MONDAY, MAY 12, 2003
A CULTURE OF LYING (PART 1): A front-page report in Sundays Post helps reveal a culture of lying. Headline: GOP Eyes Tax Cuts as Annual Events. Congress will soon pass the third tax reduction in as many years for President Bush, the authors say. Yet the impressive trio of reductions is but a small step toward the administrations goal: nonstop tax cuts. Dana Milbank and Dan Balz then dished out their nugget:
MILBANK AND BALZ: White House officials have told allies they will attempt a new tax cut every year Bush remains in office, and there is already talk of another round.A new tax cut every year! Milbank and Balz named some sources:
MILBANK AND BALZ: Paul Weyrich, a conservative with ties to Bush, said he was told at a White House meeting that we intend to try to offer a new tax cut every yeara view top Bush aides have expressed to a number of business lobbyists. Grover Norquist, an anti-tax advocate who works closely with Bush aides, predicts: Youll have a tax cut each year. I state it that way in all of the (White House) meetings, and I never get an argument.According to Milbank and Balz, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett didnt exactly confirm these claims. But unless he was taken out of context, he didnt exactly deny them either. Steps in 2001 and beyond have been in the right direction, Bartlett said, and the president believes by reducing the tax burden more we can improve our economy. On yesterdays Meet the Press, Treasury Sec John Snow sidestepped questions about this article.
Will more tax cuts be proposed every year? According to Milbank and Balz, Weyrich, Norquist, and business lobbyists have been told just that. And youd surely be a fool to doubt it; Paul Krugmans column in last Fridays New York Times described the mammoth cut in revenues implied by certain versions of the current tax package. But theres one major problem with all these tax plansthey fly in the face of what the public was told by Candidate Bush back in Campaign 2000. Even when he debated Gore, Bush was surrounded by a culture of lying (more tomorrow). But the proposals hes made in the past few years contradict what he said when he applied for his job. The Post story highlights the culture of deceit which now drives budget policy inside Washington.
What did Bush say in Campaign 2000? As of September 2000, budget authorities were projecting a $4.6 trillion federal surplus over ten years. And heres what Bush told fifty million viewers at the start of Bush-Gore Debate I:
BUSH (10/3/00): I want to take one-half of the surplus and dedicate it to Social Security, one-quarter of the surplus for important projects, and I want to send one-quarter of the surplus back to the people who pay the bills. I want everybody who pays taxes to have their tax rates cut.Bushs math was quite fuzzy in this presentation (more tomorrow). But during his more lucid moments, Bush made that highlighted pledge quite clear. Of the $4.6 trillion projected surplus, $2.4 trillion was in payroll taxespayments made to Social Security. Like everyone else in the 2000 race, Bush pledged that he wouldnt spend that money. His representation was clear throughout. Bush had counted every pennyand when it came to federal tax cuts, $1.3 trillion was all we could afford. Again, everyone said this at the time, press and politicians alike. Everyone said that, with the baby boomers retirement approaching, we had to start using those SS surplus to pay down the national debt.
Three years later, Bushs continuing tax cut plans fly in the face of what he pledged as a candidate. Now we hear that the cuts will continue. But then, a culture of lying has only grown as our vaunted commander-in-chief has turned emperor. All week, well explore that culture of deceptionand well look at the trembling members of our national press who know that it shouldnt be discussed.
TOMORROW: A culture of lying surrounded Bush when he stood on that stage with Jim Lehrer.
HE MUST THINK HE INVENTED THE CALCULATOR: Candidate Bush laid it right on the line: $1.3 trillion was all we could afford. Anything else and wed have to spend the SS surplusand he swore that he wouldnt do that. But Bush got his $1.3 trillion in 2001, and were now spending vast amounts of that SS surplus. Result? Weirdly, Bush wants to tax-cut $726 billion more, and business leaders are being told that the tax cuts will only continue. Meanwhile, how much is the new proposed cut really worth? Needless to say, our culture of lying obscures all such matters. But Krugman mentioned a figure last Friday. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the true cost of the House bill, without the sunset scam, would be $1.1 trillion over the next decade, he wrote. If you want to know more about sunset clauses, read his entire column. Eventually, it will be posted here.
