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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Story Too Good to Let Die

Barack Obama is a liberal. Liberal, liberal, liberal! And you know what that means -- he's going to raise your taxes. Why is he going to raise your taxes? To give government more money to spend. Why does he want government to have more money to spend? Because he's a liberal. Lather, rinse, repeat.

One thing we know about circular reasoning is that it's never actually correct. Cause and effect can't be the same thing, yet in a circular argument, that's what you're asked to believe. Obama wants to raise taxes, because he's a liberal -- and he's a liberal because he wants to raise taxes. Logically speaking, this argument has as much value as "because I said so, that's why."

Since this argument is so shaky, the right needs to constantly be on the lookout for evidence to back it up. Sure, the teabaggers are convinced that Obama already has raised their taxes, but they live in a world without logic, where the assertion is all it takes to establish fact. If you want other people to believe that the administration and Congress has raised their taxes, then the administration and Congress are just going to have to raise people's taxes.

So you can imagine the glee with which Republicans greeted the headline, "President Obama's budget seeks an end to tax break for the middle class." That headline, based on a Reuters story, ran in the DC newspaper The Hill.

Grappling to contain record deficits, President Barack Obama is seeking to end a middle-class tax break he once said would be permanent.

The $3.8 trillion budget request rolled out by the White House on Monday would renew the Making Work Pay tax credit for fiscal 2011, but then would have it sunset.

That’s a switch from last year, when Obama’s budget called for making the tax credit permanent.

Ah ha! The rightwing blogosphere went nuts with the story, which later turned out to be untrue. The Hill kept the story up, but altered the content so much that the story no longer justified the headline -- or was even internally consistent. For their part, Reuters could no longer stand by the story at all. They pulled it. People following links to their content get a notice saying the story is "wrong and has been withdrawn... There will be no substitute story."

See, the tax cuts that would sunset were only for people earning over $250,000 a year. Not for everyone as the original story had reported. This was in no way a "middle class tax increase."

But hey, examples of circular reasoning bearing out are understandably rare, so this story was just too good to let go. At the Libertarian, Paul Craig Roberts insisted that $250,000 counts as "upper middle class." At Power Line, Scott Johnson insists that -- despite being pulled -- the Reuters story was mostly true. Others say -- without any evidence at all -- that the story is entirely true and that this is an example of "Obama censorship."

OK, so $250,000 is "upper middle class." I guess -- if you're extremely generous with your definition of "middle." People earning $200,000 or more make up 4.2% of Americans. In fact, the tax would hit only half of those, with about 2% hitting that percentile. Let's put this into perspective; if people within the top 2% are upper middle class, then people belonging to the bottom 2% are lower middle class. This means that middle class families are living in boxes in alleys.

What we learn from this is that, no matter what, a story showing Obama raising taxes on the middle class will not die, because it won't be allowed to.


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Steven Marty Grant said...

I have no issue with the wealhty taking on a much bigger portion of the tax burden, but using a set amount regardless of other factors is not fair. $250,000 would be a great income in New Mexico, but in New York or California it is very much middle class.

Wisco said...

Let's do some math. California's median income is $62K, while NY's is $55k. The national median is $52k.(

So, what you're saying is that the middle class includes anyone roughly $200k away from the middle. By this logic, you could live in California and have negative earnings to the tune of $-188K or in NY and earn $-195k and be middle class. In other words, people with literally no money at all are middle class.

Apparently, there's no such thing as someone who isn't middle class -- making the distinction pretty much meaningless.

Steven Marty Grant said...

If someone is living in Manhattan and making only $55K then they are functionally poor. Median rent for a one bedroom apt in Manhattan is over $2000 per month and for a mortgage it is over $3000. The distinction of middle class is not about income it is about disposable income and lifestyle.

Wisco said...

No. It's about income. People who work in Manhattan commute from as far away as Harpers Ferry. If you live in Manhattan and you can't afford it, then you're just living above your means.

You could just as easily argue that Someone in Bel Air is "poor" because they bring in $100k/yr. Among the movie stars and billionaires, I suppose we could call $10-50 mil a year "middle class."

Except it's not.

Anonymous said...

Dude, get out of Wisconsin and smell the coffee... you've been isolated a bit too long. Do you travel at all? I've lived in almost every major city in the US and have experienced huge variances in the cost of living. So are you saying I don't deserve to live in NYC if I only make $40,000 a year? I visited Milwaukee last year and it was dirt cheap comparatively to many cities. But I DON'T want to live in Milwaukee. I happen to make twice that amount and live in Manhattan now and I'm barely getting by because my rent is $2,300/month for a crappy 600 sq ft tenement, pay an extra $400 per month to park my car 4 blocks away, and the cost of a lemon is $1 a piece! Plus the fact that I'm already taxed to death!

vet said...

