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May 21, 2003

9%....I got an email last night from a reader in response to this post about the rich fighting so hard these days to reduce the taxes they pay to support the government. It said, in part:

Will paying taxes actually improve the part of America that helped make these guys rich? Do taxes pay back the part of the country to whom the rich are indebted?

Think about it. How are these rich and talented people indebted to welfare recipients and income redistribution beneficiaries? What did these beneficiaries do for the rich and talented to merit being "paid back"?

My initial reaction was discouragement. This was a smart guy, but he just took it for granted that we should only expect rich and talented people to support government programs that directly benefit them — or might have benefited them in the past. And programs to support the needy, the sick, and the elderly? Why should successful people be expected to pay taxes for that?

It is such a small view of America. We live in the greatest country that the mind of man has yet built, but too many people measure that greatness by little more than their ability to amass a fortune and the fervency of their support for our troops. Why not measure it as well by the fervency of your support for civil liberties, your support for universal education, and your support for decent treatment of the needy, the sick, and the elderly? Isn't that just as much a part of what makes a country great? And doesn't that part make its own contribution to an American culture that has inspired greatness in so many of its people and allowed so many of them to become millionaires in the first place?

Of course it does. Just look at the kid who got a shot only because some public school teacher set him straight when he was 10 and got him off the street. Or the teenager who went to a state university — or perhaps to Harvard — because of a federal loan guarantee. Or the woman who was only able to start up her own company because she wasn't forced to take a job at a warehouse in order to pay for her grandmother's illness — because Medicare paid for it. There are millions of stories like these all across America.

I shook my head, wondering what causes the blinkered vision that doesn't see this and knowing that nothing I could say could really combat it, and then, being the analytical person that I am, I started to think about the question in terms of numbers. And I wondered: rich conservatives complain all the time about welfare programs and income redistribution and all their assorted socialist brethren, but how much do those programs actually cost them? How much does someone who makes a million dollars a year pay for those things?

Well, on the generous assumption that that million dollars is pure salary, our millionaire probably pays about $300,000 in federal taxes. Out of that, he pays about $5,000 to Social Security, $15,000 to Medicare, and roughly $70,000 toward the social welfare programs that make up approximately a quarter of the rest of the federal budget.

That's a total of $90,000 out of that million bucks. The rest of his taxes — $210,000 — pays for national defense, interest on the national debt, building highways and prisons, funding the courts, and so forth. In other words, the vast majority of it goes for all the stuff that no one really complains about.

So that's it. Even if you take the complaint at face value, the stuff they're complaining about — because it doesn't benefit them personally — only amounts to about 9% of our millionaire's salary.

9%. That's what they're fighting so desperately about, and that's what the war over the dividend tax cut is all about: reducing that 9% of their salary that goes not to programs that benefit them directly, but instead to helping the needy, the sick, and the elderly.

9%.

Posted by Kevin Drum at May 21, 2003 01:32 AM | TrackBack


Comments

Wow- Nice marketing pitch. In other words- "You owe the country more you greedy bastards- how can you deny the sick and the elderly?" Except you sugarcoat it a little more.

http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/ap.htm

Posted by: John Cole at May 21, 2003 03:13 AM | PERMALINK

When in doubt, bring up the "war on the women, elderly & children"......check. :)

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 03:20 AM | PERMALINK


Kevin, ask this guy if he benefits from _every_ program that his taxes pay for. I mean, I don't drive every freeway in the U.S., am unlikely to get back my investment in Medicare, am potentially unthreatened by the vast majority of those imprisoned in the federal system, don't benefit from _any_ small-business loans/grants, and only marginally and/or indirectly from any foreign aid, and in fact not at all from most of it.

But people shouldn't be allowed to pick and choose when it comes to taxation. I've often thought of how this might work, and nothing vaguely workable comes to mind. I don't think this is completely a lack of ingenuity on my part, but rather that it's not a system that wouldn't be subject to self -destructive abuse.

And now I'm thinking of _Snow Crash_ and _Distraction_, which involve themes of corporations taking over _all_ formerly federal functions, but I can't remember how well it worked out in those books (which were satirical, in any case).

(Jesus, I'm getting long-winded, for a comments section).

Posted by: Kurt Montandon at May 21, 2003 03:26 AM | PERMALINK

How are these rich and talented people indebted to welfare recipients and income redistribution beneficiaries? What did these beneficiaries do for the rich and talented to merit being "paid back"?

I guess this reader forgets or doesn't realize that maybe that elderly person or that welfare recipient once worked for the millionaire and helped him/her get to that high income bracket.

Strange Kevin that all of the responses so far have been to attack your post instead of responding substantively. I guess that is par for the course in comtemporary Republican circles.

Posted by: walter cole at May 21, 2003 03:28 AM | PERMALINK

If a politician neglects to appeal to our sense of self-interest, he abandons credibility. For example, it is not enough to for the Democrats to point out that Bush's domestic anti-terror policy is unconstitutional. Nobody cares about that. Democrats instead have to make the case that they would make better protectors than Bush. If a person is detained without arrest on suspicion, most people do not grieve. If you mention that this makes it easier for an American to be detained without arrest on suspicion overseas, then they get nervous. I believe that altruism is an impossible dream, but in America it seems mainly impossible.

Posted by: Dan at May 21, 2003 03:36 AM | PERMALINK

Several comments about this:

First, we see the conflation of "wealth" and income". Mr. Buffet is wealthy in part because the government allows him to defer taxes on the capital gains he has embedded in his shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Mr. Gates is wealthy in part for similar reasons with his Microsoft shares. If low taxes are tormenting Mr. Buffet, perhaps he should clamor for this aspect of the tax code to be addressed.

Secondly, I dispute the notion implicit in your argument that, if we can afford a government program, it must be a good idea. Many people opposed the Great Society style welfare program because of the social pathologies it subsidized, not merely because of the cost.

Or, the tired old trump card, wait until you have kids! I am constantly refusing my daughter's requests to buy the latest Christina Aguilera hooker wanna-be belly t-shirt, and it is not because we can't afford it.

Look, I don't believe there is any level of spending at which the Democrats will say "enough". The Dems will always have opponents (we hope), and it will always be tempting to characterize these opponents as greedy and uncaring.

In fact, as a bit of a test, I wonder if we could pull some rhetoric from the pages of Europe. My (unsubstantiated) guess is that, despite their much higher tax rates, I can find populists over there decrying the greed and lack of compassion among the wealthy who are not paying their fair share.

Sound bite - there are plenty of programs not worth paying for.

Posted by: Tom Maguire at May 21, 2003 03:59 AM | PERMALINK

What state does our millionaire live in where he pays no taxes to support the state government? Statistically, he is highly likely to live in a handful of jurisdictions where you can tack on another, say 10-15% to support social programs at the state level.

Social Security and Medicare offer our millionaire, if he is under 55, a negative return on his money. I'm going to strike that off as a "benefit" -- the only benefit goes to those who are poor enough to benefit from the progressive structure. Everyone else is getting taken to the cleaners.

Speaking of which, the last time I looked, defense was under 20% of the budget, the federal government's prison network was not that large, nor the court administrative costs, and the highway program was soaking up not all that much. (I complain constantly about the highway program, but that's another argument). I'm too lazy to go look up the budget figures -- but I'm EXTREMELY curious as to what else went into the figure that "no one really complains about." Farm subsidies are pretty much a welfare transfer, and they're not very popular outside of rural areas. (And please, no one go into the Democratic rant about the Senate's bias until you go check how Kevin's -- and my -- state senators voted in order to please the large farm interests in our highly urban states.)

And I don't know about you, Kevin, but 9%'s a big chunk of my salary. It's a major thing to tell someone that 10% of the hours you spend working (and if memory serves, our millionaire, statistically, is going to work more than twice as many hours a week as the average american) are "owed" to someone else, who will use force if necessary to extract the value of the labor. When you're arguing, as it seems to me that Democrats, with the endless refrain of "tax the rich" essentially are, that rich people "owe" more than 50% of their labor to others (70% in New York City, what with all the extra state and locals), it starts to be reasonable to ask what the difference is between taxes and slavery, an argument that sounded stupider in the days of smaller government. I'm going to be making not very much money at my new job, yet I have to budget for an effective tax rate of 35%. Is it unreasonable for people to look for ways to cut that spending?

Posted by: Jane Galt at May 21, 2003 04:05 AM | PERMALINK

But social welfare does help them directly. Social security has a direct benefit - especially if they lose their fortune. Its insurance for God's sake.
If they're rich as in the example they would have alot of employees or their interest is in companies with employees. The healthier and better educated the employees or pool of potential employees are the better off the rich are.
Wealth isn't made in a vacuum. It takes alot of smarties and a society that values opportunity. The vision of society of these anti-tax nuts seems to be modeled on South American totalitarianism where the rich live on the hill in gated hacindas while the uncouth live in huddled squalor below. When they acheive this I wonder if they will notice that their numbers are shrinking and the times of big profits are a thing of the past because their is nobody to sell to.
I think the role of the Democratic Party now, as in the past, is to save rich Republicans from themselves.

Posted by: LowLife at May 21, 2003 04:12 AM | PERMALINK

Given the fact that more than a bit of this welfare goes to corporations, yeah, they do benefit.

And of course there's the extremely bloated spending on "defense."

Posted by: raj at May 21, 2003 04:15 AM | PERMALINK

...9%...

That right there is the crux of the problem. To you, as a value judgement, 9% is nothing. No big deal. But to others, it is a big deal. In essence, 1 out of every 10 dollars.

I myself moved from the bottom 10% to the top 10% of incomes. When I was a child, I was dirt poor in the true meaning of the word. Today I live in a comfortable neighborhood, enjoying the fruits of my labors. What my life experiences have taught me, is that the US must and should provide everyone an opportunity to obtain necessary services, an opportunity to succeed. Nothing more, nothing less. In my view, things need to be improved, most importantly fix the healthcare situation. But I don't believe anything else is fundamentally broken. I don't believe we need to throw more money at problems. I'm not arguing to spend less either. I'm happy with the status quo.

At the same time, I say 1 out of evey 10 dollars is a lot.

Posted by: MyNameIsFred at May 21, 2003 04:17 AM | PERMALINK

Look, it's even simpler than all of that. You don't need to talk about percentages; it just plays into the whole selfish game. The hunger will never cease.

You can't have this discussion with anyone who doesn't get that it's right that rich people pay more in taxes (both in dollars and as a percentage of income) than poor and middle-class people. It’s called progressive taxation.

The idea is for those who can most afford it to pay for the services -- education, health care, military -- that provide the safe, healthy, well-educated society that makes wealth-building possible.

If you're arguing about taxes with someone who rejects that fundamental premise which has governed the tax code for the last century, it's a waste of time.

(This paraphrases a recent post at my blog, so don't be alarmed if you click my name and get some deja vu.)

Posted by: joe rospars at May 21, 2003 05:00 AM | PERMALINK

"You owe the country more you greedy bastards- how can you deny the sick and the elderly?"

You know that's blunt, but yeah, it is the point. And if you don't think you owe the country anything, no matter your income, you are a greedy bastard.

It is a great blessing to live in a country in which programs that help to take care of the poor and the sick and the elderly promote stability and grow markets. Who the heck do you people think buys products in great numbers, works for these millionaires and serves them at restaurants and trendy stores? Programs that relieve them of their fears and offer them security for their kids and their parents make them better citizens. Programs that give them hope their kids might do better make them harder workers.

When you watch "It's a Wonderful Life" do you think Mr. Potter is the hero?

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 05:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's the old lie that the wealthy have only themselves to thank for their wealth when in reality they have very little to do with it. The lie is that the wealthy just work harder than everyone else - that's why they are wealthy.

For starters, these "achievers" must have certain talents to be so successful. Where does this talent come from? According to Rushbo - it is "on loan from God." Whatever, the question remains, where does talent come from?

Is it purely a matter of hard work? Could I play basketball as well as Michael Jordon in his prime if I just worked harder at it? Nonsense. It is NOT just a matter of hard work.

So the wealthy have absolutely nothing to do with whatever talents they have been born with.

Then there is the big issue - talent value. Clearly some talents are valued more than others. Why are some talents worth more than others? Why should a basketball player get paid millions of dollars? Or a CEO? Or a radio talk show host?

Who decides these talents are worth millions of dollars? The market - you know, the free market. The people - the citizens. If people decided tomorrow that they were bored with basketball and stopped going to the games and stopped watching on TV then those players' salaries would drop in an instant.

If Rushbo's audience tuned out - no more megabucks for him.

So the wealthy have virtually nothing to do with the value of their talents.

Therefore there is absolutely nothing wrong with demanding that they pay a decent chunk of their windfall income into the common pool which benefits the market that sends the wealth their way...thekeez

Posted by: Jeff Keezel at May 21, 2003 05:34 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin writes, "We live in the greatest country that the mind of man has yet built..."

With all due respect, Kevin, I strongly disagree with this. We live in just one of many great countries. We are not even close to being the "greatest country" as if there could even be such a thing.

Virtually any 1st world country has better health care coverage than we do.

We are one of the only 1st world countries that thinks it's moral to murder our citizens in retribution for a crime.

Finland has a much freer press,

The UK has a far more articulate and intelligent parliament than our congressional houses.

Brazil has much better music.

China makes better films.

France has better cheeses and produce and provides a far more rigorous education.

Japan leads the US in many areas, including, I believe, supercomputers and the marketing of electronics.

And so on, both in large and small areas. The point is:

The sooner Americans stop thinking of themselves as the "gold standard" by which to measure the rest of the world, the sooner we will be able to elect leaders that can realistically cope with our problems. And the sooner we will stop shooting ourselves in the foot whenever our government deals another country.

We are a very great, and very flawed country. If we recognize this and stop puffing ourselves up at every opportunity, we will become a far greater country.


Regarding those folks who begrudge the poor 9% of their income, how dare you?

As far as I'm concerned, we could double that rate to 18% and I would gladly pay it if it would alleviate suffering and hunger, which it certainly would.

The Children's Defense Fund tells us that the poorest American kids live in familes trying to make do on $4500 a year! That's right, there is not a zero missing.

And you're obsessing about 90 g's out of a million?

Why yes, all primates, including us, are self-interested. But all primates, including us, engage in altruism. What you are arguing for is literally inhuman.

It is the very definition of immorality for the wealthy (and all of us reading this are wealthy, compared to those poor kids) to be aware of such suffering and pompously declare yourself unwilling to help to the tune of 9%.

For shame.

Posted by: tristero at May 21, 2003 05:45 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

This is an excellent post which, I believe, addresses a very fundamental problem with the way conservatives think about things. My wife saw a bumper sticker that said "Everybody is better off when everybody is better off". I try to avoid cliches or slogans, but this one gets it pretty well. Many people fail to understand that helping those who are needy has real benefits not just for the needy who are the direct recipients of the aid, but for everybody, including your hypothetical millionaire. Our problem is that this is not a point which is easily made with a couple of statistics in an op-ed piece.

Posted by: Lurch at May 21, 2003 05:45 AM | PERMALINK

I have many friends who are conservative. One of them takes the cake. He says, "I don't give d**m about anyone else. No one guarantees anyone free education or affordable health care or welfare or unemployment." At first I thought he was crazy. Then I realized he was honest! I realized that my conservative friends, who tell me they are 'helping' these children by letting them starve, are actually the crazy ones.What a nation does to/for the least of it's citizens should be it's true measure.

Posted by: Seamhead at May 21, 2003 05:52 AM | PERMALINK

...helping those who are needy has real benefits not just for the needy who are the direct recipients of the aid, but for everybody...

I agree with this in only a certain subset of cases. For those who are needy and want to improve their situation, yes it helps us all. But for those who are comfortable with where they are, or who don't want to exert the additional effort, it won't help us all.

As I noted in an earlier post, I moved from the bottom 10% to the top 10%. I have siblings who are still in the bottom 10%. I have offered them help (e.g., support to get college or technical education) to better their lot in life. But they are not interested, it sounds like too much work for them. They are content with their lot. Throwing money at people with little to no interest in actively participating is not a solution. And does not help us all. That is why I believe our country must provide an opportunity, nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: MyNameIsFred at May 21, 2003 05:59 AM | PERMALINK

The first comment by John Cole is typical. Kevin's post was thoughtful and well-reasoned. The response by Cole was talk radio style garbage.

Notice how he starts by saying, "In other words . . .". That's a rhetorical device he uses to avoid addressing what was actually said. It's much easier to restate the point to something you want to respond to, then go with your well worn argument about "greedy bastards".

The point that Kevin got exactly right is that, despite all the flaming rhetoric about class warfare and income redistribution, a small percentage of money collected in taxes is handed out to the "lazy" people who won't work.

Most goes for defense, interest on the national debt (which doesn't seem to bother Republicans at all) and operations of the federal government, which includes law enforcement, justice, transportation and other useful functions.

Conservatives have overdosed on hot rhetoric for the last decade. They are fueled by resentment. They control the House, the Senate, the White House and the Supreme Court. I keep wondering what are they still so pissed off about?

Posted by: Pug at May 21, 2003 06:04 AM | PERMALINK

I dispute the notion implicit in your argument that, if we can afford a government program, it must be a good idea.

Can you do a bit more to show us how Kevin implied this?

Look, I don't believe there is any level of spending at which the Democrats will say "enough".

I don't believe that there is any level of a social safety net that the Republicans will accept. I don't believe there is any level of destroying the aspects of government not related to the security state which will make the Republicans say "enough". There is no government service that Republicans believe in, except security, which they are more interested in because it protects their claim to wealth than because it keeps order.

It's fine that Republicans believe that. Why won't they explain it that way to Americans, so we can all get the big picture? Why do they act like they do what they do for liberal reasons (ie, it's good for you)?

Hell, they even claimed that the invasion of Iraq was done for liberal reasons. Why didn't they tell the truth?

Oh right. Because that's the only way they can win.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 06:04 AM | PERMALINK

Pug and others- Sorry to point out that Kevin's 'thoughtful' comments were nothing more than an appeal to pity.

And if you can not recognize that all he said in those 8-9 paragraphs is that the rich should pay more and should feel guilty about complaining, then you have reading comprehension issues that are beyond my help. Sorry for another 'talk radio' response.

Posted by: John Cole at May 21, 2003 06:16 AM | PERMALINK

MyNameIsFred - 1 out of ten dollars is alot and not enough at the same time. There is a way to start paying less with a greater benefit. If memory serves almost a third of the cost in government is servicing debt. If we do what President Clinton and Vice President Gore advised, pay off that debt, we can pay less taxes and improve heath care at the same time. The Bush deficits will increase our tax obligation while decreasing our ability to provide benefits. He is shifting a trillion dollars in tax obligation from the people that finance his campaigns to the people who least can afford it while cutting off their support. This is evil. Republicans are toadies to the rich and libertarians like Jane Galt are enablers. It is short-sighted and stupid and it's as if they want the return of a revolutionary socialist movement. As Roosevelt did in the thirties its the democrats that are going to have to save the capifacist from themselves.

Posted by: LowLife at May 21, 2003 06:17 AM | PERMALINK

And if you can not recognize that all he said in those 8-9 paragraphs is that the rich should pay more and should feel guilty about complaining, then you have reading comprehension issues that are beyond my help.

Maybe you should just give up and stop trying to help. But thanks for all you do!

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 06:19 AM | PERMALINK

nothing more than an appeal to pity

One man's compassion is another man's pity, apparently.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 06:20 AM | PERMALINK

What about doing the right thing? The Golden Rule,
and so forth. While I am not religious, many of
them supposedly are, and should feel some obligation
toward their fellows.

Republican = selfish?

