Bill O’Reilly Endorses Bernie Sanders!

Bill O'ReillyBill O’Reilly claims that he is going to move to Ireland if Bernie Sanders becomes president. He says that he is not willing to pay 90% income tax. This is strange because Sanders has said on numerous occasions that he will not raise income tax rates that high. At the 14 November 2015 Democratic debate, Sanders was asked how much he would raise the top marginal tax rate. He responded, “We haven’t come up with an exact number yet. But it will not be as high as the number under Dwight D Eisenhower which was 90%… I’m not a socialist compared to Eisenhower.”

So how is it that “I will not raise the income tax rate to 90%” becomes “I will raise the income tax rate to 90%”? Well, it comes from the man who I have come to think of as the heart and soul of the Republican Party: Donald Trump. Back in October, he was at a rally in Richmond, Virginia where he called Bernie Sanders a communist. And he said, “He’s gonna tax you people at 90 percent.” It must be true, it was on the television.

But television works both ways, and Politifact documented Sanders’ statements going back to 2008 where he has said that he wouldn’t go up to a 90% marginal tax rate. Based upon what I know of Bernie Sanders, I think he would like to go back to a top marginal tax rate that we had under that communist Richard Nixon (70%), but that he’d be thrilled just to get it back what it was under that pinko Ronald Reagan (50%).

If the top marginal tax rate went up to 90%, Bill O’Reilly would not be paying his taxes to “that guy.” He would not even be paying his taxes to the US government. He would be paying his taxes to the American people.

There are several things to note about all this. As Martin Longman has pointed out, “Even if Sanders wanted that kind of tax reform, he’d never be able to accomplish it. He couldn’t accomplish it even if the Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress and had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.” Despite what idiot conservatives like to claim (but only when a Democrat is in the White House), we do not live under a dictatorship. What really matters in this case is that Sanders thinks that taxes on the rich are way too low, and this is a belief that even most Republicans share. Scary?! I don’t think so.

Part of the problem, of course, is that most people don’t understand marginal tax rates. I still hear urban legends about this guy who got a raise but ended up with less money because he got pushed into a higher tax bracket. Sorry folks, that ain’t the way our tax system works. (Note: this does happen to the poor, as I discussed before, Catch 22 for Poor in America.) But certainly Donald Trump understands marginal tax rates. But it’s like his bigotry: I don’t think he’s a racist; he’s a demagogue — which is far worse.

But at least Bill O’Reilly is being honest that Sander’s mythical 90% tax rate would affect him and not the nation as a whole. But I was really bothered by exactly what he said, “I’m not going to pay 90 percent of my income to that guy. I’m sorry. I’m not doing it.” This is typical of conservative thought and it is something that enrages me. Oh how conservatives like to talk about patriotism, but when it costs them one red penny, they are an island unto themselves.

If the top marginal tax rate went up to 90%, Bill O’Reilly would not be paying his taxes to “that guy.” He would not even be paying his taxes to the US government. He would be paying his taxes to the American people. He would be doing it because that is the price we pay for living in this country. It is the price that Bill O’Reilly pays for living in a country where he can make millions of dollars per year. If he had been born in Zimbabwe, he would have died poor and young of typhoid. Patriotism isn’t putting a yellow ribbon on your car and cheerleading every war that comes along. Bill O’Reilly is at best what Thomas Paine called a “sunshine patriot.” I would go further, I would call him a traitor.

But I think there are tens of millions of people in the US who would vote for Bernie Sanders for the single reason that Bill O’Reilly would go away. Sanders could not have received a better endorsement than this one. Unfortunately, O’Reilly is lying (as usual). He wouldn’t leave this country. To start with, he would have to renounce his US citizenship, or he would still have to pay the taxes. Once there, he would find that his income would plummet; he would no longer be making the $18 million from Fox News. And without that platform, his best selling books would become distinctly midlist. And as it is, his taxes would still be north of 50%.

Still, Bernie Sanders becoming president would really piss off Bill O’Reilly. And if I weren’t already a Sanders supporter, that would be enough to make me one.

Republicans Are Not Interested in Solving Problems

Marco RubioIt was just the other day that I was writing about how boring politics is. And the fault is entirely the Republicans’. There’s really nothing to discuss. There are no proposals for fixing problems. I mean really: the Republicans are not interested in any problems. It is all faith based politics. Their approach to guns is the perfect example. We can’t do anything about them because doing even the smallest thing would destroy some kind of vague ideological purity. But when it comes to guns, I don’t so much care because even the changes that liberals propose are unlikely to improve matters.

