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.