Conservative Ignorance About Marginal Tax Rates

The wonder of the internet is that it allows people from all over to communicate. TBogg reveals a number of people who really need to talk to Justin Gardner (or anyone else who can explain, as Justin does,  how the tax system really works). TBogg picks up a number of quotes from people hanging out at Michelle Malkin’s blog such as:

  • Yep, it’s happening. Several friends are shutting down to sustaining levels. Partly due to housing and the rest due to the tax hikes.
  • I shut down my online businesses in early November, I don’t remember why. I’m now a net user of Obama Cheese. I may even apply for food stamps.
  • Small businesses will lay off employees, and I hope the first to go are the ones that voted for bho. They wanted ‘hope and change’, well you got it. These bho voters have NO idea how much more taxes they are going to be paying. I just hope those bho voters have their IRA, 401k and stocks cratered as much as those who DID not vote for bho. Such(sic) it up kids!
  • I have a friend who is planning to not work overtime this year to stay well below the dangerous benchmark that is 250k. His point was that he might as well take some time off and enjoy and relax rather than work and give every dollar above 250 away. I don’t blame his reasoning and the loss is, he spends his money.

Dangerous benchmark of $250,000? These people have absolutely no idea how the tax system works (as I noted last week). An increase of a few percent in the marginal rate applied to income over $250,000 will have minimal impact. People who really make over $250,000 (and I don’t believe for a moment that these people really do) are not going to stop working or lay off any employees. If there is a three percent increase in the marginal rate income over $250,000 will be taxed at three cents on the dollar more than before. They certainly are not giving away every dollar over $250,000. Income under $250,000 will be taxed at exactly the same rate as it was before.

There is no meaningful negative incentive to working here. Ignore all those losers at Malkin’s place. Those of us who really have thriving businesses are not quitters. The same characteristics which lead us to thrive in our fields will also drive us to keep on working and building our businesses. Paying a few cents extra per dollar in taxes is not going to change that. We might complain about the higher taxes, but we are not going to give up working over it.

Why Is Peter Daou Empowering Rush Limbaugh?

As an aside to my previous post on the leadership role of Rush Limbaugh in the Republican Party, I must also note a dissenting view to the current Democratic strategy from Peter Daou. Many Democratic leaders, including the Obama administration,  have joined  bloggers in making Limbaugh the new face of the Republican Party. Daou asks, Why on Earth Are Democrats Legitimizing and Empowering Rush Limbaugh? I hardly think this is the case, and for reasons I’ll get to later it is really Peter who is empowering Limbaugh.

Peter writes, “Empowering Limbaugh in the hopes of a bank-shot against Republicans will yield the opposite result: Limbaugh will become more powerful, Republicans will relish his increased influence and allow him to do their dirty work.” Sure some Republicans will relish this, but having him do more of their dirty work is exactly what Obama’s people want. There are some more moderate Republicans out there who just might be able to shake free of the GOP’s current reputation and perhaps even challenge Obama in 2012, especially if the economy has not recovered yet. If voters think Republicans are like Rush Limbaugh, Obama has an easy reelection.

It looks like Obama’s political advisers are outsmarting Daou on this, just as they did when he was working for Hillary Clinton in the primary battle. It is no surprise that Peter would fail to understand the potential dynamics of the 2012 race when he shows he still does not get why his candidate lost in 2008. He wrote:

The reality was that the 2008 election was the age-old battle of character-building and character-destruction. Obama’s team won that battle against Hillary Clinton not just because of Obama’s abundant positive traits but because people like Rush Limbaugh gave him a 15-year head start against her.

No, Rush Limbaugh did not beat Hillary Clinton, and there is no reason to empower him in this manner. Sure, Limbaugh was able to get conservative Republicans to hate Hillary Clinton but these people were never going to vote for her anyways. These are certainly not the people who voted in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Hillary Clinton went into the 2008 nomination battle with all the advantages. Rush Limbaugh did not beat Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton beat Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton decided to run a campaign as dirty as that of any Republican. I’ve already went over multiple specifics throughout the primary campaign so rather than rehashing that battle I’ll refer anyone who wants more detail to the blog archives, or check out these arguments from Lawrence Lessig. Peter reveals their fundamental problem here. The campaign was not won based upon character-destruction. Obama won because so many voters were thoroughly disgusted with the politics of character-destruction, along with her many other dishonest tactics. Many voters rejected Clinton when they saw her engage in this.

Early in the campaign, before he realized there was no longer any point in seeking my support, Peter would send me their campaign’s arguments against Obama. More than once I pointed out that they were dishonest attacks and such attacks would undoubtedly backfire. They never figured out how their Limbaugh-style campaign played right into Obama’s hands.

