Matt Yglesias is more angry than I think I’ve ever seen him, Why is the Media More Interested in Hillary’s Email Than in Jeb’s Profoundly Dishonest Tax Pitch? It’s understandable, “The formative experience of my political life was the 2000 presidential campaign, in which the media mercilessly persecuted Al Gore over a series of trivial exaggerations and now-forgotten pseudo-scandals while giving George W Bush a pass on the fact that the central premises of his economic agenda were lies.” And he’s afraid that the same thing is going to happen in this presidential campaign.
It’s not surprising that it goes like this. The Hillary Clinton email “scandal” is like a good true crime story. What classified information got through? Who knew about it? Were laws broken? And then there is the larger narrative about the Clintons and how they just can’t be trusted. I’m sure in the minds of some conservatives, Bill Clinton’s two very conservative terms as president were just a ruse, to allow Hillary to become president so she could turn the country into the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, the details of tax “reform” are boring. It’s all about math and facts. Who’s interested in that? Of course, if reporters were not so incredibly lazy, they would find that there is a really interesting narrative in Jeb Bush’s tax plan. In fact, I think it is much more interesting that the email narrative — even if you grant that the email story is compelling. Here’s the narrative: Jeb is pushing a tax plan that would both increase the deficit and cut the taxes of the rich. He claims that this will cause the economy to boom. But this is exactly what his brother said. The taxes of the rich were cut, but the boom never came.
I don’t think this is an issue of reporters not wanting to wade into the questions of policy. After all, both stories are about policy. It’s the same as with Al Gore: the reporters just think it is fun to go after Hillary. The question is not about whether it was smart for her to have her own email server; it is about whether she is a liar. Will one of them get their Perry Mason moment and be elevated to the stature of Woodward and Bernstein?! Oh happy day!
There’s also a bit of the expectations game going on. Everyone takes it as a given that the Republicans will push for regressive tax cuts that don’t do what they claim. But this kind of cynicism does not serve the American public well. The public apparently doesn’t know that Republicans do the same thing every time they get into office unless they are constantly reminded. And doesn’t this sum up the mainstream media? Because the Republican Party is so horrible, it isn’t reported on because it is “dog bites man”! It doesn’t matter that Jeb Bush’s plan would greatly hurt America in an absolute sense; in a relative sense — compared to his brother — it wouldn’t be that bad. This is just nonsense.
Yglesias put together a list of things that we could do rather than cut taxes (mostly on the rich) as Bush wishes to do. It is worth listing. For one thing, in the article, it isn’t clear. We could do all of the following, all combined, for the price of Bush’s tax cut:
- Create subsidized job opportunities for 80,000 adults per year ($10 billion)
- The Center for American Progress’ plan for high-quality day care ($40 billion)
- A bipartisan plan to boost the EITC to help the working poor that’s held up in Congress because of disagreement on how to pay for it ($60 billion)
- Barack Obama’s proposal for universal preschool ($75 billion)
- Eliminate the Highway Trust Fund fiscal gap ($168 billion)
- Hillary Clinton’s plan for debt-free college ($350 billion)
- A national high-speed rail network ($500 billion)
- End sequestration, and adopt the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s wish list of domestic discretionary funding increases ($1.9 trillion)
- End hunger globally ($300 billion)
So there’s you’re narrative: Jeb Bush is pushing a tax “reform” plan that is focused on cutting the taxes of the very rich. His brother did this and it did not bring prosperity. Instead of doing this, we could instead do all kinds of other great things that would not only make the nation and the world better — they would also stimulate the economy more.