Maddow Economics: Tax Cuts, Tax Rates, What's the Difference?!

Isn't Rachel Maddow supposed to be the smart one at MSNBC? You'd never know it when she talks taxes.

Either that or she's engaged in a pattern of deception that would bring a blush to Bernie Madoff. 

Here's Maddow on her show Thursday (first part of embedded video, below page break) --

MADDOW: Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House under Nancy Pelosi, told Democrats at a caucus meeting today that they won't cave. Greg Sargent at Washington Post reporting that as progressives have been advocating, Democrats will schedule a vote on a tax cut for all income up to a quarter million dollars. And if Republicans want to add $700 billion to the debt by giving tax cuts to income over a quarter million dollars, they'll have to do that on their own time and good luck to them on that, given the public polling on this issue which is with the Democrats' position, and given that whole supposed concern Republicans have got about the deficit and the debt. Not to mention the fact that come January, Republicans will still only control one House of Congress. Signs of spinefulness, right?

Atypical "spinefulness" from Democrats, Maddow claims, citing a word she made up for the occasion. Maddow, however, remains craven as ever. Even the source she cited, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, undermined her claim. Contrary to what Maddow asserts, Democrats aren't scheduling a vote "on a tax cut for all income up to a quarter million dollars." Instead, as Sargent points out, Hoyers said Democrats will "get to vote this year on just (emphasis in original) extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class."

Operative word here -- extending. As in, existing tax rates. Many of which have been in place nearly a decade, since 2001, while others took effect in 2003.

Nor is it true, as Maddow told viewers, that Republicans want to give "tax cuts to income over a quarter million dollars." Republicans want all of the Bush tax rates from 2001 and 2003 extended -- which won't reduce anyone's taxes, wealthy or poor.

Maddow engaged in similar chicanery on Tuesday night (second part of video, 0:54) --

MADDOW (after showing clip of congressional Republicans calling for moratorium on earmarks): Stop the spending! Cut the debt! That's what Republicans say their priorities are -- cutting the deficit, cutting the debt. That's what they say they are doing. What are they actually proposing to do?

Footage then shown of GOP congressman Mike Pence on Fox News --

PENCE: Republicans are absolutely determined to oppose any tax increase on any American in the coming months. ... We're going to continue to fight in the House to make sure that no American sees a tax increase on Jan. 1, not one.

Pretty straightforward, right? If the Bush tax rates expire as scheduled on Dec. 31, federal taxes will rise virtually across the board, affecting income taxes, capital gains, dividends and estates, the alternative minimum tax, marriage penalty reduction and child tax credit. Republicans want to prevent this by keeping current rates in place, while Obama and congressional Democrats want existing rates extended only for those earning less than $250,000 annually.

In a nutshell, Democrats want higher taxes on the wealthy, Republicans don't. This is so simple that it's beyond Maddow ability -- or willingness -- to comprehend. Here's how she responded to Pence saying Republicans don't want higher taxes "on any American" --

MADDOW: Tax cuts! Tax cuts first priority. Now, of course, both parties want tax cuts right now for the first $250,000 of income that anyone earns. The difference between the two parties, the difference between Democrats and Republicans, is that Republicans want to make sure that you get tax cuts on any income you earn over your first quarter of a million dollars. According to Republicans, if you make more than $250,000  a year, you should get a tax cut on all of the income above that level, in addition to getting tax cuts on income below that level. In order to achieve just that extra amount of tax cuts just for the rich people, just for people earning over $250,000, Republicans are willing, in order to do that, Republicans are willing to add $700 billion to the debt. Seven hundred billion dollars.

See how it works -- Republicans wanting to extend existing tax rates that have been in place most of the last decade is translated at MSNBC as "tax cuts!" By this illogic, Democrats wanting to raise taxes would mean nobody paying more than they already do. Voila!

Yet another example, arguably the most duplicitious, from Maddow's show on Nov. 12 (third part of video, 2:12) --

MADDOW (after footage shown of Obama at G-20 press conference in Seoul saying he wants to extend Bush tax rates for middle class only): He may have to negotiate with Republican leaders on that position, but he's not  going to have to do any negotiating with Democratic leaders. At least not in the House, because Nancy Pelosi not only shares the president's position on this, she is being clear as a bell about it.

.... followed by an addled Pelosi in softball interview on NPR --

PELOSI: The position that we have and which is the position that the president has put forth is that everybody should get a tax cut in our country. The problem comes when you give an additional tax cut to the wealthiest two percent that will heap $700 billion in debt onto our children and our grandchildren. So this is it, we want to fight for the middle class, we want to create jobs, we want to have tax cuts for everyone, but the additional tax cut at the high end is too costly.

NPR: What about, though, a temporary extension for including a tax cut for those at the high end. A year, two years?

PELOSI: Well, our position in the House has been that we support the tax cut for the middle cl-, for everyone, but not an additional tax cut at the high end. It's too costly. It's $700 billion. One year would be around $70 billion. That's a lot of money to give a tax cut at the high end.

This is what passes for "clear as a bell" to Maddow -- Pelosi deceitfully claiming that Democrats want "tax cuts for everyone," when what Democrats are actually proposing won't lower taxes for anyone but will increase them on the wealthy. Pelosi's alleged clarity lasted all of three sentences before she let slip that Democrats "support the tax cut for the middle cl-", which they don't. Pelosi quickly reverted to parrot, claiming that Democrats seek a tax cut for "everyone," which they don't.  Followed by her third false claim in nearly the same breath, impressive even by Pelosi standards, of Republicans seeking "an additional tax cut" for the wealthy, on top of that tax break they'd allegedly receive with "everyone" else.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts