Assorted Links (7/26/2012)

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

An Academic Auto-da-Fé

“Whoever said inquisitions and witch hunts were things of the past?… The sociologist Mark Regnerus, at the University of Texas at Austin, is being smeared in the media and subjected to an inquiry by his university over allegations of scientific misconduct.” Quoting further from this article, “But the influence of progressive orthodoxy in sociology is evident in decisions made by graduate students, junior faculty, and even senior faculty about what, why, and how to research, publish, and teach. One cannot be too friendly to religion, for example, such as researching the positive social contributions of missionary work overseas or failing to criticize evangelicals and fundamentalists. The result is predictable: Play it politically safe, avoid controversial questions, publish the right conclusions.”

America’s Two Economies

“Daniel Henninger writes that with Barack Obama, the competition between the private economy and the public economy is clear.”

Lame Ducks and Fiscal Cliffs (part 1)

“This is the first of a few posts on the policy decisions stacking up for the end of this year. I will simply list the moving parts, deadlines and timeframes, and which election scenarios are most important to analyze.”

Lame Ducks & Fiscal Cliffs (part 2): Income tax rates

“Yesterday’s introductory post to this series gave a broad overview of the fiscal policy debate, listing issues in play at the end of this year, deadlines and timeframes, and three partisan configurations that are worthy of analysis. Today we’ll begin to drill down into the income tax issues.”

Gun Control: Which One Doesn’t Belong?

“A lesson in progressivism: gun kills people, pencil misspells words, car drives drunk, spoon makes people fat.”

Obama Administration Broadens Gender Quotas in Higher Ed

“Last week, the Obama Administration issued new regulations broadening Title IX of the Higher Education Act… to explicitly include science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

Who Pays Taxes? Is It Fair?

“Not only do the so-called rich (I am sadly not among them, not even close) appear to pay their fair share, they pay quite a bit more… In fact there are so many people who pay so little in taxes (or actually get money back via the earned income tax credit) that they have no skin in the game. They are free to vote for an ever-larger government with negligible downside.”

Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate)

“A summary of the economic policies that won a thumbs-up from our broad spectrum of economists — and would probably prove toxic to any actual presidential candidate.” Here’s the list: 1. Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction, 2. End the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees, 3. Abolish the corporate income tax, 4. Eliminate all income and payroll taxes and replace them with consumption taxes, 5. Tax carbon emissions, and 6. Legalize marijuana…

You Didn’t Build That? Oh, Mr. Obama, You Can’t Be Serious

The Cato Institute’s Jim Powell provides an impressive litany of the nearly countless ways that the federal government subsidizes and taxes the same activity. One of my “favorite” examples from his list is how government simultaneously provides subsidies for growing tobacco and enforces prohibitions on smoking, but there are many more similarly absurd examples to ponder…

Unemployment Is Still the Biggest Election Issue

Quoting from this article by (U.S. News & World Report editor-in-chief) Mortimer Zuckerman, “Fewer Americans are working today than in the year 2000, despite the fact that our population has since grown by 31 million and our labor force by 11.4 million… Official unemployment under President Obama has averaged 8.8%, a record. Under George W. Bush, his predecessor, the jobless rate averaged 5.3% and was at 6.8% in the month his party lost the 2008 election. Job seekers are only one-third as likely to find a job as before Mr. Obama was elected.”

Who Really Invented the Internet?

“WSJ columnist Gordon Crovitz writes that contrary to legend, it wasn’t the federal government, and the Internet had nothing to do with maintaining communications during a war.” Good summary about the history of the Internet. Having lived through much of that history employed as a full-time faculty member at several major universities (indeed, for what it’s worth (perhaps not much :-)), I even beta tested the original “Mosaic” browser back in 1993 (cf., Crovitz’ account conforms well to my own recollections of how this all went down…

The Latest News on Tax Fairness

Two weeks ago, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published a report entitled “The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2008 and 2009”. This report is available online @; among other things, it provides interesting information concerning how both the distribution of household income and federal tax payments has changed during the course of the past 30 years. The WSJ article referenced below provides the following summary of some of the data which appear in the report:

“The top 20% in 1979 made 44.9% of the nation’s income and paid 55.3% of all federal taxes. Thirty years later, the top 20% made 50.8% of the nation’s income and their share of federal taxes paid had jumped to 67.9%.

