Tea Party Express Is Back... With Nothing But The Same Old Lies

October 22, 2010 11:50 am ET

With an ad decrying "higher taxes," "bailouts" and "higher deficits," the Tea Party Express aims to rally Americans around the cause of stopping the "failed policies" of Obama, Pelosi and Reid. Unfortunately, the Tea Party Express's attempt to place blame on leading Democrats turns out to be no more than empty rhetoric. The bailouts and deficits are legacies of Bush-era Republican policies, and taxes under President Obama are at near-historical lows. In fact, the Recovery Act provided Americans with tax relief, and taxes are only scheduled to increase because Republicans wrote it into law.

TeaPartyExpress.org: "Tea Party Express is Back"

[On-screen text:] Higher Taxes. Bailouts. Higher Deficits. [Voiceover:] It's time to put an end to the failed policies of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The Tea Party Express is back to stop the tax, spend and bailout politicians once and for all. We'll rally Americans from coast to coast to stand for fiscal responsibility and a return to constitutional principles. Log on to TeaPartyExpress.org to find the rally location nearest you. Our Country Deserves Better PAC/TeaPartyExpress.org is responsible for the content of this ad.  

Congress Voted For Wall Street "Bailout" At Insistence Of Bush Administration

Congress Passed Bailout "After Dire Warnings From The Bush Administration." According to the Washington Post: "Congress created the Troubled Asset Relief Program after dire warnings from the Bush administration that panic had seized credit markets and that the global economy was on the verge of meltdown. Barely two weeks later, Congress rushed through a measure giving Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. sweeping authority to spend up to $700 billion to inject cash into troubled financial institutions and buy 'toxic' assets such as those backed by failing mortgages." [Washington Post, 1/13/09]

Bush Administration Urged Passage Of Bank Bailout. As ABC News reported: "The architects of the Bush administration's massive $700 billion bailout for financial firms went to Capitol Hill today to urge lawmakers to act quickly and pass the bill 'cleanly' or risk a recession. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee that failing to pass the administration's big-money bailout for the financial industry would stifle consumer spending, bring more home foreclosures and cause job loss." [ABC News, 9/23/08]

President Bush: America Might "Slip Into A Major Panic" Without Bailout. CNN reported:

U.S. President George W. Bush, saying "our entire economy is in danger," urged Congress to approve his administration's $700 billion bailout proposal.

"We're in the midst of a serious financial crisis, and the federal government is responding with decisive actions," Bush said in a televised address Wednesday night from the White House.

Bush pointed out that the collapse of several major lenders was rooted in the subprime mortgage market that thrived over the past decade.

He said passage of the $700 billion bailout proposal was needed to restore confidence in the market.

"I'm a strong believer in free enterprise, so my natural instinct is to oppose government intervention," he said. But "these are not normal circumstances. The market is not functioning properly. There has been a widespread loss of confidence.

"Without immediate action by Congress, America can slip into a major panic." [CNN, 9/24/08]

Wall Street "Bailout" Helped Stabilized Industry, Economy

In The Midst Of A Downward Spiral, TARP Helped Stabilize The Financial System. As reported by Reuters: "The U.S. government's $700 billion financial rescue program has helped to stabilize the system, but may be creating systemic problems by fueling a belief banks will always be bailed out, a watchdog for the program said on Wednesday. 'Compared to where we were last October there is no question that the system if far more stable. We were on the precipice and I think the (Troubled Asset Relief Program) contributed with the other programs to pull us back,' Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the program, told CNBC. 'But I do think because of the moral hazard, because of some systemic risks that are associated with making these institutions bigger and bigger ... systemically we may be in a more dangerous place even then we were a year ago,' he said." [Reuters, 10/21/09]