Posted by: Bart at May 21, 2003 06:30 AM | PERMALINK

Lowlife -- I agree that Bush's tax cuts are stupid. As I said earlier, I am happy with the status quo. Or should I say was happy, since the tax cuts are likely to occur. And I agree that it would be useful to pay off some of the debt so that so much money didn't go to interest payments.

However, I dispute some your comments, specifically, "tax obligation from the people that finance his campaigns.." Comments such as those by Warren Buffet show that many who will benefit do not want the tax cuts. Futhermore, there are people such as myself who will benefit, do not contribute to the Republican Party, and did not vote for Bush.

I would also note that many rich people are Democrats. As noted by Harper's Index http://www.harpers.org/harpers-index/listing.php3?sub_date=2003-02-01

Amount Democratic candidates raised last year from individuals who gave at least $1 million : $36,000,000

Amount Republican candidates raised last year from individuals who gave as much : $3,000,000

Posted by: MyNameIsFred at May 21, 2003 06:31 AM | PERMALINK

How are these rich and talented people indebted to welfare recipients and income redistribution beneficiaries?

Maybe "rich and talented people" don't have much of a debt to society, but the rich and untalented probably needed a functional underclass to buy and/or sell the crap that they or their parents produced to make themselves rich in the first place.

Now if only there was a way to lower taxes only on the talented...

Posted by: cs at May 21, 2003 06:33 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, how easy it is to be virtuous with other people's money. And how easy to assume that those of us opposed to high taxes don't support aid for the needy. If I give money to an organization to help the poor and it's not the government, it doesn't exist, does it?

Of course, Kevin's rhetorical question only even makes sense if you assume that more taxes is just cutting up the same pie in different ways. An honest assessment of the issue at least starts by recognizing that more taxes and more government spending means less economic growth and a poorer country as a whole - look at Europe if you don't believe me. Compare the standard of living of the average American poor person today to the average American middle class person in 1960, 1970, 1980, and you'll see that the rising tide is more important than our relative position on the income distribution tables.

I don't believe there is any level of spending at which the Democrats will say "enough". Exactly. The Republicans need to do more to cut spending, and they could push better, more growth-friendly tax-cuts - but if I have to choose between a party that doesn't go far enough in the right direction and one that's endlessly pulling in the opposite direction, I know which one I'll choose every time. Just look at the Democratic agenda and tell me where spending cuts or even restraint in spending growth is ever going to come from. The only answer I've ever heard from the Dems in my lifetime is, "less defense spending." No thanks.

Posted by: Crank at May 21, 2003 06:35 AM | PERMALINK

"...How are these rich and talented people indebted to welfare recipients and income redistribution beneficiaries? What did these beneficiaries do for the rich and talented to merit being "paid back"?..."

They're their CUSTOMERS. Who is too blind to see that?

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit at May 21, 2003 06:36 AM | PERMALINK

How are these rich and talented people indebted to welfare recipients and income redistribution beneficiaries?

By being fellow members of the race of humanity? By being fellow Americans?

Oops! I forgot. We save all our big dreams and high-minded rhetoric for 'the Iraqi people' now.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 06:38 AM | PERMALINK

John Cole,

Even if I concede that the point was that the rich should pay more in taxes and feel guilty about complaining, I'd agree with the point. I believe in progressive taxation. I believe in supporting your society with minimal complaint (a good-natured gripe here and there I understand.) Working together is what makes us a society instead of a bunch of individuals who try to kill one another and steal each other's stuff.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 06:39 AM | PERMALINK

Tedious right-wing think-tank cliches touched on by Crank: all of them.

Actual issues addressed: none.

An honest assessment of the issue at least starts by not saying things like If I give money to an organization to help the poor and it's not the government, it doesn't exist, does it?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 06:42 AM | PERMALINK

John Cole - the rich should pay more and stop complaining. There are moral reasons why people with more should help people without, i.e. its better to give than receive, a camel has a better chance passing through the eye of a needle than a rich man getting into the kingdom of God. Of course the man that said that was killed by the rich and powerful.
Its not the moral reason I care to make because it doesn't seen to have currency among the anti-tax freaks. First, its a goddamn lie that the rich pay taxes at a greater rate than the middle class or even the working poor. That's true of federal income tax but not in any other tax. In the interest of consistency when you talk about flattening the rate of Fed income tax will you argue for the flattening of the regressive state and local taxes as well? Second, its just most practical to get money from people that have money. Doesn't it? I don't begrudge the wealthy their wealth but for God's sake look at how much money they have. They can have their 30,000 sq ft houses (with mortgage deduction), their boats, their summer cottages, their apt. in New York, $150 bottles of wine and on and on. Why is it too fucking much to kick in some money so the street skitzophrenics can have a bed somewhere? God forgive you John Cole because I don't think I ever will.

Posted by: LowLife at May 21, 2003 06:46 AM | PERMALINK

I believe in progressive taxataion as well. IN fact, I was astonished when a bunch of so-called liberals on this board were adovcating a national sales tax- talk about a regressive tax.

What I reject is the rhetoric employed in this post and by the Democrat Leadership. Rich are now somehow supposed to feel guilty because they don't give enough? Half of an individual's income is not enough (state, local, federal + sales taxes and sin taxes)? C'mon.

And Demetrios- an appeal to pity is a logical fallacy masquerading as an argument, not merely an attempt to tug at someone's heart- but you knew that, right? You were just being caustic by claiming that 'one man's pity is another man's compassion,' right? That was just another attempt by you to portray me as mean-spirited, and not you just demonstrating your silliness...

Posted by: John Cole at May 21, 2003 06:46 AM | PERMALINK

You were just being caustic by claiming that 'one man's pity is another man's compassion,' right?

No.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 06:52 AM | PERMALINK

According to Kevin Phillips, in his recent book "Wealth and Democracy," during the 1890's:

"The U.S. Senate...remained a citadel of millionaire industrialists, an aptly arrogant metaphor for the late Gilded Age...William Jennings Bryan's Populist-Democratic presidential bid in 1896 was defeated, although suspense ran high and the race was close.

Especially in July and August that year, the capitalist classes had been scared. Monied Republicans gloomed about Paris communes in Philadelphia and lamppost hangings in Cleveland."

Hey Kevin, if your interlocutor can't comprehend the notion of social justice, maybe he'll understand that eventually people get tired of being stepped on and will start to fight back. Your hypothetical millionaire, I think, would prefer to enjoy his/her wealth against a backdrop of a generally peaceful and stable society, rather than one racked by extreme poverty, discontent and the threat of revolution. Even if the poor thing has to make do with "only" 700K instead of the whole mil.

Posted by: Elissa Lowe at May 21, 2003 06:53 AM | PERMALINK

Kudos Demetrios, you hit the nail on the head with just 8 words. In reading the comments in this string from beginning to end, all the words words words boil down to the simple fact that there is a certain type of person who cannot feel empathy or compassion. A friend in the business of psychiatry told me some of the best CEOs are sociopaths. I believe it. If there are any psychologists or psychiatrists among you readers, can you comment?

Posted by: Chris at May 21, 2003 06:56 AM | PERMALINK

Rich are now somehow supposed to feel guilty because they don't give enough?

So now the middle class and the poor are supposed to feel guilty because the rich think they're paying too much in taxes?

'I just can't bring myself to touch my government cheese this week, I just feel so bad that Moneybags Malone couldn't replace the sound system on his yacht after that supermodel girlfriend of his got drunk and broke it with her ruby necklace.'

Those lucky duckies!

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 06:57 AM | PERMALINK

I'd have less problem with Republican drives to cut taxes if they were willing to step up to the plate and explain which government expenses they believe should be cut to pay for these taxes. But of course, they want nothing to do with that. Instead, they huff and puff and blather on about the NEA and foreign aid and welfare, when these are relatively small portions of the Federal budget, as Kevin is pointing out.

And far from actually working to shrink the size of government, they have overseen one of the largest expansions in government spending in the history of the country. They want farm subsidies, and steel subsidies, and protectionism, and unfunded mandates, and more defense spending, and pork, and corporate welfare, and pretty much more of everything else.

The fundamental dishonesty in the Republican platform, which they are somehow continually able to get away with, is that they want to cut the government budget. So they keep lying about this and using it to justify their tax cuts to the rich, and try to turn it into a moral issue about the government taking your money.

But as they have convincingly demonstrated with their actions every time they've had control of the government in my lifetime, they're perfectly happy with government spending going through the roof. They just pretend otherwise, and talk a great talk. A real walk is nowhere to be seen.

Milton Friedman has said that deficit spending is a tax on future generations. So the Republicans don't even want to lower taxes, really. They just want to raise taxes on our children in order to pay for their profiligate and irrespnsible spending in the present, because they completely lack an ounce of political backbone to actually try to control spending now.

Like Wimpy, they'll gladly tax us Tuesday for a hamburger today. And they count on the fact that, on Tuesday, the voters will blame the Dems who actually have the honesty and fiscal responsibility to do the taxing, while rewarding the Republicans for the hamburger that they're going into debt to pay for. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose.

Posted by: Doug Turnbull at May 21, 2003 06:59 AM | PERMALINK

I don't believe there is any level of destroying the aspects of government not related to the security state which will make the Republicans say "enough".

You know, that would resonate just a wee tad if the Republicans weren't spending other people's money to the tune of 2.2 trillion dollars & an increase of 8% over the previous year. And I realize that if I mention that it's too much, I'm obviously willing to starve children, maim women and let the old people die.

Gee, you guys have only played this game for.....how many consecutive decades?

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 07:04 AM | PERMALINK

The thing that many people don't seem to grasp is that the economy is not a zero sum game where someone must necesarilly lose in order for someone else to win. Taxes have been described as being "friction" on the economy. As the tax cuts enacted by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan showed, it can be that lowering the tax rate can actually lead to greater absolute revenue for the government. Regardless of your agenda, whether it be more money for defense or more money for social programs, it would seem that the most rational strategy is to set the tax rate at the level that provides the highest amount of revenue.

It appears to me however that there are many on the left that see progressive taxation as a punitive measure which is more designed to punish the "rich" rather than providing revenue for the government. I submit that punishing the economically successful and having the revenue to provide the level of social services which many people think are desireable are incompatible objectives. This is not to say that progressive taxation should be abolished, but rather that the tax system should be set in a rational manner. If the revenue stream is sufficient it will be much more difficult for anyone to argue that we cannot afford (choose whatever government program you wish).

Posted by: Ratbane at May 21, 2003 07:05 AM | PERMALINK

What did these beneficiaries do for the rich and talented to merit being "paid back"?


Well, they haven't hunted down the rich folks and strung them up by their own intestines... yet.


These rich people are so sure that Marx was wrong that they think there will never be any retribution. What they don't realize is the very things they hate the most - welfare and market controls - are the very things that voided the Communist historical view.


They dance along a precipice blithely unaware that a huge fall awaits them.

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at May 21, 2003 07:07 AM | PERMALINK

There are moral reasons why people with more should help people without, i.e. its better to give than receive, a camel has a better chance passing through the eye of a needle than a rich man getting into the kingdom of God.

Hey, no one told me that we get to have legislation based on the new testament! You sure you wanna go there?

Of course the man that said that was killed by the rich and powerful.

Actually, it was decided by a democratic vote of the citizens. The government washed its hands of the matter & let the people decide. They chose the murderer.

Things like that can happen in a pure democracy.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 07:08 AM | PERMALINK

What conservatives think about aiding the poor and unfortunate is considerably more nuanced that Kevin allows--of course.
Defining needy is a start. Whatever the level is, liberals want it to be even looser.
That brings up real-world experiences. For example, some years ago, I was waiting for an elevator in an office building where I did a lot of business. I knew several of the security folks to chat with. One of them was on the phone explaining why she and her husband were going to be late to something or other. He had to stop on his way home from work to change some food stamps.
In our area, food stamps are convertible at seventy cents on the dollar. This means that there are a good number of folks who want seventy cents' worth of stuff more than they want a dollar's worth of food. Food is only a discretionary purchase if you already have an assured supply.
Both of these people worked and they received food stamps which they didn't need.
How many more are there, any rational person would wonder.
One more, in the entire country?
Five million more in the entire country?
One thing we know is what would happen if we tried to find out. We'd have people like Kevin condemning us for greed and lack of compassion.
A friend of mine, having redone his house, had an extra stove. He called a social services organization to see if they knew of anyone who could use it. One Saturday, he and some friends strained backs and busted knuckles delivering it to the candidate. They got no help and no thanks, the family in question being glued to an entertainment center with the five or six foot screen.
Were these people really in need?
What liberals don't know, or try not to know, is that such experiences are more than common for anybody over the age of, say, eighteen. Liberals think we don't know this, have never seen it, and thus can be manipulated by threats of being called cold, callous, and greedy for not wanting to help the truly needy. Liberals really don't know the rest of us know better.
How many more are there like this in the country?
How many needy are needy because of really stupid choices that the entire society keeps telling them not to make? How many of them remain poor because they continue to make stupid choices society insists on telling them not to make?
Conservatives would like to help the really needy, but subsidizing bad choices and dumb lifestyles is not as immediately attractive.
People like Kevin will condemn those who think this way as greedy and lacking in compassion.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 21, 2003 07:09 AM | PERMALINK

If there is a god, Jane Galt and all the "I've-got-mine-fuck-the-rest-of-you libertarians will someday have the chance to live in their social darwinism distopias. Of course by then they may be old and vulnerable and a lot less enthusiastic about their selfish ideology.

Posted by: fastback at May 21, 2003 07:12 AM | PERMALINK

Ricky, you got to say Gee, you guys have only played this game for.....how many consecutive decades? without even addressing how much of the spending increases you cited were due to the functions of the security state. And I think it's funny how you direct your sarcasm at Calpundit posters while admitting it's the Republicans who control the purse strings.

Excuse me while I say, Gee, you guys have only played this game for.....how many consecutive decades?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 07:13 AM | PERMALINK

It appears to me however that there are many on the left that see progressive taxation as a punitive measure

If this premise were even remotely true, then much of the rest of what you say would make a kind of sense.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 07:15 AM | PERMALINK

The government washed its hands of the matter

He didn't say 'the government'.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 07:16 AM | PERMALINK

And I think it's funny how you direct your sarcasm at Calpundit posters while admitting it's the Republicans who control the purse strings.

Because many are presuming that the Republicans are wanting to gut almost every program under the sun except for defense, with the only things standing in the way of your premise becoming plausible is history and mathematics. Sorry, sarcasm is the only thing I can muster, since I see spending into oblivion based on math & so many others can mind-meld with the folks voting for all that spending to discern that they "really" want to eliminate or cut everything. I'll try humor next. :)

Excuse me while I say, Gee, you guys have only played this game for.....how many consecutive decades?

You know what they say about imitation....

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 07:18 AM | PERMALINK

One thing we know is what would happen if we tried to find out. We'd have people like Kevin condemning us for greed and lack of compassion.

It's too bad that you would let Kevin's condemnation prevent you from performing such a wonderful service. Damn the liberals! I'm so tired of them holding back the conservative political agenda with their powerful condemnations.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 07:20 AM | PERMALINK

He didn't say 'the government'.
The government carried out the killing of Christ, Demetrios. The government in those days (much like today) was the rich and powerful. However, there were plenty of 'rich and powerful' who had nothing to do with the crucifixion. So, I coveredl all my bases with a short & sweet entry, knowing full well that SOMEONE would parse.

Word parsing is not only annoying, it's also a sign of a weak foundation for debate. Lighten up.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 07:20 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, sarcasm is the only thing I can muster, since I see spending into oblivion based on math & so many others can mind-meld with the folks voting for all that spending to discern that they "really" want to eliminate or cut everything.

Huh?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 07:22 AM | PERMALINK

"It appears to me however that there are many on the left that see progressive taxation as a punitive measure which is more designed to punish the "rich" rather than providing revenue for the government."

No, we see that the people who have most benefitted from living in the society are the rich and are asking them to contribute appropriately. And I have to say that taxing the poor is not a great method of revenue enhancement. They don't have much money, you know.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 07:26 AM | PERMALINK

and are asking them to contribute appropriately

Asking?
Contribute?

Wow.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 07:29 AM | PERMALINK

the people who have most benefitted from living in the society

Ricky, you ignored this part.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 07:34 AM | PERMALINK

Elissa, I've made that point to conservatives. They honestly don't see it. They think a small group of people can live in golden palaces while the masses act as serfs with no consequences. (Even funnier is that they think they're gonna get the palace. It's delusional.) They don't understand the conditions from which the Russian Revolution arose or even why there was a Labor Movement in the U.S. They don't understand why FDR was popular or why he instituted the programs he did. They just don't get it.

Also amazing to me is the comments on how some people abuse the system. That's certainly true, but rich people abuse the system as well. It's how people are. It's a shame, but on this Earth, people cheat and take advantage. Should we eliminate corporations to punish Ken Lay?

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 07:35 AM | PERMALINK

No, we see that the people who have most benefitted from living in the society are the rich and are asking them to contribute appropriately. And I have to say that taxing the poor is not a great method of revenue enhancement. They don't have much money, you know.

Very little of the revenue generated by the income tax comes from the poor. Once again, my premise is that the tax rates should be set at a level which generates the maximum amount of money for the government. Are you saying that it shouldn't?

Posted by: Ratbane at May 21, 2003 07:35 AM | PERMALINK

Ricky,

Sorry, I do see taxes as contributions to my society, just as I see donations to churches. I drive on the roads. I like living in a country where I'm not forced to hire a private security force. I like knowing that there is a social safety net for people. Those are good things.

Fine, we're not asking. We're compelling. We have all kinds of laws that compel us to do all sorts of things. They tried a federal system that couldn't impose taxes. Didn't work.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 07:41 AM | PERMALINK

How many needy are needy because of really stupid choices that the entire society keeps telling them not to make? How many of them remain poor because they continue to make stupid choices society insists on telling them not to make?
Conservatives would like to help the really needy, but subsidizing bad choices and dumb lifestyles is not as immediately attractive.
People like Kevin will condemn those who think this way as greedy and lacking in compassion.

Not just Kevin - me too.

This is Reagan's old "Welfare Queen" argument, recycled. The implication is that, if some poor people cheat the system, then they're all probably doing it - so let's not subsidize any of the ungrateful bums. For some reason, poor cheaters enrage Repugs far more than the rich ones taking gross advantage of corporate welfare schemes, tax loopholes, and "creative accounting" (think Jeff Skilling, Kenny-Boy Lay, Dennis Koslowski, ad nauseam). I strongly suspect wealthy scofflaws cost us far more than the poor ones do, and with far less justification.

Yes, there will be poor people who are poor because they make bad decisions. And there should be considerable thought put in to properly designing any social welfare system to minimize abuses. But I would much prefer to have my taxes subsidize poor cheaters than "malefactors of great wealth."

Posted by: Elissa Lowe at May 21, 2003 07:44 AM | PERMALINK

Richard Aubrey: That's the problem with anecdotes. Your friend delivered a used stove and none of the poor folk offered to help because they were all too busy watching their 5-foot TV screen? I don't think even Bush would believe that one and he's an idiot. And as far as not getting the appropriate thanks from the family: I can't recall any CEO calling to thank me for my tax dollars funding corporate welfare...I don't even need a call...a full-page thanks to all of in the NYT would be just dandy.

Posted by: chris at May 21, 2003 07:44 AM | PERMALINK

Ratbane,

No, but I don't see taxes as a punishment for being rich. I see them as a contribution to a society that has been enormously beneficial. I have a college degree. My husband has a doctorate. We make really good money even with me working part time from home so I can be with my kid.

I haven't worked harder than, say, my friends from high school. They probably work harder than I. But I was lucky enough to have a dad who did well in the market, paid for my college. My husband was fortunate enough to get scholarships, etc., that paid his way through school.

