Talking to the low information voter
I always cringe when Republican spokespersons or strategists are paired with their Democratic counterparts for ‘discussions’ of the issues. The media rarely challenge the even the most questionable assertions made by Democrats. More troubling, the Republican is seldom able to refute even the most egregious misrepresentations.
Rick Unger, a left-leaning strategist, noted to Neil Cavuto on 8/11/13 that more should be required of the 1 percent; that no one really pays the 39.6 percent and that tax rates are essentially immaterial. It is the net result that needs to be improved. (Lawrence O’Donnell and others have made similarly impassioned cases that the wealthy evade paying their fair share.) The clear inference is that the wealthy abuse the tax code to pay a lower rate than you and Warren Buffet’s secretary.
The fair share argument is going to be replayed time and time again in 2014 and 2016. It’s about time Republican candidates and their spokespeople came up with a coherent response.
This one is a batting practice fastball. First, Mitt Romney does pay 39.6 percent on his taxable (earned) income over $250,000. But, not all of Mitt Romney’s income is taxable. So, while no one in the 39.6 percent bracket pays 39.6 percent of their gross income in taxes, neither does anyone in the 28, 25 or ten percent bracket pay those rates on their gross income.
There is not a single American who is taxed on their gross income. Even those, who do not itemize deductions, reduce their gross income by (at least) the combined total of the standard deduction and the personal exemptions. Those taxpayers who itemize deductions reduce their gross income further by deducting state and local taxes, mortgage interest, health care expenditures and charitable contributions. In addition, taxpayers of all income levels qualify for assorted tax credits which can further lower the effective tax rate.
It should be noted the disdained ‘deductions’ and ‘loopholes’ are usually financial activities that politicians find desirable. They encourage those activities by incorporating them into the tax code. Then, they criticize taxpayers for claiming the very deduction they used as an leverage to influence their investment and spending decisions.
Another class warfare argument we should expect to hear repeated ad nauseum is the Buffet rule. Warren Buffet has typically paid a comparatively low tax rate, precisely because he arranges to take the bulk of his compensation as capital gains and very little as salary. He has been the majority shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway. He could have remedied this inequity at any time over several years by taking his compensation differently. It is not the tax code that is at fault here.
Republicans will face a relentless array of class warfare attacks in the coming elections. Will Republican politicians and spokespersons be prepared to defend their position on minimum wage? Will they say “The minimum wage was never intended to be a life-sustaining income. It provides an opportunity for those with marginal skills, problematic backgrounds and insufficient education to enter the workforce. We do not improve the prospects of someone who is unemployable at $7.25 per hour by raising the minimum wage to $9.50.”
It is often painful to watch Republicans try to articulate Republican positions. Think back to the debates. How can you not be prepared?
The low information voter may be uninformed because, often, only one side is talking to them. Given the narrow margins in recent elections Republicans should focus more on arguing simple facts and less on talking through political filters. The cure for low information voters is information. Who will provide it if Republicans do not?