Monday, April 18, 2011

The WSJ on the practicality of taxing the rich:
A dominant theme of President Obama's budget speech last Wednesday was that our fiscal problems would vanish if only the wealthiest Americans were asked "to pay a little more." Since he's asking, imagine that instead of proposing to raise the top income tax rate well north of 40%, the President decided to go all the way to 100%...

Consider the Internal Revenue Service's income tax statistics for 2008, the latest year for which data are available. The top 1% of taxpayers—those with salaries, dividends and capital gains roughly above about $380,000—paid 38% of taxes. But assume that tax policy confiscated all the taxable income of all the "millionaires and billionaires" Mr. Obama singled out. That yields merely about $938 billion, which is sand on the beach amid the $4 trillion White House budget, a $1.65 trillion deficit, and spending at 25% as a share of the economy, a post-World War II record.

In 2005 the top 5% earned over $145,000. If you took all the income of people over $200,000, it would yield about $1.89 trillion, enough revenue to cover the 2012 bill for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—but not the same bill in 2016, as the costs of those entitlements are expected to grow rapidly. The rich, in short, aren't nearly rich enough to finance Mr. Obama's entitlement state ambitions—even before his health-care plan kicks in.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One of the common tropes that one hears is that "the rich are getting richer". However, the data tells the opposite story (ungated version here). The percentage of the total wealth in the US owned by the richest 1% has been decreasing over the long term (from 38% of all wealth in 1916 to 21% in 2000), and very stable or declining more recently, depending on exactly when you start counting:
Scott Winship busts some myths on inequality:
CBO says the top one percent's share was 17 percent in 2007 for after-tax income, up from 11 percent in 1989. Saez's estimate of the top one percent's share of wealth is 21 percent for 2000, 21 percent for 1990, and 22 percent for 1985. Edward Wolff's is 35 percent for 2007, up from 34 in 1983 (which I doubt is statistically different from 35 in this case). The top appears to have experienced income and wealth losses from 2007 to 2009 while the bottom experienced gains. Taken together, the top one percent's income share rose from 11-13 percent twenty-five years ago to 17-18 percent according to the most recent data. The top one percent's wealth share basically hasn't risen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Drives Views on Government Redistribution and Anti-Capitalism: Envy or a Desire for Social Dominance?
I first show that respondents who express traditionally racist views (on segregation, interracial marriage, and inborn racial abilities) tend to support greater income redistribution. Traditional racists also tend to oppose free-market capitalism and its consequences, wanting the government to guarantee jobs for everyone and fix prices, wages, and profits. Next, I report a similar pattern for those who express intolerance for unpopular groups on the fifteen Stouffer tolerance questions (regarding racists, homosexuals, communists, extreme militarists, and atheists). Those who express less tolerance for unpopular groups tend to favor income redistribution and oppose capitalism.

...Thus the preference against income redistribution, for example, is not just the result of income or education - rather, the data are consistent with racism and intolerance continuing to play a small, but significant role in explaining the support for income redistribution and anti-capitalism. The data are broadly inconsistent with the standard belief in the social psychology literature that pro-capitalist and anti-redistributionist views are positively associated with racism.

I then explore an alternative hypothesis, showing that, compared to anti-redistributionists, strong redistributionists have about two to three times higher odds of reporting that in the prior seven days they were angry, mad at someone, outraged, sad, lonely, and had trouble shaking the blues. Similarly, anti-redistributionists had about two to four times higher odds of reporting being happy or at ease. Not only do redistributionists report more anger, but they report that their anger lasts longer. When asked about the last time they were angry, strong redistributionists were more than twice as likely as strong opponents of leveling to admit that they responded to their anger by plotting revenge. Last, both redistributionists and anti-capitalists expressed lower overall happiness, less happy marriages, and lower satisfaction with their financial situations and with their jobs or housework...

Evidence from sixteen national representative samples from 1980 through 2004 tends to suggest that Social Dominance Orientation has been in part misconceived. In the United States, segments of the academic community seem to have reversed the relationship between pro-capitalism and income redistribution on the one hand, and racism and intolerance on the other. Those who support capitalism and oppose greater income redistribution tend to be better educated, to have higher family incomes, to be less traditionally racist, and to be less intolerant of unpopular groups.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Network Neutrality:
How would you like it if the FCC required you to pay an extra $20 a month to get movie downloads, whether you want them not, or to allow your kids to access violent video games or adult content, whether you want them to or not, just so everyone would get what the government considers to be “the full Internet experience?” What if you’re low income, and you’d rather spend that $20 on books? Or warm clothes? Or food?

My friend Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice doesn’t want low income people to have that choice. She says it’s “un-American to give low-income communities substandard Internet service that creates barriers to economic opportunity and democratic engagement.”…

Cyril is making a common mistake among us lefties when it comes to low income people — she is being paternalistic. Those poor poor people. They can’t think for themselves, so the government has to make decisions for them...