But we've made our stupid decisions. We have had our hard times. I look at people who are struggling and out of work, and I don't think, "Oh, I got here on my own. Thank God I'm not like them." I think, "There but for the grace of God go I."

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 07:46 AM | PERMALINK

Magenta,
That's cool....it was the verbage that took me back. I know of no one, however, who has opposed governmental funding of police forces or roads - even hardcore libertarians - so I'm always amazed that the necessities are brought up whenever someone questions the efficiency of governmental spending. I mean, why bypass something like the farm bill & immediately assume that the mean nasty greedy conservatives want to do away with highways? There's 2.2 trillion in spending....and security & roads is what you really think people want to address?

BTW, I think roads are funded via gasoline taxes, so they really ARE somewhat voluntary, because someone who doesn't buy gasoline won't be paying those taxes (unless I'm mistaken.....I'm not aware of any other funding for that, but I could be wrong).

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 07:47 AM | PERMALINK

In arguments about policy matters, it's often unclear whether the disagreement is about the morality of the means, the desirability of the ends, or the likely ends themselves.

Jane Galt and libertarians in general say that they are opposed to using taxes for social welfare because, whether or not the intended result (feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, caring for the sick and elderly, educating the poor) is desirable, the means are immoral. Nobody has the right to use physical force to take money from the rich to give it to people who have not earned it.

But I don't think that libertarians have any qualms about enforcing property rights, patent protection, copyrights, legal contracts at the point of a gun. (Perhaps some libertarians believe that laws against theft should rely on voluntary enforcement? That would at least be consistent with their attitude towards the enforcement of environmental protections.)

So the difference isn't really about the use of force, it seems to me. The force issue is only relevant if you have already agreed that enforcement of property rights is more fundamental and important than other tasks of government.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at May 21, 2003 07:53 AM | PERMALINK

The question is so badly framed, it's immoral. The proper framing:

How can we, as a society, find more money and more ways to help the poorest Americans live better?

Instead, it's all about "I earned it. I raised myself up by my bootstraps. So can they."

What arrogant, pompous, selfish trash. As Donne says, the bell tolls for thee. You are the poorest, no matter who wealthy. We are here, together, in America. Stop behaving like spoiled brats.

It is your obligation as a citizen of the United States to help other citizens less fortunate than you. Is that written in the Constitution? It is written in something far more basic: your humanity.

Talk about being against all that America stands for! Talk about not understanding how societies as complex as America's work! Talk about ingratitude!

And all this blather, for what? Ninety thousand dollars out of a million? With all the good that money could do for fellow Americans?


Crank:

" If I give money to an organization to help the poor and it's not the government, it doesn't exist, does it?"

You know very well, or you should, that private donations that replace social programs often don't get to the same level unless the cause is incredibly sexy and highly publicized. Parkinsons: underfunded before Michael J. Fox. Desmoid tumors: highly dependent upon NIH subsidies.

And yes, you should, as a matter of course, donate to charities. And stop complaining about how you're being coerced into helping poor people via taxes. You should feel grateful that you're in a position to help.

Sheesh!

Posted by: tristero at May 21, 2003 07:53 AM | PERMALINK

I'm always amazed that the necessities are brought up whenever someone questions the efficiency of governmental spending

So really, we're mostly arguing about nothing.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 07:54 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I think we're arguing about what the necessities might be. Many of us think social welfare is as vital to national security as I define it (which goes way beyond whether I'm killed by a terrorist) as are bombs, and others disagree. :)

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 07:59 AM | PERMALINK

The Sadducees brought charges and the Romans tried, convicted and executed. Will you grant that the Sadducees and Romans are rich and powerful or will we parse more words.

Posted by: LowLife at May 21, 2003 07:59 AM | PERMALINK

Elissa, I've made that point to conservatives. They honestly don't see it. They think a small group of people can live in golden palaces while the masses act as serfs with no consequences. (Even funnier is that they think they're gonna get the palace. It's delusional.) They don't understand the conditions from which the Russian Revolution arose or even why there was a Labor Movement in the U.S. They don't understand why FDR was popular or why he instituted the programs he did. They just don't get it.

I think that there are many who *do* get it --and don't care.

It's not totally irrational, if you start from a certain philosophical first principle: better to die on your feet than live on your knees. A thousand for defense and not a penny for tribute. Etc. The idea that at most, a man lives sixty to eighty years, and whether or not society or the world survives him is irrelevant, since, after all, they will be dead. Better to live twenty years as your own man and die proud than to live sixty beholden to others. And in *that* light, all of the above makes perfect sense. They don't see the descent into a world where the rich live in protected enclaves, ringed with arms and guards against the desperate mobs, as a problem. They don't even see eventually dying at the hands of those mobs as a problem. Live proud, die free, better to die a wolf than live as some master's hound.

It may be a somewhat selfish perspective, but fundamentally, it wasn't written anywhere that we as men were required to care about anyone other than yourself, no? One can choose to believe one has no obligations to either those who sacrificed before you to give you the stable world we live in, or any obligation to the future. One can, in fact, choose to live entirely and totally for themselves. And there is nothing that one can say against that.

It's not a matter of ignorance or stupidity --it is simply an irreconcilable difference of opinion of fundamental first principles. There is nothing you can do to change the mind of someone who feels completely no obligation to anyone else.

Which is why you don't. You simply fight them. And you make sure they reap the rewards of their own determination to stand alone. If they feel they don't need government help, then why give them corporate wealfare? Why allow them to vote in their own pork, their own loopholes? Treat them as they claim to desire to be treated.

But we can't make the mistake of thinking that all of those people are misguided. They are not stupid. They're simply beginning with different principles than the rest of us. They have that right, in our country which respects all opinions. Men can choose to feed off of the sacrifices of all those who came before --if we let them. And only if we let them. And that's the real lesson, I think. Less time wasted trying to convince someone to have compassion and more trying to advance *our* goals, and be absolutely sure that we ourselves are not simply turning into parasites: that we ourselves do not forget that the goal is equality of *opportunity*, not equality of outcome. Because there is, I think, an equally devastating trap down the opposite pathway.

Posted by: Jeff Huo at May 21, 2003 08:03 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps some of the posters here might spare a moment and glance over at what has been happening in Iraq for the past month. The government has disappeared. The social breakdown that has followed has been terrible for everyone, but most of all for those with any property.

Fortunately, for all of its flaws, we live in a country where the rule of law exists. Sure, it could be run more efficiently. Sure there are wasteful programs. But without a police system, a court system, a highway system, a national defense system, a social safety net, and all those other terrible things that liberals want, the only way to get rich would be the Mafia way: through intimidation and use of force to both get money and keep it.

Someone else made the point that the tax-haters here could usefully study - FDR bailed out capitalism by realizing that a country without a middle class was a fundamentally unstable country, without enough customers for some people to get rich from in a market (and not Mafia) way.

So yes, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and Paul Allen (just to name the 3 wealthiest Americans) benefit more than I do (I'm just another upper middle class professional according to the income and wealth tables), just as I benefit more than the household at median income (that would be $28K for those of you without the time to look it up). That's the argument for progressive taxation.

P.S. Jane Galt's comment that millionaires work twice as hard as the rest of us may be the single most arrant piece of bullshit in this entire comments section. Even though it's hours later, i didn't want to let it go by unchallenged.

Posted by: howard at May 21, 2003 08:08 AM | PERMALINK

If they feel they don't need government help, then why give them corporate wealfare?

If they take corporate welfare, doesn't that kind of invalidate the idea that they feel they don't need government help?

Why allow them to vote in their own pork, their own loopholes?

Ah, so maybe they do feel that they need government help, but they won't admit it.

They're simply beginning with different principles than the rest of us.

If they're beginning with different principles than the rest of us, why do they want corporate welfare, pork and loopholes?

Maybe it's not such a mistake, this thinking that all of those people are misguided. Maybe they are stupid. Or maybe hypocrites. Functionally, there's not such a difference.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 08:10 AM | PERMALINK

Magenta--

With all due respect, you seem to be missing the point. If, by lowering tax rates, we can increase the total amount of revenue, why shouldn't we do it? This is not to say that the current tax cuts advocated by Bush would do so, but there are economic models available that give some guidance about the "dynamic" effect that tax rates have on the economy and the tax revenues that will be generated. Shouldn't we use them?
As I tried (apparently unsuccessfully) to point out, the higher income derived from a RATIONAL tax policy would provide the government with the resources needed to implement or expand programs which are deemed to be part of the social safety net.


If by maximizing governmental revenue this would entail "the rich getting richer," is this really a reason to oppose such a policy when the upshot would be that the safety net for the poor could be enhanced? If this is your stance, then I fear that your compassion for the downtrodden is not quite as pure as you would have us to believe.

Posted by: Ratbane at May 21, 2003 08:12 AM | PERMALINK

I will stipulate that the tax cuts that John F. Kennedy initiated over 40 years ago helped the economy without hurting government revenues. It was the right tax cut at the right time. Anybody who makes the same claims about the Reagan cuts must know something that economists don't. Poppy Bush is a better example of leadership than Reagan because he went against his own political interest to raise taxes. It was the first necessary step in the process that President Clinton and Rubin continued to great success in the late 90's. It was the right tax at the right time. See, different situations require different solutions. Are there any righties out there that would atmit that?

Posted by: LowLife at May 21, 2003 08:14 AM | PERMALINK

Howard,

I am always amazed at the number of people who live in the honest belief that FDR imposed the programs he did because he was soft-hearted and loved the poor. He had compassion, sure (and Eleanor had more). But FDR had, at most, a sort of noblesse oblige attitude.

What FDR saw was that the structure of the nation that allowed himself and his family to live more than comfortably on the Hudson was in serious danger of collapse if things continued as they were. We were inching closer and closer to heads on pikes and a government that those who hate Roosevelt would find far more distasteful.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 08:15 AM | PERMALINK

The plural of anecdote is not data.
However, it is most likely that that which happens to us is the most likely thing to happen.
So when something happens to an individual, he is entitled to believe it is not all that uncommon, although it may be.
But when it happens to him several times, and to his friends, it becomes more likely that it is a likely thing to happen.
Thus, a series of anecdotes will correspond to data. That's probability.
And as I say, it happens to all of us from time to time, so trying to insist each one of those instances was a cosmically-rare anomaly won't fly.
There was a book about the myth of the welfare queen. It scorched Reagan. One of the examples was a true saint, a middle-aged single woman who took care of a fleet of nephews and second cousins and various other children. How, raged the author, can you call this woman a welfare queen.
Well, I guess you can't.
But he was so incensed that he missed the Big One.
He forgot that rational people would look at that story and wonder where the kids' parents were.
Oops.
Subsidizing something means you'll get more of it.
Dumb lifestyle choices which conduce to poverty are not victimless. They include, say, crime.
You know. That stuff.
Do we want to subsidize that?
Few conservatives supported welfare reform on the grounds that it would be cheaper, and it has not proven to be cheaper. They supported reform because the prior system had generated a welfare-dependent underclass rife with disfunctional lifestyles, which was not a good idea.
Most of us would happily more to fix that.
We would rather people do well by themselves than have society doing well by people. There is no downside to that, and complaining about programs which contradict that is hardly lacking in compassion.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 21, 2003 08:15 AM | PERMALINK

Ratbane - whose your favorite economist, Rush Limbaud or Sean Hannity?

Posted by: LowLife at May 21, 2003 08:16 AM | PERMALINK

Sigh. The 'ignore the poor thing' has been done before, and eventually the peasants revolted.

So, don't pay taxes because you care about people. Pay taxes to keep the mob away from your door. If you think the government forcing you to give money is bad, wait until the angry mob arrives.

It's not like this is something new.

Posted by: Tripp at May 21, 2003 08:17 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's not such a mistake, this thinking that all of those people are misguided. Maybe they are stupid. Or maybe hypocrites. Functionally, there's not such a difference.

I think this illustrates the deeper point I was trying to make --we speak as if being a hypocrite matters to them. It doesn't. The first principle is *not* "Each man should stand alone" but "*I* should be allowed to take whatever I want, and give nothing that does not directly benefit me."

It is entirely consistent for them to, for lack of a better word, steal anything from our government in the form of welfare that we are dumb enough to give them. Many of them reason that if we're dumb enough to be giving to them, they certainly won't pass it up. Integrity is, after all, not very profitable.

We can't speak, of course, of any group of people as a single monolithic entity. My point is that there is a large group of those on that end of the political spectrum who aren't misguided or misinformed or stupid in any way. Their entire philosophy is based on grabbing anything they can for their own benefit, period; and to give nothing that does not directly accrue to them. And that short-term sacrifice is not worth long term-survival.

Posted by: Jeff Huo at May 21, 2003 08:18 AM | PERMALINK

Anybody who makes the same claims about the Reagan cuts must know something that economists don't.

If you know of an economist who will assume the stance that the revenues from the income tax cuts of the Reagan years (on budget, as he raised SS taxes) did NOT increase dramatically (using actual dollars, constant dollars, versus inflation or versus GDP growth) then you're relying on a source that I would not trust, as the mathematics is irrefutable.

One can argue the spending that led to deficits, that's legit, but the revenue inlays from income taxes boomed. I have detailed data, if necessary, from the official governmental sources (not some policy group).

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 08:19 AM | PERMALINK

Ratbone,

No, I completely concede that some tax cuts can actually help to raise more revenue.

And many taxes are bad ideas because they have incredibly negative effects. One that springs to mind is the tax that was placed on yachts, maybe a decade ago. It hurt yachtmakers but raised almost no revenue, because people who can afford yachts generally can also buy them abroad.

Tax policy should be rational and progressive, and it should be aimed at raising enough money to do things that we as a society deem worthwhile. I don't think we fundamentally differ on that.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 08:21 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, some of us live in a non-Manichean universe, being neither rich (by a long shot) nor destitute, and being a fan of neither the Republicans nor the Democrats as parties. Nobody, of course, cares much about our opinions, because we're not useful for creating a polarized, emotion-grabbing argument. We're just trying to pay our bills, not exactly living paycheck-to-paycheck but pretty damned close. We're not homeowners -- sorry, debt-to-income ratio is too high, shouldn't have taken on those student loans! Of course, those would already be paid off, if we . . . but no, don't complain. Don't begrudge anyone that 9%. Who cares if your bills are on time, if a sudden round of auto repairs means your bills (including those student loans) are a month late? Nope, that 9% is work you did for someone else's benefit, and isn't that what really matters?

Posted by: Phil at May 21, 2003 08:22 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and Ratbone, did I say somewhere that the rich shouldn't get richer if that's the way that the poor also do best? I doubt it very much, because I don't believe that. I think rich people can be just as rich as they'd like so long as they contribute to the society that allows them to be so.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 08:27 AM | PERMALINK

Or, put more simply: what law of the universe requires someone to be generous? There is none. If someone decides that they do not want to give, period, nothing obligates them to believe that the should. Pointing out that their own success only comes from the sacrifices made before only works if someone believes they have any obligation incurred. They could say, after all, "Just because those suckers were dumb enough to give doesn't mean I have to." Someone can willfully decide to not give anything to anyone. Even if it might, in the long term, benefit them. It's the principle of the thing. That's not something you can argue with them. And time spent trying to argue that with them is time wasted.

There are some people out there with that worldview. They are not all that rare.

Posted by: Jeff Huo at May 21, 2003 08:33 AM | PERMALINK

Phil, I pity you. I might be able to muster my feelings up to 'compassion' if there weren't so many inconsistencies in your lament.

Question: if your situation is so pitiable, why do you care about the millionaire's 9%? You complain that 9% is work you did for someone else's benefit, but if your description of your situation is accurate, then Kevin wasn't talking about you.

Also, what if you'd never had to take out those student loans?

Or what if you didn't have to pay taxes on your student loans when you did take them out? Could you then have taken less, and had them paid off by now?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 08:36 AM | PERMALINK

So, Phil, do you have kids?

Because if so, and if you die tomorrow, with little savings it sounds like, what do you want to happen to your family? Because unless you plan to put that whole 9 percent into savings or a very good insurance policy, you might want to consider that Social Security could help them to pay rent, to eat and to fund future education.

It's a safety net specifically for people in your situation (and mine, for that matter).

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 08:37 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, you guys have only played this game for.....how many consecutive decades?

Ah, those decades of Republican governance. To be fair here, the Democrats controlled the House for four decades, and in that time, they created an awful lot of institutional impediments to bringing taxes and spending down:

+A budget process that assumes all revenue programs will grow in perpetuity.

+Procedural rules that operate on the assumption that all tax cuts produce zero economic growth.

+Entitlement programs that are off the books, can grow geometrically without any annual authorization and are nearly impervious to reform.

all the words words words boil down to the simple fact that there is a certain type of person who cannot feel empathy or compassion. A friend in the business of psychiatry told me some of the best CEOs are sociopaths. I believe it. If there are any psychologists or psychiatrists among you readers, can you comment?

Nothing like calling your opponents mentally ill to liven up a debate, huh?

Do tax cuts create more government revenue? Sometimes, yes. But I would also add that I don't buy the idea that a tax cut is bad if it doesn't.

Posted by: Crank at May 21, 2003 08:41 AM | PERMALINK

Lowlife--

If you doubt that the Reagan tax cuts enhanced revenue I suggest you look at at the records which are freely available to anyone who has the capability to read them. Its a historical fact that revenues increased after that tax cut. If you truly believe otherwise then you need to wrap another layer of aluminum foil around your hat; obviously the space aliens have increased the power of the ray that attempts to control your brain.

I never tried to suggest that any and all tax cuts will enhance revenue, such a position would be insanity. The whole point is that there are models for predicting what a given tax policy will have upon the revenue stream. I advocate using them rather than using a knee-jerk reaction to tax policy, like the luxury tax on yachts that had the result of yielding virtually no money for the government but caused the layoff of many middle-class people who were employed in building them.

Posted by: Ratbane at May 21, 2003 08:41 AM | PERMALINK

I have another bone to pick with conservatives who ask what benefit they derive from social programs (or whatever).

Let me phrase this in capitalistic terms.

A rich person has two roles in the government: (1) As a taxpayer, he is a client of the government: he receives services, and pays for them through taxes. (2) As a voter, he is a co-owner of the governmnet. As a co-owner, he gets to He gets to help decide how much the government charges for its services, what those services are, and what is done with the proceeds.

Paying 1 million dollars per year in taxes gives you no particular say in how those tax dollars are spent. It's only your role as a *voter* that gives you that say. In the same way, if I spend $5,000,000 on a mansion, I don't get any particular say in how the real estate agent spends his commission.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at May 21, 2003 08:41 AM | PERMALINK

Whereas if Phil doesn't have kids, his wife will get a nice fat check for $255 and Uncle Sam gets to keep the rest of his social security taxes.

Compassion for the little guy & all.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 08:42 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, Phil, I also should point out that my husband and I have been in circumstances that don't sound all that different than yours. We got married before he finished grad school, etc., had a terrible debt load. We're moving into our house on Friday. Wanna know why? Because a neat little organization called the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave us a loan, just as they gave one to my parents for their first home.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 08:43 AM | PERMALINK

Ricky - even Reagan's economic advisor said that the supply side stuff was horseshit. Revenues increased during the Reagan years due to demographics. Do you have any idea how much better our fiscal situation would be today without the Reagan deficits? The only support I hear for Reagonomics comes from pundits and anti-tax nuts like you.

Posted by: LowLife at May 21, 2003 08:44 AM | PERMALINK

If you truly believe otherwise then you need to wrap another layer of aluminum foil around your hat; obviously the space aliens have increased the power of the ray that attempts to control your brain.

Ratbane, I just know that on his next post, Crank is going to address you and say Nothing like calling your opponents mentally ill to liven up a debate, huh?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 08:46 AM | PERMALINK

Those who claim Reagan's tax cuts increased government revenue always seem to forget that in April 1983 Reagan passed what was the real "biggest tax increase in history".