Anon, you're illustrating Wisco's point. You live in NY, you earn $80k - fine. But you could earn three times that and still not be hit by this tax "increase". I'm guessing you could live pretty comfortably, even in Manhattan, on $240k.

And that's the free market's way of separating rich people from poor people. Only rich people can afford to live decently in Manhattan. That's not an unintended consequence, that's a deliberate design feature of the market capitalist system. But why should rich people who choose to live in Manhattan pay less tax than rich people who choose to live in Milwaukee?

William said...

2300.00 a month? Well I see smarts don't go with income. I Live in Trenton "Dude" make more than 20,000 a year less than you. Pay 679.00 a month MORTGAGE, BTW that's with taxas. I would have to be a few fries short of a happy meal to live in NY if I were you. IT'S TIME TO MOVE. Take the train. Or suck it up.

Anonymous said...

Vet, my point is that I'm heavily taxed and will continue to be taxed because I'm considered "rich". I have a partner and together (in a good year), we would be taxed as a quarter of a millionaire!

The rich will always be rich - why hate the rich? They may have inherited it or worked their a** off for it. But why keep taking away from them (and me) to give to the poor, who only take advantage of the system. I personally know of a pregnant Mexican girl, who has all the best care for her delivery and it's all paid for by the govt, aka me. She has no job and does not contribute an ounce to society. I know of people on food stamps in Harlem, who stand in line at the market to trade their stamps for cash with the customers. Where are your tax dollars going there?

William, you live in Trenton. Enough said. I'm not complaining about living in NYC - quite the opposite, I love it here. I would rather pay the high rent than live in Trenton for free. I deal with it. I just can't stand people who bag on people like me because they think I'm rich.

Steven Marty Grant said...

Vet, I was talking about people making $250K. Wisco hates rich people, I get that, and is in favor of wealth redistribution. The thing is that a person making $250,000 in Omaha has a lot more “wealth” than a person making that amount in LA or NYC. The people that live in the city choose to do so and they pay the price, but don’t forget that they pay more for food, clothing, rent, gas and entertainment. Those dollars generate additional tax revenues for the city and state. If we set a threshold based strictly on a dollar amount then we are going to punish people in New York and California way more than people in Montana or Arkansas.

Wisco said...

OK, it's looking like everyone sucks at math.

SMG says that a quarter of a million a year is middle class, because it costs 2K a month for an apartment in Manhattan. Let's forget that NYC isn't ONLY Manhattan and pretend this argument makes any damned sense at all.

So your Manhattan digs cost you $24,000 -- leaving you only $226,000 a year to live on.

O the humanity! You've gone and blown almost 10% of your income on housing! How can anyone be expected to survive such hardship! For this to be in line with the median income, people would have to be spending $5,000 a year on housing. Why, that's more than $400! Seriously, who can possibly afford that?!?

Clearly, President Obama is taking the food out of the mouths of quadrennial millionaires. How could he be so heartless?

Steven Marty Grant said...

Wisco, I get it; people should not be allowed to make $250,000 a year and should be punished if they do. What I am trying to get across is that an arbitrary dollar amount is not a fair metric. Incomes have different values and provide vastly different standards of living around the country. When I lived in St Louis I made $XX,XXX and enjoyed a good standard of living. Now I live in New York and make about 150% of what I made in St Louis but my standard of living has decreased. With our tax code I pay more in taxes than I did when I lived in STL but have far less disposable income. I don’t make anywhere near $250K but the principle is the same regardless of the amount.
The top 5% of wage earners in this country carry 50% of the tax burden, do you really think they are not doing their share?

Wisco said...

What are you talking about? I never said no one should make $250,000/yr and I challenge you to find anything on this blog that's been posted over the years that contradicts that.

What I'm saying is that calling someone who makes a quarter million dollars a year "middle class" is absurd. What I'm saying is that comparing the rent on a $2k apt. for someone making that much to the rent paid by the average, middle class family is absurd. What I'm saying is that there were plenty of rich people before Bush cut taxes for the rich and there will be plenty of rich people after those tax cuts sunset.

If wealthy people want to whine that they can barely make ends meet on $250,000/yr... well, cry me a freakin' river.

sofa said...

Obama is a communist. wisco is a communist. Comunists killed 150 million of their own people during the 20th Century. Wisco supports that.

You do the math.

Wisco said...

Comunists killed 150 million of their own people during the 20th Century. Wisco supports that.

sofa, you are such a worthless, lying troll.