Conservatives: Addicted To Misinformation

Bill Scher

After Gov. Sarah Palin’s nomination acceptance speech, I remarked it was a “sad night for conservatism,” as the wildly received speech exposed the conservative leadership’s desire for snide insults over responsible governing, for eschewing personal responsibility of their own failures in favor of blame-shifting on to others.

The other deep problem with modern conservatism is an addiction to misinformation. Sure, unchallenged misinformation can help win battles of public opinion, but it doesn’t help so much in governing (See “Bush Administration, eight years of”). And if conservatism is ever going to regain its luster, it needs to win back credibility as an effective governing philosophy.

So I am sad again today, seeing my regular Bloggingheads.tv sparring partner and Heritage Foundation blogger Conn Carroll echo the misinformation on Sen. Barack Obama’s tax plan thrust upon me on Bloggingheads.tv last week by Conn’s substitute Amanda Carpenter of TownHall.com, false claims which have become a conservative staple in recent days.

Conn’s recent post makes a strained attack on the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson, who today noted that the conservative attempt to make Obama’s $1000 tax credit for working families sound like “a subsidy from all the Joe the Plumbers to undeserving people who live off the dole” has racially divisive undertones. Conn tries to argue that by the same logic, Al Gore is a racist because he once supported a lockbox so payroll taxes would be fully dedicated to Social Security and Medicare.

Conn writes:

If you have the audacity to point out that the only way Obama can claim to be giving 95% of the American people a tax cut is by either giving tax refunds to people who never paid taxes or by raiding payroll taxes that support Medicare and Social Security, then you are a racist.

Like Amanda and her beloved Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel, Conn repeats the false statement that Obama’s “Making Work Pay” $1,000 refundable tax credit for 95% of working households (not “the American people” by the way) would go to “people who never paid taxes,” when anyone working at least pays the flat, regressive 15.3% payroll tax. There is no such thing as a working American who has “never paid taxes.”

(There isn’t even such a thing as an unemployed American who has “never paid taxes” because everyone at least pays some sales tax when buying basic necessities, perhaps also some gas and phone taxes. But Obama’s “Making Work Pay” tax credit would not go to them.)

Conn tries to pre-empt this argument by implying you can only bring up payroll taxes if Obama is promising to “raid” the Social Security and Medicare trust funds to pay for the tax credit (which he is not). But as I noted before, the payroll tax (which is also tax on your income) is not fully dedicated to those trust funds and some of the revenue goes into the same general fund as the income tax.

We do not have to raid the trust funds to recognize that low-income workers currently pay a regressive tax, and a tax credit from the general fund — not a transfer of wealth taken from any middle-class plumber, as they too would get a tax cut under Obama’s plan — would help alleviate that.

Conn has the audacity to set up two entirely false choices for what Obama’s tax plan means. That does not make him a racist, but it does make him mendacious (if not ignorant, and I do wonder to what degree conservative reliance on misinformation has dumbed down its own movement adherents.)

It would be appear that this line of attack is not upsetting Obama’s electoral chances, as Obama holds a 14-point lead over McCain on the issue of taxes.

That should be a warning to conservatives.

The decades of false conservative attacks against progressive taxation have reached their limit. Conservative credibility concerning governance is shot, and continued reliance on misinformation is not a path to restoring credibility.

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