How Stupid Do They Think We Are?

I really wasn’t going to write any more about the GOP tax plan, at least until we’ve seen whether it is likely to pass in anything like its current form. But I was on the treadmill yesterday morning and, as usual, was watching television to take my mind off the fact that I was exercising. I was absolutely astonished to see a political advertisement touting the tax plan’s benefits to “ordinary middle-class Americans,” who would see an “average” tax saving of over 1,100.

The voice-over went on to reassure listeners about the fairness of the measure, asserting that the tax brackets for the rich weren’t being lowered, and implying–without actually saying it– that the tax liability of the top 1% would not decrease.

The blatant dishonesty of this ad appalled me.

Let’s just examine that bit about the “average middle-class taxpayer.” (Ignore, for the moment, the fact that Congressional Republicans at one point defined an annual income of 450,000 as “middle class”–I don’t know whether the criticism that little item generated has caused them to back off that particular bit of nonsense.) Let’s just talk about averages.

What’s the average of a mouse and an elephant?

More to the point, if my income is “averaged” with the income of Bill Gates, the resulting number is going to be pretty misleading about both of us.

Every analysis I have seen–even those produced by right-leaning think tanks–shows wealthy individuals getting the lion’s share of the tax “relief” under both the House and Senate  versions. According to Politifact,

  • The highest-income 0.1 percent of taxpayers — those who had an income of over $3.7 million in 2015 — would get an average tax cut of more than $1.3 million in 2017.
  • That same group would receive 18 percent of the tax reduction, while the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers would receive 16.4 percent of the reduction.

Credible sources analyzing the plan’s consequences quibble on some of the details, but all of them agree on two points: the cuts disproportionately benefit the rich, and they will add somewhere between 1.5 and 1.7 trillion dollars to the current deficit.

A deficit of that magnitude would be unsustainable, and the result would be savage cuts in social welfare programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. (Those cuts, of course, would come later–In the time-honored practice of politicians everywhere, the bill pushes the most noticeable negative consequences to a future election cycle.)

I was flabbergasted at the out-and-out dishonesty of the television spot. I’ve seen plenty of spin, but this went far beyond that–it took flat-out lying to an entirely new level. The extra adrenaline probably improved my workout, but all I could think of was “how stupid do the people who created this ad think Americans are?”

And then all I could think about was, what if they’re right?


  1. I have a big problem with this situation too. It is getting tiresome and very frustrating to be forced to watch things like that on TV. It has absolutely ruined local TV for me. Completely untruthful propaganda that big money can spew at people that have given up on politics, but still suffer from the subconscious damage that hearing constant lies about what little they do hear works. These dark ads just have to stop, but good luck getting people to boycott all of their TV shows!

  2. “[H]ow stupid do the people who created this ad think Americans are?” Well, so far they seem to have been right.

  3. How stupid are some Americans? Well, let’s see…..many who voted for 45 have dug in their heels and are supporting him even more loudly, in spite of the fact that he has gone back on his word of what he promised them on a daily basis. Don’t you dare tell them that they are wrong!

    I’ve seen those 45 supporters claim on fb that if you believe the multiple analyses and reports that the tax reform will hurt the middle and lower classes then you are just plain stupid and are falling for the libtard fake news.

    I have never watched one second of Fox news or listened to any of the extreme right wing talk or radio show hosts because I refuse to expose myself to a high blood pressure induced stroke, so I really don’t have an idea of propaganda and lies that people listen to and believe. I only know that there are many who have been easily brainwashed.

  4. It may not be so much that the GOP (Grifters, Oligarchs, Plutocrats) thinks we’re stupid, but that they think we’re powerless. We need to remember that, as the saying goes, what we allow, is what will continue.

  5. Fake news and fake ads. For many, that is just an excuse from the left. Just as many defended Roy Moore because The Washington Post broke the story and they think that the Post is not a reputable news organization. When the American public will not believe reputable news, we are in big trouble. Each person in their own bubble. Listening to the news they like and believe while thinking everyone else is wrong. The answer is not to tell them they are wrong. You’re not going to change their mind. I have been listening to TED Talk by Celeste Headlee that suggest talking face to face and listening more than you talk. Trying to understand why they feel the way they feel and then try to find common ground. It’s very hard to do if you really listen and don’t interject. It’s a good listen.

