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101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed Constitutional Law, Gorsuch on: February 01, 2017, 09:12:07 AM
The Gorsuch pick (and confirmation) will free Kennedy to retire.

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/trump-supreme-court-gorsuch-234474

Ginsburg and Breyer, too!   wink
102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: tax cuts are a sham on: January 31, 2017, 01:11:25 AM
Under the proposal the bottom pay more and top get by far the biggest breaks and many in between get jack shit.   I am not for this. 
Current Law   Proposal   Single Filers   Married Joint Filers   Head of Household Filers
10%   12%   $0 to $9,275   $0 to $18,550   $0 to $13,250
15%   12%   $9,275 to $37,650   $18,550 to $75,300   $13,250 to $50,400
25%   25%   $37,650 to $91,150   $75,300 to $151,900   $50,400 to $130,150
28%   25%   $91,150 to $190,150   $151,900 to $231,450   $130,150 to $210,800
33%   33%   $190,150 to $413,350   $231,450 to $413,350   $210,800 to $413,350
35%   33%   $413,350 to $415,050   $413,350 to $466,950   $413,350 to $441,000

The article lists both static and dynamic scoring.  Look only at the dynamic  numbers (from a reliable source).  The static numbers are only for the deniers of the science, and to know in advance what the left will say.

In general, I disagree with you.  Some rich are losing hundreds of thousands in deductions. Still they will face a lower marginal tax rate on the next dollar of income - making them more likely to earn it, which is a good thing for the economy.  It's hard to help the lower earners with tax rate cuts; the lowest two quintiles pay in very little.  They will be helped by a growing economy.

This is a step in the right direction.  And as Crafty suggests, not necessarily the final draft.
103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: A HuffPo piece on: January 30, 2017, 03:33:23 PM

I agree with this Huffington Post piece.     - I'm not sure which emoticon to put with that.  )
104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy - House Republican Tax Plan, the blue state penalty on: January 30, 2017, 03:28:16 PM
As I am understanding the tax proposal not yet made, they will keep 2 of the 3 essential deductions in place while lowering the rates.  Mortgage interest and charitable - in, state and local taxes paid deduction - out.

I think this is partly right in principle but will not work in practice.

Kind of fun to tell NY and Calif that their over-taxation at the state and local level does not give them anyu advantage on federal taxes.  Plus they didn't voter for Trump and the Republicans anyway.

In my case, I cannot pay taxes with after tax money.  There isn't enough left to do that.

Money paid in taxers isn't income, and it isn't cash available to pay more taxes.  This is a bigger problem than 100 refugees stranded in an airport...

I am normally willing to vote against my own interests but I can't support policies that bankrupt me or force me out of my home.

I wrote to the author of this piece for further information, will update if I receive any reply of substance.

Get ready for a fight.

https://taxfoundation.org/details-and-analysis-2016-house-republican-tax-reform-plan
Read it at the source if these table format unreadable here.

Details and Analysis of the 2016 House Republican Tax Reform Plan
July 5, 2016
Kyle Pomerleau
Download FISCAL FACT No. 516: Details and Analysis of the 2016 House Republican Tax Reform Plan (PDF)

Key Findings

The House Republican tax reform plan would reform the individual income tax and would move towards destination-based cash flow taxation of businesses.
According to the Tax Foundation’s Taxes and Growth Model, the plan would significantly reduce marginal tax rates and the cost of capital, which would lead to 9.1 percent higher GDP over the long term, 7.7 percent higher wages, and an additional 1.7 million full-time equivalent jobs.
The plan would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over the first decade on a static basis. However, due to the larger economy and the broader tax base, the plan would reduce revenue by $191 billion over the first decade.
Although the plan would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion on a static basis in the first decade, much of the revenue loss is one-time. As a result, the plan will cost much less in subsequent decades.
On a static basis, the plan would lead to 0.7 percent higher after-tax income for all taxpayers and 5.3 percent higher after-tax income for the top 1 percent. When accounting for the increased GDP, after-tax incomes of all taxpayers would increase by at least 8.4 percent.
Introduction

In June, the House Republicans released a tax reform plan.[1] The plan would reform the individual income tax code by lowering marginal tax rates on wage, investment, and business income; broaden the tax base; and simplify the tax code. The plan would also lower the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent and convert it into a destination-based cash-flow tax. Finally, the plan would eliminate federal estate and gift taxes.

Our analysis finds that the House Republican tax plan would reduce federal tax revenue by $2.4 trillion over the next decade. The plan would reduce marginal tax rates on labor and substantially reduce marginal tax rates on investment. As a result, we estimate that the plan would boost long-run GDP by 9.1 percent. The larger economy would translate into 7.7 percent higher wages and result in 1.7 million more full-time equivalent jobs. Due to the larger economy and the broader tax base, the plan would reduce revenue on a dynamic basis by $191 billion over the next decade.

Changes to the Individual Income Tax

Consolidates the current seven tax brackets into three, with rates of 12 percent, 25 percent, and 33 percent (Table 1).
Table 1. Tax Brackets for Ordinary Income Under Current Law and the House Republican Tax Plan
Current Law   Proposal   Single Filers   Married Joint Filers   Head of Household Filers
10%   12%   $0 to $9,275   $0 to $18,550   $0 to $13,250
15%   12%   $9,275 to $37,650   $18,550 to $75,300   $13,250 to $50,400
25%   25%   $37,650 to $91,150   $75,300 to $151,900   $50,400 to $130,150
28%   25%   $91,150 to $190,150   $151,900 to $231,450   $130,150 to $210,800
33%   33%   $190,150 to $413,350   $231,450 to $413,350   $210,800 to $413,350
35%   33%   $413,350 to $415,050   $413,350 to $466,950   $413,350 to $441,000
39.6%   33%   $415,050+   $466,950+   $441,000+
Taxes capital gains and dividends as ordinary income and provides a 50 percent exclusion of capital gains, dividends, and interest income. This is equivalent to taxing capital gains, dividends, and interest income at half the rate of ordinary income, with three brackets of 6 percent, 12.5 percent, and 16.5 percent (Table 2).
Table 2. Tax Brackets for Capital Gains and Dividends Under Current Law and the House Republican Tax Plan
Current Law   Proposal   Single Filers   Married Joint Filers   Head of Household Filers
0%   6%   $0 to $9,275   $0 to $18,550   $0 to $13,250
0%   6%   $9,275 to $37,650   $18,550 to $75,300   $13,250 to $50,400
15%   12.5%   $37,650 to $91,150   $75,300 to $151,900   $50,400 to $130,150
15%   12.5%   $91,150 to $190,150   $151,900 to $231,450   $130,150 to $210,800
15%   16.5%   $190,150 to $413,350   $231,450 to $413,350   $210,800 to $413,350
15%   16.5%   $413,350 to $415,050   $413,350 to $466,950   $413,350 to $441,000
20%   16.5%   $415,050+   $466,950+   $441,000+
Increases the standard deduction from $6,300 to $12,000 for singles, from $12,600 to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly, and from $9,300 to $18,000 for heads of household.
Eliminates the personal exemption and creates a $500 non-refundable credit for dependents who are not children.
Increases the Child Tax Credit to $1,500 per child, limits the refundability of the credit to $1,000, and raises the phaseout threshold for the Child Tax Credit for married households from $110,000 to $150,000.
Eliminates all itemized deductions besides the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable contribution deduction.
Eliminates the individual alternative minimum tax.
Changes to Business Income Taxes

Reduces the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.
Eliminates the corporate alternative minimum tax.
Taxes income derived from pass-through businesses at a maximum rate of 25 percent.
Allows the cost of capital investment to be fully and immediately deductible.
Eliminates the deductibility of net interest expenses on future loans.
Restricts the deduction for net operating losses to 90 percent of net taxable income and allows net operating losses to be carried forward indefinitely, and increased by a factor reflecting inflation and the real return to capital. Does not allow net operating losses to be carried back.
Eliminates the domestic production activities deduction (section 199) and all other business credits, except for the research and development credit.
Creates a fully territorial tax system, exempting from U.S. tax 100 percent of dividends from foreign subsidiaries.
Enacts a deemed repatriation of currently deferred foreign profits, at a tax rate of 8.75 percent for cash and cash-equivalent profits and 3.5 percent on other profits.
Modifies all business income taxes to be border-adjustable, disallowing the deduction for purchases from nonresidents and exempting export profits and foreign-derived profits from taxation.
Other Changes

Eliminates federal estate and gift taxes.
Impact on the Economy

According to the Tax Foundation’s Taxes and Growth Model, the House Republican tax plan would increase the long-run size of the economy by 9.1 percent (Table 3). The larger economy would result in 7.7 percent higher wages and a 28.3 percent larger capital stock. The plan would also result in 1.7 million more full-time equivalent jobs.

