I have published Maule’s entire post below. After each of his assertions, I give my rebuttal.
1. Maule’s Assertion:
Peter Pappas is at it again.
I agree, I am at it again. “It” being the refusal to allow left-wing ideologues to brand those with whom they disagree liars.
2. Maule’s Assertion:
In More Lies about Tax Lies, [Pappas] attempts to rebut the points I made in Tax Myths, Tax Lies, and Tax Twisting. In his effort, he engages in the same sort of twisting and misrepresentations that are at the root of what I set out to debunk. Though the myths I discussed were those presented on another web site, Pappas persistently refers to them as “Maule’s . . . Myth” in a blatantly obvious attempt to cause his readers to think that I developed the myths. No, I simply was commenting on a list developed by someone else.
This is really a silly complaint. I never suggested that Maule is the first to asssert that the various statements made by conservatives about taxes are myths, only that he supports and defends those assertions. The truth is it doesn’t make a lick of difference whether Maule was the first to think of these assertions or is merely a regurgitator of them. He believes in them.
UPDATE: I have to make this clear because Mr. Maule now believes that I am saying he believes in the statements (he calls them myths) the right tells about taxes. We don’t call them “myths” Mr. Maule. We call them facts. You have labeled them myths, therefore, they are your myths. Got that? Our facts and your myths. So when I say that you believe in the myths, I mean that you believe that the rights statements about taxes are myths.
In the end, though, this isn’t about Professor Maule. Its about the legion of Saul Alinsky leftists who believe that their peculiar ends justify any means, including the defaming of their opponents as liars, cheats, oppressors and imbeciles.
3. Maule’s Assertion:
Pappas claims that “No serious person on the right has ever suggested that the poor should pay more taxes because the wealthy are over-taxed.” I suppose Orrin Hatch is not a serious person. He’s not the only one complaining that the poor, and the middle class, should pay more. So when Pappas claims that “Conservatives want everyone to pay less taxes,” his assertion flies in the face of what has been said. But in missing this reality, Pappas is trying to deflect attention away from the original point, which is that the failure to use the phrase “federal income” before the word taxes, in other words, the failure to be precise, creates an impression that is erroneous but intended.
Nobody in his right mind reading the headline “47% of Americans pay no taxes” believes it means 47% don’t pay any taxes. Everyone with a pulse knows that when we talk about the 47% we are talking about income taxes and not, say, sales taxes. This is especially true if they happen to read the headline while sipping on a Starbucks’ Frappuccino they just bought for $4.00 plus sales tax.
Either Maule is not telling the truth or he thinks the average American is too stupid to know that even poor people have social security taxes withheld from their wages and pay sales taxes when they purchase goods.
Incidentally, Social Security withholdings are not a true tax. They are, in effect, loans taxpayers make to themselves. The loans are repaid when they reach retirement age. And the truth is that many of the people that don’t pay federal income taxes will receive more Social Security benefits than they pay into the system.
Finally, when we have a tax system that allows nearly half of all Americans to avoid paying any federal income taxes we create an electorate that has a built-in bias in favor of bigger government. Why? Because the people supporting a bigger government don’t have to pay for it. They have, as the saying goes, no skin in the game. And paying into the Social Security fund doesn’t count because that fund is supposed to be a separate trust fund and the moneys in it are not supposed to be commingled with general fund moneys.
The failure to use the words “federal income” before the word “taxes” is not dishonest because everyone knows we are talking about federal income taxes. Nobody reading that statement thinks it means that poor people are not paying sales tax when they buy their iPods, Xboxes and big screen TVs. What is dishonest is claiming that conservatives are lying and suggesting that people are too stupid to know that the debate is about income tax levels.
Maule doesn’t like the statistic so he deflects attention from it by accusing those who cite it of being liars.
4. Maule’s Assertion:
Pappas then again tries to deflect attention from the error by claiming that the omission of the phrase is designed to rebut an alleged lie, that is, that the rich don’t pay their fair share of income taxes. Aside from the fact that an opinion about fairness cannot be a lie because there is no truth or falsity to an opinion, an attempt to rebut a statement, whether opinion or asserted fact, ought not be made by offering an imprecise statement that implies a falsehood. Pappas demonstrates the futility and desperation of his position when he claims that the fact that the “top 50% pays 100% of the federal income taxes” means that “the assertion that the top 50% does not pay its fair share is false.” Why? Because the assertion is that “the rich don’t pay their fair share of income taxes” which is a different question from whether the “top 50%” is paying a fair share. Lumping the top 1% with the next 49% is a sad gesture of trying to hide the wealthy among the middle class.
Maule is right. An opinion about fairness is subjective, but an opinion about “fair share” is not. The key word is “share”, not “fair.”
Maule defends the left’s fair share lie on the grounds that it’s merely a subjective determination. This is nonsense. By any measure, statistic or evaluation the rich fund the lion’s share of the federal government. There is no escaping that fact, except to lie about it. When folks like Maule spout that “the rich aren’t paying their fair share” they are intentionally trying to mislead the public into thinking that the rich are gaming the system and cheating.
