The 2010 Fall Election Season – Part One: Dishonesty, Deceit and Deception

by on September 24, 2010 · 22 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Election, Organizing

fear GOP imageIn just a few short weeks, we’ll be offered the opportunity to vote in State and local elections. Most of us won’t vote. In the 2006 California mid-term election, nearly 60% of eligible voters declined to cast a ballot. While that statistic is lamentable, here’s the silver lining: a relatively small number of motivated voters can determine the tone and direction of San Diego and California. That could be you!

While non-presidential election turnouts have historically been dominated by older voters (who vote more often, regardless), the presence of Proposition 19 (the pot law) this year on the California ballot has some pollsters predicting a shift in the electoral “off year” mood that may defy the declarations that this election is all about “tea parties” and “voter anger”. So pull up a chair and stay tuned over the next few weeks as I walk you through the candidates and ballot proposals for 2010.

The Big Lie(s) Meet Mass Marketing

Perhaps you’ve seen the TV ad claims that go something like this: “Jobs are leaving California”, “High taxes are to blame for the economic recession”, “Tax cuts will create jobs”, “Small businesses are under attack”…yada, yada. The actual “words” may change, depending on which organization or party is sponsoring the message, but the underlying assumptions are the same.

After all, no political party—and both can claim plenty of credit here—is going to fess up and actually admit that the last round of bi-partisan economic policy was a miserable failure. So, in order to understand the current election, it’s best to first take a look at some of the underlying assumptions that are being portrayed as “reality” throughout the campaigns.

When you use the term “big lie”, most people thank back to Nazi Germany. Hitler first used the term to blame the Jews (and Marxists) for covering up “the truth” about Germany’s loss in WWI. The CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, in their psychological profile of Hitler, asserted that:

His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

While virtually no contemporary political entity will admit to admiring the Nazi propaganda machine, the inescapable fact is that this methodology is widely employed today. It’s called “spin”. Republican strategist Karl Rove put a modern face on this when he defined politics as the art of getting people to vote against their best interests.

For sale houses signsLess Is More, and You’ll Learn to Love it.

Unless you’re part of the elite at the top of the heap, it should have come to your attention by now that the economy sucks. From this kernel of truth, many great Big Lies have sprung forth. It’s the gift that keeps on giving for both political parties. For most of us our economic status is connected to our jobs, or lack thereof. So when the teevee starts telling us that more taxes equals less jobs or that there are no jobs because taxes are so high it strikes a nerve—that nerve that runs right through our empty wallets.

Which brings us to Big Lie Numero Uno: While there can be a connection between taxation and employment, that’s not what’s going on right now. There is virtually no connection between current levels of taxation and current levels of employment (or lack thereof). There is a connection between our taxation system and unemployment, but that’s a connection that you are supposed to ignore.

The people who designed the current tax system promised us that lower taxes on capital and dividends would boost the economy, promote investment, create jobs, spur market performance, and raise everybody’s income. They were wrong. Pick your metric—median income, employment, stock market returns, economic growth—the low-tax ’00s sucked. Yet proponents of keeping the tax cuts persist in making the argument: To avoid a repeat of the past decade, we must have the exact same tax policies as we did for the past decade. This sounds like a definition of insanity, or more likely, something we’re supposed to believe if it’s said loudly and often enough.

We’re being told that, if the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy aren’t extended, they will amount to the largest tax increase in history. Back in 1993 we were also told that President Clinton supposedly had imposed the “largest tax increase in history.” Not only was this false in absolute or percentage terms, it also conveniently missed the fact that individuals earning under $115,000 (that’s $173,000 in 2010 dollars) didn’t see their income taxes go up. (This time around the cut-off point for any tax increase is $250,000.)

big lie statue of libAnd what happened after those extra income taxes were imposed on upper-income Americans? The disaster predicted by Republicans? Nope. Twenty-two million new jobs were created. I won’t be so bold as to claim that those jobs were caused by that tax increase. But it obviously wasn’t an obstacle, either.

The Sky is Falling!

The flip side of Big Lie Numero Uno is the “jobs are fleeing California” (due to high taxes) line of reasoning. The most serious promoters of this fairy tale like to list companies (along with the number of employees) which have vamoosed to tax paradises like Arizona and Nevada. And it’s all because the big bad meanies of the California Legislature are determined to suck the “Free” out of enterprise.

