First up was H.R. 15, the version introduced by House Democrats. The highlights of this bill were extensions to tax cuts for the middle class through December 2013, a 5% increase in the capital gains tax that would have moved the current rate on self-replicating wealth from 15-20%, a reset of the tax rate on income over $250,000, and extensions of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. Local representatives Kathy Hochul, Brian Higgins and Louise Slaughter all voted in favor of the bill which was eventually defeated by House Republicans.
After defeating H.R. 15, House Republicans introduced their own, much shorter, tax bill, H.R. 8. It is shorter because it is simply a continuation of what we're doing now with some minor adjustments to specific amounts. Hochul, Higgins and Slaughter all voted against this bill, but it passed the House 256-171. It will not pass in the Senate.
Now that the background is done, let's look at how the votes on these bills are being used as campaign fodder in the NY-27 Congressional race.
Republican candidate Chris Collins wasted no time before making outrageous and barely factual statements about Kathy Hochul's votes. His statement also included a poorly constructed populist narrative that would only be construed as sincere if you didn't know anything at all about Collins.
First, the substance. In his statement, Collins accuses Hochul of voting 'against extending the Child Tax Credit and the Marriage Penalty Tax Relief which were included in the package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today.' This, while not exactly a lie, fails to address the fact that Hochul voted for extending the Child Tax Credit in the Democratic version of the tax relief bill. This signifies that she is not opposed to the Child Tax Credit, but instead to the extension of tax breaks for millionaires. Marriage Penalty Tax relief is a misnomer at best. There was never a tax penalty for being married, only a lack of incentive to file jointly if spouses had significantly disparate incomes. Hochul supports what is essentially a return to the Clinton-era tax structure, with some extended benefits for the working class. Collins is apparently demanding that she support the status quo, which is an unbelievably dense position since the only thing we can all seem to agree about is that our economy sucks and things are terrible.
Collins then goes on to say that 'Official records show that Kathy Hochul may be one of Congress’ more wealthy members, having disclosed assets that total between $1 million and $2.3 million. In addition, Hochul and her husband, an Obama political appointee, together jointly earn over $325,000 annually, placing them in the top 1.5% of earners in the United States.' I'm not sure I've ever seen a more ironic statement from a candidate, so let's break this down.
Collins seems to be donning his populist costume here, but it doesn't fit very well. This attack on Hochul probably needs to be fisked sentence by sentence so let's drag our Bull-Shit-O-Meter up from the basement and get to work:
Sentence 1: 'Official records show that Kathy Hochul may be one of Congress’ more wealthy members, having disclosed assets that total between $1 million and $2.3 million.'On a bullshit scale of 1-10, this statement ranks a 9.5. The only reason it wasn't a perfect 10 was because there actually is a financial disclosure document that details Hochul's assets. The rest of this sentence is nonsense. Although 2012 comparisons including liabilities were not readily available, using the best information at my disposal, it took me about ten seconds to learn that the 'official records' referenced by Collins when compared to other members of Congress actually show that Hochul is most likely in the bottom third of House members when it comes to wealth.
Sentence 2: In addition, Hochul and her husband, an Obama political appointee, together jointly earn over $325,000 annually, placing them in the top 1.5% of earners in the United States.When I applied my Bull-Shit-O-Meter to this statement, something strange happened. The needle swung back and forth between 0 and 10, metronome style. I was confused until I realized what the problem was: I had the wrong tool. I opened my drawer and there, nestled between the Sarcastoguage and the Snarktimeter, lay my Irony-ometer. It was just what I needed and when I applied the tool to this statement, it promptly exploded.
As it turns out, the numbers used in Collins' attack on wealth are correct, but the sentiment is not. Collins seems to want you to believe that he is both Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. There is no sincerity whatsoever in the Collins position on this issue, in fact, it assumes that you, the voter are a misinformed, zombie, coma patient...but I digress.
The Collins statement goes on to accuse Kathy Hochul of working for the government. We'll have to assume (since we are all morons) that Mr. Collins actually loathes the idea of being a Congressman and that he's just doing it because Jesus told him he had to...or something...
After that, Collins prints a list of generally bullshit talking points that were prepared by his party's majority on the Ways and Means Committee.
I feel like I'm going to be doing a lot of these little pieces on the nonsense coming out of the Collins camp between now and November, and I'm not going to let Congresswoman Hochul slide either. I absolutely detest inanity and obfuscation in political campaigns.
The Siren call of bullshit, smirking accusations seems to be too much for Collins. He simply can't help himself. He and many members of his party think their wobbly platform is enough to win as long as they can get their rabid base foaming at the mouth and the under-informed centrists to believe the nonsense.
Sadly enough, they may be right.