Of course, they called it saving Social Security. It was a tax increase that is still going on today as the cap on FICA taxes automatically goes up every year. That tax increase raised the rate of payroll taxes and the amount of earnings on which it must be paid.

When you start calculating how much Reagan's tax cuts raised government revenues, I think it would only be fair to exclude the revenues derived from the huge payroll tax increases of 1983.

Posted by: Pug at May 21, 2003 08:50 AM | PERMALINK

Conservatives are claiming steadfastly that tax revenues went up following Reagan's cuts. Can I have a because of?

Also, here's another example of conservatives arguing that we should do things for liberal reasons. Why do you say that cutting taxes is good because it increases revenues? Don't increased revenues just lead to more government spending, inhibiting the private sector and retarding our progress toward Utopia?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 08:50 AM | PERMALINK

Phil,

Suppose that a car costs $10,000 to build, and I spend $15,000 on it. So I've spent $5000 of my hard-earned money for someone else's benefit. That's the way it works.

Why should government only charge enough to cover its costs? No other organization does.

How much taxes the government charges should be determined by what the market can bear. That's the capitalist way. We'll know that we're charging too much when rich people start emigrating to cheaper countries.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at May 21, 2003 08:51 AM | PERMALINK

"A budget process that assumes all revenue programs will grow in perpetuity."

Oh, that obstacle! That's the one Bush is trying to eliminate by pushing an economic policy that will nudge us into deflation. See, that way, the cost of programs will go *down.* Now it all makes sense.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 08:53 AM | PERMALINK

The reason Bill Gates is wealthy is because he lives in America. If he had been born in, say, Afghanistan, he would be dead. The programs that the millionaires complain about are not just morally good ideas, they are good ideas from a practical standpoint. They have created the societal infrastructure that allows for giant corporations like Microsoft to exist in the first place. They educate their employees, they keep them healthy (by providing things like subsidized emergency room care, and school lunches, etc), they keep the peace (by creating welfare programs that giver people a chance to better themselves, so that they are not hopeless, and by keeping large scale social unrest down by things like unemployment benefits), they keep unemployment down (by allowing old people to retire, thus generating a need for new employees - employees that are paid less than the retirees, by the way, so this helps inflation, too).

None of us who have achieved any level of success have achieved it through a combination of good luck, hard work, talent, and the fact that we live in a society that provides the platform upon which we work. People who want to get rid of paying taxes on certain classes of income are freeloaders - they want the benefits without the cost.

Posted by: kevin at May 21, 2003 08:53 AM | PERMALINK

Revenues increased during the Reagan years due to demographics.
Revenues increased at a rate much higher than the GDP increases, so.....no. That you've now changed your tune from the previous (revenues didn't increase) to that they DID increase, but because of some other reason, illustrates that the discussion over the Reagan tax cuts resulting in lower federal inlays is now over, apparently. Good, research is always a good thing.


The only support I hear for Reagonomics comes from pundits and anti-tax nuts like you.

Well, there was that 49 state to 1 victory, including the largest electoral landslide in history, but I'd hate to quibble while you're in the midst of ruining your credibility by going after me personally with ad-hominem attacks and strange hypotheticals. Nice. THAT sure emminates the personna of a person secure in their conversational foundation.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 08:54 AM | PERMALINK

Sigh

Never post in a hurry - the sentance that starts "none of us" should start "All of us"

Posted by: kevin at May 21, 2003 08:55 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Ricky,

"I know of no one, however, who has opposed governmental funding of police forces or roads"

I think most would agree that "security" in this context means the massive waste in national defense and not the local police force.

You just parsed words. I know that bugs the hell out of you, so I thought you might want to know. Thank me later... :-)

Posted by: Skeejin at May 21, 2003 08:57 AM | PERMALINK

To your first point I never said revenues didn't increase. To you second point point I never said that the Republicans blowing smoke up everybody's ass wasn't politically successful.

Posted by: LowLife at May 21, 2003 08:58 AM | PERMALINK

When you start calculating how much Reagan's tax cuts raised government revenues, I think it would only be fair to exclude the revenues derived from the huge payroll tax increases of 1983.

As stated in my first post, pug, the revenues for ON BUDGET inlays boomed (in constant dollars, actual dollars, versus inflation, versus GDP). The data is easily obtainable and irrefutable.

You folks seem like nice people (adults can disagree and still be agreeable), so I'll give you some advice: stick with the subject of the thread, because arguing that the Reagan tax cuts hurt inlays is a loser, unless you're willing to argue the laws that dictate mathematics.

Let's stay with what Calpundit put forth, okay?

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 08:58 AM | PERMALINK

Skeejin,
No, I didn't.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 09:00 AM | PERMALINK

I'll probably get lost in the triple-digit response to this nice thread, but....

Another thing about that 9% that isn't calculated is the amount that flows back, indirectly, to the taxpayer. Those social safety net programs, generally regarded only to benefit the recipients, actually have a very high societal ROI. Healthy economies (the circumstances under which businesses flourish) depend on healthy, well-educated, happy people. In the not-very-long run, a country that doesn't support these things and sees its middle class dwindle will find its economy stalled. Even the wealthy, who view this purely from a mercenary perspective, can see that the wealth they'd accumulate in a poor economy is no where near the wealth they'd accumulate in a booming one.

Obviously, finanacial bottom lines shouldn't be the only consideration in public policy. But even looking simply at the issue in those terms, taxes that support social programs are a good investment.

Posted by: Emma at May 21, 2003 09:02 AM | PERMALINK

Ricky, you still haven't shown that government revenues increased because of the Reagan income tax cuts. You seem like a nice guy, so a little word of advice: don't post on a discussion board, if you can't back up your claims.

the discussion over the Reagan tax cuts resulting in lower federal inlays is now over, apparently

You haven't proven a thing. But I do agree that the discussion is over.

And I also agree with Skeejin, you're a parser.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 09:09 AM | PERMALINK

"How many needy are needy because of really stupid choices that the entire society keeps telling them not to make? How many of them remain poor because they continue to make stupid choices society insists on telling them not to make?
Conservatives would like to help the really needy, but subsidizing bad choices and dumb lifestyles is not as immediately attractive."

Ah hah. I wondered when one of Kevin's critics would finally admit the real reason they think the rich should not have to provide support for the "less fortunate." It's because they don't think they deserve it. They didn't "earn" it. The myth of the Welfare Queen rears its ugly head.

What about stupid choices made by the rich? What about their dumb lifestyles? They have their rich families and corporate settlements to bail them out. The Bush clan's dubious business transactions like Silverado, Harken Oil, Poppy Bush's S&L bail-out were "stupid choices" and "dumb lifestyles" but conservatives ignore them. MCI/WorldCom just won the bid to rebuild Iraq's mobile phone network, despite corporate fraud that resulted in loss of pension funds and massive layoffs of the "less fortunate." Conservatives don't seem to have a problem "subsidizing the bad choices and dumb lifestyles" of the rich and powerful. It's easier and much more fun for them to heap scorn upon that lazy Welfare Queen who pays for steak with food stamps and keeps pushing out more bastard children.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at May 21, 2003 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

They supported reform because the prior system had generated a welfare-dependent underclass rife with disfunctional lifestyles, which was not a good idea.

Oh there you go again! Now that we have welfare reform, that's all better now - isn't it?

Well Richard, since a series of anecdotes corresponds to data, I might as well make a contribution. You're not the only one with anecdotes about po' folks!

Hmmm, let me see...How about the time I spent as a volunteer literacy tutor with the Sacramento Public Library? My student's name was Keith. He was in his late 20's, suffering from insulin-dependent (juvenile) diabetes, and, although a high school graduate, functionally illiterate. Over the year+ we worked together, Keith never progressed beyond a basic (maybe 3rd grade) level of reading because he didn't practice outside of our weekly sessions. Was Keith lazy? Hardly - although frequently unemployed due to health reasons (he had first his toes, then his right leg amputated), he was eager to work, and often did odd jobs for family members and neighbors (fixing cars, running errands, hauling, and other manual labor). But after a lifetime of being told he was a "dummy" he had completely internalized the idea that he couldn't be helped. He totally accepted his place at the bottom of the food chain, and had no words of blame for the school system or the (decent but simple-minded) parents who had let him down. But was Keith living a dysfunctional lifestyle? No way. He was frequently offered good money to sell his (taxpayer subsidized) sterile needle kits to drug users/dealers - which he always refused. Was Keith worthy of the meager amount of taxpayer income and medical support he received? You'd better believe it.

The anecdotes cited in your first post are quite superficial - you know only the snippets you overheard or were told, and absolutely nothing about the circumstances of the people involved. But that doesn't stop the rush to judgement, does it? When you know people's stories, the situation is hardly so clear cut as you would like to believe. In Keith's case, where does society's responsibility end and personal responsibility begin? And who the hell are you to think you can make that call?

Posted by: Elissa Lowe at May 21, 2003 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

"Its a historical fact that revenues increased after that tax cut."

But the million dollar question is... Did the revenues increase because of of the tax cut?

Nice anecdote though...

Posted by: Skeejin at May 21, 2003 09:23 AM | PERMALINK

Skeejin,
I have no idea what caused MSFT's stock to increase & the subsequent parlaying of dollars throughout the company & into the federal treasury. Nor, do I know what caused any certain dollar to find it's way into the on-budget numbers.

I do, however, realize when someone is 'muddying the water' by seeing an instance that is giving them an unfortunate outcome (the question of whether or not inlays were decreased after the tax cuts) and then putting forth a different (and, in this case, pretty much impossible) criteria which must be met.

Nice try.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 09:28 AM | PERMALINK

I'm about to go to class and take a midterm, Kevin, but some quick thoughts:

First, I think you are smart to focus only on a part of the federal budget that conservatives say doesn't help.

I don't think any of them want to eliminate taxes at all -- rather, they just want to eliminate taxes that pay for programs they don't like. Welfare programs are some of those.

But in the end, I think you are focusing on the wrong thing once again. It is not merely the pricetag that bothers people who don't like taxes.

Many of these people contribute significantly on a voluntary basis to non-profits that help the poor.

These donations happen in the private sector which is more flexible and efficient than government bureaucracies.

It is also the method of income redistribution -- government agencies that (a) have policies these conservatives disagree with and (b) these conservatives do not completely control, even when Republicans are in Congress.

Part of the anti-tax mindset is that tax dollars can be given on a voluntary basis to non-profits who are more accountable and less cumbersome.

Finally, it sounds great to accuse rich conservatives of being selfish. Great sound bite. But none of us tax-skeptics are completely convinced that heaping money on the poor is actually going to help.

It might even hurt them by making them dependent on the state instead of becoming self-sufficient. It might be bad for all of us if these citizens have no incentive to be productive and contribute to the economy and progress.

As someone has said before -- it is possible to have a government program that is bad. It is possible to have a government program that nobody thinks is worth the dollars.

Certain forms of income redistribution that do not hold the recipients accountable just might be one of those in some people's eyes -- a government program that does not contribute to the greatness of America.

Posted by: Bo Cowgill at May 21, 2003 09:32 AM | PERMALINK


Finally! An answer to this question:

"Did the revenues increase because of of the tax cut?"

Ricky finally stepped up to the plate with this gem:

"Skeejin, I have no idea [snip]"

Thank you. You have no idea if Reagan's tax cut did anything to revenues. Glad we cleared that up. Next.

Posted by: Skeejin at May 21, 2003 09:36 AM | PERMALINK

Elissa.
I guess you make my point. Keith isn't where he is and wasn't where he was because of lifestyle choices.
If you want to say that whatever counterproductive choices he made were forced on him by a kind of brainwashing, I might go along with it.
But I don't see schools brainwashing kids to drop out. As far as I know, they want to keep the kids, if only for revenue.
As an example.

There are three groups getting substantial government assistance of the kind generally known as "welfare".
One is the unfortunate such as Keith.
One is that which makes dumb choices.
One is that which actually doesn't qualify under any rational standard but which, for some reason, is on the handout list.
Try really, really hard to follow:
If we could manage to reduce the expenditures to the second and third groups, we could spend considerably more on the first group, including Keith.
I'll give you another example:
I have a handicapped nephew. One of my sister's many burdens is to regularly appear in front of a hostile GS1 to abase herself and prove that Andy is still handicapped and has not won any lotteries or in any other way come into a bunch of wealth which would disqualify him for state services.
This demeaning process is necessary because of cheaters.
Guess what?
My sister hates cheaters.
Your thoughts on this? Is she mean? Does she lack compassion?
Is she greedy?
After all, if we reduce the number of cheaters, we reduce the number of people "served". This could have all kinds of negative consequences, such as fewer employed 'crats. Some people think virtue resides solely in the number of "served" individuals irrespective of circumstances.
We might become a less compassionate society if we broom out the cheaters. According to some.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 21, 2003 09:36 AM | PERMALINK

I do, however, realize when someone is 'muddying the water' by seeing an instance that is giving them an unfortunate outcome (the question of whether or not inlays were decreased after the tax cuts) and then putting forth a different (and, in this case, pretty much impossible) criteria which must be met.

Enough, already. You haven't shown us that government revenues increased because of Reagan's tax cut.

When you're done with that, show us that every tax cut in every situation is the same, and has the same results. It will be a relief to all of us finally to have been proven wrong on this point.

If you can't convince me with your next post, then I'm going to suggest that you have destroyed your credibility by not proving anything.

Along these lines, and I realize that the thread is getting long, but I have to ask this question. Bush's first round of tax cuts did nothing to stimulate the economy. Republicans claim that this was because of 9-11. With this round of tax cuts, what measures did the Republicans take to see to it that its stimulative effects could not be negated by 19 guys with box cutters?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 09:38 AM | PERMALINK

You have no idea if Reagan's tax cut did anything to revenues.

I know, for a fact, that revenues boomed after the tax cuts.

I do not know (and I say this because I see obvious attempts at benign and obtuse attempts to play 'gotcha'), nor do I think any other human can represent, how to prove in a court of law the causation of what causes a single dollar to flow throught the economy. And let's face it, that's where this is going, because a few of you are quite pissed because the inlays boomed after the tax cuts & it hurts your ideological suppositions, so you'll do anything to strike back.

Congratulations, Skeejin, you've managed to kick the dogshit out of a strawman and do your best to muddy the water.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 09:42 AM | PERMALINK

Another thing: Supposedly the rich and talented are supposed to feel indebted to the beneficiaries of income redistribution because these folks (a) may have worked for them in the past or (b) buy their products.

I won't deny that (a) or (b) happened. But in most insances, these welfare recipients were paid for their work at the time that they helped out the millionaire. And when they bought a product, they got a product in return for their dollars.

Asking for additional money because of (a) and (b) is asking people to pay twice. If people think that these are good reasons for income distribution, they should be direct -- demand better wages and lower prices.

Posted by: Bo Cowgill at May 21, 2003 09:44 AM | PERMALINK

I guess you make my point.

No, I read your post, and I tried really, really hard to follow, but I'd have to disagree with you.

We might become a less compassionate society if we broom out the cheaters. According to some.

We might become a more compassionate society if we stopped using the rhetoric of 'cheaters' out of proportion to the actual amount of 'cheating', and started talking in an earnest and genuine way about how to help people like Keith. I don't see conservatives taking too much care to distinguish between cheaters and Keith. Maybe that's because if they did, they'd have to admit that the problems of people like Keith far, far outweigh the problems created by welfare 'cheaters'.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 09:46 AM | PERMALINK

"I do not know... how to prove in a court of law the causation of what causes a single dollar to flow throught the economy."

Glad you caught up :-)

That was the point. It's fun to say, "revenues boomed after the tax cuts", but it doesn't mean much.

Posted by: Skeejin at May 21, 2003 09:46 AM | PERMALINK

Demetrios, I desire neither your pity nor your compassion; I suspect you're capable of neither, and wouldn't want them if you were. In any case, the problem is that Kevin should be talking about me, and other people like me.

Know why? Because while millionaires might be able to influence, through spending, the course of elections and policy, there aren't enough of them to vote in significant numbers. There are enough of people in my situation, though, and while I know the Republicans want to take as much or more of my check as the Democrats do, a lot of people in my position hear the words "tax cuts" coming from one party, and vote for that party. The millionaires aren't the ones you need to convince; it's the tens of millions of people who aren't millionaires but think that they are going to get something that they aren't.

Magenta, no, I do not have children, and I don't see how it's relevant to my point. It's OK to worry about making ends meet now as long as Social Security will provide for imaginary heirs in the event of my death? Super. Sounds a lot like the Christian "Suffering on Earth is OK because you'll go to heaven later" line. And just as convincing.

Because a neat little organization called the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave us a loan, just as they gave one to my parents for their first home.

You know what's not a good thing to add on to existing debt? If you answer, "More debt," you're close to the answer.

Daryl: How much taxes the government charges should be determined by what the market can bear.

Sorry, but if you're going to insist that government should be a for-profit venture subject to market forces, then I'm going to have to counter-insist that it be denied monopoly powers and subject to competition -- that I can choose to go with a competing service, or turn down the service completely. You OK with that?

Posted by: Phil at May 21, 2003 09:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Its a historical fact that revenues increased after that tax cut."

But the million dollar question is... Did the revenues increase because of of the tax cut?

You can doubt whatever you wish. I mean, what do economists know? You can also disregard the doctor's advice that you have disease X and chalk it up to the efforts of an evil spirit if you want to. Feel free.

Posted by: Ratbane at May 21, 2003 09:48 AM | PERMALINK

I didn't see anyone on here say that people should indiscriminately cheat on welfare, Richard. I think it's disgraceful to cheat on such things, but I don't wish to see the program that helps your nephew go away. Nor do I think verifying need is an unreasonable thing to ask.

There are always, however, people who will cheat any system you come up with. The question becomes how much money do we want to put into stopping them rather than putting that money into the actual program. I don't think there's an easy answer to that, BTW, but in your scenario that becomes the question.

If you won't support any welfare system that people take advantage of then there's not one you can support on Earth, including churches and private charities. Human systems of any kind are flawed, and people find the loopholes.

Same of course is true on taxes. We could lower the rates significantly if rich people and corporations paid all of what they should rather than dodging behind iffy accounting practices.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 09:48 AM | PERMALINK

a few of you are quite pissed because the inlays boomed after the tax cuts & it hurts your ideological suppositions, so you'll do anything to strike back

Ricky, it's just that Republicans claim every tax cut will stimulate the economy. And experience tells us otherwise. They said that with the first round of Bush tax cuts, and many, many jobs have been lost from our economy since then. Republicans always claim that tax cuts increase government revenues, but they never really prove it. And then we liberals wonder, why do the conservatives want the government's revenues to increase? It's all terribly confusing, and now you're telling us that you can't prove it empirically. Why are we debating you on this again?

But you've managed to come here, hit on the think-tank cliches, prove nothing, and yet maintain a diffident, superior air. Consider the morning a success!

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 09:55 AM | PERMALINK

"Very little of the revenue generated by the income tax comes from the poor. Once again, my premise is that the tax rates should be set at a level which generates the maximum amount of money for the government. Are you saying that it shouldn't? "

I'll say that it shouldn't. The government shouldn't be out to get every penny that it can from the economy - it should collect enough money to carry out its functions and no more.

Now that means that the interesting question is exactly what constitutes the government's functions. But I see no reason to define the government's proper functions to be equal to "whatever can be funded by the maximum amount it can possibly collect".

"Someone else made the point that the tax-haters here could usefully study - FDR bailed out capitalism by realizing that a country without a middle class was a fundamentally unstable country, without enough customers for some people to get rich from in a market (and not Mafia) way."

FDR didn't bail out a goddamned thing! FDR prolonged the depression to an absolutely unheard-of 12 years, all the while selling the idea that his socialistic programs were somehow "fighting" the depression.

