Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Let His Voice Be Heard!

So Wayne LaPierre is refusing to participate in CNN's townhall meet on gun violence and the president's executive order on background checks.

But no matter: CNN can just play the recording of Pierre's testimony before Congress for his opinion to become part of the discussion.

Monday, December 21, 2015

AEI Values

My attention has just been brought to this paper by two "resident scholars" and a "research fellow" at the AEI propaganda mill, in which they argue against the proposed top marginal tax rates proposed by Diamond and Saez.

Hers's the meat of their argument:

"Imagine a high school student who graduates in a world where the top marginal income tax rate is more than 70 percent. He may decide not to pursue his dream of becoming a college-educated engineer because the government will take a large share of the returns to his college investment — that is, much of the extra money he will earn because he is a college-educated engineer will be seized by the government, so he may conclude that going to college isn’t worth it. He is worse off because of the high top income tax rate. And so is society, because we now have one less engineer. Or imagine a medical school student. She may decide to become a pediatrician instead of a heart surgeon because a large share of the extra money she would earn being a surgeon would be taken by the government. There is nothing wrong with pediatricians, but the problem is that the government is distorting this medical student’s decision — that is, she isn’t making the choice based on her preferences and market prices alone. If enough people made that choice, there wouldn’t be enough surgeons (an economist would say there is an inefficient allocation of human resources). Or imagine a small business owner. His business is growing and he has the opportunity to expand it over the next decade. But because expanding it will require a lot of work — not to mention that the payoff is risky — he chooses not to. He decides that it’s just not worth it given that the potential rewards from his hard work will largely go to the government."

Let's take a realistic look at their argument here.
" (A high school student) may decide not to pursue his dream of becoming a college-educated engineer because the government will take a large share ....of the extra money he will earn because he is a college-educated engineer.."
What would be his income tax rate as a high school graduate?  The NCES data show high school graduates earning a median annual income of $30,000, and if the tax rates I proposed in my post of February 22, 2013 were in place, his income tax (single person) would be $3,875, leaving an after tax income of $26,125
If he were to be an engineer, he could expect to be making $62.950 a year (taking the average of median entry level incomes for different engineering fields). My proposed tax rates (single person) would mean an annual income tax bill of $11,273, leaving an after tax income of $51,677 (i.e. more than the pretax income of a high school only graduate).
The difference in income after taxes: $25,552.
This difference in income would pay off a college debt of $100,000 in four years, leaving the engineer in a far better financial position than the high school graduate for the rest of their careers.
Similar calculations could be made for the other examples suggested by the AEI, but consider: these are financial calculations only.  They do not take into account the benefits of the realizations of dreams and continuing job satisfaction, which I suggest would outweigh the mundane financial considerations that the AEI "scholars" seem to think are so important.

Monday, December 14, 2015

TIME Goofed

TIME should have named President Obama its Person of the Year, in recognition of his leadership in bringing about the Paris climate accord. As Jonathan Chait so sagely points out, the Paris agreement is an historical accomplishment, and it far outweighs Angela Merkel's contributions to Europe's passing economic woes.

And oh yes, a second Nobel Peace Prize would be appropriate also.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Counterfactual

In 2000, the "Butterfly" ballot is not printed, but a more clear standard form is used.

Al Gore becomes president.

When warnings of an Al Qaida attack surface, the Gore White House goes on alert, asking for any scrap of intelligence, and reminding all agencies to be on full alert, just as the Clinton White House did in 1999 when the millennium threats arose.

The Al Qaida plot is nipped in the bud.

Gore calls a press conference to announce the thwarting of a plot to hijack four airline planes and crash them into the twin towers, the Pentagon, and the Capitol.

The reaction from the press:
"There goes Gore, exaggerating again."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Another Press Fail

At Donald Trump's town hall meeting, one person  stood up to say:
"We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. We know our current president is one. He's not even an American."

"We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question. When can we get rid of them?"
What he had to say was clearly absurd, but the press reports of what he said are almost as absurd. The questioner is clearly asking when can we get rid of the (in reality non-existent) "training camps".  (It may not be as clear in the transcript, but is certainly clear from intonation and emphasis in the person's speech.) Yet he is reported to have asked when can we get rid of Muslims, which he clearly did not.  (Though he probably would like to get rid of Muslims, given the tenor of his statements.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Another Missed Opportunity

On Stephen Colbert's first Late Show, Jeb Bush said this of the Iran deal:
"I think President Obama's being naive to trust the Ayatollahs."
To which a follow up question could have been:
"But this isn't just an agreement between the United States and Iran. It's an agreement between Iran and the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China. Are you calling the Prime Minister of Britain, the Presidents of France, Germany, Russia and China, are you calling all of these people naive?"
Would Jeb! really want to go on the record as calling them all naive?  But if not, how was he going to justify singling out Obama as naive?   He would clearly be exposed as the hack that he is.

Darn it, Stephen, you missed a great opportunity there!  (I realize you were following a script, but you could have veered from it for a moment to ask this question.)

You may think a member of the main stream press could pick up on Jeb!'s foolish statement and ask the question I'm suggesting?  Hah!  I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Scuttling the Iran Deal - No Big Deal?

So the Republicans and those Democrats who owe more fealty to Israel then to their own country want to scuttle the agreement reached between the major powers and Iran to limit Iran's progress towards obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The rhetoric I hear from the right is all about "Obama's deal with Iran", with the suggestion that it will fall apart if is not approved by Congress, or is reneged on by a future president.

I'm puzzled by this assurance on the part of the right.  The US is just one of the countries that has been imposing sanctions on Iran, and the agreement between Iran and the US, China, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany means that sanctions will be lifted, and trade will resume. So what if the US reneges? The other five major countries will be ending the sanctions as long as Iran keeps to its end of the bargain, allowing continuing inspections of its nuclear sites by the IAEA.  So businesses in those countries can expect to profit from the renewed trade, but US businesses  won't if the US alone insists on keeping up the sanctions.

And once the other countries have resumed normal relations with Iran, leaving the US isolated, what do the renegers propose?  The two options I hear are "Go back for a better deal" (as though the deal was solely a US deal, and was not hammered out through years of negotiations with all parties as the best deal that could be made), or military action.  Can anyone seriously propose unilateral military action once the rest of the international community has accepted the Iran deal?  Well - I suppose the crackpots of the right might continue their warmongering rhetoric, but to put it into practice against the wishes of every other major power?  Could they really be that crazy?

Update 8/14/2015  Fareed Zakariah takes Senator Schumer to task for opposing the deal:
Rejecting this deal would produce an Iran that ramps up its nuclear program, without inspections or constraints, with sanctions unraveling and a United States that is humiliated and isolated in the world.