Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jim Matheson: An Experiment in Blue Dogology

Greg Sargent over at the Plum Line was kind enough to phone a leading Blue Dog in the Democratic Caucus, Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah's 2nd District. The result was an entry into the mind of a Blue Dog and their faulty logic.


Matheson's opposition sheds some light on why Dems are hesitant to take this vote, even though Pelosi is pushing hard for it and many think it could prove a big winner for Dems. Moderates don't think it's a political winner at all, because it will be portrayed as a tax hike, and letting taxes go up even on those over $250,000 is a bad idea in a recession.

"I don't think it's the right vote," Matheson told me, adding that he only backed holding a vote on letting all the tax cuts expire. Matheson said a vote on just the middle class tax cuts is tantamount to letting the tax cuts for the wealthy expire.

"You're letting other rates go up on January 1st," he said. "I think we're better off if we don't do that."

Matheson also disputed the significance of national polls that show strong support for letting the tax cuts for the rich expire, suggesting this could be a good national issue for Dems.

"I dont know that it applies in my district or other battleground districts," Matheson said, adding that a vote for continuing just the tax cuts for the middle class would easily be portrayed as a tax hike.

"Allowing tax rates to go up when we're in the midst of a recovery from a deep recession, I don't think that plays well in a lot of districts," Matheson said.

But who pray tell is calling it a "tax hike?" I will let that be, it goes on, with a revealing end quote by Matheson.

Matheson also argued, as many Republicans do, that the group of those making over $250,000 is larger than many think. "I recognize $250,000 is a lot of money for an individual to make for an individual," he said. "But we're also talking about businesses. That's not a lot of money for small businesses."

Asked how many people in his district fell into the above-$250,000 category, Matheson answered: "I don't know the answer to that."

Gives you a sense of why it's so hard for Dem leaders to stage this vote, even though all signs indicate it's a political winner for the party overall.

Here is my issue with Matheson's argument, first many economists posit that continuing with the higher bracket Bush tax cuts are bad for our economy. It doesn't not help our country during a recession to have them NOT expire. Second and the most telling is his response to Sargent's question of "how many people fell into the above-$250,000 category."

I am not from Utah. I have no stake in Utah, but by the powers of teh Google and a simple search for median income for the 2nd District of Utah, I found the following:

Income District

Median income - $55,863

Poverty rate - 6.5%

Below $25,000 - 14.9%

$25,000-$50,000 - 26.3%

$50,000-$100,000 - 34.6%

$100,000-$200,000 - 17.7%

$200,000 or more - 4.1%

Now one would assume Rep. Matheson would perhaps know this considering he represents the 2nd district. And one would assume it is in his best interest to understand the median income levels and the percentages that would be effected by the so-called "tax hike" in question. Turns out if Matheson voted to extend only the middle class tax cuts the "tax hike" would only effect 4% of his constituency. 4%! But Matheson must know this, he has represented the 2nd District for the past nine years after all. So he is either being completely disingenuous when he says he "doesn't know the answer to that" or willfully naive. I will let you decide.

This is the most frustrating thing about the self-proclaimed fiscally responsible Blue Dogs. Even when proposed with a clear economic and beneficial policy for their constituency, they would rather defend the 4% of their district who would never spend the money anyway. Wonder why that is?

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message

(bolding by me)

Update: Wonk Room has more analysis of Matheson's Blue Dog b.s.


Rex Jensen said...

More importantly, Matheson and the Democrats don't know what to do; they are caught between their ideology and reality. Reality is Democratic economics (Obama, et. al.)are a failure, they don't work, they haven't ever worked.

Furthermore, Matheson might be right, even though only 4% of his district make over $200,000, the voters, who are very educated, will know that is still a tax increase. But Matheson, like most Democrats are so conflicted, trying to support Obama and satisfy their constituencies--they can't do both.

Asian-American Pundit said...

How would the Democratic economics be a failure when everyone, including the CBO, said if it wasn't for Democratic policies we would be far worse than we currently are? I will admit, I would have liked them to do more, but GOP obstruction and Blue Dog Dems inability to communicate Econ101 to their constituency has held progress back. In addition, here is a graph, that proves Democratic economic policies benefit the greater of society.

This is a classic case of a politician needing to be a better wordsmith. Matheson should state that it is not a "tax hike", but "tax restoration" as the policy would restore tax levels to Clinton era rates. And as we know that economy faired far better with such tax rates in place. My gut tells me though, Matheson and his ilk could care less about what the economics of the policy are and instead he simply cares more about the wealthy than everyone else.

The "very educated" line is a rather broad assumption by the way.

Thanks for stopping by!

Mike Robbins said...

The commenter Mr. Jensen makes the statement that returning to the previous tax rates is a tax hike is just a bit disingenuous. The tax hikes were constructed to expire by the republican leadership to disguise the consequences to the economy. A gimmick of bookkeeping to hide the detrimental effects on the budget and federal deficit. Honesty and a willingness to rationally assess the results of an action seem no longer to be part of the conservative ethos. We can see this in the statement "Reality is Democratic economics (Obama, et. al.)are a failure, they don't work, they haven't ever worked."
We are trying to come out of a train wreck of the financial system and the worst job creation period by a modern president. Can the conservatives admit that they were wrong? No they can only claim if we had been more conservative everything would have been peaches and cream.

Even while they criticize the stimulus, they return to their districts and proclaim the benefits that they have brought home. The auto companies have managed to survive, and are beginning to repay loans and thousands of jobs were saved, but we should have just let the industry die in their eyes. No shame, no remorse, no facts.

Asian-American Pundit said...


Fantastic points and thanks for commenting!