Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Catch of the Day

Ah, Steve Benen is paying attention to what Karl Rove is saying in TV ads:
Karl Rove and his cohorts used to lie about Bill Clinton. Now Rove’s attack operation, Crossroads GPS, is using Bill Clinton to lie about President Obama...The ad is a lie; Rove’s operation knows it’s a lie; and yet they’re pushing the lie anyway.
Which lie are we talking about? That Clinton is against tax increases during a recession, but Obama wants immediate tax increases. Which is simply, as Benen explains, not true: both Clinton and Obama support raising taxes on rich people once the economy recovers.

I don't have anything specific to support it, but I suspect that if you went deep enough into the polling, you would find that voters are overwhelmingly cynical about politician promises about taxes, even when the evidence clearly goes the other way. So voters are probably pretty receptive to the idea that Obama will raise their taxes soon, but also generally believe that their taxes have already gone up (even though in fact Obama has cut taxes). But I think that was true under Bush, as well: again, I don't have specific citations, but my impression was that a lot of people thought their taxes went up under Bush, and that includes those who did receive significant tax cuts during the Bush years.

All of which is connected to the thing about how lots of people believe that they pay federal income taxes when they in fact don't.

I'm not sure exactly what explains all of this...I'm sure it has something to do with the complexity and the mechanics of taxation in the US, and with the way people absorb political information. And granted, I'm mostly speculating here, and certainly not nailing down anything solid.

At any rate, yes, Karl Rove is flat-out lying, and one might wish for a world in which that one got as much publicity and hurt his reputation far more than what Mark Block said about Josh Kraushaar. But in this world, we'll just have to settle for Steve Benen. Nice catch!


  1. It's not so much that "lots of people believe that they pay federal income taxes when they in fact don't." It's that Fox News (or Anderson Cooper) says "47% of Americans don't pay taxes." They don't bother to say "47% of American's don't pay federal income taxes, as opposed to other taxes such as state income taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes, etc." So lots of people believe they are not in the 47%, because they aren't told the truth about the 47%.

  2. Both things are true. The press reports it wrong, but the press also reports it correctly sometimes, and people might know the answer anyway -- presumably there are other things were the press gets it wrong but people believe what they see in their own lives instead of what's in the press.

    By the way...I was pretty vicious about Cooper after that debate, and over at Plum Line (that is, at the WaPo web site), not here. FWIW, he gave a full and solid correction and apology on his show the next day (although I was sort of hoping he would credit me for catching it, and he didn't. Oh well. Not that I was the only one, but I may well have been the loudest that particular time). Of course, far fewer people were watching the regular newscast than had been watching the debate, and on balance make of it what you will, but just for the record.

  3. I think in people's minds, it looks like this:

    Taxes = bad thing

    Tax increases = bad thing

    Tax cuts = good thing

    It's easier to conceive of one bad thing being associated with another (Taxes + Tax increases ) than a bad thing being associated with a good thing. Just a guess. Anyway, there would still be further explanation needed to understand why (or under what circumstances) citizens do or do not see taxes merely as a burden vs. seeing them as a fair price for the goods they buy (i.e. health care, defense, infrastructure, law enforcement, education, etc.). I suspect that has to do with the fact that no political party regularly explains and defends that position.

  4. Jeff,

    Not only are taxes depicted as a burden, they're depicted as punishment. Increasing taxes on the rich is "punishing success." One half expects to walk into a courtroom and hear a judge declare, "You are hereby sentenced to pay your taxes, and may God have mercy on your soul."

    It's not new though. It was John Marshall who declared that the power to tax is the power to destroy. (Of course, if you said "shoot" instead of "tax," the NRA would be all over you.)

  5. >my impression was that a lot of people thought their taxes went up under Bush

    I have my doubts about this. At least, I doubt the perception was anywhere near as strong as under Obama. I'm open to seeing evidence to the contrary. It's just that the Bush tax cuts received an inordinate amount of press attention that none of Obama's tax cuts--including his extension of the Bush tax cuts--came close to receiving. That probably worked against any natural tendency for people to assume their taxes are going up. Add to that all the Republican demagoguery that Democrats are raising your taxes, with no comparable demagoguery on the Democratic side (and a Democratic admission that they do wish to raise some taxes, making their policy less easy to digest as a soundbite), it seems the situation is stacked toward a greater public perception that a Democratic president is raising taxes.

  6. Yeah, Scott, and the irony is that that remark of Marshall's comes from a landmark case establishing federal power over the states. Wonder how many of the federal-taxophobes who toss it around today know that.

  7. Don't forget issue ownership.

    The Dems are strong on Social Security, even when they cut it. The Reps are strong on national security, even when they invade countries for no good reason or do nothing. The parties are ASSUMED to be "better" or "worse" on various issues by Americans, and any evidence to the contrary has to get through.

    Combine that with some pretty darn consistent messages about the stances of the parties (whether from that party or from their opponents, as Kylopod notes), and it's a well-nigh impossible task to change minds on this.

    What's funny are the times when the public can actually be convinced of something by facts. Occasionally, the truth DOES make it through. "Which party is better able to keep the US out of war?"--essentially tied since 1966, in '04, the Dems jump up and by 08, it's 50:13.

