This week on Fox News Sunday, viewers were treated to yet another round of Bill Kristol giving advice to Republicans on how to negotiate on extending tax cuts for the middle class, or at least what he considers middle class.
Kristol went so far this time as to call raising taxes on everyone with incomes between $250K and a million "extreme" and opined about how hard it might be on those families if they're paying college tuition. These guys never seem to mind throwing additional tax burdens on those who are truly middle class all across America, or going after benefits for people on fixed incomes that rely on programs like Social Security and Medicare, but lord knows we can't burden someone who is making over a quarter of a million dollars a year with a slightly larger tax burden. They also love to give people the impression that those higher taxes would be paid on their entire income. They'd still be benefiting from the lower rates on their income below $250,000.
It seems former President George W. Bush isn't too worried about giving Mitt Romney some bad press just before the election. As Steve Benen noted, the contrast between how Bill Clinton is spending his time these days and Bush couldn't be more stark -- A tale of two former presidents:
Just this week, former President Bill Clinton has campaigned for President Obama in Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado, and Iowa. Today, Clinton will hit the stump for Obama in Wisconsin and again in Ohio. By most measures, the former president has become Obama's most popular and most effective surrogate.
[George W. Bush] will spend Thursday in the Cayman Islands, delivering the keynote address at the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit. As Romney struggles to convince voters that he understands their economic struggles, having the previous Republican president reminding them of the questions surrounding Romney's financial dealings in the Caymans is beyond unhelpful.
Yes, as we first discussed in September, George W. Bush, with just five days remaining before Election Day, is headed to one of the most politically inconvenient locations possible for Mitt Romney: the Republican will deliver the keynote address this evening at the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit.
In case anyone's forgotten, Romney ran into a little trouble over the summer when we learned he has stashed cash in the Cayman Islands, and played fast and loose with the facts, hoping the public won't realize that Romney is using the Caymans as an apparent tax-avoidance scheme.
Which reminds me -- has anyone asked Romney about his secret tax returns lately?
Fat chance of that happening. Romney's been running from reporters asking him questions he doesn't like for months on end now.
After opening up this segment with something I could have done without, which is carrying a bit of water for the Fox/Romney theme that President Obama is somehow not doing his job or spending enough time talking to world leaders because he didn't have any one on one meetings while the United Nations was in town and heaven forbid he spent a part of his day appearing on The View, therefore he should be losing this election, he manged to get some good jabs in on Mittens and the GOP clown show he ran against in the primaries.
After calling President Obama "the luckiest dude on the planet" because of the constant string of gaffs and flip flops from Mitt Romney on everything from saying Americans have adequate health care because of access to emergency rooms -- to his claiming he has an economic plan and then telling a group of wealthy fundraisers that electing him alone will satisfy that confidence fairy and magically revive the economy -- to his saying he shouldn't be elected president if he over paid his taxes-- to his double-talk on income redistribution -- Stewart reminded the viewers of just why President Obama is not losing this race given the terrible economy and turmoil across the Middle East and Africa.
Stewart wrapped things up by reminding viewers just how Romney managed to get the nomination to begin with, showing highlights from the Republican primary race. As Stewart noted, "That concludes our segment, Mitt Romney is the 2nd luckiest dude on the planet." I'd have a hard time disagreeing with that sentiment.
I'm not sure if the Romney campaign actually thought continuing to ask questions about his tax returns was going to distract from the dismal news cycle he's had for the last week or two, and is somehow better than talking about his "47 percent" remarks at that fundraiser, but here we go with a Friday news dump and the release of his 2011 returns.
As David Cay Johnston pointed out on Ed Schultz's show this Friday evening, the poorly worded press release just leaves more questions unanswered than answered and the 14.1 percent rate he paid could easily be amended down later if he fails to win his bid for the presidency.
On Friday afternoon, the Romney campaign released the candidate’s 2011 tax return, which showed that he paid a tax rate of approximately 14 percent on more than $13 million of reported income. The campaign also disclosed that Romney voluntarily forfeited about $1.8 million in charitable deductions to inflate the tax rate he would have to disclose to the public. The campaign continues to refuse to release returns prior to 2010, flunking an accepted standard of transparency, first established by Mitt’s father George Romney, of releasing multiple years’ returns.
