Thursday, November 24, 2011

Still on the AGW Bandwagon

Jonathan H. Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy explains why, even after all the evidence of some climate scientists behaving badly, he believes in anthropogenic global warming. It's worth reading.

Progressive Economics: The Case of Northern Europe

Economist Jeffrey Sachs attacks the idea that we should cut government spending:

The upshot is that both parties champion the 1 percent, the Republicans gleefully and the Democrats sheepishly. Both parties have worked together to gut the tax code. Companies use accounting tricks approved by the IRS to shift their profits to foreign tax havens. Hedge-fund managers and recipients of long-term capital gains pay only 15 percent top tax rates. As a result of these irresponsible tax policies and rampant tax evasion, tax collections as a share of national income have sunk to 15 percent, the lowest in modern American history.


The lowest macroeconomic misery is in Northern Europe. Norway has the lowest score, followed by Switzerland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Demark. All seven countries have lower unemployment rates, smaller budget deficits as a share of GDP, and lower foreign deficits as a share of GDP, than the U.S. We look pretty miserable indeed by comparison.

Yet, miracle of miracles, these seven countries collect higher taxes as a share of GDP than does the U.S. Total government revenues in the U.S. (adding federal, state, and local taxes) totaled 31.6 percent of GDP in 2010. This compares with 56.5, 34.2, 39.5, 45.9, 52.7, 43.4, and 55.3 percent of GDP in Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark, respectively. ...

... In five of the seven countries, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden, government spending as a share of GDP is much higher than in the U.S. These countries enjoy much better public services, better educational outcomes, more gainful employment, higher trade balances, lower poverty, and smaller budget deficits. High-quality government services reach all parts of the society. 

I currently think it is absolutely essential that the US cut spending, so Sachs's data is very interesting. I've noticed several progressive writers using northern European countries as an example to show that conservatives are wrong about economics, so this is something that must be addressed. If it can't be, then conservatives need to rethink their economics. (And, of course, so do I.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Sorry, Strivers: Talent Matters -- A scientific study shows that in some ways IQ is more important than effort.

America Before the Entitlement State

A Caveman Won't Beat a Salesman -- Peggy Noonan discusses Steve Jobs' theory of decline in business and applies it to American politics, where, she claims, we have elevated salesmen over people who know how to get things done. She then, quite sensibly, tells us why Republicans aren't anti-government:

Republicans don’t hate government, but they’re alive to what human beings are tempted and even inclined to do with governmental power, which is abuse it. And so they want that power limited. It’s not really that complicated. Democrats may try to paint it one way, but when they do, Republicans shouldn’t help them. They should show respect for the moment. They shouldn’t be unserious. 
The Large Number of Near-Poor

An interesting blog I ran across: The Maverick Philosopher

American Wonderland -- A comparison of America's current political climate with Alice's Wonderland.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Mike Mayo: Why Wall Street Can't Handle the Truth (How sounding the alarm got him in hot water, and what we can do now to reform the banking industry.)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: End Bonuses for Bankers (Another idea to solve our banking industry problem.)

Mark Steyn: Corporate Collaborators A snippet:
On Wednesday, the “Occupy Oakland” occupiers rampaged through the city, shutting down the nation’s fifth-busiest port, forcing stores to close, terrorizing those residents foolish enough to commit the reactionary crime of “shopping,” destroying ATMs, spraying the Christ the Light Cathedral with the insightful observation “F**k,” etc. And how did the Oakland city council react? The following day they considered a resolution to express their support for “Occupy Oakland” and to call on the city administration to “collaborate with protesters.”
Walter Russel Mead: Occupy Blue Wall Street? A snippet:

Blue, government-oriented Wall Street; the professional do-gooders and the progressive intellectual and foundation establishment; the unionized government workforce; and the beneficiaries of social programs: this is the blue coalition.  Many blue partisans don’t fully get this; they think of Wall Street as the enemy without fully grasping the essential role that the financial community plays in the creation and administration of blue policy.  The participation in and support of blue social and economic policies by American finance both enables and shapes those policies, and it was the belief on Wall Street in the 1940s and 1950s that the blue social model provided the most effective path for national economic development that created the postwar commonwealth, which many blue activists today hope to restore.
James Taranto: The Obamaville Riots

The Onion: Remains of Ancient Race of Job Creators Found in Rust Belt

Friday, November 04, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Economists Can't Be Trusted on Tax Plans: Laurence Kotlikoff

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan is a case in point. My last column pointed out that his plan would hit the superrich -- those with lots of wealth, but little or no labor earnings -- right in the solar plexus, dramatically lowering their sustainable living standards. The day after the column appeared, the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, released a widely quoted study suggesting exactly the opposite.

I’m not surprised. The Tax Policy Center has first-rate economists, but they knowingly use wholly inappropriate distribution analysis also employed by Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Research Service and the Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis.

