Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
It's a perfectly obvious point, but perhaps still worth making. When the government does not tax some income of a very rich person, that is not a "giveaway". That is the government not taking some money that was earned by some rich person. Some people have a lot of money. When you take their money from them, it is their money you are taking. Indeed, this is what thousands of pages of tax law goes to determine: Is it income? Is it your income? If it is neither yours nor income then it won't be taxed as part of your income tax. It is the most annoying thing tax people do -- referring to income the government does not take from you as something it has given to you.
It has nothing to do with whether rich people are nice or the government or Krugman thinks they deserve their money. Indeed, it would be very surprising if somebody who made say $10 million a year did not earn it more than many teachers earn their much more modest salaries. It's really hard to make millions. People won't just give you the money. But you can be a terrible teacher and be immune from getting fired. It's not so easy to set yourself up to get $10 million whether or not you deliver anything of value. It happens, but for that kind of money, people usually expect results. Who deserves their income more? A bad teacher? I don't expect a lot from Krugman, but teacher=good, millionaire=bad is pretty dumb even for him. Though I may be giving him too much credit.
But suppose the government does take income from the rich. What does it do with it? We are somehow supposed to assume it is magically transferred to deserving teachers and firefighters, as if by God. Alas it does not work that way. However little the rich may deserve their wealth, the government deserves it even less. Much money it just spews forth to whatever bad idea or political pal is in favor at the moment. High speed rail. Green energy. Milk price controls. Ethanol. Endless military boondoggles. Trillions of "entitlements". I know I sound like some drooling right winger here, but I have served in the executive office of the President and seen even Republicans piss away millions not knowing or caring where it came from or where it was going. If you like money, and I do -- I wish I had more of it -- it is deeply shocking to see first hand just how profligately, carelessly, uselessly and enormously the government wastes money. A lot of it is not even wasted. It is spent to get people to do wasteful and otherwise bad things; worse than wasted. No dissipated billionaire could even come close. Paul Allen's fleet of jets, Larry Ellison's yachts -- pocket change, and presumably a lot of people were usefully employed making them. Compare teachers failing to educate and whatever else many federal, state and local employees do or don't do.
Even if it was OK to take somebody's money just because they are rich, which it isn't, the government has no idea what to do with all it brings in, wastes huge amounts of it, and rewards people who really do not deserve it, because they are good mainly at getting handouts from the government and the government is so poor at deciding to whom to hand out money.
This is all very simple and is intended to be. Krugman is operating off of false premises. I mean, what kind of person thinks, as Krugman evidently does, oh, that guy is really rich, therefore it is ok just to take his stuff? Just because Larry Ellison is really rich and by all accounts a complete a**hole, I don't think I would be justified in just stealing a bunch of money from him. Why is the government any different? Yes, yes, I have read Locke and Rawls, but I mean, really. You're not increasing social utility, you're just feeding the parasites. At least every once in a while somebody can get Oracle to work.
The more I think of it, in fact, the more I think income taxes generally are just a bad idea because of all the pernicious effects they have on our political psychology. It's not just the economics. Just about any other sort of tax would have to distort our thinking less. I might as well throw in a bleg -- if anybody knows of deep true things I should read about taxation, I would love to hear about it.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I work at a religious institution, a university affiliated with the Catholic Church and our public safety officers certainly seem to have police powers. They carry Glocks for example. Looks like they might be violatin' the First Amendment. At least the Fourth Circuit thinks so. There's not predicting what the 9th Circuit would say, but I bet they would agree.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a powerful piece in the Wall Street Journal (behind a wall, perhaps, but perhaps available on the web through search). Here is an excerpt:
President Obama, in his own way, is a One Worlder [believers that the world is converging toward a single set of values rather than the clash of values that Huntington saw coming]. In his 2009 Cairo speech, he called for a new era of understanding between America and the Muslim world. It would be a world based on "mutual respect, and . . . upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles."
The president's hope was that moderate Muslims would eagerly accept this invitation to be friends. The extremist minority—nonstate actors like al Qaeda—could then be picked off with drones. Of course, this hasn't gone according to plan. . . .
If Turkey can no longer be relied on to move towards the West, who in the Muslim world can be? All the Arab countries except Iraq—a precarious democracy created by the United States—are ruled by despots of various stripes. And all the opposition groups that have any meaningful support among the local populations are run by Islamist outfits like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
In Indonesia and Malaysia, Islamist movements are demanding the expansion of Shariah law. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak's time is running out. Should the U.S. support the installation of his son? If so, the rest of the Muslim world will soon be accusing the Obama administration of double standards—if elections for Iraq, why not for Egypt? Analysts have observed that in free and fair elections, a Muslim Brotherhood victory cannot be ruled out.
Algeria? Somalia? Sudan? It is hard to think of a single predominantly Muslim country that is behaving according to the One World script.
Ali's final point is well worth emphasizing:
Our civilization is not indestructible: It needs to be actively defended. This was perhaps Huntington's most important insight. The first step towards winning this clash of civilizations is to understand how the other side is waging it—and to rid ourselves of the One World illusion.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
On September 14th, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is hosting an day-long conference entitled "A New Era: Defining Civil Rights in the 21st Century in Washington, D.C. Our keynote speaker will be the inimitable William Raspberry.
Among the topics to be discussed will be The Role of Family Structure in Perpetuating Racial and Ethnic Disparities, New Tools for a New Civil Rights Era? and The Future of the Civil Rights Commission
Yes, of course, you're invited. Why else would I be posting this? It's even free. All you have to go is register while there is still room.