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Youd be surprised at

You'd be surprised at how knocked on their heels Senate Dems have been acting for the last couple weeks while they've been waiting for Bush to send up his tax bill. But today's news that Senators Jim Jeffords, Olympia Snowe and Linc Chafee want to scale back the president's $1.6 trillion tax cut should let them all breathe a big sigh of relief.

(Keep in mind that Jeffords and Snowe are both close to John Breaux (D) and he may be a force behind this.)

Each of the three announced their opposition to Bush's bill in its current form with rationales quite similar, at least in their outlines, to the ones Democrats have been making: not enough left for domestic priorities, not enough help to those who need it most, too reckless in assuming those future surpluses will arrive.

Yet the real issue, the real dividing line, may be less over the size of the cut than over its structure. One thing that's left Dems struggling over recent weeks is a flood of polling data (some of which the Dems' commissioned for themselves and heard at their caucus meeting last week) all showing the same conclusion: Bush's campaign trail critique of Gore's targeted tax cut plan - that it 'picked and choosed' who would get a tax cut - was very effective. (Simply paying down the debt also no longer seems an effective argument against tax cuts.)

That's left Dems without one of their key tax policy weapons - Clintonite targeted tax cuts. So they've been trying to come up with ways of crafting an 'across the board' tax cut which doesn't play with marginal rates. The key in every case is giving everyone the same size cut (or close to it), but in dollar terms, not percentage terms -- which is much more progressive (and, yes, vastly more honest).

The best idea making the rounds is to give a rebate on payroll taxes out of your income tax. So say, for instance, that everyone gets to deduct a percentage of their payroll taxes from their income tax. That's across-the-board (everyone gets it) but it focuses the benefit on middle and lower income families, not the very wealthy, like Bush's plan.

Some of them are even catching on to the idea of pitching this as eliminating the 'work penalty' - like this article said a few years back.

P.S. Wow. That was pretty earnest, wasn't it? Next we'll do some pictures.

Ha You thought that

Ha! You thought that measly six minutes on Reliable Sources was cool. How 'bout this. Tomorrow Talking Points takes a turn on C-Span's Washington Journal from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM (and presumably at odd times throughout the day).

P.S. The topic? News of the day with an as-yet-to-be-named right-winger.

Just came across this

Just came across this excellent and artful summing up of the White House gifts story by Geneva Overholser. Take a peek. You'll be glad you did.

Not long ago a

Not long ago a very prominent conservative activist gave a talk to a private audience in which he explained one of the chief reasons conservatives wanted one of their own at the Justice department. The reason? To go after liberal and left-leaning political organizations with Justice's muscle. (Sorry to be so cloak-n-dagger about the details - it's a matter of shielding sources.)

Who's in their cross-hairs? The usual suspects. Unions, the NAACP, NOW, etc. They see this as payback for the (largely fanciful) 'persecution' they believe they've been subjected to by the Reno Justice Department and the Clinton IRS. What was striking about this statement was less the intention expressed than the openness with which it was expressed.

(Ironically, liberals may end up being the victim of conservatives' paranoia about the Reno Justice department. Got that? No? I'll explain later.)

Anyway, here's the first shot across the bow in the reliably lapdogian Washington Times. (The Times is where DC right-wingers go to try out new arguments before they take 'em to the bigs). The Times is reporting that "conservative critics" are saying the NAACP's tax exempt status should be revoked because the organization is too tight with the Democratic party.

We'll be hearing a lot more of this.

Hey what happened to

Hey, what happened to Talking Points?!?! What happened to the multiple daily updates? Did he go Hollywood after his big TV appearance on CNN?

Nope. Just on vacation. TPM returns Tuesday February 6th with posts galore. For the moment, be sure to see this article in the Washington Post on the upcoming tax policy debate. The first good one I've seen thus far - and hopefully a sign of things to come. Straight talk on tax policy means talking about the payroll tax - which is the main tax for the great majority of Americans. For the outlines of a possible progressive tax politics see this article from a couple years back.

Meanwhile a few boobs have convinced themselves that Bush's tax cut proposal is actually 'progressive' because its nominal cuts for low-income wage-earners are actually higher than the cuts for high-income earners. More soon on why they're such boobs.