It’s a lie, they know it’s a lie and they don’t care that it’s a lie.
5. Maule’s Assertion:
Finally, Pappas gets to the root of the problem. He claims “Maule knows that we are and always have been talking about federal income taxes.” Of course. That’s not the issue. The issue is my concern that typical Americans who are not tax professionals don’t know that. When they ask me about what they are hearing and reading, they demonstrate the pernicious effect of deliberate lack of precision. The liars know that they might not have much of a chance of fooling some of us, but they certainly are taking their best shot at fooling most of us. Pappas then claims that because I object to these misstatements, it proves I am a liar. Yet Pappas admits that the critical words “federal income” are left out. So how am I a liar when my claim is that those words have been left out, and that by leaving them out, the statement implies something other than the truth? The answer is Pappas’ claim that I labeled the statement “47% of Americans don’t pay federal income tax” as a lie. I challenge Pappas to show us where, in any of my posts, I have asserted that the statement “47% of Americans don’t pay federal income tax” is a lie. I asserted that the statement “47% of Americans don’t pay tax” is a lie, and Pappas’ only defense is that the two statements are the same. They’re not, and the inability to tell the difference between the two says a lot about Pappas and his argument.
Apparently, I think much more highly of the great unwashed masses than Mr. Maule, who purports to hold their interests paramount, does. I think the typical American assumes and knows that the statement “nearly half of all Americans pay zero taxes” means that “nearly half of all Americans pay zero income taxes.”
And think about it, it would take a more, not less sophisticated reader of that statement to think it means anything other than income taxes. People who are not tax professionals would not even consider that the statement refers to state and local sales taxes, property taxes and Social Security fund payments. Maule has it backwards.
In any case, I, unlike, Mr. Maule, do not think that the typical American is juggling village idiot. Americans know the discussion is about income taxes.
6. Maule’s Assertion:
When Pappas then claims that I plan to “confiscate wealth” from the haves, he climbs even deeper into the pit of rhetorical nonsense. All I have argued, for years, is that the Bush tax cuts were unwise, especially during a war. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire is not confiscation of wealth. And when he repeats the claim that no one has ever said that “47% of Americans don’t pay any tax at all” he conveniently ignores supporters of his outlook on taxation such as the Rev. Rick Warren, who told his followers, “HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero.” So who’s the liar and who’s the propaganda minister?
I suspect that everyone in the audience knew that Warren’s assertion meant that half of American weren’t paying federal income taxes, not that they weren’t paying sales taxes and social security trust fund payments.
Because people know this is why you don’t have to specify that it’s federal income taxes. Everyone gets it because that’s what the debate is about. How much federal income taxes should people pay and are the rich not paying their fair share.
7. Maule’s Assertion:
Pappas then turns to the second myth, that “The American people and corporations pay high taxes.” He ignores the fact that I pointed out that the word “high” is “more difficult to parse.” Instead, he asserts that tax rates in other countries are meaningless. That could be so, but there are plenty of tax-reduction and tax-elimination advocates who point to tax rates in other countries as warnings of what will happen if taxes are not reduced even more. The worst part of his attempt to deal with the second myth is the way Pappas attributes things to me for which he has not proof. For example, he claims, “Most Americans don’t want to be like France, even if Professor Maule does.” Again I challenge Pappas. Show us where I have taken that position. Pappas follows that sentence with a footnote, but was I ever disappointed to discover that the footnote lacked any citation or link to proof of his assertion. Actually, I wasn’t disappointed. I was elated, because the lack of the proof demonstrates that Pappas is making up facts. After all, if he had proof, surely he would have provided it.
A man can want America to be more like France without specifically saying he wants it to be more like France. The way he does this is by repeatedly comparing favorably the policies of France with those of America. Anyone reading Mr. Maule’s blog as I have over the past few years would readily agree that he prefers France’s progressive tax system over that of America’s.¹
8. Maule’s Assertion:
When Pappas gets to the third myth, he asserts that “Maule knows very well that many, if not most, conservatives don’t want to raise government revenues at all.” Of course I know that. My point is that although they want to reduce government revenue, the tax-cut proponents argue the opposite, perhaps because they know that they would lose votes if they admitted they want to cut government revenues to the extent they intend. In other words, when tax-cut advocates claim that they want to cut taxes in order to raise revenue, they know they aren’t coming clean with America.
Tax cut advocates don’t want to cut taxes in order to raise revenue, but rather, in order to stimulate the economy, the byproduct of which will be increased revenue. There is a difference between the two and Maule should know it.
Those on the right believe that lower tax rates create jobs and wealth. It, therefore, follows that they would believe that lower tax rates create more aggregate tax revenue. That does not mean, as Maule suggests, that tax cut advocates have as their goal an increase in government revenue.