This is a second way in which Peter empowers and even legitimizes the politics of Rush Limbaugh. He empowers Limbaugh when he incorrectly credits Limbaugh for beating Clinton, and he empowers Limbaugh when he supports Limbaugh’s brand of politics of personal destruction, whether practiced by Rush Limbaugh, Republican candidates, or practiced by Hillary Clinton.

Other commentary:

Sean Quinn at has a similar take, both with regards to Daou’s assessment of why Clinton lost as well as with regards to Limbaugh:

Today, veteran Democratic messaging strategist Peter Daou panned the Limbaugh strategy, arguing that while it may seem like a good idea today due to irrational Democratic exuberance in the afterglow of the election, in the long term elevating Limbaugh is a mistake because his toxic effect on political debate will ultimately hurt Democrats. Daou, who worked for Hillary Clinton, also mocks the idea of Obama’s powerful campaign as pure myth, instead suggesting that Obama beat Clinton because Limbaugh tore her down for 15 years.

Daou is completely wrong about why Obama won, but that’s incidental. He’s wrong about Limbaugh because Limbaugh is already a tested brand, and the verdict has been rendered. Muhammad Ali, he is not. Independents aren’t going to suddenly start listening to Rush somewhere down the road, just as they aren’t going to suddenly start appreciating Al Sharpton, who also has a brand.

Mike Pence writes:

The point is that Rush is entirely unpopular with the vast majority of the country, who don’t listen to his show. Limbaugh cost the Republicans the US Senate in 2006 when his Michael J. Fox bashing elevated Claire McCaskill. It’s a proven strategy, and Republicans talking about Limbaugh means they’re not talking about anything appealing to the country at large. I fully agree that Obama and the Democrats will be assessed on whether or not they can bring the country out of this economic death spiral; we’re always judged on cleaning up the mess, they’re never judged on making it. But there’s no reason that Republicans shouldn’t have to run in circles and be forced to reconcile the hateful extremism of their de facto leader in the meantime. “I hope he fails” is a great tombstone for these guys.

Matt Browner Hamlin writes:

I look at the Limbaugh question in a similar way to how I think about people like Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal. The Republican Party is hemorraging support now. It lacks ideological direction that appeals to people outside the geographic south, the super rich, or religious conservatives. It is moving quickly towards being a regional political party. They are without a rudder now and that gives Democrats and more specifically liberal bloggers and talking heads the opportunity to define the GOP for the public and for the media. In this case, picking an objectionable character, known for regularly and repeatedly offending vast swaths makes sense. Likewise picking inept liars like Jindal or clueless not ready for primte time players like Palin also makes sense.

Limbaugh is a cipher for how we can define the GOP. Coincidentally he actually is becoming their party’s biggest spokesman. I love a situation where the choice between Democrats and Republicans is between Barack Obama and Rush Limbaugh precisely because Limbaugh cannot play at Obama’s level. Does it give him more profile than he deserves? Yes, I would love to see him marginalized entirely, but I think elevating him in the short run may lead to that in the longer run.

Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog writes:

It’s simply bizarre that the guy who started Salon’s old Blog Report (which was once called the Daou Report) would say something like this. So much of what we bloggers were doing when Daou was aggregating our posts was to expose the toxic things being said by right-wingers, including Limbaugh and the others he names.

Why was this worth doing? Because, prior to the rise of lefty blogs and Media Matters and Think Progress and, eventually, Stewart and Colbert and then Olbermann and Maddow, hardly anyone was paying attention to the toxic things these people said except people who approved of them. The mainstream press wasn’t paying attention. Most non-right-wingers weren’t paying attention.

These people were saying vile things — but most of the people who would have thought the utterances were vile didn’t know that. Therefore, much of America just had a vague sense that Limbaugh et al. were “irreverent” and “politically correct” — not nasty and poisonous.

These assessments are correct from a strategic partisan Democratic point of view. Personally I would prefer that the Republicans repudiate Rush Limbaugh. This would give them a better shot of challenging the Democrats in future elections, but would also increase the chances of restoring a viable two party system in which both parties have something to offer. This is why my primary interest in Limbaugh controversy has been to encourage the rare conservatives such as  John Derbyshire and Rob Dreher who actually do realize how much damage Limbaugh is doing to the conservative movement. These two goals are actually compatible as exposing Limbaugh’s views does not empower him within the Republican Party. Only the Republicans can empower him in that manner, if they are so foolish.

Michael Moore is No Rush Limbaugh


With ads such as the above being distributed by Americans United For Change some have looked to see if their is a situation for the Democrats analogous to Rush Limbaugh’s toxic influence on the GOP. Andrew Malcolm asks,  So if Rush runs the GOP, does Michael Moore head the Dems?

There are certainly some similarities. Both are primarily showmen, among other obvious shared traits. Still the question to this question is clearly no.