All five groups of tax experts take annual income as a measure of a household’s economic standing and evaluate the progressivity of tax proposals by dividing annual taxes by annual income. This is problematic, in large part because people don’t live for just one year. Their incomes and the taxes on that income change over their lifetimes. 

An interesting analysis follows. Is he right?

What's Your Kid Getting From College? A snippet:

Even so, these figures don't touch the most important question: Are students getting fair value in return?

Anne Neal has been trying to help families answer that question for years. As president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, she believes students should leave college with a broad base of knowledge that will allow them "to compete successfully in our globalized economy and to make sense of the modern world." By that ACTA means universities should require a core curriculum with substantive courses in composition, literature, American history, economics, math, science and foreign language.

"The fundamental problem here is not debt but a broken educational system that no longer insists on excellence," Ms. Neal says. "College tuitions have risen more than 440% over the last 25 years—and for what? The students who say that college has not prepared them for the real world are largely right."
At, students can click onto ACTA's recent survey of more than 1,000 American four-year institutions—and find out how their colleges and universities rate. Two findings jump out. First, the more costly the college, the less likely it will require a demanding core curriculum. Second, public institutions generally do better here than private ones—and historically black colleges such as Morehouse and service academies such as West Point amount to what ACTA calls "hidden gems."

And one more, because it's fascinating:

Intelligence Operative's Letter, Sent to Son on Hitler's Stationery

In what will likely go down as one of history’s mysteries, the CIA Museum in McLean, Va., has obtained a letter from former intelligence operative Richard Helms written in 1945 on Hitler’s stationery. Helms’ son, Dennis Helms, had received the letter when he was three years old and gave it to the museum this year.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wall Street Vs. Government Responsibility for Economic Crisis

According to Investor's Business Daily, the percentage of responsibility for the subprime and nonprime mortgage crisis is pretty clear. Out of 27 million such mortgages, the government held 19.2 million: 12 million by Fannie & Freddie, 5 million by FHA, and 2.2 million with HUD and CRA loans. Wall Street held 7.8 million.

That would mean Wall Street bears 29% of the responsibility, while Washington bears 71%.

In a related piece, Gretchen Morgenson at the NYT notes a recent speech on needed financial reforms by Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve:

THE other area that cries out for change, Mr. Volcker said, is the nation’s mortgage market, now controlled by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giants.

“We simply should not countenance a residential mortgage market, the largest part of our capital market, dominated by so-called government-sponsored enterprises,” Mr. Volcker said in his speech. “The financial breakdown was in fact triggered by extremely lax, government-tolerated underwriting standards, an important ingredient in the housing bubble.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Politics of Raising Cain

Roger L. Simon sees Cain's campaign as a challenge to political professionals like Rove.

Cillizza & Blake: Why Herman Cain Can Win

Amy Gardner, Cain's Staff Trying to Keep Up

(Interestingly, she notes that Cain's trip to Tennessee may be because a lot of Country music people like him. This may answer the question some have been asking about why he's going there, like the next article.)

Cain's Curious Month Off

Was SimCity Cain's Inspiration for the 9-9-9 Plan? An amusing diversion ...

Discussions of Cain's 999 Plan

999 on Cain's Website and in an editorial in USA Today

The phases of Cain's plan, copied from his website:

Phase 1, 9-9-9:

  • Zero capital gains tax
  • Ends the Death Tax.
  • Eliminates double taxation of dividends
  • Business Flat Tax – 9%
    • Gross income less all investments, all purchases from other businesses and all dividends paid to shareholders.
    • Empowerment Zones will offer additional deductions for payroll employed in the zone.
  • Individual Flat Tax – 9%.
    • Gross income less charitable deductions.
    • Empowerment Zones will offer additional deductions for those living and/or working in the zone.
  • National Sales Tax – 9%.
    • This gets the Fair Tax off the sidelines and into the game.
Phase 2, the Fair Tax:

  • Amidst a backdrop of the economic boom created by the Phase 1 Enhanced Plan, I will begin the process of educating the American people on the benefits of continuing the next step to the Fair Tax.
  • The Fair Tax would ultimately replace individual and corporate income taxes.
  • It would make it possible to end the IRS as we know it.
  • The Fair Tax makes our exported goods and services the most competitively internationally than any other tax system.
Discussion of pros, cons, and what the heck does it all mean [this section will get filled out over the weekend, if you care to stop back]:

Nathan Lewis at Forbes, Flat Tax vs. Fair Tax vs. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan

Edward Morissey at the Fiscal Times, 9-9-Nein! The Herman Cain Mutiny

Bruce Bartlett in the NYT, Inside the Cain Tax Plan

5 Reasons to Reject It

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cain Picks Up Support

from Art Laffer

"Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan would be a vast improvement over the current tax system and a boon to the U.S. economy," Laffer told HUMAN EVENTS in a statement. "The goal of supply-side tax reform is always a broadening of the tax base and lowering of marginal tax rates."

