E.J. Dionne and the change in the times!


The template for last night’s confusion: Until a few moments ago, we hadn’t seen this column by E. J. Dionne.

It appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post—in the late editions.

Dionne’s piece was written on the fly after Wednesday night’s debate. It’s grossly misleading regarding its substance—but it does show the change in the times.

Dionne was reacting to Romney’s statements at the debate about his tax cut proposal. Here’s how the column starts:
DIONNE (10/4/12): The strangest aspect of Wednesday night’s debate was Mitt Romney’s decision to change his tax policies on the fly. Having campaigned hard on a tax proposal that called for $5 trillion in tax cuts, he said flatly that he was not offering a $5 trillion tax cut.

“I don’t have a tax cut of the scale that you’re talking about,” Romney said— even though that is exactly the tax cut he has proposed.

Was Romney for his tax plan before he was against it?
We’re sorry, but that’s pure sophistry—and it's hard to believe Dionne doesn't know it.
That said, all the children were repeating this line on pseudo-lib cable last night.


Did Romney ever “call for $5 trillion in tax cuts?” Did Romney ever “offer a $5 trillion tax cut?” If you’re a pure sophist, yes—he did. In the proposal he unveiled in February, Romney proposed lowering all income tax rates by 20 percent.

That single action, on its own, would reduce federal revenues by roughly $5 trillion over the next ten years. But Romney didn’t propose that single action on its own.

Surely, Dionne understands that fact. Why won’t he share it with others?

When Romney proposed that cut in income tax rates, he also said that he would eliminate tax deductions to balance off the revenue loss. His proposal would be revenue neutral, he said.

In August, the Tax Policy Center reported that there simply aren’t enough deductions to balance the $5 trillion Romney would lose from that cut in tax rates. But Dionne is citing one part of what Romney proposed, while deep-sixing the other.

If Obama or Jim Lehrer had been prepared to function on Wednesday, someone might have asked the obvious question: What does Romney propose to do if he isn’t able to balance the revenue lost by that cut in tax rates?

No one asked, but on his own, Romney restated two basic principles he has stated since February:

He won't enact a tax proposal which costs the treasury money. He won't enact a tax proposal which lowers the share of taxes the wealthy are required to pay.

Or so he said.

Romney's proposal strikes us as foolish. Beyond that, as originally stated, his proposal doesn't seem to add up.

That said, Dionne’s account is stunningly misleading. We’d call that a sign of the times.

Back in the day, during Campaign 2000, E. J. Dionne kept his pretty trap shut about what his colleagues were doing.

He understood what his colleagues were doing in their shameless war against Gore. That much was clear from sidelong remarks in a few of his columns, and from the fact that Dionne is smart. But E. J. Dionne never tattled.

By now, times have changed. By now, a pseudo-liberal world has emerged. As an official MSNBC contributor, Dionne is part of the fun. And sure enough!

Dionne is still avoiding the truth. But back then, he avoided the truth is a way which massacred Candidate Gore. Today, he misstates the truth in a way designed to help Candidate Obama!

That column was stunningly misleading. Last night, it formed the template ac the children floundered and flailed on the One True Pseudo-Liberal Channel.

You’ve come a long way, E. J. Dionne! Wouldn’t tell the truth back then. Still won’t do so now.

Dearest darlings, careers are at stake! Careers and good jobs at good pay!


  1. Hmmm.

    Somerby calls Romney's tax plan (whatever it is at this moment), "foolish" and says it "doesn't add up."

    Dionne essentially calls Romney's tax plan foolish and says it doesn't add up.

    Somerby calls Dionne's column "stunningly misleading."

    We have entered Bizarro World.

    1. Yeah, I've been a Bob fan and Bob defender, but he's getting weird.


  2. Sorry, Bob, but if you want to be THATZ nitpicking, you have to acknoledge that Romney DID say during the primary “we’re gonna cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent.” See? "Cut taxes", NOT "cut tax rates", and specifically "20 percent". Well, ever he lied (or "misspoke") then, or he lied when he said it's gonna be "revenue neutral", because 20 percent less from everybody can never result in the same federal tax income. And a tax "cut" that is directly balanced by reduced deduction isn't really a cut, but simply an irrelevant intermediate result in the tax calculation.

