Assorted Links (2/28/2011)

Here’s a list of article that I have been reading lately:

Who’s Paid More? Experts Can Disagree

“Detailed analyses of whether state workers are overpaid have come down on either side.” Not surprisingly, liberal-leaning think tank studies tend to view state workers as underpaid vis-à-vis private sector workers, whereas conservative-leaning think tanks come up with the opposite conclusion…

How Beneficial is Widespread Medical Screening?

Excellent essay on this very important topic by economics Nobel laureate Gary Becker!

Unions vs. the Right to Work

“In The Wall Street Journal, Harvard economist Robert Barro says that states should consider passing right-to-work laws that will reduce the power of unions. Collective bargaining on a broad scale, he says, is more like an antitrust violation than a civil liberty.”

Break a leg

“Do you have the claim forms with you? WITH categories like “sound mixing”, “make-up” and “art direction”, this weekend’s Oscars ceremony appears to celebrate almost every aspect of film-making. Insurers, how ever, do not make the red carpet, which may be why Fireman’s Fund has started nominating the year’s “riskiest film”.”

Atlas Shrugged Movie

“Atlas Shrugged The Movie finally makes it to the silver screen 54 years later. Based on Ayn Rand’s epic novel, the Atlas Shrugged Movie comes to a theater near you April 15th.”

Is ‘Shutting Down Government’ A Threat Or A Promise?

“Perhaps gridlock can accomplish what reason can’t.”

Risky Roadmap to $7 a Gallon Gas

“Some Persian Gulf watchers say more political uprisings, swelling strife throughout the Middle East,mean likely oil supply disruptions, higher crude prices and a bigger bite at the gas pump, perhaps as much as $7 a gallon.”

Indiana Governor Bores In on Federal Debt

“Gov. Mitch Daniels rescinded collective-bargaining rights for state employees six years before that became an issue in Wisconsin; now he ponders a G.O.P. presidential run with a stern cut-the-debt message that would usually be politically problematic but might fit the times.”

Go Ahead, America, Leave It to Bieber

“From commodity prices to the state-budget crisis, Justin Bieber has wisdom to spare, says Joe Queenan.”

B-Schools: It’s time to globalize

“New research has revealed a sizable gap between what the business world needs and what business schools provide to their students. What’s standing in the way and what can business schools do to step up their game?”

“Information Technology and Economic Change: The Impact of the Printing Press,” J. Dittmar (2011)

“Dittmar reexamines the case for economic effects of the printing press by looking at growth in city population – a good proxy for economic growth in the 1500s – in cities that had the press versus those that did not. He finds cities that got the press grew quite a bit faster than those did not.”

The Real Problem with Government Employee Unions

“Although collective bargaining by government employee unions may offend one’s sense of justice, what’s truly unacceptable is government labor’s stranglehold over the local, state, and federal governments with which they bargain.”

Federal effective tax rates (taxes as a percentage of income)

The CBO tracks “…federal effective tax rates (taxes as a percentage of income) across household income groups for the four largest sources of federal revenues–individual income taxes, social insurance (payroll) taxes, corporate income taxes, and excise taxes–as well as the total effective rate for the four taxes combined.” (Hat tip to George Mason University’s David Henderson).  The following link from CBO’s website slices and dices these data in all sorts of different directions:

Professor Henderson provides the following summary:

  • The bottom quintile paid 4.3 percent of income in taxes,
  • The top quintile paid 25.8 percent of income in taxes,
  • The top decile paid 27.5 percent of income in taxes,
  • The top 5 percent paid 29.0 percent of income in taxes, and
  • The top 1 percent paid 31.2 percent of income in taxes.

One important takeaway here is that while Social Security (i.e., the so-called “payroll” tax) “…reduces the “progressivity” of the tax system, (it) does not come close to reversing it”; federal effective tax rates are clearly quite progressive indeed!  Professor Henderson also parses some other interesting insights from these data – his blog post about this topic is well worth reading!