Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When Both Sides Don't Do It

David Leonhardt has an interesting piece in NYT with a proper focus on Republican party tactics to advance the proposed tax legislation: The Four Big Tax Deceptions

1. Describe the benefits of a different tax plan and make it sound as if they are talking about this one. I would lump this tactic together with calling the proposal "tax reform" as if it somehow goes beyond tax cuts aimed at the wealthy, which is in sharp contrast to the 1986 Tax Reform Act which broadened the tax base by closing many loopholes that had evolved over the years while lowering the top tax rates on individuals.

2. Talk about the plan's middle class tax cuts - and ignore the middle class tax increases

3. Pretend that the future will never arrive. Krugman in "The Biggest Tax Scam in History" (along with others) puts this a little more accurately. Make two arguments, each of which can be true in a given context, but both of which can not be simultaneously true: "Here’s how it works: If you point out that the bill hugely favors the wealthy at the expense of ordinary families, Republicans will point to the next few years, when the class-war nature of the plan is obscured by those temporary tax breaks — and claim that whatever the language of the law says, those tax breaks will actually be made permanent by later Congresses.

But if you point out that the bill is fiscally irresponsible, they’ll say that it “only” raises the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade and doesn’t raise deficits at all after that — because, you see, those tax breaks will expire by 2027, so the tax hikes will raise a lot of revenue."

4. Rush, rush, rush. This one is a big a red flag. Rush, rush, rush before anyone has time to notice and better understand your tactics in 1, 2 and 3 above. Of course, rush, rush, rush was the tactic of choice used for the push to repeal the ACA.

What all this adds up to is the "Silver Bullet" approach to government.  Do whatever you want and make any claim that supports your desired action, whether or not true so long as the claim you make is the claim which, if true, would or might support your action. And, whether or not true, may not be relevant, but if irrelevant, would crowd out meaningful consideration of relevant policy details.

Is it any wonder that the Republican president lies all the time?

The Silver Bullet is also used in electoral campaigns including the permanent campaign pursued by the Trump administration. So the president argued in the campaign that he could not release his tax returns because he was under audit. That was a patently false statement, but it was a statement. The fact of the audit was irrelevant. He did not provide additional detail which would have been refutable. End of discussion. Mission accomplished.

So a visit by the few surviving Navajo code talkers is used as a campaign event to insult those White House guests with a "Pocohantas" jab, ostensibly aimed at Warren, but really used as a deflection. Funny how these moments so often involve people of color.

The Leonhardt piece ends with a mention of the failed Roy Moore scam targeted as the Washington Post. Suppose the scammer had been able to obtain video footage of the meeting with WaPo that could be sliced to place Wapo in a damaging light, whether or not fairly. That footage would be the Silver Bullet discrediting the Post, even though that particular footage would still be irrelevant to the guilt or innocence of Roy Moore of the charges brought by his accusers to date. Logical fallacies are of no concern to this crew and, no, both sides don't do it. Not like this. [Late update: the post-truth scammer doctored - whoops, I mean heavily edited - the tapes per Wapo here.]

An interesting sidebar to all this is the number of staunch Republicans -pundits and former officeholders - who find the current administration completely abhorrent. To name a few -  George Will, Steve Schmidt, Bruce Bartlett, Joe Scarborough, Mary Matalin, and many others. There is literally no precedent to the level of distress among party loyalists to an administration of their own party. In the decades preceding the electoral success of Trump, the Republican strategy consisted of saying almost anything and using hardball tactics during election campaigns, but pivoting to a softer tone while in office even while employing three-card-monte tactics now and then. An example would be the GW Bush 2001 Commission to Strengthen Social Security with members drawn from both parties, but which was stacked with advocates of private accounts.

When Tactics Become Policy refers in part to this post-1970 Republican game and the fact that when winning is all that matters, the tactics used to win elections or to win Congressional votes on policy matters inevitably end up distorting those policies, sometimes beyond recognition. In fact, the outcome ends up being a situation that absolutely no one ever wanted.

Unless your name is Vladimir Putin. Or Donald Trump.

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