The larger economy and higher wages are due chiefly to the significantly lower cost of capital under the proposal, which is due to the lower corporate income tax rate and the full expensing of capital investment.

Table 3. Economic Impact of the House Republican Tax Plan
Source: Tax Foundation Taxes and Growth Model, March 2016
GDP   9.10%
Capital Investment   28.30%
Wage Rate   7.70%
Full-time Equivalent Jobs (in thousands)   1,687
Impact on Revenue

If fully enacted, the proposal would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over the next decade on a static basis (Table 4). The plan would reduce individual income tax revenue by $981 billion over the next decade. Corporate tax revenue would fall by $1.2 trillion. The remainder of the revenue loss would be due to the repeal of estate and gift taxes.

On a dynamic basis, the plan would reduce federal revenue by $191 billion over the next decade. The larger economy would boost wages and thus broaden both the income and payroll tax base. As a result, the federal government would see $566 billion in additional individual income tax revenue and $683 billion in additional payroll tax revenue. On the other hand, corporate income tax revenue would actually decline even more on a dynamic basis. This is because the plan would encourage more investment and result in businesses deducting more capital investments, which would reduce corporate taxable income.

Table 4. Ten-Year Revenue Impact of the House Republican Tax Plan (Billions of Dollars)
Tax   Static Revenue Impact (2016-2025)   Dynamic Revenue Impact (2016-2025)
Source: Tax Foundation Taxes and Growth Model, March 2016.
Note: Individual items may not sum to total due to rounding.
Individual Income Taxes   -$981   $566
Payroll Taxes   $0   $683
Corporate Income Taxes   -$1,197   -$1,324
Excise taxes   $0   $57
Estate and gift taxes   -$240   -$240
Other Revenue   $0   $68
Total   -$2,418   -$191
The House Republican tax plan contains a number of significant base broadeners. Eliminating all itemized deductions except for the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable deduction would significantly broaden the income tax base and raise about $2.3 trillion over the next decade.[2] In addition, the plan would eliminate most individual credits, except for the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This would raise an additional $104 billion over the next decade.

Expanding the standard deduction, replacing the personal exemption with a dependent credit, and expanding the Child Tax Credit would reduce revenue slightly ($127 billion over the next decade).

On the business side, there are two significant base broadeners. The elimination of the interest deduction would raise $1.2 trillion over the next decade. In addition, making business taxes border-adjustable would raise another $1.1 trillion over the next decade. The elimination of business credits and deductions and the limit on net operating losses would bring in an additional $701 billion over the next decade.

The largest sources of revenue loss in the first decade would be the individual and corporate rate cuts and the move to full expensing of capital investments. Reducing individual income tax brackets to 12, 25, and 33 percent would reduce revenue by about $2 trillion over the next decade, while cutting the corporate income tax to 20 percent would reduce revenue by $1.8 trillion over the next decade.[3] Capping the tax rate on pass-through businesses would reduce revenue by $515 billion (after accounting for the new, lower tax brackets). Full expensing of capital investment would reduce revenue by $2.2 trillion over the next decade.

Table 5. Ten-Year Revenue and Economic Impact of the House Republican Tax Plan by Provision
Provision   Billions of Dollars, 2016-2025
Static   GDP   Dynamic
Eliminate the alternative minimum tax   -$354   -0.3%   -$428
Eliminate all itemized deductions except for the mortgage interest and charitable contributions deduction   $2,331   -0.4%   $2,218
Eliminate most personal credits   $104   0.0%   $104
Tax capital gains and dividends as ordinary income, allow a 50% deduction for capital gains, dividends, and interest   -$609   0.3%   -$531
Allowfull expensing of capital investments   -$2,236   5.4%   -$883
Disallow interest deduction on new loans   $1,194   -0.1%   $1,176
Border adjust business taxes   $1,069   -0.4%   $936
Eliminate section 199 and all business credits, and limit net operating loss deductions   $701   -0.1%   $677
Repeal the estate and gift taxes   -$241   0.9%   -$20
Expand and consolidate the standard deduction, replace the personal exemption with a dependent credit, and expand the Child Tax Credit   -$127   0.0%   -$112
Consolidate individual income tax brackets into three of 12 percent, 25 percent, and 33 percent   -$1,954   1.5%   -$1,641
Tax income derived from pass-through business at a maximum rate of 25%   -$515   0.6%   -$388
Lower the corporate income tax rate to 20%   -$1,807   1.7%   -$1,325
Enact a deemed repatriation of deferred foreign-source income   $185   0.0%   $185
Move to a territorial tax system   -$160   0.0%   -$160
Revenue Impact Beyond the First Decade

Although the plan will reduce federal revenues by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years, much of the cost is due to transitional, or one-time, revenue losses that disappear eventually. There are two provisions that contribute significantly to these transitional costs: full expensing of capital investments and the elimination of the interest deduction.

As stated above, moving to the full expensing of capital investments would reduce federal revenue by $2.2 trillion over the next decade. There are two revenue impacts from moving to expensing. First, businesses will be allowed to fully write off investment costs the first year. This speedup of cost recovery increases the present value of cost recovery and reduces federal revenue each year. Second, after full expensing is enacted, businesses will continue to write off investments they made under the old depreciation regime. When businesses fully write off new investments and continue to write off old investments, corporate taxable income falls significantly in those years, greatly reducing corporate revenue. However, once old depreciation has expired, the annual cost of expensing drops.

The plan also eliminates the deduction for net interest payments by businesses. We assumed that this provision would be prospective, or it would only apply to interest on loans made after the proposal went into effect. As a result, businesses would continue to deduct interest from loans acquired before enactment of the plan, reducing the amount of revenue this provision would raise in the first decade. In later decades, as old debt is retired, more interest would no longer be deductible, resulting in more revenue.

The plan also has one transitional revenue raiser: deemed repatriation. This proposal would tax corporations on their current deferred offshore profits. We assume that this provision would only raise revenue in the first 10 years.

As a result of these transitional issues, the plan would cost much less in subsequent decades. We estimate that the proposal would reduce federal revenue by 1.1 percent of GDP in the first decade, 0.5 percent of GDP in the second decade, and 0.4 percent of GDP after all transition costs have phased out.

Components of the Dynamic Revenue Estimate

The dynamic revenue impact of -$191 billion over the next decade can be broken down into three pieces: the marginal tax cuts, growth, and the base broadeners.

The first piece is the marginal tax rate reductions in the plan. These provisions include, but are not limited to, the cut in the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent, full expensing of capital investments, and the reduction in marginal tax rates for most individuals. Combined, these tax cuts would reduce federal revenue by $8 trillion over the next decade if enacted alone.

The second piece is the expected increase in revenue due to economic growth. As stated previously, this plan would reduce marginal tax rates on work, saving, and investment. Our model finds that these marginal tax rates would significantly increase the long-run size of the economy. The larger economy would boost wages and thus increase the tax base, especially for the individual income and payroll taxes. As a result, the growth from the plan would reduce the 10-year cost of the plan by roughly $2.5 trillion.

The third and final piece is the base broadeners in the plan. The House Republican tax plan contains a number of significant base-broadening provisions, such as the elimination of most itemized deductions, the elimination of the deduction for net interest expenses for businesses, and the border adjustment of businesses taxes. Combined, these provisions significantly broaden the tax base and reduce the revenue loss of the tax plan by $5.3 trillion over the next decade.

Distributional Impact of the Plan

On a static basis, the House Republican tax plan would increase the after-tax incomes of taxpayers in every income group. The bottom 80 percent of taxpayers (those in the bottom four quintiles) would see a small increase in after-tax income between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent. Taxpayers in the top 10 percent would see a 1 percent increase in after-tax income. Taxpayers in the top 1 percent would see the largest increase in after-tax income on a static basis of 5.3 percent, driven by both the lower top marginal tax rate and the lower corporate income tax.

On a dynamic basis, all taxpayers would see an increase in after-tax income of at least 8.4 percent. The top 1 percent of taxpayers would see an increase in after-tax income of 13 percent on a dynamic basis.