Princeton, Moody's Economists Say "Highly Effective" Government Response To Crisis Saved 8.5 Million Jobs. According to the New York Times: "Like a mantra, officials from both the Bush and Obama administrations have trumpeted how the government's sweeping interventions to prop up the economy since 2008 helped avert a second Depression. Now, two leading economists wielding complex quantitative models say that assertion can be empirically proved. In a new paper, the economists argue that without the Wall Street bailout, the bank stress tests, the emergency lending and asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, and the Obama administration's fiscal stimulus program, the nation's gross domestic product would be about 6.5 percent lower this year. In addition, there would be about 8.5 million fewer jobs, on top of the more than 8 million already lost; and the economy would be experiencing deflation, instead of low inflation. The paper, by Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton professor and former vice chairman of the Fed, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, represents a first stab at comprehensively estimating the effects of the economic policy responses of the last few years. 'While the effectiveness of any individual element certainly can be debated, there is little doubt that in total, the policy response was highly effective,' they write." [New York Times7 /27/10, emphasis added]

Ignatius: Bailouts "Almost Surely Saved The Country From Another Great Depression." According to the Washington Post's David Ignatius: "Constant repetition of anti-government rhetoric in our political echo chamber has dulled Americans into overlooking an important and perhaps surprising fact: We have just lived through one of the more notable successes of government intervention in modern times -- the auto and bank rescues that almost surely saved the country from another Great Depression. [...] A similar success story seems likely with most of the rest of the money spent for TARP, the acronym that is a dirty word this political season. The Troubled Assets Relief Program, coupled with emergency facilities at the Fed, allowed a "work-out" for a financial system that was on the verge of freezing up. Most of the TARP investments, it seems, will be recovered, too, including loans made to the notorious insurance behemoth AIG." [Washington Post, 10/14/10, emphasis added]

Auto "Bailouts" Helped Stabilize Industry

The Economist: Without The Bailout, GM Would Have Likely Liquidated, "Sending A Cascade Of Destruction" Through The Industry. According to The Economist: "So was the auto bailout a success? It is hard to be sure. Had the government not stepped in, GM might have restructured under normal bankruptcy procedures, without putting public money at risk. Many observers think this unlikely, however. Given the panic that gripped private purse-strings last year, it is more likely that GM would have been liquidated, sending a cascade of destruction through the supply chain on which its rivals, too, depended. As for moral hazard, the expectation of future bailouts may prompt managers and unions in other industries to behave rashly. But all the stakeholders suffered during GM's bankruptcy, so this effect may be small. That does not mean, however, that bailouts are always or often justified. Straightforward bankruptcy is usually the most efficient way to allow floundering firms to restructure or fail. The state should step in only when a firm's collapse poses a systemic risk. Propping up the financial system in 2008 clearly qualified. Saving GM was a harder call, but, with the benefit of hindsight, the right one. The lesson for governments is that for a bailout to work, it must be brutal and temporary." [The Economist, 8/19/10, emphasis added]

Taxpayers Could Actually Earn A Profit On TARP

NYT: Government Bailouts To Banks, Auto Companies, "Could Conceivably Earn Taxpayers A Profit." According to the New York Times:

Even as voters rage and candidates put up ads against government bailouts, the reviled mother of them all - the $700 billion lifeline to banks, insurance and auto companies - will expire after Sunday at a fraction of that cost, and could conceivably earn taxpayers a profit.

A final accounting of the government's full range of interventions in the economy, including the bailouts of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is years off and will most likely remain controversial and potentially costly.

But the once-unthinkable possibility that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program could end up costing far less, or even nothing, became more likely on Thursday with the news that the government had negotiated a plan with the American International Group to begin repaying taxpayers.

