Why Morning’s Minion Should Favor Extending All of the Bush Tax Cuts

Monday, September 6, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

My former co-blogger Morning’s Minion recently attacked the idea of extending the so-called Bush tax cuts to individuals earning more than $250,000 a year:

It would cost $680 billion dollars over 10 year. This is far greater than the cost of extending unemployment benefits to those out of work, something the Republicans opposed vigorously (the unemployed do not fill their coffers). It gets worse. Nearly all of the benefit goes to the richest 1 percent, those making more than $500,000 a year. Even more than this, 55 percent of the benefit goes to a mere 120,000 people – the top one-tenth of 1 percent of all taxpayers. Doing the math, that comes to an average $3 million tax reduction to those lucky enough to sit at the helm of the income distribution. It is indeed the preferential option for the super rich. This would be troublesome at the best of times, but in the current economic climate when so many struggle to get by, it’s simply immoral.

I can see where Minion is coming from on this, but it seems to me that his position here (aside from being contrary to the views of most economists) is contrary to other things he’s written on the desirability of fiscal stimulus.

Read the rest of this entry »


German Economist: America Is Becoming Too European

Friday, September 3, 2010 \PM\.\Fri\.

I found this piece from the English-language edition of Der Spiegel by University of Hamburg economics professor Thomas Straughaar very interest, in part because it reads very much as written by someone who is looking at American history and culture from the outside, yet trying to understand it for what it is. A key passage from the second page:

This raises a crucial question: Is the US economy perhaps suffering less from an economic downturn and more from a serious structural problem? It seems plausible that the American economy has lost its belief in American principles. People no longer have confidence in the self-healing forces of the private sector, and the reliance on self-help and self-regulation to solve problems no longer exists.

The opposite strategy, one that seeks to treat the American patient with more government, is risky — because it does not fit in with America’s image of itself.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Flypaper Theory of Taxation

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

Here’s a very interesting post by Stephen Gordon on what seems like a dull subject, namely tax incidence:

One of the more important things that distinguishes economists from non-economists is a familiarity with the notion of tax incidence. The statutory incidence of a tax (who sends the cheque to the Receiver-General?) is usually very different from its economic incidence (who is out of pocket?).

The basic intuition is simple enough. We all understand that if the government chooses to impose a tax on gasoline retailers of $0.50 per litre, customers can expect to see a similar increase in gas prices. Even if the statutory incidence falls on the sellers, the economic incidence is borne by the consumers.

The question of who ultimately bears the burden of the tax is almost entirely separate from the question of statutory incidence. (There’s even a pejorative term – the ‘flypaper theory’ – for the claim that taxes stick to those who are first touched by it.) So what does determine the economic incidence of a tax?

Read the rest of this entry »


Caritas in Veritate 25, By the Numbers II

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

In yesterday’s post, we examined the claim, made by Pope Benedict in Caritas in Veritate 25, that globalization has led countries to deregulate their labor markets, which in turn has led to cuts in social spending. It turned out that the Pope’s first claim (that globalization led to deregulation) was consistent with the data, whereas his second claim (deregulation led to cuts in social spending) was not. Countries with freer labor markets tend, on average, to devote a greater percentage of GDP to social spending than do countries where labor markets are highly regulated (and, since countries with freer labor markets tend to be richer as well, the increase is even larger in absolute terms).

In addition to speaking of labor market deregulation, Caritas in Veritate also makes reference to countries adopting “favorable fiscal regimes” as a part of global competition, and suggests that this also has led to a decline in social spending. Evaluating these claims is a bit more difficult than evaluating the Pope’s claims about labor markets, because it is not entirely clear what the Pope has in mind when he speaks of “favorable fiscal regimes.”

One possibility is that the Pope is thinking here primarily about taxes, and that adopting a “favorable fiscal regime” consists in lowering taxes, particularly taxes on business, in order to attract foreign investment.

Read the rest of this entry »


Caritas in Veritate 25, By the Numbers

Monday, July 26, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

My co-blogger Tim recently highlighted the following statement from Pope Benedict’s latest social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations.

Now in this passage, the Pope makes a number of factual and causal claims. First, he claims that the global market has led countries to “attempt to attract foreign businesses” by adopting “favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market.” Second, the Pope claims that these reforms (i.e. adopting “favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market”) have led to “a downsizing of social security systems” and “cuts in social spending.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Principle of Subsidiarity Violated by ObamaCare

Monday, March 22, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made a determined effort for universal health coverage, without abortion, in the run-up to the vote on ObamaCare.  In the end, due to the abortion language in this bill, they condemned it in its entirety.

Now I believe that our bishops had the best intentions of wanting universal health coverage, but this violates the principle of subsidiarity.

The Principle of Subsidiarity is the handling of affairs by small-scale, bottommost, or minutest government.

In 1891 Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical, Rerum Novarum, which said that government should undertake only those initiatives which exceed the capacity of individuals or private groups acting independently. Functions of government, business, and other secular activities should be as local as possible. If a complex function is carried out at a local level just as effectively as on the national level, the local level should be the one to carry out the specified function.

Private insurance agencies cover over 84% of all Americans, with an overwhelming 93% saying they are satisfied with their coverage.

And those that are uninsured, can get readily available treatment for a serious illness.  Including illegal aliens.

So why the bishops haste and aggressive posturing in pushing for something everybody already has and are satisfied with?