Reagan/Bush Advisor Decries Right-wing Tax Policies

Former Reagan and Bush Administration official Bruce Bartlett spoke with Bill Moyers this weekend and stated flatly that the right-wing tax policies hawked on talk-radio and FoxNews are ‘toxic to our economy.’

Wikipedia reports that Bartlett worked for both Ron Paul and Jack Kemp. He wrote two books, Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action, and The Supply-Side Solution. He was also a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, where he specialized in tax policy and was  involved in the debate around the Tax Reform Act of 1986. In 1987, Bartlett became a senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Policy Development, then headed by Gary Bauer. In 1988, Bartlett left to become deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department, where he served until the end of the administration of George H.W. Bush.

Bartlett has written extensively for many newspapers and magazines, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fortune magazine, and Commentary magazine. He currently blogs at Capital Gains and Games. In 2006, he published Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.

[end of Wikipedia article]

It was that book that soured many on the right to Bartlett. And, no doubt, after this weekend’s expose of the right-wing’s ‘toxic’ tax policies, his reputation will be further soiled. Surely the pejorative RINO will roll off of the airwaves of both AM radio and Fox and will be mindlessly repeated on blogs all across the land.

In fact, Bartlett exposes that very fact- the fact that most right-wingers repeat what they hear from the professional propagandists without the use of their cerebrum.  You may recognize that this is the same hypothesis that I have been repeating for the past several years. Additionally, Bartlett notes that this type of propaganda indoctrination is especially easy on the right-wing of the GOP because the vast majority of them are ‘Christian.’ They are used to ‘believing’ in stuff without analyzing any of it. Bartlett said, “…which means you accept things for which there is no proof.” Thus the ‘spongeon brain’ about which I often blog.

Bartlett warns that the current path advocated by today’s GOP- a path of no new taxes and continual cuts in spending- will lead this nation to ruin, “destroying the country’s economic foundation.” Bartlett said,  “the one-percent made out like bandits while our National Debt soared sky-high.” Bartlett also says that if there are no new tax revenues, then massive cuts will have to be made to Medicare. Yes Medicare because ‘it is the 600 pound gorilla.’

Here’s an excellent point made by Bartlett [and some of us on this blog]:

Moyers:You’ve made it clear that the Bush cuts were worth little to those making $150,000, but a huge amount to those making five, ten, 15, $25 million. Do those folks in the Tea Party get that?

Bartlett: I’m not sure. I’m not sure if they really know very much about taxation. Back when the Tea Party first came into existence, back in 2009 they had a big demonstration in Washington. And we went around and we surveyed a good percentage of the people in this demonstration about what they knew about taxes, what they thought the top rate was, what they thought their tax rate was. You know, questions of just straight factual knowledge, not opinion.

And it turned out that these people all thought taxes were vastly higher than they really are, and that they were paying exorbitantly high tax rates that would be impossible for them to pay. And so, I think that this is part of what’s going on here, is simple misinformation.

And there have been other polls and things that are showing the same thing. I mean, if you really thought, if you’re a typical middle class person, you really believe the government was taking half your income, you’d be out demonstrating. But the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people pay less than 10 percent federal income taxes. So they simply have a wrong understanding of what they pay.

Here’s another important exchange:

Moyers: I just read a summary of a study done at the University of Michigan that over a period of time shows that people have confronted with facts they believe to be true will reject them nonetheless if they offend or undermine their belief system. That their beliefs — our beliefs are more important to us than the facts.

Bartlett: Oh, I think we need some — instead of talking to economists like me, we need to be talking to psychologists and sociologists to try to get at the root of this problem.

Moyers and Bartlett end their discussion with this:

Moyers: How did that happen?

Bartlett: Clearly, ideology has a great deal to do with it. The conservative side of our political spectrum has had an outsized voice over the last few years. I think especially since the establishment of Fox News, which has created an echo chamber in which people just hear the same ideas repeated ad infinitum.

And you know, it’s just basic advertising, basically. You hear the same idea over and over again. Or you can call it propaganda if you like. It’s broadly believed and people just keep saying these things all the time, that ‘Rich people create jobs.’ ‘Yes, rich people create jobs.’ ‘They’re motivated primarily by taxation.’ ‘Yes, they’re motivated by taxation.’ ‘We must cut their taxes.’ ‘Yes, we must cut their taxes.’

Year after year after year of people watching Fox News and listening to talk radio, had conditioned them in advance to believe that the government is responsible for all of our problems.

