Monday, April 28, 2014

1%ers Just a Flash

The top 1 percent, as I have noted here before, is such an unstable group that it makes no sense to write, as so many progressives do, about what has happened to its income over the past ten year or twenty years, because it does not contain the same group of people from year to year. Citing tax scholar Robert Carroll's examination of IRS records, Professor Rank notes that the turnover among the super-rich (the top 400 taxpayers in any given year) is 98 percent over a decade — that is, just 2 percent of that elusive group remain there for ten years in a row. Among those earning more than $1 million a year, most earned that much for only one year of the nine-year period studied, and only 6 percent earned that much for the entire period.

Count me a skeptic on conservative political answers or on anyone's 1%er whines.

Another good nugget:  As Rank hints, what is hereditary in the United States is not wealth but poverty. 

And the coup de grace:

Like most anticapitalists, Professor Piketty is taken with the question of inequality rather than with the separate question of poverty, and his focus is most intensely upon those high-earning managers of capital. But as Clive Crook notes in hisreview of the book, the question of whether income inequality widens in the future “won’t matter as much as whether and how quickly wages and living standards rise.” Which is to say, if the real standard of living for the poor and the middle classes continues to increase — as it has for virtually the entire history of modern capitalism — then it will not matter if the standards of living for the very wealthy increase even more quickly. On the other hand, if living standards decline or stagnate, it will not matter very much to anybody besides political entrepreneurs whether inequality also decreases. Higher standards of living across the board are perfectly compatible with higher levels of income inequality, a pattern that has been seen not only among such alleged practitioners of cowboy capitalism as the United States but also in European welfare states such as Sweden, where income inequality is increasing just as it is in the United States.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Who Built It?

Mr. Dose is onto something.  Quoting now from economist Kyle Pomerleau’s Tax Foundation analysis, “Summary of the Latest Federal Income Tax Data,”:
The Top 50 Percent of All Taxpayers Paid 97 Percent of All Income Taxes; the Top 5 Percent Paid 57 Percent of All Income Taxes; and the Top 1 Percent Paid 35 Percent of All Income Taxes in 2011.
“Progressives” love to complain about the alleged unfairness of the amount of income earned (“Progressives typically use misleading terms such as “claimed by”) the top 1 percent of income earners.  Why not complain instead about the unfairness of the amount of tax revenues received by the top 1 percent of net-tax-revenue recipients?  Why are the annual tax-receipt incomes of this small group less worthy of condemnation than are the annual pre-tax market-earnedincomes of “the 1 percent” who are the regular objects of criticism, envy, and childish populist moralizing?
Maybe You DID Build That!

Big Brother Is Watching You Eat -

Look out soon for more control over what you eat.

An NPS student’s scary Carmel experience may alter his life for good

The police abuse here was criminal, the AG's response should be too.  I hope this young man get's a competent attorney and collects a mint.

Nothing More Harmful that Crop Farming

"I know many ranchers who are excellent — they want to know how to manage lands to improve the chances of many of these species with high conservation value," says Pague. "I would say fully a third of land out there is in pretty good condition, supporting wildlife and plant communities."
And Pague notes that the conversation around how to produce beef in a "sustainable" way is evolving fast. "Meat buyers and packers, land managers, government agencies, McDonald's — a lot of people are interested. This topic is really hot." (See Dan Charles' post from earlier this week on how this conversation is playing out globally, too.) 

Nothing is more harmful to the environment that annual mono crop farming on an industrial scale.  Sure, that's a bad way to feed animals, too, but the underlying issue is industrial mono crop production.

What Thomas Piketty's Popularity Tells Us About The Liberal Press

I'd ask if there are any historical examples that prove that skewed wealth in a generally prosperous nation is more damaging to its democratic institutions than the reallocation of wealth by a coercive state. But then I realize, as with any Marxist revival, the answer is: This time we're gonna do it right!
Judging from the political rhetoric of the day, liberals already believe that higher taxes on the wealthy can create more opportunity for the poor and middle class. While some of us would argue that the nexus between high taxes and economic growth is tenuous, debating whether the top marginal tax rate should be 25 or 33 or 35 percent is well within the boundaries of a centrist debate. 

Ah, the left, so in love with the use of force.  But when you talk to a committed "government is the cure for what ails us" person, and point out that government is a synonym for "people with guns", they can't even process that what they believe in whole heartedly is "smarter people with more guns".

The Revolt of the Cities

It will be great if these initiative "work".  I doubt they will.

1.  Do gooder ism will become cronyism, a la Detroit and all the rest
2.  Meddling will create problems which will require more meddling until there are so many rules and it is so expensive to do anything good, that it won't be possible.  Employers will leave, again, for the same reasons they left before.  Taxpayers will too.
3.  The drug war rules everything.  Until the perverse incentives of the criminalization of drugs sales are removed or reduced, the inner cities will controlled by the drug trade just as they were by alcohol prohibition.  
4.  The cities will run out of money to do anything at all, a la Detroit and the others.

