Friday, May 31, 2013

Brookings' Intellectually Honest Analysis Of Romney's Tax Proposals Got Me Banned

Romney says he is going to balance the budget, cut taxes, raise defense, protect Medicare, and preserve all the institutions of the federal government that we need from the FBI to the FAA. You can't possibly do all of those things. That was my problem. How does the math add up? To me, he's still at war with math ~ Tom Friedman (b. 7/20/1953) NYT columnist and self-identified Republican, on the 9/2/2012 broadcast of BC's Meet the Press.

Preface 1: This is a old post. I originally intended to publish it in September of 2012, but never got around to finishing it. I wrote most of it, but never actually completed it for some reason. I was recently looking for things to delete from my computer and found this... and decided to dust it off, finish it, and publish it. Why? Because it explains MY SIDE of a debate that lead to me being banned from the blog Contra O'Reilly.

I've authored a number of highly critical posts over the last few months that take aim at the proprietor of that blog, a Mr. Willis L. Hart (who I refer to as "PA" below). This post explains why. He banned me over a stoopid disagreement over former presidential contender Mitt Romney's tax plan (a plan that was never explained in detail, therefore making assumptions necessary if anyone wished to critique it).

Preface 2: What follows is my original post which my records say I intended to publish on 9/1/2012...

According to Wikipedia Harvard ethicist Louis M. Guenin describes the "kernel" of intellectual honesty to be "a virtuous disposition to eschew deception when given an incentive for deception".

Definition-wise, Wikipedia states that Intellectual Honesty is: [1] One's personal beliefs do not interfere with the pursuit of truth. [2] Relevant facts and information are not purposefully omitted even when such things may contradict one's hypothesis. [3] Facts are presented in an unbiased manner, and not twisted to give misleading impressions or to support one view over another. [4] References are acknowledged where possible, and plagiarism is avoided.

Regarding "Intellectual Honesty", I certainly do not try, nor have I ever tried to deceive with any of my posts, although I'm not going to claim that my personal beliefs never interfere with the pursuit of truth. They do. Facts here will sometimes be presented in a "biased" manner... from my Democrat-Liberal-Progressive point of view, that is. That is my bias. I don't deny it, but I do deny that I am the most intellectually dishonest person Willis Hart this particular as*hole has ever had to deal with.

The particular as*hole (PA) who levied this insult (and then banned me from his blog) did so because I defended a report from the Brookings Institute and the Tax Policy Center that said the Romney tax plan would raise taxes on the poor and middle class (see my previous post on the subject). Regarding Brookings' determination "...that a revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Governor Romney has proposed... maintaining all tax breaks for saving and investment... would... increase the tax burdens on middle and/or lower-income taxpayers", PA asserted that, "this study was done for one purpose, and one purpose only, to make frigging Romney look ridiculous".

Because Romney has put forward very few specifics, Brookings was required to make a number of assumptions in order to do the analysis at all. One of the things they assumed was that because Romney has said he favors "maintaining all tax breaks for saving and investment" that items that fall into this category are "off the table".

So just what deductions is Mitt Romney talking about? In their analysis Brookings/TPC says, "offsetting the $360 billion in revenue losses necessitates a reduction of roughly 65 percent of available tax expenditures. Such a reduction... would require deep reductions in many popular tax benefits ranging from the mortgage interest deduction, the exclusion for employer-provided health insurance, the deduction for charitable contributions, and benefits for low and middle-income families and children like the EITC and child tax credit".

No way says PA. PA thinks it is much more likely that Romney would lower taxes as he has described, while keeping these deductions and allow the deficit to rise. Do I think Romney would actually put forward a budget that did this? I doubt it, but, AGAIN, he has proposed a huge tax cut that also "maintains all tax breaks for saving and investment", and that simply is not possible unless many or most tax expenditures are reduced or eliminated. This is another reasonable assumption... in my opinion.

But because of these assumptions PA determined that the Brookings analysis was BS. Why? Apparently because the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, and the Manhattan Institute (all Conservative) made that exact criticism. Even though Brookings concluded that "maintaining all tax breaks for saving and investment" meant taxing these items would be "off the table".