Table 6. Static and Dynamic Distributional Analysis
Changes in After-Tax Incomes
Income Group   Static   Dynamic
Source: Tax Foundation, Taxes and Growth Model (March 2016 version)
0% to 20%   0.3%   8.4%
20% to 40%   0.5%   8.6%
40% to 60%   0.2%   9.1%
60% to 80%   0.2%   8.5%
80% to 100%   1.0%   8.8%
90% to 100%   1.5%   9.3%
99% to 100%   5.3%   13.0%
TOTAL   0.7%   8.7%

Conclusion

The House Republican tax plan would reform both the individual income tax and convert the corporate income tax into a destination-based cash flow tax. This plan would significantly reduce the cost of capital and reduce the marginal tax rate on labor. These changes in the incentives to work and invest would greatly increase the U.S. economy’s size in the long run, boost wages, and result in more full-time equivalent jobs. On a static basis, the plan would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion, most of the revenue loss being from one-time transitional costs. However, due to the larger economy and the significantly broader tax base, the plan would reduce revenue by $191 billion over the next decade.
105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Wesbury: December Personal Income on: January 30, 2017, 03:06:04 PM
Also note that GDP went up 1.8% per year the last 8 years   - - -   as Wesbury predicted?     (

The good news is the predictability - that dismal policies bring dismal results.

The bad news is that we haven't really changed the policies yet.
106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of the left, it was Tim Kaine's fault on: January 29, 2017, 09:21:21 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/28/vincent-tolliver-candidate-dnc-chair-blames-clinto/

No.  It was President Obama's fault, candidate Clinton's fault, and the fault of the policies of the entire Democratic party.

Tim Kaine was a complete jerk in the VP debate.  His debate strategy came from the Clinton campaign.  Had they picked someone else, they would have given him or her the same, failed mission.
107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NJ property taxes average 8500 per house on: January 27, 2017, 09:48:44 AM
http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/01/average_property_tax_bill_reached_85k_per_home_in.html

It's probably just rich people living there, right ccp?  )

I thought my property taxes were bad.  I pay more than 100% of my take home income in property taxes.

We need a tax revolt, preceded by a spending revolt.
108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Death of NATO on: January 27, 2017, 09:44:52 AM
You were prescient, Doug.


Thank you BD.  I should give some credit to my co-author, Prof. Hanson.  )

Repeal and replace:  NATO
Repeal and replace:  UN

All the points VDH made in there were true then and becoming even more so. 

The article could have been used a blueprint for some celebrity to run for high office...
109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media, Ministry of Truth Issues on: January 27, 2017, 09:37:28 AM
It's too early to measure, but what an amazing difference.  Media report historically horrible approval at inauguration and Rasmussen measures it at 57%.

Different samples but I suspect it is a quite different way they ask the question.  Making polls to move people rather than to measure movement.
110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media, Ministry of Truth, polling accuracy? on: January 26, 2017, 06:27:59 PM
Real clear politics:
President Trump Job Approval: Gallup 46% | Rasmussen 59% | Quinnipiac 34%

25 point spread, how can that be?
111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, illegals voting, poll on: January 25, 2017, 10:28:46 AM
http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/poll-13-of-illegal-aliens-admit-they-vote/

Based on a sample survey of 800 Hispanics in 2013, McLaughlin found that of foreign-born respondents who were registered voters, 13 percent admitted they were not United States citizens.

80℅ Dem.  We need voter ID.
112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Franken ermerging as liberal force on: January 22, 2017, 10:38:46 PM

Franken emerging as all other potential leaders have been burned through and as the liberals prepare to sit on the sidelines and criticize.

Please correct me, anyone, if I am missing something about Al Franken.  His only 'humor' is sarcasm.  He has zero charisma.  He never was a lightweight on liberal policy and conservative bashing.  He kept a low profile in his first term for good reasons, what were they?  a) they stole the election for him and b) he is not a very likable guy.

I missed the questioning on the nominees, but wouldn't it be great to hear the nominees question the Dem Senators:  Let's see, you've been overseeing federal education for how many years, 6 years and your President for 8 years and which direction is it going under your watch?  Downward spiral.  What would you say to the following chart that clearly shows a negative correlation between federal involvement in our schools and outcomes, and federal money and outcomes?  You all oppose school choice, why?  And you call yourselves pro-choice?  Did they teach words and their meanings in your public school?  Would you say the brand of liberalism you practice is more about clarity or deception?
113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trump Inauguration on: January 21, 2017, 12:08:45 PM
A credit to our republic, but yesterday looked to me like kind of a slow news day.

Barack Obama had to schedule a vacation in order to actually leave town.  No big, new pardons that I heard; his most controversial ones were already out there.

President Trump didn't say anything particularly new or divisive. Looks like he plans to govern about the way he said he would.

Protests looked like just the obligatory ones to get on the news.  200 arrested, I assume because they wanted to be, amounting to fewer than one out of every million Americans.

No liberal actors moved to Mexico or Venezuela yesterday to escape the fear of lower tax rates and expanding economic freedoms likely to come to them here - against their will.

Mostly it looked like a typical Friday across the fruited plain, with new leaders in Washington sworn in to uphold the same old constitution.

God Bless America.
114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history, no pardon on: January 20, 2017, 02:50:51 PM
Maybe I missed something but noon eastern came and went today without a pardon from (former) President Obama for the Clinton Crime Family.  It would have made her look guilty and would have permanently stained his Presidency. 

He learned something from President Ford.
115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Movie about the facts that led up to Kelo decision on: January 20, 2017, 02:44:16 PM
http://www.vimooz.com/2017/01/18/courtney-moorehead-balaker-little-pink-house-athena-film-festival/

"Based on a true story, two-time Oscar® nominee Catherine Keener plays a small-town nurse Susette Kelo, who emerges as the reluctant leader of her working-class neighbors in their struggle to save their homes from political and corporate interests bent on seizing the land and handing it over to Pfizer Corporation. Susette’s battle goes all the way to the US Supreme Court and the controversial 5-4 decision in Kelo vs. City of New London gave government officials the power to bulldoze a neighborhood for the benefit of a multibillion-dollar corporation. The decision outraged Americans across the political spectrum, and that passion fueled reforms that helped curb eminent domain abuse."

Thank you Bigdog.  I hope they did a good job telling this story.  From my perspective, it is shameful that ANY Justices voted for this much less 5 of them including Anthony Kennedy, Reagan's third choice for that seat.

This is one issue that kept me from supporting Donald Trump until there was no one left (but HRC) as an alternative. 

As he description states, this is an issue that united the right and the left. I don't want special powers to anyone and the left doesn't want it for big corporate interests over the people.

Freedom of contract for consenting adults?  Your home is your castle?  Right of privacy?  Takings require public use?  Right of title, what third world countries often lack.  Whatever happened to buying property on the market, consensual buyers buying consensual property from consensual sellers at a consensual price?
116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 19, 2017, 10:02:23 AM
When Reagan bombed Khadaffi's house aroun '86 no one with a mind would question his motives

But this ?  The day he is walking out the door!  Oh but he "gave the order several days ago"...
This guy has certainly been one of the most cynical Presidents in my lifetime if not ever:
http://abc7chicago.com/news/b-2-bombers-strike-isis-camps-in-libya/1710009/

He fully earned our distrust.  Other than that, he should be acting as President and Commander in Chief from the first to the last day of his Presidency.

Maybe the enemy has its guard down in the changeover of power.

What bothers me the most is that he tries to govern the time after his Presidency with new rules especially on the private sector enacted at the very end.  All Obama Executive Orders should be rescinded and put back through Congress - where they belong.
117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Where are the numbers? on: January 18, 2017, 11:15:53 PM

-59 in Alaska right while the hottest year ever story again goes to print.

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/weather/2017/01/18/50-below-recorded-in-interior-as-cold-snap-settles-on-alaska/

Weather or climate, warning is less when you measure it than when you adjust it.

118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: POTH: Third year in a row with record temps on: January 18, 2017, 12:54:41 PM

As long as they don't change the methodology, that will always be true.
119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in Euros, national death by immigration, Sweden on: January 17, 2017, 09:20:02 AM
This is a very long, amazing article with great investigation and writing except for a few moments where the author inserts his own opinion.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/10/the-death-of-the-most-generous-nation-on-earth-sweden-syria-refugee-europe/
120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races on: January 16, 2017, 09:03:47 PM
This is a good article and a great topic.