  6. IMO the Republicans in congress and the White House are perhaps the most underhanded and cowardly bunch ever elected to office. First, after 8 years of blather about how they were going to repeal and replace “Obamacare” with a better health care program, their best efforts were to hurriedly parse together health care replacement that punished more people than it helped. It was a bill developed in secret sessions with no debate that could be characterized as simply a wealth transfer (from the many to the few) and a protection bill for the very wealthy, with almost no health care included, especially for people that need it most. Republicans believe that wealthy people do not have enough money, and poor people have too much.
    Next is their pet tax reform bill that they are desperate to pass, primarily to save face with the voting public, to staunch their waning support. While the name of the bill is different from health care, the intent and effect of the first draft is almost identical to their replacement of “Obamacare” – wealthy people need more money and poor people need less and the “tax reform” is another vehicle to achieve that goal. Since Republicans could not separate the lower and middle classes from their money using the health care smoke screen, they now have a second opportunity by using “tax reform”.
    The arc of these two legislative efforts illustrates a few things that every voter who works, expects to draw Social Security and Medicare, and will not benefit significantly from the changes to the inheritance tax should remember:
    1. The reason the Republicans discuss and draft these bills in secret is cowardice; they understand that if they spoke forthrightly about the actual content of the bills, no voter in his right mind would support them. Their playbook is based on tactics like bait-and-switch or out-and-out lies.
    2. Follow the money: those that benefit most from the real intent of these pieces of legislation are those who benefit our cowardly elected officials the most – quid pro quo.
    3. The Republicans suspend logic to conclude that poor people are better able to pay taxes than the wealthiest. They don’t even have the courage to argue openly in support of their wealthy donors; instead they call it “tax reform” that will “help middle class families to put more money in their pockets”. They don’t have the courage to explain that while the tax burden on those less-fortunate families might be slightly less, so will their take home pay after the “tax reform” and their federal budget gut MedicAid and Medicare and Social Security. Moreover, after they lose tax deductions for home ownership, 401 K contributions, and state and local taxes, they may actually pay more taxes.
    The question is: How long will this strategy work for Republicans?

  7. “How stupid do they think we are?”

    They are all wrong. We’re not STUPID. We’re not that bad. We’re better than that. We’re just FOOLS. There’s a big difference.

  8. Alphons; thank you for speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    Sheila; about that “middle class” income figure of $450,00; I tried to understand how they reached that figure but couldn’t come close. I considered the possibility they totaled the annual incomes of all Americans and divided by the population figure but…even using the figures for the wealthy being that which they admit to, I think that $450,000 was probably low. Doubtful they bracketed income levels to reach that figure and the $70 BILLION unreported income you referred to yesterday wouldn’t be part of their equation. Sorry that sentence and probably my terminology are confusing but this is a very confusing issue. Everything about taxation has always been so.

    The new tax cuts/budget figures have not yet been voted on, passed and signed into law but I received a letter yesterday from the Indiana Public Retirement System informing all public retirees that they have contracted with State Street Retiree Systems to “administer” our retirement funds…we done been outsourced! They assure us this change in administration of our retirement benefits will not affect our monthly benefit amounts. The letter goes on to state that there may be changes in federal and/or state taxation amounts. It also states that those who receive multiple pension checks from this fund may see these benefits combined into one check and the tax figures based on that amount.

    Also, “State Street uses the most up-to-date federal and state tax guidelines for determining amounts to be withheld from retirement benefits.” Interesting that they can assure us of this as this change in administration begins with our January 2018 benefits with no decision being made yet…regarding anything about our taxation.

    My concern is for the outsourcing of the retirement fund with no forewarning…or maybe I missed it due to the “small print”. My $805 monthly Social Security check and my $277.62 PERF check put me in a tax exempt level but there are thousands of retired public employees, Democratic and Republican, in the state of Indiana whose monthly income will be affected…IF Trump’s administration can come to a decision before January 2018. And what if they can’t; which is more likely than passing the bill due to Trump’s insertion of the ACA again.

  9. Sheila, H. L. Mencken answered your question:
    Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public. H. L. Mencken

    For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

    On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

    I do not hear much of anything from the Democrats, organizing any type of counter punch to the Republican messaging. The Democrats are also silent on the subject of the Paradise Papers. The Paradise Papers should be used as proof as to how rigged the system is.

    IMHO, unless the Democratic Party can stop slithering on their bellies to Wall Street and stand up with actions and deeds to prove to the voters they are the party of the 99% they will suffer from stagnation at best.