But PA says the report's assumptions are not reasonable, and when I continued to insist they are, PA flew off the handle declaring, "what an absolute piece of shit you are". Why? Because I was claiming (according to PA) that "[Brookings] included it by not including it". No. They looked at these items and determined that they were "off the table" because they fell into the category of "tax breaks for saving and investment".

So, why MUST these items be "on the table" according to PA? Because Mitt Romney has never said they were off. In other words, because Romney has not put forward a detailed tax plan, ANY analysis of a possible Romney tax plan (taking what Romney has said and making some assumptions) is completely invalid. Or any analysis that doesn't include reducing or eliminating tax deductions for "municipal bonds and life insurance savings" is invalid. Why? Damned if I know.

I do know, however, that I'm "intellectually dishonest" for agreeing with the Brookings determination that these things would be "off the table", and was banned for that reason. PA authored a post that said, "You're done. I don't want you to comment here anymore". OK by me. This guy is clearly a lunatic. Why we can't simply disagree on what is a "reasonable assumption" is beyond me.

Finally, regarding the comment from PA that the Brookings/TPC report was done, "to make frigging Romney look ridiculous"... PA says Brookings (one of the preeminent Think Tanks in the country) is LYING because they are a "Liberal" organization. He bases this on an article from US News & World Report that points out that from 2003 to 2010 most of Brookings political contributions went to Democrats (97.6% to Democrats and 1.2% to Republicans).

The US News & World Report article identifies Brookings as a "Liberal" Think Tank. However, in an article titled "Brookings: The Establishment's Think Tank", Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) points out that "much of Brookings' top brass has come from Republican administrations". FAIR says labeling Brookings Liberal is "a victory of Right-wing think tanks" and that "to this day, Brookings is commonly, and inaccurately, dubbed liberal... It's called centrist almost as often, but never conservative, though that label would be more accurate than liberal".

SourceWatch says Brookings was "initially centrist... [but] since the 1990s it has taken steps further towards the Right in parallel with the increasing influence of Right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation.

Wikipedia states that the Tax Policy Center was formed "in 2002, [by] tax experts who had served in the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton administrations [with the objective of] providing unbiased analysis of tax issues".

Now, FAIR and SourceWatch are both progressive/Liberal organizations, but who better to determine what organizations are "Liberal" than other Liberal organizations? So why all the donations to Democrats? I say it is because that is where all the Moderates are. PA describes himself as a "Moderate", and has (previously) identified as a "Blue Dog" Democrat. So who are these Moderate Republicans he thinks Brookings should be donating to if they were really (in PA's estimation) a centrist organization?

With the ascendance of the Tea Party and Mitt having to adopt positions contrary to those he used to hold in order to secure the nomination, how can any sane person deny the Republican Party has moved to the Far Right? Beats me, yet the Hartster does just that, in agreement with his Conservative buddy dmarks who contends that Brookings is a "well known leftist group".

But articles can easily be found via Googling that correctly state that Republicans of yesteryear would not be welcome in the Republican Party of today, including Richard Nixon and the Repub saint Ronald Reagan.

In a recent Fox News interview conducted by Chris Wallace former Senate majority leader Bob Dole said he "doesn't think he could make it in today's Republican Party". Wallace referred to Dole's "generation as Eisenhower Republicans, moderate Republicans". These are the Republicans that by and large no longer exist, so how the hell can Brookings donate to the re-election campaigns of moderate Republicans when there aren't any (or hardly any)? The answer to that question should be self-evident, I say.

But I disagreed, and that was another of several reasons the "Moderate" proprietor of Contra O'Reilly asked me to leave his blog and never return (and that he'd delete my comments if I did). This is a frigging stoopid reason for a banning, IMO. What it really shows is this Willis Hart fellow is really not all that Moderate.

Afterword: On 2/10/2013 PA (AKA Willis Hart) authored a post titled "The Silence of the Lefts" in which he criticized the political Left for it's "silence" regarding specific actions taken by the Obama Administration that are very similar to actions taken by the prior administration. Specifically drone strikes, reauthorization of the PATRIOT act, indefinite detention and rendition of terror suspects, and the president's kill list.

