On any given day politics and politicians, regardless of political leanings, have a unique ability to elicit a what the heck moment. President Obama make the cut for today’s moment by way of comparison with conservatives Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Ronald Reagan, Steve Forbes, Bob Dole, Pat Buchanan and the notoriously corrupt Phil Gramm ( former Texas senator). The time Republicans embraced the Buffett Rule
It wasn’t long ago that top Republicans were appalled by the idea of giving super-rich investors a big tax break. Steve Kornacki writes something of a second part to an Ezra Klein post from a few months ago – Obama revealed: A moderate Republican. Obama and Congressional Democrats have implemented or tried to implement several public policy initiatives that conservatives supported….before Obama was president.
What does feel different, though, is how often we’ve heard Obama-era Republicans frantically sound the alarm over ideas that they themselves once embraced. The rendering of the individual healthcare mandate, a concept with deep conservative roots and one that numerous GOP member of Congress actively pushed for in the mid-1990s, as a jobs- and freedom-killing abomination is a good example of this.
Another, as it turns out, involves tax fairness. The outcry from the right over Obama’s renewed insistence that the wealthiest Americans assume a slightly higher tax burden has been fierce and unrelenting.
[ ]…Case in point: Reagan’s campaign for tax reform in the mid-’80s, during which he blasted “crazy” and “unproductive” tax loopholes that “allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.” A clip of the Gipper making that argument has been circulating online since last week.
[ ]…Forbes launched a lavish advertising campaign decrying the IRS and touting his own plan’s simplicity (you’d be able to do your taxes on a postcard!) while promising that it would unleash torrential economic growth. The idea, and Forbes, caught on. He began moving up in polling and attracting serious press coverage (like the Newsweek cover story that you see at the top of this piece). By January, he’d actually taken the lead in New Hampshire and had become a legitimate threat to win the nomination.
Which is when his fellow candidates started paying a lot more attention to him and to his flat tax plan. The attacks that they launched are notable in that they ran counter to just about everything the GOP now says about taxation and the wealthy and “class warfare.”
Take Gramm, who was positioning himself as the “pure” conservative in the race and offering a flat tax of his own. But there was a difference: His plan would still tax capital gains income, while Forbes’ wouldn’t. Gramm decried this as a politically suicidal giveaway to the rich, one that would sentence Forbes to a landslide November defeat if the GOP were to nominate him.
“There’s no doubt about the fact you could buy every ad on the Super Bowl,” Gramm said, “and you could never convince the American people that you ought to have a 17 percent tax on wages and salaries, but much of investment income should go untaxed.”
[ ]…What’s notable in looking back, though, is that Gramm, Alexander and Dole were all essentially endorsing the Buffett Rule. But just 15 years later, that position is now regarded as heresy in the GOP.
[ ]…Just consider the case of Buchanan, who remains a prominent voice in politics today. On the McLaughlin Group recently, he asserted that the Buffett Rule is “rooted in the philosophy of envy.” He could have added, but didn’t, that it’s also rooted in the Buchanan ’96 campaign platform, because back then he savaged the Forbes plan, claiming that it was “worked up by the boys at the yacht basin.” And he introduced his own version of the Buffett Rule. “David Rockefeller,” Buchanan declared, “could move to Florida and pay less in taxes than the guy who’s serving him drinks.”
No exactly the same, but certainly on the same flat tax page is Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. It would worsen the deficit, but we all that conservatives don’t really care about the deficit as much as they do making sure right-wing sugar daddies do not pay taxes on their capital gains – America is still waiting for those low capital gains taxes to trickle down. While some years ago I heard a fairly good liberal argument for a flat consumption tax, no one has ever figured out a way to make it non-regressive. That 52% of the population that makes under $52k a year would be paying a huge share of taxes, way out of proportion to their earnings. Cain, Gramm and Forbes don’t care because, well they’re very wealthy. Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda outlet Fox News frequently floats the flat tax promise of nirvana.
