"My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with the facts."

That seems to be the attitude of far too many of our progressive friends as well as our right-wing adversaries, when it comes to debating politics and public policy alternatives.

A friend of mine persistently voices the same empty platitudes about business, budgets, and efficiency, any time I mention certain topics on a Facebook post. Generally, what gets his knees jerking involves health care, education, or budget cuts. He operates a successful small business, and apparently within his personal experience all problems can be solved by healthy eating, exercise, and frugality.

He repeats the mantra of "there are always places to cut" and "just cut everything 10% across the board" any time one of his issue buttons is pushed. About 30 times over the past year or so, I've challenged him to read a summary of the federal budget, take the actual deficit, compare it the size of discretionary domestic spending, and explain exactly how he will cover the deficit by cuts alone. That's a trick question, of course, to the extent that numerically it can't be done. But will he even look at the numbers--either to admit that fact or even to dispute on some grounds the accuracy of the calculations? Nope. Can't be bothered. So he continues to mouth the same empty platitudes instead.

I get just as frustrated with folks on the progressive side of the policy equation when they take a position that fits their predisposition but just isn't supported by the hard facts. The current example which has me aggravated is a post, still front-paged here on BlueNC, in which a regular contributor asserts that Obama is raising taxes on the working poor.

It just ain't so. The unpleasant facts are that if the lame duck Congress takes no action, that results in a big tax hike for everybody, most definitely including the working poor. The fact is that the good tax breaks for them--including the much-praised Making Work Pay credit--expire at the end of 2010 as a matter of existing federal tax law. Nothing that Obama can do will change that, unless both chambers of Congress pass identical legislation to change it.

In order to avert that big tax hike, Obama has settled for what he believes is the best deal he can negotiate on behalf of the poor and the middle class. That deal includes content which will substantially reduce next year's tax burden on the working poor, compared to what will happen if no action is taken by Congress.

Now, Obama's proposed tax deal with the Republicans includes some sorry content. I'd take no factual issue with someone who wants to argue that the deal is so bad that our country overall would be better off with no Congressional action during the lame duck session than with adoption of that proposal. I'd not call out on the facts someone who argued that the Republicans would cave if Obama just held out and said that he'd take a no-deal stalemate over a bill that continued the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Either of those conclusions would be perfectly legitimate opinions, arguable analyses. I might or might not agree with them, but it wouldn't be a question of demonstrable factual error. It would just be a difference of opinion.

No, what frustrates me are the bald assertions that 2 + 2 = 22. That's Sarah Palin math, friends. We shouldn't be using it. And we shouldn't let our political colleagues get away with persuading us to accept it, either.


It is just as frustrating

As I am with Obama and his lack of understanding how to use the Presidency to push the agenda for change. Bush/Cheney did it exceedingly well, cut taxes, start wars, get prescription drug policy for elderly. Obama allowed a crappy and probably dead health care reform act (Supremes or Republican congress will kill it before it takes effect). He continues being handled by the military in dealing with his war in Afghanistan. DADT - dying. No tax cut for wealthy - dead. Closing Guantanamo or at least trying these people - dead. And many more.

Taking this deal now Obama only kicks the can down the road for a very short distance and pretty much makes the remainder of his one term as a lameduck.

Lead or get out of the way, when you don't lead and call out the crazies as crazy then 2 + 2 = 22 sounds reasonable to too many people. IMHO, Obama has decided to get out of the way.

I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle...
John Stuart Mill 1866

Sometimes, Dan, it's difficult to determine what

is versus what is not. Certainly our tax laws fall in that category of complexity and I'm fairly certain people here aren't purposefully ignoring facts. Facts sometimes aren't apparent. That doesn't excuse continuing to ignore facts when they become apparent.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, Congress and the President seem to be the ones most inclined to ignore facts. Those facts are going to lurch up out of their seething caldrons in the not distant future and some of these arguments are going to seem irrelevant. It's all too little and too late.

Stan Bozarth

I see the Obama kool-aid is still strong

Lord-a-mercy, Dan.

Many tax items change in a given year. Like, say... the estate tax rate or a tax credit on some item.

None of these potential changes alter Obama's proposal.

You assert:

The current example which has me aggravated is a post, still front-paged here on BlueNC, in which a regular contributor asserts that Obama is raising taxes on the working poor.

It just ain't so.

That's a flat out lie.

The working poor's taxes go up under Obama's proposal. The rich get tax cuts.

Those are the facts.

If Obama raised taxes on the rich (kept existing law), maybe I couldn't say this.