For the record I actually AGREE with PA. Both with his objection to these policies, and with his criticism of the Left in it's acceptance of Obama continuing these policies (when they were severely critical of bush when he did the exact same things). Willis does, however, slip in one lie. According to him Democrats in Congress were "seemingly" briefed on waterboarding. He is one of those who thinks Nancy Pelosi lied when she said the CIA never briefed her on the fact that they were waterboarding. Pelosi told the truth about not being briefed about EITs (enhanced Interrogation Techniques) AKA waterboarding, as her House colleague Bob Graham confirmed.

Also, while the Left (voters and politicians) are much too accepting of these policies just because a Democratic president is in office, there are voices of Progressive disagreement. I would have told Willis that if I had been allowed to comment (and I did tell him I disagreed with these policies prior to my banning). I am actually in agreement with the 26 members of the Progressive caucus (the real Left) who sent a letter to President Obama "demanding greater openness on all aspects of its counterterrorism-related targeted killing program".

I am also in agreement with Progressive host of The Young Turks, Cenk Uygur, who says the problem isn't with drones, because drones are just a tool. The actual problem is how we are using this tool. The three problems identified by Mr. Uygur are that... [1] We have used drones to execute U.S. civilians without a trial, [2] Most of the drone strikes are signature strikes where we have no idea who we're killing, and [3] We often do double taps where we kill first-responders and the people trying to help the wounded.

I am absolutely in agreement with Mr. Uygur on all three points. With these three concerns addressed I'd have much less a problem with the Obama administration's use of drones. But because they are not addressing them, and are in fact killing innocent civilians - I say they are creating more "terrorists" than they are killing... by angering the relatives of the innocents we are killing, who then join up to fight against the United States [1].

As it currently is utilized I strongly oppose the administration's use of drones. I am not silent in this regard. Also, in regards to the uninformed (Lefty) voters, Mr. Uygur says, "the great majority of Americans have no idea what we're doing with these drones. They think we're only targeting high level terrorists". He is correct. There are uninformed voters on both the Left and the Right. Here the Left is "silent" (in support of the drone program) because they don't understand how the drone program works.

In concluding his post PA says, "I'm beginning to think here that the Left wasn't so much anti-war as anti-Bush", but I say he is a fibbing (as well as displaying his fervent anti-Left bias). He has a point (so I don't say "lie"), but to not mention (at all) that there are those on the Left who are against these policies - the same as when bush was president - is a little dishonest. Only "a little" because I'm sure there are some on the Left who only complained about drones when bush was president because bush was president. Now they support the use of drones because it is a Democratic president doing it.

But for PA to suggest the Left is entirely silent? The progressives (that Willis dislikes with much intensity) ARE speaking out. That he ignores this fact is as dishonest as PA's characterization of me as "the most intellectually dishonest person [he] has ever had to deal with". That is way over the top and a huge distortion of reality - a reality in which I AGREE with him on some topics but disagree with him on others. The problem PA actually had with me was that, when I disagreed I wouldn't end up caving when he kept insisting he was right.

[1] AKA blowback, which is a concept the idiot Willis, while he criticizes Obama for his drone policy, does not agree with. According to dope, the idea that all the murdering via drone that we're doing (of mostly innocents) causes anyone to seek revenge "ultimately fails". The US, in his mind, is blameless, in other words. Sounds like something a jingoist fear mongering warmongering MIC-stooging Republican would say. (Note: This footnote was added on 7/19/2015).

Video Description: Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks speaks out against Obama's use of drones.

SWTD #160, wDel #27.


  1. In general, most if not all republican budget proposals shift the tax burden downward...making the poor and middle class pay for wealth tax breaks in the guise of economic stimulation.

  2. Drones do what all new military weaponry is supposed to do; inflict harm on the enemy while saving lives of our own troops. The A-bomb was dropped to save the lives of an estimated 500,000 dead Americans, if we invaded Japan. No doubt drones kill innocent people, but a lot less innocents die from drones than an invasion force. The number of civilian deaths from our invasion of Iraq proves that. Terrorism is not a State sponsored attack; and drones are not a "shock and awe" tactic. We never should have invaded Iraq, but drone strikes have killed off terrorists better than a 500,000 man army like the force Bush Sr. had. If we must fight useless wars, then do it with the fewest American casualties as possible.