"Senate Democrats ended the right to filibuster any nominee to federal appeals and district courts, as well as any cabinet appointments, but kept it in place for Supreme Court nominations."
...
"Once you’ve nuked the filibuster for all nominations… how long does the Senate majority keep it around for legislation?"


That misses the main point.  It is not they they ended the filibuster for this and not for that, the point is that they declared the rules of the US Senate  changeable at any time for any reason.  And now they regret it.   'ya think?
121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness, Back of the queue, Front of the queue on: January 16, 2017, 08:43:14 PM
Nothing says Glibness like when President Obama told Great Britain it "could get in the back of the queue", parenthesis, go to hell, regarding new trade deals while he lost another, after his Netanyahu loss, foreign elections that he tried to interfere with.
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/22/barack-obama-brexit-uk-back-of-queue-for-trade-talks

That verbal atrocity went by largely unnoticed but really should go in his top ten gaffe list right along side of 'tell Vladimir I'll have more flexibility after my reelection'.

Even trade-skeptic Donald Trump recognizes the value of relations with our closest ally, the United Kingdom, a nuclear power and ally in almost every war.  Front of the queue, says his successor, "I think we’re gonna get something done very quickly".
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-to-meet-uk-prime-minister-may-about-u.s.-u.k.-trade-pact/article/2611932

Guess which one they call immature...

Foreign policy isn't all rocket science (or wishful thinking).  Some of it is common sense.



122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Trump Lewis on: January 15, 2017, 08:50:30 PM
The alternative for Trump would have been to not punch back because he is black, and that would be racist.
123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The full fury of the globalist elites is still pending on: January 13, 2017, 10:23:54 AM

Good article and excellent wisdom from Fay about globalism becoming a religion.

The article's author wrote’:. Trump's pro-worker, pro-taxpayer activism is also proving to be pro-business."

Yes, and that ends the moment we start a trade war.  Not mentioned was the American consumer.

"Back in 1846, the leading British free trader Richard Cobden declared, flat-out, that free trade would save the world:

I see in the Free-trade principle that which shall act on the moral world as the principle of gravitation in the universe—drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race, and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace.

Cobden was a capitalist, and capitalists are often cold-eyed, but, as we can see, there’s a dreamy, even giddy, utopianism in Cobden’s thinking.  And amazingly, it won the battle of public opinion in 19th-century Britain.

Interestingly, one contemporary of Cobden’s—who was much colder-eyed and decidedly not a capitalist—nevertheless endorsed the same idea.  That would be Karl Marx, ..."

We can fight open borders, the UN disaster and our loss of sovereignty without losing our standard of living and our freedom to trade.
124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: January 12, 2017, 11:56:45 AM

You and I would question the accuracy of that and how it is defined and measured.  The point in Sweden is the alarming increase more than the level.
125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / America's Inner City, Chicago Homicides 2016: 812 on: January 12, 2017, 11:51:28 AM
The city posted a decades-high homicide count of 812 in 2016, per the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
https://aminewswire.com/stories/511071497-chicago-homicides-even-higher-than-reported

Where is this happening?
http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/shootings/
Who is doing this?
Why?
What should be done about it?
126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in Europe, Sexual assaults jump 70% in Sweden in 2 years on: January 12, 2017, 10:56:12 AM
Of course this could have nothing to do with Islam in Europe.  No mention of who is assaulting, maybe Swedish men have gone wild and the new immigrants are well behaved.

http://www.bra.se/bra/publikationer/arkiv/publikationer/2017-01-10-nationella-trygghetsundersokningen-2016.html
http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/01/11/official-data-sexual-assault-70-per-cent-sweden/
127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: War with Russia and China? on: January 12, 2017, 10:44:27 AM
Good article.  I am interested in what war with either Russia or China would look like in the theoretical, game-theory, sense.  The experts and military strategists must be playing this out all the time.  A look at it from either side must lead to the conclusion that both sides are worse off than before no matter how it plays out, IMO.

The best analysis for understanding the behavior of these geo-rivals for me is the Denny S backyard theory.  China has all these impending conflicts in its own neighborhood, obsessed with Taiwan and constantly testing its expansion of power in the South China Sea.  Russia is always in conflict threat of conflict with the much weaker states on its immediate border, and they reach further out every time they win, annex or conquer one.

Unlike say Nazi Germany versus England, France, etc, there is no desire in China to rule the US and no desire in the US to rule China.  A strike on the US by China would be for the purpose of having us back off from one of their regional conflicts, IMHO.

I mostly see China as a business.  It's a ruthless totalitarian regime, but a business.  Every major city and state in the US is a major customer of Chinese goods.  They could attempt a Hiroshima, Nagasaki like nuclear attack on LA, San Fran or Seattle, but it would trigger an economic war, not just a military one.  In terms of power, they could be hurt in that worse than us even if we did not strike back militarily.  A full blown trade blockage with justification and resolve from us would trigger a kind of retraction and collapse in China that could end the rule of the regime.  

If a shootout or mini-conflict erupted in their neighborhood, China versus US, and they were to lose it, just having the US engage in the region would lower the intimidation factor in their region that they currently rely on.

They have as much reason as us to be conflict averse.
128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The *ONE*, farewell address on: January 11, 2017, 10:36:58 AM
We can look back and admit this President brought joy to all Americans.  For half the country, when he entered the Oval Office, and for the rest, when he leaves.
129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WaPo: Baraq, the Empress Dowager, Putin, and the Donald on: January 11, 2017, 10:23:17 AM

Right.  How did this story morph from our lack of security and embarrassing communication to spies spying.  These breaches happened under this President's watch, no matter the party or candidates hurt by it.  In hindsight, they should hired that guy that invented the internet away from his more profitable climate hoax work, Al Gore, first Secretary of CyberSecurity!

Meanwhile the same President unilaterally gave up the American lead on governing the internet - and received nothing in return. 

They can't figure out why Americans went out and hired a better negotiator in chief.
130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America (and pre-emptive dhimmitude) on: January 11, 2017, 10:13:15 AM
Why is the "investigative news site"  unnamed?!?

Not a reliable story yet but a heads up to where the story could lead.

An unnamed law enforcement official told ABC News on 9 January 2017 that Santiago may in fact have used the name Aashiq Hammad:

Since the attacks, investigators recovered Santiago’s computer from a pawn shop, and the FBI is examining it to determine whether the alleged shooter created a jihadist identity for himself using the name Aashiq Hammad, according to officials familiar with the case.

Snopes fails to end their story on this with true or false:
http://www.snopes.com/2017/01/10/fort-lauderdale-shooting-suspect-used-muslim-name/#

Investigators are looking at terrorism as one possible motive, but have not decisively established it as such. George Piro, FBI special agent in charge out of Miami, told reporters during a 7 January 2017 press conference:
We continue to look at all angles and motives and at this point we are continuing to look at the terrorism angle
131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: VP Mike Pence in 2010 on the Presidency on: January 10, 2017, 11:18:59 PM

"A president who slights the Constitution is like a rider who hates his horse: he will be thrown, and the nation along with him."  - Mike Pence

I hope the President-elect has time to read this article.
132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cognitive Dissonance of the left, Global Warming killing the children on: January 10, 2017, 10:55:02 PM


It's a miracle, drought, flood, you name it.  Here's a big one, the Great Lakes: 

https://thinkprogress.org/the-great-lakes-go-dry-how-one-fifth-of-the-worlds-fresh-water-is-dwindling-away-e9efe2c72891#.mu9j15ecq
Jan 2014:  For the past 15 years, islanders have watched Lake Michigan slowly disappear. Last January, the lake hit a record low, 29 inches below the long-term average as measured since 1918... Increasingly, scientists believe that climate change is driving the warming waters and setting up a new regime in the Great Lakes that may lead to lower lake levels and a permanently altered shoreline.

https://weather.com/science/environment/news/great-lakes-water-levels-fastest-recovery-history
Dec 2014:  Great Lakes Water Levels Recover Faster Than Ever Before
"ice cover that stuck around from several harsh winters prevented some of the usual evaporation from occurring."

Unusual ice cover accelerated the rise.  Who knew that the side effects of warming would be harsh winters and increased ice coverage?

Climate change, formerly known as weather, is amazing.  You only have to believe.

