Various & Sundry, 3/12/15

Lots to talk about today.

– I haven’t talked much about the tax reform put out by Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee. Veronique de Rugy offered this bit of analysis in which she expresses her support for most of the plan, but also offers some criticism.

The second problem with the bill is that many free-market types are underwhelmed (for lack of a better word) by the huge child tax credits in the bill, in particular since the inclusion of those credits is “expensive” in more than one way. For instance, the projected revenue loss is $1.7 trillion over ten years according to the Tax Foundation. I assume this is the reason Rubio and Lee not only aren’t proposing a bigger reduction in the top income tax rate, but are even raising marginal tax rates on a significant number of middle-class and upper-middle class households. (The 35 percent top tax rate in the plan takes effect at just $75,000 of income for single households and $150,000 for married households!)

It has been noted before, but it is worth repeating: The opportunity cost of expanding the child tax credit in this way is huge, in terms of the possible tax reforms it crowds out. If their proposed child-tax credit were smaller, Rubio and Lee could have also included a low-rate flat tax, for instance. No matter what we hear about top-marginal-tax-rate reductions not yielding as much return at the current levels as they would if the rates were higher, lowering them would still yield more growth than the child tax credit, which does nothing for growth. If bolstering the economic status of families is the point of all this, the way to go is lower tax rates, not a tax credit. So why not solve 100 percent of the problem rather than 50 percent?

To make matters worse, I don’t buy the justification for the size of the tax credit they’re proposing. It is one thing to support some sort of child tax credit in the name of the idea that every flat-tax proposal has some zero-bracket amount based on family size, generally based on the principle that households shouldn’t be taxed on “necessity” or “poverty level” income. But providing giant credits, based on the premise that children are investments in maintaining entitlement programs and that parents should be compensated for the cost of raising their kids goes way overboard.

According to the senators, the tax credit would compensate for ”a parent tax penalty.” They compare it to “the marriage tax penalty.” But while I think that characterization is a brilliant marketing move on the part of those who think that parents should be rewarded/subsidized, it is also misleading. The marriage tax penalty is real and manifests itself in the form of higher taxes for certain people who get married and file jointly. That’s because government taxes the first dollar a married-couple secondary earner earns, often the wife, at her husband’s highest marginal rate rather than at the rate the wife’s salary warrants. The higher the marginal tax rate, the bigger the penalty.  However, people aren’t taxed at a higher rate nor do they pay more taxes the moment they have children. In fact, it is the reverse because of personal allowances. So there is no “parent tax penalty.”

I have to concur in large part with de Rugy’s analysis. Ramesh Ponnuru, Reihan Salan and others have been beating the drums for expanding the child tax credit, and I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of how this is anything but more social engineering through the tax code. Indeed that is my beef with much of Salan and Ross Douthat’s book, The Grand New Party, which felt like 200 pages of nothing but pleading for more tax credits. As a father of (almost) four, I would certainly benefit from an expanded credit, but even I have to say enough is enough.

Attention men: if you are nice, happy man who holds the door open for women, you are clearly signalling that you are nothing but a sexist.

Benevolent sexism makes men more smiley when they interact with women, and that’s bad news. Men who put women on a pedestal may be the wolves in sheep clothing hindering gender equality.

A new study examining the nonverbal cues thrown out during interactions between men and women finds that men who have high ratings of “benevolent sexism” — attitudes towards women that are well-intentioned but perpetuate inequality — finds that smiling and other positive cues increase when this kind of sexism is prevalent.

I clearly missed my calling. Who knew one could earn a living conducting such insightful “studies.”

– Fact-checking the fact checkers, part one million: Speaking of earning a living, I am starting to consider developing a fact-checking website that only fact-checks fact-checkers. Patterico writes of one of the most egregious examples of a fact-checker sneaking opinion into her column, as a manifestly true and simple observation made by Ted Cruz got rated as kinda false. WaPo editor Glenn Kessler at least had the dignity to respond to a few questions about this assessment, and offered up some whoppers.

How does an opinion/editorial of this kind fall under the definition of a “fact check?”