  10. Only because I haven’t seen it in any of the commentary yet, the people behind the “45 Action” ad that is so blatantly disingenuous about the Republican tax plan are our dear friends, the Mercer family.

    There likely will be others by them since they got their start during the presidential campaign by running until we doubly disingenuous ads regarding Hillary Clinton at were just infuriating, not because they were against Clinton, because they’re only nicely packaged loads of horse hockey.

    Many thanks to our wonderful SCOTUS for letting this happen with their equally wonderful Citizens United ruling. We are being undermined from so many directions by so many groups that are funded by those that will benefit the most from this tax plan that it’s hard to keep up with them but we have to.

  11. “what IF they’re right?”

    You must be kidding… of course they are right. We are, collectively, a dim-witted society that is highly prone to an over reaction to the simplest of things.

  12. A few weeks ago, we heard John McCain call for a return to “regular order”. What does that mean? It means that legisation is written in a bi-partisan fashion. That experts are called upon to give testimony and advice to help craft the legislation. That affected agencies are given an opportunity to review and suggest changes to those sections that might impact them. That sponsors are sought from both sides of the aisle. And that finally, after a long and open process, a bill is brought to the floor.

    That is the opposite of what we have in the two versions of the tax bill. Both House and Senate versions were written in secret, without testimony from experts, then presented to the Republican caucuses in each house. Changes were made based on the responses of caucus members. No Democratic member of either house has had an opportunity to offer input, nor can they expect that any offered amendments will be considered and accepted when the bills are brought to the floor.

    We lnow that both versions will have a serious impact on the deficit that is limited only by the fact that Republicans are rushing the Senate bill through the reconciliation process and fiscal impact is limited by that process under Senate rules.

    My question is for those Senators, like John McCain, who pretend to believe in regular order. Will you vote against this bill, based on that principle, or will you bow to your donors and let principle slide once again? Personally, I’m betting against principle.

  13. Peggy; what we need to know factually, is exactly how the Republican party in both houses of the Legislature have managed to set up the power to maintain a one-party control of all committees on all issues, overpowering the entire Democratic electorate. The Republican party is privately owned and operated by the 1% (with some wealthy Democrats support); they are backed by SCOTUS via Citizens United. We all know the current representation are NOT Republicans as the party foundation was at one time. It will never be honest enough to change the party name from Republican or GOP to the party of Citizens United. Neither will be ever have the facts as to how much Russian money is being used by them to maintain this power due to Citizens United.

  14. The answer is: Every other sentence. Fake President Donald Trump tells the truth every other sentence. The Republicans tell the truth every other sentence. If we could just get a handle on where the rotation starts, just think how smart we’d be.

  15. And if they push this through and get their plans codified, Americans will punish them by voting for Democrats who will also do nothing for the average Joe because they work for Wall Street donors as well.

    It’s a magic act where everyone pays attention to the politicians while the donors steal our wallets.

  16. –and Pence is coming to Indiana to tell us how fair the tax cut is. I read yesterday that his lies are catching up with him.

  17. Well, the Democrats might seem silent to some, but they aren’t. They just haven’t been invited into the “conversation” about tax reform. This piece of legislative garbage was done behind closed Republican doors. So much for “We the people…”

    Lindsay Graham has admitted that the donors will cut them off if this “thing” isn’t passed. So, we know who this bill is for. My not-so-rich Republican friends must be writing in existential agony over this bill.

    Regarding word smithing and propaganda: The Republicans have been geniuses at framing everything in terms that ring all the dinner bells in conservative brains. They could spin flowing lava into cotton candy…and they do. Those who refuse to accept the truth will always find a way to discover fake news.

  18. We should all be incensed not only with the takeover of our ruling party by libertarians such as the Mercers and Kochs amid such propaganda barrages as Sheila describes but also with the brazen effrontery of McConnell in adding a health care provision to a tax bill. The tax bill is beginning to look like a Christmas tree bill, so while they are at it, Republicans should make it official by adding a provision severely limiting the application of Roe, provide for Exxon to drill in our national parks (what’s next, the Arlington Cemetery?), suppress voting for those likely to vote Democratic, provide free guns for the ex-convicts and the mentally deficient and, for good measure, throw in the kitchen sink.
    Whatever you think of this maneuver of McConnell (which throws a bone to Trump) and whatever you think of the merits of this provision being added, it amounts to dirty legislating. If the Republicans want to pick Obamacare apart bone by bone, they should write a free-standing bill doing so and argue the bill’s merits or demerits in committee for all the world to see, not hook it on some other bill in order to slip one over on us.
    If I were in Congress, I would vote against this bill whatever the merits of the additional provision, though that would merge into my vote in any event against this monstrosity as well on other grounds, i.e., that it enriches the rich, impoverishes the rest of us along with our descendants, who will have 1.5 to 1.7 additional trillions to pay, even (speaking of taxation without representation) the unborn. This bill, with or without Republican wish list provisions, should never reach the president’s desk – never. . .

