IS SCOTT WALKER SMARTER THAN A FIFTH GRADER?
Seriously, is he?
On January 15, Scott Walker related a story about explaining taxes to fifth-grade children. His tweet referenced freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Occasio Cortez’s (AOC) attempt to bring marginal tax rates back to pre-Reagan levels, or 70%.
Explaining tax rates before Reagan to 5th graders: “Imagine if you did chores for your grandma and she gave you $10. When you got home, your parents took $7 from you.” The students said: “That’s not fair!” Even 5th graders get it.
Welp, we can nail Marx’s casket shut, that’s it. Fifth graders have declared socialism isn’t fair. After all, Mr. Walker was 100% accurate in stating that every dollar a rich person made in the Reagan era was taxed at 70%, which is why there are no rich people in the US.
IIIIIIN THE RED CORNER:
The Washington Post included this tweet when referencing a series of attacks on AOC, and her rebuttal, “What have you got left?” Other attacks included Candace Owens claiming AOC wasn’t fiscally responsible enough to save up money with a bartender’s wage to pay two rents in two of the most expensive cities in the country. Ed Rollins and Rush “OxyContin M&Ms” Limbaugh called her “little girl” and “uppity,” clinging to the issues with dignity. Dan Crenshaw cried about being lumped in with the party that he has only been a part of for years, whose policies he has espoused, whose candidates he has supported, whose endorsement he has sought, whose opponents he has run against. How dare AOC say “I hear the GOP thinks women dancing is scandalous” (referring to GOP attacks using a video she made in college) instead of individually naming every single person and outlet who has mentioned the video and absolving everyone who hasn’t explicitly talked about it? I mean, what are 280 characters for if not meticulously detailed and specific discussions of everyone in the public discourse?
Minority Whip Steve Scalise took the high road, stating, “It’s important any time that a sitting member of Congress promotes socialist ideas to at least expose what it would do to destroy the ability for people to move into the middle class,” using the extremely erudite discussion of marginal tax rates to remind people that it would take away “70% of your income (emphasis mine)” to fund “left-wing fantasy programs.” Fantasies like food for children, healthcare, those things that you only deserve if you make enough money. Stupid hungry kids and their fantasies of eating food.
No Pinocchios For The Powerful
But let’s go back to Scott Walker, and his attempt at explaining taxes to children. AOC has suggested raising the marginal tax rate to 70%. According to Forbes (that SJW-commie rag), “Marginal tax rates reflect the tax on the last dollar you earn.” AOC’s plan would only begin to affect you at the $10 millionth dollar. So for Scott’s metaphorical parents to confiscate $7 of the $10 that child made pulling up their bootstraps for Granny, that child would have to already have made $9,999,999.00. For Scalise’s accusation that the Democrats want to take “70% of your income,” the average US worker would have to make $10 million a year.
What an unfair world we live in, where a fifth grader isn’t allowed to work and keep all $10,000,010 of their labor. I mean, it’s not like Granny would be pocketing some of that labor in profit, since in this analogy she represents capital and the parents represent the state (and since state officials move into the private sphere and vice versa like a musical chairs game fueled by PCP, I’m going to refrain from pointing out the weird, semi-incestuous and toxic family this implies). How can a child even live on only $10,000,003???
So if AOC’s policy only affects the $10 millionth dollar and above, and Steve Scabies and Scott Wanker accuse her of robbing $0.70 from every dollar earned by every US citizen, why didn’t the Washington Post accuse them of lying?
Democracy Dies In A Shitty Newspaper
People often call this a moral failing of media, particularly mainstream outlets. To an extent, they are correct, however, there is a legitimate legal concern at being popped with a libel charge. Therefore, writers will veer very far from saying “lied,” instead of using the vague “misled,” which does not require malicious intent. After all, one can “mislead” with an honestly held, but false, belief, and that is not a lie. The paper and author are thus protected.
However, it would be nice if these papers took the safe position of “Scalise and Walker don’t know what a marginal tax rate is.” Scalise and Scott Walker both pretend they are worried about tax policy, but both misrepresented one of the most basic principles of our tax system. Did they do this on purpose? Unless we catch them on a hot mic declaring they intentionally deceived fifth graders and their Twitter followers, it can’t be proven. However, if they insist they are being honest while being demonstrably wrong, it is important to call it what it is: a failure to understand basic fiscal policy while presenting themselves as fiscally responsible. They are Frito from Idiocracy, and their entire economic understanding begins and ends at, “I like money.”
