Lawrence O'Donnell on Tuesday surprisingly exposed how ignorant liberals are of the tax code.
In a sometimes heated discussion with prominent progressives about President Obama's new compromise tax plan, "The Last Word" host aggressively challenged the knowledge of two of his guests (video follows with transcript and commentary):
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, HOST: Roger, do you know what the bottom tax bracket is, what the actual percentage is in the bottom bracket, the one no one talks about? Everyone’s talking about the top bracket these days.
Pretty simple question right? Apparently not for the former editor of Harper’s Magazine who was actually originally hired by them to be a – wait for it! – fact checker:
ROGER HODGE: I'm sorry. I didn’t understand the question.
Didn’t understand the question? This isn’t rocket science, Roger. He asked what the bottom marginal tax rate is. As a liberal that's supposed to advocate for the poor, you should know this.
O’DONNELL: The bottom tax bracket, do you know what it is, what percent it is?
Can you imagine that? This guy is on television discussing tax policy and he doesn’t know what the bottom tax rate is. Rather embarrassingly, O’Donnell had to tell him:
O’DONNELL: It's ten percent. That's the George Bush bottom tax bracket. You know what happens in January if you don't do something about it? It goes up to fifteen percent, which was the bottom tax bracket under Bill Clinton.
HODGE: No one wants to see that happen.
O’DONNELL: Wait a second. No one wants to see that, people are advocating that it happen.
HODGE: No one --
O’DONNELL: You are advocating that it happen.
Indeed. But Hodge, much like many far-left writers, doesn’t know this for all they concern themselves with is raising taxes on the so-called rich.
Moments later, O’Donnell exposed similar ignorance in Jane Hamsher of the far-left website Firedoglake:
O’DONNELL: Jane Hamsher, as an advocate of a deal in the past, given everything that Ezra [Klein] has said about what's actually contained in this deal, which includes, by the way, an expansion of the earned income tax credit which is an anti-poverty program built into the tax code that Republicans have never been in favor of, do you, do you agree with, with Ezra's analysis of the, the net value of what's in front of us compared to what we might see coming out of a Republican House of Representatives next year?
Great question. Brace yourself for her absurd answer:
JANE HAMSHER: I think the poor are being used as human shields to give billionaires tax cuts. I think that there is no way you can argue with a straight face that having an estate tax that is even better for rich people than anything George Bush ever had is in any way stimulative.
What? The estate tax rate this year is zero. Does Hamsher not know this? It was front and center when Yankee owner George Steinbrenner died earlier in the year, and liberal media members bemoaned all the lost tax revenues due to the current estate tax rate.
Now, in fairness to Hamsher, if Congress does nothing, the rate goes back to 55 percent on estates over $1 million. However, as O'Donnell pointed out, that's not what they are at the current time:
O’DONNELL: But hold it, hold it. No, that's not true. The estate tax today is zero. It is zero. There is a zero estate tax. The estate tax on January 1st, under the Obama deal, will be 35 percent on estates of $5 million and above. So, we have a zero estate tax. Not, let's not let anyone pretend that the estate tax next year is somehow going to be lower than what George Bush managed to achieve for this year. You don't get lower than zero.
HAMSHER: I'm sorry, Lawrence, this is not stimulative. There is no way -- it was suggested by Blanche Lincoln. Keith Olbermann tonight was blistering in his attack on this.
And there it is: Keith Olbermann doesn’t like this, so his sycophant minions in the liberal blogosphere, without much knowledge of the facts, also don’t like it.
As for being stimulative, regardless of whether or not you think keeping taxes at their current rates for the top two percent of wage earners is stimulative, does Hamsher think raising taxes on such folks will help the economy?
If the argument here was whether or not this was a good budgetary issue given the deficit, that's a whole different matter. But if what was most important to her was stimulating the economy, then as Klein and O'Donnell pointed out earlier in the segment, this total package was far more stimulative than keeping tax rates on 98 percent of wage earners at current levels and raising taxes on the top two percent.
In the end, and as hard as it is for me to say this, O’Donnell’s position was largely correct. Although Obama caved on a huge issue that could come back to haunt him in 2012 – and given the fulminating on the far-left, that seems very possible – what he got out of this deal was far better for his constituents.
These folks not only won't have their taxes go up on January 1, but they will also get a variety of other incentives and deductions they wouldn’t have gotten if the deal exclusively involved the Bush era rates.
But folks like Hamsher and Hodge can’t see that. What was most important to them was the so-called rich paying more than they currently do, and everything else was at best secondary.
This raises another point: if O’Donnell wants to discuss tax policy on his show, wouldn’t it be better to have guests on that understand the issues?
That one member of his panel didn’t know what the bottom marginal tax rate was, and another didn’t realize that federal estate taxes are currently the lowest they can possibly be, is just as embarrassing for him as it is for them.
Or does O’Donnell do that intentionally so that he is always the smartest man on the set?
You got to admit - that's quite a feat.