I don’t see this an opinion. It was a fact check of a statement. A key part of any fact check is whether there is proper context and whether it might make sense to ordinary people. This is a pretty good example of comparing apples and oranges—something that often results in Pinocchios. But in this case I decided to give Cruz a break, as the counting of pages is a relatively minor factoid. Previously, such counting pages has resulting in Pinocchios.

But that’s not the job of a fact-checker. A fact-checker is charged with determining the accuracy of a statement, not making value judgments about the statement itself and if it’s “contextually true.” And even on their own terms, this defense of partisan fact-checking is completely off the mark, as Patterico explains:

The problem with the tax code, Ms. Lee, is the same problem with government laws in general: it is filled to the brim with handouts and goodies for special interests. These folks engage in a legalized form of bribery in which they hand politicians donations, and then, in a totally unrelated conversation that has nothing to do with the donation, ask for a tax break that no regular American gets — and actually obtain said tax break, but certainly not because of the donation or anything.

This process has absolutely zero to do with whether it’s hard for a taxpayer to file his own return, and everything to do with the concept of concentrated benefits and distributed costs.

The Free Beacon has more examples of the WaPo “fact” checkers getting it wrong. And Daniel Foster catches Florida FactCheck calling something observably true “false.”

– Charles Cooke, we hardly knew you. Cooke has penned a book titled the The Conservatarian Manifesto, which he wrote about here. Well, I guess we can kiss Cooke’s membership on the right goodbye, because once folks start peddling some variant of conservatism, they inevitably just move completely off the reservation. Right, Mr. Dreher? Unless of course they have a blog utilizing a somewhat snarky play on words and in a playful manner, like, I don’t know, Cranky Con or something.

In all seriousness, while there might be some appeal to Mr. Cooke’s libertarian-conservative hybrid approach, it’s ultimately a just libertarianism with a glossy coating. I think the fundamental problem with Cooke’s philosophy is summarized in this post today about the police shooting in Ferguson.

Because our culture is so tightly interconnected, it will always be possible to claim wistfully that “society is to blame.” Because there are six degrees of separation between all of us and the president, we can always involve him somehow. But unless we want to see politicians who use martial language being castigated for enabling the actions of lunatics, we should resist assigning blame to the innocent. Unless we hope watch in frustration as quotidian anti-government sentiment is deemed to be responsible for all the ills under the sun, we should decline to attack abstractions rather than individuals. Unless we intend to establish a nation whose rebels are rendered easy targets for the madding crowd on the horizon, we should insist that people, not words, are accountable for the world’s problems. In a republic, it is up to the listeners – not the broadcasters – to sift through the radio noise and to pursue the best course. In a free nation, men can not be presumed to be automatons.

For the sake of accuracy, I would certainly have preferred it if Ferguson’s various agitators had waited a little before jumping to conclusions. And yet, whatever mistakes were made, the veracity of the dissenters’ rhetoric is ultimately irrelevant to this case. Sure, Michael Brown probably did not have his hands up when he was shot. But let’s suppose, arguendo, that he had. Suppose, that is, that the media reports had been correct, and that Officer Wilson had got it horribly wrong. Wouldn’t it have still been unacceptable for anybody to open fire on police officers that had nothing to do with the incident – men, by all accounts, who were engaged in no misconduct whatsoever? It seems rather clear to me that it would. Indeed, there is in fact no conceivable situation in which specific rhetorical mistakes could be seen to justify this crime. The perpetrator here is the perpetrator; the bystanders are the bystanders. We would do well to find and to punish the former, but to leave the latter well alone.

The problem with this line of thinking, and it is an issue endemic to libertarianism, is that is it puts all human actions inside of a bubble. Certainly no reasonable person would suggest that race agitators such as Al Sharpton should be brought up on charges or face criminal consequences for the actions of others. Yet Cooke casually dismisses the role that these agitators play in creating the milieu in which these actions are carried out. But the libertarian thinks in almost exclusively legalistic terms, and rarely considers the larger social interplay. And that, my friends, is why I want no part of a Rand Paul or other “conservatarian” candidacy.

– Martin O’Malley smells blood in the water and he is ready to capitalize on Hillary’s email fiasco.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley says if he were president,

Excuse me a moment . . .
 