The WaPo article appears to follow the strategy of “give them enough rope and they will hang themselves,” merely transcribing the back-and-forth between AOC and her GOP opponents, and assuming the reader will deduce who is being ridiculous. Anyone who knows a little bit about what is going on can easily see the condescension and baseless criticisms for what AOC characterizes them as, desperate attempts to try and belittle an opponent who is inconveniently correct. But as one of the largest papers in the world which people turn to for expert analysis, it is their duty to explain some of the context instead of just spreading gossip.
Two Master Debators
Walker and Scalise want to present themselves as smart, tough guys who understand that life is hard and requires sacrifice, but apparently, don’t know the difference between $10 and $10 million. Since they only feel comfortable talking to their Twitter echo chamber, fifth graders, or anywhere they can frame the conversation without fear of rebuttal, we don’t know where the disconnect is. Unless they are just lying, which we can’t say outright because we don’t have proof of their dis/honesty, we have to believe Scalise and Walker are not smarter than fifth graders.
While the fifth grade class Walker addressed was able to process the unfairness of 70% taxes on every dollar earned (which is actually an unfair situation), as adult politicians who have received higher education, Walker and Scalise have to have been exposed to the information that would show this to be “misleading.” Therefore there are only two possible options: either they understand the information they have been given, and are actively lying, or they possess the information and they lack the ability to process the simple concept that under AOC’s proposal, $9,999,999 of $10 million is not taxed at 70%.
I suppose there is a third option: they understand the marginal tax rate, however, they believe the average US worker relies on the full value of their earnings after $10 million to make ends meet. But unless they have the economic finesse of Lucille Bluth, they cannot be this confused. Perhaps they will be known throughout history along with Mitt Romney as the out-of-touch “let them just get a loan from their parents” modern-day Louis and Maries who are only remembered as a cautionary tale to those who callously amass wealth as others suffer.
Wherever the disconnect is, the only explanations are grotesque incompetence to the point they can’t find their ass from their elbow without GPS, or they are such bald-faced liars with such garbage policy that they can only win in the “marketplace of ideas” if they deceive their audience and future generations about both AOC’s policy and the nature of marginal tax rates. Neither inspires much confidence.
Attention! Oh, Nothing, I Just Wanted Attention…
And while we can’t know for certain, there is a principle that can help navigate these muddied waters. Left-wing YouTube infotainer, Peter Coffin (whose channel I recommend), has been pushing the idea that “attention is currency in the marketplace of ideas.” This principle explains “outrage advertising” (purposefully doing something you will have to “apologize” for later because it gets your name out there), Donald Trump’s presidential victory (empty podiums are very serious politics), and the old saying, “no publicity is bad publicity.” By flooding the airwaves with scare tactics about how AOC’s policy will “destroy the ability for people to move into the middle class,” like when a 70% marginal tax rate built the largest middle class this country has ever known, AOC and other progressives are put on the defensive. Many of the attacks in the Post piece insist they are just holding public figures accountable (by calling them uppity little girls), and it’s important to talk about the policy, however the objection is never supported with any kind of data regarding the effect lowering taxes has on the economy (which we have been steadily doing since Reagan, and it’s been sinking us) or what the economy was like when the marginal tax rate was actually higher than AOC has proposed (built the middle class), but instead they drag out the bogeyman and cry “soooooooocialisssssssm” and rattle some chains and hope you are too scared to take off their mask and find out it’s really Old Man Neoliberalism, who owns the rundown US economy, and will only get away with it if not for these meddling kids.
Whether Walker and Scalise are liars is less important than the failure of the Washington Post to provide adequate context regarding the marginal tax rate. Neutrality has replaced objectivity in the media, and this is a prime example. When I was in elementary school, if two people began trading insults, there was always someone whose hand would go over their mouth as they declared, “Oh man, she said your momma’s stupid/fat/has poor taste in shoes/listens to Bon Jovi/can melt steel beams,” to a crowd of people who already heard what happened. Congratulations on rising to the level of schoolyard commentary, WaPo.
The failure of the media to provide context, which is objectivity, contributes to the rise of “misleading” politicians who “mislead” out their asses. If the debate over the sky’s color has one side declaring it red and the other aubergine, we don’t just say “Thank you for this debate. Will we ever know the answer?” Similarly, we can check whether the marginal tax rate is objectively what Walker and Scalise say it is, and it isn’t. Neutrality is simply providing a stage for a debate, and debates are won on tactics, not merit. A neutral media is a vehicle for the most powerful side to drive over the conversation.