Nice to see Rachel Maddow come around on this.
Maddow has pontificated lately that tax cuts during wartime are not only ineffective but immoral -- which makes her inexplicable change of heart all the more puzzling. (video after page break)
Here's Maddow during her Aug. 23 appearance on the David Letterman show to plug her upcoming documentary, "Day of Destruction, Decade of War," its very title suggestive of a disproportionate American response to the enormity of 9/11 --
At the same time we've been fighting two of the country's longest wars ever simultaneously while getting tax cuts. We doubled the nation's defense budget and took tax cuts at the same time. And that's, that's the kind of thing you wouldn't even try to sell to a country unless you were going to be pretty sure that the country wasn't going to feel like it was at war. ...
The question though is what we're going to do now. I mean, are we going to keeep staying at war permanently? Or do our wars ever end? And are we ever going to start paying for it? You can't have wars and tax cuts simultaneously.
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Maddow followed this with more along the same lines on her MSNBC show Sept. 6 when she described the first round of Bush tax cuts signed into law in June 2001, three months before 9/11, followed by a second round of cuts in May 2003, two months after the US-led invasion of Iraq. Bush decided against pushing to rescind the tax cuts after the start of both wars, Maddow complained --
MADDOW: So 9/11 happened, we kept the Bush tax cuts. We went to war in Afghanistan and we kept the Bush tax cuts. We decided then to stay in Afghanistan even after the fall of the Taliban, we kept the Bush tax cuts. Then in March 2003, after already being engaged in one war, we decided to start another war simultaneously in Iraq. And not only did we keep those Bush tax cuts still, then, but then just two months after starting our second war, two months after invading Iraq, came that single moment at which we divorced ourselves from our history and from our reality.
A clip was then shown of the "Today" show's Ann Curry from May 2003 reporting on Bush signing his second round of tax cuts into law --
CURRY: President Bush will sign a more than $300 billion tax cut today. He says it will help boost the economy.
MADDOW: Another round of tax cuts, a second round. This should have been a wait! wait! flashing red lights! bells and whistles! what the heck are we doing sort of moment for the country. A second round of tax cuts. Not only fiscally astonishing, but also rather morally astonishing. What kind of country starts a war and cuts taxes by which we would pay for that war at the same time? What kind of country responds to starting a second war by passing a second round of tax cuts? If that turned up in an economic textbook about some hypothetical country, you know, named country A or something, you would think that it was a typo about country A. But that is in fact what we did.
Yes, that is what we did -- and the economy surged, GDP growth more than doubling to over 7 percent in the next quarter and unemployment plunging from 6.1 percent in May 2003 to 4.4 percent in March 2007. Needless to say, not a word about this from Maddow, lest she roll into a fetal ball in despair.
And notice how Maddow blames the US for "starting" the war against al Qaeda -- in nearly the same breath she inveighs against Americans for having "divorced ourselves from our history and from our reality"? What kind of country does these things, Maddow demands, while insinuating the answer -- Amerika!
All of two days later, after President Obama's speech before Congress on his so-called jobs plan, Maddow was far less hostile to the notion of tax cuts during wartime. Difference being, of course, that it's no longer George W. Bush pushing for them.
Here's Maddow talking with economist Jared Bernstein on Sept. 8 --
MADDOW: In terms of the overall package and the contours of it, it's 60-40 weighted tax cuts to spending. And generally speaking we think of spending as being more stimulative than tax cuts. But it strikes me as sort of an economics idiot but one who pays attention that these particular tax cuts that the president is describing here -- tax breaks for, tax credits for businesses for hiring, payroll tax cuts for people that they're going to feel right away in their paychecks, $1,500 for the average American family with these payroll tax extensions. These are the kinds of tax cuts that are the most stimulative, is that right?
BERNSTEIN: It is right. I mean, tax cuts don't help you if they're saved or if they leak out on imports.
Maddow frames the question as to suggest she already knows the answer, and Bernstein responds in kind. So much for this being another wait! wait! flashing red lights! bells and whistles! what the heck are we doing sort of moment for the country.
Maddow modestly describes herself as "sort of an economics idiot" but "one who pays attention." Does she ever take notice of her own hypocrisy? It is, to borrow a phrase, morally astonishing.