Supplemental: How crazy are those crazy tax plans?


Some points which are being ignored:
How crazy are the crazy tax plans John Kasich assailed as "crazy?"

The craziness of these crazy tax plans is being widely ignored. Debate moderators keep averting their gaze as they hurry past in embarrassment. Liberal pundits have barely noticed.

How crazy are the crazy tax plans? Consider a factoid from Josh Barro in today's New York Times.

To encounter this startling factoid, readers had to go all the way to the end of a 2700-word report by a collection of reporters. If they made it to the end, they would have encountered this, about Tuesday night's debate:
BARRO (11/12/15): The candidates debated two main questions about taxes: Should they be lower than they are now, or should they be way lower? And should there be fewer tax rates, or just one single rate for everyone, rich and poor?

On the first question, one might say the proposed tax cuts range from huge to yooooooge. Mr. Trump’s tax cut would appear to cost about $11 trillion—a quarter of expected government revenue—over a decade. Mr. Kasich said that was too much because a tax cut that big “will put our kids way deeper in the hole than they have been.”
Crazy, ain't it? Candidate Trump's crazy proposal would eliminate a quarter of federal revenue over its first ten years.

Also crazy is this:

Two debates have occurred since this crazy plan was released. Neither CNBC nor the Fox Business Network made any real attempt to question Trump about the manifest craziness of his crazy proposal.

As he continued today's brief sub-report, Barro did something we've been waiting to see. He put the size of these crazy tax plans into another context—a basic context which might ring some bells for the average citizen:
BARRO (continuing directly): But even Mr. Kasich, despite his relative restraint, is proposing to cut taxes more deeply than President George W. Bush did and Mitt Romney promised to in 2012. He would lower the top personal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 28 percent, the top capital gains tax rate from 23.8 percent to 15 percent and the top corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent—an approach that would greatly increase the deficit, if not as greatly as Mr. Trump’s ideas would.
George W. Bush's iconic tax cuts have long been thought of as very large. Candidate Trump's tax cuts are massively larger. Even Candidate Kasich's cuts are larger, Barro says.

The press corps is largely avoiding/ignoring the craziness of these plans. Our liberal pundits are following suit. A cynic would say that this conduct has the look of plutocrat bias, defined as the inability to become aroused by massive redistribution in an upward direction.

That said, we'll leave you with one more possibility to ponder. It involves the crazy proposal of Candidate Carson, which still hasn't been spelled out.

Might Carson actually increase federal taxes for those with lower incomes? Back in September, Richard Phillips speculated about that possibility in a post for Citizens for Tax Justice.

Some of what follows is now outmoded. Still, this passage establishes a possible problem—a problem our debate moderators, and our liberal pundits, have politely been passing over:
PHILLIPS (9/1/15): Without specific details, Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) Director Bob McIntyre made a generous estimate of how much Carson’s 10 percent flat tax could reasonably raise by simply multiplying total federal adjusted gross income estimated for 2016 ($11.25 trillion) by 0.10. This would yield tax revenues of only $1.1 trillion. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that the federal government will raise an estimated $3.5 trillion and spend $4 trillion in 2016.


Carson is sticking to his guns, stating that he has talked to economists who said with enough loophole closing a workable tax rate would be “somewhere between 10 and 15 percent.” However, our calculation demonstrates that even with every deduction eliminated, Carson’s 10-percent flat tax would increase the deficit by $3 trillion in just one year.

Even if Carson increased the rate of his flat tax, it would still be bad policy for the nation. Flat taxes plans are generally regressive. A CTJ analysis of one revenue-neutral flat tax plan found that it would raise taxes on the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers by an average of $2,887, while cutting them by an average of $209,562 for the richest one percent of taxpayers each year.
Is it possible that Candidate Carson's Biblical plan would actually increase federal taxes for lower- or middle-income people? Our journalistic elites don't seem to care.

In Tuesday night's debate, Carson said that his eventual plan would include "a rebate for people at the poverty level." This makes it sound like he's planning to do without the standard deduction. Wouldn't a plan like that raise federal taxes for many low- and middle-income people?

None of these questions seem to matter to our debate moderators, our major journalists, or our liberal thought leaders. Even after Candidate Kasich denounced the Trump/Carson plans as "crazy," debate moderators kept hurrying past, politely averting their gaze from the lunacy of these proposals. Liberal pundits have been extremely slow to notice.

That said, will Candidate Carson ever present a plan? No one seems to care about that either! As we noted yesterday, this absurd exchange occurred at the CNBC debate, in the few minutes the moderators devoted to these crazy plans:
QUICK (10/28/15) [A 15 percent single-rate tax] still leaves you with a $1.1 trillion hole [presumably, in the annual federal budget].

