Somewhere the ghost of George Orwell groans in recognition.
Remember during last year's campaign how President Obama harped on "millionaires and billionaires" not paying what they should in taxes? For the sake of fairness, Obama insisted, tax rates signed into law by George W. Bush a decade ago should increase on the wealthy while the remaining "98 percent" of taxpayers, those earning less than $250,000 annually, should not see their taxes go up. (audio clip after page break)
And once Obama was re-elected, and Democrats gained seats in Congress, this is exactly what happened -- those Bush tax cuts affecting only the wealthy were allowed to lapse as of Jan. 1, along with the payroll tax cut enacted two years ago.
But according to Ed Schultz, whose grasp of the dismal science is tentative even on good days, the wealthy are not paying higher taxes now than they did over the last decade because, heck, this is the rate they used to pay when Bill Clinton was president. Yes -- the man is actually making this claim, and publicly at that.
Listen for yourself to this quintessential example of Schultz illogic at work on this radio show Friday (audio) --
Sound bite this morning, I want to play it right off the top, we have themed up here in recent days on the program, talking about how the Republicans flat-out lie. I saw an interview and this was on our network, on MSNBC today, (GOP Rep.) Tom Cole of Oklahoma. No mention that there's been $1.2 trillion in cuts without revenue. And of course, their bullet point back to the American people is, while they forget to point that out, which of course the president went along with, which Boehner of course said he got 98 percent of what he wanted, now they're purporting the idea that, well, the president just raised taxes 60 days ago and here we go again. No, no, no, no, no -- liberals, we can't let 'em get away with this. There was legislation on the books that expired. It expired. President Obama didn't do that. He didn't have anything to do with it, it expired. Back in the lame duck session of the Congress in 2010, the ten-year window on that was up. And what did he do? He extended it two more years because Democrats wanted to keep the economy cooking. So now what has happened? Well, the Bush tax cuts expired on December 31st, the deal was cut that the top 2 percent would go back to 39 percent, as the legislation expired, but the middle class was protected and taxes did not go up on the middle class. So now they're officially the Obama tax cuts. Ninety-eight percent of Americans stayed at the same rate under President Obama's plan. He allowed the legislation to expire on the top 2 percent and they're claiming that's a tax increase. No, it's not. It would be a tax increase if you were to go beyond the 39.6 percent because that would be new territory where we've never been before. Now, you know, it's however you want to view it, whatever tribe you're in. That's what it comes down to.
So much idiocy, where to begin? How about with Schultz's asinine assertion that tax rates above 39.6 percent "would be new territory where we've never been before"? Right -- except when the highest rate exceeded 90 percent in the early '60s, followed by an economic boom after taxes were cut as proposed by JFK less than a year before his death. And let's not forget how the highest rate was 70 percent when Reagan took office, followed once again by economic growth when Reagan succeeded in reducing it by more than half.
Schultz wants it both ways -- during the lame-duck Congress of late 2010, he says, Obama "extended" the Bush tax cuts for two years "to keep the economy cooking." (yeah, I missed that too). But then in December 2012, Schultz says, Obama "didn't have anything to do" with letting the Bush tax cut for the wealthy expire. See how it works? When Obama wanted the Bush tax cuts extended, he was instrumental in doing that. But when he wanted the rate on the wealthiest to expire, Obama became a mere bystander, at least by Schultz's reckoning.
Then there is Schultz's dubious claim that "there have been $1.2 trillion in cuts without revenue," ignoring as this does the higher taxes on the wealthy that took effect Jan. 1, along with higher payroll taxes. That figure of $1.2 trillion was agreed upon by Obama and congressional Republicans in the summer of 2011 during a battle over the debt limit -- and it represented spending cuts starting in January 2013 and continuing over a decade, known from that point as sequestration. The tax deal in December cited by Schultz kicked the sequester two months down the road. In other words, there haven't been any cuts, not yet anyway.
Morover, Obama is trying to negotiate a better deal to avoid the sequester, which would slow government spending over the next 10 years while not actually reducing it. And as pointed out by Bob Woodward, who'll never be mistaken for an Obama hater, the debt ceiling deal in 2011 ruled out higher taxes accompanying sequestration.
Schultz is so oblivious to his own nonsense that he doesn't even realize how he contradicts it himself. Under the "deal" in December that Obama allegedly had nothing to do with, "taxes did not go up on the middle class." And even though the wealthy went "back" to paying a higher rate, this is not a tax increase, Schultz proclaims. Which is true -- providing that 39.6 percent is not higher than 35 percent. I'm fairly certain that it is regardless of who's president.
In fairness, this line of argument from Schultz could serve other purposes. Worried that you put on a few pounds through the bleak winter? Turns out it's no weight gain at all, seeing how you weighed less before winter actually began. Making less at work? Don't think of it as a pay cut -- you're merely reverting back to what you used to earn.
It can also provide a get-out-of-jail-free card for those who've strayed from their spouses. I can hear the Schultzesque excuse now -- I didn't cheat on you, honey, seeing how I was faithful before the infidelity.