Daniel Gross, business columnist for Newsweek and author of Slate.com's Moneybox column, debunks claims by Larry Kudlow, Michael Gerson (and countless others) that Barack Obama is waging class war on the rich:
It's hard to overstate how absurd these claims are. First, let's talk about the "massive increase in progressivity" that Gerson deplores. It consists largely (but not exclusively) of returning marginal tax rates to their levels of 2001, before Gerson and the epically incompetent Bush administration of which he was a part got their hands on the reins of power.
[W]e know from recent experience that marginal tax rates of 36 percent and 39 percent aren't wealth killers. I was around in the 1990s, when tax rates were at that level, and when capital gains and dividend taxes were significantly higher than they are today. And I seem to remember that we had a stock market boom, a broad rise in incomes (with the wealthy benefitting handily), and strong economic growth.
Finally, there has been a near total absence of discussion of what higher rates will mean in the real world. Say you're a CNBC anchor, or a Washington Post columnist with a seat at the Council on Foreign Relations, or a dentist, and you managed to cobble together $350,000 a year in income. You're doing quite well. If you subtract deductions for state and property taxes, mortgage interest and charitable deductions, and other deductions, the amount on which tax rates are calculated might total $300,000. What would happen if the marginal rate on the portion of your income above $250,000 were to rise from 33 percent to 36 percent? Under the old regime, you'd pay $16,500 in federal taxes on that amount. Under the new one, you'd pay $18,000. The difference is $1,500 per year, or $4.10 per day. Obviously, the numbers rise as you make more. But is $4.10 a day bleeding the rich, a war on the wealthy, a killer of innovation and enterprise? That dentist eager to slash her income from $320,000 to $250,000 would avoid the pain of paying an extra $2,100 in federal taxes. But she'd also deprive herself of an additional $70,000 in income!
Can she, or we, really be that stupid?
Gross also makes a point too often overlooked: "this return to 2001's tax rates was actually part of the Bush tax plan. The Republicans who controlled the White House and the Republicans who controlled the Congress earlier this decade decreed that all the tax cuts they passed would sunset in 2010."
Read the whole thing; it -- along with this column from Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times -- is a rare sensible and factual take on Obama's budget proposals in the midst of a lot of media hyperventilation about "class war."
Big shock, we know. But today Kurtz transcribes GOP talking points that the White House under no circumstances is allowed to mention Rush Limbaugh's name and that by answering reporters' questions about Limbaugh, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is "going after private citizens." Because apparently the First Amendment no longer applies to the White House.
But here's where Kurtz plays dumb, as he puffs up Limbaugh:
For nearly two decades, the radio host has masterfully inserted himself into political disputes by pushing the usual boundaries. In last year's Democratic primaries, he tried to derail Obama with what he dubbed Operation Chaos, urging his followers to cross over and vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
See, Limbaugh's a master. Except when he's not. Like, oh, I don't know, 12 months ago when he launched a jihad against John McCain, announcing that under no circumstances was he to become the nominee of the Republican Party.
And what did Republican voters nationwide do in response? They promptly ignored Limbaugh's rantings and handed McCain an easy nomination victory.
Yep, that Rush is a real master.
UPDATE: More of the right-wing nonsense (courtesy of Fox News) that Rush Limbaugh should be "free to speak his mind," but that's it's basically illegal for the White House to respond.
We knew Cramer lived to hear himself talk, but this is getting ridiculous. Borrowing a page from Limbaugh, Cramer has penned a tedious open letter to the White House where he, in part, fantasizes that he's on the Obama Enemies List. Why? Because Cramer's name was brought up by a reporter at a White House press briefing this week.
That apparently signaled to Cramer that he needed to write more about himself under the guise of writing about the administration and the stock market.
-Number of times Cramer refers to "Obama" in open letter to White House: 9.
-Number of times Cramer refers to himself in open letter to White House: 43.
It reminds me of a passage from the recent Esquire profile of Cramer:
Because the only subject more fascinating to Jim Cramer than the stock market is, naturally, Jim Cramer.
From today's Newark Star-Ledger:
The hapless, and now worthless, newspaper chain which is in the process of going belly-up, really ought to serve as a case study some day regarding what went terribly wrong with the American newspaper industry. And how, during the last couple decades, greedy outsiders without the slightest commitment to journalism or communities, were able to drag some worthy newspapers into the abyss.
At the top of that list is the mid-sized Journal Register Co., which, I'm guessing, will soon shutter its 'flagship' daily, the New Haven Register in Connecticut, in part because the Journal Register Co. doesn't have the slightest idea of how to operate a newspaper, let alone turn a profit.
The destruction that the Journal Register has done to the Register, and to Connecticut journalism in general, over the years is almost beyond description. The company took a community-minded newspaper that enjoyed a monopoly and beefy subscribers rates, and gutted the operation through mindless cost cutting, and that was during the economic boom times.
Anyway, here's the latest:
The Connecticut attorney general's office objected Wednesday to a plan by Journal Register Co. to pay its top executives up to $1.7 million in bonuses even as the newspaper publisher seeks Chapter 11 protection from creditors.
What are the bonuses for? For gutting the company's newspapers, of course:
The bonus plan would apply to 31 "key employees" who could receive an average of $15,700 each if 450 positions are cut by March 31, according to the company's motion for "incentive pay" filed with the court. Further bonuses totaling about $1.2 million would be available if the employees met other goals including eliminating publications and reaching certain financial targets.
