This Is What's the Matter With Kansas: Sam Brownback tried to create a conservative utopia. He created a conservative hell instead. [more inside]
John Green: "Why Are Americans Health Care Costs So High?" A quick, handy little overview of common misconceptions on the US healthcare system. (SLYT)
There's been a lot of talk in the US media about the "Fiscal Cliff" and the "Grand Bargain" What are they?
The "fiscal cliff" is a confluence of three legal changes taking effect Jan. 1: the expiration of a payroll-tax cut, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, and the advent of mandatory spending cuts known as "sequestration."Fiscal Cliff 101: 5 Basic Questions Answered. What's Happening: Fiscal Cliff Explained [more inside]
Buying useful things, like roads and universities and health care and solar energy and spaceships, should be better stimulus than fighting wars.
"Liberals have not always been very good at communicating why liberalism works. There’s many reasons for this, but part of it is that it can be hard to defend the obvious from an absurd and deceptive attack. For half a century you had to be a crank to oppose what Roosevelt accomplished; liberals got out of the habit of arguing for their beliefs. I hope this page will help. Liberals don’t need to apologize for their vision of how American society should work. Liberalism saved American capitalism and democracy, defeated Naziism, created a prosperous middle class, and benefited every sector of society, from the back streets to Wall Street. " Mefi's own Zompist (previously) on Why Liberalism Works.
Paul Ryan. Seven-term congressman for Wisconsin's 1st District. Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. Architect of the controversial Ryan Budget -- a "Path to Prosperity" [PDF - video - CBO] that would slash trillions from the federal budget, sharply curtail taxes on the wealthy, and transform Medicare into a private voucher system. Proponent (vid) -- and renouncer -- of Ayn Rand 's Objectivism. Social Security beneficiary. Hunter. Weinermobile driver. And as of this morning, the 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States of America. [more inside]
...But most of all, I am emerging from this drama with a renewed appreciation for the value of my taxpayer-supported public services. The Berkeley Fire Department did right by me — not only by saving most of my house from burning to the ground, but also by demonstrating real human kindness and connection in the middle of fire and chaos. In the rubble, I found magic. And in a strange way, I feel like I deserved it. In Berkeley, we are addicted to high taxes — in the 25 years I’ve lived here, I can’t even count how many times I and my fellow citizens have said a resounding yes to yet another tax hike or bond measure. Two weeks ago, I got my money’s worth. [more inside]
Visualizing Economics. Catherine Mulbrandon makes visualizations of economic data, including the variation of the top marginal tax rate over time and the high cost of buying a TV on credit.
This is why I don't give you a job. Hungarian blogger Jakab Andor breaks down the numbers and explains why taxes and regulations make it highly unappealing for him to start a small business employing people in Hungary. He also argues that these same factors make women and older people particularly unappealing prospects. His comments generated quite a bit of controversy (warning: most comments in Hungarian), to which he responded with an offer.
Over the past three weeks, Israel has experienced what may perhaps be the largest, spontaneous / grass roots social protest of the secular middle class that it has witnessed in decades. Thousands of demonstrators in cities and towns throughout the country have been protesting cuts in government funding to health care and education, and massive, exorbitant rises in taxes and housing costs -- and demanding change. Tent cities have sprung up in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and in public gardens and parks throughout the country. And they may not be going anywhere: polls indicate Israeli support is "exceptionally high". [more inside]
The Growth Ponzi Scheme, a series of five blog posts on the financial underpinnings (or lack thereof) of the American post-war development pattern. 1: The Mechanisms of Growth - Trading near-term cash for long-term obligations. 2: Case studies that show how our places do not create, but destroy, our wealth. 3: The Ponzi scheme revealed - How new development is used to pay for old development. 4: How we've sustained the unsustainable by going "all in" on the suburban pattern of development. 5: Responses that are rational and responses that are irrational.
The Destruction of Economic Facts - "Renowned Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto argues that the financial crisis wasn't just about finance—it was about a staggering lack of knowledge" (via) [more inside]
9 Things The Rich Don't Want You To Know About Taxes - "4. Many of the very richest pay no current income taxes at all: Paulson made himself $9 billion in fees in just two years. His current tax bill on that $9 billion? Zero... 9. Other countries do it better: no one in Germany or the rest of the modern world goes broke because of accident or illness" (via) [more inside]
Scott Adams suggests that if we assume that the solution to our fiscal problems is increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, perhaps we should figure out how to make the taxation amenable to them... [more inside]
Right Wing astroturfing A non-scientific analysis of the patterns in forum board discussions on a variety of topics. The gist: discussions of issues in which there's money at stake (like climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance) are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption by rightwing libertarians who are pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Discussions of issues in which there's little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions.
