Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

They just don't get it....

I finally got around last night to watching Sunday's The West Wing, which featured a "live" debate between the Republican Vinick (Alan Alda) and the Democratic Santos (Jimmy Smits). Two things were immediately apparent: (1) Alan Alda is a much, much better actor than Jimmy Smits; and (2) Lawrence O'Donnell, the show's writer (and Clinton's former speech writer) just doesn't understand the Republican world view, nor does he want to. O'Donnell, through his script writing, tried desperately through the script to give the debate advantage to his pretend Democratic candidate, by giving him the last word, and by giving him the demagogue points. The most obvious error was about "Vinick's" promise to cut taxes, and "Santo's" attack that he would have to cut programs to do so. An intelligent rebuttal, of course, would have been that experience shows that reducing taxes actually increases government tax revenue, since the American people, given the chance, are extremely effective at making money. This means that, even as people pay a lower percentage of their money to taxes, they have more money subject to taxes, which offsets the lower marginal rates. Pres. Bush's minimal 2001 tax cut is a case in point. "Santos" also got in the usual point about "we're only going to tax the rich, who, by the time they've filtered their way through their tax shelters, pay a much lower marginal tax rate than everyone else." In an intelligent universe, "Vinick" would have come back by pointing out that, as it is, the rich pay most of this country's tax dollars:

The reality is that the wealthy pay almost all of the federal income tax and there is clear and compelling evidence that our tax system—especially its misguided redistributive elements—impose a heavy cost in terms of growth that is ultimately paid by the non-wealthy in the form of lower productivity and, hence, lower wages and incomes. Interestingly, the latest Internal Revenue Service data on distribution of the tax burden were released the same day Tritch's tirade appeared. They show that the top one percent of taxpayers paid 34.3 percent of all federal income taxes in 2003, although they earned just 16.8 percent of the adjusted gross income. The top five percent of taxpayers paid more than half of all federal income taxes, the top 10 percent paid two-thirds, and the top half of taxpayers paid 96.5 percent, meaning that the bottom half paid just 3.5 percent. Another IRS report decomposed the top one percent and found that the top ten percent of the top one percent (the top 0.1 percent) increased their share of all federal income taxes from seven percent in 1980 to 15.3 percent in 2003. These 129,000 tax filers earned 7.6 percent of the income and paid an average tax rate of 23.6 percent. This came to $114.6 billion—four times more than all the taxes paid by the 64 million taxpayers in the bottom 50 percent—who paid an average tax rate of 2.9 percent.
Interestingly, O'Donnell did have enough intellectual honesty to have "Vinick", while agree to 3rd World Debt Forgiveness, claim that wouldn't help at all, because African countries had such high tax rates, they were making it impossible for their people to amass capital. So, if O'Donnell really thinks about it, he does get it. The funny thing was that, at show's end, the unrepentently Democratic Mr. Bookworm said that, if this had been a real debate, he'd say Vinick won. Either conservative ideas are so good they transcend a bad script, or I'm underestimating O'Donnell's power to convey ideas he dislikes.