The Night Right Wing Talk Radio Was Actually Right

Could George Noory of Coast To Coast AM be a closet liberal? Could all the Obama birther nonsense, aliens and ghosts and Bigfoot walking among us all be ratings-building hype? After last night, I don’t know.
He had David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who specializes in economic and tax issues, on his show. The guy made a lot of sense but what made my ears perk up was an exchange with a female caller who called in about Neal Boortz’s elitist-masquerading-as-populist, so-called “FairTax” idea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FairTax
She smugly talked over Johnston as she stated the tax (without mentioning Boortz’s name) had been endorsed by top economists and it would require everyone from the rich on down to pay their fair share, and that it would then motivate all the companies with offshore accounts and investments to bring it all back home and all our economic woes would be gone. After she was done, Johnston coolly and methodically debunked every assertion of hers point by point, even taking a swipe at the flat tax. He explained in terms that even she could understand that if a rich person as a $10 million annual income that person will not spend that entire $10 million on purchases subject to the FairTax but poorer people WILL spend the majority of their disposable income on taxable purchases because they have to. And besides, for the wealthy, there are many ways to buy things under the table without receipt or computer records.
A male caller claimed that only Eric Holder has let the banksters off the hook and made some other claims.( It is true that Holder wrote what became the “too big to fail” policy in a memo while working in the Clinton Department of Justice.) This is where Johnston blew me away. He responded that every point the caller had made was wrong; every single statement the caller had made was not true. He elaborated that Reagan and the Bushies–daddy and son– had in essence followed the doctrine that to take any actual and meaningful action against banks for their fraudulent actions would make the market “nervous” and hurt the economy. But the moment that won my heart is when he said that people believe these lies because they hear them all the time on right wing talk radio shows. Noory stayed silent after that remark.
But Johnston is an equal opportunity investigate reporter and he also spoke truth to power on the Democratic side as well, sticking a pin in the myth of Bill Clinton as a great liberal president (my description) to let the air out of it. (In fact, in 1996, Clinton and Newt Gingrich had agreed to a tax pact cutting both Social Security and Medicare, and were forming a permanent partnership until Monica Lewinsky came between them. http://www.amazon.com/The-Pact-Clinton-Gingrich-Generation/dp/0195322789)
Under Clinton, the poor and near-poor were more frequently audited by the IRS than were corporations and the wealthy. Why? Because Newt Gingrich hated the Earned Income Tax Credit and part of the budget compromise in 1996 was that those claiming that credit would have to provide proof they were eligible, and kids’ most recent report cards weren’t enough. Johnston stated that, contrary to Gingrich’s assertions, the only persons incorrectly receiving the credit were divorced parents where the ineligible parent had stolen the credit away from the eligible parent by filing their tax return first and claiming it.
But, most importantly, Johnston further confirms what economics experts and pundits like Paul Krugman (“End This Depression Now!”) and Noam Scheiber (“The Escape Artists” How Obama’s Team Fumbled The Recovery”) have said for the past few years: the rise of income inequality and the fall of the average American wage earner’s income, the slide toward this government from being a democracy to an oligarchy has been a bipartisan affair, wending its way from the Reagan administration through every administration—Democratic and Republican—up to the present day.

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