The Rich Pay More Taxes Canard

Monday I wrote that the latest figures showing 10 percent of the wealthiest Americans pay 73 percent of federal taxes was a canard meant to justify more tax cuts.  Today, David Leonhardt explains the details.  For liberals, it is an article that they should memorize, especially this:

There is no question that the wealthy pay a higher overall tax rate than any other group. That is an American tradition. But there is also no question that their tax rates have fallen more than any other group’s over the last three decades. The only reason they are paying more taxes than in the past is that their pretax incomes have risen so rapidly — which hardly seems a great rationale for a further tax cut.

Democratic Party Positioning Fails

Yesterday I wrote that the Virginia Democratic Party’s statement on Gov. McDonnell’s requirement that felons submit an essay to have their rights restored was poor positioning.  Fortunately, other Democrats had better ideas—along the lines I suggested.

The Legislative Black Caucus in Richmond has the right focus.

In a statement, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said: “Governor McDonnell’s decision to use the executive power granted to him to transform the restoration of voting rights from an objective process to a subjective one that is contingent on an original essay for nonviolent offenders is taking a horrific step back towards the era of Jim Crow.“

Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said in a statement that the governor “appears to have reinstated the literacy test in Virginia” and that for people with limited education, the new requirement “is a nearly insurmountable obstacle.“

In the Virginian-Pilot that same positioning, while not a quote, held sway with the reporter.

Critics of the letter-writing concept have said it is reminiscent of literacy tests once conducted at polls to bar minorities from voting.

The only place the Democratic Party’s positioning on the issue appeared in yesterday’s rundown of stories in the commonwealth was on The Washington Post’s Virginia Politics Blog.

In the AP story, there was no mention of the Democrats position at all.  Again, it was up to the ACLU to get it right.

The American Civil Liberties Union accused the Republican governor Monday of imposing upon convicts the same Jim Crow tactic used to prevent black people from voting.
"The Governor appears to have reinstated the literacy test in Virginia," Virginia ACLU executive director Kent Willis said in a statement.

Another endemic problem with Virginia Democrats is the lack of message cohesion.  In addition to the Black Caucus and Democratic Party HQ issuing statements, we have another angle from two legislators, including the House Caucus Chairman and Minority Leader.

"By requiring nonviolent offenders to submit an essay, Governor McDonnell is returning to a ‘blank sheet’ voter registration system that in the past disenfranchised many African American voters," Plum said. "By creating an additional, unnecessary and egregious hurdle, McDonnell has violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the Federal Voting Rights Act."

Folks, you may want to talk to one another.

McDonnell’s Plan for Felons: Tell Me a Story

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s call for felons to write an essay to gain back their voting rights is a thinly veiled attempt to minimize such requests.  But more important, it gives his administration the chance to deny anyone they want based on the essay.  What possible criteria can he devise for the essay that is not wholly dependent on subjective evaluation?

McDonnell (R) will require the offenders to submit an essay outlining their contributions to society since their release, turning a nearly automatic process into a subjective one that some say may prevent poor, less-educated or minority residents from being allowed to vote.

Virginia is one of only two states that require approval from the governor to restore felons’ rights.  Most states do so automatically once a sentence has been served.

What puzzles me is the Democrats’ response.

"It’s another roadblock," Sen. Yvonne B. Miller (D-Norfolk), a member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said when she was told of the change.

(It is surprising that in a story of more than 1,000 words that three-word sentence is the entirety of the Democrats’ viewpoint.  Whether that is the reporter’s fault for not seeking more comment or the Dems fault for not speaking up is unknown.)

We do have this statement by the state’s Democratic Party office (thanks to Blue Virginia):

"Governor McDonnell should immediately remove this costly and burdensome barrier for non-violent offenders to renew their voting and 2nd Amendment rights.  It’s mind-boggling that Governor McDonnell would choose to bury the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office in unnecessary paperwork during a time of belt-tightening and budget cuts. Surely the Secretary’s valuable time could be used in more productive ways than grading essays for Governor McDonnell.

"If Governor McDonnell wants to improve Virginia’s prisoner reentry efforts, he should make it easier for those who have completed their sentence to fully integrate back into society. Instead, he chose to institute an unprecedented roadblock in a Commonwealth with a painful history of blocking voting rights. Given his experience last week, it’s shocking that the Governor would unnecessarily stumble on Virginia’s history yet again.

