Smith on KGW: Absurdly Misleading

Steve Novick

So on the KGW Town Hall tonight, I thought Senator Smith said six things especially worthy of note: one flatly false, and one absurdly misleading, statement about the Bush tax cuts and the economy; one statement about his change of heart on Iraq that re-raises a credibility issue; a statement about Medicare negotiating drug prices in which he failed to acknowledge a flip-flop; a statement on global warming suggesting he still doesn't really believe it exists; and an interesting reaction to Ron Wyden's proposal to disallow tax deductibility of prescription drug advertising.

1 - 2. Smith said that the Bush tax cuts are working, resulting in rising real wages for "the first time since Ronald Reagan" and tax revenues at an all-time high. He stated that "those are facts - not Democratic or Republican, just facts." (That's close to verbatim.) The first statement is simply false; real wages rose under Clinton in the late '90's. (See below for selection from a 1998 Economic Policy Institute statement.) The second statement is absurdly misleading. Income tax revenues, which normally rise every year as the economy grows (they even rose under George H. W. Bush) and nearly doubled under Clinton (from $509 billion in 1993 to $1 trillion in 2000), collapsed after the Bush tax cuts and only recovered to the $1 trillion level in 2006 -- still lower than 2000 levels, adjusted for inflation.

3. Smith said, as he had before, that he was deeply troubled by his visit to Iraq last May, indicating that his anti-war conversion began then. That re-raises the question of why he passionately defended the war as a noble fight for "freedom" in a speech against the Levin Amendment in June. Why did he defend a war in which he had lost faith?

4. Smith said that he voted with Ron Wyden to allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies. He neglected to mention that he voted against the same proposal in 2005.

5. On global warming Smith reiterated his opposition to the Kyoto treaty and said that we know that temperatures have increased by 0.7 degrees in the last 100 years, but he's not sure how much human activity had to do with that, although it might have had some effect.

6. When Ron Wyden pitched Senator Debbie Stabenow's proposal to disallow drug companies' advertisements of prescription drugs as a tax deduction, Smith said something noncommittal but somewhat favorable-sounding. It'd be interesting to see him questioned further on a great proposal.

July 17, 1998 Issue Brief #127

Lower unemployment, higher minimum wage spur recent wage growth
by Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein, and John Schmitt


The good news of 1996-98
Wage growth on an inflation-adjusted basis from 1996 through the first half of 1998 has been both strong and equalizing (see the table on the following page) and far better than in the earlier portion of this business cycle from 1989 to 1996. For example:

Real wages grew 2.6% per year for the typical (50th percentile) worker, reversing declines of 0.8% per year from 1989 to 1996.

Real wages grew 4.1% per year for low-wage (20th percentile) male workers and 2.0% per year for the median male workers, indicating a narrowing of the wage gap between middle- and low-wage men. By contrast, male wages at the 20th and 50th percentiles fell about 1% per year in the 1989-96 period.

While wages fell for low- and middle-wage female workers at an annual rate of 0.2% from 1989 to 1996, they reversed course and grew at annual rates of 2.7% and 2.6% respectively over the last year and a half.

Wages for high-wage male and female workers also grew relatively quickly in the 1996-98 period, but in both cases wage growth at the 90th percentile was slower than that at the 20th.

  • Mr. Natural (unverified)

    Yea...Smith sounded like a DICK. NOT JUST BUSH - ALL REPUBLICANS MUST GO!

  • Bill McDonald (unverified)

    That re-raises a credibility issue? When did it go away?

  • fullerton (unverified)

    I was at the Town Hall as well and my mouth hung agape as Senator Smith answered the global warming question.

    I can't believe he doesn't believe humans are a source of the issue.

    Also, when he answered the question criticizing Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy I thought it was a bit snide of him to mention "central planning", as if those against tax cuts makes one a communist. Did anyone else find that offensive, or at least a little annoying?

  • fullerton (unverified)


    the above should be:

    as if being against tax cuts for the wealthy makes one a communist.

    I wonder if there is a way to allow users to edit their comments. Kari?

  • (Show?)

    I didn't see the Town Hall meeting, but I can imagine the lies that come out of his mouth. One minute he is for the war and then next minute he's against it. Make up your mind Slick Gordo!

  • DA (unverified)

    Hey Fullerton, riddle us all this: how did you get "invited" to attend that elitist function anyhow?

    Also, what is the magic search criteria to allow one to find ANY information about this so-called "Town Hall" meeting on KGW's own web site? Apparently they aren't hugely proud of the effort coz it isn't prominently displayed.

    I caught a brief glimpse of that farce as I channel surfed over it and kept right on going ... I mean c'mon, are there really folks out there who were fooled by Smith's recent objections to Bush's Iraq plans?