  19. One of the many divisions among the American people is between those who believe that both parties are completely worthless and therefore democracy no longer offers any possibility of a solution, and those who believe politics was never a choice between awful and perfect but progress comes from voting in not the perfect but the adequate.

    I’m in the latter group.

    Another division among that group is how to talk to people that we have to out vote in number to restore progress over regressive authoritarians. My thoughts.

    Democracy doesn’t require consensus, only majority. Actually the GOP has rigged the system so we need more than a majority now. Many regressive authoritarians are completely closed minded and will not change for any reason. Thus Hitler had no trouble staffing the SS. The media who used to keep us informed has been compromised by profit thus we have to do what they used to do but with the help of only some of them.

    All in all therefore the most effective path to recovery, if there is one (we have to acknowledge that those who think that we might already be too late could be right), I think that it’s demonstrated in these pages.

    Call a spade a spade. Educate. Argue facts rather than feelings. Not so gentle pressure (it’s too late for gentle) relentlessly applied.

  20. We need help from the outside. If we don’t do something quickly, and I’m talking about months, not years, we’re going to be totally helpless.

    I’ll try again. A few months ago I recommended reading “Freedom for Sale: Why the World is Trading Democracy for Security” by John Kampfner(Perseus Books Group, New York, 2010) [Unlike the Europeans, with the exception of the African-American community, we have no concept of the loss of Freedom]:

    “In order to succeed in the moral void, the new authoritarians made a pact with their respective people. Although the precise rules varied from country to country, the template was always the same. Repression was selective, confined to those who openly challenged the status quo. The number of people who fell into that category was actually very small—journalists who criticized the state or published INFORMATION that cast the powerful in a negative light, lawyers who defended these agitators, and politicians and others who publicly went out of their to “cause trouble.” The remaining members of the population could freely travel and could live more or less as they wished; moreover, they could make and spend money—and they gladly did so. A distinction had been created between PUBLIC freedoms and PRIVATE, or privatized, freedoms. For many people this way of dividing things up presented an attractive proposition. After all, how many members of the public, going about their daily lives, really wish to challenge the STRUCTURES of power? [surely the case on this blog]. Especially if there is food on the table and cell phones, or perhaps iPods, in their pockets? One can more easily than one realizes be LULLED [fooled] into thinking that one is SUFFICIENTLY free.” pp. 5-6.

    Because of their experiences with German aggression and resulting loss of freedom, both public and private, in World Wars I and II, Europeans are much more intact with reality these days, than we are. Hopefully, they will help us out. The Guardian Newpaper, located in London, is trying, but that’s not enough.

  21. There have been very important people who have listened to me and wanted to follow me in the past. However, in all cases, they waited until they were on their “deathbed” to offer to do so.

    You can’t win it all. If you fight all the way for PUBLIC freedom in AMERICA, you will lose out on the socio/economic end. That’s a hard fact of our political reality.

    Because of that, I don’t blame them or any of you for the “brush off.”

  22. I guess we should watch TV but we don’t. I find it very garbled. I have a hard enough time focusing. TV hops back and forth. Reading can give information that we can go back and reread. The GOP doesn’t think we’re stupid. They think we are confused and they’re counting on it. No wonder kids can’t learn from books. They’ve been taught otherwise .

  23. JoAnn, >> how the Republican party in both houses of the Legislature have managed to set up the power to maintain a one-party control of all committees on all issues, overpowering the entire Democratic electorate.

    Since the Republicans have a majority in the House and Senate, they control all the levers of power. The Republicans do not have to share that power. I suspect this is one reason they are in a hurry to pass “Tax Reform” and eliminate as much as possible of ACA. The Republicans might be concerned they will lose the House in 2018.

    I suppose it is asking too much for the Democratic Party here in Indiana to stand up and loudly oppose the Tax Reform and further sabotage of ACA.