"If they're rich as in the example they would have alot of employees or their interest is in companies with employees. The healthier and better educated the employees or pool of potential employees are the better off the rich are."

Which means that it reduces to a simple supply-and-demand problem. If educated workers are scarce, their price goes up. When their price goes up, it entices more workers to convert themselves from uneducated to educated to collect that extra money (and parents to do the same for their childre, especially if they expect to get a cut when they get older).

"Well, they haven't hunted down the rich folks and strung them up by their own intestines... yet."

That's not a service or a benefit - that's extortion, plain and simple. Giving in to extortion should not be enshrined into our law, and it certainly shouldn't be advanced as a moral imperative.

Posted by: Ken at May 21, 2003 09:57 AM | PERMALINK

Phil,

Not all debt is bad debt. Look into owning a home, and you know one thing that you'll save big on? TAXES!

The point of the kids was that there are benefits people don't think of when they say they get nothing back. But fine, you get nothing back. Move to a country with no social services. See how you like it. It should be just the same as here only with a lower tax rate, right?

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 09:58 AM | PERMALINK

I desire neither your pity nor your compassion; I suspect you're capable of neither

That's nice.

the problem is that Kevin should be talking about me, and other people like me

But that's not whose taxes Bush cut. Maybe it's not Kevin you need talking about you, but the Republican tax cutters.

I'm going to have to counter-insist that it be denied monopoly powers and subject to competition

Ever hear of a thing called democracy?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Wow this likes like a scrappy debate.

Talking about generalities like 'paying taxes to support the government' is kind of useless. Unless you are a completely hard-core libertarian, you believe in paying taxes to support appropriate government programs. The problem is deciding which ones are appropriate. I'm a conservative and I don't have a problem paying taxes, I just want the money to be well spent. (Actually I had trouble paying taxes this year, but that is a different story.)

You have to argue about specifics. I think that much of the welfare system deforms incentives to go to work, and that it is ultimately DETRIMENTAL to the health of the country. I don't hate poor people, I would have even been counted in the homeless statistic for about two months, but I don't believe that large, long-term welfare programs typically get people into a better place so much as they support a person's place in long-term poverty statistics. Calling me heartless won't help us decide if I'm right.

I don't like Social Security because it is a pyramid scheme pretending to be insurance. If we want to use it as a safety net, it would be better, and cheaper to fund a safety net for poor people, rather than a fake pension system. Saying that I don't care about poor people doesn't address my concern.

I hate the education because it demands more and more of our money, with no accountability for how it is spent. Say I hate children if you want, but the reality is I hate the fact that we give money to con-men in the teacher's unions.

You can argue about the specifics of any of those programs and I'll happily engage the discussion. But positing that conservatives are just mean and selfish, isn't only unhelpful, it is incorrect. It also obscures the fact that supporting large government programs while ignoring the homeless man on your own street doesn't really qualify you in the generosity department--that is a criticism which cuts across party lines.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at May 21, 2003 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Ken, deeply insightful commentary on FDR, there. Not as if there was anything going on in the world that might have made it tough to turn things around in the U.S. economy or anything.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

That's not a service or a benefit - that's extortion, plain and simple. Giving in to extortion should not be enshrined into our law, and it certainly shouldn't be advanced as a moral imperative.

Yeah, I think the speaker was trying to express the moral imperative Do unto others in terms of the kind of self-interest that rich people can understand. But why say that when it serves your purpose to be obtuse about it?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, I hate 'the education'. I wonder if I meant ' the education system...' Always ironic to complain about the education system with an incoherent sentence. (Mutter: try the preview button....)

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at May 21, 2003 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Skeejin,
We've used up too much of Calpundit's bandwidth and I'm basically scrolling past troll posts (Phil, I generally ignore them....you should too, IMO), so if you'd prefer to take it over to my site, fine by me. If not, I enjoyed it. :)

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I hate the education because it demands more and more of our money, with no accountability for how it is spent.

How much 'accountability' will conservatives demand of the public school system before they say 'enough'? When conservatives start demanding accountability from public education, that's when I reach for my revolver. 'Accountability from public education' is just a smoke screen for culture war.

I'd love to see conservatives start showing the same kind of love for accountability from large corporations that they demand of the public school system.

I love education. I'm perfectly satisfied if the education system does not turn a direct profit, because I know it can benefit our society in so many other ways, including helping rich people make more money by turning out an educated, productive work force.

I hate the fact that we give money to con-men in the teacher's unions.

Think-tank cliche. Conservatives say, just as soon as we remove the barrier of the teachers' union, we can start funding public education. The argument serves the conservatives well, since they despise both the rights of workers to organize, and public education.

Talk about con men! It's a shell game. Play with the conservatives, and you will never, ever find the public-education pea.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Demetrios:
Missed again.
Conservatives are supremely interested in getting cheaters off the rolls. The problem is that folks like a good many hereabouts consider that a rotten thing to do and trot out the accusations of racism and lack of compassion and greed and so forth. "Oh, yeah. Reagan's welfare queen myth." To the extent you've made it work, it works. Conservatives are less active than they might be in this area.
You win.
I am not in favor of removing all, or even most state support programs. I am in favor of them doing two things: 1. Serving only those in actual need, and 2. not being counterproductive.
It might be useful for liberals to hear why conservatives are annoyed at the entire subject. Both 1 and 2 above aren't going to happen while liberals have anything to say about it. But at least you know.
Yes, things have improved since welfare reform has been in play.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 21, 2003 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian,

Been there, done that on the completely obvious error thing. :)

I think your point is a valid one. Certainly most of us fall into a middle ground on these issues. I could understand by the time I was 10 years old why the pre-reform welfare system was ridiculous. You either paid people not to work and gave them other benefits or you sent them out to a crappy job with no training and cut off their access to health care and so forth. It's sort of an insane choice. I prefer that we offer services like health care independent of the cash benefits. It makes more sense. But don't pretend there are not conservatives who would end all benefits to poor people. They're out there.

I agree to an extent on Social Security (which did make sense when it was started because there weren't all that many people dependent on wages for income who looked likely to move into the income levels we do now. WWII changed a lot of that.) I think the issue is how we define poor at the retirement age and whom the safety net should cover. Personally, I'm 33, and I'm figuring we're on our own.

On education, I don't entirely agree because teachers without unions were woefully underpaid and are still incredily underappreciated. People blame them for children's failures even as they ridicule the well educated in our society. The education system needs an overhaul, certainly, but I can't agree with putting the burden on the unions when it seems obvious to me that the problem goes deeply into society.

And I agree that if you are going to advocate public social programs it is good if you also are investing in private ones. But if you are arguing private charity can completely replace the public system, then I think it's even more hypocritical to give nothing. (And it sounds like you do, so that's not "you" per se, just generic.)

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Richard:

At least Keith could understand, even if he couldn't read. You seem to have the opposite problem. Such as

"But I don't see schools brainwashing kids to drop out."

Go back and read the post - I said Keith was a high school GRADUATE. The point you obviously missed was that he was passed along through the system, which abrogated its responsibility to assist him, or even identify him as learning disabled.

"I have a handicapped nephew. One of my sister's many burdens is to regularly appear in front of a hostile GS1 to abase herself and prove that Andy is still handicapped and has not won any lotteries or in any other way come into a bunch of wealth which would disqualify him for state services.
This demeaning process is necessary because of cheaters.
Guess what?
My sister hates cheaters.
Your thoughts on this? Is she mean? Does she lack compassion?
Is she greedy?"

I am truly sorry to learn about your nephew. And my thoughts on this is that your sister's (and your) hostility is misdirected. The "Welfare Queen" notwithstanding, I don't know of anyone bilking the system so successfully that they are doing much more than getting by. Yet, as I posted previously, the moral outrage over cheating is directed almost exclusively at the poor, while rich corporate welfare recipients and tax evaders are laughing all the way to the bank. And yet the latter cost us taxpayers far more than the former. This is a point you have consistently failed to address. If we directed at least some of that anger upwards, rather than downwards, we just might be able to afford a more compassionate and just system. For your nephew, Keith, and the others.

Posted by: Elissa Lowe at May 21, 2003 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

FDR didn't bail out a goddamned thing! FDR prolonged the depression to an absolutely unheard-of 12 years, all the while selling the idea that his socialistic programs were somehow "fighting" the depression.

Now there's a statement that should be easy to prove, Ken. Do you have a shred of evidence to support this claim?

Posted by: Pug at May 21, 2003 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Conservatives are supremely interested in getting cheaters off the rolls. The problem is that folks like a good many hereabouts consider that a rotten thing to do and trot out the accusations of racism and lack of compassion and greed and so forth.

I'll say it again (and since we're not face to face, you can't hear how much more mocking my voice has become): Darn those liberals, with their all-powerful powers of condemnation! Conservatives want to make welfare efficient, like a business, but liberals always accuse them of racism. If only those all-powerful liberals would stop holding sway over the public discourse, and let the conservatives get some work done.

I am not in favor of removing all, or even most state support programs.

So, the government really can help people then? But only as long as there are no liberals involved?

Both 1 and 2 above aren't going to happen while liberals have anything to say about it.

If only those liberals would give up all their say! I am a liberal, but I agree with you -- we are way too powerful. The hubris is killing us. As long as there's a single welfare cheater in this country, I hope the conservatives will resolutely continue to call us 'communists', or 'socialists', who only want to 'redistribute income', through a 'central planning committee' controlled by a cabal of the 'liberal elite'.

That way we can get going some of those liberal-free government programs that, once they're run by conservatives, will really help people, and be fair to the rich at the same time.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Yeah, I think the speaker was trying to express the moral imperative Do unto others in terms of the kind of self-interest that rich people can understand."

But that doesn't fit. I don't want free money from poor people, so I'm not violating the "Do unto others" rule by not giving them free money. Since I don't want to be strung up by my own intestines, I am following the "Do unto others" rule by not stringing them up by their own intestines. Giving them money in exchange for them not killing me doesn't fit into this framework at all. It fits quite neatly into another framework known as "extortion", however. That's not a framework that I think belongs in our law or our moral code.

"How much 'accountability' will conservatives demand of the public school system before they say 'enough'? When conservatives start demanding accountability from public education, that's when I reach for my revolver. 'Accountability from public education' is just a smoke screen for culture war.

I'd love to see conservatives start showing the same kind of love for accountability from large corporations that they demand of the public school system."

As soon as we can take our business - and our money - elsewhere, then we'll discuss that.

"I love education. I'm perfectly satisfied if the education system does not turn a direct profit, because I know it can benefit our society in so many other ways, including helping rich people make more money by turning out an educated, productive work force."

I love education too, and I don't advocate a system where education didn't occur. But I am not at all fond of the "education" produced by the public education system, and I expect that a superior education could be had in less time and at less cost in a free, competitive education market.

Posted by: Ken at May 21, 2003 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Elissa. I know Keith graduated.
I was speaking of people in general who drop out of school. They differ from Keith in not having graduated, but they are not brainwashed into dropping out. They look at what society has to say about the issue and tell us to eff off. They know better. Then, of course, we owe them.
Ditto drug abusers, petty criminals, people who can't keep a job because they don't show up. Girls who get pregnant at fifteen. None of these people are following some kind of social or government directions.

Demetrios, you are something else.
Remember Reagan's welfare queen myth? That is referring to cheaters. And that excoriation is trotted out whenever somebody talks about getting the cheaters off the rolls.
Now, perhaps you want to insist your best efforts don't work.
Okay, but as my sainted mother used to say, "It's the thought that counts, dear."
In fact, the vicious howling about the welfare queen myth was designed for and is continually fed on gunpowder and ground glass precisely to fight off anybody who is interested in questions of whether a particular welfare program is serving only those in need.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 21, 2003 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

"I expect that a superior education could be had in less time and at less cost in a free, competitive education market."

What would prevent the rich from getting the best quality education while the poor get the worst education in a system like this?

Posted by: Skeejin at May 21, 2003 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Ken,

How do you build a free, competative education market that serves all children?

You can't actually make a private school system accept all comers. That interferes with the free market. So some kids would be unable to find a school, because there would be children whom it would be unprofitable to educate. A free market would leave those children uneducated.

Currently, the system is compulsory, wouldn't a truly free market system be necessarily optional? People might decide that they would rather spend their own hard-earned money on video games and figure the kids could get work without education. Would that be OK with you?

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

As soon as we can take our business - and our money - elsewhere, then we'll discuss that.

Ah, so the public education pea is under the private education shell. No wonder we can never find it.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

I gotta quit posting while I'm also on the phone. That would be competetive. With an "e." Damned public school. LOL

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

There is a lot of talk about the cheaters and the welfare abusers who want a free ride on your tax dollars. What should be done about it? Presumably a government watchdog bureaucracy isn't the desired course of action.

If your answer is that we should just do away with welfare altogether and let the charities handle it, I have a question... Was welfare first implemented because the private charities couldn't provide enough? Or was there another reason? I honestly don't know.

Posted by: Skeejin at May 21, 2003 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Demetrios, you are something else.

Aw, that's a nice thing to say.

Remember Reagan's welfare queen myth? That is referring to cheaters. And that excoriation is trotted out whenever somebody talks about getting the cheaters off the rolls.

I know what you're talking about, Richard. I take some issue with your use of the passive voice. It 'is trotted out' by whom? How much excoriation really goes on? How effective is it politically? And how much truth is there to the excoriation? Don't worry, I don't really expect you to answer these questions. They're meant to show that I think your assertion is mostly imaginary.

I've seen how this works and I can't help but come to the conclusion that conservatives have ulterior motives for complaining about welfare cheaters. Maybe if they complained about it in proportion to the actual problem, I might feel differently. Or else, if they followed up that criticism with genuine compassion for the truly needy. But it always just seems like a rhetorical tool. Especially the part that goes, 'If we could just git these liberals out of the government, then our government programs could finally help people, for a change.' I mean, that's just silly, don't you think?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Phil,

The US government has competition: its competitors are called the UK, France, Russia, etc. If you don't like the deal you are getting in the US, you can either try to change it through the political process, or you can look for a better deal elsewhere.

My point is that there is no reason for taxes for an individual to be equal to the costs of providing services to that individual.

Ken writes: The government shouldn't be out to get every penny that it can from the economy - it should collect enough money to carry out its functions and no more.

Why? In general, the cost of a commodity reflects its value to its buyer, not the cost of producing it. The value provided by government is literally incalculable. Wealth beyond what you can carry or bury would be impossible without government.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at May 21, 2003 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

"I'd love to see conservatives start showing the same kind of love for accountability from large corporations that they demand of the public school system."

Your wish is granted. Public corporations are already subject to much more comprehensive audits and SEC disclosure statements. One of the sad things in the US is that more accountability is demanded from corporations than is demanded from those who teach our children.

There are two related comments on education:

"What would prevent the rich from getting the best quality education while the poor get the worst education in a system like this?"

and, "How do you build a free, competitive education market that serves all children?"

I'm ok with trying to deal with these issues, but I don't think that these are good objections to changing the system. The fact of the matter is that our current system does not serve all children, and under our current system the rich get the best quality education and the poor get the worst. These are issues we might want to try to deal with under a market or semi-market education system (like our excellent college hybrid system) but the apply quite forcefully now, to our current situation.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at May 21, 2003 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Trotted out by whom?
I am not going to go find it, but some dozens of posts before my reference to it, and in reference to my mention of cheaters.
How's that for a start?
I suspect that your definition of liberal and conservative are built around compassion for the poor if expressed in a way you approve.
Anybody with compassion for the poor is a liberal, charter subscription to National Review notwitstanding.
In fact, most conservatives I know of have a good deal of compassion for the unfortunate, which is not the same as saying all of the poor.
I ran into a social worker once who opined that the reluctance of the able-bodied to look for work is a mental illness and needs to be treated as a disease. Some of us right-wingers don't buy that. Imagine.
So tell me. Is wanting the poor to become self-supporting and reasonbly proud of their own efforts compassionate or resoundingly rotten?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 21, 2003 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian,

Of course we also might want to consider distributing taxes equally throughout a state or even the nation rather than limiting them to specific districts.

We already have a market system on schools. It's the real estate market. People buy houses in good school districts, pay more in property taxes and guarantee their kids a better education. If they're really rich, they move to exclusive areas, vote down tax increases that would improve the public schools and send their own kids to private school. How would more private schools that poor people couldn't afford correct this problem?

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Your wish is granted. Public corporations are already subject to much more comprehensive audits and SEC disclosure statements. One of the sad things in the US is that more accountability is demanded from corporations than is demanded from those who teach our children.

All those audits and disclosures, and they still manage to swindle the entire country? Well, now I'm starting to wonder if demanding accountability from the public schools is such a good idea!

What I said I wanted is for conservatives to start showing 'the same kind of love' for corporate accountability that they show for public school accountability. Conservatives hate corporate accountability, as you've just shown yourself; but when you hear the words 'public school' or 'public education' from a conservative, you can pretty much bet that the word 'accountability' will follow up on it soon. And in that context, the word 'accountability' usually stands in for ideas such as 'break up the teacher's union', 'give more tests', and 'cut off their funding'.

Sorry, my wish has yet to be granted (so few are).

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

"The fact of the matter is that our current system does not serve all children, and under our current system the rich get the best quality education and the poor get the worst."

Is it because college is expensive? If so, would free college solve the problem? :-)

"I'm ok with trying to deal with these issues"

How could these issues be dealt with without involving the state?

Posted by: Skeejin at May 21, 2003 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Richard,

I would imagine that a truly able-bodied person who would rather live on welfare than look for work might have some underlying psychological condition. I don't think that's all that radical a notion. Despite the popular belief, people on welfare have a lower standard of living than most of the people online here today. Now, this does not mean that you shouldn't crack down on the people who actually aren't looking for *legal* work and are receiving welfare while doing something, um, on the side, shall we say.

Now, the cure may be encouraging them to get a job and building their sense of confidence or helping them to overcome their underlying depression or whatever. But it does sound like abnormal behavior to me, and I'm not sure throwing them out into the workplace with no further help might prove counterproductive. Perhaps this was her point?

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

"Why? In general, the cost of a commodity reflects its value to its buyer, not the cost of producing it."

It most certainly does not. The cost of a commodity is always less than its value to the buyer - if it wasn't, the buyer wouldn't buy it.

"The value provided by government is literally incalculable. Wealth beyond what you can carry or bury would be impossible without government."

The value provided by food and air are every bit as much "literally incalculable". Why are the providers of food different from the providers of government in the right they have to our money?

"We already have a market system on schools. It's the real estate market. People buy houses in good school districts, pay more in property taxes and guarantee their kids a better education. "

Well, if we "already have a market system", then how is separating the real estate market from the education market going to make things worse?

Posted by: Ken at May 21, 2003 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

You might just as easily have questioned the notion that one can actually distinguish and separate "the part of America that helped make these guys rich" from parts that, assertedly, played no role in their accumulation of wealth.

Those who fancy themselves "self-made men" unbeholden to the rest of the country ought to think about what role "guvmint spen'ing" may have had on their ability to succeed. Could they have made it big in Iran or Lebanon or Liberia or China?

It is not just freedom of thought and freedom of action that make the USA a great nation, but freedom from want and freedom from fear (to paraphrase FDR)- the idea of shared national purpose that allows each individual maximum ability to pursue his or her own dreams.

Don't public education, and job training programs and student loans permit the expansion of the skilled labor force necessary for many businesses to grow and thrive (or even provide the initial leg up that leads to wealth)?

Doesn't government regulation promote the ability of honest entrepreneur's to compete on a level playing field?

Don't government contracts play a significant role in the bottom line of many businesses (ask Dick Cheney)?