133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Bernie Sanders, CNN, hasn't learned a thing on: January 10, 2017, 07:35:42 PM
From almost becoming our worst President ever, Bernis Sandsers has fallen to run-of-the-mill leftist, like Shumer, Warren, et al.

I followed a link to his insights today from real clear politics:  23 Questions for America  - Sen. Bernie Sanders, CNN

No, he hasn't learned a thing.  He lost the nomination to Hillary because of cheating, corruption and collusion in his own party.  No one is running for party chair to clean that up.  All they have is denial, even from Sanders.

One of many bold, FALSE statements:  [The US today has] the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth.

Oh really?  What a crock.  He cites this UNICEF study:  https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc10_eng.pdf  They compare countries by comparing the percentage of
children living in relative poverty, defined as living in a household whose income, when adjusted for family size and composition, is less than 50% of the median income for the country in which they live.  He cites inequality, based on false data, not counting the income of the poor, and he calls it poverty.  Good grief.  Maybe he makes up for it with charisma?

Our poor are often richer than their rich, but we have the highest rate of children living in relative poverty? Without counting their income and relative to the median of the wealthiest country in history.  If the questions or ideas stand on their own, why fill it with deception?

So much for addressing real problems.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/09/opinions/serious-questions-bernie-sanders-opinion/index.html

Bernie Sanders: We need serious talk on serious issues
By Bernie Sanders
Updated 4:19 PM ET, Mon January 9, 2017

(CNN)In my view, the media spends too much time treating politics like a baseball game, a personality contest or a soap opera. We need to focus less on polls, fundraisers, gaffes and who's running for president in four years, and more on the very serious problems facing the American people -- problems which get relatively little discussion. I hope that's what our town meeting on CNN tonight will accomplish.  [So far, so good.]

There are a lot of important questions to talk about, including:
How do we stop the movement toward oligarchy in our country in which the economic and political life of the United States is increasingly controlled by a handful of billionaires?  [Stop it by getting those who aren't to particpate in the productive economy.  Instead we pay and contract with them to stay poor. cf. SSI]

Are we content with the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we are experiencing? [If it's important, stop measuring and reporting it falsely]  Should the top one-tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent? Should one family in this country, the Waltons of the Walmart retail chain, own as much as the bottom 40 percent of our people? [The bottom 40% mostly don't have savings.  Don't double down on the failed policies that caused that. Increase the wealth of the bottom 40% if that is the goal and stop making meaningless comparisons. Should 52 percent of all new income be going into the pockets of the top 1 percent?  [The results of the Sanders, Obama plan.  Also see Venezuela's decline and collapse since leaving a free market economy.]

While the very rich become much richer, are we satisfied with having the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth? [Already proven patently false, see above.] Can a worker really survive on the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour? [By sharing household expenses with family and friends.  Instead household sizes keep getting smaller for the poorest among us.] How can a working-class family afford $15,000 a year for childcare? [What did that used to cost?] How can a senior citizen or a disabled veteran get by on $13,000 a year from Social Security?

What can be done about a political system in which the very rich are able to spend unlimited sums of money to elect candidates who represent their interests? [The winner spent the least.  Stubborn facts.] Is that really what democracy is about? Why, in the year 2017, do we still have state governments trying to suppress the vote and make it harder for poor people, young people and people of color to participate in the political process? [Checking ID is not suppression and saying it's harder for 'poor people, young people and people of color' is degrading.]

Why is the richest country in the history of the world the only major country not to provide health care to all as a right [Lie, lie, lie, no one is denied healthcare] despite spending much more per capita? Why are we one of the very few countries on earth not to provide paid family and medical leave? [What does paying more people to not work have to do with serious questions?] With the five major drug companies making over $50 billion in profits last year [.0025 portion of the economy, how much should they make on risk capital to try to develop cures for our ailments?] why do we end up paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?  [Enforce the anti-dumping laws already on the books or negotiate best price contracts, like successful companies do, see Walmart above.]

How do we succeed in a competitive global economy if we do not have the best educated workforce in the world? And how can we have that quality workforce if so many of our young people are unable to afford higher education or leave school deeply in debt? Not so many years ago, we had the highest percentage of college graduates in the world. Now we don't even rank in the top ten. What can we do to make sure that every American, regardless of income, gets all of the education he or she needs? [Public school education in Democrat-run big cities is a disgrace.  School choice is the Republican and inner city black preference.]

Meanwhile, on climate change, the debate is over. [More like you quit listening to it.] The scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already doing devastating harm to our country and the entire world. [Patently false as written.] How do we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy while protecting those workers who might lose their jobs as a result of the transition? [Stop opposing carbon-free nuclear energy.] This is no small issue. The future of the planet is at stake.

We are now spending $80 billion a year to imprison 2.2 million Americans, who are disproportionately African-American, Latino and Native American. [The victims are disproportionately minority too.  The culture of crime is breeding in Democrat-run cities.  Check it out.] We have more people in jail than any other country on earth, including China, which is home to four times as many people. How do we reform a broken criminal justice system? How do we create jobs and educational opportunity for young people, not more jails and incarceration? [Stop jails or stop crime?]

We must create a path for the 11 million undocumented [unlawful] people in our country to become lawful permanent residents and eventually citizens. [Why?] How can we move our nation toward common sense, humane and comprehensive immigration reform and by doing that help reverse the decline of our middle class and better prepare the United States to compete in the global economy?  [Enforce the border and the law.]

Our nation's infrastructure is collapsing and the American people know it. At a time when our roads, bridges, water systems, rail and airports, levees, dams, schools and housing stock are decaying, the most effective way to rapidly create meaningful jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. How can we work together to make that happen? [Read the Republican plan.]

These are the issues that need to be talked about all over the country. I thank CNN for allowing us to have a serious discussion about serious issues.  [Bernie, your disingenuity is killing us.  Luckily the voters went a different direction.]
134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ted Cruz Snubs China, Meets with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on: January 09, 2017, 08:32:10 PM
https://pjmedia.com/trending/2017/01/09/ted-cruz-snubs-china-meets-with-taiwan-president-tsai-ing-wen/

A one China policy could mean we only recognize the Republic of China, not the PRC. Although that really could lead to war.

It could lead to war, but why?  They haven't shown any sign of caring what we think on anything else.

[And why is Ted Cruz re-starting his campaign.  Someone appoint him to the Supreme Court!]
135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cognitive Dissonance of the left, Global Warming killing the children on: January 09, 2017, 08:27:51 PM
It's causing flooding in Nevada and California right now. Is there anything Climate Change can't do?

Right, a lot like the dogs saying the Russians pooped in the hallway.


If you live on an island in a global economy more than 2000 years after the invention of desalination and die of a drought, your cause of death is poverty, not someone else's prosperity.
136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of the left, Global Warming killing the children on: January 09, 2017, 07:57:07 PM
NY Times, surely you jest! 

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/opinion/sunday/as-donald-trump-denies-climate-change-these-kids-die-of-it.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Global warming caused the drought in Madagascar.

Let's back track.  Burning fossil fuels is causing global warming aka climate change because carbon dioxide emitted in combustion is a trace element greenhouse gas.  See the octane combustion equation:

2 C8H18 + 25 O2 = 16 CO2 + 18 H2O

More water vapor is emitted than CO2. 

Adding water vapor to the atmosphere (in the US) is causing droughts worldwide.  Good f'g grief.
137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the left on: January 09, 2017, 07:48:36 PM
This is why I believe Keith Ellison will be made the next DNC head.  Precisely because he is black and muslim..  Anybody who criticizes him for reason whatsoever will be trolled with the lib attack lines:

racist
islamophobe

http://www.breitbart.com/video/2017/01/07/joy-reid-being-black-and-muslim-puts-you-in-the-crosshairs-of-trumpworld/

That decision will come up shortly.  You are partly right IMHO.  His rise to power and fame, like Barack Obama, is the combination of looking different and slick delivery.  Ellison is a (fake?) Muslim who loves gays, Jews, peace on earth, etc.  Good for him, as Elizabeth Warren might say.

I can't believe he'll be picked, but we'll find out soon enough.  He is perfect for the part of the party that wants to double down on all the current, failed policies.  Just like the Presidential race, not running is the alternative who has visited the heartland, is experienced, moderate and would help them to reach out to the voters they are losing.

Those voting for leadership I assume will be all the people in party power who think the policies pursued over the last, failed ten years were perfect.

