Confection watch: The 35 percent promulgation!


What makes Willie Geist run: This morning’s New York Times is a mess. But let’s close with Willie Geist.

This morning, he was reading the news on his eponymous show, Way Too Willie. Yes, we know—it was 5:30 in the morning. Very few people were watching. None of this really matters.

But is there anything people like Willie Geist know? He sidekicks on Morning Joe every day, pretending to discuss the news. But does he know anything at all? How about his writers?

What did Willie Geist tell the world? He was discussing the new report about Rick Santorum’s income taxes. Santorum paid 28 percent, Willie said, way more than Mitt Romney’s 13.9 percent.

Not a hair was out of place. Then, Willie Geist said this:

“Most Americans pay a rate of around 35 percent.”

Truly, that’s just astounding. And yes! Word for word, that is what Willie Geist said.

When Willie was running with Tucker: Back in 2006, Willie was regular sidekick to Tucker Carlson on the latter's nightly MSNBC show. In December of that year, Al Gore's film about climate change was maybe up for an Oscar.

To watch Willie complain about all the high boredom, go ahead: Just click here. This was and is your "press corps" at work.

In fairness, Frank Rich was worse.


  1. Are you really sure it's "astounding"? The quote, as you offer it, is too vague to evaluate for literal truthfulness, but if one were inclined to get to a total effective tax rate of 35% (as opposed to a marginal rate of 35%, which is easy), it wouldn't be all that difficult.

    Add up the federal tax paid on earned income of $50K-$60K (about 17%), SS taxes (14%), and state and local taxes (4%-9%), and it's no trouble at all to get to or surpass a total effective tax rate of 35%.

  2. @Anonymous:

    Willie was comparing an apple: Romney and Santorum's FEDERAL INCOME TAX rate (marginal, effective? I'm presuming he doesn't know or care)

    with an orange: "most Americans'" total tax burden (maybe, who knows--he doesn't bother to clarify).

    Score one for Somerby. This is indeed idiotic journalism.

  3. Geist gets paid to KNOW NOTHING.

    He's a clown, a jester, a courtier.

    There's a pretty dime in that, especially if you're young and male and white.

  4. "Idiotic"? Are you sure? I don't know Romney's legal residence, but assuming he pays state taxes, we could add another 7% or so to his 13.9% (the tax preferences for capital gains, etc. in the Federal code, usually aren't available at the state level).

    So Mitt is still way below the the more or less "average American".

    Would you have been happier if this host -- who I've never seen -- had simply said, "the average American pays a much higher percentage of his income in taxes than Mitt Romney does?"

    If this is what we have to do to "score one", it'd say we'd have to be pretty desperate. For all the outright lies that appear daily in the American media, I can live with this host's imperfect take on taxes.

  5. I'm willing to bet most people and especially those pundits commenting on tax rates have not the vaguest idea what the "average" American pays in taxes.

    According to this:

    The average American pays an effective rate of 4.7% in Federal income taxes. Unless my math skills have totally deserted me, 4.7% is considerably LESS than 13.9%.

    1. Even taking your figure, instead of the posited $50000 income above, the "average" American still pays about 18.7% on his earned income (remember ss?), as opposed to the 13.9% Mitt pays on capital gains and carried (and which 13.9% doesn't include, btw, Romney income which has escaped taxation altogether due to transfers to his sons.

      Amazing, how deaf some people are on this site. Talk about tribal loyalties....

    2. Since when do you count Social Security payments as income tax? We are talking about Federal Income Taxes here, nothing else. Sounds like you're trying to add apples and oranges, so I'd really like to see where you got that 18.7% figure. Otherwise, I will just assume you made it up, which is pretty much par for the course when this type of discussion comes up. And talking about tribal, YOU sure beat on them drums like nobody's business.

    3. @TobyTucker

      Absent a full transcript, I don't know what this talking head was actually referring to -- whether total taxes paid or *only* Federal taxes -- and I very much doubt you do either.

      Note that "median" income is different from "average" income, and that $50K is generally given as the median amount, which is why I used it. You're free to change the measure to "average", but in that case, don't call me a liar. My figures are correct, for a single person earning $50K.

      I was a fool to do it, but for the sake of the argument, I added your 4.7% to the approximately 14% that working Americans pay in SS withholding -- and which Mitt Romney DOES NOT pay on capital gains and "carried interest" income. That totals 18.7%.

