Thomas Friedman reveals half the truth!


Where was the rest of his story: In this morning’s New York Times, Tom Friedman lodged a complaint about Mitt Romney’s intentions.

Friedman is a determined centrist. Perhaps for that reason, he only told half the story:
FRIEDMAN (9/5/12): Mitt Romney has been criticized for not discussing foreign policy. Give him a break. He probably figures he’s already said all that he needs to say during the primaries: He has a big stick, and he is going to use it on Day 1. Or as he put it: “If I’m president of the United States...on Day 1, I will declare China a currency manipulator, allowing me to put tariffs on products where they are stealing American jobs unfairly.”

That is really cool. Smack China on Day 1. I just wonder what happens on Day 2 when China, the biggest foreign buyer of U.S. debt securities, announces that it will not participate in the next Treasury auction, sending our interest rates soaring. That will make Day 3 really, really cool. Welcome to the Romney foreign policy, which I’d call: “George W. Bush abroad—the cartoon version.”

I know Romney doesn’t believe a word he’s saying on foreign policy and that it’s all aimed at ginning up votes: there’s some China-bashing to help in the Midwest, some Arab-bashing to win over the Jews, some Russia-bashing (our “No. 1 geopolitical foe”) to bring in the Polish vote, plus a dash of testosterone to keep the neocons off his back.

What’s odd is that Romney was in a position to sound smart on foreign policy, not like a knee-jerk hawk...
Is Friedman right in his highlighted supposition? We don’t really do foreign policy here. For that reason, we don’t express a view on the unpleasant thing Friedman said.

But Friedman’s supposition makes sense to us, because it has become increasingly clear that Romney “doesn’t believe a word he said” in another major policy area—in his so-called tax proposal.

The proposal was made in February, at a tough time for its author in the Republican primaries. The proposal made Romney crazier-than-crazy, righter-than-right, in the tax cut arena. Romney said he would extend all the Bush tax rates—then cut those rates by twenty percent! This precise prescription for cuts in tax rates was accompanied by a very vague statement about elimination of unspecified tax deductions to keep the plan revenue neutral.

"In order to limit any impact on the deficit, because I do not want to add to the deficit, and also to make sure we continue to have progressivity in our tax code, I'm going to limit the deductions and exemptions, particularly for high-income folks," Romney thoughtfully said.

By now, it’s abundantly clear that this proposal never made any sense. It has been more than a month since the Tax Policy Center released its analysis of this proposal. In a 423-word news report, Friedman’s newspaper told the world what the analysis found:
RAMPELL (8/2/12): Plan Like Romney's Would Tax Rich Less

A tax system overhaul along the lines that Mitt Romney has proposed would give big tax cuts to high-income households and increase the tax burden on middle- and lower-income households, according to an analysis from economists at the Tax Policy Center.

The researchers did not analyze the exact Romney plan, since it is incomplete and the researchers were reluctant to make assumptions until the campaign released more details.

Instead they created a model for a revenue-neutral income tax change that incorporates some of Mr. Romney's proposals, which include lowering marginal tax rates, eliminating both the alternative minimum tax and taxation of investment income of most taxpayers, doing away with the estate tax and repealing the additional high-income taxes passed with the Affordable Care Act.


The Tax Policy Center analysis assumed that the first tax breaks to go would be those that primarily affected the highest earners.

But even if all possible loopholes for households earning more than $200,000 were eliminated, this group would still be a net gainer under Mr. Romney's plan, since the marginal tax rate decreases and other changes lop off much of its tax burden.
Go ahead! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/3/12.

Long story extremely short: Romney’s ballyhooed tax proposal doesn’t make any sense. It never did make any sense. In the language of columnist Friedman:

Romney doesn’t believe a word he’s saying on tax policy. It was all aimed at ginning up votes.

Here’s the problem: Friedman doesn’t include that statement in this morning’s column. That statement would make a perfect companion to the statement we highlighted above.

But Friedman doesn’t create the link. Readers are kept from hearing that Romney doesn’t believe a word he’s saying in two major policy areas.

Why didn’t Friedman make the link? We have no idea. But Friedman’s newspaper has made little attempt to report the obvious problem with Romney's spur-of-the-moment tax plan.

On August 2, the Times devoted just those 423 words to the fact that the plan doesn’t make a lick of sense. At the time, Kevin Drum correctly said that the paper might do a fuller treatment later on.

