Tax Consumers!

cat-laugh In yet another proof of the late Alexander Cockburn’s thesis that one of the main roles of the major commercial media outlets is to turn plain and simple facts into harebrained nonsense, on Sunday, The New York Times ran this piece of fumbling jabberwocky from Thomas B Edsall. In it, while conveying some useful information about the un-represented views and preferences of the U.S. public (and avoiding the topic of how the Democratic Party simultaneously both exploits and carefully ignores those views and preferences), Edsall not only promulgates the notion of “tax consumers,” but does so in a way so uncritical and uninformed, it would embarrass a seventh grader.

Edsall accepts the core premise of this uber-preposterous piece of statistical propaganda from the Heritage Foundation. That thesis is, of course, the hugely braindead and radically dishonest claim that it is only those who receive direct government aid from long-standing programs who are “tax consumers,” i.e. people whose lives are boosted by public handouts.

If you know anything at all about economics or actual government spending in the United States, you will be joining me in this, the only possible reaction: ROFLMFAO!

Not only does this framing of the issue bypass topics such as who benefits from things like Quantitivate Easing and “one-time” government bail-out waves, but take a look at the elementary facts.

Federal spending on transportation, the military, military pensions, and interest on the debt (money borrowed from capitalists) is roughly equal to spending on medical insurance and what remains of welfare. (Including Social Security is, of course, bogus, since it is its own, self-funded system.) Where, pray tell, would our 1 percenters be without those outlays for fancy corporate weaponry, roadways for the core corporate capitalist product (the private automobile), wars in oil regions, and free money from treasury notes?

And, at the level of economics, where would the private sector of the U.S. economy be without all of those government outlays, including the medical and welfare payments? It would be up Shit Creek, that’s where. John Maynard Keynes explained that 76 years ago. You might think an Ivy League/NYT intellectual superstar would be able to at least make mention of what Keynes elucidated: the profound (and always growing) dependency of our “job creators” (who are actually, left to their own devices, job destroyers) on “consuming” taxes.

Postscript: In a further proof of his (real or feigned) ignorance of the Keynesian nature of reality, Edsall also suggests that “raising capital gains taxes or cutting food stamps” is an example of a zero-sum choice! The truth, of course, is that raising capital gains taxes would, by employing presently unproductive capital, allow a painless hike in food stamp spending. It is, in other words, the exact definition of an extremely non-zero-sum choice. The reason it appears as the opposite is not because of the economy, but because of the calculated unwillingness of the cash-grubbing Democratic Party to explain basic reality to its victims constituents.

3 Replies to “Tax Consumers!”

  1. …and of course, the “bad scholarship” and “confusion” are by design, and Edsall’s purpose is to duckspeak in a way that makes it seem like a free press exists in a free democracy.

    Those few of us who both (1) actually understand the nasty game they’re playing, and (2) want it to stop, and the world to become fair are left either complaining among ourselves about how cruel it is (e.g. the post or this response), or desperately struggling to enlighten the people who don’t understand, who, generally, breeze right past so they have more time to read Huffpo or watch old Superbowl commercial clips.

    So, we’re like epidemiologists who get off on analyzing the nuances of mass-deployed thimerosal or anthrax. Is this all there is for us–a perverse joy in dissecting the exact and hideous ways they keep this show going?

    Is there any better way to reach the proles? Fetishizing their techniques is more like collecting baseball cards than it is changing the world, and the people who chronicled the old ways of screwing-over–such as, say, Orwell–may have their stuff “out there,” but “out there” only means being dispersed among a population that can’t actually understand it or put it to use.

    Is the hope, here, that generations of cranky screeds will win people over? How’d that work out for Samuel Clemens? (And he even has NPR gushing over his old letters!)

    But really, is that the hope? Or is all this that we do just a personal venting in order to help balance us out mentally so we can remain otherwise-productive members of the system we pretend to loathe?

  2. Arkie, I am certainly no optimist, but human history includes enough pleasant surprises to have me convinced that keeping track of things and persisting in the effort to share the news with people is a worthwhile thing. It probably will amount to nothing, but it may amount to something that’s not nothing.

    On the theme of positives, last night, while diddling around here at my apartment, I flipped on the old “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” which I adored as a child. It was actually quite inspiring, in a perverse way. That show was massively reactionary in a way that had to have registered on me and others, but that I have long since lost track of! The good news: Such old-school dogma and surreptitious Xtianity couldn’t possibly get made today as a mainstream media offering. The only reason it still runs is the nostalgia of fools like me. But, still, this culture is getting better in many ways.

    Dig this shit:

    Linus van Pelt: In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: ‘We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice.”

    Patricia ‘Peppermint Patty’ Reichardt: Amen.

  3. True, it wouldn’t run today, but let me throw out Salinger again: “Phooey, I say, on all white-shoe college boys who edit their campus literary magazines. Give me an honest con man any day.”

    The refinement of lying from Triumph of the Will to Facebook, just as from Indian genocide to Arab genocide, is an evolution of both scale and scope. You can’t equate the horror of the scarlet letter and the lottery with the laugh-tracks of 2012 cybernews, and you can’t equate the burnt Navajo fetuses with the cluster-ridden Pakistani ones–but you can certainly compare the two. Evil grows stronger, and as it does, its ability to conceal and sell itself as good grows more profound.

    We laugh, now, at clips of the “obvious” commercials of the 1950s, where smiling women in black and white tell us what vacuum cleaner to buy. It’s a ridiculous sight, but nowadays, the vacuum cleaner commercials have a book club with a token black housewife friend, shots of green meadows, pink ribbons and recycling logos…and it’s worse; more insidious in every way.

    Which is not to say there is no hope, but the elimination of such simple terrors as Charlie Brown only means that even more sophisticated cleanup hitters have moved into the boardroom.


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