TARP

[New York Times, 9/30/10, emphasis added]

The Exploding Debt And Deficit Are The Result Of Bush-Era Policies And The Recession

Before Obama Took Office, The FY 2009 Deficit Was Projected At $1.2 Trillion. As reported by the Washington Times: "The Congressional Budget Office announced a projected fiscal 2009 deficit of $1.2 trillion even if Congress doesn't enact any new programs. [...] About the only person who was silent on the deficit projection was Mr. Bush, who took office facing a surplus but who saw spending balloon and the country notch the highest deficits on record." [Washington Times1/8/09, emphasis added]

CBPP: Deficit Grew By $3 TRILLION Because Of Policies Passed From 2001 To 2007. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "Congressional Budget Office data show that the tax cuts have been the single largest contributor to the reemergence of substantial budget deficits in recent years. Legislation enacted since 2001 added about $3.0 trillion to deficits between 2001 and 2007, with nearly half of this deterioration in the budget due to the tax cuts (about a third was due to increases in security spending, and about a sixth to increases in domestic spending)." [CBPP.org, accessed 1/31/10, parentheses original]

The Bush Tax Cuts Are The Primary Driver Of Federal Budget Deficits Over The Next Decade. Below is a chart from CBPP showing the deficit impacts of war spending, financial recovery spending, the recession itself, and the Bush tax cuts:

CBPP

[CBPP.org, 6/28/10]

Public And Foreign-Held Debt Skyrocketed While Bush Was In Office. Below are two graphs prepared by the Speaker's office showing the increase of publicly and foreign-held debt during the years Bush was in office:

bushpublicdebt

bushforeigndebt

[U.S. Treasury via The Gavel, 6/11/10]

Higher Taxes? Historically, Taxes Are Near Their Lowest

GOP Rep. McHenry: "Marginal Tax Rates Are The Lowest They've Been In Generations, And All We Can Talk About Is Tax Cuts." As reported by Time Magazine, North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry said: "Marginal tax rates are the lowest they've been in generations, and all we can talk about is tax cuts... The people's desires have changed, but we're still stuck in our old issue set." [Time Magazine5/7/09]

Top Tax Brackets Over Time:

Top Marginal Tax Rate

35% In 2010: Currently, The Highest Tax Rate Is 35%. According to The Tax Foundation, the 2010 tax rate for couples making over $373,650 annually is 35%. [Tax Foundation, accessed 9/20/10]

  • 39.1% In 2001: The Highest Tax Rate Was 39.1% In 2001. According to The Tax Foundation, the 2001 tax rate for couples making over $297,350 annually was 39.1%. [Tax Foundation, accessed 4/14/09]
  • 50% In 1986: Highest Tax Rate Was 50% In 1986. According to The Tax Foundation, the 1986 tax rate for couples making over $175,250 annually was 50%. [Tax Foundation, accessed 4/14/09]
  • 70% In 1981: The Highest Tax Rate Was 70% In 1981. According to The Tax Foundation, the 1981 tax rate for couples making over $215,400 annually was 70%. [Tax Foundation, accessed 4/14/09]
  • 77% In 1964: The Highest Tax Rate Was 77% In 1964. According to The Tax Foundation, the 1964 tax rate for couples making over $400,000 annually was 77%. [Tax Foundation, accessed 4/14/09]
  • 91% In 1963: The Highest Tax Rate Was 91% In 1963. According to The Tax Foundation, the 1961 tax rate for couples making over $400,000 annually was 91%. [Tax Foundation, accessed 4/14/09]

The Last President To Serve While The Highest Tax Bracket Was Below 35% Was Herbert Hoover. Herbert Hoover was the last president to serve while the nation's highest tax rate was below the 2009 rate, 35%. In 1931, during his tenure, those earning over $100,000 were taxed at 25%. [Tax Foundation, accessed 4/14/08]

The Recovery Act Included Roughly $288 Billion In Tax Relief

PolitiFact: "Nearly A Third" Of Recovery Act Is "Tax Breaks To Individuals And Businesses." According to PolitiFact.com: "Nearly a third of the cost of the stimulus, $288 billion, comes via tax breaks to individuals and businesses. The tax cuts include a refundable credit of up to $400 per individual and $800 for married couples; a temporary increase of the earned income tax credit for disadvantaged families; and an extension of a program that allows businesses to recover the costs of capital expenditures faster than usual. The tax cuts aren't so much spending as money the government won't get -- so it can stay in the economy. Of that $288 billion, the stimulus has resulted in $119 billion worth of tax breaks so far." [PolitiFact.com, 2/17/10]

Republicans Set The Stage For Impending Tax Increases...

