Sunday, April 20, 2008

No-Brainer Conservatives

I understand how conservatives can be selfish and greedy. That makes perfect sense. They don't preach an ideology of helping people; nor do they intend to help people besides themselves. That's why they're conservatives. But the thing about them that makes me laugh so much is how they all insist that they're economic and military experts, based entirely on the fact that they're conservatives. As if being pro-business means that they understand how business work, or that wanting our solders to kick butt is akin to knowing how to kick butt.

And via Atrios, I read this entirely absurd column by NRO Corner Wanker Larry Kudlow, who attacks Obama for being ignorant of economics. Larry didn't get ANY of his policy correct, yet was entirely smug with rubbing Obama's nose in Larry's own ignorance. Reading the post was like hearing the pot deriding the kettle for being a pot.

But so it is with all of these guys. If they actually knew what they were talking about, they wouldn't be conservatives. Or at the very least, they'd know how to trick people better than they do.

Read My Lips: No Recession Taxes

Kudlow's policy bungling begins the first time he takes the time to stop insulting Obama and starts actually talking policy, saying:
First off, you don’t raise taxes during a recession. That’s a no-brainer.

If by "no-brainer" he means that it's a statement that somebody without a brain would make, I agree. For me, the "no-brainer" was that you don't cut taxes during wartime, but I suppose Kudlow would disagree with that too.

But let's look at the record on this: Back in the day, conservatives insisted that Clinton's 1993 tax increase was "the biggest tax increase in American history." Now granted, that technically didn't pass during a recession, as the recession "officially" only lasted eight months and ended before Clinton took office, but the effects of a recession last well beyond the official dates and the economy clearly was still struggling at the time. And so apparently Clinton violated this sacred "no-brainer" rule of not raising taxes during a recession, and as we all know, the economy was devasted for years because of it.

Oddly enough, Kudlow goes on to refer to Clinton as a "Growth Democrat," in contrast to the "liberal-left" Democrats who lost all the other presidential elections, going back to Carter. Yet...I don't remember any conservatives calling Clinton that back in the day, as they all seemed assured that his tax increases would destroy the economy. And it's odd that Gore is put in the "liberal-left" category, when it should be assumed he just would have continued Clinton's policies. It's as if this is part of some revisionist trend, where popular Democrats, like FDR and Kennedy, are eventually absorbed into the conservative corner; and unpopular Republicans, like Bush, Bush Sr, and Nixon are likened to liberals. Huh, coincidence, I'm sure. As there's no way this is historical revisionism designed to list all winners as conservative.

Getting back to recession tax increases, it looks like Bush Sr's "No New Taxes" tax increase in 1990 actually did occur sometime around that recession, so apparently Bush's dad hadn't heard of Kudlow's immutable law either. And then there was Clinton's competition for "biggest tax increase in American history" which was orchestrated by Bob Dole in 1982, which was also around the time of a big recession. So basically, it looks like around the time of two of the three last recessions, we raised taxes; while in our most recent recession, Bush cut taxes and the deficit just disappeared.

It should be noted that I say "around" because I'm much too lazy to do the solid research on this. But again, recessions are such fuzzy things, and it's obvious that these tax increases did not occur during boom years; and it's equally obvious that the economy didn't suffer after these increases. That much is sure.

And let's not forget that conservatives like Kudlow don't think that economic booms are the right time for raising taxes either. In fact, I sort of suspect that Kudlow doesn't think there is EVER a good time for a tax increase and he'd denounce Obama no matter when he wanted the increases to happen. But in this case, Kudlow just invented a rule about not raising taxes during a recession and imagines that he's just put the nail in Obama's coffin. Sure, he cites NOTHING in making this claim, but he doesn't have to. His gut tells him that tax increases are bad during a recession and he's content with that. So he wins, and Obama's ignorance is displayed for all to see.

The Next Thing He Wrote

And that leads us into Kudlow's next bungling: The next thing he wrote.
Second, doubling the capital-gains tax affects Americans up and down the income ladder, not just rich hedge-fund managers.