      Some people, however, take such satisfaction in asserting that "our tribe" is just as bad as their, that they simply can't admit that most Americans pay higher taxes, as a percentage of income, than Mitt Romney.

    4. Seeing as the report was about Rick Santorum's recently released FEDERAL INCOME TAXES, I am VERY sure that's what we're talking about here. Don't project YOUR ignorance onto me, it's very unbecoming.

      The term "average American" is a bit vague, but seeing as most personal returns are from the married, filing jointly category, I feel "average family" is a MUCH better baseline than your single person-median income example. Seeing as the "average family" (2 adults, 2 children) can take deductions not available to the single person, they're obviously going to pay less. No doubt that's why you're using the "single person" as your baseline, eh?

      Once again, you're adding SS payments and income taxes. *Sigh* If using bogus numbers is the only way you can win your argument, you're carrying on in the finest liberal/Democrat tradition, not unlike the way the current unemployment numbers are being (mis)calculated.

      BTW....the SS payroll deduction is currently 4%, down from 6% NOT 14%. I have NO idea where you got THAT number. So let's put the CORRECT numbers into your calculation, why don't we? Seeing as the payroll tax holiday began at the beginning of 2011, it applies to this years taxes. So, 4.7% + 4.0% = 8.7%, which is STILL considerably less than 13.9%. It's no wonder that there are those who won't admit that Romney is paying a lower tax rate than "most Americans" because it simply ISN'T TRUE!

      I'm rather curious where you got that 14% number for SS deductions. It's sure to be a fascinating explanation.

      P.S. I'm really surprised that you didn't try to throw Medicare deductions into the mix as well to further obfuscate the argument. Your falling down on the job, buddy!

    5. @TobyTucker

      At it again, Tob?

      "The term "average American" is a bit vague,"

      It would be more accurate to say that "average American" is intentionally misleading, because most Americans earn so little that they pay no Federal tax at all, which obviously skews the averages. If you'll recall, Buffett started this argument with reference to a secretarial salary. Averaging in the very poor (as opposed to using median income figures) gives a very distorted number, unless you want to celebrate the fact that large numbers of Americans earn so little that yeah, they pay less Federal tax than Mitt Romney!

      "Once again, you're adding SS payments and income taxes. *Sigh* If using bogus numbers "

      Bogus? Really? Forgetting the current payroll tax holiday, the usual payroll deduction is about 7%, with another 7% (which comes out of the employee's hide, one way or another) from the employer. Mitt Romney does not pay this tax. If you don't find a 14% tax levied on all earned income about to about $100K -- including the income of very poor, but not on Mitt Romney's income -- you're a lot richer than I am. Besides, "conservatives" never tire of telling us that SS is really a general obligation -- the SS Trust Fund is a fiction! -- so if we're funding SS out of general revenue, why the hell isn't Romney paying into it?

      Of course, you're not willing to include this tax, because it means everybody who works for a living is paying more tax than Mitt Romney -- even the very poor. I fully understand the pain of your dilemma and have every sympathy.

    6. You just can't admit it when you're wrong, can you? The SS deduction has NEVER EVER been 7%, and OF COURSE forget about the payroll tax holiday. Why use the REAL NUMBERS when it's so much more fun to use figures you MADE UP. The employer contribution has also NEVER EVER been 7% but why should mere FACTS deter you. If you can't fudge the figures you wouldn't be a liberal, would you?

      Funny thing about that employer contribution. The EMPLOYER pays it NOT the EMPLOYEE. You make a wonderfully convoluted argument but as you totally ignore the actual facts and figures, your conclusion is TOTALLY BOGUS!!!

      There's a lot more I could say about your total disregard for facts and your irrational hatred of Mitt Romney (a childhood trauma perhaps?) but my dear sweet mother always said I shouldn't make fun of people in your condition so you have MY sympathy and condolences instead.(You really shouldn't forget to take your meds, though...)

    7. It's such a joy debating right-wingers, especially the trolls attracted to liberal-leaning sites.

      Total SS and Medicare withholding -- neither of which Mr. Romney pays -- is over 7%, but if you want to talk just about SS, it's 6.2%. Since the current holiday is for another year only, it hardly makes sense to use the reduced rate as a benchmark figure.

