Jeb Bush and Reckoning with the Iraq War

Now that the Iraq War — and why it happened — has been put back on the radar thanks to Jeb Bush, we need to keep an important fact in mind about how it happened.  The whole “if we knew then what we know now” formulation that various Republicans are trying to flaot is beside the point. Bush and Cheney didn’t care about what they knew.  All they cared about was what they wanted.  And what they wanted was a war, come hell or high water.

Here’s how David Corn (spread across two paragraphs, edited together for clarity) puts it: “Bush and Cheney did not invade Iraq because they had been hoodwinked by bad intelligence.  Bush, Cheney, and their comrades were hell-bent on invading Iraq — not because of inaccurate intelligence, but because of their own assumptions and desires.  Asking whether the invasion should have happened knowing what is now known is an irrelevant exercise.  For the Bush-Cheney gang, it truly did not matter what the intelligence said.”

I’ve been watching Jeb twist in the wind the last two weeks as he tries to figure out the right thing to say about the Iraq War in retrospect with some glee and a fair bit of sadness.

It’s not sadness for Jeb.  I don’t really understand why Jeb is running for president (though he won’t say so, because he would instantly limit his fundraising by doing so); he seems to be running because he can’t think of anything else to do.  Ultimately, I don’t care about Jeb one way or the other.

I’m sad for the country and what we all went through the last thirteen years.  I’m sad for the lives that were shattered in a stupid, pointless war.  I’m sad that those who made it happen have never reckoned with it or expressed remorse.  I’m sad that people who dissented were made to feel they were unpatriotic and un-American.

Jeb twisting in the wind is karmic retribution for his brother’s stupid war of choice.

The Republican Veneration of the Undead Reagan

Over the weekend, a reporter for CNN asked several actual and potential GOP presidential candidates a simple question — Who is the greatest living president?

Let’s look at our choices.  Which former presidents are still living?  Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush.

Who did Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump pick as their choice for the greatest living president?

Ronald Reagan.

The last time I looked, Reagan died in 2004.  He’s an ex-president, true, in both the sense that he was once a president and the dead parrot is an ex-parrot.  But Reagan is not a valid answer to the question, “Who is the greatest living president?” Continue reading “The Republican Veneration of the Undead Reagan”

No, RNC, I Do Not Miss W

The Republican National Committee wants me to donate money.  In exchange, they’ll send me an “I Miss W.” mug.

Considering how I really would like to see Bush in the dock at the Hague, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the RNC’s target audience.

What amuses the hell out of me is why they think I should donate and get the mug.  I quote the e-mail ostensibly from RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski:

“Remember when the President of the United States was more focused on the American people than on political fundraisers and his golf swing?  President Obama has already attended 400 fundraisers and played 183 rounds of golf — and he still has two years left in office.”

And that’s laughably funny.  See, I remember a George W.  Bush who shattered all records for presidential vacations.  I remember a George W.  Bush who cleared brush on his ranch in Texas (which he sold as soon as he got out of office) like some sort of fake cowboy.  I remember a George W.  Bush who blew off a Presidential Daily Briefing about Osama bin Laden in August 2001 because he was on vacation.  I remember a George W.  Bush who gave up his golf game because he injured his knee and not for the reason he stated, that he was doing it in support of the troops in Iraq.  I remember a George W.  Bush who spent a full year out of his eight in office on vacation.

If you’re going to criticize a president for not being Bush, then time away from the Oval Office is not the grounds on which to do it.  I can’t even imagine how someone could even make the comparison with a straight face.

Obama, by the way, has in his six years in office taken roughly a quarter of the vacation time that Bush did in his eight years. 

As I read the RNC’s page about George W. Bush and the mug, I can’t help but feel that Republicans live in a different world entirely.  “In the White House, President George W. Bush took on tremendous challenges with great courage and character.  He put the nation’s best interests over his own.  This is what is missing in the White House right now — and that’s why we miss W. so much.”

