Dan Boren Spreads Tax Misinformation

Image of U.S. Rep. Dan Boren

(Hat tip to Life and Deatherage for the Boren quote.)

U.S. Rep. David Boren, a Blue Dog Democrat in the state’s ultra-conservative congressional delegation, is spreading misinformation to apparently make sure the country’s wealthiest citizens become even wealthier.

This is from a recent post in POLITICO:

“We are allowing the liberal wing of the Democratic Caucus to hold these critically needed tax cuts hostage,” Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) told POLITICO. “It is long past time to get this deal done and get our economy moving again. Unfortunately, my colleagues are either not listening to what the voters are saying, or they are not interested in doing what is best for the American economy.”

Boren, pictured right, is simply wrong that voters are “saying” they want continued tax cuts for the rich, which are included in the recent tax deal between President Barack Obama and Republicans, according to recent polls.

From The Hill, about a September Gallup poll:

A majority of those polled by Gallup agree with President Obama that Bush-era tax cuts for the rich should be phased out.

Forty-four percent of those polled want tax cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 and families under $250,000 to be extended, but favor phasing out tax cuts for people who earn more than those thresholds.

Another 15 percent favor allowing the tax cuts for the rich to expire along with the middle-class tax cuts, according to Gallup.

That means 59 percent favor ending the tax cuts for the rich.

From Politico, about a December Bloomberg News poll:

In a Bloomberg News poll released Wednesday, nearly 60 percent of Americans surveyed said they favor the elimination of the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans. One-third said they strongly favor the elimination of the cuts, while 18 percent said they strongly oppose the discontinuation of the cuts.

From CNN, about a December CBS News poll:

According to a CBS News survey released Thursday evening, 53 percent of the public says that the cuts should be extended only for families making a combined income of less that $250,000 a year, with 26 percent saying the lower tax rates should be continued for all Americans, and 14 percent saying they should be allowed to expire at the end of the year.

The 26 percent in the CBS News poll who say that the cuts should be extended for all Americans is lower than the figures in other recent surveys.

Note Boren’s use of “liberal wing” and “what voters are saying” and “not interested in doing what’s best for the American economy.”

There’s no excuse for Boren’s remarks. Sure, a majority of Oklahomans in his district right now are probably overwhelming in favor of any GOP position, even if it hurts them financially or otherwise, but Boren essentially argues that Americans in general are sending a message that rich people should get tax cuts. That’s not true.

So, let’s be clear, multiple polls show American people don’t want to extend the Bush tax cuts to people making more than $250,000, and yet President Barack Obama and Boren want to “compromise” with Republicans so rich people can get richer. The recent tax deal between Obama and Republicans and Blue Dogs like Boren that extend all the tax cuts for another two years is fait accompli for the GOP, which represents the interests of rich people and the corporate power structure above anything else.

Here’s how U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont put it in his recent filibuster of the tax cut deal:

How can I get by on one house? I need five houses, ten houses! I need three jet planes to take me all over the world! Sorry, American people. We've got the money, we've got the power, we've got the lobbyists here and on Wall Street. Tough luck. That's the world, get used to it. Rich get richer. Middle class shrinks.


Misplaced TARP Anger?

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I was not a big fan of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) because it wasn't accompanied by enough significant new regulations to stop the banking industry from creating economy-damaging fiascoes out of its collective warped sense of greed and entitlement.

But I was wrong about the overall cost of the program, and I was wrong to criticize President Barack Obama’s support for TARP, which was actually first signed into law by former President George Bush in 2008.

TARP, as the Associated Press recently reported, has generated an income from government stock sales over the last two years. Estimates now are that TARP will only cost $25 billion, and that number could go down even further. In fact, there’s a possibility that government could actually wind up making money. One estimate early in the program placed the cost at $700 billion.

All this reminds me of last summer when Tea Party-types flooded town hall meetings here in Oklahoma and elsewhere to express their outrage about the bailout and the federal stimulus program. What exactly were they so mad about? It appears practically nothing. Was it manufactured?

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn fueled the fires by scaring his “petrified” constituents with over-the-top rhetoric about the federal deficit, invoking the “poor grandchildren” argument while arguing for cuts in programs that would actually hurt future generations.

Coburn’s contradiction is apparent, but Democrats, according to George Lakoff, are losing the communications battle with Republicans. In a recent article, Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California in Berkeley, writes:

The conservatives have a superior message machine: Dozens of think tanks with communications facilities, framing experts, training institutes, a national roster of speakers, booking agents to books their speakers in the media and civic groups, and owned medias like Fox News and a great deal of talk radio. Their audience will hear, over and over, "No one should have their taxes raised."

This “superior message machine” allows Republicans to manipulate people on a visceral level, according to Lakoff, because “conservatives who are savvy about marketing their ideas are closer to the way people really think than Democrats are, because people who teach marketing tend to be up on how the brain and language work.”

This means logic and reasoned arguments fail to convince many people that they often vote against their own interests. It also means Democrats need a better message machine, especially given the results of the midterm elections, and it should start with Obama.

But it’s particularly difficult to reframe the political debate in Oklahoma because the corporate media here doesn’t allow views or frames that disturb the right-wing mirage. Those who present dissenting views on local web sites and in publications should realize that, as Lakoff argues, “communication is a long-term effort.” There’s no magic slogan or approach that will suddenly lead to people changing their world views, especially in Oklahoma. What we can do here is employ tenacity, discipline, consistency, and long-term commitment as we push frames or construct language to protect what Lakoff calls the “moral missions of government.” Lakoff writes:

The moral missions of government include the protection and empowerment of citizens. Protection includes health care, social security, safe food, consumer protection, environmental protection, job protection, etc. Empowerment is what makes a decent life possible -- roads and infrastructure, communication and energy systems, education, etc. No business can function without them. This has not been discussed adequately. Government serving those moral missions is what makes freedom, fairness, and prosperity possible. Conservatives do not believe in those moral missions of government, and when in power, they subvert the ability of government to carry out those moral missions.


OK Policy, Observer Deserve Support

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The Oklahoma Policy Institute, a think tank that provides insightful, independent analysis of state policy issues, is conducting a year-end fundraising drive.

As political power shifts in state government next year, OK Policy is needed more than ever here. The organization has become a mainstay of Oklahoma politics, government and media since its inception. It adds balance and intellectualism to a state political climate often driven by ideology and short-term interests.

In a media release about the fundraising drive, David Blatt, OK Policy director, said:

With Oklahoma facing prolonged constraints on the budget; with funding cuts leading to a loss of services and programs that is eroding our ability to invest in our common goals as a state; with a fragile economy leaving families struggling to get by and get ahead, we believe that the need for OK Policy has never been greater.

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