So we get someone all calm and articulate in a suit and tie who pioneered the movement of assassinate cops to lead a major political party.

"We don't get no justice, you don't get no peace."   

Let's see how that sells in Heartland America and how he holds up to national scrutiny tougher than the Red Star and Sickle, the monopoly media here.

138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Young socialist hardliner will lead Venezuela's economy TO UTTER RUIN on: January 09, 2017, 07:33:35 PM
My heart goes out to all in Venezuela, especially to those who did not vote for this mess.  But that said, my fascination with their failed policies has to do with calling out liberals here in the US for their support for failed poolicies for us.  It's all Cognitive Dissonance of the Left, to me, wherever they live.

Venezuela boosts minimum wage by 50 percent
AFP   AFPJanuary 8, 2017
https://www.yahoo.com/news/venezuela-boosts-minimum-wage-50-percent-235730192.html

Wealth through legislation and mandate.  With more than a little sarcasm, that ought to fix it! 
139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big WSJ article on Tillerson on: January 09, 2017, 06:46:45 PM
I didn't know anything about Tillerson before this.  Don't know yet if I will agree with him on policy.  The appearance of having an Exxon (or the Goldman Sachs) guy is lousy.   Suddenly, personally knowing Putin is a big negative.  All the negatives make me think he is quite an impressive guy. 

Like with Cheney and Haliburton, people think he will put loyalties to old friends and old business ahead of the interests of the nation.  It's possible but I don't think that way.  Not everyone is a Clinton.

I don't see him as any kind of pushover; Trump wanted the best negotiators and Sec of State is the highest one.  But even if he is too nice of a guy, we have the Defense Secretary to play the role of bad cop with some of these characters on the world stage.

Acts as small as the Taiwan phone call or not flinching during negotiations send a message to leaders of countries more than just the one currently at the table.

140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WSJ: Tariffs can backfire on: January 09, 2017, 02:13:34 PM

Yes.They.Can.


The Great Depression, bringing some data forward:
Smoot Hawley Tariff Act:  raised tariffs on 20,000 items by 6.3% to 19.8%.
Effective‎: ‎March 13, 1930   
Imports: fell 66%
Exports: fell 61%  
GDP: fell over 25%
The "trade deficit" "improved".
We are FAR more reliant on both imports and exports today.

Make America Great Again.  Don't screw it up.
141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media, Ministry: Kaine the tie-breaking vote in the Senate as VP, 78% chance on: January 09, 2017, 02:08:15 PM
Media and The Left are overlapping threads.  Looking back at this from the Huffington Post never gets old.   )


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/democrats-78-percent-chance-50-senate-seats_us_57b8a525e4b0b51733a3cda0

Republicans Set To Lose Senate Control
Democrats have a 78 percent chance of getting 50-plus seats in November, the HuffPost Senate model shows.

Most models give the Democratic ticket of Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) at least an 80 percent chance of winning the presidency. That would make Kaine the tie-breaking vote in the Senate as the vice president, shifting Democrats back into the majority by a 51-50 split.
--------------------------------------------------------

Tim Kaine is becoming the trivia question no one can answer and Mike Pence the 46th President of the United States, with 80% certainty, lol.
142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: January 09, 2017, 01:08:20 PM
Thanks Crafty.  What I mean by required reading, income inequality is the heart of the 'progressive' economic view, like opposing the law of gravity.  If you aren't ready to answer and challenge them on it, you have lost the argument.

A short snippet from a long piece, "is the acceptable level [of income inequality] that of Swedish equality in 1995 or 2016? Now there’s a conversation stopper for you."

From a liberal point of view, what they're doing in Sweden isn't working either.

People who are invested in the economy are always more likely to benefit from its upturns than people that aren't.  Therefore we should oppose significant economic growth?
----------------------------------

Nice piece by BW.  The last election will be good for our Wesbury discussions.  Watching his optimism under Obama was painful, even if he was right that big equities did well in that slow growth environment and no big crash came during that time.  Now we can all realistically discuss good policy choices instead of guessing how resilient our economy will be to bad policies.
143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics- American Interest, Income inequality on: January 09, 2017, 01:10:31 AM
When our host and moderator says this needs to be posted on both the science and political threads on economics, I believe that makes it REQUIRED READING.   )

Good to see more experts weigh in on this.  Piketty debunked (again).  Inequality is the ladder there for everyone to climb.  It isn't a bad thing that people in different careers, at different points in their careers, with different effort levels and different talents get different pay.  It's how our most scarce resource, our time, gets allocated best.  But it gets measured wrong and then hyped for political and economic folly.  I suppose this debate has been going on since Adam and Eve but it restarted in the Bush years as a way of saying a good and growing economy was bad.  Mis-measure the differences and then sound the alarm.  The point of the deception was to foster dissatisfaction with economic growth and gain support for greater redistribution.  

John F Kennedy said a rising tide lifts all boats.  He didn't say all boats have to be the same size and travel at the same speed, now matter how small or slow or how vulnerable they would have to be to the next wave.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/01/03/the-inequality-hype/

The Inequality Hype
NEIL GILBERT
The great devil of progressives turns out to be mainly a figment of accounting. Better data gives us a more heartening picture of American well-being.

For most of the 20th century, poverty represented the root of all evil to Americans—sprouting criminality, violence, hunger, disease, stunted achievement, and premature death. With the tremendous growth of both the economy and the welfare state over the past sixty years, the political campaign against poverty has almost vanished from the public square. Today, many see economic inequality as the root cause of most, if not all, of our social ills. President Obama described it as the defining challenge of our time—one that threatens “the very essence of who we are as a people.”

It should go without saying that poverty and inequality are not the same. However, it’s worth repeating, because over time a conflation of the two has taken root in common perceptions. The evils once associated with poverty have been transferred lock, stock, and barrel to inequality, whether justifiably or not.

Although political efforts to reduce income (and wealth) inequality do not carry the moral force of religious edicts (leaving aside those for whom Das Kapital has assumed biblical status), they have an intuitive moral appeal not dramatically different from appeals to reduce true poverty—again, since both are seen as causing the same cluster of social evils. Long before any exposure to ideas of social justice one typically hears young children yelling “that’s unfair!” when a pie is divided unequally among them; the quickest to complain are invariably those handed the smallest slices.

And why shouldn’t they? All else equal, there seems to be little ethical justification for one child to get a bigger slice of the pie. As adults we usually make peace with reality by recognizing that it is rarely if ever the case that all else is equal. Karl Marx got around this problem by arguing that the secret expression of value, namely that all kinds of human labor are equal and equivalent, because in so far as they are human, labor in general cannot be deciphered until the notion of human equality has acquired the fixity of a popular prejudice.

For Marx, in other words, all human labor has the same value because we are all equal in what he deems people’s most important characteristic—their humanity. This tautological formulation skirts the issue of how, or even whether, to adjust for merit (and of course it famously leaves out every other factor of production in an economy, but never mind about that for now).

Since classical antiquity the balance between merit and equality has animated philosophical debate about what constitutes a just distribution of material goods. Aristotle believed that a fair and just distribution could not ignore merit, which, once taken into consideration, made a fair distribution essentially an unequal one. He qualified the idea that “equal” is just by differentiating between numerical and proportional equality. The former dictates that everyone gets exactly the same basket of goods, while latter prescribes that the amount of goods received by different people be relative to the amount of effort each contributed to their production. With this deft distinction, Gregory Vlastos observes, “the meritarian view of justice paid reluctant homage to the equalitarian view by using the vocabulary of equality to assert the justice of inequality.”1

Still, the case for reducing inequality made in the political arena appeals to the intuitive sense that fair means equal. All that is being asked is that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. This leaves aside the meritarian question of whether they legitimately deserve to possess such vast wealth in the first place. For the most part, proposals to advance equality by taxing tycoons evoke little public opposition. Whether or not targeting this group is really just, many argue that the millionaires can easily afford it. Others question how lawfully the super-rich came by their wealth in the first place, and still others, law aside, assert that all wealth distribution systems are based ultimately on coercion, made necessary by the original sin of private property. The merely progressive as opposed to radical case for income redistribution gains added support from the prevailing assumption that economic inequality is inherently bad because it causes stress, low self-esteem, and a whole raft of dubiously medicalized effects. This assumption reflects the growing tendency to conflate the equality of material outcomes with the incontestable fair-mindedness of equal opportunity.