Doesn't a strong public health system help prevent catastrophic outbreaks of disease and lost economic productivity?

Don't welfare and food stamp payments enhance the ability of even the poor, undereducated and unemployed to be consumers of goods and services in the U.S. economy?

Don't Medicaid and Medicare promote productivity by enhancing the piece of mind of workers who might otherwise have no means to cope with high medical costs?

Don't all income redistribution programs give a stake in society to those that otherwise would have little or nothing, and could pose a significant risk of social upheaval?

Most importantly, don't the security and opportunity promoted by the total package that is the U.S. system of government give rise to the social and economic conditions necessary for many individuals to be successful businessmen and amass wealth?

These are all benefits that the USA has given to the well off, and they should not begrudge giving back to the nation, so that others may follow in their footsteps. In the end, everybody benefits from the 9 cents of each tax dollar earmarked for those in need, some of whom may become our next generation of teachers, doctors, emergency workets, congresswomen, Supreme Court Justices, and even wealthy entrepreneurs.

Posted by: Declan at May 21, 2003 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I am not going to go find it, but some dozens of posts before my reference to it, and in reference to my mention of cheaters.

And how exactly do these posts on Calpundit prevent conservatives from taking over the implementation of government welfare programs from liberals, so that they'll actually help people for a change?

I suspect that your definition of liberal and conservative are built around compassion for the poor if expressed in a way you approve.

You'd be wrong, but then again you and other conservatives are always wrong when you try to give voice to what liberals believe.

Anybody with compassion for the poor is a liberal

See, it's good to be liberal, as long as you're not a liberal.

I ran into a social worker once who opined that the reluctance of the able-bodied to look for work is a mental illness and needs to be treated as a disease. Some of us right-wingers don't buy that. Imagine.

Again, it just goes to show that liberalism is best left to conservatives. I mean, a social worker said it ....

Is wanting the poor to become self-supporting and reasonbly proud of their own efforts compassionate or resoundingly rotten?

Ha ha! You almost got me there. Can we make a deal? I'll remainder the Welfare Queen complaint if you'll lose the we conservatives only complain because we love the poor canard.

I only want the poor to become not poor? Is that so wrong?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

My god, I read this entire comment thread. At work.

Perhaps--and follow me here--perhaps the best strategy is *not* to accuse one's opponents of character flaws.

Perhaps we could all agree that we want a system that maximizes economic growth, maximizes gov't revenues, and maximizes the health and welfare of the least fortunate.

We need to balance those three goals. How best to balance them is an empirical matter. Let's debate the empirical facts, then, without impugning each other's very souls.

Call me crazy. And, pretty soon, call me unemployed.

Posted by: Realish at May 21, 2003 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I think there's a lot of misinformation present on both sides regarding the Reagan tax cuts, so I thought I would clip a passage from my old macroeconomics textbooks for everyone's edification:

The elements of supply-side economics just discussed provided the intellectual underpinnings of the Reagan administration (1981-1989). Along with a substantial reduction in government regulation, personal and corporate income tax rates were cut sharply, the latter by about 25 percent over 3 years. In 1986, the marginal tax rate on wealthy taxpayers fell from 50 to 28 percent. *

The real world is an imperfect laboratory for judhing the success of a vast socioeconomic experiment such as "Reaganomics." For one thing, Congress did not accept all the expenditure reductions which the Reagan administration requested in its program. Even so, the Reagan years did in fact witness significant declines in inflation and interest rates, a record-long peacetime economic expansion, and eventual attainment of full employment. These years were also characterized by a resurgence of the spirit of entrepreneuralism. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that, as such, supply-side economics largely failed to increase aggregate supply more rapidly than its historical pace. There is little evidence that this program had any significant positive impacts on saving and investment or incentive to work. The saving rate, in fact, trended downward throughout the 1980s. Most economists attribute the post-1982 economic recovery to the demand-side expansionary effects of the Reagan tax cuts and not to the use of tax cuts are a pro-growth, supply-side measure.
The large tax cuts, together with the rising level of government expenditures, particularly for national defense, created record-high US budget deficits. The prediction of the Laffer Curve that tax cuts would enhance tax revenues beyond those associated with normal economic expansions did not bear fruit. The large deficits may have increased interest rates and crowded out unknown amounts of private investment. To cope with the large deficits, the Bush administration increased the top marginal tax rate from 28 to 31 percent. Bug huge budget deficits persisted, and in 1993 the Clinton administration again raised tax rates, pushing the top marginal tax rate ro 39.6 percent.
In summary, the evidence casts considerable doubt on the key supply-side proposition that tax cuts can directly and significantly shift the US long run aggregate supply curve rightward.
"Macroeconomics" 14th ed. by McConnell, Brue 1999, pg. 345. Added a few links to help with the econo-speak, and (*) removed an obselete sentence about current tax rates. Posted by: taktile at May 21, 2003 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Let's debate the empirical facts, then, without impugning each other's very souls.

You're new to this, aren't you?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Magenta:
Interesting point. However, you need to recall that a low standard of living is not necessarily unacceptable to some people. Food, shelter, running water, and a handy soup kitchen will do it.
I lived with considerably less when I worked for the government.
I knew a person who was a go-getter, a first-rate take-charge person, pro-active and problem-solving. Fortunately, they got her thyroid under control and she no longer makes the rest of us so ashamed of our lassitude. Some, but not as much.
She had, through some difficult circumstances, to live for six weeks in an entirely passive circumstance. She was told that any problem which appeared must be reported to the professionals so they could monitor the inputs and results. I am ambiguous for a reason, but if you were in on the details, you would understand it.
After returning home, about the second week of December that year, she discovered her husband had done all the Christmas shopping. Her job, while he was at work, was to wrap and mail them.
The decisions to be made, the minor problems to be overcome, the planning to be accomplished, all together nearly swamped her.
It was too difficult to recover from merely six weeks of enforced passivity.
I see no problem with looking at that phenomenon in issues of long-term unemployment. However, her solution was to force herself to do it, and she was shortly her old self.
Now, that is a first-rate person with a history of productive activity and only six weeks off.
It could be worse.
It is, I expect.
However, the social worker I mentioned was talking about whether taking the unemployed able-bodied off welfare (which had no provision for making them employable)was ever a good idea. It was to be the status quo ante forever and ever.
One diagnosis of unemployabilitis and they're good for life was his view. Don't even bother them with stuff like classes. Not fair.
Now, for all the howling about inherited wealth, most folks who have money made themselves do stuff they'd rather not have done, and more of it than most of us. Which is to say that they are likely to believe that others can do the same and if they don't...? And their motivation was that if they didn't do this work, they'be broke. If it worked for them, it ought to work for others.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at May 21, 2003 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

D'oh.

Change this sentence:
"Bug huge budget deficits persisted, and in 1993 the Clinton administration again raised tax rates, pushing the top marginal tax rate ro 39.6"

to:
"But huge budget deficits persisted, and in 1993 the Clinton administration again raised tax rates, pushing the top marginal tax rate to 39.6"

Posted by: taktile at May 21, 2003 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Magenta, re: the housing market. Your concerns are addressed by most proposed voucher programs (where each student has a certain amount of money attached to him, presumably an amount determined by the state, but I'm almost afraid to say the 'V' word because it may cause an explosion. Vouchers won't stop rich people from getting a excellent educations, but they should in theory help poorer people get a good education. Your objection identifies a problem that is at least as bad in the current system as it would be in a voucher system.

Declan, the answer to most of your questions is 'maybe' and that is the whole problem. Take your income redistribution question: "Don't all income redistribution programs give a stake in society to those that otherwise would have little or nothing, and could pose a significant risk of social upheaval?" Your 'all' makes this a definite no, but for purposes of argument if you had said 'Don't most income redistribution......' the answer would be 'there is lots of disagreement about the proposition'. I hate to burst everyone's bubble but the percentage of evil conservatives probably doesn't exceed the number of evil liberals. There is just a lot of disagreement about methods and effectiveness.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at May 21, 2003 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

"How do you build a free, competative education market that serves all children? "

I don't know. How do you build a free, public school system that serves all children? Because we don't have one of those, either. Unless by "serving" you mean "babysitting", that is.

"You can't actually make a private school system accept all comers. That interferes with the free market. So some kids would be unable to find a school, because there would be children whom it would be unprofitable to educate. A free market would leave those children uneducated."

The public school system leaves those exact same children uneducated.

"Currently, the system is compulsory, wouldn't a truly free market system be necessarily optional? People might decide that they would rather spend their own hard-earned money on video games and figure the kids could get work without education. Would that be OK with you? "

Public school officials come right out and admit that they can't educate kids whose parents don't give a damn. They're always talking about the need to get "parental support" before those kids can learn.

Now of course a market system will have inequalities when a snapshot view is taken. (So does public education, but never mind.) The neat thing about a market system is that the product and its cost tends to improve over time, so that even a relatively mediocre education in 20 years would be better than the finest education available today.

That kind of progression doesn't occur in the public education system.

Posted by: Ken at May 21, 2003 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

The neat thing about a market system is that the product and its cost tends to improve over time

You mean like the costs of going to a private school have improved over time in, you know, the real world?

Or is this another one of those, in theory, if we eliminated liberals arguments?

True or False? Conservatives hate public education because they can't have complete control over the curriculum, and have done everything they possibly could over the last several decades to undermine it, in the hopes that it would eventually get bad enough that people would just give up and beg for an alternative.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

My problem with vouchers is that they benefit only those children whose parents have the income to supplement them. The cost of pooling resources into a non-profit system is likely to be less than tuition for a private school obligated to turn a profit. And I would take the real estate system out of the public schools by spreading the levies throughout the state. And probably shifting school taxes to income taxes. Honestly, most of us don't farm any longer, so people's ability to pay taxes is not necessarily closely tied to our property values.

And on the issue of parental involvement and disadvantaged children, I'd say we need more public intervention, not less. Parenting classes, Head Start and those kinds of programs can make a real difference if we really don't want to leave children behind. Ideally we wouldn't need all of this, and people would be 100 percent responsible and only have kids at the best time, etc., etc., but the world is something less than ideal.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Demetrios,

No, I'm not new to this, if by "this" you mean political debate. I'm getting pretty sick of how it transpires, though. As I read through this thread I could practically hear the porn music and low moans as people stroked themselves. "I'm... so... comPASSionate... oh!"

I know lots of conservatives--having grown up in the South, it's hard to avoid. I'm not one of them, but in my experience, they are not, as a rule, the monstrous, selfish, Hobbesian caricatures that are getting attacked on this board.

Most of them would like to improve the lot of the least fortunate. Most of them are concerned about the poor and about minorities and about the environment. They just believe that the way to act on those concerns is not necessarily through government programs and spending. They believe that most (not all) social welfare programs do as much harm as good; that they subsidize dysfunction; that they stunt competition and improvement;that they have negative, unintended consequences; that they slow economic growth; etc. They believe that the poor, etc. would be better served by reducing government spending and increasing economic growth.

Now, I think, on the whole, they are wrong about this, although they have their points. I believe they exaggerate the ineffectiveness of social welfare programs, and underestimate their positive effects.

But I do not impugn their basic humanity.

The problem with reading commentary is that it's mostly true believers and ideologues writing it. Don't forget that most people are pretty reasonable, and pretty close to the center.

If you want to argue against caricatures, that's fine. But if you ever want to change anyone's mind, you have to begin by acknowledging their humanity and their rationality. Otherwise you're just engaged in a circle jerk.

Posted by: Realish at May 21, 2003 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Way to go Kevin.

Why, as a nation, are we choosing to define ourselves by our most selfish and greedy desires? And how the hell do people pass it off as "freedom" or "fairness"?

Good post. Way to go.

Posted by: Tim at May 21, 2003 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

The lack of historical perspective in this thread displayed by those on the left *and* right is really disturbing. I think I'll point out some things that should piss off both sides. First, for you on the right, but only if you are rich, and that's less than 1% of you, the reason we have social welfare programs paid for by "progressive" taxation is that this is the price *you* pay for social stability in the face of the business cycle. A little study of oh say the last 150 years would teach you that times are not always fat and were it not for the slew of programs we have now there would be cyclical phases of civil unrest as the suffering of the temporarilly ballooning bottom neared starvation. For the rest of you on the right, that is, 99% of you, there is this aspect of life called "luck", and without it there is no chance whatsoever of you joining that elite 1%, even if your virtue is christlike and your lifelong work ethic approximately that of a farmer at harvest time. Congratulations for those with luck, the rest of you (99% in the end) welcome to the actual real world, and thank your deity there is a real safety net even if it is porous enough for whales to fall through.

Now for those of you on the left who think all this immense worldwide redistribution infrastructure is in some important way justified by pity or compassion. I cannot think of anything more ridiculous, why that's almost like invading another country, killing hundreds, if not thousands of innocent civilians, not excluding women and children, just to give them 'freedom' (which by the way appears to be leaking away rather alarmingly in the US). Pity and compassion are exceptionally poor imperatives on which to motivate policy. Let's (those of us on the left) just accept that people have a right not to die due to bad luck, and see that that right is in fact upheld.

There. I feel better now.

Posted by: Russell L. Carter at May 21, 2003 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Ken,

It isn't necessarily the case that product quality and price improve over time under the free market. In the case of schools, it could be that some parents choose a school because of its selectivity. In that case, lowering the price might make it less attractive.

If the only basis for parents selecting a school were the quality of teaching, then yes, I think that the quality of teaching would tend to go up. But that's not the only reason for selecting a school.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at May 21, 2003 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Russell, I think that was well stated.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 01:02 PM | PERMALINK

Russell Carter:

You say that pity and compassion do not justify redistribution. Why do you think people have a right not to die due to bad luck?

Posted by: Don P at May 21, 2003 01:08 PM | PERMALINK

"It isn't necessarily the case that product quality and price improve over time under the free market. In the case of schools, it could be that some parents choose a school because of its selectivity. In that case, lowering the price might make it less attractive."

Yes, there are parents like that. They make up a large portion of the current market for private schools, which leads to private school prices noticeably different from what they would be if the private school market consisted of nearly all families.

"If the only basis for parents selecting a school were the quality of teaching, then yes, I think that the quality of teaching would tend to go up. But that's not the only reason for selecting a school."

People who would select a school that is free of "those people" are already utilizing private schools. Privatizing the public school system isn't going to magically convert the rest of the population over to that mindset. The rest of the population will have more bona-fide educational concerns, and the market will react accordingly.

Posted by: Ken at May 21, 2003 01:09 PM | PERMALINK

Realish, thanks for the lecture.

I grew up in the South, too. I've found through experience that many conservatives hate liberals more than they love the poor. As a result, they do anything they can to attack liberals, and that includes resorting to demagoguery on issues related to taxation and government spending. It's not fair, and I'm tired of it.

I think it's sweet that you're sticking up for honest, well-meaning conservatives everywhere, but if they can't hear the difference between their own ideals of compassion for others and the things that their Republican politicians say, stand for, and enact through legislation, then I do have questions about their intentions. Which do they love more, helping the less fortunate, or keeping the liberals down?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

Ken,

Privatized health care, theoretically, also should cover almost all people with care that is constantly rising in quality for a very reasonable cost. Is it your contention that it currently does so? And if so, may I swap you insurance plans?

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 01:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a little late here, but I'm gonna make my post anyway. And this isn't even anecdotal, this is my life.

I'm 23, and by most definitions, my family was/is poor. My father is an alcoholic vietnam Veteran who's got PTSD, and can't work (he's considers 70 or 80% disabled...I forget which). My mom divorced him because of his drinking (before he was diagnosed with PTSD). She chose before the divorce to work a part time job driving a school bus, so that she could be home when myself and my siblings (2 of them, if you're wondering) got home from school, or not long after. She did this because she knew that it was important for kids to have their parents around...a lesson she learned the hard way, as both her parents died when she was young.

So my single mother swallowed her pride and applied for whatever help she could. Welfare, foodstamps, section 8, etc. She got most of it, because she had a legitimate need.

As an aside, I had a friend through high school who grew up in a 2 family home where both parents worked full time and made 6 figures. He was left home alone every afternoon, once he was old enough (11 or 12, as I recall). He dropped out of college (which I can't say much of, since I did too), became involved with drugs, stole thousands of dollars worth of product from the retail outlet he worked at (never got cauhgt, either, thanks to the incompetent management there), and is currently unemployed. I've had a steady job for the last 3 years, and am preparing to help my mother buy her first (and most likely only) home, in large part because of low income home ownership programs run by HUD and the state. I'm also working to start my own business, altho I'm having trouble finding a location I like, so that's pretty much on hold. My brother is entering his last year at Northeastern University, where he's on the dean's list and plans to go on to law school (his advisor says he'll have his choice of schools - Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford..whatever he wants and can afford). My sister is finishing up her junior year of highschool, and hasn't decided on what she wants to do next

Someone, please explain to me which choices my mother made that were stupid or wrong. Which of those the government shouldn't subsidize. If anything, the kid with the two workaholic parents who were never their for him is going to be a bigger drag on the economy than myself or my siblings will ever be.


George Bush is pushing a welfare reform plan that would require a majority of welfare recipients to work full time, without providing anything for child care. Child care is exceptionally expenisve in this state (and in most of the country, as I understand it). If my mother were forced to meet that standard, she'd have had to either give up the help she got and try to hack it on the income she could get from driving the bus, or she could let us stay home alone for hours every day. Child care would not have been an option.

So, she was subsidized. But what part was the stupid/bad decision? To marry a veteran, instead of some wealthy guy? To choose to take care of her children, instead of working whatever job paid her the most?

She made the decisions that were best for her family, and in the long run are most likely to be best for society. Bad decisions are not unique to those below the poverty line. If you wish to punish those below it for bad decisions, perhaps you should also punish those above it.

Posted by: JoeF at May 21, 2003 01:25 PM | PERMALINK

I have amazingly little pity and compassion. I do put up an appropriate front when circumstances demand, Christ, I'm not a sociopath. I do feel shame though. I'm ashamed that some Americans are left with no house, medical care or education to speak of. Old Europe does better than us in these thing for all our vaunted wealth and greatness.

Posted by: LowLife at May 21, 2003 01:30 PM | PERMALINK

Ken-

Get of the "free market fixes everything" train, it ain't runnin.

Listen, if you seriously thought about the machinations of commerce and finance for just a few moments you would realize the market simply cannot fix everything, in fact it can fix very few things. In an egalitarian, small, cash-based society the market would work fine on its own, in the real world very few things outside of basic consumables are shaped by the will of the market.

I think cable tv might be an example you can understand. In any given city there's often only a couple of providers. Here in LA there is 4, I believe. Who your provider is depends on where you live, and if you don't like the price or the service or something else, you simply cannot go to a different provider. There are no consumer market pressures to speak of- if you want cable you only have one choice.

Direct TV has presented the one and only choice to consumers, and therefore possible market pressure. So DTV is your "free market" mechanism at work. But wait! they may be bought out by a cable channel if the FCC allows it (and if Powell gets his way they will). What does that mean for market pressure?

Not everything is subject to the sort of pressures a bar of soap or a TV or a frozen dinner is. Schools are one of them. How realiztic do you really think it is to have mulitple schools in an area, representing 200% more capacity than is needed, vying for students? What sort of business model could sustain that?

At best you'd have something that resembles cable minus direct tv, which resembles public schooling (you go to a school depending on where you live). What reason would there be to have such a system privately run for profit? If there is no possible way for consumers to exert pressure on the schools (can't choose a different one, aren't a major shareholder, being private there's no accountability to the public), why would the schools be better than public run schools?

Are you familiar with the spectacular failure of Edison schools, where when profits are down they have the kids work as receptionists?

I find it amusing that you have nothing but faith in "the free market" to fix all things, but can't describe what a free market school system would look like.