Moyers & Company

transcript

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14 thoughts on “Reagan/Bush Advisor Decries Right-wing Tax Policies

  1. Hello Muddy,
    I am so glad to see Bill Moyers back on TV informing people to facts to counter the misleading rhetoric propagated over other airwaves. The question is, as we know the Critically Thinking segment will listen, but I liken this to, “Preaching to the Choir,” it is the balance I am concerned with. Will they listen for themselves, be able to process the topics discussed, or prefer to be just spoon feed lead under the mantle of an iconic title identification.

    Maybe there can be a few to be reached.

    1. Engineer- What I have learned from my recent association with the 2012 Obama re-election groups is that they are NOT as well-informed as I suspected them to be. Some, grant you, are novices, but others are ‘seasoned’ and yet they often speak as if they don’t know what the facts are. I heard one say, “What do you say to someone who says…?”

      Well, what they should say are the FACTS- facts garnered from Moyers and blogs like yours and mine.

  2. Mr. Mud – Thanks for the points. I find Mr. Moyers’ comments interesting and useful.

    And your comment about the 2012 Obama re-election groups strikes home. Sorry for taking so long to respond regarding the fundraiser, but I was attempting to discover some background information. Here’s the list of people being featured:
    Larry & Diane Friedman
    Mayor Jack Ford
    State Senator Edna Brown
    Robert & Ann Kaplan
    Paul Goldner
    Mayor Carty & Amy Finkbeiner
    Floyd & Norma King
    Lynn & Frank Jacobs
    Emney & John Shousher
    Linda & Joel Beren
    and special guest, DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz
    (Ewwww…..they’re all Democrats!)

    Being a Republican, I only recognize a few names. Last year I signed on to donate the maximum to Obama, as I did for Clinton in 2007, but I noticed I got this invite just after the announcement of the Democrat Super PAC. Being retired, I amuse myself my getting involved and/or donating to causes I find worthwhile. At times this has involved a lot of money and is spread over several states. I suspect they track big donors and target them; and that’s how I feel.

    I think Super PAC’s are the bane of American politics. I’m going to take a break and think about my donations; or even if I want to continue to donate politically. In case you’re totally confused now, I have donated heavily to several agencies that identify as Democrat. I guess I must be dense at times because I never paid attention to which party was “assigned” what color. After donating to a group called ACT BLUE, I realized by the solicitations afterward that it must be Democrat. I know, Duh! I’m more of a donate to a specific cause kind of guy.

    1. Oh, THAT get-together. Yes, I know of it and it is $1000/head. No thanks; I’ll donate my time and talent, but not that much treasure.

      1. LOL – That* I did not know. (Well it’s cheaper than the invites I get from Latta.) So all the invitations I’ve been receiving cost? Those devils!

        * And here I was thinking I was special.

        1. And here I was thinking I was special

          Well, in the ‘sight of God’ you are, but in the sight of a congressman, you are for-profit entity worth tapping.

  3. M_R has asked the following made the following statements and questions consistently about the GOP as it is constituted today.
    “I cannot understand the mindset of the conservative.” I wish to more
    forward in an attempt to comprehend their ” natural consevative
    resistance to progressive evolution…” “Why that level of anger?”
    What is it that they fear losing?” “I cannot comprehend them at
    all.”
    Perhaps, then, my friend, you can begin to “comprehend” them if
    you look a little deeper into the statements of Mr. Bartlett. Let me
    quote here a good section for your understanding of the conservative mind.

    “And so, the idea of cutting taxes was a part of a policy that I call starving the beast. It’s you take away the government’s credit card, as Ronald Reagan said. And this will force spending down. This will shrink the size of government. And conservatives believe that there’s only so much freedom out there. And the more the government, the more power government has, there’s less freedom for the people.

    And they have a tendency to look at this in terms of spending as a share of GDP. So it can be measured very precisely. So if the federal government takes 25 percent of GDP, then essentially, we have only 75 percent freedom. We’re not 100 percent free. You know, if we could cut government spending down to 20 percent of GDP, then we would gain five percent freedom. We’ll go from being 75 percent free to being 80 percent.

    I’m serious. This is the way they think. And this drives a lot of these policies that on the surface don’t make any sense. They’re just about taking away the government’s resources to force it to shrink to — if you cut the budgets of the regulatory agencies, then they can’t regulate. This is a good thing.

    They really believe that there’s absolutely nothing good that comes out of government, unless it comes out of the Pentagon.