If I said that there is a rumor President Obama might be challenged in the primaries by a candidate who is pro-choice, supported reasonable gun control like background checks for felons, was pro campaign finance reform, pro gay rights, pro immigration reform like the Bush bipartisan bill that Michelle Malkin called “shamesty” and was pro health care reform. Many readers would at least take an honest look at that candidate. That candidate would be Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. Mitt’s flip-flop-flips probably scare progressives as much as they do the Perry-Cain-Bachmann crowd, but if Mitt got into office and returned to his roots so to speak, he’d be more liberal than Obama. Today’s polls have Mitt and Herman leading in among right-wing voters. Herman is probably an outlier ( I’ll get to more of that in a moment), but how or what are conservative voters telling themselves about Romney. One thing Romney does do well and is consistent about, is pandering. Sure Mitt truly drinks the conservative economic kool-aid, but other than that he is willing to take any position that gets him into office. He is this election cycles vanity candidate. Where does Cain fit in. First a little armchair analysis of Cain’s thinking and Cain’s supposed conversion moment by We are respectable negroes, The Pain of Herman Cain: How a Chance Encounter at an African American Barbershop Helped to Create a Black Conservative
Perhaps it is my love of theoretical physics and chaos theory. Or maybe I have watched the Star Trek TNG episode “Tapestry” too many times, but I wonder how that one moment impacted Herman Cain’s future political attitudes and life trajectory? Would Herman Cain have become a different person, one who is an upright and proud Morehouse man, and not a professional racism denier and enabler of white supremacy, if one of the brothers had given his woolly head a proper cut?
These conservative conversion stories are a dime a dozen…they were going down that dark path to Medicare and other atrocities perpetrated by liberals.. when duh, they saw the bright light of self obsessed greed, unhinged nationalism and trickle down economics. The kind of greed and self-absorption that supposedly was the key to making America great – Not the Constitution, the Civil War and emancipation, not the suffrage movement or 60s civil rights or the New Deal. I am always reminded of paleo wing-nut Norman Podhoretz and his encounters with black youth while he was growing up. What did I learn after reading that story – if some girls had assaulted Norman when he was young he would have grown up to be gay. If green people had assaulted him he would have grown up hating Martians. In Herman’s case it was all about a hair-cut. As to why Cain is doing well in conservative polls, Herman Cain, the Polls and What Race Has to Do With It
A few days ago on WRRN’s Richard French Live, however, former NY1 political anchor Dominic Carter and former Connecticut congressman Rob Simmons, a Republican, got down to it, musing that Cain’s appeal to white conservatives is related in large part to the Bradley Effect—the phenomenon of white people who, for fear of appearing racist, tell pollsters they’re going to vote for a black candidate but actually vote white (named after LA mayor Tom Bradley, who lost the 1982 gubernatorial race after polls showed him far ahead). French admitted he was relieved his guests brought up the Bradley Effect, so he didn’t have to.
I understand the feeling. In an age when even the most rabid birthers and mosque molesters fly into a rage at the suggestion they might be bigots, it’s become impolitic to state the obvious: that a lot of Tea Party types are crazy for Cain because he shields them against charges of racism. As the current hard-right favorite, Cain is proof of widespread Tea Party colorblindness, writes conservative pundit Ron Christie.
Some conservatives even want extra credit for favoring a “real black man,” as Cain calls himself, over someone like Obama. Laura Ingraham (who wrote in her Barack Obama “diary” that Michelle Obama eats baby-back ribs at every meal) clumsily endorsed that notion last week when she said that Cain “would be the first black president, when you measure it by—because he doesn’t—does he have a white mother, white father, grandparents? No, right?”
Cain’s candidacy can be used as a weapon as easily as a shield.
Throw in the obvious that Cain has been spouting his right-wing agitprop for 25 years and he is a reliable echo of well worn right-wing talking points. A good recent example – Herman Cain Defends Remarks On Racism, Occupy Wall Street (VIDEO)
Herman Cain on Monday defended comments about racism he’d made over the weekend.
“I don’t have a lot of patience for people who want to blame racism on the fact that some people don’t make in America,” he said on ‘The Sean Hannity Show’.
The GOP candidate claimed that his business and academic achievements were “walking proof ” that racial discrimination doesn’t hold people back.
His remarks backed up a similar complaint he made on Sunday’s ‘Face The Nation’.
“I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way,” he had said.
Cain also attacked Occupy Wall Street protesters for blaming banks rather than the president.
“I believe this a coordinated effort of the unions and Obama supports to distract the American people from the real problem which is the failed policies of the Obama administration,” he said.
