Kristof nails it at Club 47!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2012

In the process, he offers false balance: For our money, Nicholas Kristof does a very good job today explaining the 47 percent.

That doesn’t mean there are no errors, or perhaps apparent errors, in his well rendered column. One example:

Would that kindergarten teacher really be part of Club 47?
KRISTOF (9/20/12): As I watched a video of Mitt Romney scolding moochers suffering from a culture of dependency, I thought of American soldiers I’ve met in Afghanistan and Iraq. They don’t pay federal income tax while they’re in combat zones, and they rely on government benefits when they come back.

Even if they return unscathed, most will never pay lofty sums in federal income taxes. No, all they offer our nation is their lives, while receiving government benefits—such as a $100,000 “death gratuity” to their wives or husbands when killed.

Maybe I’m being unfair, for I’m sure that when Romney complained in that video about freeloaders, he didn’t mean soldiers. But the 47 percent (more accurately, 46 percent) of American families whom he scorned because they don’t pay federal income taxes includes many other modestly paid workers or retirees who have contributed far more meaningfully to America than some who can shell out $50,000 to attend a fund-raiser like the one where Romney spoke in May.

What about the underpaid kindergarten teacher in an inner-city school? What about young police officers and firefighters? What about social workers struggling to help abused children?
Would that kindergarten teacher be paid so little that she would owe no federal income tax? We don’t know the answer to that. But unless she has a couple of kids, it sounds like a bit of a stretch. (We could be wrong.)

On balance, we thought Kristof’s column was very well composed—except for the way he bowed to that one key Pundit Mandate. At two points, we thought he stretched extremely hard to be fair and (falsely) balanced.

It all starts in Kristof’s youth:
KRISTOF: When I was growing up in Oregon, it was Democrats who were typically the crazies. Gov. George Wallace (“segregation forever”) tapped into populist resentments in his presidential campaigns. Lyndon Larouche was a cult leader seeking the Democratic nomination.
How long was Kristof’s youth? Wallace made that unfortunate statement in 1963. Larouche first campaigned as a Democrat in 1980.

It’s certainly true that southern segregationists were once all Democrats. That said, we thought Kristof was stretching a bit in that passage.

We reacted the same way here:
KRISTOF: For me, the saddest polls are those about facts. A Dartmouth poll this year found that Republicans believe, by a ratio of more than 3 to 1, that “Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded in 2003.”

The same poll found that Republicans believe, almost by a 3-to-1 ratio, that President Obama was born in another country. Democrats also suffer from self-deception (such as a reluctance to credit improvements under a Republican president), but today’s Republicans seem disproportionately untethered to reality.
Geez. That highlighted point is a major stretch. At present, many Republicans believe many crazy facts. This includes that fact about Obama. It includes those wayward beliefs about the 47 percent.

This is deeply unfortunate. It’s very bad for the nation.

We think some liberals are behaving badly too, principally in the need to find racists under every possible bed (except our own). We would have been happy to see Kristof make some sensible statement about unconstructive liberal/Democratic tendencies.

But that “reluctance to credit improvements under a Republican president” is really a piece of false balance, as compared to the widespread idea that Obama was born in Kenya.

In our view, Kristof explains the 47 percent extremely well. But good lord! The need for false balance never goes away! As Governor Wallace might have said:

False balance now, false balance tomorrow, false balance forever!

As we've noted from the performance stages of the world's major capitals: Obama was actually born in Hawaii. No other president was born that far from Kenya!

24 comments:

  1. Bob,

    I am sure there are Kindergarten teachers who pay no tax. I am a faculty member at a large research University, and early in my career, my wife and were in the 47%--due to the 'additional child tax' credit and other Republican initiated tax credits, we not only paid no taxes but got a supplement from the government. This despite the fact that we had what I considered to be a modest, but sufficient income to meet our needs.

    So, it is particularly rich of Romney to suggest that people who benefited from Republican policies are freeloaders--kind of gives a whole new meaning to blaming the victim.

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    1. One of the few things George W. did right was include a major expansion of the child tax credit and the Earned Income Credit in his tax cut proposals.

      That not only earned him a lot of votes from Democratic House and Senate members for a tax plan that included odious and huge cuts for the wealthy, but it also took millions of low-income households off the federal income tax rolls. And he openly bragged about that, and rightfully so.

      Just a decade later, what do we have? The Republican standard bearers whining that the rich pay too much and deserve more tax cuts, while the poor aren't paying enough and deserve to have their taxes increased.

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  2. Bob,

    I am sure there are Kindergarten teachers who pay no tax. I am a faculty member at a large research University, and early in my career, my wife and were in the 47%--due to the 'additional child tax' credit and other Republican initiated tax credits, we not only paid no taxes but got a supplement from the government. This despite the fact that we had what I considered to be a modest, but sufficient income to meet our needs.

    So, it is particularly rich of Romney to suggest that people who benefited from Republican policies are freeloaders--kind of gives a whole new meaning to blaming the victim.

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  3. Amusingly enough, Kristoff's "crazy" Democrats would be Republicans now. Amazing how that works out.

    (Larouche is just a nut, and has never been accepted as a Democrat by actual Democrats. Contrast that situation with, say, David Duke, who was chosen by the Republicans to run for the state of Louisiana's governorship and one of its senate seats).

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  4. OK, I'm a Democrat.
    I give credit to Richard Nixon for the Negative Income Tax (Earned income Credit).
    I give credit to George W Bush for cutting taxes on the middle class.