Wait, are those dinosaurs or negative unintended consequences of government force?

Going forward, however, the feds aren't kicking in as much cash, which means that states running their own exchanges have to figure out how to fund their own operations. Trouble is, the enrollment numbers aren't working out quite the way they were expected in some places. So states are considering some additional measures—by which I mean fees—to make up the difference.  For example, Colorado is considering instituting a $13 million fee to keep its exchange fiscally afloat.

Ah yes, the march of the negative unintended consequences...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What Does the Term "Inequality" Mean?

The assumption I take from the depiction of Thomas Piketty’s book – the radicalism of which David Harsanyi details today – is that we are talking about income inequality in the aggregate. There are lots of people, you see, and there are a ton of them who make very little money, and there is a smaller amount who make slightly more money, and then there is an even smaller amount who make slightly more than them, and then there is a very tiny amount who make a good bit more than them, and then there is an even tinier amount who have the ability to swim in vast vaults of golden coins while dressed in their smoking jackets.
From the left’s perspective, this is a negative ramification of capitalism. In reality, it ought to be considered one of its virtues. This inequality of outcome was historically driven by hardened class systems – not so in a free market economy.
Lorda mercy this is a good read.  Here's another jewel:
The left continues to operate on an a priori assumption that income inequality/wealth concentration is a bad thing, because of those riches backstroking through their money. But that’s just a jealousy trope. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that income inequality and wealth concentration don’t inhibit economic mobility; they don’t inhibit economic growth; and they are not detrimental to democracy or to human liberty. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"The natural consequence of true liberty is diversity."

The natural consequence of true liberty is diversity. Unless a society can figure out a way to reach perfect agreement, conflicting views will be inevitable. Any effort to impose conformity, through government or any other means, by punishing the misguided for believing incorrectly will impoverish society intellectually and oppress it politically.
The test of our commitment to liberal principles is not our eagerness to hear ideas we share, but our willingness to consider seriously those we oppose.

Read more: 
Follow us: @RCP_Articles on Twitter

Duh. As If

Better still, his theory makes arresting claims -- "that a market economy," as Piketty puts it, "if left to itself, contains powerful forces of convergence [in the distribution of wealth]...; but it also contains powerful forces of divergence, which are potentially threatening to democratic societies and to the values of social justice on which they are based." And he argues that the divergent forces are likely to be more powerful in the 21st century than they were in the 20th.

So what's the problem?
Quite a few things, but this to start with: There's a persistent tension between the limits of the data he presents and the grandiosity of the conclusions he draws. At times this borders on schizophrenia. In introducing each set of data, he's all caution and modesty, as he should be, because measurement problems arise at every stage. Almost in the next paragraph, he states a conclusion that goes beyond what the data would support even if it were unimpeachable.
Meaning, duh, as if it were possible to tell what role government plays in creating the inequality Mr. Piketty believes capitalism produces.  With government interwoven into nearly every economic transaction, if there's more inequality now than in this nation's past, who's to say that's not because of the role of government?  But more importantly, there's no reason to believe inequality per se makes things worse for those incompetents who are not able to compete in a capitalist system.  Generally, wealth producing economies make things better for folks of all levels of competence.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Government - Thriving on Inequality

Take his tax increases. He doubts that they would hurt economic growth. This seems questionable. Incentives must matter, at least slightly. Or consider his predicted slowdown in the world economy. This seems possible, but if it happens, capital owners would likely suffer lower returns. As for the power of the superrich, they hardly control most democracies. In the United States, where about 70 percent of federal spending goes to the poor and middle class, the richest 1 percent pay nearly a quarter of federal taxes. After-tax and post-government-transfer incomes are less unequal than Piketty's pretax figures.

Read more: 
Follow us: @RCP_Articles on Twitter

The idea that governments are the right tools to limit inequality kind of makes me laugh.  The idea that inequality hurts anyone is also laughable - mainly, inequality of outcomes gives politicians what they want most - a reason to make us fight with each other.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

They Must Feel So Proud

“My name is Julie Boonstra and five years ago I was diagnosed with leukemia. I found out that I only have a 20 percent chance of surviving. I found this wonderful doctor and a great health-care plan. I was doing fairly well fighting the cancer, fighting the leukemia, and then I received the letter. My insurance was canceled because of Obamacare.”
Another ad features a woman who believes Obamacare is waging a war on her: “We have five kids. . . . Our health insurance plan was canceled because of Obamacare. . . .This new plan is not affordable at all. My husband is working a lot more hours just to pay for these new increases. I’m frustrated that government has caused this huge problem for our family.”
On the one hand, I hate the idea of using personal tragedy to stoke a battle over use of power (really abuse of power).  On the other hand, how do all those Obamacare makers and supporters feel about this nonsense they've done to people?  
There were other ways to get the job done without using so much force, without creating so many negative, unintended consequences.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Putting a Finger on It