    Smith is the worst kind of right-wing-politician. The kind that pretends not to be one whenever it might serve his personal interests [staying in office]. The guy only brings his finger [typically the middle one he uses to flip-off the electorate] down outta the air long enough to re-wet it so he can always tell which way the wind is blowing. When Smith faces re-election I'll vote for whoever and whatever might oppose him. That's a done-deal, end of story. No need to watch him lying on TV anymore.

    The real mystery is why Ron Wyden chose to be a part of such a dog & pony show?

    KGW ... isn't that the channel that still airs Blazer games and just hired one of the local Fox affiliate throw aways? That says it all. Sheez.

  • (Show?)


    You missed one of his other major gaffes; "President Bush has done more for veterans than any other president."

    I will write more about this latter, but it is a real whopper. The VA today is strained worse than at any time in the past 20-50 years. The demand is up due to the war and vets are being denied service while VA headcount has been cut. The recent Washington Post article about appalliing conditions at Walter Reed because the hospital is overwhelmed with wounded from Iraq belies this offensive sound bite.

  • Russell (unverified)

    Income tax revenues, which normally rise every year as the economy grows (they even rose under George H. W. Bush) and nearly doubled under Clinton (from $509 billion in 1993 to $1 trillion in 2000), collapsed after the Bush tax cuts and only recovered to the $1 trillion level in 2006 -- still lower than 2000 levels, adjusted for inflation.

    First of all, I completely disagree with the Bush tax cuts and I agree with 99 percent of the post...but I'm trying to clarify something. When you say "income tax revenue", do you include capital gains income? If so, the equity bubble of 1997-2000 was one of the big reasons for increases in the income tax revenue during this time. Do we praise a president for fostering one of the biggest financial bubbles in history? Bush began his first term as the bubble was deflating. Certainly his tax cuts didn't help, but the tax revenues that Clinton was enjoying during his second term, (and the profits they were derived from) were absent for Bush. Income tax revenue may have collapsed after the Bush tax cuts, but they also collapsed after the dot com bubble was burst.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Also, when he answered the question criticizing Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy I thought it was a bit snide of him to mention "central planning",...

    Smith might want to think that one over. The Japanese did exceptionally well with their central planning helping Toyota and others to dominate capitalist markets around the world while our corrupt Congress, purchased by American corporations, allowed General Motors, Ford and others to behave with typical arrogance and descend into a well-deserved decline. And it looks like the Chinese have decided following the Japanese model instead of the American "free market" is a better bet.

  • Anon (unverified)

    Wyden spoke very strongly throughout and there was a good deal of audience applause for his points.

    Wyden talked about a bill that would reduce the fees (?) or the cut that financial institutions could take when processing student loan fees? I've got it Tivo'd - I'll have to go look at it again. The purpose is to get more dollars into the hands of the students. He said the financial lobby would fight the legislation.

    Smith added some generic statement of approval. I can guess, however, whose side he'll be on when the rubber meets the road and it's time to actually vote.

  • Bill (unverified)

    Watching the Town Hall meeting made me want to slap Smith right upside the head. With a brick.

    What a lying, sniveling son-of-a-bitch. He won't get MY vote come next time around, that's for damn sure.

  • (Show?)

    Russell: I think income tax revenues as reported do include taxes on capital gains, which were, no doubt, partly responsible for the surge in revenues under Clinton. But there's no way the collapse of the bubble alone accounts for the fact that revenues dropped by HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS after the '01 tax cuts, and the virtually historically unprececented fact that revenues were barely back at 2000 levels in 2006. There've been other bubbly economic periods in the postwar era, but you just don't see this kind of tax collection story. That's why I pointed out that revenues even grew under Bush I, a one-termer whose term included a significant recession. Smith was implying that "Bush's tax cuts have made the economy grow so much that tax revenues are at amazing unexpected levels," which is absurd.

  • Brian Fuller (unverified)

    Steve Novick articles are always jam packed with supporting facts, and are indeed a pleasure to read. I completely understand that Smith is- and must be- a target for folks who really care about the lives of average Oregonians, but it is kind of hard to read folks' comments that sometimes seem to imply that Ron Wyden is a defender of these same people. Both of our senators have championed policies that deeply cleave a bloody and painful finacial hole out of the poor and middle class.

    Recently I called Wyden's Washington office and asked what his stand is on giving the president "fast track" trade deal approving powers. Not only are they "unable at this time" to say what his position is, they- get this- can't call back or e-mail the answer when they find out, but have to snail mail it. I was told to expect that to take three to four weeks. There is empirical proof now that "free trade" has been anything but, to the people in the middle and at the bottom, but Wyden's position doesn't change, his staff just seems to be making it harder to know what it is.

    I'm not sure how much impact our efforts to influence the politicians that know we will never vote for them anyway can be, but I'm pretty sure we have a moral and ethical responsibility to call our own to task when they sell out on the backs of Oregon's working families and poor.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
    <h2>One of the great political journalists of the 20th Center, Walter Karp, once said that the Republican and Democratic parties are the two wings on the corporate bird of prey. Nothing has changed in the new century.</h2>

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