Archive for September, 2010


Bad Drivers? Red States!

September 28, 2010$B8U9RMsN

What was more surprising: how the breakdown between states with more dangerous drivers and safer drivers fell almost completely along the lines of the 2008 McCain-Obama election, with the Republicans again coming up on the short end. Nine of the 10 worst-performing states went for McCain, while nine of the 10 best performers voted for Obama. (Delaware and Mississippi were the respective outliers.)

Hardly a surprize about OK being one of the worst. You see it all the time. Thugs zigging and zagging through traffic, speeding through parking lots, parking in handicapped spots, cussing and swearing at anybody in thier way, meanwhile chatting on thier cell. Me me me.


Religious Illiteracy

September 28, 2010

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.
On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

CNN has 10 questions:

This scientist and religion abstainer got 9 of 10.

This is hardly a surprise. The TW letters to the editor demonstrate the stupidity all the time. If they were smart the TW would just not print them or put them in the religion section. The same old issues get flogged time after time.
“There is no separation of Church and State” “Majority rules so I can poke anyone else in the eye with a monument.” “That religion is a religion of hate”, “We have every right to teach OUR religous doctrine in schools” etc. etc. ad nauseum.


The Laffer Curve

September 27, 2010

(A digression in preparation for my upcoming essay, “A Tax Cut for All Seasons”)

The idea that tax cuts pay for themselves and can actually increase government revenue has been around for a long time.  The first mention that I can remember came during the brief JFK presidency in the early 1960’s.  Kennedy proposed (among other reforms) cutting the top marginal tax rate from 93% to 70%, and his proposed changes were enacted shortly after his death.  But in more recent times, tax cuts as the Holy Grail of Growth first entered the national consciousness by way of the lips of the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan.

The concept arises from a thought experiment called the Laffer Curve.  (I highly recommend this excellent discussion by Dale Franks, author of Slackernomics: Basic Economics for People Who Think Economics is Boring. )

In brief:  when marginal income tax rates are zero, government revenues are zero – it’s second grade arithmetic.  When marginal income tax rates are 100%, government revenue is also zero, because economic activity grinds to a halt when every penny of income is vacuumed up by the tax collector.  So somewhere between 0% and 100%, there must exist a marginal tax rate that maximizes government revenue by collecting a healthy tax on a healthy level of economic activity.

The “supply side” economic theorists who had Reagan’s ear argued that the existing marginal rate of 50% in 1980 was too high – that the government would actually collect more tax revenue if the top marginal rate was lower.  How much lower?  Well, let’s try cutting the top rate nearly in half (from 50% to 28%) and see what happens!

We know what happened.  Reagan was able to deliver on two of his campaign promises: cutting taxes and increasing defense spending.  His promise to balance the budget didn’t work out so well.

Nevertheless, many people (and most Republicans) believe today that all tax cuts increase government revenue.  Or as Mr. Franks puts it, “The trouble with the Supply-Siders isn’t that they believe the Laffer Curve exists. It is that they perennially believe that we are on the right (slope) of it, despite evidence to the contrary.”

The idea of lower tax rates for the highest incomes became extremely popular among (wait for it…)  people with very high incomes!  And now that lower taxes for themselves had been proven by the Laffer Curve to be patriotic and good for America, the patriotic impulses of the wealthiest Americans opened their wallets to politicians who were preaching this secular version of the Prosperity Gospel.

And as Phil Gramm said so eloquently, money is the “mother’s milk of politics.”


Herring With That?

September 27, 2010

One phoney outrage after another…but it keeps the rabble in line and voting against thier own interests.


Ever Smelled Elephant Doo?

September 27, 2010

Won’t fit underneath the rug.


The Great American Tax Revolt – a brief history

September 27, 2010

The first murmurings seemed to appear in the middle 1970’s.  In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, the “People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation.”  Prop 13 rolled  back property assessments to their 1975 values, and it restricted annual increases in assessed value to 2% per year – far below the rate of inflation. It also prohibited reassessment for changes in market value except upon new construction or change in ownership.

Prop 13 also required a 2/3 legislative majority to increase tax rates or state revenue, and even required a 2/3 majority vote for all local tax increases.

But the great national “tax revolt” came to fruition during the first presidential term of former California governor Ronald Reagan.  His promotion of  “supply-side economics” was based on the controversial (and unproven) theory that lower marginal tax rates, especially those for the highest incomes, spur economic growth and actually increase government revenue. In 1981, during Reagan’s first year in office, marginal individual income tax rates were cut from 70% to 50%,  They were cut further to 28% in 1988.  From 70% to 28% in just seven years.

Deficits mushroomed.

Faced with huge and growing deficits, President George H. W. Bush famously had to break his promise of  “read my lips – no… new… taxes!” He signed into law tax increases that raised that “supply-side” marginal tax rate back to an astronomical 31%.  Deficits continued to expand.

But the arch-enemy of supply-siders turned out to be Bill Clinton.  The direction changed in 1993, Clinton’s first year in office. After a tie-breaking vote in the Senate by VP Al Gore, Clinton signed a tax increase that raised that all-important marginal tax rate to a breathtaking 39.6%.   Tax-cut advocates predicted gloom and doom because of these ruinously high tax rates – the economy would collapse and grass would grow through the cracks in every Main Street in America.

The deficit began to come down during the Clinton years, while the American economy boomed and the “dot-com” revolution flourished.  But in 1994 Newt Gingrich’s “Republican Revolution” had seized control of Congress from the Democrats for the first time in decades.  Republicans would hold on to unbroken control of Congress for the next twelve years.  They still haven’t forgotten what had brought them to power, and it wasn’t the winning personality of Newt Gingrich or his Contract With America.  It was the backlash against taxes and the promise of a “free lunch” of tax cuts.

Have you checked out California’s state financial picture recently?


But here is the irony.  Republicans still position themselves as the fiscally responsible party, contrasting themselves with the “tax and spend” Democrats.  But after decades of evidence that cuts in the top marginal tax rate produce huge budget deficits, many of the Repubican faithful still believe that “tax cuts pay for themselves,” and that a low top marginal tax rate is a necessary condition of a healthy economy.

Why do they believe this?  Stay tuned for the next installment.

(Watch for my followup to this post in the next few days – to be called “A Tax Cut for All Seasons.”)

– Graychin


Even “All Fear All the Time” is Unoriginal

September 27, 2010

The Republicans are the party of choice for the fearful. At least in Truman’s time, as the Cold War heated up, Communism was a real threat. What is the current threat of socialism? That it would make fear less effective? In a recent survey, Newsweek magazine rated the best countries in the world to live. The United States did not even make the top ten, and most of those that did fall into the dreaded socialist category.

Socialism is not the only scarecrow Republicans currently have in their closet. They play on other fears like homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria. And, like Reagan’s speech, these appeals have a heavy hint of racism.

Republicans know that hope can motivate voters only until the disappointment over a lack of instant gratification sets in. Fear, on the other hand, is a political gift that keeps on giving and never goes out of style. When their grip on the tactic seems to be slipping, they invent and manipulate front groups like the Tea Party to keep the fear alive.