  3. Jerry: That is what they mean when they say we need to "broaden" the tax base. Romney was no different in that regard, in that he desired to cut taxes on the wealthy and raise them on everyone else. But a certain "moderate" blogger disagreed, and banned me when I refused to shut up and admit he was right. This is why he frequently writes posts complaining about the percentage of the tax burden the wealthy pays. For some strange reason he thinks he can compare the percentage of the tax load they pay with the percentage of the income earned by all wage earners in the US. But they aren't comparable because they are based on two very different numbers... the amount of wages earned is a lot more than the taxes paid, therefore the percentage for "taxes paid" will OF COURSE be higher. But the "moderate" does not seem to understand that.

    Anonymous: Absolutely, but we must use them judiciously, so as to not incite more terrorism. When we kill innocents it creates more terrorists. Currently I believe we are creating more terrorists than we are killing. That is why I agree with Cenk Uygur who says we must stop the "signature strikes". The use of drones should also be taken out of the hands of the CIA and the executive and placed into the hands of the military and a panel of people who will decide how the drones are used. Obama should not be the sole person deciding who is killed. I would object to the current arrangement vociferously if it was a Republican president who decided who to kill... and therefore I must object if it is a Democratic president... in order to be "intellectually honest".

  4. We create many more enemies with an invasion force. Bin Laden started his crusade against America after Bush Sr. sent 100's of thousands of troops into the Middle East to repel Saddam from invading his neighbor. We can create enemies without doing anything like that, some just hate America for its imperial position.

  5. I agree. But surely you do not approve of signature strikes or double-taps? If you don't know what they are I suggest reading this article by Cenk Uygur (the same article I linked to in my post). Drones are a tool, and a useful one that avoids the problems you mention... but the Obama Administration is currently misusing this tool, IMO. They are creating "terrorists" who hate us because we killed their relatives.

    1. I don't think highly of the way Obama has handled anything.

  6. The belief that drone strikes save American lives is arguable. The way they are currently being used create more terrorists thus perpetuating terrorism rather than ending it.

  7. Romney is a tool. I just saw a "news" article about his transition strategy. He lost. He can transition into retirement. He never articulated a tax strategy. (Remember the "click here" funny joke link about the real Romney tax plan, anyone?) Romney was simply not qualified for the presidency. He was an okay governor. But I doubt he deserves too much credit for health insurance policy in the state of Massachusetts.

    Like all of you, I am conflicted about the use of drone strikes. I like to take the purist line that killing is always wrong. Anti-war hippie. Not good for children and other living things. But I was listening carefully to Obama's speech. I tend to believe that a threat does exist. If not directly to the continental United States, certainly we have seen our soldiers, allies and embassies targeted many times in the last thirty or more years. The Taliban in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the attack on the U.N. related organization which was targeted on May 24th. That's ten days ago.

    I agree that killing people is the worst thing you can possibly do to spread goodwill. I was so horrified by the decision to invade Iraq, the Navy shelling and aerial bombardment of Baghdad and the escalation to torture, blanket imprisonment and ruthless, wanton attacks on Iraqi cities, not to mention the siege of Fallujah, I was ready to give up all hope of a peaceful world.

    Obviously, Al Qaeda was an international pariah after September 11th and had marginalized itself almost completely out of existence. Only the two wars could have breathed new life into the organization, which, undoubtedly, they did to the max. I confess that I admired Barack Obama for even having the courage to assume the reins in a role of correcting past wrongs. Obviously some idiot like McCain or Romney would not have feared assuming the presidency. They would have only destroyed more than already was lost.

    In retrospect, I now believe that we should not have invaded Afghanistan either. But we can only soldier on into the future and work like hell to make things right again. Reservoirs of goodwill? Well, nobody ever won anything of value by giving up.

  8. I agree that Romney wasn't qualified to be president. As for him being an OK governor, I heard he didn't run again because his popularity was such that he would not have won.

    I also agree that Al Qaeda was an international pariah after September 11th. They have bush to thank for saving their organization. Invading two Muslim countries convinced a lot of people to join up. Many citizens of Afghanistan weren't even aware of what happened in our country on 9-11. They only know that we invaded and were killing them. And Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 at all. bush turned those reservoirs of goodwill into determination to exact revenge on the foreign power that invaded their countries.

    You're right, we shouldn't have invaded either country.


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