he was stupidly focused on Romney, not Perry, trying to drive his flip-flopper script. But note his failure to explain how this “flat tax” fandango works:
MATTHEWS: You know, John [Feehery], you and I have similar backgrounds and values, I think, generally speaking. But let’s get to the heart of the reality of this thing, and maybe we can reach common ground here.

The average person watching this program right now may make—a single person may be lucky to make $40,000 or $50,000. A family may make about that, according to national averages. They may be retired living on less than that. They're looking at how this tax structure would affect them if the new person gets elected president. And if they're thinking of electing Mitt Romney, they would like to know what he is talking about.

If he's talking about a flat tax, the same percentage tax rate for everybody, that's serious business, because that means the rich people won't pay a higher percentage than the average person out there just making a living. Do you think that's a fair idea in concept?
That was just humongously stupid. Perry has now proposed a thoroughly typical Republican “flat tax” plan. Under his proposal, rich people would pay just under 20 percent; many middle-income people would pay nothing at all. In the modern Republican era, these “flat tax” plans have always been like that.

Trust us. Chris didn’t know that.

Indeed, Matthews had already described the 1996 Forbes proposal (or some successor to same) on last night's program. He did so in this sad uninformed fashion:
MATTHEWS: A flat tax is one rate. And that’s what they’re talking about. They’re talking about a single rate. If you make billions of dollars a year, you pay the same rough percentage, 17 percent is what Forbes has been talking about, as a guy making $50,000 or $100,000.
Sorry. Under the Forbes proposal (in 1996), the guy making billions paid 16.99 percent. The guy making $50,000 paid roughly four percent. A family of four earning $36,000 paid no income tax at all.

Matthews never knows what he’s talking about. Today, he pimps his scripts on the Democrats’ side, but he’s still a national disgrace—a prominent marker of our failed “intellectual” culture. But then, Oppel showed little sign in yesterday’s Times of understanding this topic either. His report was full of silly shit. Clarity was AWOL.

We’ll look forward to seeing a full analysis of the effects of the Perry proposal. But don’t worry—major news orgs like the Times and Hardball will bungle that too. At the Times, they’ll be confused and they'll be busily typing their novels. On Hardball, everything will be subjugated to Matthews’ personality-driven scripts.

You live inside a failing culture. It’s stunning to see the way political “reporters” work at the New York Times.

Break out the popcorn: To watch Matthews’ segment on the flat tax, click here. All three players are scripted and hapless—Mathews and his dueling “strategists,” Rep and Dem alike.