IS IT A TAX: Anderson Cooper rolls over dies!

FRIDAY, JULY 6, 2012

INTERLUDE—The public gets conned once again: How helpless are your multimillionaire “journalists?” How unskilled? How useless?

Consider what happened in the second segment of last night’s Anderson Cooper program.

Gloria Vanderbilt’s best baby boy was pretending to discuss the health care law and its individual mandate. He started out reading a monologue—text prepared by his staff.

Even here, there were problems with what he said—but he did get one thing right. He told us that the health care law (or maybe the mandate; or maybe the penalty) simply wasn’t the biggest tax increase in history!

If only for a brief, shining moment, Cooper got something right:
COOPER (7/5/12): "Keeping Them Honest" tonight on the campaign trail on Mitt Romney's latest attempt to paint President Obama's health care law as bad and his own Massachusetts plan as good. Now since the Supreme Court ruled last week Governor Romney and members of his campaign have seemingly tied themselves in verbal knots over it.

Since the Supreme Court ruled last week, Governor Romney and members of his campaign have seemingly tied themselves in verbal knots over it. Ironically, though, the Supreme Court offered him a way out, upholding the mandate that people buy health insurance on the basis that the penalty for not buying insurance is a tax.

That's what the court said. And most Republicans took that and ran with it. Take a look.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: This law is a tax.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN: Obamacare is the biggest tax increase in American history.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER: The government could decide that we're going to tax you if you don't eat broccoli on Tuesday.
REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS: In fact the Affordable Care Act is a tax. It is the largest tax in America's history.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: The middle class tax increase.
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL: It's the largest tax increases on the middle class in history.
MITT ROMNEY: Obamacare raises taxes on the American people.


COOPER: It's actually nowhere near the biggest tax increase in history. But all the same, according to the court, it is a tax.
There were already errors in what Cooper said. But good God! He got something right!

“It's actually nowhere near the biggest tax increase in history,” he said, contradicting the ludicrous claims of Bachmann, Rodgers and McDonnell.

In truth, it wasn’t clear what Cooper meant by “it;” clarity fades quickly up here in the mountains. But please. Neither the health care law, nor the “penalty” found within it, amounts to anything dimly resembling “the biggest tax increase in history.”

“Keeping them honest,” Cooper had made an unclear but accurate statement. Until he was challenged by his first guest, when the highlighted exchange occurred:
COOPER: Let's talk about it now with's Erick Erickson. He's with us tonight, so is former Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann 2012 spokeswoman Alice Stewart. Also senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

So, Erick, where does this clarification get Romney exactly? Because it certainly doesn't help him with the folks who worry that he's a flip-flopper, does it?

ERICKSON: No, that's the problem. I think the Romney campaign doesn't want to be seen as a flip-flopper, so they want to be careful how they do it. But sometimes you can be so careful you trip over your feet. And that's what's happening here. He just needs to go on and say it's a tax.

It didn't work well for him in the primary campaign to say, well, it was Massachusetts and states could do something the federal government can't do. He might as well just go on and say, yes, it's a tax. The individual mandate is a tax.

And Anderson, I do have to take one issue when you said it wasn't the largest tax increase in history. Remember that the CBO window only looks at 10 years and the individual mandate doesn't start for a few years. If you actually move the CBO window to when the individual mandate starts and when it goes into complete effect, it is the biggest tax in American history.

COOPER: OK. Point taken.
Just that quickly, Cooper backed down. He seemed to accept the ludicrous claim that the individual mandate really is “the biggest tax in American history.”

“Point taken,” the pitiful cipher said. That's what we get from a person who is reportedly paid eleven million dollars per year.

Last night, on his nationwide program, Anderson Cooper had no idea what he was talking about. He was unprepared, pathetically so. His viewers got conned as a result.

Indeed, his viewers got conned by his very first guest! Anderson Cooper, “keeping them honest,” had no idea what to say.

But goodness! In a major coincidence, Ron Brownstein was also on Cooper’s panel—and Brownstein is one of the very few national pundits who are intellectually skilled and typically well prepared.