Indeed, I'm sure it does. But is that enough? If a tax "affects" middle-class Americans, is it automatically bad? Surely not. It all depends on how much it affects them, right? I mean, if a tax increase makes someone earning $40k pay $100 more in tax while a rich hedge-fund manager earning $4m pays $40k more in taxes; these are not equivalents. And sure, these aren't real numbers, but the point is clear. And the only reason I'm too lazy to look up actual numbers is because the truth of this is too obvious. It's about how much a tax affects people; which is a discussion that Kudlow doesn't even consider.

And remember, the more a middle-class taxpayer pays in capital gains, the more they gained from their capital; so it's not like they're paying this from their regular income...they paid it from their extra income. And even still, someone who makes $40k from their job and $5k selling stocks currently pays less in taxes than someone who earns $45k from their job; which doesn't really seem right. But none of this is really too difficult to understand, unless you're a conservative and need to be confused.

And the Next Thing and the Next

From there, he went on to assert that capital gains taxes are "self-financing" and that we just need to cut the tax more to raise more revenue. And if we could just cut the tax into negative territory, we'd raise a bundle in tax revenue. But, of course, he's wrong and taxcuts don't fund themselves. Why would they? Let's not forget what capital gains are. That's not interest or dividends or business profits being taxed. That's the profit you make for selling stocks or other assets. Basically, this could put a crimp on speculators who buy stocks or land for quickie profit; but real investment would be much less effected.

And for anyone interested, here's my post on this capital gain myth:
Smartest Boy in a Dumb, Dumb Class

And then he goes onto make the point that Atrios originally attacked him for, when he said that uncapping the payroll tax would hurt double income families as their income combines together and would make them pay more if we raised the cap. And while the earlier stuff I wrote about is contestable and isn't easily understood, come fucking on! This dumbass doesn't even know how FICA works? As Atrios says, it's an individual tax and so two-income families aren't changed by this any more than two single people would be. A married couple earning $80k each are fully taxed already.

And let me tell you, as a payroll person, it wouldn't even make sense otherwise. Does Kudlow actually believe that payroll people keep track of what spouses make? How would that even be feasible? But it's obvious that, as usual, Kudlow was just talking out of his ass. It's not that he thought FICA really worked this way. It's that he thought of a clever reason for why Obama was wrong and decided to use it, even if it didn't make any sense.

Because conservatives just don't care what they say. They already know they're right. It's all got to make sense. And so Kudlow spouts out stuff that shows a very basic level of ignorance and he doesn't even care. And he's got an excuse for believing the earlier stuff, as it's considered standard conservative dogma. Taxes hurt the economy. Taxcuts pay for themselves. They have to believe this as they have no excuse for their dangerous policies otherwise. But this FICA blunder is alllll Kudlow. He finally decided to wing it with original material and totally exposed his complete ignorance as to even the most basic aspects of running a business.

I'll admit that payroll can be difficult, which is good for me as I get paid to process payroll. But this FICA blunder was just basic stuff and Kudlow blew it. Kudlow then goes on to criticize Obama for not knowing any cops or firemen, as if that somehow proves something. But I can tell you, if Kudlow knows any payroll people, he should steer clear of them for awhile; lest he enjoy a gentle ribbing by people who actually know what they're talking about. But I guess there's a reason why conservatives avoid such people.


Americaneocon said...

"I understand how conservatives can be selfish and greedy. That makes perfect sense. They don't preach an ideology of helping people; nor do they intend to help people besides themselves. That's why they're conservatives..."

Wrong again, Dr. Biogeneralization!

It seems you don't read much, but if you did you might be familiar with Arthur Brooks and his book:

"Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compasionate Conservatism Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why It Matters."

Here's the blurb:

"Approximately three-quarters of Americans give their time and money to various charities, churches, and causes; the other quarter of the population does not. Why has America split into two nations: givers and non-givers? Arthur Brooks, a top scholar of economics and public policy, has spent years researching this trend, and even he was surprised by what he found. In Who Really Cares, he demonstrates conclusively that conservatives really are compassionate-far more compassionate than their liberal foes. Strong families, church attendance, earned income (as opposed to state-subsidized income), and the belief that individuals, not government, offer the best solution to social ills-all of these factors determine how likely one is to give. Charity matters--not just to the givers and to the recipients, but to the nation as a whole. It is crucial to our prosperity, happiness, health, and our ability to govern ourselves as a free people. In Who Really Cares, Brooks outlines strategies for expanding the ranks of givers, for the good of all Americans."