This sentence, typed up by Howard Kurtz at the WashPost, offers a nice window into the world of the corporate Beltway press and just how skewed its view of politics is. The context was Kurtz thought it was a huge deal that CNBC's Jim Cramer went running off at the mouth again and criticized Obama's budget as "radical."
Wrote Kurtz [emphasis added]:
The reason this is noteworthy is that Cramer is a liberal Democrat who, for example, strongly backed his former Goldman Sachs colleague Jon Corzine for New Jersey governor.
Got that? Because professional Wall Street cheerleader Jim Cramer has backed his friend and former Goldman Sachs CEO, that makes Cramer a liberal Democrat.
Only in The Village.
BTW, liberal Democrats don't talk like this.
Not a word Wednesday night from ABC, CBS or NBC about the Journal's big A1 story yesterday:
As bad as 2008 was for Merrill Lynch & Co., it was very good for Andrea Orcel, the firm's top investment banker. Although Merrill's net loss ballooned to $27.6 billion last year, Mr. Orcel, 45 years old, was paid $33.8 million in cash and stock, just shy of his pay in 2007.
The networks have all recently reported on the pay of middle class autoworkers while the Big Three looked for a government bailout. But the nets didn't care about the fact that Merrill Lynch, which has benefited from taxpayer support (indirectly via TARP funds), lost $27 billion last year yet nearly 150 employees were paid more than $3 million. Or that:
Thomas Montag, the head of global sales and trading at Merrill, made $39.4 million in 2008, even though his first day on the job was in August.
Nope, nothing to see here, folks.
From its First Thoughts [emphasis added]:
To paraphrase Dickens, the last six weeks have been the best of times for Obama and the Democrats, and the worst of times for the Republicans. Just consider the latest findings from our NBC/WSJ poll: Obama's favorability rating is at 68% (an all-time high in our survey), 67% say they feel more hopeful about his leadership, 60% approve of his job in the White House, and 49% have a positive view of the Democratic Party (which is also near a high). On the other hand, just 26% view the GOP positively (an all-time low in the poll), respondents blame Bush and congressional Republicans for most of the partisanship in DC, 56% think the GOP's opposition to Obama is based on politics, and Republicans lose by nearly 30 percentage points on the question about which party would do a better job of leading the country out of recession.
All's I can say is thank God for polling. Because if the surveys didn't exist we'd still have a press corps focusing on the Republicans' "win" over Obama's stimulus package. (Why? Because Republicans always outmaneuver Democrats.) A win that, according to the American people and not the surgically disconnected Beltway press corps, was actually a colossal failure.
For those with short-term memory woes, let's recap how, just a few weeks ago, the press was tipping its cap to the GOP and its genius stimulus strategy of going all in against Obama and slapping the president's hand of bipartisanship.
*Politico's Jeanne Cummings warned Obama was "losing [the] stimulus message war."
*The Los Angeles Times, Peter Wallsten asserted that "[a] surprisingly unified GOP has taken control of the debate" about the stimulus plan.
*The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman and Naftali Bendavid referenced in a February 6 article "Republicans' remarkable success during the past two weeks ... shaping a public image of the bill as pork-laden and ineffective."
*Newsweek senior editor Michael Hirsh wrote that that Obama "has allowed the GOP to turn the haggling over the stimulus package into a decidedly stale, Republican-style debate over pork, waste and overspending." Hirsh continued: "Team Obama and his party are losing the debate" about the stimulus plan.
*On MSNBC's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Newsweek senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe claimed the Democrats' "messaging has not worked." Wolffe also stated of the administration: "What they haven't done is say, hey, it's not just about spending. It's about mitigating, softening the blow of this recession for regular, working Americans. That's the bit they've failed on. They've let it be hijacked by all this extraneous spending programs."
*On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin asserted that "official Washington has decided Obama is losing the PR war on the stimulus."
To repeat: the Republicans' public approval ratings are now at an all-time low. The press never saw that coming.
The AM talker's jump-the-shark moment from yesterday's show, where Limbaugh suggested Obama appear on his radio show for a debate (no deluded sense of self-grandeur there, right?), comes against the backdrop of Limbaugh refusing a previous public debate.
As Jason Linkins notes at HuffPost:
Perhaps he has forgotten, but Limbaugh already has a standing challenge from CNN's banisher of "bias" and "bull" Campbell Brown, to appear on the air and debate their chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, who Limbaugh had previously maligned. Oh, and here's some trash talk from a Democratic party operative, who writes, "Just saying...if you cant stand up to Campbell, you shouldn't be calling Rahm effeminate and calling out the President."
First we had Time's Michael Scherer with his the-Democrats-made-Rush-do-it nonsense (click here for a chuckle), and now Times' David Von Drehle tops that with his painfully dumb take on the Limbaugh story.
Criticizing Rush Limbaugh: Over the Line?
That's right, Rush is now the victim.
Read, if you must:
Sooner or later, most presidential administrations make some version of the Sun King's mistake. "L'etat c'est moi," press secretary Robert Gibbs crept up to that line - even put his toe over - as he tried to capitalize on the anti-Obama declarations of talk-show behemoth Rush Limbaugh.is said to have declared - "I am the state." To criticize the man becomes downright unpatriotic.
Got that? Reporters asked Gibbs about Limbaugh. Gibbs answered, and now Gibbs is at fault because, according to Von Drehle, the arrogant White House is trying to silence dissent.
Von Drehle, completely making stuff up, claims the White House has dubbed criticism "unpatriotic."