So lets wander over to these tax paradises and see just how that’s working out. Hey if all these businesses are fleeing California for Nevada because of high taxes, how come Nevada has a 14.4% unemployment rate? Or how about Arizona, where 347,600 jobs have gone elsewhere during the same time period?

California’s losses from employer movement are well below the national average of the states, according to a recent study quoted in the Sacramento Bee. And there are new businesses starting up here: California ranked 9th with 410 startups per 100,000 people in 2009. The largest increase came in the high tax hell known as the Bay Area.

Are jobs disappearing in California? You betcha. Manufacturing job levels have shrunk rapidly in California and across the nation. During the past nine years manufacturing job levels fell by 5.4 million nationally and 540,000 in California. This has nothing to due with taxes and everything to do with the shifting landscape of the US economy.

Another 500,000 of the jobs lost over the past two years have been in construction, finance, real estate and industries related to construction. These industries are all in the tank for reasons that have nothing to do with taxation and everything to do with Ponzi schemes posing as “free market/deregulation” economic policies pursued during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

These job losses come on top of nearly three decades of bad news for most Americans. From 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent. Productivity increased by about 20 percent. Yet virtually none of this increase translated into wage growth at middle and lower incomes.

The Rich Get Richer

In the early years of the 20th Century the richest 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation’s income. These were tumultuous times when the accumulated wealth of America’s richest families—the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Carnegies—helped prompt creation of the modern income tax. The socialist movement was at its historic peak, and a wave of anarchist bombings was terrorizing the nation’s industrialists. There has never been a time when class warfare seemed more imminent.

please vote picToday, after years of dismantling of the progressive tax structures of the early 20th Century in the name of economic growth, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation’s income. And thanks to the “Big Lie”, a significant part of the population thinks this is the road to prosperity. Things are great for the rich. Numbers recently published by the Federal Reserve demonstrate that corporate profit margins have hit record levels; the latest Flow of Funds report says corporate profit margins rocketed to 36% in the first quarter. Since records began in 1947 they have never been this high. The highest they got under Ronald Reagan was 30%.

California, once a safe haven for a large middle-class, and for upwardly mobile poor moving up to the middle-class, now has a typical Third World structure: An upper-class that enjoys the bounties the state has to offer; a shrinking middle class; and a large and growing lower class that, if it wishes to move into the middle class, leaves the state for opportunity elsewhere. This change has nothing to do with taxation levels and everything to do with the taxation system.

Now, we’re ready to start talking about the elections. To be continued….Starting with the State Propositions…

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

annagrace September 24, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Another part of the Big Lie is the relentless attacks upon labor unions in which they are painted as the enemy of all the hard working non-unionized poor people in the country and a major source of all those economic problems which free market believers would just love to fix. I am waiting for the U-T to re-brand itself as the T. Hasn’t anybody there realized yet what the “U” stands for?

Slate magazine ran a series of articles by Timothy Noah about the tremendous gap that is occurring between the rich and the ever increasing number of the poor. In one article Noah examines this gap within the context of the death of organized labor. The article was a real refresher course on the impacts of government policy upon labor and the growing equity gap.

Noah’s article on The Stinking Rich and the Great Divergence is also worth checking out.

And finally- a few words from Bill Maher’s new rule: “Rich people who complain about being vilified should be vilified.” Maher sums things up with “Truth is, there are only two things that the United States is not running out of: Rich people and bullshit.”


Ian October 1, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Unions are not inherently bad, it is just that they get out of hand sometimes, especially when it is government workers who are putting constant upward pressure on wages. Government run institutions don’t have the same cost controls (a bottom line, and the threat of failure) as private businesses, so unions have a lot more power to take more of their fair share of tax payer money. Nowhere is there a better example than this, than SDPD and SDFD.

As far as trying to link the income gap and the decline in unions that is a serious case of mistaking correlation for causation.


Molly September 25, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Thanks Doug for keeping us alert. Or on the alert.

If you really want to get into it, the right-wing national party – the GOP – has been captured by the extreme right-wing, and they don’t want any government at all unless it’s run by the corporations, businesses. This has been going on since Reagan – this campaign – actually longer – but those Repubniks between Eisenhower and Reagan had come to accept the New Deal and stopped fighting it. But then Reagan with his rightwing ‘revolution’ brought it all back. Many of our current GOP leaders came out of the Reagan thing and they’re still with us.