A former magazine writer in his late fifties moves to San Diego and lives on very little money indeed. In the October 1977 issue of The Atlantic, he describes the stratagems behind his thriftiness. [more inside]
Bruce Bartlett, senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House, speaks out against Republicans - The monumental hypocrisy of the Republican Party is something amazing to behold. And their dimwitted accomplices in the tea-party movement are not much better. They know that Republicans, far more than Democrats, are responsible for our fiscal mess, but they won't say so. And they adamantly refuse to put on the table any meaningful programme that would actually reduce spending. Judging by polls, most of them seem to think that all we have to do is cut foreign aid, which represents well less than 1% of the budget. [more inside]
A NYTimes columnist just comes out and says it: America's taxes should be higher. The Perils of Pay Less, Get More. [more inside]
Economists Matthew Weinzierl (HBS) and Gregory Mankiw (Harvard) make a utilitarian case for a height tax. [more inside]
Moreover, based on the empirical distribution of height and wages, the optimal height tax is substantial: a tall person earning $50,000 should pay about $4,500 more in taxes (pdf) than a short person earning the same income. Draw what inferences you will.
A new U.S. Treasury Report (press release) reports that tax returns from 1996 to 2005 show that income mobility in the U.S. is "considerable," with rising earnings, and top earners who often stumble. The WSJ crows. Pew releases its own research (reports, press release) on income inequality today with a multi-decade outlook, but summarizes the findings as that American families' income mobility is still highly dependent on their parents' position. Forbes and a The New Republic blog try to reconcile the reports. Meanwhile, blacks appear to be downwardly mobile.
Cheap Donuts and Expensive Broccoli: the Effect of Relative Prices on Obesity. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for the period 1982-1996, we find that individual BMI measures, as well as the likelihood of being overweight or obese, exhibit a statistically significant positive correlation with the prices of healthful relative to unhealthful foods.
The First Law of Petropolitics, in short, argues that the price of oil and the pace of freedom operate in an inverse correlation. As the price of oil goes up in what I call petroauthoritarian states—like Iran, Sudan, Venezuela—the pace of freedom goes down. These regimes can afford to be less responsive to their people and outside pressure. And as the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up because these regimes have to open up to the world if they want to deliver for their people, and they have to empower their people more.But how to lower oil prices and help freedom on its proverbial march? Many, from Alan Greenspan to Andrew Sullivan to Ray Magliozzi from Car Talk think the answer may be to . . . raise the gas tax? The Pigou Club is an ever-updated list of economists, politicians and others who have advocated Pigouvian (or is it Pigovian?) taxes to not only lower oil prices, but reduce greenhouse gases, fix the federal deficit and strengthen our national security. Though some remain more than a little hesitant to jump on the bandwagon and others remain skeptical that the movement is anything more than "just talk," this could be an idea whose time has come, especially since the gas tax isn't as regressive one would think.
Turncoats in Bermuda shorts. Arianna Huffington continues to skewer offshore tax shelters in her latest Salon opinion piece. Despite her patriot-speak denouncing these corporations for avoiding taxes while our young men are getting ready to die for their country, she does shine the light on a growing problem – “basic fairness and economic justice” – or, the lack of it. How can the average American not be outraged at this, when so many of us are expected to be able to account for even the smallest charitable donation we would dare to use as a tax write-off?
Bush Cited Non-Existent eport There was only one problem with President George W. Bush's claim Thursday that the nation's top economists forecast substantial economic growth if Congress passed the president's tax cut: The forecast with that conclusion doesn't exist.
White House predicts budget deficits until 2005. Uh... cause of the war, not monster tax cuts to businesses and billionaires... yeah, that's the ticket!
Another problem with the alternative minimum tax. One of the problems with this tax was discussed back in May when it was realized that the AMT would substantially cut into the tax rebates of many. Now there is a new twist: People who did not cash out stock options before the downturn and are now sitting on a tax bill larger than all their assets combined.
cisco and microsoft didn't pay federal taxes last year. it seems it has something to do with paying employee stock options instead....