I don’t know how the nation’s interests were served by massive tax cuts that turned an historic surplus into an historic deficit.  I don’t know how the nation’s interests were served by launching a war of choice in Iraq — and then prosecuting it lackadaisically.  I don’t know how the nation’s interests were served by ignoring social problems like tens of millions without access to affordable health care.  I don’t know how the nation’s interests were served by treating dissent as un-American.

I don’t know who this George W. Bush is that the RNC venerates so much, but he’s no relation to the 43rd President of the United States.  That George W. Bush was an abject failure.  History will render its judgment and find him severely wanting.

Suffice it to say, I’m not buying the RNC’s bloody “I Miss W.” mug.

Why I Didn’t Stand for “God Bless America”

Yesterday morning, I attended the Cubs/Nationals game at Nationals Park.  It was a lovely day for baseball — not too hot, not especially humid, sunny and bright, a stiff breeze blowing in from the direction of centerfield toward the Anacostia.

The Cubs won, 7-2.

Being July 4th, the game had a particular patriotic flavor, with a special display of the American flag on field before the game, a salute to the men and women of the armed forces after the fourth inning, the teams in patriotic hats (and, for the Nationals, in their alternate patriotic blue jerseys), and, during the seventh inning stretch, a performance of “God Bless America.”

People throughtout the stadium stood and removed their caps.

I stayed in my seat.

That was, I admit, a risky move on my part.  There are documented cases of fans being assaulted and ejected at other ballparks, like Yankee Stadium, for failing to show “proper respect” to “God Bless America.”  Yet there is no such thing as “proper respect” for the song.  It’s not the national anthem.

Then, when the last notes faded away, the stadium (or, at least the second deck in the outfield where I was) erupted in a chant — “USA!  USA!  USA!”

Moments later, Dan Kolko of MASN tweeted out this:

The Marine Corps singer, whose name escapes me, performed the song well indeed.  But I won’t say the song was “done right.”  As far as I’m concerned, the song shouldn’t have been done at all.

I have a real problem with “God Bless America.”  Like “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “God Bless America” is inappropriate for a country with a sizeable non-Christian population.  And like “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “God Bless America” expresses an unfortunate sense of Christian triumphalism that crosses the line into the jingoistic, especially with the way that “God Bless America” become omnipresent and co-opted for political reasons after 9-11.  The song is exclusionary and nationalistic.  That’s my problem.

The exclusion problem is obvious from the song’s title.  Listen to the lyrics of the song.  The song is a prayer to god from Americans, imploring him to bestow blessings upon the nation.  But not all Americans are religious, and the song doesn’t convey any sentiment whatsoever that the non-religious, like myself, an atheist, would express.

Just as importantly, the song expresses a sentiment of American exceptionalism.  It says that American is exceptional because of god’s blessing.

The United States is not an exceptional country.  We are, at best, a fortunate country in that we in a very defensible geographic position and, thus, wars we engage in are things that happen over there and not here.

In terms of quality of life, the United States is a middle-of-the-pack country.  Other countries have better eduction systems and better health systems.  Other countries have better infrastructure.  Other countries have better measures of social mobility and income equality.

The place where the United States is exceptional?  We spend more per annum on our military than the rest of the world combined.

Given a choice between making our country exceptional at home and making our country exceptional at bombing the ever-living-fuck out of some Third World hellhole, our society, from the grassroots to our leaders, made the choice to bomb the ever-living-fuck out of those Third World hellholes.

Really?

If there were a god, and if this god really did bless America, I imagine he would be sitting on his heavenly throne saying, “Really, America?  What the fuck.  I gave you this great country, I gave you these resources, I gave you all of these opportunities.  And rather than use these opportunities for good, you’ve decided to squander them by becoming the world’s biggest asshole.”

Don’t think god gets off the hook, either; at the very least, he’s an accessory, if not a co-conspirator, to America’s raging assholery.