CARSON: You also have to get rid of all the deductions and all the loopholes. You also have to do some strategic cutting in several places. Remember, we have 645 federal agencies and sub-agencies. Anybody who tells me that we need every penny and every one of those is in a fantasy world.

So, also, we can stimulate the economy. That's gonna be the real growth engine, stimulating the economy. Because it's tethered down right now with so many regulations.

QUICK: You'd have to cut— You'd have to cut government by about 40 percent to make it work with a $1.1 trillion hole.

CARSON: It's not true.

QUICK: That is true, I looked at the numbers.

CARSON: When— When we put all the facts down, you'll be able to see that it's not true, it works out very well.

QUICK: Dr. Carson, thank you.
On its face, that's a crazy presentation by Carson. It ended with Carson saying it will all make sense "when we put all the facts down."

An actual journalist would have asked an obvious question. She would have asked Carson when he actually plans or expects to "put all your freaking facts down."

Quick may have been gripped by a touch of the 24-hour plutocrat bias. Instead of asking that obvious question, she simply thanked Carson instead. Twelve days later, Carson got a softball-sized pass on this manifest nonsense at the Fox Business Network debate.

These tax plans are off-the-wall crazy. But they're getting a pass from our Potemkin debate moderators, and from our career liberal world.

Candidate Carson just keeps on smiling. Our scribes, including our liberal scribes, just keep averting their gaze.

(What should we do about fantasy football? Major stars ask such questions instead.)


  1. Why should it be surprising that Carson would increase taxes for lower income Americans. After all, Obama has done so himself - twice, and both times he proclaimed it to be a great liberal victory. First in 2010, when the Cowardly Lion was afraid to let the Bush tax cuts expire. He extended them by two years, but he also got rid of the making work pay credit and replaced it with a reduction in payroll taxes - a switch that was favorable to those with higher incomes and was a net tax increase for those with lower incomes. The making work pay credit was $400 so for any worker who made less than $20,000, the making work pay credit was larger than the payroll tax cut that replaced it.

    Then when President Quisling made most of the Bush tax cuts permanent after his re-election, this meant permanent tax cuts for the rich. Dividend income? Now and forever taxed at a lower rate than wage income. (anybody want to guess WHO gets most of the dividend income? (hint, it is NOT the bottom 50%)) Meanwhile the payroll tax cut expired (was allowed to expire). So some lower income workers paid more taxes after ATRA than they did before.

    Yet, when Obama signed ATRA he proclaimed it as a victory for income inequality, and our liberal media (none of whom are card carrying members of the bottom 50%) also applauded (Krugman too, somebody presumably smart enough to see what was going on). Krugman, certainly a member of the top 5% would insist he is NOT a plutocrat even as he buys a million dollar apartment.

    1. Last I checked, Obama is not running for reelection. Is there some other point to your comment?

    2. My guess is that Dr. T and his/her/its ilk are not so sure.

  2. Two slightly off topics.

    There is one element of the last debate The Daily Howler will not be addressing, and it has everything to do with the way Americans are taxed and how that money is spent. That would be the moment Paul challenged Rubio on the defense budget. Is our defense spending long out of control, as Paul suggests? Is it possible our ongoing foibles in Iraq and Afghanistan traceable to this massive industry? Wasn't this actually one of the few interesting and relevant moments in the largely silly debate?
    Well, you won't know from the Daily Howler, because Bob doesn't do Defense. Obsessed as he is with Rachel Maddow, when She published a flawed but useful book on Defense Spending, he simply ignored it. It is fair to say that Maddow has shamed Bob Somerby on this critical subject. Again, Bob simply seems to have no interest in Defense Spending or what is written and said about it.
    It's also relevant to note the general silence (beyond the typically silly stuff at Salon) on the O"Reilly/ Will dust up. Oddly enough (because he is generally wildly indulgent of O"Reilly, who's probably correct here) Bob has nothing to say about said. He probably has his hand full with other things, but this is relevant to a central premise of "The Daily Howler." Will has no doubt bought houses (just like Matthews) based on his tiresome hagiography of Ronald Reagan. The Daily Howler would have you believe Walter kept us safe from the corrupting influences of the later political media. Will's career, at the virulently right wing ABC News, would suggest otherwise. Evidence suggests that it was in that critical post Vietnam/Watergate era, when Carter was destroyed and Reagan held up as a God, that things went down the drain.
    And, oh yes, it used to be possible for Americans and American Politicians to talk about Defense Spending. CBS's great, no forgotten "Selling of The Pentagon" special was merely the result of vigorous debates that were going on in Congress over Military Spending, the outgrowth, really, of the Truman Era reviews of WWII price gouging.
    What a different Country we live in now, and deeply does "The Daily Howler" reflect that change.

