Tag Archives: dishonest political ads

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?