When I hear “God Bless America,” that’s what I think.  I think about George Bush saying that religion is the hallmark of civilization, by implication castigating the non-religious as uncivilized.  I think of Dick Cheney and Ari Fleischer and Donald Rumsfeld attacking those who dissented during the Bush years as being unpatriotic and un-American.  “God Bless America” became a cudgel, one that was used to make me and others feel unwelcome in their own country and one that, frankly, came very close to driving me back into the atheist closet.

And when people use “God Bless America” to say, “We’re godly and we’re the best,” like they have post-9-11, I get pissed off because first, you’re telling me and every other atheist that we don’t belong in our own country; and second, you don’t understand how, in the grand scheme of things, the United States isn’t really anything special.

That’s why I didn’t stand for “God Bless America.”  Standing for the song would have been tacit approval for things that I disagree with fundamentally and that I believe are wrong.  Once, I liked the song.  I would gladly sing it, despite my atheism, the same way I gladly sing Christmas carols today.  But now all I hear in “God Bless America” is the nationalism and the triumphalism, and in multicultural 21st-century America, I don’t think that’s appropriate.

On the Counterfactual Decade

The tenth anniversary of the Iraq War has been on the minds of many in the past two weeks.  Some who supported the war at the time have said that they were deeply wrong.  Some who supported the war at the time fail to recognize that it was a collosal, world historical mistake.

Last week I wrote an e-mail to Andrew Sullivan.  He was one of those who supported the war in 2002 and 2003, and who turned against the war when it dragged on and the reasons for the war were shown to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Sullian wrote: “In the summer of 2000, when I foolishly found myself wanting Al Gore to lose (Excelsior!), it was not a strong emotion. In the campaign, Gore was the advocate for a larger defense budget and [George W.] Bush was all about being a ‘humble’ nation. I figured there wasn’t much difference between them (and I still think Gore would have launched the Iraq War as well).”

I have to ask.  What would the causus belli have been for Gore in this alternate history?

That’s not an idle question.  I’ve seen others make the same argument — that there would have been an Iraq War under President Gore (as I recall, The American Prospect ran an article on the very thing at the time) — but no one ever stops to explain how they get from Point A (President Gore) to Point Z (Iraq War).  It’s simply accepted.

But it’s unlikely.

True, it’s difficult to argue the counter-factual, Niall Ferguson’s attempts to argue history by counter-factual be damned.  But there is evidence in the behaviors of the early Bush administration that led us to Iraq in 2003 that simply wouldn’t have been present in a Gore administration.

Gore wouldn’t have been surrounded at the highest levels of his administration with the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz cabal.  These players would have been at the same level as they were in the late Clinton administration when they sent Clinton a letter demanding military action in Iraq.  In other words, they would have been nothing more than pundits looking for an outlet for their aggressions.

Gore wouldn’t have dismissed the plans developed by Clinton to retaliate against al-Qaeda after the USS Cole bombing.  Clinton had a plan drawn up.  The plan was given to the incoming Bush administration because Clinton did not want to gift his successor an ongoing military operation in the same way that he had been “gifted” Somalia by his predecessor.  The plan was subsequently dismissed by the Bush administration and never implemented.

Gore wouldn’t have shifted the national security focus in early 2001 from terrorism to the Russians as Bush did.  Richard Clarke wouldn’t have been shoved to the side as he was in the Bush administration, where counter-terrorism efforts were shunted aside in favor of nuclear missile defense and repudiating the ABM treaty.

Gore, if given a Presidential Daily Briefing titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US,” would not have been likely to then tell his briefer that he had “covered [his] ass.”  Gore had been through the first World Trade Center bombing as part of the Clinton administration.  Gore had first-hand knowledge that terrorism was the threat facing the country.

In short, Gore would have made vastly different decisions in the crucial months of early 2001.  I don’t think it’s too far to argue that a strike on al-Qaeda in early 2001 in retaliation for the Cole would have rattled the leadership.

