Allen West has been getting a lot of bad press lately -- news outlets across the country, including this one, latched onto his declaration that "there are 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party."
He's since moved past that assertion and onto the (slightly) more reasonable discussion of the socialist, communist, and Marxist beliefs of "progressive" members of Congress, which he says he was talking about all along.
He was on Mark Levin's conservative talk radio show Friday night to talk about it, because it's tough to go on a show in which someone might actually challenge you on your facts. It's way easier to put a call in to a belligerent Republican with a microphone and get fellated for your steadfast and loyal defense of bullshit.
("Damn, you're good," Levin said, "You do your research, you're studied, you've read.")
Though Levin and West hit on a lot of topics in the closing minutes of his show, my ears perked up when they started talking about the media. It was a selfish interest -- Levin once personally called me a "fool" and former Pulp blogger Matt Hendley a "little creep," "moron," and "idiot," so I was excited to see what they came up with. Levin was pretty spot-on those other times.
Levin said that West "is being targeted by the leftists in that district" and that "Palm Beach papers are pathetic," a "joke," and "not really papers." West agreed with these sentiments and went onto explain how lazy and biased the fourth estate really is:
"Incredibly enough, the media, in their search to try to condemn me or attack me or bring up some type of sensational story, didn't do their due diligence, didn't do their research," West said. "So now they have egg on their face because they're not arguing the point that I brought up. They're just arguing the fact that they just don't like that I brought it up. Well, you know, tough on them."
Didn't do our research? Didn't do our due diligence? Well, gentlemen, here's a big, steaming pile of due diligence for the both of you -- 2,586 words' worth, far more than should be necessary to correct basic statements being made by a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. If it doesn't jibe with the lies you tell to scare your supporters, well, you know, tough on you.
Here are five of the lies your congressman told over the weekend:
1. The statement that started this whole thing was reasonable.
The lie: When asked what caused this most recent of shitstorms, West unleashed several lies at once. The first was, "The question was asked of me, did I think that there were Marxist socialists in Congress. And, you know I ended up bringing up the issue of the Congressional Progressive Caucus."
The truth: The way West tells it, the whole thing doesn't sound so bad -- a constituent asks about socialism in Congress, West points to the Progressive Caucus as being an "issue." But West was actually asked a far more specific question: "What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or neo-Castro socialists?"
And he had a far more specific answer: "That's a good question," West said. "I believe there are 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party."
That's most certainly not the same thing. Yes, he mentioned the Progressive Caucus afterward, but it was in response to a separate question. Plus, he didn't say, "The 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus support some socialist policies"; he said members of Congress were actually members of the Communist Party.
All in all, though, it's a relatively innocent spin. The point, as West has said, is that progressives support socialist principles. But this assertion led into another lie, and it's a completely unambiguous one:
2. Progressive is a code word for communist.
The lie: "Back at the turn of the century, you know, communists decided to change their names to progressives," West said. "But still, the basic principles that they operate under are still the same."
The truth: He's just pilfering conspiracies from nutjob websites like commieblaster.com. The turn of the 20th Century did see the country's first Progressive Party established -- but it wasn't by communists or "Marxist socialists" or whatever random string of buzzwords West is using for them today.
It was founded in 1912 by Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican who was so American that they carved his face in a stinking mountain next to three guys who ended up on our money.
That mountain is a SOCIALIST.
via Wikimedia Commons
And, mountain or not, West's most certainly heard of Teddy Roosevelt -- last year, he posted a video of himself to show off how he took up airtime on Fox News reading a quote from the guy:
Screenshot, in case West gets tricky about deleting videos like he deletes tweets.
This isn't one of those things where it's subjective and Republicans just see things differently from Democrats communists -- it's wrong, and West, a former history teacher, knows it's a direct deception playing to conspiracy theorists. And it certainly stands in striking contrast to his He-Man quoting of T.R. on the telly.
3. Communists in Congress tried to amend the Constitution to "redistribute wealth."
The lie: "They wanted a constitutional amendment to redistribute wealth. That was H.J. Resolution 34. But most of them voted against the balanced budget amendment," West said.
The truth: Well, let's take a look at H.J. Resolution 34. It was most recently proposed in May 2009 -- West wasn't even in Congress yet, because he'd lost the 2008 election by almost 10 percentage points.
Now, who is this "they" that he's talking about? It can't be the Progressive Caucus. West said "they wanted" an amendment, but the last time it was proposed, it had no cosponsors. It was proposed, and there it stopped. It was never voted on -- not even in committee. In a House that was controlled by Democrats, working next door to a Senate that was controlled by Democrats, sending legislation to a White House controlled by a Democrat. No one -- communist or not -- cast a single vote in favor of it.
How about the actual resolution? What dastardly provisions does it contain? Ah, well, not many. It's four paragraphs long, and the actual amendment reads:
The Congress of the United States shall tax all persons progressively in proportion to the income which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the United States.
That's the whole thing. It was a broad, nonspecific constitutional endorsement of a generically progressive tax system -- essentially the only federal income tax system this country has ever had. If that's redistributing wealth, then it wouldn't have taken a constitutional amendment to do it: We've had a progressive tax system in place every year for 100 years running.
The bill was proposed by Democratic Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who has been proposing constitutional amendments (including this one) all over the place for quite a while now. He hasn't gotten one passed, presumably because they are silly.
As for the balanced budget amendment, West is taking disconnected facts and calling them socialism. Yes, 67 of the "no" votes on the balanced budget amendment came from members of the Progressive Caucus. But there were 98 other "no" votes, including Republican budget king Paul Ryan -- are all those people communists too?
