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.

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