Michael Moore isn’t necessarily a Democrat. He has referred to Bill Clinton as “the best Republican president we’ve had since Abraham Lincoln.” In 2000 he backed Ralph Nader over both Al Gore and George Bush. Sure, in 2004 Moore begged Nader not to run against John Kerry. Does that make him a Democrat, or just someone who learned from his mistake?

Assuming for the sake of discussion (as there is no good way to really measure this) that Moore and Limbaugh are both equally far from center, there is a major difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. The extremists on the right dominate the GOP while the Democratic Party is far more centrist. For example, look at one of the top issues of the day which Michael Moore has expressed his views upon–health care reform. Moore backs a government run system. In contrast most Democrats, despite the phony cries from the right of “socialized medicine,” are pushing for a far more conservative plan which would preserve both private insurance companies and private practice. A plan as far left as Moore’s isn’t even on the table.

It is debatable whether Rush Limbaugh actually runs the  GOP, but there sure are signs of his influence over it. Start with the fact that the debate over whether Limbaugh runs the party comes primarily from the guy who, on paper at least, really does run it. The argument that Limbaugh runs the GOP is even stronger if you accept Joe Gandelman’s assessment that Limbaugh won in his dispute with Michael Steele.

Limbaugh’s dominance is also seen in the manner in which many party leaders backed him up when Limbaugh made a statement that any honorable political leader would reject.  Back in 1960  conservative John Wayne showed how it should be done: “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.” Now, during the worst economic downturn since the great depression, Rush Limbaugh expresses hope that Obama will fail. To him it is better that people live in misery than to have liberal economic principles show themselves to be successful.

While any reasonable person would be expected to reject Limbaugh’s statement, many prominent Republicans are backing Limbaugh. I’ve previously given Rick Santorum as an example, but many more have expressed similar beliefs. Bobby Jindal was unwilling to repudiate this statement and even said, “ I think Rush is a great leader for conservatives. I think he articulates what a lot of people are concerned about.”

This does not mean that every conservative wants to grant a leadership role to Rush Limbaugh. I’ve recently quoted both  John Derbyshire and Rob Dreher criticizing Limbaugh. Still, having been invited to be keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference is probably a stronger indicator of where most conservative Republicans stand on Limbaugh.

Bush Administration Considered More Extensive Suppression of Civil Liberties to Fight Terrorism

Newsweek  reports on recently released memos showing that the Bush administration was considering far more extensive violations of civil liberties after the 9/11 attacks than we have  experienced:

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Justice Department secretly gave the green light for the U.S. military to attack apartment buildings and office complexes inside the United States, deploy high-tech surveillance against U.S. citizens and potentially suspend First Amendment freedom-of-the-press rights in order to combat the terror threat, according to a memo released Monday.

Many of the actions discussed in the Oct. 23, 2001, memo to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s chief lawyer, William Haynes, were never actually taken.

But the memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel—along with others made public for the first time Monday—illustrates with new details the extraordinary post-9/11 powers asserted by Bush administration lawyers. Those assertions ultimately led to such controversial policies as allowing the waterboarding of terror suspects and permitting warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens—steps that remain the subject of ongoing investigations by Congress and the Justice Department. The memo was co-written by John Yoo, at the time a deputy attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel. Yoo, now a professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, has emerged as one of the central figures in those ongoing investigations.

In perhaps the most surprising assertion, the Oct. 23, 2001, memo suggested the president could even suspend press freedoms if he concluded it was necessary to wage the war on terror. “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully,” Yoo wrote in the memo entitled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States.”

This claim was viewed as so extreme that it was essentially (and secretly) revoked—but not until October of last year, seven years after the memo was written and with barely three and a half months left in the Bush administration…

On Jan. 15, 2009—with only five days left before Bush left office—Bradbury also rescinded three other legal memos written during the president’s first term that claimed broad powers to unilaterally suspend treaties, bypass restrictions on domestic surveillance and take other actions to combat terrorism without the approval of Congress. Bradbury said in a separate legal memo that the claims made in these earlier memos were based on unsound legal reasoning and should not be viewed as “authoritative.” But he offered no explanation for why he waited until the waning days of Bush’s presidency to withdraw them.

The most controversial, and best known, of Yoo’s legal opinions was his Aug. 1, 2002, memo that effectively approved the president’s right to disregard a federal law banning torture in ordering the interrogation of terror suspects. An accompanying (and still unreleased) memo from the same day approved the CIA’s authority to use “waterboarding” (or simulated drowning) against terror suspects.

On September 11, 2001 our country and our way of life were subjected to a terrorist attack. The Bush administration let down the nation, and the values we were founded upon, by so quickly being willing to ignore these values. While many of these extraordinary powers were never used, those who support our system of government should have immediately rejected these ideas, as opposed to waiting until the final days of their administration to rescind them.

George Bush took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Instead this was considered to be optional after September 11.