But hey, inside your mind, you actually think you're right, and some chest-thumbing diatribes here, and a few outside-of-the-debate-posts there, and you feel all flush and secure.

I see you've conceded "Obama's Pastor," but I'm sure that "opus" you're planning will be fully self-congratulatory.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Wow Donald, I guess I was wrong. A conservative asserts that the things that some conservatives do make them more caring than liberals. How convincing. I don't even need to read the book, as your blurb was clearly enough for me to recognize the err of my ways. And in case your sarcasm meter is still broken, yes, this comment is dripping with it.

My god you're a fool, Donald. Look, if you want to believe that this book is right, that's your deal. But for you to even imagine that you've made any sort of point here is ludicrous. Could you honestly have imagined that I'd be convinced by what you wrote? Really?

Here's how this works: For you to make a point, you'd actually have to cite a fact which backed up your opinion; such as the amount of money and time given to charities by people in the various ideologies. While that one fact wouldn't be conclusive, it would at least be a start towards making an argument. But citing a fellow conservative's opinion is NOT a factual argument. It's a silly assertion that makes me laugh.

Oh, and "Dr. Biogeneralization." How cute. You must be a real hit among third graders. But just for your edification, I should note that I never suggested that all conservatives are selfish or greedy; nor do I think they are. I merely said that I understand why they can be. Better reading comprehension, please.

Americaneocon said...

"I should note that I never suggested that all conservatives are selfish or greedy; nor do I think they are. I merely said that I understand why they can be."

Ha, that's classic!

Just like you deny you ever said it's "obvious" what Obama knows!

Better specification, please!!

You never do take a real, principled position, in any case, do you Dr. Bioambiguity!

That's why Michael Barone identifies you folks as living in "Soft America," portions of the land where part of our society faces little competition and accountability. Who needs to write clearly and precisely, when they,re never held up to a standard of rigor and precision? You can just write all day long in meaningless generalitities that facilitate all kinds of denials and stonewalling, the bastion of postmodernism:

"In history of denial, the philosophy of postmodernism which burst on the human scene about half a century ago, is probably the most recently developed denial strategy. It is usually resorted to when "intellectualization" and "rationalization" fail to convince others that one is "reality-based". It is at that point in the discussion that reality (and truth) are then abandoned with alacrity for the typical rhetorical tactics of postmodernism."

Arthur Brooks has offered a rigorous analysis of "compassionate conservativism" that makes your denunciations look like just more hateful, polecat-style junk!

Doctor Biobrain said...

Are you actually suggesting that it would be principled of me to say that all conservatives are selfish and greedy? That's odd. Besides, I know conservatives who aren't selfish or greedy. Like my parents who are fairly conservative, but decent, compassionate people. Why would I ever say such a thing about all conservatives?

As for being specific, I WAS specific. I said exactly what I was trying to say. You're the one who took my words and twisted them into meaning something different.

And you're right when you say I deny that I ever said it's "obvious" what Obama knows. I never said anything about what Obama knows. I said it was obvious that he doesn't agree with his pastor on everything, and I still say that. What does that have to do with what Obama knows? You've worded it that way repeatedly and I've never understood why. When stating my position, it'd be best if you used my words instead of your own inventions.

And don't you find it odd that I continue to defend the same things that I've always defended? Where on earth do you get the idea that I'm post-modernist? You're the one who invents his own definitions and keeps changing argument points, while I continue to say the same things I've always said. Hell, you can't even paraphrase what I said about Obama without completely changing the meaning.

As for Brooks, I've now written a long post showing how his book is flawed. You can find it yourself if you want as I'm too lazy to post the link. I'm sure you'll attack me for it, though you'll certainly be wrong. But just to help you out, I seriously recommend reading slowly, so you don't embarrass yourself as badly as you usually do and then get stuck having to defend the indefensible.

On the other hand, your umpteenth reference to me acting like a polecat was really effective and almost convinced me that I was wrong about everything. Keep it up and I'll be a conservative in no time. Your polecat argument is definitely the best one you've got, right up there with changing my name into silly insults. I think Plato invented that technique, but you've definitely perfected it. Kudos!