Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good luck getting past the first 29 seconds of this video

There's a lot to critique about this interview by Fox News pundit and pompous shit stain Stuart Varney, but for the sake of brevity and sanity, I'll limit it to his first question:

I've written before about how Varney epitomizes the worst (best?) of arrogant, condescending TV punditry. He has guests on mainly to show how much righter he is than they are. He will never learn anything from any of them, because he already knows everything. And if what he knows doesn't square with any reality you've ever encountered, well, that's because you're in the wrong reality, commoner! This snake oil works because he says it does.

With that in mind, here's the question he asks:

Varney: "I always like to ask academics who are on the left this moral question, this is not an economics question, this is a moral question. Do you think it's moral to take more than half the income of successful people, anybody who's successful, do you think it's moral to take more than half their income in federal and state income taxes? 'Cause that's what we're doing at the moment in America, and it's gonna get worse. You think it's moral?"

1) We taxed the richest Americans at or above 50 percent all the way into the early 1980s. At the rate's 91-percent peak in the 1950s and 1960s, all income groups grew proportionately. Yes, there were economic cycles like always, but the economy was firmer overall for all Americans. The idea that the U.S. tax system is a spoil for those who won the rat race of capitalism (whether or not they hitched a ride to the finish line) is a recent phenomenon. And one that has not only destabilized the economy over time, but has implanted the toxic, self-defeating idea into the average American's mind that if we stroke the rich enough, they'll throw us bones. The economy has never worked that way and will never do so.

Oh, and no one pays half of their income in taxes nowadays. Not even close. Almost forgot that point.

2) "Success" as a synonym for money is a stretch. That connection might be the case in a world where hard work is proportionately tied to effort, or where income is the only motivation for every endeavor, but it's not the case in this real world. Varney ignores inherited wealth, the rigors involved in even the most menial jobs and the fact that some people do what they love even if it limits their income. Not to mention capital gains taxes vs. income taxes, loopholes, etc. Apparently, they don't speak Et Cetera on Planet Varney.

3) If you're going to frame taxation as a moral issue, then the real question to ask is, "Is it moral to demolish the middle class, starve our national infrastructure and continue borrowing billions of dollars from China to pay for tax cuts for the super-rich that will not be placed into the economy but most likely be moved into offshore accounts? And is it moral to frame the issue in such a twisted way that to even suggest the richest pay a few more dues (like they used to) makes one an extremist socialist? Is it moral to reduce the United States of America, one of history's greatest societies, into a game of Monopoly, and screw everyone who isn't playing or otherwise rolling the dice favorably?" Really, we should be so much more than that.

Varney needs to learn what "moral" means in the first place. It'll mean he'll have to admit to himself he doesn't know everything, but he should try anyway. The dictionary won't tattle.

There's more to the video, too, I imagine.


Tom Alday said...

"He will never learn anything from any of them, because he already knows everything. And if what he knows doesn't square with any reality you've ever encountered, well, that's because you're in the wrong reality, commoner!"

Actually, that phrase fits pretty much any political pundit, left or right, on any news channel. But ARGHHHHHH FAUX NEWZ, right?

Ian McGibboney said...

Varney is definitely among the worst, though. Not even Beck, Hannity or O'Reilly get me that revved up that fast. John Stossel, maybe.

Tom Alday said...

But you'll still sit and masturbate to Keith Olbermann nightly. Don't act like you have some principled objection to TV pundits using hyperbole.

Ian McGibboney said...

Olbermann doesn't interview like Varney. Keith can be a blowhard, particularly during his Special Comment, but he doesn't harrumph through interviews like Varney. Bill Maher's guilty of this from time to time when he has a guest whose opinion doesn't really care for, which is hard to watch sometimes. Of course, he isn't on a cable news channel.

NOLA Progressive said...

Chris Matthews is almost as bad as this clown on a pretty regular basis.

Ed, does alright, but can get antogonistic from time to time. he frequently (almost daily) has opposing viewpoints on his show though.

Olby doesn't frequently have people on of dissenting opinions (a trait I find to be less than admirable), so it's difficult to tell how this type of exchange would go.