9. Maule’s Assertion:
Pappas then tries to take apart the third myth by claiming that tax cuts do create jobs and that the President has admitted that tax cuts create jobs. What the President said, however, is consistent with my point, namely, that tax cuts for the 99% generate jobs. Why? Because those cuts are an application of demand-side job growth. The tax cuts that bring joy to the wealthy, however, rest on the disproven [sic] and failed supply-side approach.
Let me see if I got this right. Maule agrees that tax cuts for 99% of all taxpayers creates jobs but calls tax-cut advocates liars for suggesting that tax cuts create jobs. That’s not only unfair, it’s absurd.
And what an improbable coincidence it is that the precise percentage of the population (99%) that has been co-opted by the Occupy Wall Street crowd happens to be the exact percentage of Americans to whom Maule believes giving a tax cut would create jobs and stimulate the economy. What, pray tell, are the odds of that?
Maule uses the 99% versus the 1% comparison, not because there is a statistic or study that supports this division between those whose taxes should be cut and those whose taxes should be increased, but rather because it packs a huge emotional wallop. And who in his right mind wouldn’t take the side of Maule and the 99 percenters against those evil 1 percenters?
This is demogoguery, folks, and demogoguery is a form of dishonesty.
10. Maule’s Assertion:
Pappas then tries to attribute to me a goal of increasing the top rates to the 70% to 90% range, but at least this time he buys himself some leeway by using the phrase “I suspect even Maule, himself [takes that position].” By phrasing it this way, he has an out when he fails in my third challenge, which is to demonstrate that I have made such an argument. That he wants to take my goal of letting the top rate return to 39.6%, where it was when the economy did well, and recast it as a claim that I want it to reach double that rate is quite revealing. He adds to that an unconditional claim that I favor increased government spending. Here’s yet another challenge for Pappas. Show us where I’ve taken that position.
I cannot know whether or not Maule, if he gets the 40% top tax rate he desires, will claim that there is still deep inequality between the rich and the middle class and, therefore, the top tax rate should be raised even further. But I do know that the arguments he makes now for increasing the top tax rate on the rich would apply equally no matter how high the top tax rate becomes.
In the end, though, it doesn’t matter whether or not Mr. Maule himself believes the top tax rate should be 39%, 50% or 100%. There are legions of folks on the left who think the rich have too much damned money and should be taxed at the highest rate possible.
Finally, I have assumed that Mr. Maule favors increased government spending because he favors increased government revenues. If he thinks all of the increased revenues should be used to pay down the national debt, I have not heard him say so on his blog. It seems to me that he wants to use at least some of the new government revenue generated by increased taxes on the rich for reinvestment in America’s infrastucture.
11. Maule’s Asssertion:
Pappas doesn’t like the statistics, widely accepted, showing economic growth and tax rates, and relies on the idea that correlation is not causation. He claims that “myriad other factors” contribute to economic performance. That, however, does not remove tax rates as a factor. Some of the factors cannot be controlled, such as weather damage or overseas political conflicts, but tax rates can be controlled. Tax rates were cut in 2001. How have you fared since then?
I don’t like or dislike inanimate constructs like statistics, but I am smart enough to know that the fact that we had high tax rates at a time when the economy was thriving doesn’t mean that high tax rates caused the economy to thrive. Conversely, I know that the fact that we had low tax rates at a time when the economy was diving doesn’t mean that low tax rates caused the economy to dive.
It could very well be that, in the first case, had tax rates been lower the economy would have thrived even more than it did and, in the second case, had tax rates been higher the economy would have sunk even more than it did. I don’t know the answer to this question and neither does Mr. Maule. The difference between us is that he claims to know the answer.
Finally, I am not qualified to know the definitive cause of our boon and bust economies. However, I do have common sense. And common sense tells me that if a millionaire business owner is debating whether or not it would be cost effective for him to open a new branch of operations that would create jobs, the fact that, as a result of lower tax rates, he gets to keep more of the money he earns makes him more and not less likely to do so.
¹ From the website French-Property.com:
The tax rates and bands for 2012 (for income earned in 2011) applicable to each ‘part’ in a household are set out below. The rates are applied on a sliced basis so that each ‘part’ of the income is charged on a progressive basis. Thus, if a couple have net income of €30,000 in the year, then there are two ‘parts’ of €15,000, with each part taxed using the scale rates. There are five tax rates and bands, as follows:
French Tax Brackets In Euros – 2012
Income Share Tax Rate Up to €5,963 0% Between €5,964 – €11,896 5.5% Between €11,897 – €26,420 14% Between €26,421 – €70,830 30% Above €70,830 41%
Sur Tax on the Rich: In addition, those fortunate few with an annual income (including income from capital) of between €250,000 and €500,000 are liable for a special tax (taxe sur les hauts revenus) of 3% on income between this range, while those with an income above €500,000 will pay at the rate of 4% on any income above the threshold. The tax is imposed on net income, after determination of the tax liability under the standard scale rates.
If Mr. Maule does not prefer the French tax system to America’s current tax system, I would like to hear him say so.