But on the economic front, it’s downright funny. Marco Rubio is running around the country talking about all his new ideas and how we must vote for him because he’s young and “the future.” And his ideas are that we ought to do exactly what Ronald Reagan did. There’s a big problem with this. Even if you think that Reagan’s policies worked great, they haven’t worked great since then. There are diminishing returns. It might well be true that cutting the top tax rate from 90% to 70% had a big effect. But will cutting it from 39.6% to 30.8% have as big an effect? I think the case is much stronger that it will have the opposite effect: we are now at the point that giving rich people even more money hurts the economy.

Noah Smith talked about this last year with regard to deregulation:

So… maybe Free Market Nirvana would get us there. Maybe. But it seems to me that even beneficial types of market liberalization, like every other policy improvement, are subject to diminishing returns — the low-hanging fruit gets picked first. The Kennedy tax cuts seemed to produce a burst of growth, the Reagan tax cuts a more modest bump, and the Bush tax cuts basically nothing. There’s no reason to think the same isn’t true of deregulation.

But this is what Rubio and the rest of the Republicans have on offer. And the point is not that cutting taxes would improve the economy. It is just that they are ideologically committed to cutting taxes because helping the rich is just the right thing to do. It’s like the “small government” obsession that Republicans have. They can’t give you a reason why small government is good. It is just an article of faith that it is good. Of course, they don’t actually believe in small government. They just say they are as a justification for cutting programs that help the poor and middle classes and spending more on programs that help the rich.

Conservatives are not interested in solving problems. In as much as they engage with them, it is simply to stop anything from ever being done about them.

Yesterday, Paul Krugman wrote, TINA and the ACA. It’s about how yet again, the Republicans have failed to come up with an alternative to Obamacare. It all comes down to what I’ve been talking about for year, Obamacare is the conservative policy solution for our broken healthcare system. So it is no surprise that they find it impossible to come up with a conservative alternative to it. They are against doing anything at all — on principle.

Every idea they’ve ever come up with in the past was only proposed defensively. They wanted something they could hold up to stop a more liberal plan from being enacted. This is the basis of Jonathan Chait’s Heritage Uncertainty Principle. If a policy doesn’t involve helping the rich or hurting the poor, the Republicans really aren’t interested in it. That’s a depressing fact about modern American politics.

So we liberals can get together and talk about different approaches to solving problems. But conservatives are not interested in solving problems. In as much as they engage with them, it is simply to stop anything from ever being done about them. What a sad world they live in. And what an awful world they are trying to create for all the rest of us.

Morning Music: Nick Cave

Door, DoorThe first band that Nick Cave was in was The Birthday Party. They were a punk band of sorts out of Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were one of those bands that weren’t directly successful but had so much talent that they were nonetheless hugely influential. I want to highlight a song off their first album, Door, Door. Now officially, the album is by the band “The Boys Next Door.” But they were, in fact, The Birthday Party.

The song is, “Shivers.” It is not a Nick Cave song. It was written by the band’s guitarist, Rowland S Howard (although all the songs were credited to the whole band). He wrote it when he was only 16 years old, which is kind of annoying. But he died young, so I guess I will forgive him. It is a very funny song, in the Nick Cave sense. That is to say that I’m not sure that it’s meant to be funny. It does render very much what it’s like to be dumped when you’re 16 years old. But it seems self-aware — that it understands just what a silly song it is.

Anniversary Post: The Goldbergs

The GoldbergsOn this day in 1949. The Goldbergs first appeared on television. It was the first situation comedy to be on television. It was the brainchild of Gertrude Berg. It started as a radio show in 1928. Berg wrote, directed, and starred in it from the start. It is a show about a Jewish family where Berg plays Molly Goldberg, a stereotypical Jewish mother.

I’d never heard of it before yesterday, so I found a couple of episodes to watch. It’s a bit hard to call it a comedy since it doesn’t have much in the way of laughs. It is pleasant enough. But weird. You can definitely see how I Love Lucy would have impressed people. Just the same, The Goldbergs actually had a longer run.

I don’t know quite what to say about The Goldbergs. I’m curious what other people think of it. But I can’t quite recommend watching this episode, “The New Landlord,” from the first season. I can see how it is supposed to be funny. And it wouldn’t be hard to rewrite it to make it work. It is, after all, a standard kind of comedic set up where Molly finds herself in a bad situation and just makes things worse and worse. It’s like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but before the mechanics of the process had been worked out.

Still, The Goldbergs is very sweet. No one is evil. I suspect it is very much what most people wanted to watch coming out of the World War II.