    So, if you don't want to blame Romney for lying about "tax cuts", you shouldn't blame Dionne for taking the "20 percent" statement for serious, neither. Fact simply is, even if you play word games and allow Romney to get away with his tax cuts that don't really exist, fact is still that he had more than enough time by now to clarify his tax plans, but stayed mum. Any confusion that exists now is Romney's fault. The voters can expect a candidate to explain his ideas in a way that is understandable to the average guy (and average journalist). He didn't. His fault.

  3. Stunningly misleading = a lie when it is obvious nobody could be as stupid as Dionne would have to be. So he lied.

  4. Bob, I've long been an admirer of yours, but this is not one of your better posts.

    First, as far as I've always known, "tax cuts" specifically refers to cuts in the marginal tax rates. So, Dionne said nothing factually incorrect -- and I think, but am not entirely sure, that you at least agree with that part.

    Second, has Romney failed to specify what changes in deductions he'd make, other than a few token efforts, so he hasn't really proposed anything in that respect. Dionne doesn't have to concede that Romney proposed them, since he hasn't. And that's to say nothing of the nature of tax cuts (which primarily benefit the wealthy) vs. tax deductions (which are more likely to benefit lower income families).

    Third, when Romney says, "I won't enact a tax proposal which costs the treasury money," that can easily be interpreted as the trickle-down theory of "tax cuts result in more tax revenue" and/or "tax cuts pay for themselves." It's BS, you know it's BS, but Republicans have at least pretended to believe that BS for decades.

    1. I agree with everything you said.

      Romney is playing a shell game, for obvious political reasons.

    2. I too thought it was obvious that Romney was giving the old "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" to trickle-down theory when he kept mentioning "growth" while he was dancing around exactly how his tax cuts would be paid for.

  5. http://www.mittromney.com/issues/tax
    Reducing and stabilizing federal spending is essential, but breathing life into the present anemic recovery will also require fixing the nation’s tax code to focus on jobs and growth. To repair the nation’s tax code, marginal rates must be brought down to stimulate entrepreneurship, job creation, and investment, while still raising the revenue needed to fund a smaller, smarter, simpler government. The principle of fairness must be preserved in federal tax and spending policy.

    Individual Taxes

    America’s individual tax code applies relatively high marginal tax rates on a narrow tax base. Those high rates discourage work and entrepreneurship, as well as savings and investment. With 54 percent of private sector workers employed outside of corporations, individual rates also define the incentives for job-creating businesses. Lower marginal tax rates secure for all Americans the economic gains from tax reform.

    Make permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal rates
    Maintain current tax rates on interest, dividends, and capital gains
    Eliminate taxes for taxpayers with AGI below $200,000 on interest, dividends, and capital gains
    Eliminate the Death Tax
    Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
    Corporate Taxes

    The U.S. economy’s 35 percent corporate tax rate is among the highest in the industrial world, reducing the ability of our nation’s businesses to compete in the global economy and to invest and create jobs at home. By limiting investment and growth, the high rate of corporate tax also hurts U.S. wages.

    Cut the corporate rate to 25 percent
    Strengthen and make permanent the R&D tax credit
    Switch to a territorial tax system
    Repeal the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

    1. This seems likely to add up to $5,000,000,000,000 (not counting $2,000,000,000 defense increase). No mention of what programs will be cut (apparently the measure is whether you'd borrow from China to pay for it) or how to measure all the jobs that will be lost by cutting spending, raising taxes in a recession is anti_Keynesian, but so is drastic reductions in spending), no explanation of what deductions and loop holes will be eliminated.

      AC / MA

    2. should be $2,000,000,000,000 AC/MA

  6. I'm another fan who is really unimpressed with your effort here Bob. Romney is being spectacularly dishonest. If you have not been following this closely you might think Romney had changed his plans. The fact that neither Lehrer nor Obama were very good in calling Romney on this does not alter the deceit in his presentation. There has not been any question for some time that his specific group of proposed cuts including a 20 percent across the board income tax cut - the only specifics he has ever mentioned - will total nearly 5 trillion dollars over 10 years. Romney's assertion that these cuts will be revenue neutral because he will do something or other about deductions has been challenged over and over again and everyone who tried to imagine some combination of deductions can't come close to that 5 trillion. So until Romney gets specific his explanation for how this is revenuie neutral should be treated as seriously as if he were to assert that he will account for these shortfalls by selling off all the unicorns in Utah.

    1. Well said.

      Also, he won't say what programs he will cut (except PBS and no more subsidies for clean energy)

      AC/ MA

  7. Under Romney's current formulation, the deductibility of significant charitable donations will be lost. Why does he want to defund the churches?

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