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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wigderson sets up straw curd man, eats it

by folkbum

James Wigderson's latest "special guest perspective" at the MacGruber World Institute for Advancing Agendas in Spite of Facts touches on a subject near and dear to me (my emphasis):
The increase in the child tax credit is due to expire in 2011 along with the rest of the Bush tax cuts. If the Democrats in Congress and the Obama Administration follow through on their threat to let the Bush tax cuts expire, middle-class taxpayers in Wisconsin and elsewhere could receive a huge tax jolt. [. . .]

Wisconsinites benefit from this tax cut more than residents in other states. Of the tax filers claiming the credit, Wisconsin filers ranked eighth in benefiting from the credit. Wisconsin filers’ average credit ranked fourteenth of all filers. Of the Wisconsinites claiming the credit, the average tax benefit was $1,335 off what they owed.

That’s a lot of cheese curds.
When you invoke the mighty curd, you had better be right in your facts, as I can hear curdspolitation six counties away and doubtless will descend upon those who befoul the curd with a righteous fury.

In Wigderson's case here, the cheese stands alone. At least, the cheese stands outside the realm of reality.

Let's start with the opening presumption. "Democrats in Congress," the son of Wigder writes, "and the Obama administration" have apparently made "threats to let the Bush tax cuts expire," and if that happens, "middle-class taxpayers" would lose their curds. But here's where Wiggy starts to fall off the cheese wheel.

The simple fact is that while "Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration" have indeed stated their intent to let some of the Bush Tax cuts sunset as originally intended (note that he doesn't direct any curdignation at the Republicans who originally scheduled that sunset!), no leading Democrat and no one in the Obama administration has suggested letting the child tax credit expire.

If you don't believe me, just google it. (I assume Wigderson opted not to run a four-second google search because it would have totally ruined his argument, scuttled his column, and cost him that sweet wingnut welfare payday.) You'll see that not only has Obama promised to extend that credit beyond 2011 (with Congress expecting to make it permanent later this summer), he has proposed doubling the credit*. The truth here is precisely the opposite of what Wigderson claims.

This is worth repeating: Wigderson's entire column, from start to finish, top to bottom, is predicated entirely on a complete disconnect from reality.

There are other little bits of disconnection from reality along the way, of course (why stop at just the thesis of your argument when you can muck up even the details?). As an example, there's this: "Democrats unhappy with the Bush tax cuts neglect to mention that only 25% of the benefits went to those making $250,000 per year or more."

Democrats "neglect to mention" this statistic because, you know, it is a stupid and misleading one. Let's assume it's true--that "only" a quarter of all the benefit of the cuts accrues to those making $250,000 or more. It would be good to know how many such filers there are. And in fact, those earning $250,000 or more account for "only" the top 10% of earners in the country. This means that they are receiving a disproportionate share of the benefit of the cuts. Other people note the disparity more clearly:
In 2006, the bottom fifth of income earners got an average tax cut of $20, or 0.3 percent of their income. In 2006, the top fifth of income earners got an average tax cut of $5,800, or 4.1 percent of income. At the very top, the average tax cut was more than 6 percent of income.

[T]he top 0.6 percent of tax filers, those with more than $500,000 in income, received nearly three-quarters of the benefits of the capital gains and dividend tax cuts in 2005.
And indeed, Widgerson's statistic is not true. According to a 2008 report of the Joint Economic Committee, "In 2007, one third of the total benefits of the tax [Bush] cuts went to the top one percent of households." (And the top 1% is those earning $350,000 and up.) Since 2007, the middle-class tax cuts have been constant while breaks on capital gains and estate taxes have continued to grow, pushing the disparity even higher. This year, with the complete absence of any kind of estate tax at all, the skew will be at its peak.

It is always, by definition, easier to argue against a straw man: State something you know is not true (Democrats are going to let the child tax credit expire!) and then amass your evidence and have at it. And here Wigderson does indeed to a nice job of explaining why Obama and the Democrats are smart to not only extend but perhaps increase the child tax credit. But a straw man is a lazy writer's strategy, and one that subjects you to ridicule and derision for not having a basic grasp on the truth. Here Wigderson has gone all-in on an argument full of rotten cheese.

*Corrected. Also, see this report on the benefit of the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest earners.

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