The New Repukes think that social security, unemployment insurance, welfare, Medicaid is all SOCIALIST and they aim to turn back the clock. They wish to destroy what has been called the safety net and force us all back to the Gilded Age days – the days where the robber barons ran amuck unopposed by unions or government meddlers.


Ian October 1, 2010 at 9:43 pm

You sound like one of those nutcase teabaggers who think that Obama and the Democrats wants to take over all private industry and tax us all 90%.


RB September 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Wow, I now truly know what the term Voodoo Economics means.
I also know of no published economics theory that says taxation policy does not matter to the state or federal economy.

The old liberal position was higher taxation yielded the greatest good for society. I guess that now that taxpayer are bailing out AIG, GM, CITI, Fannie Mae, WaMu, and Lehman Bro., it is much harder to argue social benefits from taxation. So it seems the hip new position is to call yourself a progressive, ignore all of economic theory and maintain tax levels don’t matter. This New Age Economics sure does explain the performance of Larry Summers and Christina Romer.


doug porter September 25, 2010 at 5:24 pm

you, sir, will not twist my words to propagate more lies.
taxation policy has plenty to do with the economy. not taxing the RICH has NOTHING to do with job creation. we used to have a progressive tax system in this country; it worked pretty damned well for many decades. now the rich are richer, the rest of us are poorer–even though we work harder and more productively–, our roads have potholes and we’re fighting “wars” that can’t be won at home and abroad.
and as for the bank bailouts– now that I’m on a roll–our last republican president lead that effort. as happened with the savings and loan banks during the last crisis, the taxpayers got stuck with the bill for the corporate stupidity that followed deregulation and lack of oversight in the name of “free enterprise” that produced nothing of any benefit to any segment of society except those greedy individuals that stashed their money overseas.
those folks, along with the “who could have seen it coming?” leadership of the “financial” industry deserve nothing more than a firing squad. too bad we’re all too busy watching American Idol or smoking dope….


annagrace September 25, 2010 at 6:52 pm

I second that Doug.


RB September 25, 2010 at 8:50 pm

I am surprised you believe in executions or the death penalty. I don’t think the courts, ACLU or I think firing squads are cool.
White , black, brown, man or woman, rich or poor, no one should be subjected to hate speech or violence.
I am surprise you are for a progress tax system. You realize the local proposed sales tax and parcel tax backed by the public employee unions is regressive not progressive? But the good news for us is that our federal taxes have become more progressive in the last ten years. In 2000, 29% of households paid no income taxes and today 49% of households pays no income tax. Sound progressive to me!
I share your concern about the $3.6 billion per month our past president and current president spends on war. Let’s end the war and bring our troops home, Mr President.
It might be a good idea to document the decline of the middle class if the lies and assumptions are a central issue.
We should all ‘Just Say No to Alarmist on Both Sides’.


annagrace September 25, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Believe in executions or the death penalty? What are you talking about? RB- I don’t think we share any sense of what progressive or regressive is, or even possibly the terms up and down….


RB September 26, 2010 at 7:34 am

I am talking about the statement that, ” leadership of the “financial” industry deserve nothing more than a firing squad. “…not cool. Can you see this in Doug’s post above?

If you go to the library and check out any book on economics you will learn that a regressive tax produces a greater harm on the poor. A regressive tax (sales tax,etc.) requires the poor to pay a greater percentage of their income to government than that paid by the wealthy. I am surprise someone does not understand regressive vs progress tax policies or how to research the topic.


doug porter September 26, 2010 at 9:20 am

RB, for a while i thought you might be a thoughtful reader who wanted to honestly debate things you read in here. but, based on the fact that you nit pick everything here (it figures that you you would take a figurative statement re: firing squad and turn it into an occasion to make fun of what you think my beliefs are) and elsewhere–i’ve been seeing your “work” elsewhere lately–you are a troll.
urban dictionary definition of a troll: A person who posts to a forum or other form of online communication to disrupt or cause widespread argument.
therefore, i will no longer respond to your missives. i ask the other readers of this blog to ignore him also.


Ian October 1, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Doug, taxes are an expense, when you have a expense that goes up then you have less money to spend on other parts of business, like labor. It is a basic economic fact.

As far as economic policy, Obama has pretty much continued down Bush’s path. They were all for the bank bailouts.