Champions of increasing economic equality have an emotionally compelling argument that ensures the moral high ground for those making the case. It is not an argument that any sensible politician (or aspiring academician, as opposed to a professional gadfly like the Princeton philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt) wants to enter on the other side.2 Thus in contemporary Western political discourse equality is so thoroughly vested as an abstract good that questions are rarely raised about exactly how much economic inequality is unacceptable, how much is fair, or even how much really exists. The next time someone lectures you about the need to increase equality, you might try asking: How much should we have? As much as Sweden, is one likely response. But inequality has been on the rise in Sweden as in most other industrialized countries, so is the acceptable level that of Swedish equality in 1995 or 2016? Now there’s a conversation stopper for you.

Income inequality is at once a palpable and amorphous condition. That some people have more money than others is a tangible reality. But most people have no idea about the actual distribution of income and their position in the population. An analysis of several surveys of ordinary citizens in nearly forty countries reveals widespread misperceptions about the degree of inequality, how it is changing and where they fit in their country’s income distribution. For example, in the countries surveyed an average of 7 percent of respondents owned a car and a second home, yet on average 57 percent of this group thought they belonged in the bottom half of the income distribution. Among low-income respondents receiving public assistance, a majority placed themselves above the bottom 20 percent of their income distribution. These findings raise serious doubts about the extent to which the median voter knows how much she might lose or gain from redistribution. More important, it means that discontent with economic trends has a lot less to do with perceptions of material inequality than it does with a whole host of other factors that are, as it happens, a lot harder to quantify and therefore much less well appreciated by elites.

Metrics of Inequality and Material Well-Being

In contrast to the normative moral appeals and vague calibrations of fairness in political discourse, the quantitative metrics of social science lend a certain precision to estimates of income inequality. However, these empirical estimates and especially what they signify rest on loose soil that offers fertile diggings for economists and philosophers less interested in facts than in changing facts. To really grasp the essential meaning of economic inequality requires examining how income is measured in relation to demographic changes, geographic differences, and shifting fortunes over the life course. But if that interferes with the propagation of a certain ideological position, then these requirements go unrequited. Let’s look more closely at the facts before we deign to tamper with them.

Income inequality in the United States is generally perceived to have increased over the past thirty years. However, the degree and implications of this trend remain in dispute. The disagreement reflects, in part, differences in the way economists measure inequality, which are rarely aired outside of technical publications. Even when the different measures are reported, what they signify is difficult to discern beyond whether the numbers are going up or down.

The most common measures of inequality include the Gini index and a comparison of income quintiles. They vary in convenience and transparency. The Gini index provides an expedient summary ranging from 0 to 1; zero denotes perfect equality of income and 1 represents a distribution in which one member possesses all the society’s income. Among the advanced industrialized countries Gini coefficients range from .250 to .500. By summarizing the dispersion of income in one number, Gini coefficients are useful for comparative purposes. They clearly show whether economic inequality is increasing or decreasing over time and is higher or lower among countries.

However, the numerical precision veils the existential reality of inequality, particularly in a country as large as the United States. That is, the numbers convey an empirical impression that those with an annual income of $100,000 have a higher standard of living than those with an income of $85,000. If this were not the case, why be concerned about income inequality in the first place?

But in fact it is often not the case. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis documents strikingly large differences in the cost of living throughout the country.3 Thus, for example, when regional price differences are factored in, a $100,000 income in New York State is worth less than an $85,000 income in Montana. Some might argue that it is worth the difference to live in New York. Having come from New York City, like many of my friends I once believed that civilization ended on the east bank of the Hudson. Yet people have different preferences for cultural amenities and natural beauty—and different levels of tolerance for traffic, noise, smog, and cramped apartments. Montanans typically refer to their state as “the last best place,” which may explain the influx of wealthy people over the past few decades. Cost-of-living differences are even more extreme among metropolitan areas. The San Francisco Bay area is almost 40 percent more expensive than Rome, Georgia, a charming locale nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. Since the cost of living is usually higher in states and metropolitan areas where the average household income is above the U.S. median, the Gini coefficient tends to exaggerate differences in the levels of material comfort and well-being implied by economic inequality.

Moreover, despite the suitability of Gini coefficients for comparing levels of income inequality over time and among countries, the findings expressed by these comparisons can obscure their implications for economic well-being. For example, the .378 Gini coefficient for the United States represents a much higher degree of income inequality than the .257 computed for the Slovak Republic. As for economic well-being, a look at how much money is actually available reveals that the Slovak Republic’s median disposable household income amounts to 29 percent of that of the United States.4 Its middle-class would be on welfare here.

Finally, the Gini coefficient lends numerical precision to the assumption that increasing economic equality is a social improvement. Yet during a recession economic equality as measured by the Gini index may well increase in a country where everyone is getting poorer. Earnings fall for people in both the upper and lower income brackets, but the decline is steeper for those at the higher end who have more to lose in the first place. By the same token, a country could experience rising inequality according to its Gini index when everyone is becoming better off. The rich are getting richer as the poor are also getting richer, just not as much. Rising inequality, however, can also signal that the rich are getting absolutely more and the poor are getting absolutely less. But the Gini coefficient metric by itself is powerless to tell you which is which.

So, are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? A 2012 Pew Research Center survey found 76 percent of the public answered “yes,” which was about the same as the 74 percent who held this view in 1987.5 In contrast to the Gini coefficient, which cannot answer the question, the analysis of income quintiles entails a direct examination of how money is distributed among the different groups, revealing the extent to which their incomes are rising or falling. Calculating the financial resources of five groups that range from the top to the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, this approach illuminates the economic well-being of families and how they fare over time. But here, too, the results vary according to the alternative definitions of income.

Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez’s well-known study of income inequality in the United States, for example, was based on the market income of tax filers.6 According to this definition, from 1979 to 2007 there was a 33 percent decline in the mean income of those in the bottom quintile in contrast to a 33 percent increase among those in the top 20 percent of tax units. Thus, left entirely to its own devices, the market allocation of income generated a pattern of increasing inequality wherein the rich got noticeably richer and the poor got poorer—a bleak testimony, supposedly, to the distributional problem of capitalism.

However as Richard Burkhauser pointed out in his presidential address to the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, the market income of a tax unit is a poor indicator of how much money families actually have to live on.7 A more inclusive measure of the income that remains in households after subtracting what they must pay in taxes and adding the money they receive through government transfers transmits a different image of the American experience. Applying these criteria, instead of a decline we see a 32 percent increase in the mean income of the poorest fifth between 1979 and 2007. (Table 1) Overall, this broader measure still reveals a rise in inequality during that period as the mean income of those in the top bracket climbs by 54 percent.8 But it, too, is incomplete.



Source: * Philip Armour, Richard V. Burkhauser, and Jeff Larrimore, “Deconstructing Income and Income Inequality Measures: A Crosswalk from Market Income to Comprehensive Income” American Economic Review (May, 2013). ** Congressional Budget Office, “The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2010” (Government Printing Office, 2013).

Along with taxes and transfers, the most authoritative and extensive measure of income also incorporates capital gains. Along with Burkhauser and his colleagues, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees that a comprehensive definition involves the sum of market income adjusted for taxes, household size, cash and in-kind transfers, and capital gains.9 However, the consensus unravels over the issue of exactly how to value capital gains. The basic choice is whether to focus on the total taxable gains realized in the year capital assets are sold or the annual change in value of capital assets whether or not they are sold. This is not just a matter of bookkeeping. The choice to include either realized or accrued capital gains in the calculation of annual income has a considerable impact on the rates of inequality.

The CBO favors the use of realized capital gains that are reported on tax returns. After factoring in the impact of taxes, capital gains, and government transfers the CBO data reveal a sharp decline in inequality compared to when it is measured solely by market income. According to these figures, between 1979 and 2010 the household income in the bottom quintile increased by 49 percent, the income in the middle three quintiles increased on average by 40 percent, and those in the highest bracket increased by 71 percent.10 While incomes increased across the board, the largest gains registered on the two ends of the income distribution. These findings temper progressive arguments that focus on the increasing inequality of market incomes to demonstrate the need for greater social welfare spending.

The income measures cited above all indicate a rising level of inequality that varies only in the rate at which it seems to have increased over the past three decades. In contrast, a different picture emerges if accrued capital gains, which include housing, are substituted for realized taxable gains. This approach yields a reversal of income trends between 1989 and 2007, which shows a decline in inequality as the household income in the bottom quintile climbed at a rate considerably higher than the increase experienced in the top quintile, which was hit much harder by the housing market crash in 2007. Needless to say, the choice between these methods of valuing capital gains is highly contested.

