Reagan Adviser Shows How Tea Baggers Are Misinformed About Taxes

I’ve noted many times before that the Tea Party movement is being manipulated by the far right into believing falsehoods such as that Barack Obama increased their taxes and falsely believing that the Democrats, as opposed to the Republicans, are responsible for running up most of deficit. Bruce Bartlett, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan, has written about how misinformed they are regarding taxes based upon answers to a recent survey. After reviewing specific errors in their views he summarized:

In short, no matter how one slices the data, the Tea Party crowd appears to believe that federal taxes are very considerably higher than they actually are, whether referring to total taxes as a share of GDP or in terms of the taxes paid by a typical family.

Tea Partyers also seem to have a very distorted view of the direction of federal taxes. They were asked whether they are higher, lower or the same as when Barack Obama was inaugurated last year. More than two-thirds thought that taxes are higher today, and only 4% thought they were lower; the rest said they are the same.

As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president. And given the economic circumstances, it’s hard to imagine that a tax increase would have been enacted last year. In fact, 40% of Obama’s stimulus package involved tax cuts. These include the Making Work Pay Credit, which reduces federal taxes for all taxpayers with incomes below $75,000 by between $400 and $800.

According to the JCT, last year’s $787 billion stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year. The Tax Policy Center, a private research group, estimates that close to 90% of all taxpayers got a tax cut last year and almost 100% of those in the $50,000 income range. For those making between $40,000 and $50,000, the average tax cut was $472; for those making between $50,000 and $75,000, the tax cut averaged $522. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama’s policies.

It’s hard to explain this divergence between perception and reality. Perhaps these people haven’t calculated their tax returns for 2009 yet and simply don’t know what they owe. Or perhaps they just assume that because a Democrat is president that taxes must have gone up, because that’s what Republicans say that Democrats always do. In fact, there hasn’t been a federal tax increase of any significance in this country since 1993.

After looking further at their misconceptions, Bartlett concluded:

Whatever the future of the Tea Party movement in American politics, it’s a bad idea for so many participants to operate on the basis of false notions about the burden of federal taxation. It only takes a little bit of time to look at one’s tax return to see what one is actually paying the Treasury, calculate the percentage of one’s income that goes to taxes, and compare it with what was paid last year and the year before. People may then discover that their anger is misplaced and channel it into areas where it is more likely to bring about positive change.

Conservative View On Reliability Of CBO Depends Upon Whether They Like The Results

Conservatives tend to begin with their position and then work backwards to twist the evidence to try to support their position. We often see this in their distortions of science with regards to evolution and climate change. In the case of health care reform they repeat the arguments fed to them by the insurance industry while ignoring any objective data. When the Congressional Budget Office put out a favorable report on the current legislation conservatives began to attack the validity of the CBO’s report.

The reality is that when the CBO is off it historically is on the side of underestimating cost savings. This is because new and untried cost savings measures cannot be scored by the CBO resulting in them being left out of the calculations.

Conservatives now ignore the conclusions of the Congressional Budget Office as they did when the CBO disputed the claims of conservatives about the effects of the pubic option. Conservatives ignored the CBO’s warnings about the cost of the Iraq war. However, when a CBO report of an earlier draft of health care legislation showed that cost savings  would not fund health care reform, conservatives were quick to quote this report. Once the legislation was tweaked and reports showed the plan to be fiscally sound, conservatives no longer respected the results of the CBO.

Think Progress points out that Michael Steele and the Republican National Committee now claim that “you can’t believe the numbers” from the CBO. However, they also note that Steele and the RNC have cited CBO numbers to support their arguments. This was done as recently as March 5 to criticize Obama’s proposed bank fee.

Simon Owens provides additional examples of how Conservative bloggers loved the CBO before they hated it.

Ezra Klein writes more on the CBO estimates.

AARP Endorses Health Care Reform Citing Benefits To Seniors

The American Association of Retired People has endorsed passage of the health care reform legislation. In an article posted yesterday after the final legislation was released the AARP discussed the benefits of health care reform to seniors:

The final version of a massive health care reform package would help seniors with prescription drug costs, offer free preventive care under Medicare, provide incentives to companies to offer insurance for early retirees and ban limits on lifetime health care coverage.

Further detail was provided later in the article:

The reconciliation bill carries several elements of particular interest to older Americans:

  • Those in Medicare Part D who fall into the “doughnut hole,” and have to pay all their prescription drug costs for part of the year, would get immediate help this year from a $250 rebate. Next year they would get a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs, and by 2020 the doughnut hole would be closed completely.
  • Medicare would cover preventive services with no copayments, and those costs would not apply to the deductible.
  • A new insurance exchange would help people who don’t have affordable insurance through their jobs. Until the exchange is set up, employers who give health care benefits for retirees ages 55 to 64 would get federal aid through a temporary reinsurance program.
  • New regulations on insurance companies would bar them from dropping the coverage of people who get sick, and from putting lifetime caps on coverage. Starting in six months insurance companies could not discriminate against children with preexisting conditions; by 2014 all ages would receive that protection.
  • A new long-term care insurance program, which workers could pay into, would help them if they become ill or disabled and need help with basic services in order to stay in their homes.