"Virginia now may have surpassed Kentucky as the state with the most obstacles to reintegration for non-violent offenders who have served their sentence. Virginians should not be subjected to more bureaucracy getting in the way of their rights to vote, hunt, or exercise any other Constitutional rights.

"This is yet another unnecessary side project by Governor McDonnell when Virginia is facing its highest unemployment rate in nearly 30 years. Right now, Virginians have to be wondering, what happened to ‘Bob’s for Jobs?’"

Why lead with how costly and burdensome it might be?  Why focus on administrative “roadblocks” and “bureaucracy”? 

The statement should have been more forthright.  Instead of trying to parse words, the Dems need to be more confrontational.  Something like this:

Just days after the anachronistic “Confederate proclamation,” Gov. McDonnell and the Republican Party have again demonstrated their underlying racial insensitivity with an egregious campaign to limit the vote by requiring the modern day equivalent of the literacy test.

This is a naked attempt to put the McDonnell administration, which is overwhelmingly white, to limit the voting rights of black people.  There is an overrepresentation of African-Americans in Virginia’s prisons, a result in part of biased application of the law.  Far more than half of the prison population in Virginia is African-American.

But whatever the ethnicity of Virginians who have paid their debt to society, Bob McDonnell is instituting a plan to require essays before their rights are restored.  It is a system fraught with subjective determinations that are likely to be used in a partisan way.

Given the recent acts of Virginia’s top lawyer, Attorney-General Ken Cuccinelli, we would likely see a prejudiced system designed to continue to deny rights to people who have paid their debt to society.

This smacks of literacy tests instituted in Virginia and across the South during earlier times in our history.  Those tests were designed to prevent people of color from voting. This appears to be McDonnell’s modern version of the literacy test.

Attack.  Repeat. Attack.  And stop throwing softballs.

The Poor Rich Folks

Whenever you read this

According to the Tax Foundation, this year the top 10 percent of earners are on the hook for about 73 percent of all the income taxes collected by Washington.

…somebody is about to tell you how skewed the tax system has become in favor of the middle class and poor.  They’ll talk about the unfairness of a system where 10 percent of the people pay 73 percent of all income taxes

First, keep in mind that they are only talking about the income taxes, not about sales taxes, real estate taxes, payroll taxes or other taxes that fall disproportionately on the middle class and poor.

Second, the reason that rich folks are paying more of the income taxes is because they make more of the money than ever before.  See “15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Wealth And Inequality In America.”

Liberals: Letting Facts Get in the Way

As certainly we all can agree by now, conservatives don’t let facts get in the way of a pithy political argument.  However, liberals are so literal.  To wit:

Matt Yglesias, one of the best bloggers out there, succeeds by being prolific and succinct.  But this post illustrates in a way I’m sure he didn’t intend why liberals can’t make a political argument.  First, of course, as was said on a recent episode of “The Good Wife” about a judge, “Liberals love to compromise.”  Or, as E.J. Dionne has worried, that liberals are so open-minded they can’t even take their own side of an argument.  In other words, they lack a good sense of certitude needed to make an case. 

Here’s a picture of a Census ad that I think is pretty clever.

census ad


The ad can fill in the second box differently to make a case that filling out the census form is a good thing to do.  Now what’s Yglesias have to say about it?

A number of people have been in touch with me about this in a way that makes me think it’s worth emphasizing that this is not in fact how decisions about how many buses to buy are made.

Who the hell cares!?  If it gets people to turn in their census forms—or vote for your candidate—who cares if it’s literally true!

A Big Idea

Congressional Republicans achieved a goal during yesterday’s healthcare summit. They shed their “party of no” label. They had ideas.

But Obama saw them and raised them one. He framed them as the party of small ideas while Democrats have a big idea. As in, we’re planning to fix healthcare instead of, as Sen. Tom Harkin said of the GOP plan, throw 10 feet of rope to a man drowning 50 feet from the boat—with a promise that at some later point, we’ll throw him a 20 foot rope.

The GOP did their homework well. As is usual the case, they were, in large part, more articulate than many of the Democrats, the president included. They had fire in their bellies and a list of facts and ideological bon mots. Even when they threw hanging curve balls, the Dems took called strikes. When I commented on that in a contemporaneous post yesterday, a friend also in my line of work called incredulous himself. The response to that oft charge of letting the government makes decisions instead of “the American people and their doctors” is, “Oh, if it were only so. Now it’s the insurance exec making millions of dollars a year who now gets to make that decision.”