– Speaking of presidential aspirants, Lindsey Graham has essentially vowed to use the might of the military to force Congress to reverse defense spending cuts.

[A]nd here is the first thing I would do if I were President of the United States:

Sorry, excuse me again . . .

More to explorer

14 Comments

  1. and I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of how this is anything but more social engineering through the tax code.

    Any tax rewards some behavior and penalizes others with one exception: the capitation. Good luck trying to raise revenue with that. I see ‘social engineering’, like ‘war criminal’ is a term the use of which is getting increasingly promiscuous.

    My suggestion would be that you set priorities in your attacks on ‘social engineering’ and train your fire on the social work ‘profession’ itself, on mission creep in public schools and in public higher education, and on federal labor law (and civil rights law generally). Even regarding tax legislation, the inefficiencies and political sclerosis incorporated within special credits, deductions, and exemptions for well connected economic sectors are injurious to the public weal in a way that credits and exemptions for the general population are not.

    Here’s something to which your not referring. De Rugy is an advocate of the minimal state (as is Patterico, whom you also quote; de Rugy is much more knowledgeable and has better manners). She’s not concerned (as was Milton Friedman) in ways to improve social policy because she does not think there should be any social policy. There are only two ways to sustain that idea. One is to persuade yourself that no public agency is capable of doing anything but injuring the society in which you live. The other is not to give a good goddamn about what happens to anyone outside your own household. Douthat’s not down with that and neither are working politicians generally.

  2. because once folks start peddling some variant of conservatism, they inevitably just move completely off the reservation.

    He comes off as a malodorous snob on the British model, which the younger Messrs. Derbyshire and Sullivan did not. I don’t think I’ll miss him.

  3. “that is my beef with much of Salan and Ross Douthat’s book, The Grand New Party, which felt like 200 pages of nothing but pleading for more tax credits. As a father of (almost) four, I would certainly benefit from an expanded credit, but even I have to say enough is enough.”

    Not to mention that if they ever did manage to enact all those tax credits, the “47%” class (of people who don’t owe federal income taxes) would grow even bigger. Next thing you know they’d be complaining about how we’re a nation of freeloaders….

  4. “– Attention men: if you are nice, happy man who holds the door open for women, you are clearly signalling that you are nothing but a sexist.”
    .
    The reason it is: Women and children first into a lifeboat and that men hold doors open to women is because the woman may be carrying our constitutional posterity (or has carried or will carry) and it is a wish expressed in action that our nation, America may continue in prosperity forever. The damage feminism is doing is that it is erasing our constitutional posterity from the minds of our constitutional posterity. The great error in all of this is that our constitutional posterity have rational souls and may even figure out for themselves the evils in abortion and selfishness. I think that our constitutional posterity are called “millenials”. This generation is asking:”Where are our brothers and sisters?

  5. Art Deco: ” She’s (de Rugy) not concerned (as was Milton Friedman) in ways to improve social policy because she does not think there should be any social policy. There are only two ways to sustain that idea. One is to persuade yourself that no public agency is capable of doing anything but injuring the society in which you live. The other is not to give a good goddamn about what happens to anyone outside your own household. Douthat’s not down with that and neither are working politicians generally.
    .
    Jesus said to give a “good goddamn” to what happens to anyone in my neighborhood and my neighbor as myself. This policy is up to me not to the government. The government may enable me to love my neighbor as myself, but the government may not in any way deter my mission. Yes, it is a mission, a religious mission… comes to mind Baronnelle Stutzman, the cake baker who refused to make a gay wedding cake. Baronnelle was loving her neighbor as herself (as a straight person) and she was hauled into court and fined for loving her neighbor as herself (as a straight person). It is time for the government to lay hands off. and let people live according to our religious beliefs. “We, the people”, own the government. “We, the people” own freedom.
    .
    Many women no longer breast feed their infant children. Weening was a part of life. It is time to ween the government entitlements from our way of life and go back to breastfeeding our infant children. (Aldous Huxley, +1962, the atheist thought that people with religious beliefs and women who breastfeed their infant children are “savages”) but he died that same day as JFK.