West also didn't mention H.J. Resolution 87, which was another of the many proposals for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That one was cosponsored by Reps. Jared Polis and David Cicilline, members -- you guessed it -- of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
4. West doesn't "hold anything against" the rotten, horrible communists in Congress.
The lie: "These are individuals who really do have principles that are really counter to the fundamental principles of this constitutional republic. Now, I don't hold anything against them if that's what they believe in, but don't get mad at me because I brought it up to the American people, 'cause I thought we were supposed to be transparent."
The truth: West asserting that he doesn't "hold anything against" progressives is the most laughable fabrication of the entire interview -- he's made a political career out of holding things against them and of making money off people who feel the same way.
Here are a few quotes from West about the progressive movement, and you can decide for yourself whether the guy holds anything against them:
-- West said last year that Obama was a "low-level socialist agitator" whose "Marxist demagogic rhetoric" revealed a "Third World dictator-like arrogance."
-- He told fellow Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, to "shut the heck up" and wrote in an email that she was "the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the US House of Representatives... You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!"
-- At a Lincoln Day dinner earlier this year (in which he misquoted Abraham Lincoln), he said "the history of the Democrat Party is all about slavery, succession, segregation, and today it's about socialism." He then told Democratic leadership, including "my dear friend the chairman of the Democrat National Committee," to "get the hell out of the United States of America. Yeah, I said hell."
-- When his chief of staff, Joyce Kaufman, stepped down a week after she was hired because people pointed out she's a hateful, violence-peddling wack job, West responded by saying he was "even more focused that this liberal, progressive, socialist agenda, this left-wing, vile, vicious, despicable machine that's out there is soundly brought to its knees."
A summary: For years, West swung his big wooden adjective-hammer at anybody who has a little D next to his (or, more frequently, her) name. But on Friday, suddenly, he doesn't "hold anything against them"; he's just trying to be transparent. Maybe he's had a change of heart?
5. A progressive tax plan is socialist.
The lie: "They wanted to have higher taxes on those deemed by themselves, as the government, as earning too much, and that was H.R. 1124. These are individuals who really do have principles that are really counter to the fundamental principles of this constitutional republic."
The truth:H.R. 1124 is another bill that's a total nonissue. It was referred to committee in March 2011; then nothing happened with it. West knows it was a nonissue because he knows how hard it is to get a bill signed: He's currently batting 0-for-9, according to GovTrack, with only one bill that even got voted on in committee.
And supporting higher taxes for people who are "earning too much"? West is describing the U.S. tax code. Support of higher tax rates for those making more money is not unique to the Progressive Caucus, because that's how American income taxes have worked for 150 years.
Exactly 150 years, as it were -- the first federal income taxes were collected by the Revenue Act of 1861, which was a flat tax. But it was repealed within a year, when the progressive system of the Revenue Act of 1862 was signed into law by -- oh lord -- Abraham Lincoln, as a temporary measure to help pay for the Civil War. People who made more money paid a higher rate, and there was no special rate for capital gains.
(Though if we're going on a commie hunt, Lincoln's up for some suspicion -- his assistant secretary of war was previously one of Karl Marx's editors when Marx wrote for the New York Daily Tribune. To think, we put that asshole on the penny.)
Legal wrangling after that made subsequent income taxes tricky until 1913, when the 16th Amendment was ratified. After that, the federal income tax came back to stay -- at the time, with seven tax brackets, each one prescribing a higher rate for higher income. Again, there was no exception for capital gains.
Fast-forward to today, when tax rates on income earned from investments are arranged in a way that the wealthy people making significant money from them are paying lower tax rates than the regular Joes who make their money from paychecks.
The suggestion from the left (and, uh, middle) is that if you make more money, you should pay a higher tax rate, regardless of what fancy ways you used to make the money. It's not socialist; it's the principle behind the only system we've ever used.
Obama's branded this modification the "Buffett Rule," and it would adjust the minimum effective tax rate on people making more than a million dollars a year. The Republican line is that it's a hit to "job creators," because that's their newest euphemism for "rich folk." But this isn't a rule for average rich folk -- it wouldn't affect some guy whose air-conditioner business took off and now he's got a nice car. West loyally defends small-business owners whenever he's got the chance, but this isn't a modification for the top 5 percent of earners or the top 1 percent of earners -- this rule would affect fewer than 0.3 percent of Americans.
RNC Chair Reince Priebus said Sunday that the Buffett Rule was a "tiny alteration" and said it wouldn't put a substantial dent in federal deficits. But it's still good enough for West to use it as evidence of creeping socialism?
West said on Friday that it's just "just smoke and mirrors for [Obama] to be the arbiter of fairness," but, as it's been pointed out ad nauseum, only 37 percent of Americans are against the rule, possibly due to the fact that it doesn't change anything for the poorest 99.7 percent of Americans.
In addition, what's so wrong with the president wanting to be an arbiter of fairness? Ronald "Republican Jesus" Reagan didn't have a problem with making people "pay their fair share" when he raised the capital gains tax in 1986. We don't remember him as a Marxist commie progressive dunderhead, because progressive taxation doesn't make you a Marxist commie progressive dunderhead.
And then, at the end of this ridiculous diatribe, this comical, embarrassing failure to back up hyperbolic and irresponsible statements, how did Levin respond?
"Isn't it amazing when you speak the truth, how much hell you take for it?" he said. "I wanna come down there and help you raise some bucks one night."
Levin then wrapped up the show by extolling the virtues of Gold Line, that charming little company under investigation on charges that it rips off ignorant people who think novelty coins are a solid investment.
In any case, Congressman West, I'm sorry you don't think I do my research. I hope this helps.
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.