I would even argue that 9/11 wouldn’t have happened in a Gore administration.  I’m on shakier ground here, I admit, but a Gore administration would have kept the pressure on al-Qaeda instead of giving al-Qaeda room to breathe in those early months of 2001.

In my mind, Bush v. Gore proves Leibniz wrong.  We don’t live in the best of all possible worlds.  A world without 9/11, a world with Afghanistan and Iraq is a better world, a far preferable world than this one.

I wonder if the five justices who installed Bush in the Oval Office with Bush v. Gore, especially Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, have ever recognized that they have the blood of the last decade on their hands.

Somehow, I doubt it.

ETA: And it turns out I blogged about this very subject a year and a half ago.  I wasn’t sure if I had or not.

On the Presidency of Al Gore

In less than two weeks the United States will mark a solemn and unfortunate anniversary, the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

I bring this up, not to disturb the memories of some who are still traumatized by the incident, but because of a recent poll that asked Americans what they thought the world would be like if Al Gore had been President.  And the truth is, most Americans think we’d be in the same place we are today if Al Gore, not George W. Bush, had been inaugurated in 2001.

There are a few blogs that have been discussing it.  Matt Yglesias discusses it.  So too does Andrew Sullivan.  The point both make is that there would have been some military intervention in Asia and the Middle East, at the very least Afghanistan and possibly Iraq as well, thanks to 9-11.

However, that belief presumes there would have been a need for an invasion of Afghanistan to take down bin Laden in a Gore presidency.  It’s difficult to prove the counterfactual, but there’s every reason to think that 9/11 would not have happened. 

During the presidential transition in 2001, President Clinton gave Bush a plan to retaliate against al-Qaeda for the USS Cole bombing.  Clinton did not implement the plan himself, as he did not want to bequeath his successor a military operation (in the way that Bush pere had left Clinton to clean up the Somalia mess).  Bush promptly tossed the retaliatory strike on al-Qaeda because the people he had surrounded himself with believed that terrorism was not a big deal.  Gore, on the other hand, would not have been as dismissive of the idea of terrorism, having been in the Clinton administration.  Even if the Cole reprisal didn’t disrupt al-Qaeda sufficiently, not backbenching Richard Clarke as Condoleezza Rice had would have paid dividends.  That’s not to say that the Bush administration was not aware of the impending attack — John Ashcroft suspected enough that he stopped flying on public planes, Bush was given the PDB of August 6, 2011 that warned of an impending attack — but the Bush administration wasn’t focused on or interested in doing anything about the intel.  A President Gore presented with a Presidential Daily Briefing entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike In US” would not have said to his CIA briefer, as Bush did, “Okay, now you’ve covered your ass.”

Even presuming that 9/11 occurs on Gore’s watch, we don’t get from Afghanistan to Iraq.  Yes, it is true that Gore believed in the existence of Iraqi WMDs.  But Gore was not the unilateralist that Bush was, and Gore didn’t have the Cold War Revivalists like Cheney surrounding him.  (And, if you accept the premise of Jacob Weisberg’s The Bush Tragedy, Gore didn’t have the psychological and familial issues that pushed Bush into Iraq.) Would Gore have used intelligence he knew to be false and fabricated to make a case for war?  I genuinely doubt it.  In any event, the link between Afghanistan and Iraq wasn’t just tenuous.  It was non-existent.  Yet, that purported link was one of the reasons that Bush and his administration argued for war.  If you ask people today if there was a link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, many many people think there was, because Dick Cheney and George W. Bush kept telling them so.  If they weren’t in a position to use the bully pulpit of their offices to tell the American people an outright lie, the non-existent link would not have been forged in the mind of the people.  That’s not to say that Cheney couldn’t have written editorials and the like claiming that it was a vital interest of the United States to depose Saddam Hussein.  Along with other neocons with the Project for a New American Century, he wrote a letter to Clinton in the mid-90s arguing for regime change in Iraq.  There’s a vast difference between writing a letter to a President and being a Vice President with the ear of a President who had something to prove to the world.