In a blog post, Romney’s lawyer and the trustee of his “blind trust” said, “After you have reviewed all of the newly-posted documents, you may have further questions.” Yes, we do. Lots.
Here are 10 unanswered questions about Romney’s taxes:
1. After the election, when the subject of your tax returns is outside of the public glare, will you file an amended tax return to claim your full deduction of charitable contributions? Was the tax rate you reported for other years similarly manipulated?
2. Why was your 2011 income $7 million lower than you estimated it to be in January? How does someone overestimate their income by $7 million?
3. Financial disclosures show that you have as much as $82 million in your tax-deferred Individual Retirement Account, despite the fact that tax rules limited contributions into such accounts to $30,000 per year. Did you lowball the value of the assets you put into your IRA, as tax experts suspect? And did you do the same with gifts into your sons’ trusts?
4. What was the purpose of your Swiss bank account and the myriad offshore entities shown on your return, based in countries like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg, if not to avoid taxes?
5. Can you explain what one tax expert has called a “mysterious one-time infusion of foreign tax credits” in 2008?
Follow the link above to read the rest. Rough transcript of Johnston's interview with Schultz, who had some similar questions, below the fold.
I'm still waiting for Romney to release his tax returns so we can find out if there were any years he was part of the 47 percent himself.
UPDATE: Here's the video transcript:
VOICEOVER: The Romney campaign is in crisis mode, scrambling to explain a secretly recorded tape where Romney tells wealthy donors nearly half of all Americans see themselves as victims.
BRIAN WILLIAMS (NBC): He talked about citizens who see themselves as victims; pay no income taxes. He went on to say his job was not to worry about those people.
JOHN KING (CNN): What he said in that speech was that all of them don't pay taxes. All of them are victims. All of them want free healthcare--think they're entitled to free housing. He essentially smeared everyone.
GRAPHIC OF DAVID BROOKS EDITORIAL:
It suggest that he really doesn't know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A. Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security and Medicare?
ANCHOR (CNN): If Mr. Romney is so upset that so many Americans are not paying income taxes, does that mean taxes on middle class or lower middle class Americans will go up?
KING (CNN): A lot of Americans of all income stripes have struggled the last few years and the risk for Governor Romney is that it is insulting to them. As a kid, my family was on food stamps for a few years when my dad got sick.
We didn't feel entitled and we weren't victims. And my father was actually pretty embarrassed about the whole thing. But in the end my mother was grateful because she was able to feed her kids.
DAVID GERGEN (with former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer looking on) (CNN): It was almost oafish for someone who has a bank account in Cayman Islands, in order to reduce taxes, to criticize someone in need.
ANNE KORNBLUT (WASHINGTON POST): It's going to reverberate with working class white people who don't pay taxes. It's going to reverberate with women. It's going to reverberate with military families. I don't think there's any group that's not going to in some way be--either hear about what he said or see themselves somehow reflected in it.
GERGEN (CNN): It's not just this comment. It's a pattern. It's a series over time. Americans tend to create a circle in their mind of people inside that circle who would make a credible, comfortable president; someone they could see in that office and they would feel comfortable with. I think this pattern of statements is increasingly placing Mitt Romney outside that circle for a growing number of Americans.
Even Mitt Romney's own running mate is panning his remarks that insult 47 percent of Americans as "dependent" on the government.
During an interview with KRNV on Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) did his best to spin Romney's assertion to wealthy donors that it wasn't his job to worry about the 47 percent of people who refused to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
"He was obviously inarticulate in making this point," the vice presidential candidate explained. "The point we're trying to make here is, under the Obama economy, government dependency is up and economic stagnation is up. And what we're trying to achieve is trying to get people off government dependency and back to a job that pays well, that gets them on the path to prosperity."
"Do you think Gov. Romney regrets saying what he did?" KRNV's Joe Hart wondered.