But the Dems warmed up a little by the late innings, both rhetorically and passionately. The best I heard all day was by Sen. Dick Durbin. After the two Republican doctors lorded their experience over the crowd, Durbin gave them the view from the street. He’s been a good old fashioned—and as the GOP would characterize, “ambulance chasing”—trial lawyer. He’s defended victims of medical malpractice and the doctors that perform it. And showing his summation skills, he spoke in smooth paragraphs.

As any good lawyer would, he eviscerated the “common knowledge.” Both the number and award amounts of medical malpractice have dropped precipitously over the years, not increased, he said. The number of paid malpractice claims decreased 50 percent in the last 20 years, and the amount of awards have dropped the same 50 percent in the last five years. Then, he played the jury’s heart strings by telling the story of a woman who went in to have a mole surgically removed only to have the oxygen ignite, scarring her face for life and submitting her to repeated operations.

“Her life will never be the same. And you are saying that this innocent woman is only entitled to $250,000 in pain and suffering. I don’t think it’s fair.”

Certainly, GOP Chairman Michael Steele could understand that, he who thinks one million dollars, after taxes, “is not a lot of money.” Two hundred fifty thousand isn’t even walking around money for the chairman.

CNN, probably taking a cue from, I believe it was, GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell that Republicans weren’t getting enough hot air time, tracked the minutes party representatives talked.

Democrats spoke for a total of 135 minutes while President Obama spoke for 122 minutes, for a total of 257 minutes. Republicans, meanwhile, spoke for just 111 minutes, about 30 percent of the total speaking time.

The president spent too many of his minutes hemming and hawing as he is wont to do in extemporaneous situations. He often starts off searching for words in bursts of disconnected phrases. But when he warms, he can cut you with a butter knife.

His summation, which started in that same hesitant fashion, got legs. He cut through the GOP apocalyptic rhetoric.

“I know that there’s been a discussion about whether a government should intrude in the insurance market. But it turns out, on things like capping out-of-pocket expenses or making sure that people are able to purchase insurance even if they’ve got a preexisting condition, overwhelmingly, people say the insurance market should be regulated.

And so one thing that I’d ask from my Republican friends is to look at the list of insurance reforms and make sure that those that you have not included in your plans, right now, are ones, in fact, that you don’t think the American people should get.”

He reminded our representatives that they should be willing to let the American people have the same insurance coverage they have. He deftly framed his solutions as market driven as Sam Walton. His comparison of a wide open insurance market left to the states with what happened in the credit card market was one people could easily understand. He cited new statistics demonstrating how Americans already have chosen the government as their main source of insurance because companies can’t offer it anymore. And he used a little humor to undercut GOP criticism of the bill’s length and make the point that small ideas won’t work.

“I did not propose and I don’t think any of the Democrats proposed something complicated just for the sake of being complicated. We’d love to have a five-page bill. It would save an awful lot of work.

The reason we didn’t do it is because it turns out that baby steps don’t get you to the place where people need to go. They need help right now. And so a step-by-step approach sounds good in theory, but the problem is, for example, we can’t solve the preexisting problem if we don’t do something about coverage.”

By this time, Obama has found his voice. He’s talking smoothly and minimizing the “hums” and “uhs.”

He then made the observation that I would have put a little differently, though his way sufficed. The Republicans think compromise is first, Dems put their ideas out there. Then Republicans put theirs. And then we all accept the GOP plan—lock, stock and barrel. Voila, bi-partisanship!

Finally, in music to the ears of those who thought he has no soul or fight in him,

“We cannot have another year-long debate about this. So the question that I’m going to ask myself and I ask of all of you is, is there enough serious effort that in a month’s time or a few weeks’ time or six weeks’ time we could actually resolve something?

And if we can’t, then I think we’ve got to go ahead and some make decisions, and then that’s what elections are for. We have honest disagreements about — about the vision for the country and we’ll go ahead and test those out over the next several months till November. All right?”

Yes, Mr. President, that’s all right.

Liberals “Lost Their Thunder”

From the Guardian

There is an astonishing lack of anger among liberals, progressives and radicals who have abandoned emotion to the right. Our role model continues to be not FDR, still less Malcolm X, but our "bipartisan" and apparently tone-deaf President Obama. In this second or third year of a devastating depression, not just recession, that has inflicted an epidemic of suffering on the lower half of the American nation, Obama is very busy being fluent and civil while being essentially untouched by the rage felt by so many of us. Our world, as we have known it, is being annihilated, and nobody in power shows signs of giving a damn.