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TAXING QUESTIONS! Are corporate profits over-taxed? Don’t look for this press corps to limn it:


BOWLED OVER: To all appearances, Lou Dobbs has been “bowled over” by President Bush’s new tax cut proposal. In the current U. S. News, he pens an 800-word review of the plan—a review in which some variant of “bold” appears five different times. Here is his opening paragraph:

DOBBS: There are a lot of surprised gasps and unsurprising partisan carping over the boldness of President Bush’s economic stimulus plan. But given the challenges we now face, would a less ambitious plan have been appropriate? This economy is slowly moving forward, caught in an atypical recovery following an atypical recession. And we’re fighting radical Islamist terrorism worldwide and preparing for war against Iraq. In our times, bold is the only policy option.
In our times, is “bold” the only policy option? Obviously, no, it is not. In dealing with the federal budget, “prudent” would be a policy option. So would “just,” “humane,” “conservative” or “wise.” But “bold” is the only policy option if you’re pandering to the White House by using the spin-point they have scripted. Let’s just state it simply: Dobbs is. (For background, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/10/03.)

Meanwhile, at the Weekly Standard, Major Garrett kept hitting the “bold” key too. Headline? “The Cheney Tax Cut/The hidden role of the vice president and his staff in Bush’s bold plan.” Like the willing foot-soldier Dobbs, The Major knows “bold” when he sees it:

GARRETT: Cheney’s political analysis of the coming stimulus debate argued for the boldest approach possible. Why? Because, as he and his staff argued over and over, the White House would be accused of favoring the rich no matter what the proposal contained; it was pointless to sue for peace in the supposed class war. The plan had to be bold. Boldness, they said, would work, for both principled and practical reasons. First, principles are easier to defend on the stump (get ready for a variation of, “Either you’re for the end of double taxation of dividends, or you’re not”). Second, a bold plan offers more negotiating room when the final deal is struck in the Senate.
Why are Dobbs and Garrett in love with “bold?” Because “bold” is the White House word of choice. Timid fellows, they write what they’re told to.

Needless to say, the National Review has been bowled over too:

NATIONAL REVIEW: Let’s not beat around the bush: The president’s new tax cut is the boldest free-market initiative since 1981, and it deserves the wholehearted support of conservatives…
Don’t worry. It’s going to get it.

THE DUMBEST RESPONSE OF THE WEEK: Was made by Andrea Mitchell on Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show. A pundit noted that the Bush cuts would go in large part to high earners. This deathless exchange ensued:

MATTHEWS: Andrea, the president knew that the criticism would come to him like this, that people would say it was a rich man’s tax cut.


MATTHEWS: Why’d he go ahead and do it against this kind of criticism?

MITCHELL: Well, first of all, it’s smart. And the Democrats look as though they’re what, in favor of tax increases?


Perfect logic! If you aren’t in favor of cutting taxes, that means you’re in favor of raising taxes! No humans—except for your millionaire pundits—ever say things quite so stupid.

ONE MAN A KING: Being a surgeon gets Bill Frist great press. Earlier this month, the press corps lauded the selfless surgeon for helping victims of a Florida car wreck (not that the selfless Frist called the press corps and told them about it, of course). In last Saturday’s New York Times, Robin Toner noted the fact that Frist’s profession will help him score points about Medicare. She quoted some pique from the other side of the aisle:

TONER: A less amused Democratic strategist in the Senate, grumbling about the “bizarre media fascination” with Dr. Frist’s surgical side, said: “It’s a wonderful profession. He’s done wonderful things for people. But he’s changed professions now.”
Changed professions? Not at the New York Times, he hasn’t. In her article, Toner notes that the selfless sawbones has asked to be referred to as “Dr. Frist.” Thumb through the various ironies lurking inside this paragraph:
TONER: Critics fear that Dr. Frist, as he has asked to be called, will be able to use his trustworthy doctor’s persona to sell a far-reaching and contentious proposal to open up Medicare to more private health plans. With Dr. Frist supporting it, “how could it be wrong?” Representative Jim McDermott, a liberal Seattle Democrat, said with more than a little sarcasm. The majority leader’s M.D. is the Bush administration’s “finesse card on health care,” said Mr. McDermott, himself a psychiatrist.
Frist has asked to be referred to as “Dr.”—and the Times has now complied. According to a Nexis search, “Mr. Frist” last appeared in the Times back on January 5. Meanwhile, McDermott—“himself a psychiatrist,” Toner notes—is still just good old “Mr.”

Back in December, John Harwood told Howard Kurtz that Frist was going to get great press (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/23/02). At the Times, it’s all come true; at the Times, this one man is now king. Given the obvious spinning tied into Frist’s request, it’s time the Times stopped this silly clowning. Or maybe the Times could spell things out more plainly, referring to Frist as “Ol’ Massah.”

TOO TAXING FOR THE PRESS CORPS? A heroic president is leading a fight to rid the nation of “double taxation.” But Robert McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice has offered an intriguing critique. “When you think about it, the number of times something is taxed isn’t an enlightening concept,” he writes. “Instead, it’s the total amount of taxes…that matters. Who wouldn’t feel better, for instance, about paying two taxes of 10 percent each rather than a single tax of 40 percent?” Here comes the nay-sayer’s nugget:

MCINTYRE: So the real question is: Does the so-called “double tax” on corporate profits cause them to be overtaxed compared to other kinds of income? It sure doesn’t look that way.
McIntyre’s analysis of this topic is brief, and frankly, we don’t quite follow his ultimate logic. On the way to his conclusion, however, he cites a well-known corporation—CSX—the company run by Treasury Sec John Snow. CSX paid no taxes on its $934 million in profits over the past four years, McIntyre says. “Obviously,” McIntyre concludes, CSX wasn’t “double taxed.”

As we say, we don’t follow the ultimate train of thought in this piece, but the overall point is perfectly clear. Within the present system of “double taxation,” are corporate profits taxed more than other income? A functioning press corps would leap on that question. Our advice to you: Don’t hold your breath.