Posted on | September 27, 2010 | 8 Comments
Hair of the Dog, always a fine clip, went a bit farther than usual this time. Stephen Green cursed Axelrod’s moustache, mocked Boehner’s sudden loss of vertebrae on earmarks, and had to correct his blood/alcohol ratio for Steny. Click image to enjoy:
Update: Save Stephen’s liver!
UPDATE (RSM): Holy freaking crap, Smitty! I guess I was so busy Sunday that I missed this, but I certainly understand why Vodkapundit needed a shot after this Hoyer performance:
WALLACE: Simple question: Will the House hold a vote this week before you adjourn for a month of campaigning, a vote this week on whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts?
HOYER: I doubt that we will, and let me tell you why. The Senate has refused to move forward on that issue. As you know, we have some 400 bills pending in the Senate, 75 percent of which have gotten 50 Republican votes or more, but they can’t move through the Senate, so it would be an specious act. But Democrats have absolutely pledged and we’ll make sure that before the end of this year the Republican increase in middle-income taxes will not go into effect, the Republican bill that phased out this year…
WALLACE: Wait a minute. You’re calling the Republican — you’re calling the Bush tax cuts an increase in taxes on the middle class?
HOYER: The budget ended in 2010. That’s why we have this confronting us. Why did they do that? Because they played budget games for scoring purposes. And yes, it’s the Republican plan to eliminate those tax…
WALLACE: But you’ve got a big majority.
HOYER: I understand.
WALLACE: Why not pass the extension of the middle-class tax cuts before you go home to campaign for a month?
HOYER: I just told you. The Senate has decided they wouldn’t do it because of the…
WALLACE: Well, that’s the Senate. You’re the House.
HOYER: The obstruction is in the Senate. Well, it would be a specious act for us.
But what we have — what is not a specious act, Chris, is we have absolutely guaranteed that there will be no increase in middle-income taxes. The president’s that. The speaker and I have said that. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin have said that. There will be no increase…
WALLACE: All right.
HOYER: … in middle-income taxes.
WALLACE: But here’s the — here’s the point, Congressman. The Democrats have held a big majority in both the House and the Senate for almost two years now, since January of 2009. You’ve had it for almost two years. Isn’t it a serious failure by Democrats in both the House and the Senate that you haven’t told the American people what’s going to happen to their taxes on income, on dividends, on capital gains, on inheritance, and it’s coming up now just three months away? Is that any way to add certainty and confidence to the economy during tough times?
HOYER: It is not. And that’s largely due to the obstructionism in the United States Senate by the Republicans who have just enough to stop any action.
WALLACE: … majority for more than a year. Add the fact is that the Democrats in the Senate — I’m not asking you to defend the Senate — they haven’t even written a bill. You haven’t written a bill in the House.
HOYER: Well, now, hold it. We passed a capital gains bill more than a year ago.
WALLACE: I’m talking about extending the Bush tax cuts.
HOYER: I understand what you’re — they are part of the Bush tax cuts. We are extending the capital gains tax — excuse me — the estate tax at what it had been. That would have given certainty.
It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to get that bill through the Senate. We weren’t able to get it through the Senate because of Republican obstructionism. Why? Because they want to eliminate the capital gains, because they’re focused on the 1 or 2 percent of the richest people in America. That’s what we’ve been confronted with on taxes.
They want to raise — they want to cut taxes on the wealthiest in America. We want to make sure that middle-income America, working Americans, don’t have a tax increase. And the obstructionism in the Senate has not allowed us to move forward. It’s unfortunate…
WALLACE: If your…
HOYER: … Because we need certainty.
WALLACE: if your party loses control of the House, will you promise not to hold a lame duck session after the (inaudible)?
HOYER: Of course I’m not going to promise that, Chris. That would be an irrational promise to make, because we’re not going to complete the appropriations process, again, because of the difficulty of the obstructionism in the United States Senate…
WALLACE: Well, you’re the House. You could have passed all these things. But — but here’s…
HOYER: We certainly could have.