    1. Bob leaves policy to others. The focus of this blog, as indicated in the header, is "musings on the mainstream 'press corps' and the American discourse."

    2. Weak. He's writing here about what the candidates say about Tax Policy and how it is recieved. Defense Spending is obviously part of that.

    3. He has been complaining that none of the moderators are holding the candidates accountable for their policies.

    4. "none of the moderators"

      Not my interpretation: Somerby is fixated on the CNBC moderators.

    5. Somerby's point seems to be that there's a way for a moderator to put a candidate on the spot by making the claim the their tax proposal would increase the deficit, thereby taking advantage of the fallacy that when an economy is generating less than its full GDP potential deficits are, nonetheless, necessarily a bad thing.

      Greg seems to be suggesting that a moderator could insist taxes are not the key to controlling deficits, rather that reducing defense spending would be the way to do that. Given that even if military spending were to be reigned in that wouldn't do much for the demand shortage our underemployed economy is suffering I suppose Greg, who I'm sure knows this Keynesian basic, might think a moderator could pivot about 30 seconds into making his point about excessive military spending -having had crushingly cited the F-35 debacle, perhaps, or the coming online costs for building and operating Gerald Ford class aircraft carriers- by then suggesting that deficit social welfare or national infrastructure spending has a higher fiscal policy multiplier than defense spending to begin with and that's where those Pentagon dollars should be redirected.

      Good luck to any moderator trying to take a candidate down a peg or two with either approach in a debate format. And, maybe I'm wrong but, I'm really not expecting a corporate M$M or Third Way Democrats like Hillary Clinton to begin to spend a couple years breaking all this down for the general public for the purpose of replacing the reigning conventional wisdom with one that is more reality based.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. My point is that Paul took Rubio down a peg on a critical topic that has everything to do with the budget and spending issues. He was roundly ignored by the political press, including "The Daily Howler."

    8. As was obvious, Greg, to anyone who understands the first item in comprehension is to read or listen to what someone actually (literally) says, not what you think they suggested or seemed to say.

      Or so it appears to me.

  3. Krugman didn't avert his gaze from the grifters trying to con the public and the Howler lambasted him for his effort.

    PK has been pointing out the innumeracy and fraud in GOP tax plans for 15 years, but the Howler thinks he's done an awful thing by calling these con artists, umm, "con artists."

    I know I shouldn't visit this blog, but reading it serves as a powerful warning to anyone approaching their golden years just how much of an annoying crank an old man can become.

    1. I've framed it as a moral crisis for Bob, how can he chastise liberals for A) being to nasty to Republicans, and B) being wimps for failing to be sufficiently nasty to Republicans.
      It is an problem we all grapple with. Bob's failures are both tragic and comic.

  4. It's absolutely tragicomic! It's a more or less pleated reaction which can be forgiven given the paradoxical nature of contemporary cangnalagises. Although it's nowhere near as Darwinian in comparison to the posts at Bethlehem Monday.

    1. Aren't you usually called away on Friday on missions of national importance (when staff doubles down on the meds and the kids arrive to take you home for a weekend visit?


    3. This comment box would be a safer place for shared conversation without unknown people shouting at persons unknown.

    4. I always get a chuckle when someone doesn't know the difference between shouting and all caps.

    5. I meant it as a shout but I can't speak for all the all caps posts.

  5. But isn't a debate without rude follow-ups and embarrassing questions calling for clarification or amplification of points made or names called in campaign materials and appearances so much more pleasant and dignified? I mean, who are these debates for, the voters? ...(Shake head and frown) ... or the Candidates? .... (Nod with enthusiasm and grin).

    And don't you agree that a panel that recalls a coterie of stenographers from Isvestia and Pravda reading from a previously approved list of questions to the Politburo is so much more professional and orderly than a slavering pack of American newhounds hectoring some poor politician who merely wants to fill his pockets by carrying out the orders of plutocrats who put him in power by financing the manufactured consent of the brainwashed electorate?

    I think we've all learned a valuable lesson. Eventually eliminating more and more middlemen from the democratic process will prove to be as efficient as eliminating more and more words from the NewSpeak dictionary. Ah, brave new world that has such robots in't.

  6. Is there a single Republican candidate who has sufficient gravitas to be imaginable in the role of President? I don't think so.

    1. Ben Carson is no more qualified to be a president than Hillary Clinton is qualified to be a brain surgeon.

    2. Legally he can be sworn in if elected. Legally Mrs. Clinton could be jailed if she tried.

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