The Rundown

August 16, 2007
  • Steven Stark at RCP argues that Obama and Edwards are their own worst enemies in the debate format. I don’t disagree.
  • Former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta has some advice for the Bush Administration on how to avoid lame-duckery. I’d bet good money Podesta is wasting his time here.
  • Don Rumsfeld actually resigned the day before the election. How about that.
  • The Democrats really should make a point of passing the South Korea – US free trade pact. They won’t, but they should.
  • Especially not if this is any indication. Please, Democrats, please stop doing this. I want to vote for you. I really do.

The Rundown

August 15, 2007
  • Two big names have recently proposed reforming the farm subsidy system. One wants to retarget subsidies to family farms. The other wants to do away with subsidies altogether. The two people are John Stossel and John Edwards. Guess who proposed what.
  • Could Superfund survive a cost-benefit analysis? Almost definitely not. I am not sure what we should do about it.
  • Big media is out to screw the little guy. I know, that’s not really news, but on the other hand, it is.
  • Fred Kaplan weighs in on the draft at Slate.
  • Robert Samuelson calls for more clear-headed reporting on global warming, and makes the alarming and probably true assertion that we really don’t know how to solve this one. We probably shouldn’t do nothing though. Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias critiques Michael Gerson’s global warming hand-wringing.

The Rundown

August 13, 2007
  • Rove resigns. What can I say that hasn’t already been said?
  • RCP has a lengthy Foreign Affairs essay/conversation on the role of the generals in the Iraq debacle.
  • This fantastic NYT recap of the War in Afghanistan to date from Sunday New York Times is a must-read. It does not paint a pretty picture.
  • Greg Mankiw summarizes a summary of a current study of the realities of the work/leisure trade-off in modern America. Good stuff.

The Rundown

August 9, 2007
  • More good writing on the Minnesota Bridge Disaster by Michael O’Hare.
  • Via Crooked Timber, a good Boston Review article on the sociology of American prisons.
  • Cal Thomas, with whom I rarely agree, makes a pretty good case that we should vote for competence over ideology next year.
  • Bruce Bartlett, not exactly a tree-hugger, writes a guest entry over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog criticizing a less-than-accurate Drudge headline on global warming. A Drudge headline, shrill and wrong? Shocking, I know.
  • In other poorly written news news, Matthew Yglesias is outraged at a NYT article which doesn’t bother rebut the Administration’s charges of Democratic tax shenanigans.
  • Finally, Freakonomics hosts a high-profile discussion of street charity. Still hate the term “quorum” for these posts, though.

The Great Zimbabwe Collapse

August 7, 2007

Over at RealClearPolitics, Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group discusses the ongoing economic meltdown of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. It’s a good primer for those who haven’t been following the story. The conclusion pretty much sums it up:

But the risk for southern Africa of complete chaos in Zimbabwe may finally have become too great. When Mugabe goes, it will probably be the ZANU-PF elite that pulls the trigger. The president’s lieutenants have hesitated up to now because no viable presidential alternative has emerged from among them. They may soon decide that any alternative is more likely than Robert Mugabe to pull Zimbabwe back from the brink.

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy’s Carolyn O’Hara points to another development along the country’s southern border: the influx of immigrants into South Africa has resulted in the formation of the country’s own variation of the Minutemen. This, it follows, will undermine Mugabe’s support in South Africa, possibly to the point where the South African government ceases its attempts to uphold his legitimacy. For the sake of Zimbabweans, we can only hope.

The Rundown

August 7, 2007
  • Tyler Cowen presents a really interesting argument about the nature of poverty, based on a book by Charles Kareli.
  • Foreign Policy‘s Mike Boyer points to the fact that Grist (and other environmental organizations) tend to ignore conservative environmentalists.
  • A pretty entertaining Freakonomics Q&A with Columbia sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh about gang life.
  • Over at Salon, Juan Cole calls the latest surge of good news on the surge “a surge of phony spin.” Surge.
  • Also at Salon, Glenn Greenwald interviews Chris Dodd. I have found myself increasingly impressed by Dodd. It’s a shame he’s such a long-shot.
  • MD Governor Martin O’Malley and DLC Chair Harold Ford argue for Democratic centrism in the WP. Steve Benen is not impressed.

Misinterpreting Taxes

August 5, 2007

Kimberley Strassel of WSJ Opinion Journal wrote a pretty misleading piece on Friday opposing a few Democrat-backed tax hikes. As we have discussed previously, I support some of these more than others. I find the case for the carried interest tax to be a mixed bag; some of the others mentioned I don’t mind, some I do. Regardless, that’s not really the criticism I am trying to make here.

Rather, it is specifically of the comparison of any of these taxes to the (in)famous luxury tax of 1990. Her characterization of that tax is absolutely misleading. She claims that it was repealed because it was a tax-the-rich effort that did damage it did to a number of industries (such as the boat-building industry) and hurt the working class. Of course, that is far from the whole story.

The reason those industries were so hurt was that the luxury tax was horrifically designed. It turns out that if you massively tax things people don’t need to buy (for example, yachts and jewels) … they stop buying them! Go, read up on elasticity, it’s not that hard to figure out. These industries were torn apart because demand was cut drastically in the face of the tax hikes. It is far from clear that any of the taxes under discussion would encounter any similar barriers due to high elasticities.

That isn’t to say any of these taxes would be a free lunch. None are. But to compare them to the debacle that was the luxury tax is disingenuous and contributes little to the debate.