The following press release was issued today indicating their endorsement of the plan:

AARP Statement on Historic Health Insurance Reform Package

WASHINGTON—Today, AARP Board Chair Bonnie M. Cramer, M.S.W., announced the Association’s support for health insurance reform legislation containing key reform provisions that will improve health care for older Americans and their families. For more than two years, AARP has fought for health insurance reform that helps Americans 50-plus get the care and medications they need at a price they can afford. Cramer’s statement follows:

“After a thorough analysis of the reform package, we believe this legislation brings us so much closer to helping millions of older Americans get quality, affordable health care. For too long, our members and others have faced spiraling prescription drug costs, discriminatory practices by insurance companies and a Medicare system awash in fraud, waste and abuse.

“The legislative package cracks down on insurance company abuses and protects and strengthens guaranteed benefits in Medicare, the program millions of our members depend on and in which millions more will soon enroll. It closes the dreaded Medicare Part D ‘doughnut hole,’ a gap in prescription drug coverage that is life-threatening for many. The package stops insurance companies from pricing people out of coverage because they have an existing health problem or arbitrarily limiting the amount of care someone can receive. It also limits insurance companies’ ability to charge higher premiums based solely on age. And it improves efforts to crack down on fraud and waste in Medicare, strengthening the program for today’s seniors and future generations.

“For every American who has struggled without access to health insurance—and for all those at risk of losing their current coverage with the next job loss, illness or premium hike—this package presents the best hope to offer health security for them and their families. We understand that significant work remains even after this package becomes law, but we cannot lose the opportunity looking for a ‘next time’ that is doomed to be ‘too late.’

“We urge Congress to seize this opportunity to improve health care so older Americans and their families get the care they need.”

Also today, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand sent a letter to every member of the House of Representatives, urging them to put the health of Americans age 50-plus first and vote “yes” on the legislative package.

American Osteopathic Association Endorses Health Care Reform Legislation

The AOA has joined the AMA in endorsing the health care reform legislation along with making recommendations for changes. The recommendations include eliminating the flawed physician payment formula and significantly modifying or abolishing the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

Following is the text of the item in today’s AOA Daily Report which includes their letter to President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid:

The full AOA Board of Trustees convened today to finalize the AOA’s official position on health system reform legislation as Congress nears a final vote after a year-long debate.  The Board examined how the bill aligns with AOA policies established by the AOA House of Delegates over the last 30 years and developed a letter to President Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delineating our unanimous support of advancing the legislative process as well as our strong recommendations on how to ensure access to care, promote primary care, provide for fair physician payment, and reduce overall health care costs, especially by enacting federal PLI reform.  Read a copy of the letter here.

Earlier I posted a copy of a statement faxed and emailed to physicians in support of the legislation by the American Medical Association along with links to letters sent by the AMA with their suggestions for improvements in the legislation.

Jon Stewart Takes On Glenn Beck Again

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John Stewart has once again mocked Glenn Beck (video above). He previously mocked Glenn Beck’s interest in gold (video here) and another parody of Beck in November (video here).

AMA Supports Passage Of Health Care Reform With Recommendations For Improvements

The American Medical Association which previously endorsed passage of the House and Senate health care reform bills has sent out a fax to physicians supporting passage of the revised bill to be voted upon this Sunday. The fax states that “We worked hard and made significant progress toward resolving” problems with the original Senate bill. They also state there are issues “that cannot be addressed through the current reconciliation process and will need to be address by Congress and the administration.”

The AMA calls for changes including repealing the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula, making changes in the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the cost-quality value index, rules for data release, and enactment of effective medical liability reforms.

While they consider this bill “an imperfect product” and see problems in the bill which I agree with, the  AMA concludes that this bill “does, in fact, improve the ability of patients and their physicians to achieve better health outcomes.”

Update: The American Medical Association has also released a press release supporting the bill and a letter to Nancy Pelosi outlining their view. A more detailed explanation of these points was included in this  letter to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in January.

Update 2: The fax has also been sent by email making it easier to post on line. The text is under the fold.

Update 3: The American Osteopathic Association supports health care reform legislation.


Text of Health Care Revisions

The final House debate and, assuming the Republicans don’t manage to delay it further, on health care reform will be held on Sunday–72 hours after the public release of the bill. The text was released yesterday after the favorable report was received from the Congressional Budget Office. Many sites have now posted the text including Open Congress which also has a summary. They also link to the original Senate bill which this resolution amends.