In short, the evidence supports the contention that the 9/11 attacks happened because of the incompetence of Bush and his advisors.  In a hypothetical world where Gore became President in 2001, there’s every reason to believe that the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington would have been disrupted in advance of the hijackings and the Twin Towers would continue to stands.  At times I wonder how people like Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy can sleep at night.  They have the blood of the last decade on their hands.at times I wonder how people like Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy can sleep at night.  They have the blood of the last decade on their hands.  If only for that reason, a world with President Gore would be a better world than the one we inhabit today.

George Bush’s presidency is also an argument against Leibniz — we do not live in the best of all possible worlds.

On Osama bin Laden and Indifference

Like many people, I got up this morning, checked the news websites, and saw that something world-changing happened overnight.

Osama bin Laden was dead.

And I was utterly indifferent to it.

Oh, I read articles on a half-dozen sites, from straight news to instant commentary.  And I coudln’t really make myself care.

I thought briefly of writing something snarky on Facebook along the lines of “In 2001 President Bush learned that bin Laden was determined to strike in the US; in 2011 the world learned the US was determined to strike at bin Laden” — a reference to George Bush’s stated indifference to locating bin Laden.

But.  The death of the head of al-Qaeda, the man behind the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, wasn’t a time for partisan snark.

Something else, too.  History went off the rails a decade ago; bin Laden’s death doesn’t undo that derailment.  The people killed in New York, Washington, in Afghanistan and Iraq — bin Laden’s death doesn’t bring them back.

I feel neither happy nor sad about yesterday’s events.

Just indifferent.

Maybe that’s the right attitude.

On Rudolph Guiliani, Terrorism, History, and Narrative

Rewind two weeks.

Mary Matalin, Republican strategist, said President George Bush “inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation’s history.”

Rewind almost a year, back to March.

Bush’s former press secretary, Ari Fleischer, chastises Chris Matthews with a “How dare you” when Matthews presses Fleischer on whether or not 9-11 happened on Bush’s watch.

Rewind to yesterday.

Former New York City Major Rudolph Guiliani, in an interview on Good Morning America, says “One of the right things [Bush] did was treat this as a war on terror. We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We’ve had one under Obama.”

Three Republicans, all stating that 9-11 didn’t happen when George Bush was President or on Bush’s watch.

Jon Stewart would have a field day with this.  He’d say, “If not Bush, then who?”  He’d probably even trot out a little goat, and ask, “Was it Skippy?  Did it happen when Skippy was President?”  And he’d probably feed Skippy the pet goat an aluminum can.

That’s also missing the point.

The point for Republicans isn’t who was or wasn’t in the White House on September 11, 2001. The point for Republicans is whose fault the events of September 11, 2001 were — whose intelligence failures, whose policy failures all contributed to the environment that allowed something like the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center to happen.

And for Republicans, that can’t be a Republican.

From the Republican perspective, Bush inherited an intelligence apparatus that was completely incapable of doing anything about terrorism.

What people like Guiliani and Matalin are saying, and the way they’re saying it, actually makes sense.  From their perspective, Clinton did nothing to prevent terrorism from happening and killing Americans.  The bombing of the embassies in Africa, the attack on the USS Cole, these all happened on Clinton’s watch.  Clinton, in their view, was completely flummoxed by terrorism.

Never mind that Clinton had several retaliatory attacks launched against al-Qaeda during his term, including one we’ve just learned about, due to an assassination attempt on Clinton in ’96.  Never mind that Clinton’s counter-terrorism team handed the incoming Bush administration a plan to retaliate for the Cole bombing that Clinton didn’t want to implement because he didn’t want to saddle the incoming administration with a military operation as he had been saddled with Somalia eight years earlier, a plan that Bush’s National Security team shelved because it wasn’t sexy, err, missile defense.  Never mind that Bush blew off the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001 by telling his CIA briefer “You’ve covered your ass now.”