Later in the segment, Brownstein challenged what Erickson said. In his full statement, he even presented some basic facts—and he avoided some other points of standard semantic confusion:
BROWNSTEIN: ...It’s worth keeping in mind here what Justice Roberts said was a tax was not the mandate per se, as you noted correctly, it's the fine on people who choose not to buy health insurance under the mandate with help from the government.

And the best estimate is that would only apply to about four million people so it's hard to see how this would be the largest tax increase in history if we're talking only about four million people who might be choose not to buy the insurance with help from the government and pay the—and pay the fine or tax instead.
Somehow, Brownstein grasped a basic point: Roberts was talking about the penalty payment, not the mandate itself, when he said whatever he said about the penalty being viewed as a tax. (And yes, this distinction does make a difference—keep reading.) But beyond this general level of clarity, Brownstein managed to challenge that ridiculous claim:

“It's hard to see how this would be the largest tax increase in history,” he quite amazingly said.

Question: Did Cooper, who was “keeping them honest,” go back and try to keep Erickson honest? If you even have to ask, you aren’t living in the real world.

No, Virginia: Over ten years of full implementation, the health care law will not constitute the biggest tax increase in history. The penalty imposed to enforce the mandate certainly wouldn’t be that.

Any such claim is absurd—insane. That said, what could Erickson possibly have meant by his statement?

Professional dissemblers rarely “lie;” we’ll guess that Erickson would have been ready with a reply if he’d been challenged by Cooper.

We’re only guessing, of course. But presumably, here’s what Erickson might have said he meant:

Presumably, Erickson might have said something like this: If the entire mandate is said to be “a tax,” then all money spent obtaining insurance might be viewed as part of that “tax.” And that really would add up to a boatload of money! If we consider all the money people spend on insurance as a “tax,” then for all we know that might constitute the “biggest tax increase in history.”

That’s a crazy way of viewing this matter, of course. That plainly isn’t what Justice Roberts said in his widely-unquoted opinion. But that may be how Erickson would have responded if he’d been challenged by Cooper.

Erickson wasn’t challenged, of course. Instead, Cooper said, “Point taken.”

Is that what Erickson had in mind? Since Cooper was too useless to ask, we the rubes never found out. But this is why we said, at the start of the week, that it actually matters when people like Kathleen Parker start saying things like this: “Obamacare constitutes a tax.”

See THE DAILY HOWER, 7/2/12. Unlike your favorite liberal TV stars, we saw this bullshit coming.

When “journalists” make those initial mistakes, the hustlers are waiting to kick the door in. They start pretending that every dollar spent under the health law has been declared a tax by Roberts. And by the way:

When “journalists” lack clarity from the start, they rarely have the skills required to challenge those subsequent howlers. And trust us: Our highest-ranking mainstream journalists tend to produce little clarity.

As a group, they have almost no skills at all.

For the record, we know of one good thing Anderson Cooper does on TV. He devotes a lot of time on his CNN show to the problems faced by gay teens and gay children.

In our view, this is a very good thing to do. But it qualifies Cooper to be a correspondent, not a full-time anchor.

All week, mainstream pundits have been cheering Cooper’s greatness, of course. Finally, he came out as gay. (To see Brian Stelter kiss his ring, just click here. Stelter's piece appeared in the hard-copy Times.) For ourselves, we’re glad that Cooper came out; beyond that, we’re glad he felt he could. But given the bougie values of the upper-end press corps, its members care about matters like this a great deal—and they don’t care about much else.

Quite plainly, they don’t care if voters get disinformed. Then won’t keep the Ericksons honest.

In a rational world, a “journalist” like Cooper would be booted down the stairs, out the door, across the sidewalk and into the street. His performance last night was a simple disgrace—especially when you consider the amount of swag he is paid.

Discussing the week’s biggest political topic, he was hapless, unskilled. He was unprepared.

But Cooper won’t be out in the street. Nor will the career liberal world complain about his performance. This hapless son of the highest class is paid $11 million per year.

He can flounder as much as he wants. He just must maintain bougie values.

In truth, your mainstream journalists have very few skills; that includes your big “liberal” players. But unskilled players will always tend to support their equally unskilled peers.