WALLACE: But here’s the — here’s the question.
HOYER: But we need to come back to make sure we completed that process as, frankly, Republicans did when they were in charge. WALLACE: Do you think it’s right to have members of Congress who have just lost — I’m talking now about a scenario where the House goes to the Republicans — to have members of Congress who have just lost come back and decide taxes and spending against the will of the Americans who have just voted?
HOYER: I don’t think we’re going to make any decisions against the will of the American public. Frankly, Chris, that’s your assumption.
WALLACE: No, I’m…
HOYER: I think — I think…
WALLACE: … I’m presenting a scenario.
HOYER: I think it is absolutely correct — and under both parties’ leadership we have done that — that members of Congress are elected for 24 months, not for 21 months, not for 22 months, for 24 months. And they will continue their responsibilities…
WALLACE: So even…
HOYER: … to the end of their term.
WALLACE: So even if, let’s say — I’m just — suppose — even if Republicans gain control of the House, and one of the clear messages is we don’t want to raise taxes on anyone, it’s OK for the Democrats to come back in a lame duck session and vote to let the tax cuts for the wealthy lapse?
HOYER: I certainly think it’s OK. They’ll make a policy judgment. As a matter of fact, Chris, there’s no — there’s no confusion where the Democrats stand on this issue. The president’s made it very clear. I’ve made it very clear. The leadership’s made it very clear. We are for making sure that the middle-class Americans do not get a tax increase. And we’re going to make sure that happens. We’ve also made it clear that cutting taxes on the wealthiest in America will simply exacerbate the deficit without any assistance to the economy.
Where to begin analyzing the absurdly uneconomic class-warfare ideology expressed by Hoyer? Who are these “wealthiest in America,” and what have they done to deserve such demonization?
Simple question: Is the purpose of taxation to raise revenue for the government, or is the purpose of taxation to pursue “social justice” by punishing the rich (however defined) and reward the middle class?
Assuming that you agree that taxation is for the purpose of revenue, then the question posed by Hoyer’s argument is, “Will repealing the Bush tax cuts for the ‘wealthiest in America’ result in higher revenue?”
Arguably not, since those who earn higher incomes can generally find ways to maneuver around such soak-the-rich schemes (e.g., by deferring compensation, choosing investments that are favorably treated under the tax code, postponing asset sales, etc.). In fact, the desire of rich people to shelter income from the tax man was one of the major drivers of the housing bubble. Mortgage interest is tax deductible, so that buying a McMansion or refinancing an existing home to add a pool or a luxury kitchen was the “smart” investment for two-income families who didn’t necessarily fit the stereotypical image of “the rich.” (The $130,000-a-year CPA married to the $95,000-a-year assistant school principal.)
When Hoyer talks about “the wealthiest Amerians” and “middle-income America, working Americans” as if these were fixed, separate and distinct categories, he isn’t talking economics, he’s talking politics. And he is performing a sort of rhetorical stunt that Democrats figured out during the Clinton era.
From the 1960s through the 1980s, liberal Democrats endlessly lectured America about the plight of the poor, on whose behalf such shameless demagogues as Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and Ted Kennedy claimed to be acting when they passed all manner of misguided anti-poverty legislation that did not, in fact, do a whole lot to help people people escape poverty. (As Ronald Reagan once quipped: “We fought a War on Poverty. Poverty won.”)
After Michael Dukakis got stomped in 1988, however, Bill Clinton and a few other Democrats started listening to pollsters and strategists who explained why this “let’s all help the poor” talk didn’t go over with average voters.
Middle-class suburbanites, many of whom had worked their way up from very modest beginnings, were sick and tired of being told that they should pay higher taxes go give away money to people who didn’t seem to be trying too hard to solve their own problems. (If you drop out of school at 15, have babies out of wedlock and get hooked on dope, you may indeed be poor, but you aren’t a “victim” of anything except your own stupidity.)
Furthermore, these Democratic pollsters and consultants learned from their focus-group studies, middle-class suburbanites felt like somebody needed to pay attention to their problems. A lot of these people were working their butts off just to pay their bills and try to send their kids to college.