Posted by: Tim at May 21, 2003 01:32 PM | PERMALINK

Russell, the terms 'pity' and 'compassion' were introduced early on in an exchange between myself and John Cole; in my statement, I tried to separate the two. They're not same thing.

I thought it was telling that you put 'freedom' in quotation marks in the following passage:

why that's almost like invading another country, killing hundreds, if not thousands of innocent civilians, not excluding women and children, just to give them 'freedom'

Most liberals I know don't want to give children an 'education', they want to give them an education (lose the irony-marking quotes). Whereas I think 'freedom' (quoted) is a pretty good way to sum up what the Bush admin had in mind for the people of Iraq.

Personally, I don't believe that compassion is the only basis for policy, but I do believe that a collective sense of compassion and the self-interest of most members of society have a real and profound intersect. I'm not trying to lord my compassion or humanity or that of other liberals over anyone. In fact, it's a basic tactic of conservatives to impugn the humanity of liberals by calling them 'communists' or 'socialists', then to explain to us that all of their own policies are justified for liberal reasons.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 01:32 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, First time visitor.... So much hate and unhappiness here.

I want taxes as low a possible for one reason - I want to build WEALTH for me and my family. I, deep down inside, want and expect everyone else to try and do the same.

I cannot do this if It (Government) takes it away as I earn it (with a promise to pinch some back when I'm 70). I'll guarantee you that if I could have kept my 1/2 of Social Security my whole life (until 65) - I'd have millions and would not need to rely on the government shelling out a small portion of what I put in. That would still leave the other 1/2 (the part my employer kicks in) to take care of those that truly need it.

Our Government (read both Liberals and Republicans) spends so much money it's pathetic. If anyone here could really, really comprehend it - this debate would stop. I heard an example about what a billion is and how to puts it into perspective (please don't nit pic - it's from memory and I'm at work and can't take the time to find it):

A billion seconds: it was 1954
A billion minutes: Christ was born
A billion dollars: What government spends it in 8 hours!

This to me says it all. Our goverment spends SOOOO much money to try and solve "problems" and it is NEVER enough. We have stuff in the budget that is flat out not needed.

Billions and Billions is spent every year on the poor. How can you honestly say it's not enough. Trillions - think about that number - trillions of dollars have been spent on the war on poverty since LBJ started the war. What poverty was in 1960 and what its now don't even look that same. If we can't eliminate poverty spening that kind of money - we will never, ever solve the problem.

This whole debate started (at the top) about what the taxes on a million dollars would be - and how the millionare should bitch about paying it. I don't buy the numbers in the example. If my wife and I (2 kids - living in WI) earned 1 million - we'd pay about 430,000 in taxes (including FICA). A single person would pay more. $300,000????, maybe if you lived in Florida (no state tax).

I'm not a millionaire and won't get there as long as there are people willing to take what I earn and redistribute to others.

Posted by: Randy at May 21, 2003 01:32 PM | PERMALINK

Realish,

I agree that we should not dehumanize our political opponents. Point taken.

However, it isn't completely true that liberals and conservatives want the same things, and they only differ on how to get them. Maybe they have the same ideal in mind --- that everyone should be healthy, happy, well-educated, gainfully employed, etc. But they differ greatly about what they would accept when things fall short of this ideal.

How much poverty is acceptable? How much crime? How much annoying red tape is tolerable? How much tax do the richest have to pay? How destitute are the poorest?

Conservatives and liberals and civil libertarians differ about what kind of---and how much of---imperfections they are willing to tolerate. Yes, conservatives may agree with liberals that it would nice if there were no poverty. But what priority do they place on fighting poverty, compared with other ills? I would say that the priorities of conservatives and liberals are different, even accounting for different beliefs about how best to fight poverty.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at May 21, 2003 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

JoeF.
I don't think you have been following the point.
Your situation is not a result of bad choices.
Nobody said that all of the poor are poor because of bad choices, although some of them are poor because of somebody else's bad choices, such as a father who abandons the family.
Nobody will, as far as I know, be unhappy at what your mother did to get by.
It's what the programs are for.
Have you got that yet?
The programs are not for those who do not actually need them.
Your buddy who is in such trouble will probably be poor, to the extent he is not subsidized by his family, for the rest of his life.
That's poverty by bad choice.
See the difference?

Posted by: RIchard Aubrey at May 21, 2003 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

Why is the question of what's fair in taxation so loaded with pettiness?

The idea that it's fair to tax the poor at the same rate as the ultra rich is sickening to me, yet that's the prevelant argument.

The poor are... poor. They don't have it good, taxes or not. What taxes they do pay (payroll and sales mostly) are a burden to them because they make so little.

The rich are... rich. They have it pretty good no matter how much in taxes they pay. The taxes they pay (mostly income) are not a burden to them. $90,000 out of a million is nothing, especialy considering they're making money tax-free with capital investments.

So why do defenders of the rich (I hope you all realize none of you are rich and most likely never will be) think it's unfair if the poor pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than the rich?

First of all, they don't. All taxes taken together it ends up nearly flat. Second, the tax burden of the poor is much much higher than for the rich. So how is it unfair that income is taxed differently?

What about capital? Capital income is taxed at a much lower rate than labor, and only the wealthy can really make money off of capital, why is not considered unfair for the wealthy to make money at a lower tax rate than the poor can (the poor can only make money via labor)?

I think it's all about winning and losing. People who think it's unfair to tax according to burden (that's what a progressive tax does, more or less) are generally going to be a bit petty. Winners deserve to win and be rewarded, losers deserve to lose and be punished.

Having so many losers in a society is not a good thing. If the playing field were level (it never has been) then "fairness" could be assessed by percentages. But there is no level playing field, and having growing numbers of the poor, destitute, criminal, infirm, and desperate is not a good thing. Having a nation mired in mediocrity because so few have so much, and so many are pacified by the crumbs of game shows and Wal-Marts thrown their way, is not a good thing. Look at US history up till the New Deal legislation, if they had TV and the internet and Christina Aguillera's "clown whore" get-up it would have looked a lot like today.

"Fair"? Fuck fair. Go tell some poor mexican kid getting a shitty education in a shitty neighborhood in LA that it's only fair she get nothing but shit till she learns to "pull herself up by her bootstraps". For society to do anything for her would be unfair, wouldn't it?

Posted by: Tim at May 21, 2003 01:52 PM | PERMALINK

"I think cable tv might be an example you can understand. In any given city there's often only a couple of providers."

By law, if I'm not mistaken.

"Here in LA there is 4, I believe. Who your provider is depends on where you live, and if you don't like the price or the service or something else, you simply cannot go to a different provider. There are no consumer market pressures to speak of- if you want cable you only have one choice."

Again, that state of affairs is mandated by law. I'm not sure what that has to do what a market.

"Not everything is subject to the sort of pressures a bar of soap or a TV or a frozen dinner is. Schools are one of them. How realiztic do you really think it is to have mulitple schools in an area, representing 200% more capacity than is needed, vying for students? What sort of business model could sustain that? "

No more viable than multiple TV factories pumping out 200% of the number of TV's that the market is demanding. Which is why you don't see such things in the TV industry for very long.

"At best you'd have something that resembles cable minus direct tv, which resembles public schooling (you go to a school depending on where you live). "

No you wouldn't. The reason why people only go to the school that they're zoned for is that it's the law. If not for that, people would have all kinds of criteria for picking out a school, with location being only one of them.

"What reason would there be to have such a system privately run for profit? "

None whatsoever. A system where people had to go to a certain school based on where they live would be a really stupid system.

"Are you familiar with the spectacular failure of Edison schools, where when profits are down they have the kids work as receptionists?"

Are you aware that Edison schools were government contractors where neither students nor parents numbered among their customers?

"I find it amusing that you have nothing but faith in "the free market" to fix all things, but can't describe what a free market school system would look like."

I've been doing just that. You're the one that is trying to convince us that it would resemble a government-protected monopoly where only one provider could service a given house.

Posted by: Ken at May 21, 2003 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

> Most of them are concerned about the poor and
> about minorities and about the environment.
> They just believe that the way to act on those
> concerns is not necessarily through government
> programs and spending.

You know, I actually believe that this is true. I know decent, thoughtful, compassionate, reasonable conservatives, who object to these government programs on the basis of their economic philosophy, and not through any personal bigotry.

The problem is that aside from opposing Affirmative Action, desegregation, and multiculturalism in general, the conservative establishment does very little to address racism in America.

The problem is that aside from opposing environmental regulations, the clean air act, the clean water act, and logging restrictions, the conservative establishment does very little to address environmental issues in America.

The problem is that aside from opposing same-sex marriage and hate crime legeslation and favoring sodomy laws in general, the conservative establishment does very little to address homophobia in America.

Repeat for your favored social issue.

I don't believe that all conservatives are selfish bigots. I would like to believe that most of them aren't. The problem is that although they "believe that the way to act on those concerns is not necessarily through government programs and spending," they very rarely propose a solution of their own. They don't speak out forcefully against bigotry. They don't reject lunatics like Senator man-on-dog. Hell, it took a good deal of prodding before they'd even unequivocably state that Ken Lay sure did some bad stuff.

I'm not talking about big government programs, and I'm not talking about passing laws against "disliking black folks" or any crazy liberal ideas like that. I'm talking about prominent Republicans coming out in public and saying "If you discriminate against someone or endorse discrimination against someone based on their color, gender, or sexual orientation, you are a motherfucker, and I don't want you in my party."

I don't believe that they can do that, of course, because I believe that they rely on the support of bigots in order to be elected, and those bigots believe that the party serves their best interests.

I sure wish someone would prove me wrong.

---JRC

Posted by: JRC at May 21, 2003 01:54 PM | PERMALINK

Randy,

There are several things about Social Security that I think you are glossing over.

First of all, you say that if you had been allowed to invest your contributions to Social Security yourself, you would have made a heck of a lot more money than you will ever get from Social Security. That would be a fair comparison if Social Security were an investment plan. But it's not. It's an insurance plan. It protects you against the possibility of retiring without adequate money to get by. The average person would be better off without social security, in exactly the same way that the average person would be better off without car insurance. Insurance just softens the blow in the case of catastrophe.

The other point about retirement that people are unaware of is this: All retirement plans are equivalent to pay-as-you-go, if looked at on a large scale. Whether your retirement is paid for out of investments, or out of government handouts, or out of money saved under a mattress, the bottom line is that at any given moment, the people who are working must provide goods and services enough for themselves plus those who are not working. If the economy is doing well enough (or if the numbers of retirees, or their standard of living is low enough) then that's no problem. If the economy is doing poorly (or if the numbers of retirees, or their standard of living is high enough) then the burden on workers may be onerous.

From the point of view of the burden on future workers, it doesn't matter whether retirees saved for their retirement or are living off of handouts. What does affect the burden on future workers is the amount of other obligations, such as payments on the federal debt.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at May 21, 2003 01:58 PM | PERMALINK

Daryl,

Social Security is not insurance. Automobile Insurance is. If I pay for automobile insurance my whole life and never use it, I won't get remibursed what I paid in that I didn't use.

Social Security is income transfer. What I am paying right now goes to my parents (and others) in the form of a check. When I get to be 65 (or 62), I will qualify to receive a check from someone else who is still working. I am gauranteed that check as long as I stay alive.

I work for an Insurance company. Insurance is designed to indemnify (set back to the way it was before the loss) the Insured against a loss. Social Security is a promise from the government that if I pay in, I'll get a check when I'm 65.

I'm going home now. Everyone have a nice day.

Posted by: Randy at May 21, 2003 02:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's what the programs are for.
Have you got that yet?
The programs are not for those who do not actually need them.
Your buddy who is in such trouble will probably be poor, to the extent he is not subsidized by his family, for the rest of his life.
That's poverty by bad choice.
See the difference?

But my point is that the programs Bush and Clinton pushed as reform would hury my family more than they'd hurt my friend, even tho he's more likely to be a larger drag on society. My mother couldn't work full time and still be there for us. So she wouldn't be able to get those programs any more. My friend could easily find another full time job, and therefor get help.

So my argument is that it's better to provide a very wide net than to try to pick and choose who gets what based on simplified standards. Reform is good, in theory...but if the reforms affect the wrong groups, than they're not as good. In this case, the reforms Bush is pushing (and, by association, the ones Clinton passed, which used similar, but less severe, standards) are doing little to help single parents trying to juggle their duties as parent and breadwinner, and less to punish the poor who are willing to abandon their kids in the persuit of money, as well as those without children. So, of those three groups, the group with the best argument for help are getting hit the hardest.

Posted by: JoeF at May 21, 2003 02:15 PM | PERMALINK

Ken,

People are not going to set up for-profit schools in the inner cities. It's just not going to happen. People aren't going to set up a for-profit school in the middle of nowhere, either. Schools would be in reasonably affluent, suburban areas. And people in the inner cities and the rural areas would have trouble with transportation, etc.

How do I know this? Because it is already the case with for-profit medical care. Charitable and/or state-funded clinics serve poor rural and inner-city populations. Doctors and dentists, however, flock to the suburbs where people with money live. (And understandably so, given the amount of debt they leave school with, quite honestly.)

You're right, the system would not resemble cable television. It would resemble health care. And the suburbs would be swimming in schools, while the areas that are currently worst served would have just about zero access to education rather than the poor to mediocre schools they have now.

We know how things work when we leave a vital service to for-profit corporations. It has great results for those who are affluent. Your answer is more of the same. Mine is to try a different approach. Let's keep public education but try different funding sources. Let's try parenting classes and transportation and expanded Head Start programs. Let's train teachers and let's allow teachers some flexibility in their curriculum. Let's not censor words kids use every day. (And both sides play that game.)

Public education worked for a long time in our country. The system is not in great shape, but I think it is an error to dismantle it. It will be a lot harder to rebuilt than it will be to reform.

Posted by: Magenta at May 21, 2003 02:20 PM | PERMALINK

Ken-

Cable companies lease the cables ther systems run on from the government- in other words the cables they lease are owned by the public. Who gets to go where is dictated by the awarding of leases.

How would a public school system work differently and serve all kids?

Again, you are unable to describe how a free market education system would work. You have let everyone know what you believe would happen, but you still are unable to describe it.

So again, what would it look like and how would market pressures make them good? You have not described such a thing- don't tell me you have because you have not.

Describe how you imagine it could work. How would there be adequate choice so that every parent had at least 1 or 2 options. Describe it. Don't tell me how market forces work again- describe a free market school system.

Randy-

What flavor was your Kool-Aid?

Posted by: Tim at May 21, 2003 02:24 PM | PERMALINK

Magenta-

Yes, you're right, it would most likely look like healthcare- but even worse because healthcare can exist in areas that have enough medicaid patients or those with insurance through their employers, that still may not be able to spend any money on education.

The point with the cable companies is that if you're going to argue a private education system is going to be better than a public one it then must serve all children. After-all, if it didn't it wouldn't be better, would it?

And, to insure everyone was covered there would have to be some sort of government mandate to provide full coverage- this would make it start to look something like cable tv- coverage, but no competition.

A simple free market system would do what all free markets do- follow the money. And there's no money in providing quality education to anyone besides the wealthy and a strong middle class.

Posted by: Tim at May 21, 2003 03:03 PM | PERMALINK

> And, to insure everyone was covered there
> would have to be some sort of government
> mandate to provide full coverage

. . .and then, when it was a massive failure, guys like Sebastian would explain that it only failed because it wasn't "fully" privatized and deregulated. Any government interference at all provides a useful scapegoat when the free-market utopia these folks theorize consistently fails to appear.

---JRC

Posted by: JRC at May 21, 2003 03:17 PM | PERMALINK

How much poverty is acceptable? How much crime? How much annoying red tape is tolerable? How much tax do the richest have to pay? How destitute are the poorest? Conservatives and liberals and civil libertarians differ about what kind of---and how much of---imperfections they are willing to tolerate.

I always find it dicey when someone deems themselves the spokesperson for what the 'opposing side' really wants, but your point is noted.

One need only look at the areas that have been run for many consecutive decades by 'liberals' and witness how much crime, poverty and taxation they're willing to 'tolerate'.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 03:25 PM | PERMALINK

One need only look at the areas that have been run for many consecutive decades by 'liberals' and witness how much crime, poverty and taxation they're willing to 'tolerate'.

What areas are those, Ricky? Name one. Or two. Provide details. How many do you have to name to 'prove' that crime, poverty and taxation are caused by liberal policies? And when you prove it, will it be worth more than a warm bucket of your proof about Reagan's tax cuts causing an increase in government revenues?

We do know how much crime conservatives are willing to tolerate -- lots and lots and lots of the white collar kind, zero of the rest.

Ricky, remember when you left in a snit, citing concern for Kevin's bandwidth, but also complaining about trolls? What brought you back? Don't care about the bandwidth thing anymore?

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 03:39 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I prefer to completely ignore usenet level trolls.

Thus, here's my detailed response to you, Demetrios, which should cover any past and future isntances where you follow me around and play groupie to my act, desperately seeking my acknowledgement. Pay attention:

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 03:58 PM | PERMALINK

"The point with the cable companies is that if you're going to argue a private education system is going to be better than a public one it then must serve all children. "

No it doesn't. If it serves the same number of children (which is by no means all of them, unless you count "babysitting" as "serving"), but serves them better, then it is clearly better overall.

Now a completely private education system does not preclude having the government help poor people afford education. It doesn't even preclude people below a certain income level having the whole thing paid for. Now the interesting question is what exactly "a certain income level" will be. But just as providing food to the poor doesn't require that the government operate farms or grocery stores, providing education to the poor doesn't require the government to operate schools.

But middle class and above really ought to be fending for themselves, in any event.

"Describe how you imagine it could work. How would there be adequate choice so that every parent had at least 1 or 2 options. Describe it. Don't tell me how market forces work again- describe a free market school system."

Fine. Here's a brief description of how it works:

Parents pick out a school. They can pick any school that their kids can get to, anywhere in town (or even in another state if it offers remote lessons). They don't have to waste money on expensive real estate in order to take advantage of a high-end school - they can live wherever they want and still send their kids there.

Schools compete on price and quality. As time goes by, schools learn new educational methods to get more learning in less time and at less cost, and consistently deploy such improvements to "one up" each other. As the economy demands a more extensive education, schools will not just keep their schedule and tell their customers to sit back and accept the fact that their kids won't be growing up for several extra years - they'll cut breaks, revamp the curriculum, and adapt to changing conditions.

The market value of a high school diploma will thus be higher than in a public system, and real, honest-to-God 18 year old adults, capable of supporting themsevles and their children, will exist in much larger numbers.

A much greater variety of schools will exist. Some will employ a traditional classroom (but with brighter teachers that are managed much more intelligently). Others will have some or all of their students receiving their lessons remotely. There will even be entities whose sole function is to test people for mastery of basic educational knowledge, kind of like the GED (except not nearly as simple-minded, with a consequently higher market value). New methods (the nature of which no one can currently predict) will appear, and survive based on demonstrated improvements in price or quality rather than their ability to sound good and sway voters and legislators.

Posted by: Ken at May 21, 2003 03:59 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. What a debate :)

However, I think most, if not all of you are missing one essential point.

Taxes do NOT matter.

What does matter, is encouraging a healthy economy and society, and having a high quality of life. That "9%" you "pay" for all intensive purposes does not exist. Myself, the money I spend towards basic needs, as well, does not exist. Power, phone, water, rent and so forth, are just like taxes to me. As long as I have enough money at the end of the day to keep me living and happy, that's all I ask for. Of course I would like to make more money, who wouldn't, however, I am under no illusion that with a 0% tax rate I would have more play money. In fact, more than likely I would find myself out of a job, and in reality very soon out of a society.