The bedrock issue here is that the federal government owns more than 80% of the state of Nevada. This is true across the western states. To an astonishing degree, those states lack sovereignty over their own territory. Most of the land is federal. And the federal agencies that rule over federal lands have agendas. At every opportunity, it seems, they restrict not only what can be done on federal lands, but on privately-owned property. They are hostile to traditional industries like logging, mining and ranching, and if you have a puddle in your back yard, the EPA will try to regulate it as a navigable waterway.
That is only a slight exaggeration.
bundy.ranch_.nevOne could say that Cliven Bundy is just one more victim of progress and changing mores. The federal government has gotten more environmentally-conscious, and now we really, really care about desert tortoises. (It was the designation of desert tortoises as an endangered species that gave BLM the opportunity to squeeze Bundy in the early 1990s.) But here’s the thing: the Bureau of Land Management–the federal government–is not necessarily anti-development. Rather, its attitude depends entirely on what sort of development is in question.
Thus, BLM has developed a grandiose plan to develop vast solar energy installations on federal land across the Southwest. Wind power projects are favored, too. In fact, the same BLM that has driven Nevada’s ranchers out of business has welcomed solar projects with open arms. Some have claimed that Harry Reid is behind the BLM’s war against Cliven Bundy, on the theory that he wants the land for a solar project in which his son Rory is involved, along with the Chinese. I don’t believe this is correct. The solar projects are located north of Las Vegas, 30 miles or so from the area where Bundy ranches.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Uncle Sam Wants You - To Pay for Their Mistakes

Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.
Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check.
The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, said Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam. Arbitrary and capricious is the word that comes to mind.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

He's Hell on Straw Men

Coded in that statement is the disclaimer Obama has affixed to almost every major speech he has ever given on the economy, that he inherited a train wreck (or a car was driven into a ditch, among other metaphors) and that his efforts to turn things around have been stymied at every turn by those who couldn't see their way clear to support him. As National Journal noted earlier this week, Obama was more explicitly critical of the forces buffeting him in his extended interview with The New Yorker, complaining that Johnson, for all of his legislative success, didn't have the problems with Republicans that he does.
Thursday, Obama fully embraced Johnson's vision of the Great Society as his own, placing both their presidencies on a continuum of change and suggesting that it may take years, if not decades, for the current chief executive to be fully appreciated, even as a critical reassessment of LBJ's work continues.
"Today we remain locked in this same great debate about equality and opportunity, and the role of government in ensuring each. As was true 50 years ago, there are those who dismiss the Great Society as a failed experiment and an encroachment on liberty; who argue that government has become the true source of all that ails us, and that poverty is due to the moral failings of those who suffer from it," Obama said. "There are also those who argue ... that nothing has changed; that racism is so embedded in our DNA that there is no use trying politics—the game is rigged. But such theories ignore history."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

McArdle - Most of the Gap Is Not Real

But we can, pretty confidently, answer a related question: How much of the pay gap is driven by those choices, and how much is driven by sexism in the workplace? The answer seems to be that almost all of the gap is driven by choice of occupation, and working hours, with an emphasis on working hours. Childless women who work the same hours as men make very close to what men do.
Does that mean there is no discrimination against women? No. The residual gap that’s left after you control for age, experience, work hours, choice of profession and so forth, is small. But it’s not zero. That residual most likely represents sexism. As a woman, I kind of take exception to that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Obamacare: What We Know and What We Don't - Bloomberg View

"You want the truth?  You can't handle the truth!"

All HHS Secretary Sebelius has to do is write each of the 400 insurance companies selling in the exchanges and ask them for the total number of people enrolled and paid for on the insurance exchanges as of a certain date. She could email each of them on April 1 and ask for their hard enrollment numbers, for example, as of the end of the month of March. Either the feds or the state exchanges communicate with the carriers daily. The carriers would be able to respond in a matter of hours with the data.


Yet it’s not just evil men and right-wingers raising questions about the Democrats’ Equal Pay Day theater. Reporters bombarded Carney about a new American Enterprise Institute study that found that the salary for the median female White House staffer is 12 percent lower than for a male staffer. Carney meekly replied that at least the White House pay gap isn’t as bad as the national average.
Both the left-wing Daily Beast and the free-market Wall Street Journal opinion pages debunked the “77 cents on a dollar” myth, which inflates the gender gap by failing to account for education, occupation and marital status. Challenged on the White House promotion of junk science, Carney sneered at a Reuters reporter that he “would expect something a little more precise.”
Ah yes, unicorns and the gender pay gap.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Diving Deeper into IPCC?