If I’ve learned anything from my 45 years working with low income folks, it’s this: they’re intelligent and they’re resourceful. They have to be in order to survive. They don’t appreciate condescension or sloganeering in their name.

...What the FCC doesn’t need to do is increase costs for those who can least afford it.

Tom Hazlett in the Financial Times expands (pdf):
MetroPCS possesses no market power. With 8m customers, it is the country’s fifth largest mobile operator, less than one-tenth the size of Verizon. Under no theory could it force customers to patronise certain websites. It couldn’t extract monopoly cash if it tried to. Indeed, low-cost prepaid plans of MetroPCS are popular with users who want to avoid long-term contracts and are price sensitive...

[T]o upgrade the cheaper-than-dirt 2G experience, MetroPCS got Google – owner of YouTube – to compress their videos for delivery over the older network. This allowed the mobile carrier to extend unlimited wildly popular YouTube content to its lowest tier subscribers.

Busted! Favouring YouTube is said to violate neutrality. The business plan contains differences that “lack any engineering merit”, and the option for consumers to access more content for a higher price irrelevant...

The FCC has already erred. Innovators such as MetroPCS and Google should need no defence in supplying customers’ superior choices. Neither consumers nor the internet are “protected” by rules hostile to co-operative efforts – even if money were to pass between firms – that expand outputs and lower prices.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Frank J on how to fight the next war in the middle east.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Politico reports that 30 states are mulling calling for a Constitutional Convention. If you're wondering what articles they might consider, may I propose looking to Article II, Section 17 of the Tennessee State Constitution:
No bill shall become a law which embraces more than one subject, that subject to be expressed in the title. All acts which repeal, revive or amend former laws, shall recite in their caption, or otherwise, the title or substance of the law repealed, revived or amended.
The top 20 political donors over the past twenty years. I believe that is a dynamic list, but as of today, fourteen of the top twenty donors are heavily Democratic. Four donors are fence-sitters, and two (at positions 18 and 20), lean Republican.

Here's the breakdown, with the percent of their donations that is sent to Democrats in parenthesis:

  1. ActBlue (99%)
  2. AT&T Inc (44%)
  3. AFSCME (98%)
  4. Nat'l Assn of Realtors (49%)
  5. Goldman Sachs (61%)
  6. American Assn for Justice (90%)
  7. Int'l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (97%)
  8. National Education Assn (93%)
  9. Laborers Union (92%)
  10. Teamsters Union (93%)
  11. Carpenters & Joiners Union (89%)
  12. SEIU (95%)
  13. American Federation of Teachers (98%)
  14. Communications Workers of America (98%)
  15. Citigroup Inc (50%)
  16. American Medical Assn (40%)
  17. United Auto Workers (98%)
  18. National Audo Dealers Assn (32%)
  19. Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union (98%)
  20. United Parcel Service (36%)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

UN Small Arms Survey on gun ownership rates versus homicide rates:
The UN data shows a very weak negative correlation between civilian gun ownership and national homicide rates. As Howard Nemerov points out, however, even this comes with a very significant asterisk:
Some of the most repressive regimes reported the lowest homicide rates. But since this data comes from law enforcement sources, it doesn’t include state-justified murder. For example, Syrian “security forces” recently killed “at least 20” civilians during one protest, but “Criminal Justice Sources” reported Syria’s homicide rate was significantly lower than America’s.

In Yemen’s capital of Sana’a, “soldiers and plain-clothed government loyalists” killed “at least 35” and left “hundreds wounded” after opening fire on protesters. The UN reports Yemen has a relatively low homicide rate.

At the extreme range is China, whose government declares “private citizens are forbidden from owning and selling guns,” and “gun crime is rare.” This policy allegedly protects “the safety of every individual citizen.” The official homicide rate appears to bear this out, but between 1949 and 1987 military and police legally murdered nearly 77 million. Today, China continues its heavy-handed response by imprisoning protesters for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

U.S. Embassy Cables: 90 Percent of Mexican Drug Cartels' Most Lethal Weapons Come From Central America--Not USA. This should come as obvious to anyone with even passing familiarity with Central American history over the past 30 years.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The retraction of the Goldstone Report.

Friday, April 1, 2011

More news from the war on science:
New rules on diesel emissions make Dwayne Whitney’s trucks illegal to operate without enormously expensive additions, rules CARB [California's Air Resources Board] imposed because of a study on particulates produced by Dr. Hien Tran that linked the emissions to 2000 “premature deaths” in California each year.

However, another researcher who found no connection between diesel particulates and “premature deaths” decided to check on Tran’s credentials, and discovered that his PhD had come from a diploma mill, bought for $1000. When the researcher, UCLA’s Dr. James Enstrom, blew the whistle on Tran and insisted that CARB needed to consider his work before passing the new regulation, a curious thing happened. After 34 years on the job, UCLA fired Enstrom. Why? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that two powerful CARB commissioners, Mary Nichols and John Froines, are also UCLA professors. According to Balaker, Froines voted to give Enstrom his pink slip.
Copyright © Swing Right Rudie
A notebook to myself