Magazine Madness

Al Gore is a victim of media bias and advocates of low taxes are "crackpots." These are two of the counterfactual theses advanced in major magazines this week. First up, Evgenia Peretz (daughter of Gore mentor Martin Peretz) devotes nearly 7,000 words in Vanity Fair to the proposition that the former vice president was falsely maligned during the 2000 campaign by those notorious right-wing smear artists at ... the New York Times?

Eight years ago, in the bastions of the "liberal media" that were supposed to love Gore -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNN -- he was variously described as "repellent," "delusional," a vote-rigger, a man who "lies like a rug," "Pinocchio." Eric Pooley, who covered him for Time magazine, says, "He brought out the creative-writing student in so many reporters. ... Everybody kind of let loose on the guy." How did this happen? Was the right-wing attack machine so effective that it overwhelmed all competing messages? Was Gore's communications team outrageously inept? Were the liberal elite bending over backward to prove they weren't so liberal?
Where did reporters get the idea that Gore was prone to self-serving fibs? Perhaps from Gore's self-serving fibs. In October 2000, National Review compiled a collection of Gore-isms, some of which are memorable. No "attack machine" was responsible for Gore's claim, for instance, that he was the author of the Earned Income Tax Credit -- which was enacted two years before he became a member of Congress -- or his saying that he "always, always, always" supported the Roe v. Wade decision, even though in 1977 he voted for the Hyde Amendment and once earned an 84 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. Meanwhile, at the New Republic, Jonathan Chait -- former best friend of Stephen Glass -- unloads more than 5,000 words demonizing so-called "supply-side" economics:
American politics has been hijacked by a tiny coterie of right-wing economic extremists, some of them ideological zealots, others merely greedy, a few of them possibly insane. The scope of their triumph is breathtaking. Over the course of the last three decades, they have moved from the right-wing fringe to the commanding heights of the national agenda. Notions that would have been laughed at a generation ago--that cutting taxes for the very rich is the best response to any and every economic circumstance or that it is perfectly appropriate to turn the most rapacious and self-interested elements of the business lobby into essentially an arm of the federal government--are now so pervasive, they barely attract any notice.
Chait, who was born in 1972 and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1994, probably doesn't remember the "stagflation" economy produced by the high-tax, heavy-regulation policies of the 1970s. Lucky him. But check out this sentence:
Bush has poured every ounce of his political capital into cutting taxes, having signed four tax cuts during his administration; when fully phased in, they will reduce federal revenues by about $400 billion a year.
Did Bush really pour "every ounce of his political capital" into tax cuts? Not a single ounce for ... oh, I don't know ... the war in Iraq, maybe. But what about that $400 billion reduction in federal revenues that Chait's talking about? In 2005, federal tax revenues increased by $274 billion; in the past two years, federal tax receipts increased 28 percent. More to the point, growth in wages has resulted in a return of "bracket creep," which is causing more families to be affected by the Alternative Minimum Tax -- originally intended as the kind of "soak the rich" measure that Chait might favor, but now increasingly pinching dual-earner middle-class households.

Heritage Foundation estimates that, unless there is substantial reform, federal taxes will soar to an unprecedented 24 percent of gross domestic product. But who trusts those "crackpots" at Heritage, right? This is not to say, of course, that the Bush Administration is without fault. Even the most loyal Republicans will confess that the Bush Administration has made many blunders. But cutting taxes is not one of them.

Robert Stacy McCain is co-author (with Lynn Vincent) of Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party (Nelson Current).
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