You have to love how Cain uses the triple somersault of economic denial – Obama was not president when Wall Street gambled away almost $17 trillion dollars of the nations wealth.
I would be happy to admit that Cain is some small percentage of correct about people using racism as an excuse. People similarly use religious discrimination, gender discrimination, height discrimination and dozens if not hundreds of other reasons not to get their ass in gear and stop blaming others for their failures. Cain’s problem, like every other conservative is they take the very small percentage of people who wrongly use those claims to tarnish everyone. That is the very essence of racism, misogyny and other forms of discrimination – like being overweight. The fact is that there are about five applicants for every job opening might explain why people are having problems finding jobs. The recession has hit black Americans especially hard – Black unemployment: Highest in 27 years. Older while males are having a tougher time than the past getting back on their feet – Older white males hurt more by this recession, but statistically they are still doing better than their black counterparts. Statistically the only group doing relatively well is older women – Big winners right now in the job market: older white women. The reasons for the last statistic is related to who is hiring. Jobs have opened up in temporary and retail positions that pay lower wages. And in employment areas where women have traditionally done well like healthcare and education, there has been either some hiring or better retention. Cain should listen to Tavis Smiley’s fact based views instead of the Koch brothers and knucklehead AM radio wing-nuts, Poverty ambassadors blast Herman Cain’s views on racism
“There are disparities in this country in every [socioeconomic] factor that we follow. In every aspect of our human endeavors in this country there is a racial disparity element that’s a part of it. It’s almost silly to respond to [Cain] because the evidence is so overwhelming,” Smiley said in the interview with CNN anchor Suzanne Malveaux.
“There’s disparity in healthcare. There’s disparity economically.”
Cain, Perry, Bachmann, Gingrich, Ron Paul and Romney all believe in these myths – 5 Conservative Economic Myths Occupy Wall St. Is Helping Bust
2. Rich people are “job creators.”
This is the old “trickle-down” idea — that if you give enough money to the already-rich eventually some of that money will trickle down to the rest of us. This is also called the “getting peed on” theory of economics.
The basis of this thinking comes from the theories of Ayn Rand, who argued that society consists of “producers” and “parasites.” Rand’s fundamentally anti-democratic ideology says that democracy is a form of “collectivism” in which people who don’t want to work and produce use their numbers to steal from a gifted few who are the “producers” of goods and services. Rand’s followers claim that wealthy people are rich because they “produce.” The rest of us are “parasites” who “take money” from the productive rich, by taxing them. This revenue is “redistributed” to the parasites to pay for our “entitlements.”
They say that if wealthy people have more money they will use that money to start businesses and hire people. But anyone with a real business will tell you that people coming in the door and buying things is what creates jobs. In a real economy, people wanting to buy things – demand – is what causes businesses to form and people to be hired.
History – and a quick look around us today – shows that when all the money goes to a few at the top demand from the rest of us dries up and everything breaks down. Taxing the people at the top and reinvesting the money into the democratic society is fundamental to keeping things going.
Annie Lowrey has a related article up today, another myth buster – Why Small Businesses Aren’t Innovative. Everyone says small businesses are dynamic, market-shaking, job creators. But new evidence suggests that’s not true.
The researchers attempt to figure that out by surveying entrepreneurs, asking why they decided to start their own companies and what they hope to achieve. The bottom line? “Few small businesses intend to bring a new idea to market,” they write. “Instead, most intend to provide an existing service to an existing customer base.” And a relatively small proportion of small businesses have aspirations to get any bigger, either.
Indeed, the new business owners responding to the survey were lawyers, plumbers, doctors, shopkeepers, real estate agents, and the like—common village professionals. Fewer than half started a business because they “had a good business idea.” Many chose to start a business for “non-pecuniary” benefits, like being your own boss and keeping flexible hours.
The bulk of small businesses being created, in short, are not particularly innovative ones.
It is not that no one is out there “innovating” only that the innovators are a pretty small slice of the small business pie. So when it comes to public policy it is important to distinguish between tomorrow’s Steve Jobs and a doughnut franchise operator. The latter is hoping that people do not change their habits. There is nothing particularly wrong with that, only they are not the ones who are going to pay the wages that spur a lot of new demand.