Mathew Yglesias notes the press's failure to challenge false statements about tax-cuts made by Giuliani in the GOP debate:
Laffer Press Roundup, by Mathew Yglesias: Here's an interesting test case for the press. It seems that at yesterday's GOP debate, Rudy Giuliani derided the idea that higher taxes raise revenues as a "Democratic, liberal" assumption and put forward his alternative view that you generate revenue by lowering tax rates. This is a stunning confession of total ignorance of tax policy and economics by the GOP front runner. So how did the press cover it? Chris Cilizza at the Fix lives down to my expectations by totally ignoring the fact that Giuliani is incorrect:
"There is a liberal Democratic assumption that if you raise taxes, you raise more money," said Giuliani to huge applause from the crowd assembled at Drake University.
Michael Shear in The Washington Post's page A1 story also doesn't care about the merits of the issue:
Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani sparked loud applause when he declared that "the knee-jerk liberal Democratic reaction -- raise taxes to get money -- very often is a very big mistake."...
Nor does Stephen Braun of The Los Angeles Times care at all whether or not GOP tax policy makes sense:
Referring to last week's devastating bridge collapse in Minneapolis, the GOP rivals found common ground in insisting that increased private investment from cutting taxes would provide more money to repair the nation's failing infrastructure. ...
Mike Glover at the AP doesn't seem to mention the issue at all.
Adam Nagourney at The New York Times, by contrast, doesn't go nearly as far as I'd like, but does way better than his colleagues at the major papers. Here he is on the NYT political blog:
Mr. Giuliani proceeded to explain that when he was mayor of New York he had cut taxes, and that those tax cuts had produced revenues that allowed him to finance bridge reconstruction. (Actually, there’s a good argument that it was the stock market boom in New York that brought all that money into the city’s coffers, but we’ll let that pass for now).
And here he is teamed up with Michael Cooper in the print edition:
Mr. Giuliani said that as mayor of New York, he had increased revenues to pay for bridge and road repair by cutting taxes, thereby jolting the economy, and that he would do the same thing as president. The city’s treasury in that period was flush largely with revenues produced by the stock-market boom of the late 1990s.
It'd be nice to see reporters go further than Nagourney does here, but improvements at the margin deserve recognition and the Times is doing a much better job than the Post here.
Even Nagourney's "we’ll let that pass for now" is inadequate. Any reporter who thinks there's a debate about whether cutting taxes has increased tax revenues has not been paying attention and has no business covering economics. Let's take a cue from Paul Krugman and ask what the press should have asked, what does this say about Giuliani's character? First, I disagree with the characterization of his statements as ignorant. I don't believe he is ignorant about this topic, so that is no excuse (and if he were ignorant, i.e. if he has not bothered to find out about the consequences of tax cuts by now, that would tell us a lot too.) He noted that he is aware of the evidence, but chooses to portray it as a "liberal Democratic assumption" even though it is nothing of the sort (see Andrew Samwick and Greg Mankiw's statements about this, both of whom served under Bush in the Council of Economic Advisers, or any reputable conservative economist for that matter, or this recent CBO report).
What this tells us is that just like George Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war, Giuliani is not an honest broker. He is willing to tell people what they want to hear in spite of compelling evidence to the contrary, and to surround himself with people who will not challenge him when he uses misleading statements to push a policy. He has no problem using dishonest statements to sell policy. There's a lot to be gleaned about his character from his willingness to engage in this type of dishonest salesmanship, a style of leadership that led us into our current predicament, and it's disappointing to see the press not even bother to make the connections.