  24. Monotonous; thank you. For me; the most shameful members of Congress in both houses are not the Democrats but the Republicans who are against these inhumane bills but pass them anyway. They not only have to return to their districts and face voters; they must live among them when they leave office or “get outta Dodge!” Many of them have businesses in their home states; will residents remember who they are and what they did?

  25. Worth repeating: “It may not be so much that the GOP (Grifters, Oligarchs, Plutocrats) thinks we’re stupid, but that they think we’re powerless.”
    THEY THINK WE’RE POWERLESS…and by encouraging his repug gorillas to inflict physical muggings on opponents, Trump has nudged the country club crowd toward thinking that even the Constitution will not protect us. Either the “justice system” will cheat us or Trump’s gang of thugs will smite us. We are in for a great awakening…or a very long sleep.

  26. It doesn’t matter if voters are stupid or smart if they don’t have any representation because of gerrymandering or secretive legislation. They can’t do anything about it if they don’t have collective power. I don’t think these legislators believe they’ll be held accountable

  27. Pete is wrong. By accepting the “adequate” candidate, you’re doing nothing but rewarding bad behavior. In fact, the acceptance of “adequate” candidates has brought us to where we are today. Also, Vernon is wrong as well. Why do the Democrats need an invitation to the tax conversation? These are serious times and they require serious initiatives. Instead,the Democrats (as usual) have chosen to acquiesce to the Republicans because in reality,the Democrats are beholden to the same donor class as the Repubs. Repubs have conviction. The New Democrat Party is doing nothing more than playing the role of an impotent milksop on behalf of the donor class.

    Example;when Democrats really want to do something they can. Such as the Romney/HeritageFoundation/ACA/ObamaCare plan. And when that was passed,it wasn’t because of providing real healthcare for Americans….Nope,it was a gift to the insurance industry. Just as never prosecuting one Wall St executive during the Obama administration–never mind when the Democrats had the WH and Congress–for the collapse of the economy. Again,Democrats can accomplish things….when those things benefit the donor class. To think differently is being naive. To willfully suggest that by voting for “adequate” candidates is the answer speaks not only of being openly disingenuous,but of vapid blind allegiance to a private organization. Which is no different than the deplorables many here supposedly feel contempt against.

  28. When have the Democrats done anything for these Americans? Or should we just act as if they don’t exist?

    And worth a mention. According to the Huffpo,Democrat Mark Warner is doing great things on behalf of the payday loan lobby. Great things!

    Stupidity isn’t the exclusive provenance of Republicans.

  29. If you haven’t seen it, you should all take about 90 minutes to watch the documentary “The Brainwashing of my Dad”. I watched it this weekend. It’s free on Yahoo and you tube.

    As I type this, #45 is reading off a teleprompter describing how GREAT his trip to the far east was. I am going to stop and turn it off. I just had lunch and I don’t want to vomit. I really do despise this guy and can’t wait “believe me” to see that guy impeached or jailed…just get him off the news, every freaking moment of our lives. He is a disgrace and his supporters on the right and in congress will be shamed. Shamed!

  30. Their base is not smart, and not very educated. I know there are exceptions – people who expect to benefit – but the base is pretty base. They are talking to their base in tv ads. They know they don’t have to be honest or logical – all they have to do is scare people and they get a big knee jerk reaction. The bigger problem is that many in congress, and many of their lobbyists, are not very smart. They can’t think beyond short term goals and partisan team politics. They value popularity, and cash. They are always surprised by unintentional side effects, then they blame others. They are uneducated in many areas, yet they pontificate. They are venial, yet they are holier than thou. And they are angry and resentful at people who know more than they do – thus their smears at intellects, teachers, scientists, thinkers, and creatives. There were always a few like that, in both parties, but since the tea partiers arrived, they’ve been a plague. Hopefully there are enough sensible voters around to steer both the executive and legislative branches back to reasonable ground. I never see these ads because I rarely watch anything but PBS, although sometimes they do a show analyzing ads like this. It is a sad truism that in a representative government, you get the government you deserve. Let’s hope that by 2018, we won’t deserve it anymore. To that end, support good candidates, and the ACLU.

  31. CA: “There’s a myth that the largest share of Trump supporters are uneducated, unskilled, in rural areas and just frightened of change. But the bulk of his supporters were suburban, college educated and making over $70,000 a year. ”

    Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University. Her latest book is White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide, the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Ward.

    More here—->

  32. lets face it,the rich and well to do, run this country now. so much for democracy,and rule of law when the congress sleeps with the whores…

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