Friday, January 30, 2015

10% or 1%

Gernot Wagner's book Climate Shock is due out this spring.
His argument:
If you had a 10 percent chance of having a fatal car accident, you’d take necessary precautions. If your finances had a 10 percent chance of suffering a severe loss, you’d reevaluate your assets. So if we know the world is warming and there’s a 10 percent chance this might eventually lead to a catastrophe beyond anything we could imagine, why aren’t we doing more about climate change right now? We insure our lives against an uncertain future—why not our planet?
 Well, yes.  Or we could apply Dick Cheney's 1% rule.


A Pew Research Center study on the differences in views of science between the general public and sciences includes this chart:

Opinion Differences Between Public and Scientists
It shows how poorly informed the US public is on scientific matters, as we might expect, but my question is:

Who are the 2% of scientists who do not believe in human evolution?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Teleprompter Dependence

Here is part of Sarah Palin'e incoherent ramble (I can't describe it as "her speech") at the January Iowa "Freedom Summit":
"Things must change for our government. Look at it. It isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed! It's too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads or nothing will change with the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo. Another Latin word, status quo, and it stands for, ‘Man, the middle-class everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.’ That's status quo, and GOP leaders, by the way, y'know the man can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it. Then the man can't ride ya, America won't be taken for a ride, because so much is at stake and we can't afford politicians playing games like nothing more is at stake than, oh, maybe just the next standing of theirs in the next election."
Her explanation for this incoherence:  her Teleprompter broke down, so she had to improvise.

And these are the people who claim that the eloquent President Obama is totally dependent on his Teleprompter!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Reagan/Bush Deficits Continue

The Reaganistas still believe (or pretend to believe) that cutting taxes will spur so much economic growth that tax revenues will actually increase.

You'd think that the "tax cuts bring in more revenue" myth would have been exploded by the experience of Gov. Brownback of Kansas.  He followed the Reagan playbook, and cut taxes while assuring the cuts would result in an economic boom.  We have seen what happened

Here's how Kansas Republican legislator Don Hineman describes the state's budget problem:
"But think about this: the entire budgets for public safety and general government could be eliminated and we still would not have eliminated the $648.3 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2016.  The budgets for all elected statewide offices and cabinet-level departments could be eliminated, all legislative functions be defunded, highway patrol and KBI abolished, and all state prisoners let out on the streets, and we still would not have totally eliminated the hole in the budget."

Tax cuts increase revenue? Hahahaha!.

But - but - but Reagan, reply the ideologues.

Yes, revenue increased under Reagan, but the increase came despite the cuts, not because of them. (Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a common logical fallacy.)

The revenue increased for two reasons.

Firstly, Reagan came into office when the economy was depressed as Volcker was squeezing the economy to reduce inflation.  So once Volcker removed the screws, the economy took off from its depressed 1980 baseline - a growth that was going to happen anyway without the Reagan tax cuts.  So yes - the increased economic activity brought in a certain amount of tax revenue, even when the rates had been cut.

But a more significant source of increased revenue came from the increase in government spending - largely spending on unproductive military toys. This increased spending (mostly borrowed) translated into people's incomes, a proportion of which came back as taxes.  So a big part of the much-touted Reagan revenue increase came from borrowed money.

This may be hard to follow in the abstract, so let's make it concrete.  If the government spends $1 million that's unfunded, that $1 million becomes income for corporations and individuals out there in the workplace.  They will pay taxes on that new income - let's say 25%, so $250,000 comes back to the government, and voila! - an increase in revenue of $250,000.  Except that the government is out $750,000 to get that $250,000 back.

That's the story of the 1980s revenue increase - a lot of it was essentially borrowed money as Reagan and HGW tripled our national debt with irresponsibly low tax rates. If taxes had not been cut so much under Reagan, the economy would still have boomed when the Fed relaxed interest rates, but not at the expense of such heavy borrowing.

These low rates (only slightly ameliorated by Clinton) have persisted, meaning that we've had constant borrowing since the 1980s. (There were a couple of Clinton surpluses, but they arrived only as a result of the tech bubble - the underlying underfunding continued.)  Then GW made things worse by more irresponsible tax cuts, whose full disastrous effects were masked by the housing bubble.  Once the housing bubble collapsed, and the economy went into freefall, we started seeing the full effects of the Reagan/Bush tax cuts.

Which is why blaming the resultant deficits on Obama is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. They are still the Reagan/Bush deficits.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"....people as demented as I was are running the show."

Frank Schaeffer, son of Christian evangelist Francis Schaeffer, regrets his past  in helping the Republican Party win over the evangelicals by promising to make abortion illegal again.
We were leaders participating in various meetings with Congressman Jack Kemp, Presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr., when the unholy marriage between the Republican Party and the Evangelical Reconstructionist-infected “pro-life” community was gradually consummated. Dad and I — as did many other evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell — met one on one or in groups with key members of the Republican leadership quite regularly to develop a “pro-life strategy” for rolling back Roe v. Wade. (Senator Jesse Helms named Dad as his favorite author when asked by the American Spectator magazine to name his favorite books.)
And that strategy was simple: Republican leaders would affirm their anti-abortion commitment to evangelicals, and in turn we’d vote for them — by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, “we” would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at at first. In 2016, the dream we had will become a reality unless America wakes up. The Republicans are poised to destroy women’s rights.
Schaeffer has come to see how misguided he had been.  Unfortunately, similar realization has not been widespread in Republican circles.  Schaeffer laments:
As I said, in the 1970s we were outsiders asking for change. The change came and now people as demented as I was are running the show.
Yes, the demented have both houses of Congress now.....