So, beginning with Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, Democrats learned a new language. Forget about “the poor.” Instead, Clinton talked about “working families” and famously promised “a middle-class tax cut” that he never actually delivered. But this New Democrat way of pseudo-economic argle-bargle – these rhetorical valentines to suburban soccer moms — proved to be such amazing political magic that soon every liberal with any ambition learned to mimic ClintonSpeak.
I called it “pseudo-economic” for a reason: ClintonSpeak involves drawing class lines where they don’t actually exist. By defining “the richest 2 percent” according to annual income, this rhetoric ignores the fact that people’s income varies in ways that have nothing to do with whether they are “rich.”
First of all, for most people, their income peaks during their 40s and 50s. The guy who started out toting lumber on a construction site at age 19 manages to work his way up to being an independent contractor. He saves his money, makes a few shrewd investments and, by age 40, is earning a six-figure income. Is he “rich,” in the sense implied by Steny Hoyer’s rhetoric – i.e., a greedy fat cat ripe for plunder by the government’s income-redistribution machinery? Of course not.
This same 40-year-old contractor probably has a wife who works (which pushes their annual income up even higher on the Steny Hoyer Need-to-Be-Taxed-More Scale) and more than likely has teenage kids whom he hopes to send to college. From a standpoint of economics, where is the benefit — in terms of the overall prosperity of society — of taking money away from these fine people and giving it to an entity as wasteful as the U.S. federal government?
But wait, what if the contractor’s wife divorces him? Suddenly you have two households rather than one, and neither of these households fits the “top 2 percent” definition of rich. Is Steny Hoyer saying that these same people who, before they split up, were “rich,” have been magically transformed into the kind of hard-working middle-class people that Steny Hoyer and Democrats want to help?
But — wait, again! — what if this construction contractor and his wife ignored Steny Hoyer’s rhetoric urging them to divorce so they’ll no longer be evil “rich” people. True love prevailed and they stayed together.
However, the housing market went into the toilet, and the contractor who was made $150,000 a year in 2006 is now scraping by on $60,000 a year. Meanwhile his wife had her own small business (a hair salon, say) that earned her $75,000 in 2006, but the recession hit so hard that she closed her business and is now making $12 an hour as part-time night clerk at a convenience store. So while hard times have made these people “middle class” again (by the Steny Hoyer Standard), they were “rich” just a few years ago and — let’s be honest — they’re busting their humps trying to get back to being “rich” just as fast as they can.
From “rich” to “middle class” and back to “rich” again – the same people, you see, just a change in circumstances, and yet Steny Hoyer and the Democrats talk as if there were a clear, bright line that neatly divided these categories.
Somewhere in the vicinity of about $200,000 a year, the Democrats want you to believe, there is this magical border that separates the Land of Virtue — inhabited by good, honest, hard-working, middle-class Americans — from the Land of Vice, where the “wealthiest 2 percent” grow fat on the milk-money they’ve stolen from schoolchildren and the purloined Social Security trust-fund money that their Republican buddies gave them because Dick Cheney wouldn’t let Al Gore put it in his “lockbox.”
Class-warfare rhetoric always appeals to envy and ignorance, inviting us to imagine that “the rich” are conspiring to take away from the rest of us what we are told is rightfully ours. This is not economics, however, it’s politics, and politics of the worst kind, because it excites hopes that it can never satisfy — remember that “middle-class tax cut” Clinton promised? — and supports policies that don’t actually promote prosperity.
The falseness of Hoyer’s rhetoric is strangely similar to that “shipping jobs overseas” rhetoric that Democrats are pushing this election season. I guarantee you this: If Democrats somehow manage to hold onto their majorities Nov. 2, the middle-class won’t get any kind of meaningful tax relief, no more American jobs will be created, and most people stupid enough to vote Democrat will never become smart enough to figure out why they never get all the goodies the Democrats promise to give them.
If You’re as Stupid as They Think You Are,
You Deserve to Get Fucked Over