Rachel does a great job with this. When she has folks on, it is clear that she has a measured opinion, but allows the guest time and respect to answer. It typically comes out more as discourse than argument.

I've seen O'Reilly do alright with this from time to time (and really bad from time to time as well).

Hannity....forget about it.

I'm not evening dicussing Glen Beck.

Malkin is to busy being pissed at Karl Rove lately to worry about this type of interview.

That's about as many as I can comment on with any real knowledge.

Tom Alday said...

Of course Olbermann doesn't "harrumph through interviews" because he never has anyone on his show that has an opinion contrary to his own. His show is a perfectly sealed echo chamber.

Ian McGibboney said...

That's a pretty accurate list, NOLA. I don't watch any of them on a regular basis, but with what I've seen I can't argue.

Tom, NOLA sort of agrees with your point.

I bring up Stuart Varney because he illustrates here something I find infuriating no matter who does it: spin the question into this oversimplified, all-or-nothing leap of logic, and then demand a yes-or-no answer. Not sure if I ever wrote about it here (I did somewhere a while back), but back in 2000 a young boy at Barnes & Noble saw me reading a political book and asked me if I liked Al Gore, and if I did, why do I want to ban cars? Then his little sister asked why I wanted everyone to have an abortion. That's the kind of shit kids pick up from their parents, who pick it up from TV, where such rhetoric flourishes unabated.

When Bill O'Reilly was on the Late Show, he asked David Letterman if he wanted the troops in Iraq to fail. What kind of stupid question is that? Dave tried to give a nuanced answer, to which O'Reilly kept snapping at him for a yes or a no. Varney is especially slimy because he could have asked something like, "Why do you think marginal tax rates should rise?" Or, "Do you think the economy is prepared for the potential fallout of an extra burden on the top income brackets?" Something along those lines. But instead Varney weaves his question around several unsubstantiated points before it even comes out of his mouth (moral vs. economic issues, false tax rates, accusations of socialism, future fallacy, etc.). And I'm not sure even believes that's honest, but he sells it well. All I know is, my first question to a Bush supporter wouldn't be, "Why do you hate troops and want them to die?"

Robert Taylor said...

The moral question he posed was weak, because however he wants to cut it, he supports the redistribution of wealth as well.

The real question should be: is it moral to break society down into two economic classes: those who pay more into the system than they get out of objective monetary benefits, or those who pay less than they get out of objective monetary benefits?

Jester said...

Chris Matthews is almost as bad as this clown on a pretty regular basis

You actually read my mind, NOLA P.

Then his little sister asked why I wanted everyone to have an abortion

Whoa, Ian! No wonder you're a liberal. Now I get it. It sounds like you live in Hicksville/Redneck Central with bookstore patrons like that. Contrast that with MY town: The left-wing Barnes & Noble staff here refused to show the cover of Glenn Beck's last book; they shelved all the copies backwards. Maybe you & I should swap towns? :)

BTW, here's a little CNBC 1-minute history on Barnes & Noble if you haven't seen it already.

Michael said...

That's a ridiculously easy question to answer: "Yes, it's perfectly moral. Jesus Christ's top marginal tax rate was 100%.* Next stupid distraction?"

*See, e.g., Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22, Mark 10:21.

Robert Taylor said...

Ian's attack on Bill O'Reilly asking Letterman "do you want the troops to fail" is as ridiculous as his tired old "what alternatives do Libertarians have for solving [insert issue here]".

O'Reilly's question assumes there was a legitimate reason for invading Iraq. Ian's assumes there's a legitimate reason for stealing someone's money.

NOLA Progressive said...

Do they have a clinical diagnosis for what you are afflicted with Rob? You can't even make a cogent point anymore man. It's getting bad. Seek help.

The two having nothing to do with each other chief. Look we all get it, you are pissed at Ian. Seriously dude it was played when Tom harped on that schtick. Its beyond sad for you to attempt to replicate it.

Robert Taylor said...

@NOLA I'm not pissed at Ian. I just point out that he's contradictory. For me to be pissed at him, he'd have to actually have a position.