Time: Congress Wrote Tax Law To Expire After 2010 Because It Made Cuts Appear Cheaper. According to Time:

Topping the list of odd features is the "sunset" provision that repeals the entire bill at the end of 2010. Budget rules require Congress to include a sunset clause in all major tax legislation, but this sunset arrives a year early--after 10 years instead of the 11 years covered by the current budget resolution. That year was shaved off to keep the total cost of the bill under $1.35 trillion. By repealing the legislation in the 10th year, Congress saved billions of dollars. Without the repeal and a few other tricks, the cost of the full 11-year plan would balloon to more than $1.8 trillion by the end of 2011, far exceeding anything the Democrats would vote for. And the cost in the second decade would reach as much as $4 trillion. Even some conservatives on Capitol Hill are dismayed by the apparent dishonesty of the early sunset. After both parties agreed to a smaller tax cut, the conference committee pulled a fast one.

[Time6/3/01, emphasis added]

American Enterprise Institute: Reconciliation "Ploy" To Pass Bush Tax Cuts Means They Expire After 10 Years. According to Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at AEI:

It is worth repeating why we are in this particular car heading toward the cliff. When the Bush tax cuts were on the agenda at the very beginning of his presidency, Republicans in Congress and the White House made a tactical choice to avoid giving Senate Democrats the leverage that a 60-vote hurdle can provide by employing reconciliation (yes, the same tool that those who applied it then condemned roundly when it was used for health care reform this year). It was tricky to use reconciliation for tax cuts, which increased deficits when reconciliation was specifically supposed to be used for revenue-neutral or deficit-reducing programs. But the decision was made to use it for this purpose--but not to violate the proviso that the plan would increase deficits outside the budget window of 10 years.

That meant a ploy of declaring that all the tax cuts would expire entirely after 10 years, including the absurd-on-its-face provision that estate taxes would gradually decline to zero in 2010--and then be fully restored in 2011. From the day after the tax cuts were signed into law, Republicans were campaigning to extend them, in effect admitting that the policy was built around a "never mind" ruse. To be fair, there were plenty of ruses in the health care reform reconciliation, so it is not as if one party is clean--this is legislative politics. But the charges now emanating from Republicans that the Democrats are going to be responsible for a huge tax hike is, shall we say, bemusing.

[AEI.org, 7/21/10, emphasis added]

Ezra Klein: Reconciliation Maneuver Meant "Twisting A Budget Process Meant To Reduce The Deficit." According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:

In order to maximize the size of the cuts, Republicans had to minimize the influence of minority Democrats on the package. So they chose to run the bill through the reconciliation process. But that posed some challenges. Budget reconciliation had never been used to increase the deficit. In fact, it specifically existed to decrease the deficit. That's why one of its rules was that you couldn't use it to increase the deficit outside the budget window. Republicans realized they could take that very literally: The budget window was 10 years. So if the tax cuts expired after 10 years, they wouldn't increase the deficit outside the budget window. They'd also have the added benefit of appearing less costly in the Congressional Budget Office's estimates, as the CBO duly scored them as expiring after 10 years, which kept the long-range budget picture from exploding.

But the plan was never to have the tax cuts expire. Instead, the idea was that people would get used to the new tax rates, and no future Congress would want to allow a big tax increase, so when the time came, either Republicans in office would extend the cuts or Republicans in the minority would hammer Democrats until they extended them. And that's where we are now: Democrats control the government, so Republicans are screaming about tax increases as a way to get Democrats to extend tax cuts.

It's really hard to know where to start with this one. It's not a tax increase passed into law by Democrats. It's a reversion to old tax rates passed into law by Republicans. It's not how law is supposed to work. It's the result of twisting a budget process meant to reduce the deficit so you could use it to massively increase the deficit.

