Archives for: August 2012, 03
Harry Reid has gone too far. His accusations against Governor Romney remind me of another argument from a few years back.
Historical figures are often the posthumous victims of a sort of Breitbarting practice. They aren't defamed so much as they are cast as ventriloquist figures, mouthing quotes they never uttered in real life. David Barton, conservative Christian polemicist and self-described historian, often practices a variation. He takes partial quotes by founding fathers and presents them as the opposite of what was actually said. John Adams once wrote a letter in which he quite ruthlessly mocked those who want to combine church and state. "Alas, the poor weak ignorant dupe human nature." He described the point of view he was mocking in extreme terms.
The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered, but by the Holy Ghost, who is transmitted from age to age by laying the hands of the bishop upon the heads of candidates for the ministry. ... There is no authority, civil or religious; there can be no legitimate government, but what is administered by the Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it; all without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words, damnation.
Got it? Adams describes a point of view that sees a church hierarchy as originating with the Holy Ghost and which describes that church authority as the only source of legitimate government. He describes those who believe that to be weak, ignorant, dupes.
David Barton has sliced and diced that letter and introduced us to a John Adams that Barton insists believed that religious authority is the only source of legitimate government. See? Adams said it himself in a letter: "There is no authority, civil or religious; there can be no legitimate government, but what is administered by the Holy Ghost." When confronted on television about the lie, he acknowledged what Adams actually said, but denied misleading anyone. After all, the actual text was available on Barton's website for anyone who cared to drill through the links to get to it.
It grieves me to say that David Barton, not to put too fine a point on it, is not an honest man.
Not every distortion is accomplished with partial quotes. A lot of them are simply made up.
I was once part of an on-line discussion in which Abraham Lincoln was quoted making an inflamed anti-Labor statement. It was quite harsh. Lincoln did make a few statements about labor and capital, all of them, at least those I had read, favorable to laborers. This one had been floating around and I had gotten a viral email a few weeks before. So I had done some research. It turned out the quote had been invented by a journalist who later admitted to making it up, acknowledging it in print.
So I showed the research. I demonstrated how nothing of the sort had been published about Lincoln until it first appeared in a column by that journalist. I showed a few quotes that Lincoln had actually said that contradicted the false quote. And I provided a link to the admission. The quote was made up.
The on-line debater would not give up. Nobody could prove to a certainty that Lincoln had never actually said what the journalist had made up. To the amusement of other participants he demanded that I prove that Lincoln had never actually said it. It wasn't up to him to prove it was said. I should prove he didn't say it.
I was thinking about that incident as I read yesterday about the twin challenges to Governor Romney on taxes.
He has published a tax plan that would go well beyond the proposed extension of generous Bush tax cuts that Republicans are campaigning for. It would, he says, provide an economic boom by providing additional tax incentives to those who create jobs. He promised to make up for the lost tax revenue by closing loopholes. He declined to say which loopholes.
A while ago, the Brookings Institution and the Urban League started a research center called the Tax Policy Center. They got a top economic advisor to President George W. Bush, Donald Marron, to head it up. The Center wanted to analyze the Romney tax-cuts-for-the-one-percent tax plan. One of the economists Donald Marron got to help out was William Gale, who worked for the first Bush White House, working with the Council of Economic Advisers.
The Tax Policy Center started with basic math. They accounted for the tax cuts for the top 2%, the tax cuts Romney was specific about. They took seriously his pledge to make up for the cuts by closing loopholes and ending tax benefits. Then they started at the top. If they closed all the deductions for the top billionaires, it wouldn't make up for the cuts. If they also took out every tax deduction for millionaires, that wouldn't come close either. If they assumed a dramatic economic increase? Nope. That wouldn't do it either. They went to those earning 250,000 a year. Nope. Not enough.
To make it work the way Governor Romney pledged, they had to assume all home mortgage deductions, all medical expense deductions, pretty much all deductions that middle class taxpayers count on and eliminate them. They could then make up for the new tax cuts for the wealthy, the ones in addition to the generous Bush tax cuts, if they raised taxes on the middle class and applied a new tax level on the working poor.
In order to pay for the new tax cuts Governor Romney plans for the very wealthy, taxes will have to go up for 95% of Americans. There seems to be no mathematical way around it.
At about the same time, Senator Harry Reid made what struck many of us as a Bachmann type accusation about Mitt Romney's personal taxes. A Bain investor, says Reid, had told him that Mitt Romney had gone for a ten year period making millions but paying no taxes at all: Swiss accounts, Cayman Islands, off-shore and so on. Harry Reid says he has no way of evaluating the accusation. He's just passing the information along to the public.
The Reid thing is more than a little thin. It's pretty much paper-thin-sliced-many-times thin. It's thin like the tread on my tires when I was much, much younger. And that tread was so thin you could see the air inside the tires.
Here's the thing, though.
Governor Romney said the Tax Policy Center analysis was a joke. That's the word he used. "Joke." The impact of the Romney plan to cut taxes for the wealthy cannot be calculated, he told Fox News, because he hasn't released the details.
And he challenged Harry Reid to come clean. Reid should reveal the information he claims to have showing Romney paid no taxes.
Okay. In fairness, conclusions and accusations should take into consideration all the facts.
The Bush economists at the Tax Policy Center should have applied to their analysis the tax rate increases that Romney is keeping secret until after the election.
And, come on, Senator Reid. This is silly. Mitt Romney is right. Harry Reid should come clean. The public has a right to know. Senator Reid should release Mitt Romney's secret tax returns, and he should do it now.