And the top 1%? In 1979, this group earned 8.9% of the nation’s income and paid 14.2% of all federal taxes. In 2009, they earned 13.4% of the nation’s income but their share of the federal tax burden rose to 22.3%.

Meanwhile, the federal tax burden on middle- and lower-income earners is lighter. In 1979, the bottom 20% paid barely any taxes at all, just 2.1%. Now their share of taxes is a minuscule 0.3%. The burden on the middle-income earners ($34,900 to $50,100) has dropped too. In 1979, they paid 13.6% of all federal taxes; in 2009 they paid 9.4%.”

Was the Early Church Socialist?

“Socialism only works in Heaven, where they don’t need it, and Hell, where they’ve already got it.” — Ronald Reagan

iowahawk: You Didn’t Build That

“Readings from the Book of Barack 1 In the beginning Govt created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the economy was formless and void, darkness was over the surface of the ATMs, and the Spirit of Govt was hovering…”

Did the state make you great?

“In equating society with government, Obama devalues individual virtues.” Quoting further from this latest missive by Charles Krauthammer, “We don’t credit the Swiss postal service with the Special Theory of Relativity because it transmitted Einstein’s manuscript to the Annalen der Physik. Everyone drives the roads, goes to school, uses the mails. So did Steve Jobs. Yet only he created the Mac and the iPad.”

Krugmenistan vs. Estonia

“The Nobel laureate says stimulus and currency devaluation are the best way to survive a crisis. Estonia chose austerity. Why their rancorous, and often hilarious, war of words matters.”


“You didn’t build that” is another example of the president’s tone-deafness when it comes to the music of the American culture. The phrase is not taken out of context. It didn’t come after a celebration of the inventiveness and risk taking of individual Americans that has made this country great. The president gave the mildest of acknowledgements to the role of the individual, followed by a paragraph of examples that cast American history as a series of collective accomplishments.”

Legacy of a Jerk

I listened to this podcast this morning on my morning walk and highly recommend it to all my friends. The podcast asks a very interesting question, which is “what happens to your reputation when you’re no longer around to defend it?” Quoting further, “You’ll hear a variety of stories, and theories, about legacy in general and the legacy of jerks in particular. We discuss “strategic jerkitude”; the ancient injunction against speaking ill of the dead; and the fascinating, complicated legacy of Steve Jobs.”

States Can Shut Down ObamaCare’s Big Spending Plans

Featuring Cato’s Michael F. Cannon

“An essential part of ObamaCare’s regulatory scheme relies on state governments to voluntarily help implement the law. Michael F. Cannon explains that, contrary to popular myth, state legislatures are under no obligation to create health insurance exchanges or to expand Medicaid, and should refuse to do either.”

Gibson’s Fight Against Criminalizing Capitalism

“Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz writes that government overreach in the criminal-justice system takes money from taxpayer wallets and takes jobs away from the American people.”

Obama’s Enemies List—Part II

“Kimberley Srassel writes that in April an Obama campaign website called out Romney donor Frank Vandersloot—then the IRS moved to audit him, and so did the Labor Department.” See for the original article by Kimberley Strassel concerning an “enemies list”.

The Progressivity of Taxes and Transfers

I am very impressed by Mankiw’s analysis in this blog posting. This is the first attempt which I am aware of that empirically calibrates the magnitude of effective negative income taxation. Well done, Professor Mankiw!

For further context, I show in a blog posting from April 2011 that compared with 24 OECD countries, the US has by far and away the MOST progressive income system. See

The most confusing aspect of the “tax the rich” debate pertains to how politicians conflate tax rates with actual taxes paid. The surprising and somewhat counter-intuitive empirical result if your policy goal is to increase (decrease) the actual tax burden on the 1 percenters, then the most effective way to do this is to lower (increase), not increase (decrease) their marginal tax rates. This comparative static result causes many people’s brains to explode…

For what it’s worth, I have been following the tax debate throughout my academic career (dating back to the mid-80’s). Back then, more than 80% of US households paid federal income taxes. Today, only about half of households do, and we also know that roughly half of US households receive some sort of government check. All of this has obvious political economy implications, in that roughly half of voters are incentivized to vote for expanding the role and scope of the state (after all, they are net beneficiaries), whereas the other half is incentivized in exactly the opposite direction (after all, they are on the hook to pay for this largesse). Little wonder that our politics have become so polarized!

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