    Yet still, in 2008, 16% of people said the Democratic Party was the more conservative party.

    So, to issue ownership, we have to add simple rank stupidity.

  8. seems the situation is stacked toward a greater public perception that a Democratic president is raising taxes.


    Yeah, it's funny how stupid the public is, actually listening to the guy yammering for tax increases, and believing him.

    The public is just stupid like that. Oh well.

  9. >Yeah, it's funny how stupid the public is, actually listening to the guy yammering for tax increases, and believing him.

    Yes, the president has called for tax increases--on 1% of Americans, in a policy move the public overwhelmingly favors.

    Its popularity helps explain why Republicans prefer to talk vaguely about "tax increases" without specifying who the Democrats are actually targeting. By describing the Democratic policy only in vague terms, Republicans aim to mislead average income earners into believing their taxes are going up.

    It's a form of the classic propaganda technique known as lying by omission, where you state something that's technically true but you leave out important details in order to create a false impression. Ironically, it's the form of lying Bill Clinton was most notorious for.

    You've proven the point I made: the Democratic policy is "less easy to digest as a soundbite," making it vulnerable to precisely the distortion you just engaged in.

  10. If the public "overwhelmingly favors" what it is you're claiming they favor, then I guarantee you that the Left would have hammered through tax policy reflecting that favoritism in the years January 2009 through December 2010, when they overwhelmingly dominated government.

    I'll give you a hint on this: Your lefty buddies know your statement is false, and if they'd acted on your false statement, they'da gotten whacked even harder than they did in November 2010. That's why the Left refused to act on what it is you claim the public "overwhelmingly favors", despite their dominant position. They like those cushy jobs, and wanted to keep them.

    You're making the classic lefty mistake, which I see again and again on this lefty site. You're taking issues based polling, and thinking it to be touchstone of electoral outcome. To repeat, your lefty buddies in Congress know faaaaar better than this.

  11. C'mon, Anon..

    I know you're just dying to say "commie" in place of "lefty". If you're gonna troll, give us value for our time spent reading your pitiful screeds.

  12. >If the public "overwhelmingly favors" what it is you're claiming

    There is no "if." The public does favor an increase in tax cuts for wealthier Americans. It's been documented in poll after poll after poll. Even a majority of people who voted in 2010 favored ending the Bush tax cuts on the rich, according to exit polls. That's right--a lot of the people who voted for Republicans in 2010 did so while disagreeing with one of their top policy priorities. Welcome to the U.S. political system.

    >That's why the Left refused to act on what it is you claim the public "overwhelmingly favors", despite their dominant position.

    The tax deal was the result of a Mexican standoff: if the Democrats and Republicans had done nothing, taxes would have gone up on both the rich and the middle class, an outcome that neither party wanted and which everyone agrees would have hurt the economy. So the Dems gambled that they'd accept a temporary extension of the cuts in exchange for stimulus that Republicans would otherwise have never agreed to.

    If the Dems accepted the extension only because they feared a public backlash that is mysteriously absent from public opinion polls, why didn't they agree to make the tax cuts permanent instead of simply kicking the can down the road?

  13. >The public does favor an increase in tax cuts

    Ah...syntax fail. I meant a tax increase on wealthier Americans, of course.

  14. The public does favor an increase in tax cuts for wealthier Americans.


    Again, you're making the classic lefty mistake of conflating issues based polling with electoral outcome. Your lefty buddies in Congress know faaaaaar better than to make this mistake, and they like their cushy jobs, and that's why they didn't act on your mistaken notions, when they dominated the Congress and WH for 2 years.

    It's sorta like the Cap & Tax issue. Issues based polling showed that, hey, people sorta went along with that global warming business, so why not pass Cap & Tax? So Waxman and Pelosi hammered through a whipped vote, and committed suicide in the process. I knew the House would flip, the day I watched the Left pistol whipping votes for that fiasco. And the Senate Left wouldn't even TOUCH it... they knew better. There's only one poll that counts, and they understand how that poll works, and it ain't nothin' like the morass of issues based polls out there.

    Your lefty buddies know better than to listen to you, believe me. The shiny-eyed Waxmans and Pelosis might do so, but nobody smart will. They got a good gig and they wanna keep it.

    If you're asking why politicians kicked the can down the road by extending the Bush Tax Cuts, then you must not understand politics. Kicking the can down the road is the default position for everything. No change... incumbents default to that... if the alternates potentially cost them their jobs. The Senate Left understands that, even if you don't.

    The People well recognize that we have a spending problem. Until the Left recognizes the magnitude of that recognition, they're going to flounder around with "issues based polling", and get dinged as a result.

  15. >you're making the classic lefty mistake of conflating issues based polling with electoral outcome

    No. I recognize issues-based polling as the clearest evidence of public opinion on specific issues. Unlike you, I do not conflate public opinion on specific issues with electoral outcomes.

  16. Oh, it ain't a matter of what *** I *** recognize as impacting electoral outcomes, Kylo. It's what your lefty buddies recognize as impacting those outcomes. And that's why the Senate Left kicked the can down the road, passed the Bush Tax Cuts, and absolutely refused to touch that Cap & Tax nonsense. They know what will keep them in those nice, cushy jobs, far better than you and I know.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?