False Equivalency: Tax Cuts Versus Entitlement Cuts

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini0 Comments

False equivalency rages through the political rhetoric, fanned by the transcribers of press releases (formerly known as “journalists”). No one seems able to call bullshit on what is transparently nonsense. To wit.

In an otherwise pedestrian, boring, nothing-new article by Binyamin Appelbaum, the end of the piece has this, referring to former Senator Pete Domenici:

Mr. Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who played a significant role in negotiating the 1990 deal, which he regarded as necessary to reduce federal deficits, left the Senate in 2009. But he has continued to advocate a similar approach as a co-chairman of a commission organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center that called for a mix of revenue increases and spending cuts to stabilize the federal debt.

He said he was frustrated by the reflexive opposition of conservatives to any kind of tax increase, but he added that Democrats had also shown little willingness to negotiate necessary cuts in spending on federal entitlement programs.

“There has been a hardening in the Democratic line, too,” he said. “There isn’t any Democrat in here that is going to help with these cuts.”

But, as is the case with virtually all transcribers of press releases when it comes to the issue of the phony debt and deficit “crisis”, this reporter fails to note that there is a false equivalency in what Domenici is bemoaning. That is, that Republican refusal to let taxes on the very wealthy rise is the same as Democratic refusal to support cuts in entitlements.

Let’s examine that.

Letting taxes on the very wealthy rise means that a handful of people who have taken the lion’s share of the wealth of the country will pay more in taxes. 14,000 American families hold 22.2 percent of the wealth versus the bottom 90 percent of households (over 133 million families) who hold just 4 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Or as the Congressional Budget Office found:

¶ The share of after-tax household income for the top 1 percent of the population more than doubled, climbing to 17 percent in 2007 from nearly 8 percent in 1979.

¶ The most affluent fifth of the population received 53 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, up from 43 percent in 1979. In other words, the after-tax income of the most affluent fifth exceeded the income of the other four-fifths of the population.

The other side of the equation: entitlements. Those are programs that protect tens of millions of Americans. Without Medicare, older people would go bankrupt.

And though Social Security does not contribute a single dime to the budget deficit, it is in the cross-hairs of the deficit-obsessed politicians. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes:

Social Security benefits are already quite modest. In 2012, the average annual benefit for beneficiaries aged 65 and older was less than $15,000.2 Any additional reduction of benefits would have serious repercussions for retirees, 2-out-of-5 of whom rely on Social Security for 90 percent of their retirement income.

So, it is entirely false to give the impression that the opposition to letting taxes rise on the wealthy — an opposition protecting the elite — is the same as the opposition to attack and gut programs that can mean the difference between solvency and homelessness.

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