Added Laffer: "Mr. Cain’s plan is simple, transparent, neutral with respect to capital and labor, and savings and consumption, and also greatly decreases the hidden costs of tax compliance. There is no doubt that economic growth would surge upon implementation of 9-9-9."

Laffer also said that "such a system provides the least avenues to avoid paying taxes, yet also maintains the strongest incentives for work effort, production, and investment."

Haley Barbour

“If this election is where it ought to be, and that is a referendum on how President Obama is doing, Republicans are going to win. If Herman Cain is our nominee against Barack Obama, I think he’ll sweep the south," Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) told Laura Ingraham today.

Paul Ryan

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan says he “loves” presidential candidate Herman Cain’s signature “9-9-9″ tax plan.

Ryan told The Daily Caller in an exclusive interview that Cain’s plan is a good starting point for debate, and shows the GOP presidential campaign season has entered into a more advanced stage where ideas — not just personalities — have come to the forefront.

A spokesman for Ryan later clarified that Ryan wasn't endorsing Cain.

Today's Links of Interest

Herman Cain Takes the Lead

Cain, Perry, Romney All Beat Obama

Oxford U. History Prof. Tim Stanley says: If the Wall Street protesters really want to reform capitalism, they should join the Tea Party

Michael S. Malone: Waiting for Princip

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Illegal Students

Michael Flaherty at the WSJ has an article titled, The Latest Crime Wave: Sending Your Child to a Better School:

From California to Massachusetts, districts are hiring special investigators to follow children from school to their homes to determine their true residences and decide if they "belong" at high-achieving public schools. School districts in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all boasted recently about new address-verification programs designed to pull up their drawbridges and keep "illegal students" from entering their gates.

Other school districts use services like, which provides "the latest in covert video technology and digital photographic equipment to photograph, videotape, and document" children going from their house to school. School districts can enroll in the company's rewards program, which awards anonymous tipsters $250 checks for reporting out-of-district students.
Only in a world where irony is dead could people not marvel at concerned parents being prosecuted for stealing a free public education for their children.

In August, an internal PowerPoint presentation from the American Federation of Teachers surfaced online. The document described how the AFT undermined minority parent groups' efforts in Connecticut to pass the "parent trigger" legislation that offers parents real governing authority to transform failing schools. A key to the AFT's success in killing the effort, said the document, was keeping parent groups from "the table." AFT President Randi Weingarten quickly distanced her organization from the document, but it was small consolation to the parents once again left in the cold.
At the same time, many American schools are forced to accept the children of illegal aliens, and to even suggest that they shouldn't results in strident accusations of racism and heartlessness.

I am all for public schools educating the children of illegal immigrants. The children are not at fault, and not only would it be morally wrong to deny them an education, it would also be reckless from a utilitarian perspective. However, since those expenses have been incurred due to the deceptions and irresponsibility of the federal government, I also strongly believe that every school which educates these children should be paid to do so by the federal government. (I also believe this is the correct way to handle the local and state incarceration expenses for illegal aliens.)

For similar reasons, the AFT and other organizations that act to destroy educational choice and quality in the American public schools should be forced to pay for the consequences. That, however, would be impossible; you cannot reimburse someone for giving them an inferior education during their childhood. Consequently, these organizations should be abolished.

Today's Links of Interest

Transcript of the Fox News - Google GOP Debate

Simpson & Bowles: Our Advice to the Debt Committee: Go big, be bold, be smart

Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard: Raising Cain (an interesting comparison of Cain and Obama's biographies)

Back in 2008, Cain defended TARP. This is a complex topic. I think bailing out the banks created a powerful, dangerous moral hazard, but at the same time, letting the banks fail would have had a significant negative impact on a lot of people who were innocent of wrongdoing. Sometimes there is no good option.

Michael Barone says that Cain is beginning to look like a contender.

Jennifer Rubin says Cain can shake up the GOP race.

Jane McGonigal: Gamer's Will Save the World (well, that's not really her headline, but I suspect it's true)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Alasdair Roberts, The Wikileaks Illusion. A fascinating article in the Wilson Quarterly (why have I never heard of them before?) that looks at some of the unexpected ramifications of the Wikileaks releases.

North Carolina governor Bev Purdue:

"I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that," Perdue said. "You want people who don't worry about the next election."

The comment -- which came during a discussion of the economy -- perked more than a few ears. It's unclear whether Perdue, a Democrat, is serious -- but her tone was level and she asked others to support her on the idea.  (Read her full remarks below.)

Later Tuesday afternoon, Perdue's office clarified the remarks: "Come on," said spokeswoman Chris Mackey in a statement. "Gov. Perdue was obviously using hyperbole to highlight what we can all agree is a serious problem: Washington politicians who focus on their own election instead of what’s best for the people they serve."
The End of the Blogprof, alas. Another blog I should have been reading all along, it seems, but just discovered as the shutters fell.

Here's Herman Cain's campaign website, just since he's been in the news quite a bit lately.