Never mind if we the rubes get thoroughly disinformed in the process. The unskilled applaud the halt and the lame.

It’s known as professional courtesy.

Tomorrow: What Justice Roberts actually said in his rarely-quoted opinion


  1. For someone who complains quite a bit about people putting words in other people's minds or mouths, Somerby seems to engage in this very same practice quite a bit.

  2. "Gloria Vanderbilt’s best baby boy " - I think Bob needs to take a break and go sit on a mountaintop somewhere and rediscover the great and useful blogger he used to be.

    1. This is especially crass considering one of her other sons (Anderson's brother) committed suicide in front of her.

  3. I agree Cooper is a jerk, but less might be more in the invective department.

  4. Kevin Drum deserves credit for explaining how he showed that Obamacare wouldn't be the biggest tax increase in history. However, his honesty and openness allows us to see what's wrong with his analysis -- namely his insistance that the only correct way to measure the magnitude of a tax increase is as a percentage of GNP.

    Offhand, I can think of four plausible ways to compare size of tax increases:

    A. Total dollars
    B. Dollars per person
    C. Inflation-adjusted dollars per person.
    D. Dollars as % of GNP.

    IMHO A and C are the most plausible. Total dollars makes sense to anyone. And, what the average individual pays, adjusted for inflation, is the real economic impact per person.

    IMHO D is less plausible. Why should taxes go up just because GNP went up? Is it a rule that taxes must always increase as a percentage of GNP?

    As I said, it's not out of the question to compare tax increases as a % of GNP. However, it's sophistry to pretend that this is the only correct basis and then to claim that anyone who uses some other basis is lying.

    I can't find the link right now, but a blogger took Drum's figures and converted the percentages of GNP into dollar amounts. His calculation showed that Obamacare will lead to the largest tax increase in history, if measured in actual dollars.

    1. Your "reply" here to Somerby's comlumn, David, is remarkably off point. Let's keep to what Somerby said, not Drumm.

      Nevertheless, you are either a fool or a faker.

      Of course you must compare to GDP.

      Of course you cannot compare in total dollars -- no, not even if they are inflation-adjusted dollars.

      Why GDP? Why not inflation adjusted dollars?

      Because the size of the economy and the number of participants in it is reflected by GDP, of course!

      As the US economy grows, GDP increases (duh).

      If you want to know how much taxes are increasing or decreasing, total dollars doesn't tell you much. If tax rates stay perfectly flat, tax dollars will increase with GDP.

      Only a sophist will then pretend that means "taxes are going up." No, it means the economy is getting bigger.

      There can even be rate cuts, and tax dollars may go up if GDP grows. It's elementary.

      If you want to know whether taxes are being raised or cut, you need to compare to a measure that takes into account the size of the economy.

      It really is that simple.

      If you find the link to your blogger, we will know who is the bigger fool, you or your blogger.

      But no reasonable person compares dollars without reference to the size of the economy.


    2. Suppose that in 1800, the US population was 5 million people and its GPD was $500 million and there only tax was a 1% income tax. Suppose that 900,000 people were slaves who did not receive income. Suppose that congress passed a tax increase that doubled the income tax.

      Under A: This is a small tax increase ($5 million) even though it literally doubled everyone's tax liability. For comparison, Reagan's 1982 tax increase was around $26 million

      Under B: This is the smallest tax increase in history. Only $1 per person.

      Under C: This is a moderate tax increase ($12/person adjusted for inflation) However, it doesn't affect 20% of the population at all.

      Under Scenario D: This is the largest and most outrageous tax increase in history.

      Clearly option D provides the most accurate description.

    3. Isn't the right wing telling us that revenues went up when Dubya cut tax rates?

      Then by Dave's logic, didn't Dubya then cause a huge tax increase by cutting taxes?

  5. Cooper's no different than Luke Russert and deserves no less invective.

    By the weay, what's with the commenter here always rushing to the fainting couches? Why don't you guys go over to Atrios' place and complain about his use of the word "wanker"?

    I think Anderson Cooper will survive insults from Bob Somerby. If not, he can always retreat to his villa and console himself amid his piles of unearned money. He doesn't need you modern day serfs to defend him.

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