PURELY POLITICAL, James Buckley
During the re-election campaign of Bill Clinton in 1996, I recall speaking to an actress of some renown during a black-tie soirée. She was from Louisiana and was about to cast her vote for the president.
“Why would you vote for someone who is such a liar?” I asked innocently.
“Are you referring to that Monica Lewinski stuff?” she asked.
“Well, yes, I am,” I answered.
A soft smile crossed her face and she said, in the smoothest most inflected Southern accent I’ve ever heard, “Oh honey, those aren’t lies … They’re just summer promises.”
Her comment was a revelation to me.
As it turned out, of course, Mr. Clinton did manage to wiggle out of his episodic scandals and though he lost much of the male vote, the ladies stayed with him. And, they’re still there.
Bill Clinton was and remains the Elvis Presley of politics. His come-hither bad-boy snarl with a lick of dangerous fun has many women all-in with whatever he is up to.
During the first election campaign for George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988, it was a lie told during the Republican National Convention that cost that president his job four years later.
“Read my lips; no new taxes,” Mr. Bush proclaimed slowly and distinctly from the podium as he accepted the Republican nomination.
The crowd went wild in a rush of ecstasy and a collective sigh of relief. Their nominee really was a Republican.
He was Ronald Reagan’s vice president, but many feared he wasn’t fully in line with President Reagan’s policies.
Mr. Bush was the man, after all, who had called Reagan’s plans “voodoo economics” during the 1980 campaign before he was called upon to be the nominee’s running mate.
As president, he reneged on that vow, almost nonchalantly, as if that was just a summer promise too. Those six words, spoken earnestly four years previously not only cost him his re-election but also brought Bill Clinton to the White House.
In the case of the recently defeated governor of Virginia — Clinton pal Terry McAuliffe — it was the truth that cost him his job, when he revealed how he really felt about parents “interfering” in school board decisions.
So when our current president, Mr. Biden, says things such as “My Build Back Better agenda costs zero dollars… We talk about price tags; it is zero price tag,” we are no longer dealing with summer promises or little white lies, we’re talking about propaganda of major proportions.
Who could believe such stuff?
Well, the true believers, I guess, but otherwise intelligent people look the other way as our staggeringly incompetent (and I mean that literally) president spews this nonsense.
That a politician can say such absurdities with a straight face is beyond baffling; it’s astonishing. Yet, it happens all the time.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s famous entreaty to her Democratic majority that they must pass the 2,700-page Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) “in order to find out what’s in it,” is also not an anomaly. Multi-thousand-page bills regularly stream across representatives’ desks, and they duly sign on to them, not knowing what’s inside, only that their managers insist they add their signature to the bill.
And they do.
At least most of them do.
Most of the time.
What is an anomaly, is when someone doesn’t do the bidding of party leaders, such as — in this case, of the U.S. Senate leadership — West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, who have balked at signing on to the latest multi-thousand-page multi-trillion-dollar boondoggle.
If you are one of those who find themselves believing claims, promises, lies and other things by your favorite elected government official, let’s take a walk down memory lane to find other times, other bills, other promises that have been made and broken.
FEDERAL INCOME TAXES
The 16th Amendment, for example, was passed in 1909 and ratified in 1913. It stated simply that “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”
In 1913, one could exclude $3,000 or $4,000 as a personal exemption and pay 1% on all income up to $50,000. The rate went up incrementally to 7% for those earning more than $500,000.
Then along came World War I and somebody had to pay for America’s involvement. There weren’t enough “rich” people to finance the war, so rates went up for everybody. the top rate climbed to 70%.
Republican administrations after the war reduced the rates, but once the Depression fell into place, the “rich” would be required to pay “their fair share.” Unfortunately for the rich as well as the poor, the new “progressive” tax rates enacted during the Depression years stalled the economy, keeping the poor really poor and the middle class in a state of near-poverty. (See “The Forgotten Man” by Amity Shlaes). The “rich” paid up to 91%.
If you’ve been seduced into believing that the recently floated “Billionaire Tax” that would require about one thousand of the very wealthy to figure out how much they “earned” via phantom capital gains and to pay taxes on that is a good idea, please think again.
The Alternative Minimum Tax was passed in 1969 in the aftermath of a barrage of publicity about 157 or so wealthy individuals who’d paid little to no taxes (using all the benefits the tax code allowed). Before the AMT was more or less swept away by President Trump, those 157 freeloaders singled out for punishment had turned into 10 million or so taxpayers who fell under the new requirements.
No doubt, that “Billionaire Tax” would involve the middle class in short order. And, if you believe President Joe Biden’s claim that “Anyone making less than $400,000 would not pay a dime more in taxes” under his new tax proposals, you should probably make an appointment with a psychiatrist.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the overwhelmingly Democratic Congress promised that the new Social Security plan they came up with would be completely “voluntary,” that not one person would be forced to submit the required 1% from their paychecks if they chose to opt out. In any case, it would never cost anyone more than $91 a year.
Another promise was that the money collected by Social Security would be kept in a “trust fund,” and would be disbursed only to those who’d participated in the plan.
The constitutionality of the Social Security Act was challenged and the Supreme Court decided in 1937 that even though it was presented as a “voluntary” donation, it was really a tax, and the government could spend the money collected any way it wanted.
When immigrants who’d never paid into it were granted access to Social Security funds during the Carter years, Social Security became just another federal welfare program.
Another “promise” was that any payments from Social Security would never be taxed. That went out the window during the Reagan administration.
Did anyone really believe that Americans would save an average of $2,500 a year if ObamaCare passed?
Can you say, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?”
All political promises are specious and are almost always made with ulterior motives, regardless of what party makes them.
So before backing another multi-trillion-dollar spending spree or multi-trillion-dollar “soak the rich” tax hike, I’d suggest following police Sgt. Phil Esterhaus’s advice to the men and women in uniform on TV’s “Hill Street Blues” after morning roll call.
“Let’s be careful out there.”
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at email@example.com.