Dean Baker (Beat the Press, 7/21/09) has synopsized the latest fiasco of a David Brooks column under the headline "David Brooks Wanted Tax Increases to Pay for Stimulus"–since, Baker writes, "that is presumably the implication of his complaint that the Democrats paid for the stimulus package 'with borrowed money.'"
Predictably, "this is not the only peculiar item in his column. He also claims that only 11 percent of the stimulus will be spent in the first seven months of the program." Even though, as economist Baker explains, the "Congressional Budget Office puts the figure at 20 percent, which doesn't seem bad for a program that is just getting started and should be spent out over time in any case." And
then, in full Republican talking point mode, Brooks tells us:
The House [health care] bill adds $239 billion to the federal deficit during the first 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It would pummel small businesses with an 8 percent payroll penalty. It would jack America's top tax rate above those in Italy and France. Top earners in New York and California would be giving more than 55 percent of earnings to one government entity or another.
Let's see if we can rewrite this slightly:
The House bill adds an amount equivalent to 10 percent of the spending on the Iraq and Afghan wars to the federal deficit during the first 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Some small businesses will end up converting as much as 8 percent of their wage bill into healthcare insurance for their workers. The richest 1 percent will see an increase in their marginal tax rate, but it will still be lower than in most European countries. And the effective marginal tax rate for the wealthy will still be far lower than the marginal tax rate and reduction in benefits that most moderate income families face.
Baker's version of the same points renders somewhat silly the sentiment he attributes to Brooks' screed: "Are you scared?"