Chris Matthews made false, misleading, and baseless claims regarding Democratic tax policy, fiscal responsibility, and public opinion of Democratic credibility on taxes, claiming that "Democrats cannot match" Republicans "on the issue of taxes" and that if "you put a Democrat in there, they're gonna raise your taxes."
During MSNBC's coverage of President Bush's October 11 press conference and on MSNBC's Hardball later that day, Chris Matthews made false, misleading, and baseless claims regarding Democratic tax policy, fiscal responsibility, and public opinion of Democratic credibility on taxes.
Immediately following MSNBC's airing of the press conference, Matthews baselessly claimed that "Democrats cannot match" Republicans "on the issue of taxes," which "I believe, having watched politics for a number of years, is the best Republican strategy." In fact, as Media Matters for America demonstrated when Matthews similarly mischaracterized public opinion on tax policy, polling shows Democrats are more trusted by the public on taxes than their Republican counterparts, a finding that is reaffirmed in the most recent Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll on the subject, which had the gap widening in the Democrats' favor, from a 46-35 advantage on taxes in February 2006 to a 45-30 advantage in September. Matthews returned to baselessly claiming the tax issue benefits Republicans despite admitting in March that polling indicated "people trust Democrats more on tax cutting."
Matthews also misleadingly claimed during the press conference coverage that Republicans are "not any more fiscally responsible than the Democrats are." But as Media Matters has repeatedly pointed out (here and, more recently, here) in response to false and misleading statements by Matthews regarding the relative fiscal responsibility of Democrats and Republicans, the Clinton administration was marked by a gradual reduction in budget deficits leading to four years of large surpluses, while Bush's presidency has seen record budget deficits.
Later in the evening, on the October 11 edition of Hardball, Matthews mischaracterized the Democratic position on taxation, saying that "the best case [Republicans] got against the Democrats -- which holds pretty soundly -- you put a Democrat in there, they're gonna raise your taxes." One of his guests, Washington Post staff writer Jim VandeHei, corrected Matthews, noting that "no Democrat is actually running on the platform that they're going to raise taxes on anyone other than those making over $200,000." Indeed, as Media Matters for America has noted, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has said that if the Democrats were to win control of the House and he were to become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Democrats "would not raise taxes" and "would not roll back" President Bush's tax cuts enacted by Congress that are set to expire in 2010. Nonetheless, Matthews disregarded VandeHei's point and, turning to his other guest, Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson, maintained that "the Democrats have to do that [raise taxes] to be consistent with their social ambitions and what they want to do with the government."
In the past, Matthews has similarly persisted with other baseless claims, before eventually correcting himself. Notably, Matthews repeatedly claimed that most Americans had a favorable impression of President Bush personally even if they disliked his policies. For example, on the November 28, 2005, edition of Hardball, Matthews said that "[e]verybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left -- I mean -- like him personally." In December 2005, Media Matters pointed out that the majority of the public did not, in fact, have positive personal opinions of the president. By March 2006, Matthews acknowledged the polling, but declared himself to be "amazed" that "50 percent of the people don't like" the president. "I always thought Bush was more popular than his policies," Matthews said of the president's lackluster favorability ratings, adding, "I keep saying it, and I keep being wrong on this."
From the October 11 edition of MSNBC News Live at 12 p.m. ET:
MATTHEWS: I would tighten it up to the words T and T. Taxes. The Democrats, quote, "will raise taxes." That's some pretty strong language -- a threat to the American voter out there who has been electing Republican congresspeople now for 12 years. You're right -- the Democrats will raise taxes if you put them in. No matter what you think about Iraq or [former Rep.] Mark Foley [R-FL] or all the other mess up there on Capitol Hill, if you put the Democrats back in, you're going to pay more money to the federal government.
That's a direct political shot at the Democrats -- it may be true, but extremely political. So the president, T and T, terrorism, the war in Iraq, as he put it today again, is part of the war on terrorism. If you put the Democrats back in in Congress, they'll raise your taxes.
MATTHEWS: What he's [Bush] trying to do is remind the middle-class, the suburban voter that there are stakes besides morality here -- your tax bill. So he's saying, "OK, you don't like the Foley scandal, you don't like the war in Iraq, but remember, put Nancy Pelosi up in the speaker's chair, and you're paying more taxes."
MATTHEWS: On the issue of taxes, I'll go back to this -- I believe, having watched politics for many years, that the Republican strength is that they don't try to do too much at the federal-government level. Yes, they've got deficits, yes, they're not any more fiscally responsible than the Democrats are, but they do promise relentlessly to cut taxes. And here you have the president of the United States saying today, "I want to make my tax cuts permanent. They've already given us economic growth. Stick with these growth-oriented tax policies." And the Democrats cannot match him on this. They will not commit to cutting taxes because they do believe in federal programs, and they want the money to pay for them.
From the October 11 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: The best case they got against the Democrats, which holds pretty soundly -- you put a Democrat in there, they're gonna raise your taxes. In fact, he said, they say they're gonna just raise 'em on the rich people, but you watch 'em. I love that part of the speech. Jim VandeHei, that was so solid. That goes into every suburban Republican district in the country and says, "OK, you don't like Denny Hastert, you don't like Mark Foley, you don't like this war. But just remember, if you put a Democrat in the seat -- my seat, then you're gonna have higher taxes.
VANDEHEI: Absolutely. And they -- no Democrat is actually running on the platform that they're going to raise taxes on anyone other than those making over $200,000. But it's still super effective. The big reason, Chris -- the big reason that it works --
MATTHEWS: But they'd like to raise taxes on everybody, wouldn't they? Wouldn't they like to raise taxes on everybody?
VANDEHEI: On everybody? No. I don't -- there's no Democrat out there that's campaigning on that. The reason that it's effective, Chris, is because Democrats have recruited so many Democrats that are running as moderate or centrists in districts they usually can't compete well in. And that really hits home in those districts because they really care about taxes, a lot of middle-class people in there. And once you say I'm going to raise taxes on anyone, it allows Bush or anyone else to come and say, "They're gonna raise your taxes." Always been effective.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you, Margaret. Where does it sell well that I'm gonna raise taxes on anybody? I just don't know where that wins. Except the Democrats have to do that to be consistent with their social ambitions and what they wanna do with the government.
MATTHEWS: You think some of that revenge vote works, there? Get 'em, get the rich people. Tag 'em for some money.