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Reviving Monsters

Bill Neinast


Reviving monsters should be avoided.  Occasionally, however, remembering one best left forgotten can illustrate a point.

This may be one of those occasions. Let’s remember Joseph Goebbel for a moment.

Goebbel was Hitler’s Propaganda Minister.  He believed that if a lie is repeated enough, it will be believed.

Recently, he must have been smiling in his grave.  There were his hated enemies, the naive Americans, reading from his instruction manual.

For weeks, President Obama had been on the campaign trail warning anyone who would listen about an impending disaster.  According to his rhetoric, if the government had to return to the same spending level of the previous fiscal year, every American soldier, school child, airline passenger, visitor to the nation’s capitol, and park visitor would feel the pain.

When the president was not available for a campaign show, one of his cabinet secretaries would appear to spread the propaganda.

If the Goebbel formula worked, Americans would begin to feel the pain and know the cause.  They would believe that their discomfort was due to Republicans wanting to curtail spending, balance the federal budget, and not tax the rich. Then, in eighteen months, they would be eager to turn Congress over to the tax and spenders and let Obama control both the executive and legislative branches.

Fortunately, reality quickly began to disprove the lies.  The weather was causing far more delays at airports than Transport Security Agency screeners.  Custodians at the nation’s capitol kept showing up to keep the buildings clean and secure.  Soldiers were told they would continue to get their pay, but their commanders might have to cut back on buying some “toys.”

Facts are not the only obstacle to the Goebbel theory of lies becoming believable. Repeating the lies effectively requires a controlled or compliant press.

As the facts became too hard to ignore, even the normally fawning press began to assign Pinocchios to the statements of disaster coming out of the White House.

When the long noses of those Pinocchios began to point to a down turn in the President’s approval rating, Obama apparently thought, “Oops, Goebbel may have been wrong.  Occasionally the sheep will see through the lies and become disenchanted with those spreading the misinformation.  Maybe I’d better change course.”

Nonetheless, in a last feeble attempt to show the people that he was not misleading them, the President decided to take one last strike at the ball.  Now, instead of giving up several trips in Air Force One to golf tournaments, he would announce that the horrible sequester of his funds forced him to cancel public tours of the people’s house, better known as the White House.

Then last week, a new President emerged.  Now he is that reasonable man who wants to negotiate with the enemies of the common man.  He invited 12 Republican senators to dine and talk.   This was followed with a one-on-one with his nemesis, Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee.

So here’s the perspective.

For whatever reason, the two sides in Washington are now talking with each other instead of accusing the other of nefarious actions.   They may be closer to a compromise than either side will admit.

The major difference is now a simple matter of semantics. Both sides claim to want to reduce spending but believe they differ on whether to raise taxes.

Actually, they agree on raising taxes.  To admit this, however, both side would upset their bases. 

President Obama insists on “enhancing revenues” by making the rich pay their fair share.  This is interpreted within his base of radical tax and spenders to mean raising the rates on millionaires and billionaires so that they will at least pay a higher rate than their secretaries.

The Republicans, however, insist that the President got his tax increase in the action to avoid the last fiscal cliff and they have pledged to their bases not to raise taxes again.  They are anxious, however, to clean up the tax code by eliminating loop holes.

Facts should trump rhetoric in this disagreement.  A tax payer’s rate is determined from his taxable income--the higher the taxable income, the higher the rate.

Taxpayers, like secretaries, generally have no loop holes or shelters to keep some of their salaries from taxable income categories.  The tax code, however, is loaded with loop holes that allow wealthy tax payers to shield some of their income from taxable categories and place them in lower rates .

That is why billionaires like Warren Buffet can file returns with lower rates than their secretaries.  Although they still pay a lot more in actual taxes than their secretaries, the President’s base would feel better if the rich paid at least the same rate as their employees.

If both parties would accept and emphasize this simple tax fix, Congress could give the President his revenue enhancements without increasing tax “rates.”  Then they could go about bringing the budget into balance by fixing the entitlement problem, which both say they want.

That is a winning solution in which neither side would have to utter that detested word, compromise.