So it's worth diving deeper into the report, where a much more cautious picture of the state of climate science comes into view. Gone are some of the false alarmist claims from the last report, such as the forecast that the Himalayan glaciers would vanish by 2035 or that hurricanes are becoming more intense. "Current data sets," the report admits, "indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century." Recall the false claims of climate cause and storm effect last year after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.

Absent, too, are claims such as the one made in 2005 that global warming would create 50 million "climate refugees" by 2010 (later pushed back to 2020). In its place, we have the refreshingly honest admission that "current alarmist predictions of massive flows of so-called 'environmental refugees' or 'environmental migrants' are not supported by past experiences of responses to droughts and extreme weather events and predictions for future migration flows are tentative at best."
The report is also more cautious about temperature predictions. It acknowledges that the rate of warming between 1998 and 2012 "is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951," and it predicts modest temperature increases through 2035 of between 1° and 1.5° Celsius. More importantly, it acknowledges that "the innate behavior of the climate system imposes limits on the ability to predict its evolution."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What is Tolerance?

I love this and aspire to live up to it:
“Tolerance,” he has written, “means acknowledging that even if people may be wrong in one thing that means a lot to you, it doesn’t follow that they’re wrong in all things. It means (among other things) being willing to see the merits, if there are merits, in people who believe things that you think are wrong, foolish, or even evil.” It’s a generous philosophy that will be put to the test now that the Conspiracy has joined the Post, where many readers—judging by initial comments—are less inclined to be generous back after reading Volokh and his fellow bloggers’ arguments in favor of conservative causes like gun rights.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The GM Scandal Is Worse Than You Think

Here’s another reason why government should never own a business.
In February 2010, the Obama Administration’s Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told America, without a shred of evidence, that Toyota automobiles were dangerous to drive. LaHood offered the remarks in front of the House Appropriations subcommittee that was investigating reports of unintended-acceleration crashes. “My advice is, if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it,” he said, sending the company’s stock into a nosedive.
Even at the time, LaHood’s comments were reckless at best. Assailing the competition reeks of political opportunism and cronyism. It also illustrates one of the unavoidable predicaments of the state owning a corporation in a competitive marketplace.  And when we put LaHood’s comment into perspective today, it’s actually a lot worse. Not only did the Obama administration have the power and ideological motive to damage the largely non-unionized competition, it was busy propping up a company that was causing preventable deaths.

Read the whole bit - the pretense that government is competent enough to regulate others is laughable.

Who's Helping Whom?

For decades, a series of studies have raised red flags. Surgery patients, cancer victims, and transplant recipients who were enrolled in the program were all found to fare worse—not merely than privately-insured patients with presumably easier lives, but worse than equally poor people who lacked any insurance at all. This literature was capped off by the landmark “Oregon study,” a brand-new analysis that marshals gold-standard methodology to compare Medicaid recipients with uninsured people.
The scholars found mixed results. Medicaid does lower psychological stress and increase financial stability, results we would expect from any transfer program. But the program actually increases unnecessary trips to the emergency room. And remarkably, Medicaid coverage has no measurable impact whatsoever on clinical health.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"The Press", A Joke

And yet, so far no reporter has raised the possibility that Yee supported tighter restrictions on guns in order to keep gun prices high and his own services in demand. Economist Bruce Yandle popularized the idea of the “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalition. The apocryphal Baptists want to ban alcohol. Bootleggers don’t make much money when liquor can be bought legally at a grocery store or bar. So the bootleggers bankroll the Baptists’ effort to ban booze.
Now I sincerely doubt that Yee was that clever. The more likely explanation is that he believes in gun control and he’s a greedy hypocrite (and maybe not too bright either). The fact that gun-control policies are to his advantage is just a happy coincidence.
What’s interesting — and vexing — to me is that this sort of analysis is all the rage when it comes to conservatives and Republicans, and utterly incomprehensible to most journalists when it comes to liberals and Democrats.
Read more: 
Follow us: @RCP_Articles on Twitter

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What Is A Right?

According to The New York Times, a case the Supreme Court heard on Tuesday, involving a challenge to Obamacare's requirement that businesses pay for their employees' contraceptives, "pits religious liberty against women's rights." Similarly, last month's controversy over an Arizona bill aimed at protecting business owners from being forced to treat homosexual and heterosexual couples alike was widely perceived as a conflict between religious liberty and gay rights.
Both of these debates are more accurately described as clashes between real rights and fake rights. To put it more politely, they pit negative liberty, which requires freedom from external restraint, against positive liberty, which imposes demands on other people's resources. Under the latter vision, giving freedom to one person requires taking it away from another.