    The upshot of these programs are that many wage earners don't pay individual income tax. They are members of Romney's freeloader class, even though they work for a living and pay payroll taxes.

    What's a poor person to do, send in money they don't owe, as Warren Buffett is invited to do?

    PS. Troops in combat zones don't pay income tax. Those deadbeats are getting a free ride!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I give no credit for cutting taxes if as a whole the numbers don't add up. It's irresponsible pandering for the most part.

      Speaking of combat pay, I wonder if Romney paid any income taxes when he high tailed to France?

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  5. Romney said people who don't pay taxes don't have a stake in lowering them. That was right. He indicated that a high portion of the 47% are moochers. Right again. Kristof wants to address the ones he wasn't talking about instead of the ones he was.

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    1. I'm not QUITE in the 47 percent, but I feel I have a great stake in lowering the taxes. That is, if it's done, the god awful polices of the Republican Party will have even greater ill effect on the Country than they already have. This is due to
      garbage brained idiots like you.

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    2. Just for the sake of accuracy (a scary word, I know), here is a word-for-word transcript of what Romney said:

      [b]There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.[/b]

      Nothing about "portion," high or otherwise. He said, flat out, that 47% of the people pay no income tax and are dependent on the government. Again, that's just a public service break for the sake of accuracy; you can return to whatever fantasy world you live in now. I do, though, hope that a substantially greater "portion" of the population than 47% has better reading and listening skills than you have been cursed with.

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    3. Romney was actually trying to get a valid point across, much as Obama was with his "religion and guns" comment. But Romney is totally inept, and you've got to wonder how much damage he could do as president, paticularly with that numbskull Ryan at his side.

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    4. Liberals can ignore the fact that there are too many moochers to sustain an economy and that democrat policies make it worse. Nitpicking a 47% figure is just obfuscation of that point because liberals never want to address it.

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    5. Romney is hardly "inept." He has probably done a thousand of these private fundraisers over the years, and repeated the exact same things throughout. If you watch the video, you can see him saying that stuff with practiced ease, like he's reading a bunch of bullet points off a Powerpoint slide. Either he's saying it because he really believes it, or he's saying it because he's found it goes over well with his audience of super wealthy donors. Neither option says anything positive about Romney the man, but it doesn't mean he's inept, but rather, loathsome and cynical, which in some ways is worse.

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  6. Anonymous, what's your evidence that "a high portion of the 47% are moochers"? Who are these moochers? Are you referring to the elderly? Students? Minimum wage workers? Who? And what percentage are they?

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    1. Of course not. The previous "Anonymous" already said that Romney obviously (to him) didn't mean soldiers in combat zones, students working their way through college, the elderly on Social Security, and all those people breaking their backs in low-wage jobs while trying to raise a family.

      It is clear (to him) that Romney was talking about all those "other" moochers in the 47 percent. Unfortunately, both he and Romney are unable to pinpoint who they might be, so they just tar the entire 47 percent with the same broad brush.

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    2. Unemployment moochers, "disability" moochers, welfare moochers who reproduce for more benefits, public sector union moochers. They all exist in growing numbers.

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    3. Public sector union moochers? Do you mean those fire department moochers who charged into the World Trade Center to do their jobs and lost their lives? Maybe you mean the police officer moochers who have been killed doing their jobs. Or the college-educated or graduate-school-educated Chicago teacher moochers who show their moocherness by working 2200 hours in ten months -- likely a few hundred hours more than you spend in your full-year job -- teaching children with few family educational resources and stealing the outrageous sum of $71,000 a year after 15 years.

      What a lowlife!

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    4. Liberals don't argue honestly, they cherry pick extremes within extremes and ignore what they can't distort.

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  7. On the front page of today's (Friday's) NYT, a story by Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg about Romney facing an uphill fight to win at the polls summarizes the Boca moment:
    "... he said that nearl halfof American do not pay taxes and see themselves as victims." Note the omission (whether by the writers or an editor) of the words "federal income" before taxes. Unbelievably irresponsible omission.

    I was wondering: is it accurate that soliders in combat zones don't pay any federal income tax? Or do they not pay it only on that portion of their paycheck that is "combat pay"?

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    1. What my father told me is if any military personnel were in a combat zone in any capacity for one day their active duty pay for that month would be tax free.

      Air Force crews that landed in Tan Son Nhut during the Vietnam war, dropped off dignitaries and turned around immediately were eligible for this tax break.
      They did not receive combat pay, (but received flight pay, of course.)

      My father was Superintendent of the 89th MAW at Andrews AFB, and rotated the Special Missions (Foreign) crews so they could all benefit from this policy.

      Of course, the aircraft landing at Tan Son Nhut were occasionally fired upon by the Viet Cong, and the VC also attacked the base with heavy artillery.

      I presume this is still pentagon policy.

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    2. Thanks, gravymeister!

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  8. "The same poll found that Republicans believe, almost by a 3-to-1 ratio, that President Obama was born in another country."

    "We think some liberals are behaving badly too, principally in the need to find racists under every possible bed (except our own)."

    I don't think you have to look under beds. And McCain was actually born in another country.

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    1. The system for assuring that dependents of US military born on foreign soil will be United States citizens has been routine for many decades.

      McCain is legally considered to be a native born US citizen, as is my kid brother, who was born in Paris, France.

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