Bush was focused on restarting the Cold War and building missile defense. We forget this now, but Condi Rice’s big event for 9/11/2001 was to be a speech on building a ballistic missile shield.

In the Republican mind, Bush is not to blame in any way, shape, or form for 9-11. Yes, he was President, but it wasn’t his fault.  Despite the scads of evidence that something was going to happen, despite opportunities to break open the cells, to Republicans what happened on 9-11 was Clinton’s fault.  He left the country open to attack, and it just so happened that Bush was in office when the attack happened.  In their view, Bush is as blameless as a saint, and the blood of 9-11 is on Clinton’s hands.

It’s not revisionism.  Guiliani and Matalin aren’t trying to honestly say that Bush wasn’t president on September eleventh, unless they’re making a Freudian slip about who really held the reins of power in the Bush years, but I don’t think Guiliani is that subtle or Matalin that clever.  It had nothing to do with who was President that day, and everything to do with which President (and which political party) should take the blame.  They’re trying to say that Bush inherited an environment that was ill-prepared to combat terrorism, only they’re doing so in a kind of linguistic shorthand that comes across sounding historically stupid.

And they’re also doing it in a way that’s a dog-whistle to voters.  They’re trying to say that Republicans keep people safe, Democrats get people killed.  It pains me to say this, but I expect that will be the political narrative we’ll see develop over the next eight to ten months — Clinton and the Democrats created the environment to allow something like 9-11 to happen, and now Obama and the Democrats will do the same.  Republicans think that national security in their strength, but a good argument, well made on that point, can bring them down.

On Historical Revisionism and 9-11

The Orwellian mindset of the Bush Administration lives on.

According to Mary Matalin, George Bush “inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation’s history.”

Ms. Matalin, who was President on September 11, 2001?  It wasn’t George Bush’s predecessor.

Ms. Matalin, who was given a Presidential Daily Briefing on August 6, 2001 with the title “Bid Laden Determined to Strike Inside the United States”?  It wasn’t George Bush’s predecessor.

Ms. Matalin, who was the President whose response to the Presidential Daily Briefing on August 6, 2001 was, “You’ve covered your ass, now”?  It certainly wasn’t George Bush’s predecessor.

George Bush did inherit was a plan formulated by the Clinton administration to retaliate against al-Qaeda for the bombing of the USS Cole.  Clinton did not implement this plan, because he did not want to saddle his successor with a foreign operation, as he had been saddled with Somalia from his predecessor.

George Bush also inherited counter-terrorism exports like Richard Clarke, who were then shunted aside because the Bush administration believed the threat to the United States was from ballistic missiles, not terrorism.

Bush inherited the tools to stop 9-11 from happening.

Bush frittered those tools away.

Matalin is not the first to assert that 9-11 didn’t happen on Bush’s watch.  Former press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Dana Perino have both stated the same.

Saying, as Matalin does, that 9-11 was a problem that Bush inherited, does not make it true.  The attempt at historical revisionism of Bush Administration officials on 9-11 needs to end.

On a Taxation Survey

I received something absolutely fascinating in the mail today.

A survey from the Heritage Foundation.  The right-wing think tank.

They want to know what I think about taxation.

Let’s take a look.

Current plans by President Barack Obama and the liberals in Congress to erase the historic tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 could force you to send more of your money to Washington to pay for new Big Government spending.  Your candid answers to these questions are extremely important to helping The Heritage Foundation educate lawmakers in Washington, the national media and your fellow taxpayers on the urgent need to make tax cuts permanent and stop the Washington liberals who want to raise taxes on families, small businesses and senior citizens.  Thank you.

Just reading that, I wonder why I got this survey.  I thought the Bush tax cuts were insane.  Bill Clinton had managed to put the federal budget back into balance after twelve years of Reagan/Bush deficits, and then George W. Bush went, slashed taxes, and spent money like a damned drunken sailor.  Letting the Bush tax cuts expire won’t fix Bush’ financial irresponsibilities, but it will at least put the balance sheets back closer.