Of course, that is the House, not the White House, proposal. But has anyone heard a word from Bush about how these proposed tax cuts have gone way too far? By the way, if you read the Krugman column, youll remember how Bush dealt with similar sunset clauses when the 200l tax cut was passed:
KRUGMAN: Needless to say, the  bill was silly by design. The administration didnt intend to compromise: it fully expected to get the sunset clause repealed in a future Congress. And President Bush was soon out there ridiculing the way the tax cut was programmed to expire, implying that the expiration date was imposed by scheming liberals, when in fact it was a trick perpetrated by his own Congressional allies.President Bush would behave that way? Oh yes! A culture of lying surrounds the great man. Bought-and-sold journalists know not to noticebut you can read more in THE HOWLER all week.
The Daily update
SIMPLY PUT, AN ASTONISHING DOCUMENT: Its hard to grasp how empty our press corps isbut sometimes our pundits just break down and show us. Last Thursday, Margaret Carlson was writing Day 4 of her vacuous, weeklong diary for Slate. By Thursday, Carlson had apparently spent enough time telling us about her weekday luncheons, her gooey desserts, her clothing strategies and her home renovations. Now she wanted to skim the weeks issues. As usual, she didnt have the slightest idea what she was talking about:
CARLSON: Now that , [sic] I want to upgrade my Diary and talk about the issues of the day. Dick Cheney running again? Is the Pope Catholic? Maybe it doesnt matter whether those weapons of mass destruction are ever found. Evilsome of it anywayis gone. Bush could land on the carrier twice, and I wouldnt whine. Speaking of whining about that, isnt Sen. Robert Byrd himself the king of government spending and cost overruns? Hes paved over West Virginia and gotten every federal building to move there. Its not for him to complain about the marginal cost of Bush going out to meet the carrier as opposed to waiting on shore.Its not for Byrd to complain about cost? Good, because Byrd didnt utter a word on the subject. I join with the President and all Americans in expressing heartfelt thanks and gratitude to our men and women in uniform, the sibilant solon said last Tuesday, speaking on the floor of the Senate. But on this point I differ with the President: I believe that our military forces deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and not used as stage props to embellish a presidential speech. Byrd said nothing about financial costs. He said that Bush had used the troops for a cheap photo-op. To me, it is an affront to the Americans killed or injured in Iraq for the President to exploit the trappings of war for the momentary spectacle of a speech, Byrd said. This is not some made-for-TV backdrop for a campaign commercial.
Two day after Byrds address, Carlson wanted to talk about issues. And it took her exactly five lines beforereciting a standard RNC spin-point, of courseshe baldly misstated what Byrd had said. Of course, in her overview of this issue, she managed to pander even harder. Bush could land on the carrier twice, and I wouldnt whine, the scribe said.
But then, Carlsons diary is simply astounding from beginning to end. Read to see how she spends her weekand ask yourself if theres any way she could possibly know whats happening in the world, or have considered viewpoints. On a week when shes spending large chunks of time traveling around to promote her new book, Carlson fills the rest of her days with luncheons, renovations, and inane, idle chatter. When she does get around to discussing the issues, she runs straight to Bill Bennetts gamblinga silly personality issue which gets her chatting about Bennetts wife. (When, about Day 3 of the story, Bennett said he wouldnt be gambling any more, dropping the guise that it was an extension of church bingo, I knew Elayne had finally gotten to him.) When she gets to a serious issueWMDshe tosses off a one-sentence thought. Once again, of course, that one-sentence thought came straight from the RNC.
Transparently, Carlson knows nothingexcept approved spin. And incredibly, she can recite such spin three years later! Here we see the mind-numbing way she opens her Thursday report:
CARLSON: If this is Thursday, it must be Richmond. Im like a politician now, scheduled to the minute by other people. Not to excuse Al Gore, but I can understand how he could end up at a Buddhist temple and not know what he was doing there.Gore didnt know what he was doing at the Buddhist temple? Gore, of course, said nothing like that. In fact, Carlson is channeling a bogus spin-point recited by McCain all through Campaign 2000. McCains presentation was utterly false; everywhere else, this is referred to as lying. But the corps loved McCainhed been cast as straight-shooterso he could dissemble as much as he liked. Three years later, Carlsonwho knows nothing on earth but the cost of dessertis still tossing off his misstatements. Transparently, Margaret Carlson knows nothing but spin. And almost all of her spin is misleading.
One wishes that one could be more polite about this remarkable diary. On the one hand, its amazing that Slate put such nonsense into print. On the other hand, Carlsons diary is an astonishing documentone that shouldnt be missed. If rational thought somehow survives, future generations will gape at the emptiness found in each of this diarys pages. And theyll ask an obvious questionwhy we let such empty vessels steward our national discourse.