To say “the corporate stupidity that followed deregulation and lack of oversight in the name of ‘free enterprise'”, is the cause of the income gap and economic crisis is dishonest and deceitful, since the primary cause was the perpetual low interest rates that lead to the housing bubble. Something that the government (most Democrats and Republicans) advocated for.


Nancy September 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Another big lie is that govt. workers “don’t produce anything” which is what I heard local conservative talk show Chip Franklin say, and that they are way overpaid.
Our city employees are being villified for the deals that the politicians and yes, the unions, made when the economy was good; same, with state govt., but the average workers are just doing their job, and with less to do it. Management in govt. does not make what management in private enterprise makes.

Annagrace, thanks for the great links, along with the Maher quotes. I just got done sending the whole “new rules” and though some may think it was vulgar, he makes great points; specifically:

Another of my favorites, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said, “I don’t know where they’re going to get all this money, because we’re running out of rich people in this country.” Actually, we have more billionaires here in the U.S. than all the other countries in the top ten combined, and their wealth grew 27% in the last year. Did yours? Truth is, there are only two things that the United States is not running out of: Rich people and bullshit. Here’s the truth: When you raise taxes slightly on the wealthy, it obviously doesn’t destroy the economy — we know this, because we just did it — remember the ’90’s? It wasn’t that long ago. You were probably listening to grunge music, or dabbling in witchcraft. Clinton moved the top marginal rate from 36 to 39% — and far from tanking, the economy did so well he had time to get his dick washed.

Even 39% isn’t high by historical standards. Under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 91%. Under Nixon, it was 70%. Obama just wants to kick it back to 39 — just three more points for the very rich. Not back to 91, or 70. Three points. And they go insane. Steve Forbes said that Obama, quote “believes from his inner core that people… above a certain income have more than they should have and that many probably have gotten it from ill-gotten ways.” Which they have. Steve Forbes, of course, came by his fortune honestly: he inherited it from his gay egg-collecting, Elizabeth Taylor fag-hagging father, who inherited it from his father. Of course then they moan about the inheritance tax, how the government took 55% percent when Daddy died — which means you still got 45% for doing nothing more than starting out life as your father’s pecker-snot.


Ian October 1, 2010 at 9:59 pm

The income gap grew last year because the government (and Federal Reserve) bailed out the richest industries after they propped them up with cheap credit for 10 years.

And you post reads like a classic class warfare rant. What happened to Restoring Sanity?


annagrace October 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Federal policies have an effect on what is very much a class struggle. Those policies include deregulation as well as the bailout.


dc0de September 27, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Wow Doug, 5 paragraphs to Nazis, and 6 to Hitler? That’s gotta be a record… and it’s where I stopped reading.

This is something I’d expect from Fox News… not the Rag. Sad you’re using their tactics.


Me October 1, 2010 at 1:14 pm

The 2010 Fall Election Season – Part One: Dishonesty, Deceit and Deception

Yup, sounds like RepubliKKKans and DemoKKKrats. One side as evil as the other. What do they care as long as they have Power?


kenloc October 1, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Companies leave California for other reasons than taxation.Workers Comp insurance is a big reason.It is ridiculously expensive in California.Another reason is energy costs.I heard that when Buck Knives left the state they were going to save almost 1 million per year in energy costs. Another reason would be real estate prices and lease amounts compared to other states.There are a number of issues that make California expensive and unappealing to business.You have a much bigger nut to bust to turn a profit here than in many other states,and that’s before you get to the taxation part of it. Throw in the fact that we are one of the most taxed and regulated states in the nation.If you could open a business and headquarter it in any state you’d like,why would you pick California?Anyone?


Anna Daniels October 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm

But do they really want to live in North Carolina or South Carolina???? Cheap, “bidness friendly” and troglodytes. Take a look at how much is invested in schools, libraries, the arts, etc.


kenloc October 1, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Or Washington or Oregon or Virginia?Many do.They already tried to close the libraries here(thanks OB rag for helping to save ours) because we don’t know how to make a budget.You can’t seriously be touting the schools and libraries in California.


Anna Daniels October 1, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Actually I am touting the less than perfect schools and libraries in California. Aside from New York city, San Francisco and LA, there are few places that have the diversity that we do. Over the past five years I have thought seriously about where I need to go next and have spent a great deal of time on I’m still here….. how about you kenloc? What are you considering?


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