      Additionally, the employer contributes another 6.2% (again, in a normal year). This obviously reduces employees' salary, just as benefits do. That money isn't a gift -- it's part of the overall pay package. You'd think this point would be obvious to conservatives who constantly tell us that we shouldn't tax businesses, because they just pass on the cost of taxes to the consumer! But, then again, I have don't have high expectations for intellectual coherence from you lot.

      Finally, I don't know where you got your psychoanalytic powers, but they're as faulty as your grasp of taxation. Hate Mitt Romney? Hardly. I just wanted to point out that he pays ridiculously low taxes for somebody worth hundreds of millions, and with millions more in annual unearned income.

      In any case, feel free to obfuscate to your heart's content, because I'm through with you.

    8. Oh, NOW SS deductions are 6.2%? What happened to that 14% number? No explanation, eh? Didn't really expect one. And once again with the "ignore the payroll tax holiday". Why use actual numbers when made up numbers support your argument so much better? You just can't help yourself, can you?

      Talking about obfuscation, you've got that down to a science, eh? We were talking a single simple subject and you've gone off-topic so many times I lost count. Typical liberal tactic, when you've lost the argument, quick, change the subject and/or walk away, nose held high in air.

      I guess I was mistaken about your hated of Mitt Romney. You're just insanely jealous of anybody making more money than you. No doubt you're a fierce advocate of "Social Justice" as well. Am I wrong???

      P.S. You really ought to see someone about your delusions of intellectual superiority. I would suggest that you ask your friends for advice but considering your attitude I rather doubt you have any.

  6. It's a mark of media bias that Romney's wealth has become a problem. Wealth was never a problem for John and Teddy Kennedy or for John Kerry. And, Romney earned his wealth, whereas the Kennedys inherited theirs and Kerry married his.

    Did the media ask what average tax rates the Kennedy's or the Kerry's paid? Did they have offshore investments? Did they avoid estate taxes through the use of tricky trusts. Those questions weren't asked, because Kerry and the Kennedy's are Democrats.

    The media has created a number of tests that apply only to Republicans. Racism is the biggest deal, of course. Any criticism of Mr. or Mrs. Obama by a Republican is immediately called "racism". When a Republican Senator used the word "Macaca" (whatever that means), he was so tarred as a racist that he was driven out of the Senate. OTOH a Democrat can use the N-word on national TV with no blowback at all.

    1. For the life of me, David in Cal, I don't know how you manage to get through the day, with all these injustices perpetrated against Republicans!

      I mean, jeez, the liberal media has kept Republicans out of power for years with their left-wing bias! Coverage of Dems is, meanwhile, absolutely adoring! Just look at the way the press loved Clinton and Gore to death! And hell, so what if Kerry married a very rich wife, spoke French and wind-surfed, which was widely reported? The liberal media loved him for it! I mean, he won the election, didn't he?

      But no matter, it's all Macaca. Some people just love to be victims, no matter how much their side wins, it's the American way.

  7. humananimalhybrid-americanFebruary 17, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    "It's a mark of media bias that Romney's wealth has become a problem."

    >>>no man the media gives big props and legitimizes the wealthy based on their likelihood of being able to wage a strong campaign ... and oh btw purchase a lot of advertising from them.

    "Wealth was never a problem for John [kennedy]"

    >>>lets compare apples to apples. jfk stood to inherit a lot im sure but what he had while running for president probably was a pittance compared to romneys hundreds of millions.

    "Romney earned his wealth, whereas the Kennedys inherited theirs"

    and the media gives him mad love for earning it. but they begrudgingly have also noticed that the way he earned it killed and sent jobs overseas. the main stream media you demonize is on your right wing side. they keep the american people largely uninformed and so easy prey for the dis-informers and demagogues. (see bob somerby for example or just tune into the evening national news on cbs abc nbc -- its ten minutes of at least something and 20 minutes of feel good -- compare them to the bbc for reference.)

  8. The debate going on upstairs is hilarious, when you put it in perspective. Here we've got Republicans celebrating the fact that a guy worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and with annual unearned income in the tens of millions, pays a higher effective Federal tax rate than the "average American" -- not by the 80 or 90 percentage points you would have seen when we were prosperous in the 1950s and 60s, but by a whole 9.2 percentage points, i.e., 13.9% v. 4.7%. Wow! Bob was sure right on this one! Romney pays higher taxes than the poor!

    What we really need to do is lower Mitt's rate to 4.7%. I mean, it's all about fairness, right?