[Washington Post7/19/10, emphasis added]

...But President Obama And Leading Democrats Favor Extending Tax Cuts For 97% Of Americans

PolitiFact: Dems Consistently Say Only Tax Cuts For Wealthiest Will Be Allowed To Expire. According to the non-partisan PolitiFact.com, in their analysis of an allegation from Rep. Mike Pence that Democrats want all tax brackets to rise:

Do Democrats want every tax bracket to rise, as Pence suggests? In a word, no.

For many months, Democratic officials have consistently said that they intend to let only the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals lapse. The cutoff they usually suggest is $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. President Obama campaigned on just such a plan, and we've logged those promises into our Obameter campaign promises database.

[...]

Pence is right that every tax bracket will go up if the law is not extended. Still, we think the claim that Democrats don't want to extend the law is inaccurate. While the legislative drafting is still in process, the Democratic majority in Congress has made clear that it plans to extend tax cuts for all but the top couple percentage points of the income distribution. So it's highly misleading for him to say that Democrats actually want to see all the bill's cuts expire. Indeed, Pence's comment verges on a scare tactic.

[PolitiFact.com, 7/22/10, emphasis original]

Reuters: "Two To Three Percent Of Americans" Are Affected By Democrats' Proposals. According to Reuters: "Lawmakers are mulling the renewal of tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 under former president George W. Bush that expire at the end of this year. President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress want to extend the lower rates for individuals earning less than $200,000 or couples making less than $250,000. About two to three percent of Americans fit into the upper income categories." [Reuters7/21/10]

President Obama's FY2011 Budget Calls For Extending Bush Tax Cuts For Families Making Less Than $250,000 Per Year. As Market Watch reported in February: "Facing a gaping deficit but aiming to spur job creation at the same time, President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget would hit top earners, oil companies and others while giving tax breaks to small businesses to help them hire new workers. ... Obama wants tax breaks proposed by President George W. Bush to expire this year. His budget would eliminate tax breaks on those making more than $250,000 a year, a move almost certain to be opposed by Republicans and perhaps some Democrats as the economy crawls out of the recession. 'We extend middle-class tax cuts in this budget,' Obama said Monday at the White House, but 'we will not continue costly tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it.'" [Market Watch2/1/10]

Speaker Pelosi: High-End Tax Cuts Should End. According to The Hill: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday rejected extending tax cuts for the wealthiest tax bracket that are set to expire at the end of the year. Pelosi took off the table a short-term extension of those cuts floated by some lawmakers in her own party. 'No,' the speaker said at her weekly press conference when asked if the cuts for the highest bracket should be extended. 'Our position has been that we support middle-class tax cuts. ... I believe the high-end tax cuts did not create any jobs, increased the deficit and should be repealed,' she said." [The Hill7/22/10, emphasis added]

Treasury Secretary Geithner: We Will Extend Middle- And Lower-Income Provisions Of Bush Tax Cuts. According to the Wall Street Journal: "The Obama administration will allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire on schedule, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday, setting up a clash with Republicans and a small but vocal group of Democrats who want to delay the looming tax increases. Mr. Geithner said the White House would allow taxes on top earners to increase in 2011 as part of an effort to bring down the U.S. budget deficit. He said the White House plans to extend expiring tax cuts for middle- and lower-income Americans, and expects to undertake a broader revision of the tax code next year. 'We believe it is appropriate to let those tax cuts that go to the most fortunate expire,' Mr. Geithner said at a breakfast with reporters." [Wall Street Journal7/23/10, emphasis added]

New York Times: Obama Plan Leaves Much Of The Bush Tax Cuts In Place. The New York Times prepared an infographic showing where President Obama seeks to change Bush-era tax law, and where he intends to leave it unchanged:

Bush Tax Cuts

[New York Times7/25/10]

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