"Oh, I think he would have said it differently, that's for sure," Ryan admitted. "But the point still stands: We have too many people becoming too dependent on government because of the poor economic policies of the Obama administration."
MSNBC's Ed Schultz and E.J. Dionne highlighted some of Media Matters reporting this Wednesday evening on Fox News running 42 segments taking President Obama's words out of context during a campaign stop in Virginia. And now we've got the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney repeating the distortions as well.
As both Schultz and Dionne pointed out, the Romney campaign is desperate to change the subject from his time at Bain Capital and his refusal to release his tax returns and they're getting desperate. Anyone with an ounce of common sense realizes what the President was talking about during his speech and as Schultz and Dionne noted, he was making the same points as we heard from Elizabeth Warren when she said this on a speaking tour last year: There's Nobody in This Country Who Got Rich on His Own, Says Elizabeth Warren.
Over two days, Fox News spent 42 segments and more than two hours of airtime manufacturing a scandal by deceptively editing comments President Obama made at a campaign appearance in Virginia.
On July 13, Obama made the unremarkable observation that business owners do not achieve success in a vacuum, but that public infrastructure - such as roads, schools, and fire departments - create a community that supports businesses:
OBAMA: If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
In discussing the speech relentlessly in the past 2 days, Fox has fixated on the passage where Obama said, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that." But Fox ignores what Obama was talking about before saying "you didn't build that," when he touted "this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive," and said: "Somebody invested in those roads and bridges."
After his refusal to release most of his tax returns and as there are more revelations about his offshore tax havens coming to light, Martin Bashir believes that Mitt Romney will go down as the most secretive presidential candidate in history, and notes that it begs the obvious question. Why?
I think most people paying a bit of attention to this election already know the answer to that. If Romney ever does release all of his tax returns or if there's a way to ever find out just how much money he and his wife are parking overseas, I have to wonder just what percentage of their income they actually pay in taxes. Who wants to bet it's a lot lower than 14 percent?
Thom Hartmann responds to a caller's question about Supply Side Economics and why St. Ronnie's theories on what stimulates job growth are completely upside down. As Hartmann explained, the middle class spending is what drives the economy and when you lower taxes on the rich as Reagan did, all they do is gamble with it causing booms and busts, leave it to their kids or put it in offshore tax havens like Mitt Romney.
As Hartmann noted, all lowering taxes on the rich has led to is record income disparity and the richest in the country having their incomes increase 275 percent since Reagan's time, with the rest of us essentially gaining nothing or losing income.
Speaker of the House John Boehner made an appearance on Rose's show on PBS Wednesday evening, part of which was re-aired on CBS the following morning. Rose allowed Boehner to give plenty of revisionist history on who was not willing to cooperate with whom during the failed negotiations last year, quoting Matt Bai's account of the collapse of the agreements which Mother Jones' David Corn debunked here: The Times Gets It Wrong on the Debt Deal.
Rose also allowed Boehner to repeat the zombie Republican lie that the upper one percent pay forty percent of income taxes, which completely distorts that actual tax rates that most Americans pay, since it ignores the percentage everyone else pays out in payroll taxes and state and local taxes. It also ignores the fact that the percentages are that high for the income tax because that one percent also happens to have almost all of the money, so of course they're paying the bulk of the taxes.
Rose also allowed Boehner to play the same game we saw from CNN's Erin Burnett the other day that Cenk Uygur went after her for, dismissing the Buffett rule as a "budget gimmick" that would do nothing meaningful to bring the deficit down, so of course that means it's not worth doing since it won't solve the entire problem.
And Rose let Boehner get away with claiming the Ryan budget will do nothing to harm the poor or our social safety nets, which we know is patently false, without calling him out for it. We're also treated to Rose asking Boehner such important questions such as whether the Speaker and President Obama ever go out and have dinner or a drink together, because we know the most important thing is for all of them to get along, as opposed to how damaging the policies Rose was pushing here are. And what would any interview be if we weren't also treated to the Greece false equivalency. Austerity!!! ... or we're going to wind up being Greece! ... as they discuss the best way to take us there.