1.  Were you aware that — thanks to a provision in tax law demanded by liberals in Congress — the historic tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 are set to expire, resulting in what the Wall Street Journal has described as “the biggest tax increase in our nation’s history”?

“Yes, Alex, I’ll take Bleeding Obvious for $500.”  Of course I was aware that, eight years ago, Congress wisely wrote sunset provisions into the Bush tax cuts.

2.  According to recent estimates, if current tax cuts expire, the American people will face an overall tax hike of almost $2.4 trillion.  Do you support or oppose this massive tax increase?

To be blunt, I support it.  It’s not a tax increase.  It’s a tax correction.  The last eight years were an exercise in kicking the ball down the field.  Now we have to pay for our excesses.  This is called “sacrifice.”  It’s a word that George W. Bush never heard of.

3.  Did you know that if President Obama and the liberals who now control Congress succeed in revoking the 2001/2003 tax cuts, 42 million families with children will see an average tax hike of $2,084?

Okay, this question is biased.  Obama and Congress aren’t actively increasing taxes or seeking to revoke the Bush tax cuts.  If they do nothing, the tax cuts sunset.

4.  It has been estimated that Americans pay some 35 to 40 percent of their earnings each year in federal taxes.  Do you believe this level of taxation is too high, too low, or about right?

That statistic sounds wrong to me.  I think 35 or 40 is the total taxation at all levels — federal, state, local.

5.  Did you know that if current tax cuts expire, an estimated 17 million American seniors will be hit with an average tax increase of $2,034?

I did not know that.

I like how in question three, Obama and Congress have to act to raise taxes, while in this question, the tax cuts expire on their own.

6.  Were you aware that if tax cuts are not made permanent, 26 million small business owners will face an average tax increase of $3,637?

Again, I like the semantics here.

7.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the liberals who now control Congress have talked about reinstating the Death Tax — a leading cause of the termination of successful small businesses in America.  Reinstating the Death Tax would increase taxes by an estimated $91 billion.  Do you support or oppose the Death Tax?

Support.  The Republican fears of the estate tax are baffling.  Next.

8.  The tax relief package of 2001 provided Americans with across-the-board tax rate cuts that are set to expire.  If these tax rate cuts are not made permanent, familes will face a tax increase of as much as 100 percent.  Do you support or oppose permanently reducing income tax rates?

Oppose.

I thought the Bush tax cuts were stupid.  Part of the reason why states like California are in such a financial bind now is that they had to spend money the past several years in areas that the federal government would have.

Why would I support making them permanent?

9.  By repealing the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, President Obama and the liberals in Congress would reinstate the Marriage Penalty that forces married couples to pay higher taxes than single taxpayers.  Recent Heritage Foundation estimates suggest the marriage penalty punishes 552,262 couples in Maryland.  Do you support or oppose the permanent elimination of the marriage penalty?

Okay, I confess that I am not well versed on the intricacies of the “marriage penalty.”  I do understand that there is some need for tax code reform there.  However, that can still be done separate from letting the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire.  We don’t have to extend the Bush tax cuts just to deal with the “marriage penalty.”

Unfortunately, a nuanced answer like this is outside the scope of a “Yes/No/No Frelling Clue” paradigm like the Heritage Foundation uses.

10.  Do you support efforts by the Heritage Foundation, through our respected Center for Data Analysis, to provide unbiased analysis of every important tax proposal and report to elected officials, the news media and your fellow taxpayers the real impact of tax cuts and increases on real Americans like you in the Randallstown area and across the nation?

Given the semantic issues — and the continued reference to “the liberals in Congress” — I don’t think the Heritage Foundation can be “unbiased.”  Call it a hunch.

Suffice it to say, I’m filling out the survey.

Not sending them money, though.

They could at least have sent me address labels.  Even the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sent me address labels today.

Suck on it, Heritage Foundation! :-P