It is now September 5. The New York Times hasn’t gone there.

You live in a country burdened with a Potemkin press corps. Newspapers like the New York Times pretend to be performing journalism. But Romney’s tax plan makes no earthly sense, and our greatest newspaper just keeps looking away.

Friedman had a nice lead today. He omitted (at least) half the story.

Notice from the accountants: Given the passage of time since August 2, our accountants say they expect prompt payment on what they regard as an implied $20 bet with the aformentioned Mr. Drum.

We have no view on such matters.


  1. Of course, Friedman is wrong about most of his own "thinking" also.

    Viz: "when China, the biggest foreign buyer of U.S. debt securities, announces that it will not participate in the next Treasury auction, sending our interest rates soaring"

    That's conventional. Centrist. And wrong.

    It makes the same sense as the many-year old predictions that our expanding debt itself would send rates (and inflation) way up. Those predictions were wrong. They didn't come true. Because they didn't and still don't take account of the fact that we are experiencing a savings glut, a demand depression.

    Get thee to an economist, Friedman. Preferably, one who's actually been correct about trends of late:

    1. The idea of Thomas Friedman as a "Centrist" is completely absurd and even offensive. Friedman is a raving war-mongering rightist.

    2. The sentiment that I quoted by Friedman is quite "centrist" -- in the ordinary sense that you will find it expressed by people who profess (as Friedman does) to be centrists, by people who profess to be on the right, and also by people who profess to be on the left.

      Whether Friedman is genuinely "centrist" is of no matter whatsoever to me. You may have taken from my preamble that I disagree with him quite strongly -- and not only on this issue, not by a long shot.

      So if you fancy that you are disagreeing with me over whether *Friedman* is a "Centrist" you are quite simply reading in something I didn't say.

      On the other hand, if you think the *idea* he expressed is not "Centrist" then you really have no idea what you are talking about. It is exactly as I said: "Centrist. And wrong."

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Mr. Romney wants to be president, not because he is a policy wonk, but because he wants to be president. He'll know what his policies are after other high rollers tell him what they should be. A corporate controlled government is fascism. If Grover Norquist's idea of drowning government in a bathtub becomes reality it will translate to the government being weaker than some major corporations.

    Some people seem to think that the country would be better off if it was run like a business, but people who think like that have a fantasy view of what big business does. Big business is a predator that believes that the prey, (the middle class,) exist to be exploited. It's the reason that god decided to create so many suckers.

    Voters should be careful what they ask for, because they just may get it, and it won't be kind, fair or reasonable. It will be insatiable, relentless, merciless and punitive, because that is what big business is. Romney supporters believe that somehow they'll be protected from corporate voraciousness, but they are delusional. Running America like a for profit enterprise is a terrible idea on many levels.

  4. "Friedman is a determined centrist...."

    Tell that to the families of the dead in Iraq. How can you not know what a wildly prejudiced war-monger Friedman is?

    1. I'm quite sure Somerby intends to convey that Friedman is "determined" to appear centrist at all costs.

      No regular reader of Friedman could believe otherwise.

      He's always(!) pretending that his particular view is the reasonable, and yes, Centrist, one. He is, in his own eyes, always flanked by the madness of the left and right.

      And you are right -- it is indeed the case that this is utter bullshit.

      It's doubtful that Bob Somerby is unaware of the completely self-styled nature of Friedman's supposed "centrism."

      On the issue that matters to you here, Somerby did at one point refer to an "excellent piece by Harold Meyerson" at The American Prospect -- it was an excoriation of pro-war pundits, including Friedman, whom Meyerson called "a vital -- perhaps *the* vital -- enabler of the war."

      What was it that made Friedman's support so "vital," according to Meyerson?

      You can read it for yourself, but in a word, I would say it was his "centrism."

      Meyerson refers to "an almost willed ignorance" on the part of Friedman toward how the war he so cheered would proceed in reality as versus his imagination and desires.

      This trait is critical to "centrists" -- they are almost by definition poseurs. In this case, Friedman's role was to pretend that the war had to be waged, to pretend that although every argument for attacking Iraq was wrong, every "condition" for doing it unmet, that those who planned to do it should still be listened to by the foolish people on the dirty f*cking hippie left.

      He performs a similar role in the sphere of economics.

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