Trust me after my

Trust me, after my performance today on Reliable Sources my own show right after Spin Room is a done deal. Mark my word, it's in the bag.

Actually, I can barely remember anything that happened after Howie Kurtz introduced me. And it seemed like the whole thing lasted about nine seconds, even though I'm told the segment ran for six or seven minutes.

Kurtz led off with gusto. He laid out the White House vandalism story; described my rebuttal article in Slate; and then said something like: "Joshua Marshall, aren't you just shamelessly shilling for Bill Clinton?" (or something like that)  Hmmmm … As nearly as I could tell this got a chuckle from Bernie Kalb and Chris Caldwell (I think in sympathy, but who knows).

My first thought was to say, "But, of course ..." But then I thought, okay, okay … maybe that's not the best approach to take. Then I launched into it. And I have no idea what I said after that.

Just between us, Kurtz seemed a touch prickly. My theory is that maybe he ran into Andrea Mitchell at a Washington cocktail party and she told him to give me a good working-over as payback for the Slate piece. But who knows. (Actually, Kurtz was quite gracious off-the-air.)

But Bernie Kalb. I really like this guy. As a viewer of Reliable Sources I always figured Bernie for a bit of a curmudgeon. But he was great. Gracious, avuncular and he was wearing a turtleneck (which was very cool in my book). The whole thing went by so quickly that I can't quite remember why else I thought he was great. But he was great.

P.S. The show airs on Saturday at 6:30 PM EST and Sunday at 11:30 AM EST.

P.P.S. If you're interested in all the twisted details, here's the actual transcript -- it's the second-to-last segment.

Is the liberal Washington

Is the liberal Washington media ever going to level with the American people? For all the years of the Reagan-Bush recovery (1992-2000) the media just had to give credit to Bill Clinton whose policies didn't have anything to do with it anyway. Then when the 1993 tax hike finally caught up with the economy last year those media dogs couldn't help but try to cover for their man Bill. Hopefully now with all the bad economic data coming out day by day they'll finally admit that their man Bill screwed everything up after all. But you know what the kicker is? Look at those dour unemployment numbers that came out today. All those people lost their jobs. But look a little more closely. The rate of job creation also jumped well above what economists had expected. You know what that means, don't you? You got it, bud! The first inklings of the Bush recovery!

Who's gonna report this!?!?!

Rush, Lucianne, Drudge? Who?

Hey you thought youd

Hey, you thought you'd heard enough about smear-gate (Talking Points' admittedly grating name for the fake White House vandalism story). But no. This weekend I'm going to be on CNN's Reliable Sources to flog the vandalism story a couple more times. You know, that's the show with Howie Kurtz, the media reporter guy (pictured below)?

And starting the week after that I get my own half-hour show right after Spin Room! Okay, the second part is bogus. But I really am going to be on Reliable Sources (Sat. 6:30 PM EST; Sun. 11:30 AM EST).

If you were a

"If you were a right-wing conspiracist," Andrew Sullivan asked Hardball's Chris Matthews on January 23rd, "could you have devised a more typical ending for the Clinton administration - pardons to a lot of criminals and then vandalism by 20-somethings in the White House? It's like Gary Aldrich's fantasy."

Well, yeah. It did sound a bit like an Aldrich fantasy, now didn't it? Sullivan is still harping on the Marc Rich pardon story and embroidering it into a thick quilt of anti-Clintonism. And, frankly, who can blame him? The Rich pardon looks pretty ugly.

But what happened to that other last-days-of-Clinton scandal - that whole business with the pranks and vandalism at the White House? (What we at Talking Points have taken to calling smear-gate). Should we still be waiting for more 'proof' of the vandalism to emerge? Or is Sullivan going to admit he may have gotten duped by the Bush spin machine?

Or would it be quicker to wait for OJ to find the 'real killers.'

The Washington Times reports this morning that congressman Bob Barr (he of Council of Conservative Citizens speech-making fame) has asked the Government Accounting Office to investigate Clintonite vandalism at the White House. This is a procedural matter and a request from a congressman obligates the GAO to commence a preliminary investigation, which they have now done.

Could I be embarrassed if it turns out that the rumors were all true? Sure. But I'm happy to let the chips fall where they may.

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