Colbert on Taking One’s Oath Seriously

Stephen Colbert is America’s most thoughtful supplier of late-night comedy. Last night, he gave a heartfelt thank you to Sen. Mitt Romney for voting to remove the “monstrous child in the White House”; excoriated Romney’s Republican colleagues for ignoring their solemn oaths to do “impartial justice”; and said some funny stuff too.

Note: The Romney family once took a trip with their dog in a crate on the roof of their car. More famously, Mr. Romney was defeated in the 2012 presidential election by Barack Obama, who Mr. Colbert definitely voted for.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines “sophistry” as “the use of clever but false arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving”.

Consider, for example, the statement on Mitt Romney’s official website that says he wants to “make permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal (income tax) rates”.

So if you make a lot of money and the last dollar you earn is now taxed at a rate of 35%, your new, lower rate will be 28%. That will lower your taxes by quite a large amount, especially if you earn a million dollars or more.

If you don’t make so much money, and your last dollar is taxed at a rate of 25%, your new rate will be 20%. Your marginal rate will go down by 5%. Not bad, but the high earner’s rate will go down by 7%. That’s how percentages work.

It certainly sounds like Romney is advocating a big tax cut for the highest earners, bigger as both a percentage of income and as a dollar amount.

At the last debate, however, Governor Romney said: “The top 5 percent will continue to pay 60 percent, as they do today. I’m not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people.”

Well, if he’s not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people, he’s made a grievous error.

But wait — the top 5% will continue to pay 60% of all income taxes! Doesn’t that mean that the high earners aren’t getting a tax cut at all?

Of course not. Since the total amount of taxes being paid will go down, the top 5% will still pay 60% of that smaller total. At the same time, they will receive a big tax cut on their “earned” income, much bigger in fact than low earners.

As Bill Clinton said today, someone running for President thinks we’re dumb. No surprise, it’s Mitt Romney, sophist.

The Moment That Will Be Remembered

I couldn’t bring myself to watch the presidential debate last night — I’d get too angry when one guy was talking, and too frustrated when the other guy was, plus there’s the annoying moderator.

But the debate has already generated one memorable moment, possibly the one that will stick in people’s memories for a long time:


For more evidence, scroll through this:

Final Thoughts on What Romney Said

There’s been a lot of commentary on Romney’s 47% remarks. What I haven’t seen anyone pointing out is how plain dumb his remarks were.

He said that the people who are totally committed to voting for Obama are the same people who don’t pay Federal income tax. 

He knows, of course, that there are plenty of people with well-paying  jobs who would never consider voting for him. Many of these people live in states like California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Illinois. These states are home to lots of “liberal elitists” who the Republicans like to complain about. So his claim makes no sense, even from a right-wing perspective.

He also said that the people in this supposed group don’t take responsibility for their own lives. There are some such people, of course, but they are clearly a much smaller group than committed Obama voters and the people who don’t owe Federal income tax.

How could an apparently intelligent person like Romney say something so stupid? My guess is that he was simply engaging in some right-wing stream of consciousness while pandering to his wealthy contributors. If they took a moment to think about it, everyone in the room would understand that, literally speaking, his statements were false. But it would be great fun to hear him insult liberal Democrats, low-income people and welfare cheats by lumping them all together. His absurd remarks reveal as much about his audience as they do about him.

Yet More Background on What Romney Said

From an article by Ramesh Ponnaru in the National Review Online:

“The Tax Foundation has calculated the percentage of filers in each state who pay income tax. The ten states with the highest number of non-payers are a strongly Republican bunch: Eight of them went for John McCain in 2008, and nine of them have Republican governors.”

Obviously, some people are very confused. And some people are making stuff up. The red states below had the highest percentages of people filing Federal income tax returns but not paying any income tax. The blue states had the lowest percentages. 


The Background to What Romney Said

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post responds to Romney’s remarks:

“83 percent of those not paying federal income taxes are either working and paying payroll taxes or they’re elderly and Romney is promising to protect their benefits. The remainder, by and large, aren’t paying federal income or payroll taxes because they’re unemployed.”

And why don’t many working people end up owing Federal income tax?

“Part of the reason so many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans. That’s why, when you look at graphs of the percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, you see huge jumps after Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reform and George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. So whenever you hear that half of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, remember: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush helped build that.”

Klein points out that some of the tax cuts for lower income people were adopted to make tax cuts for higher income people more politically acceptable. Now, however, the Republicans are arguing that people who don’t owe federal income tax are parasites who don’t deserve government benefits:

“Republicans have become outraged over the predictable effect of tax cuts they passed and are using that outrage as the justification for an agenda that further cuts taxes on the rich and pays for it by cutting social services for the non-rich.”