Tax cuts are good, to the bottom when consumption is needed (like right now) and to the top when investment is needed (see JFK's tax cuts). Tax increases are also good when the infrastructure needs additional resources to make the economy as a whole work better. Also again, as long as I have a good society and QoL, It's all good to me.

Making public education work? Untie funding from local property values. Competitive private education is also bad, from a grade school perspective because it would be much harder to compare schools, for hiring and admission purposes. As well, I can see where schools compete by lowering their academic standards to give the illusion of success. Not a good idea.

Social Security also pays out disability. Just thought I'd point that out.

Not all libertarians do want to remove things like roads, property enforcement and the like. Although this is more rational, it undercuts the moral argument that most libertarian arguments revolve around. (Use of force to take money). If you can use it for one, then it becomes "moral", and becomes about being effective and not moral. In fact, I respect the libertarians the most that are complete anarchists, and not minarchists.

Posted by: Glenn at May 21, 2003 04:09 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Ricky, where do you think I trolled you? Let's make a deal, I won't 'follow you around and play groupie to your act' anymore if you tell me where I hurt your feelings. I thought I was just trying to get you to back up the things you say, but apparently your opinion of your 'act' is very high.

Also, I'd be interested to know which "areas that have been run for many consecutive decades by 'liberals'" you were referring to. But your clever little 'burn you' construction keeps you warm and safe from having to respond to anyone pointing out the gaping holes in your logic. If I were you I might say something like, "I feel strongly that your attitude is not only anathema to civilized debate, but also indicative of one lacking substance to his argument," but what I really think is yeah, maybe you had better go back to your own blog to play.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 04:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'll answer the question of liberal controlled enclaves: Washington DC, pre-Giuliani New York City, Detroit.

Posted by: Sebastian holsclaw at May 21, 2003 04:27 PM | PERMALINK

Ken-

You didn't do it.

What's the business model? Where does money come from? In an area that's served by 2 public schools at capacity, are there going to be more than 2 schools from more than 2 competitors? How could they sustain profitability? How could they maintain such infrastructure? How are they funded as start-ups? How does competition enter the marketplace?

You've described the theory of how a market system would make things better- the same damn thing you do everytime you wax poetic about the market. Since you seem to think private enterprise can sure all ills, I want you to describe how this private schooling would work as a business.

I don't see how it could happen without every school essentially being a government contractor, which is no different from public schooling except there's even less accountability.

You seem to think schools can work like Targets or different brands of widgets. For all your free-market philosophy you haven't described one iota of how the business of schooling would actually take place.

Who pays? Where does revenue come from? Are these start ups or are you talking about Wal-Mart putting schools in the back of it's store.

How can parents send their kid to any school? That's theory. The real world would dictate transportation is one concern, and if it's not provided the kid goes to the closest school. Another question would be who is paying for the education? Also- how are schools evaluated?

What about bankruptcies? Are they owned by shareholders? Are they on the exchange? What if profits are down? What about recession? What about accountability? If every one was completely private, and rather than become better they became as cheap and crappy as possible (the market often rewards poor labor practices, poor environmental policy, and shoddy merchandise just as much as good- you're a fool if you deny that), how would it change? Parents? What if it ends up with regional monopolies, what then?

Tell me the business plan, Ken. Don't give me more theory- tell me how it works.

Posted by: Tim at May 21, 2003 04:41 PM | PERMALINK

Ricky, you still haven't shown that government revenues increased because of the Reagan income tax cuts. You seem like a nice guy, so a little word of advice: don't post on a discussion board, if you can't back up your claims.

That's one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Ricky doesn't have to show that revenues increased BECAUSE of the tax cuts. Revenues increased IN SPITE of the tax cuts which liberals automatically equate to a loss of government revenue.

Posted by: Jay Caruso at May 21, 2003 04:44 PM | PERMALINK

Revenues increased IN SPITE of the tax cuts which liberals automatically equate to a loss of government revenue.

That's a dumb thing to hear, too. Everyone knows that post hoc is a logical fallacy.

Jay, you'd better watch your tone. Ricky isn't going to talk to you if you're not nice!

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 05:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'll answer the question of liberal controlled enclaves: Washington DC, pre-Giuliani New York City, Detroit.

I think I've had enough of this discussion, but I will check back to see how you'll demonstrate the causal relationship between liberal policies and crime and poverty. I don't need a lot of proof, just enough to make me hungry for a tax cut.

And then maybe we'll talk about the Utopic, poverty- and crime-free conservative 'enclaves', such as Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 05:12 PM | PERMALINK

I got a kick out of the guys insisting that Reagan's tax cut caused a "boom" in government revenues, so I created another of my notorious pretty pictures at Why Your Wife Won't Have Sex With You.

Reagan's stewardship increased government revenues an average of a whopping 1% over what they were under the Carter administration.

Posted by: Julia Grey at May 21, 2003 05:51 PM | PERMALINK

And just to put that 1% into perspective, revenues rose an average of $30.35 billion per year in the Carter administration and $30.71 per year of the Reagan administration, but they rose an average of $40.2 billion a year during the Johnson years and $60-somthing billion a year during the years of Clinton's stewardship.

Posted by: Julia Grey at May 21, 2003 06:34 PM | PERMALINK

Demetrios, the rationale behind tax cuts was not to "increase government revenues." Your challenge (if that's what you want to call it) is absurd. Liberals believe - wrongly - that tax cuts cause deficits because it causes revenues to go down as the evil rich (apparently the only beneficiaries of tax rate cuts) reap their windfall. It's not true. It was a bullshit argument 20+ years ago, and it still is today.

Posted by: Jay Caruso at May 21, 2003 06:40 PM | PERMALINK

Julia,

Since the GDP (the national economy) changes from year to year (especially from decade to decade), comparing dollars against dollars isn't exactly the preferred method of doing things. Going from 100 billion to 130 billion is a 30% increase, while going from 200 billion to 240 billion is a 20% increase, while your 'chart' would show that the 40 billion mark would be superior.

Secondly, you're showing 'government revenue', which is also quite misleading since Reagan slashed the income taxes while also raising social security taxes. If your goal is to gauge the Reagan tax cuts & the resulting inlays versus succeeding administrations, go with the "on budget" numbers. I can save you the trouble, under Reagan on-budget inlays increased around 6.6%, under Bush 41 - 4.3%, under Clinton 8.2% (in constant dollars).

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 06:52 PM | PERMALINK

Tim:I can't give you a business model myself, in fact, I agree with you. However. I did some of the numbers....

What would be an affordable price. 2500/year? Not even that, 2000, that is the number I heard kicking about for vouchers. Ok.

Lets assumed an improved classroom enviroment.

20 kids in a class x 2000 a year = 40000.

Paying teachers 35k a year. Fine

That gives you 5k a year per classroom.

Administrator+Facility costs would be at least 200k a year. More for a larger facility but keep it simple. It takes 40 classes to hit THIS break even level...and that is not account for other assorted costs that come up.

I don't think the profit margin is there folks...

(For that matter, I don't believe the profit margin is there for health insurance either, to run it in a halfway decent manner for the customer.)

Oh, and by the way, generally speaking, profit comes to those who come cheap, especially if they provide empty emotions wrapped in a low low cost. Private education, I suspect would be a series of "teach the test" centers that did nothing to address the core problems....a increasing trend away from critical thinking and independant thought..that we see in schools.

Posted by: Glenn at May 21, 2003 07:19 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals believe - wrongly - that tax cuts cause deficits because it causes revenues to go down as the evil rich (apparently the only beneficiaries of tax rate cuts) reap their windfall. It's not true. It was a bullshit argument 20+ years ago, and it still is today.

You guys haven't proven a thing either way. This whole issue is a YMMV argument; there are too many factors involved to reduce it to a campaign slogan, though that won't ever stop the borrow-and-spend Republicans from wearing it the hell out.

Unlike you, Jay, I'm not comfortable speaking for all liberals (you do it so effortlessly). But in contrast to our country's current conservative leadership, most of the liberals I talk to and read on tax cuts don't believe that the vast bulk of cuts should go to the rich, making our system more regressive. And many of them argue that if you put the tax cuts in the hands of people who need to spend the money right away, it will actually have a stimulative effect on the economy.

The argument for the Laffer effect as I understand it is that tax cuts beget economic stimulus which begets increased revenues. I think it's probably oversimplified in that form, but that's what your guys have been trying to argue, except that they leave out the stimulus part, and go directly to tax cuts = increased revenues. I'm no economist, that you can probably tell, but leaving out the stimulus part? talk about a bullshit argument. When you leave out the stimulus part, you drive past the converse of your rule: tax cuts that don't stimulate the economy probably won't generate the Laffer effect.

The first round of Bush tax cuts for the rich were supposed to have this effect. Even though the tax cut was formulated during a time of boom, when Bush was running for president, they were pushed through more or less unaltered during a time of bust. Still, Bush did his goldilocks routine about it being just the right size tax cut. But clearly, millions of people who have lost their jobs since that bill was passed are ready to tell you, the first round of Bush tax cuts did not exactly stimulate the economy.

Republicans claim that that's because 9-11 negated the stimulative effects of the tax cuts. It sounds like a bullshit argument to me, but let's say it's true. Can you tell me if the Republicans have done anything to terror-proof the current tax cuts? Our terror warning level just went up; wouldn't it suck to pass another whopping round of tax cuts for the wealthy, only to have 19 guys with sharpened pez dispensers wipe out the beneficent effects? I haven't heard a word about it. It seems we're like a rich person who withdraws his life savings in cash and then tries to walk through a 'liberal enclave', that's the kind of dangerous, shaky ground we're on.

Borrowing and spending -- now that'll drive up your deficits. We've heard you guys go on about the sodom-besotted 'liberal enclaves'; what do you think about the current brand of borrow-and-spend Republicans? Is this what happens when we get consecutive months of conservative rule (never mind, heaven help us, consecutive decades)? I'm just dying to hear you complain about it in detail, and while you're at it, throw in a few generalized conclusions about all conservatives.

Posted by: Demetrios at May 21, 2003 07:28 PM | PERMALINK

What does the fact that the GDP goes up or down have to do with what I'm talking about, Ricky?

The dollars of revenue I'm comparing are constant dollars. All the dollars in all the years are effectively the same. So if Reagan pulls in an average of 30 billion a year and Johnson pulls in an average of 40 a year, that's a REAL difference.

But if it will make you feel any better, I can recast the comparison. Annual revenues under Reagan went from 967.4 billion to 1213.1 during his presidency, an increase of 25.4 percent, which sounds pretty impressive. Divided by the eight yearsof his reign that's an average of 3.17% a year. But Carter's total increase during his tenure was from 883.2 to 1004.6, an increase of 13.75% in 4 years, which is an average of 3.44% per year. That makes Carter's increases BETTER than Reagan's.

I'm not sure that's what you wanted to hear, but hey, I'm willing to show you the facts in several different formats.

You're going to have to explain to me why I should only compare on-budget revenues. I'm willing to do it, but I don't see the point, unless the idea is to cherry-pick the data until it says what you want it to say.

Posted by: Julia Grey at May 21, 2003 08:19 PM | PERMALINK

The dollars of revenue I'm comparing are constant dollars. All the dollars in all the years are effectively the same.
Go back further in the data & look at when 40 billion was the entire size of the federal inlays & then think of how implausible it would be for the governmental inlays to DOUBLE within one year, while a 40 billion dollar increase in the 90s was nothing. Using constant dollars takes care of inflation, but not the size of the economy (more people & more overall dollars). Light bulb?

That makes Carter's increases BETTER than Reagan's.
I believe the people spoke pretty loudly on their choice on that matter, eh? :)

You're going to have to explain to me why I should only compare on-budget revenues.
Hey, you can do whatever you wish, I'm just telling you that if you're going to rail against Reagan's tax cuts, the mathematically preferred way would be to look at those tax cuts, which were in 'on budget' receipts. He raised the payroll taxes, so that would effect the 'off budget' receipts & including them in the overall picture gives a skewed viewpoint, IMO.

but I don't see the point, unless the idea is to cherry-pick the data until it says what you want it to say
I could be wrong, but I believe that including the payroll tax inlays would make Reagan's overall receipts look better, so I'm not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. On budget & off budget are two separate animals.

However, if your goal was to show that Carter was able to have very high tax rates and have inlays flow at rates well above GDP, while Reagan was able to drastically cut the tax rates and have inlays flow at rates above GDP, then you've hit a home-run. However, I don't think that's what you want to illustrate.

Posted by: Ricky at May 21, 2003 08:37 PM | PERMALINK

Ricky, you write: I always find it dicey when someone deems themselves the spokesperson for what the 'opposing side' really wants

I only said that the priorities of conservatives and liberals were different, so I don't think that's sticking my neck out very far. If the priorities were the same, I would think that the favored policies would be, as well.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at May 21, 2003 09:10 PM | PERMALINK

The dollars of revenue I'm comparing are constant dollars. All the dollars in all the years are effectively the same.

Go back further in the data & look at when 40 billion was the entire size of the federal inlays & then think of how implausible it would be for the governmental inlays to DOUBLE within one year, while a 40 billion dollar increase in the 90s was nothing.

And when 1000 billion is the size of the revenues, it is equally implausible that it would double within one year.

You're not getting it. What we're doing here is comparing yearly percentage increases over periods ranging from 4-8 years to other periods of 4-8 years.

Using constant dollars takes care of inflation, but not the size of the economy (more people & more overall dollars).

In fact, "more overall dollars" is precisely what the deflator takes into account. Forty million people paying 40 billion (1996) dollars in taxes have precisely the same tax burden as 100 million people paying 100 billion (1996) dollars, and the effects of those tax payments on a proportionally smaller economy should be pretty much the same.

I don't think it's me who needs a lightbulb here.

What you are NOW arguing -- although apparently you don't realize it? -- is that Reagan's mere 1% per year increase was even more anemic when compared to how much the economy had grown between his days and Carter's. I don't think that's what you're after (and given that we're talking constant dollars, it isn't true).

That makes Carter's increases BETTER than Reagan's.

I believe the people spoke pretty loudly on their choice on that matter, eh? :)

Excuse me? Are you now saying that political choice constitutes economic data?

Hey, you can do whatever you wish, I'm just telling you that if you're going to rail against Reagan's tax cuts, the mathematically preferred way would be to look at those tax cuts, which were in 'on budget' receipts. He raised the payroll taxes, so that would effect the 'off budget' receipts & including them in the overall picture gives a skewed viewpoint, IMO.

"Mathematically preferred way," my pink fanny. The argument is that Reagan's tax cuts increased government revenues because they stimulated the economy. If the stimulus argument is correct, the payroll tax receipts would have gone up in some equivalent proportion. You were bragging a while back about Reagan's "revenue boom." I demonstrated that there wasn't one.

And by the way, where did you get these figures:

If your goal is to gauge the Reagan tax cuts & the resulting inlays versus succeeding administrations, go with the "on budget" numbers. I can save you the trouble, under Reagan on-budget inlays increased around 6.6%, under Bush 41 - 4.3%, under Clinton 8.2% (in constant dollars).

I don't get those figures when comparing constant dollar "on budget" increases. My figures run 2.49%, .36% and 4.9%.


However, if your goal was to show that Carter was able to have very high tax rates and have inlays flow at rates well above GDP, while Reagan was able to drastically cut the tax rates and have inlays flow at rates above GDP, then you've hit a home-run. However, I don't think that's what you want to illustrate.

No, what I wanted to illustrate was that Reagan's tax cuts did not significantly increase revenues, which was the original argument. (I also think you meant to say rates above GDP percentage increases, not just GDP. It would be a good trick to take in revenue that exceeded GDP. Heh.)

And by the way, when comparing composite tax (payroll + income tax) paid -- as opposed to stated marginal rates -- a family of four with a median income paid an average of 17.32% under Carter and an average of 17.07% under Reagan. Richer families (2 x the median) paid an average of 21.17% under Carter and 20.65% under Reagan. The wealthier family got the bigger break, but neither of them could be said to have enjoyed a "drastic" cut. The people who got the really BIG breaks in the transition from Carter to Reagan were the uber-rich. And precious little good their windfalls did the rest of us!

Posted by: Julia Grey at May 21, 2003 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

You're not getting it. What we're doing here is comparing yearly percentage increases over periods ranging from 4-8 years to other periods of 4-8 years.

And yet I'm the one discussing percentages, while you're touting average dollars. Oh, well, I wasn't trying to pick a fight, Julia.

I also think you meant to say rates above GDP percentage increases, not just GDP. It would be a good trick to take in revenue that exceeded GDP. Heh.)
Which is why I stated "at rates", Julia.

Good lord.

Posted by: Ricky at May 22, 2003 03:10 AM | PERMALINK

Um, the tax rate cuts on the income of the rich isn't going to stop government welfare programs--not even government welfare programs for corporations. (Recall the mohair subsidy and the obscene welfare paid to the agricultural industry. Why is it that the ring wingers only complain about inner-city welfare--they seem to have blinders on given the fact that more than a bit of welfare goes to the rural poor. Methinks there's a bit of racism there.)

In point of fact, Bush's tax rate cuts have nothing to do with stimulating the economy--and they won't. But Bush's budgets don't reduce federal spending--not by a long shot--and the difference will be made up by--BORROWING! Primarily from the very people whose tax rates have been cut. Borrow and spend--borrow and spend. It's like a Ponzi scheme.

And does one really wonder why the exchange rate for the dollar has tanked?

Posted by: raj at May 22, 2003 04:04 AM | PERMALINK

You're not getting it. What we're doing here is comparing yearly percentage increases over periods ranging from 4-8 years to other periods of 4-8 years.

And yet I'm the one discussing percentages, while you're touting average dollars.

You just demonstrated that you didn't have a CLUE to what I was talking about.

Oh, well, I wasn't trying to pick a fight, Julia.

Just as well.

Posted by: Julia Grey at May 22, 2003 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, please, get over yourself. I was trying to be nice, because I haven't the time to waste on someone so inept at statistical analysis that they unwittingly include off-budget inlays into a discussion over on-budget variations.

Happy you decided to play usenet, now?

Posted by: Ricky at May 22, 2003 09:32 AM | PERMALINK

What I find amazing is Kevin's willingness to overlook the problems associated with taxes. It is as if there is no downside to taxes.

Puh-lease. What about the time inconsistency problem, compliance costs, perverse incentives, etc.? Nope, lets just ignore all these and come up with made up anecdotes.

File this post under Tear Jerkers.

Posted by: Steve at May 22, 2003 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

...What a wonderful, insightful post...I marveled at the clarity of thought and word.TY

Posted by: grascarp at May 22, 2003 05:56 PM | PERMALINK

It is way too late to comment but it seems to me that Richard Aubrey is obsessed with so called welfare cheats or people who made bad choices or who are dysfunctional or whatever. Richard might do well to remember that not every one is born with enough intelligence to make the right decisions or function well. Richard - stop picking on dumb poor people.

Electrolite used to have a quote on his blog to the effect that society is supposed to be less unjust than nature. I think that's right.

Posted by: Patsy at May 22, 2003 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

It's absolutely mind-boggling to notice the way virtually all the conservatives on this thread either (A) assume that we're supposed to weep about a millionnaire making only $500,000 a year in after-tax income for a 40-hour work week, rather than keeping all his million for that amount of work; or (B) try to confuse the issue by announcing that "9% of MY income is a lot, since I'm not rich." Is it really necessary to point out to any adult that Kevin wasn't complaining about inadequate taxation of the NON-rich? He was complaining about the willingness of the VERY RICH to bitch endlessly about having to shell out 9% of their huge incomes to people who need it infinitely more than they do. Oh, the pain of our cruelly deprived and overworked tycoons! And, Jane Galt, if you really want your own taxes to go down, might I suggest that you start advocating that the taxes of the rich go up as a substitute? A radical, wildly startling idea, I know, but still...

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