    And the starve the beast theory is really extraordinarily pernicious, because one of the things that it is related to is the so-called tax pledge, which my friend Grover Norquist came up with. And which has become a ban on raising taxes at any time for any reason.

    But at the same time, all tax cuts are okay. So you just have this constant ratchet down. Every time you can cut taxes, you’ve lowered the threshold that you can never then go up against. So it’s like you’re coming down a series of stairs. And this is all very conscious, because Grover believes that if you take away the government’s ability to tax, it will necessarily be forced to spend less. Government will shrink. Freedom will increase. It’s that simple.

    1. Yes, I both read and heard that. So, my friend, the next time you are in a conversation with some right-winger making the case for more tax cuts for the upper 1% or for some more Federal spending cuts, give them the link to Moyers and tell them to come back tomorrow and you’ll discuss it with them.

      1. I really don’t have the time to spend “in a conversation with some
        right-winger…” A right-winger is never going to be converted to
        voting for a Democrat. That’s the point that Bartlett is making. In my opinion, we don’t solve anything by going on right-wing blogs and
        venting on it, just to stir them up. As Bartlett said, “They really believe that there’s absolutely nothing good that comes out of government…” So, we can vent and argue with them all we want, and
        it doesn’t change the dynamics at all. I think that it is necessary to understand that these people are REACTIONARIES, and not GOP
        conservatives in the traditional Republican mode.They have taken
        over the Republican Party in a long process that, lets say for the sake
        of discourse, began with Goldwater and culminated with Reagan. And, it has even developed to the point that we say, Reagan could
        not win the nomination today. It seems to me we need to be
        targeting the Independents that left the GOP under Bush II, and not
        these roughly 40 percenters who are REACTIONARIES…..

  4. MORE LAUGHS: Last week I received this email from someone I don’t know. I suspect they copied my email address from someone else who got my email address from a business transaction. This is not the first email I’ve received from this person.

    “Last Friday, with no fanfare, no press coverage, and with every effort made to hide his actions from the American people, President Obama enacted the DREAM Act by executive order.”

    They go on to say Snopes says it’s true and this email should be forwarded to everyone on my email list. I knew it was totally false, but I checked out why Snopes said it was true. Snopes rated it false.

    I replied to this unknown person saying they were incorrect. They wrote back saying they checked Snopes themselves and it was true. I wrote back asking if they were on drugs*. They indignantly replied how I could accuse them of lying and how could I say something untrue about them. Am I the one who’s nuts or wasn’t this exactly they type of thing they were passing around about our President?

    * Base upon their reaction to the drug comment you’d have thought I said something much worse. Isn’t it a common comeback to ask someone if they’re on drugs when they say something outlandish?

    1. Bishop Spong has an interesting [albeit nearly Rumsfeldian] statement on what you just encountered, NON, with the email. He says,

      “When people get to the point where they do not really believe what they are saying, they still seem to believe in believing what they are saying.”

  5. Advertising? Didn’t I once make a post here about advertising being the best form of propaganda citing the following blog post?
    http://www.purewatergazette.net/propagandainamerica.htm

    Over the years, I have had the privilege of meeting and having discussions with people who came to America from countries known for their adherence to totalitarianism: China, Russia, and former east European satellites of the Soviet Union. When we discussed how the state managed to control public opinion under totalitarianism, these people would usually produce a weary, knowledgeable, cynical smile and point out that propaganda in those countries was really done quite incompetently. If you really want to know propaganda, they said, you need to study American propaganda technique. According to them, it is, undeniably, the best in the world.>Over the years, I have had the privilege of meeting and having discussions with people who came to America from countries known for their adherence to totalitarianism: China, Russia, and former east European satellites of the Soviet Union. When we discussed how the state managed to control public opinion under totalitarianism, these people would usually produce a weary, knowledgeable, cynical smile and point out that propaganda in those countries was really done quite incompetently. If you really want to know propaganda, they said, you need to study American propaganda technique. According to them, it is, undeniably, the best in the world

    Unfortunately, one needs to leave the USA to find any serious questioning of right wing propaganda.

    McCain was being interviewed on the BBC World Service today and having a right frilling about his statements–especially when he said there needed to be a flatter tax system.

    1. Lacy writes, If you really want to know propaganda, they said, you need to study American propaganda technique. According to them, it is, undeniably, the best in the world

      Amen to that. And they have an extremely ‘ripe’ audience- dry sponge brains to be more exact- who are eagerly willing to dip their heads full-on into the brackish propaganda sludge.

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