Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Last night Fox News' Bill O'Reilly threatened to quit his job if Obama raised taxes on the wealthy, a category that includes the Conservative talk show host. It makes zero sense.
O'Reilly threw down this gauntlet, if you could call it that, the same day that President Obama unveiled his latest deficit reduction proposal, which includes raising the top tax rate and the tax rate on capital gains, or money made through investment.
"My corporations employ scores of people," O'Reilly said in his opening Talking Points. "They depend on me to do what I do so they can make a nice salary. If Barack Obama begins taxing me more than 50 percent, which is very possible, I don't know how much longer I'm going to do this. I like my job, but there comes a point when taxation becomes oppressive. Is the country really entitled to half a person's income?"
Okay, Bill. So if your tax rate goes up, that's going to so discourage you from working that you will walk away from your insanely successful prime time talk show, which you have said yourself gives you "more power than anybody other than the president."
And, as you say, you would let those "scores of people" who depend on you for a job join the ranks of the unemployed. You pride yourself on being an achiever and a patriot—but one who would turn their back on the business you've built and leave a lot of people who don't make nearly as much money as you out in the cold, choking off even more government revenue?
Then O'Reilly accuses President Obama of walking back from his 2009 statement that we shouldn't raise taxes in the middle of a recession. The unemployment rate is horrible and growth is sluggish, give O'Reilly that. But technically, technically, we're not in a recession anymore. The economy is growing, however unimpressive that growth is.
What's most frustrating about O'Reilly's threat to quit is that not one month ago conservative economist Ben Stein was on The O'Reilly Factor explaining to Bill that the top tax rate had no historical correlation to any economic indicators: GDP, GDP growth, the unemployment rate, etc.
Here is Ben Stein, who does not like Barack Obama, who worked for Richard Nixon, and who advocates for significantly reduced spending:
There's no correlation between tax rates on millionaires and people above that level, billionaires, and the growth of the economy....We had the highest growth in capital and productivity and in the economy generally in the '40s, '50s and 60s, when we had much higher taxes than we do now.
What was O'Reilly's response?
[Raising taxes] would hurt the economy, so even though you intially would get more revenue, the economy would go down because businesses would hire fewer people to make up for the taxes.
But that's especially true if Bill quits. Ben Stein attempted to quell O'Reilly's fears by offering facts, facts that should keep a business owner like him from panicking and bowing out. But O'Reilly chooses not to believe Stein, and now threatens to bear out the exact narrative he predicted for every job-creator in the country.