  6. Some thoughts on taxes. Look at the numbers. The federal gov doesn’t take too little revenues in taxes. It spends too much. The estimated $1.7 trillion that the gov wouldn’t get could be squandered by American families on such things as food, shelter, maybe savings/investments.

    .

    On holding doors, thise that object have chips on their shoulders. I was told by one of our high-level, ivy-league-educated woman attorneys that she does not resent it.
    .
    Back to unlimited governmnet.

  7. On holding doors, those who object have chips on their shoulders and arrogant pride in their hearts.
    .
    A priest from Italy said he was stunned when opening a door for a woman at the mall, eight people passed through without so much as a ‘thank you’ and left him there holding the door.
    .
    I squander my social security check on my grandchildren in college and my great grandchildren (8) in the arms of my grandchildren.

  8. Not to mention that if they ever did manage to enact all those tax credits, the “47%” class (of people who don’t owe federal income taxes) would grow even bigger. Next thing you know they’d be complaining about how we’re a nation of freeloaders….
    =–
    When the federal income tax was enacted in 1916, the share of the population with any liability at all was in the single digits (IIRC, 3%). That 47% (which amounted to 40% prior to 2008) pays payroll taxes, pays property taxes, pays higher sticker prices due to general sales and excise taxes, pays higher rents due to property taxes, pays their water bill, &c. The pre-tax incomes of a large share of the population (around 30% of the total) are contextually quite modest and these people are not fitting objects for direct taxation. Nor is there much revenue there. Perhaps 6 or 7% of total personal income (prior to taxes and transfers) repairs to that 30% of the population.

  9. On holding doors,

    I’ve received one set of complaints in my life, all on a single day in 1980, from a cousin of whom I was very fond. My father had funny stories of his foot being stepped on by a combat-booted feminists in airports. That was around about 1973.

  10. Wouldn’t it have still been unacceptable for anybody to open fire on police officers that had nothing to do with the incident – men, by all accounts, who were engaged in no misconduct whatsoever?
    Wow.
    Uh, no; the way it was set up, the cops were explicitly cast as an occupying force. Seeing as my grandfather guarded a lot of Nazis who he liked and, as best he or anybody else could tell, hadn’t been involved in any of the Nazi outrages…and would’ve shot them, if they’d not been prisoners….
    Gads.
    Folks are supposed to make all their own choices, and the theory implicitly assumes perfect-enough knowledge, but deliberately damaging that information and thus warping the choices of others gets waved away.
    I guess it kinda makes sense– rather than dealing with the problem that the theory would only work if people had perfect information, just pretend that being held responsible for your personal choices is a magical wand.

  11. “When the federal income tax was enacted in 1916, the share of the population with any liability at all was in the single digits (IIRC, 3%). That 47% (which amounted to 40% prior to 2008) pays payroll taxes, pays property taxes, pays higher sticker prices due to general sales and excise taxes, pays higher rents due to property taxes, pays their water bill, &c.”

    Which is exactly why I despise the ridiculous notion, promoted by some hard core economic conservatives, of them all being “freeloaders” or “takers” who escape the burdens of taxation.

  12. unless we want to see politicians who use martial language being castigated for enabling the actions of lunatics, we should resist assigning blame to the innocent. Unless we hope watch in frustration as quotidian anti-government sentiment is deemed to be responsible for all the ills under the sun, we should decline to attack abstractions rather than individuals. Unless we intend to establish a nation whose rebels are rendered easy targets for the madding crowd on the horizon, we should insist that people, not words, are accountable for the world’s problems. In a republic, it is up to the listeners – not the broadcasters – to sift through the radio noise and to pursue the best course. In a free nation, men can not be presumed to be automatons.

    .
    Nice sentiments there, but the Left is going to do what the Left is going to do, and nothing Mr. Cooke or the legions of commentators like him can say will prick the conscience of the conscienceless or appeal to the (nonexistent) better angels of their nature.

  13. “Nice sentiments there, but the Left is going to do what the Left is going to do, and nothing Mr. Cooke or the legions of commentators like him can say will prick the conscience of the conscienceless or appeal to the (nonexistent) better angels of their nature.”
    .
    You have said it. Ernst.

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