If Obama extended MWP (extended existing law), maybe I couldn't say this.

If Obama wrote a whole new tax code, maybe I couldn't say this.

The above three items are fantasy.

The fact of Obama's proposal is more taxes for the working poor and less taxes for the rich.

Deal with it.


Dan is correct in that...

If the extension had not passed, the working poor's taxes would have gone up more. The operative word is more. Yes, even with the extension, they do go up...just not as much. The rich....well, gollee durn, shor nuff gonna make out like bandits...just like they have been doing for years.

I don't think Dan is drinking the kool aid.

Stan Bozarth

What can we agree on?

Taxes are not going up on the rich under the deal, which means the deficit will deepen. Check.

The "deal" deepens the structural deficit, which will be used by R's to further shred safety-net programs.

The "deal" puts a dent in the integrity of Social Security.

Beyond that, it appears to me that Obama is not explicitly raising taxes on poor households next year, though the net effect of all the changes will most assuredly put more financial burdens on most poor households.

I see the deal as a disastrous failure of leadership. The only bright lining is the fact that the chasm between haves and have-nots will widen to the size of the Grand Canyon, thereby precipitating the second American revolution, sooner than later.

Obama is explicitly raising taxes on the poor next year

Obama swapped out MWP for a payroll tax holiday (among many other things).

That is making new tax policy that increases taxes on the working poor.

It couldn't be more clear.

Apologize for Obama all you want. He cut a deal that will hurt the working poor.


Step away from the keyboard?

Accusing me of apologizing for Obama is like me accusing you of being a tea bagger. In what parallel universe are we living today?

I looked at the chart. What of it?

That chart is broken out by percentiles.

Any grouping of percentiles can be summed to come up with the false conclusion of "tax cut for all."

The fact remains. Folks earning less than $20,000 will see their taxes rise under the Obama plan.

Here's another link and another chart.

Here are the specifics without getting mealy-mouthed and squishing living, breathing people into percentile groups.

The Making Work Pay credit gives workers up to $400, paid out at 8 percent of income, meaning that anybody making at least $5,000 gets the full amount — and gets as much as anybody else. Its replacement knocks two percentage points off the payroll tax cut, meaning a worker would need to make $20,000 to get a $400 break. Of the nation’s roughly 150 million workers, around 50 million make less than $20,000 and will see at least some increase as a result.

Additionally, roughly a quarter of 20 million state and local workers pay no payroll tax, because they have a separate pension system. Some of those workers with children will benefit from the extension of other tax credits, but overall will have less money in their pocket.


And here we have the classic example.

User accuses me of lying because I explain how he is making a factually inaccurate assertion.

I've tried to differentiate between the complete legitimacy of arguing that Obama's proposal is bad policy, on the one hand; and the utter illegitimacy of basing your case on a false premise. To no avail. No analysis of detail can shake User of his faith-based assertion that blue is green in this case--and that the rest of us are just lying when we try to point that out.

That's what I find frustrating about much of what passes for policy debate in today's political climate. It reverts to the schoolyard level of who can shout most loudly, "I know you are, but what am I?"

It's what we see from the far right time after time on climate change. Instead of acknowledging the evidence that climate is changing, and making the candid argument that we're better off ignoring the fact because the costs of action are high, they attack the scientists who report the change.

And so we get "death panels". Mushroom-cloud-as-smoking-gun. And all the rest.

I'm still not sure of the best way to beat this trend, but it isn't by joining the big-lie parade.

Dan Besse

Dan, you seem to be a reasonable, thoughtful person

who builds opinions on factual foundations. The catch is - not everyone is like you. For some people go through life with their cup always full. And no amount of rational discussion or facts will convince them to empty their cup.

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?


believes that Obama could have negotiated a better deal by holding out. Johnston says that about 45 million households earning less than $20,000/year will pay $150 to $200 more in taxes under the deal than they paid this year, because it does not include an extension of the Making Work Pay credit.

Ryan Grim of Huffington Post says it's about 50 million individual workers who fall into the less than $20,000/year earnings category. He notes that the MWP credit is paid out at 8% of income up to a max of $400. The MWP credit is payable regardless of whether the worker actually paid any federal income taxes that year.

For some of those households, therefore, we are actually talking instead about the absence of a stimulus check, rather than an increase in taxes paid.

Otherwise, however, Johnston's phrasing seems basically accurate--and he does at least blame Obama for something that can be fairly argued as a matter of opinion: that he could have done better if he'd held out longer.

Dan Besse