Every pertinent measure of income quintiles, especially the widely acknowledged comprehensive assessment by the CBO, dispels the notion that within the United States over the past three decades the rich have been getting richer as the poor have gotten poorer. The CBO measure reveals that from the highest to the lowest quintile, the mean household income of every group was lifted, even amid a rising tide of inequality. Among the bottom fifth the mean income increased by 49 percent. That’s not peanuts, particularly when we recognize what else is happening.

Another Dimension: Looking Within the Groups

Although the analyses of change since 1979 illustrate the extent to which household incomes climbed while the gap between the bottom and top fifths widened, it’s a one-dimensional picture that discounts what was happening within these economic bands. This image conveys a static impression that the same households within each quintile were experiencing these changes over time. In truth, a lot more was going on among the households within these five divisions, the particulars of which lend depth to the one-dimensional story of increasing economic inequality.

To grasp the full implication of rising inequality in household income, it is important to recognize that during the period in question young workers were continually entering the labor force as the older generation retired and died. A 25 year old who began working in 1979 while living on his own with an income in the bottom 20 percent would very likely reach a higher bracket by the time he was 53 years old in 2007. So not only did entry-level income rise between 1979 and 2007, but over the course of time many of those who started out at the bottom climbed toward the top. In just the period from 1996 to 2005, for example, the U.S. Treasury Department estimates that about half of the taxpayers starting in the bottom 20 percent moved into a higher income bracket.11 Of course, we do not know how many members of this upwardly mobile group were young scions spending their first year out of Princeton as shipping clerks in their fathers’ factory, serving Teach for America in a poor rural area or lolling lazily on the Left Bank—a reminder that numbers can impose a surface on patterns that shields us from the underlying reality.

There is even more to this story. As time passed, the 25 year old got married and had two children. Thus, what started in 1979 as a single-person household in the bottom fifth of the income distribution had morphed into a middle-income household with four people by 2007. This change illustrates an important characteristic of the income quintiles. Although they represent five groups with an equal number of households, the average number of persons per household within these groups varies as do other characteristics such as family structure and employment. The top fifth of households contain 82 percent more people than the bottom fifth. The proportion of married couples in each group ranges from 17 percent in the lowest income quintile to 78 percent in the highest. At the same time, single men and women living alone account for 56 percent of the households in the bottom fifth, but only 7 percent among the top group. And no one was employed in more than 60 percent of the households in the bottom quintile; while 75 percent of the households in the top quintile had two or more earners.

Taking account of the household characteristics within each quintile reveals that to some extent the increasing level of income inequality since 1979 coincides with the changing demographics of family life, particularly the smaller number of persons per household, the decreasing rate at which couples form and maintain stable marriages, and the increasing number of two-earner households. On that score, W. Bradford Wilcox and Robert I. Lerman estimate that 32 percent of the growth in family income inequality since 1979 is linked to the retreat from marriage and the decline of stable family life.12 The point, again, is that economic data are not self-interpreting, and that without a relevant sociological filter they can be made to mean almost anything except what they actually mean.

Concentrating on advances within just the top quintile offers a different perspective, which sharpens our understanding of what is behind the rising level of economic inequality in recent years. Two prominent findings based on the CBO’s all-inclusive measure of income tell the story: From 1979 to 2010 the after-tax income of the top 1 percent increased by 201 percent (compared to the 49 percent increase for households in the bottom quintile and the 65 percent increase for those in the 81st to 99th quintile).13 Research focused on the pre-tax market income of the top 1 percent generates an even higher level of inequality than the CBO findings.

Thus, a disproportionate degree of the increasing level of inequality was due to significant financial gains made by those at the apex of the income pyramid. As for the rest, a careful analysis matching data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service demonstrates that after 1993 there was no palpable increase of inequality among the bottom 99 percent of the population. Since the pre-tax incomes of the top 1 percent started at $388,905 in 2011, many of these families would not be considered the super-rich. It’s around the top one-tenth of 1 percent, where pre-tax incomes start at $1,717,675, that we begin to cross the line between relatively well-off and truly affluent.

As soon as the conversation on inequality begins to concentrate on the wealthiest households, the question increasingly comes to mind: What do these people do to deserve such immense rewards? A 2013 study commissioned by the New York Times discloses a median executive pay of $13.9 million among the CEOs of 100 major firms, described by one journalist as a “new class of aristocrat.”14 Although not terribly harsh, this description connotes a privileged class renowned more for its leisure pursuits than its productive labor. But it does suggest how easily personalizing the numbers can transform a dispassionate report on the top 1 percent into bitter accounts of debauchery and corporate corruption. The likes of Bernie Madoff, Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, and Ken Lay of Enron supply no shortage of infamy on which to justify a denial of merit. But then there are the brilliant hard-working multi-millionaires who created Apple, Google, and Microsoft, not to mention our favorite movie stars and athletes. Even here some might question why grown men should receive immense sums of money to stand around a few afternoons a week waiting for a chance to hit a ball with a big stick. Major League baseball players were paid on average $3.39 million in 2013. In contrast, for the same activity most minor league players earned between $2,500 and $7,000 for a five-month season—talk about inequality!

Like it or not, in a capitalist system the criterion for reward is ultimately associated with what the market will bear. Of course, many people doubt just how well this standard works in practice. They wonder, for example, how difficult it might be to replace a CEO earning $20 million a year with an equally qualified executive who would accept half that salary. Also, market demand is no guarantee of social value or cultural enlightenment. A writer’s worth varies by the number of readers willing to plunk down the price of a book, regardless of how crass or meaningless the content. Alas, Fifty Shades of Gray has earned millions, while my publishers will be fortunate to clear the all-too-modest advance awarded for Never Enough: Capitalism and the Progressive Spirit. What the market will bear is certainly an imperfect calibration, but most people still think it preferable to having the standard set by bureaucratic quotas or political bargains, though both are often in play, as well.

How Has the Middle Class Really Fared?

Politicians on both sides of the aisle contend that the middle class is being crushed by inequality and diminishing income. But with household incomes increasing amid rising inequality, what do the facts tell us about the real material state of the middle class? There are several ways to answer this question, depending on how the middle class is defined and the benchmarks against which its progress and well-being are measured. The historical absence of an aristocracy has bred a fluid sense of social class and a democratic ethos that instills a degree of reluctance in Americans to identify as “upper class.” Thus, the middle class is a well-regarded, if ill-defined, status to which most Americans subscribe. It is typically associated with one’s income, education, and occupation. Numerous polls capture the propensity of Americans to identify themselves as somewhere along the spectrum of lower-middle to upper-middle class.

When policymakers and the media talk about the middle class, however, it is usually defined by economic divisions. Estimates vary regarding the range of income that delineates the middle class, as well as the interpretation of how the economic fortunes of this group have changed over time. Thus, reviewing the same Census Bureau data the New York Times decries, “Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up,” while ten days later the Pew Research Center announces, “America’s ‘Middle’ Holds Its Ground After the Great Recession.”15 Both of these captions are correct and neither highlights the larger story in the data, which only underscores how those who write the headlines may parse the numbers to express the points they wish to publicize. The economic definitions of the middle class in these reports differ: $35,000-$100,000 in the New York Times and $40,667-$122,000 in the Pew study. But the findings are very similar. Both show a substantial contraction of about 10 percent in the size of the middle class, which started shrinking around 1970. Though it sounds ominous, this decline is not necessarily a distressing trend. It depends on where those who were squeezed out of the middle class ended up. If they all moved into the upper income brackets, everyone’s better off.

So where did they go? The answer hinges on the years in question. The New York Times headline focused on the period from 2000 to 2013, the decade of the Great Recession during which the middle class declined by around 2 percent, the upper-income group also declined by about 3 percent, and the lower-income group increased. The Pew caption referred to the period from 2010 to 2013, just after the Great Recession. Over this interval the size of the middle class remained stable, and there was even a small uptick in the upper-income group and a slight decline in the lower-income group.

Despite the fluctuation of a few percentage points during the Great Recession, the larger story in the New York Times report is that between 1967 and 2013 both the lower-income and the middle-income groups contracted while the size of the upper-income group expanded by 15 percent. From this perspective the shrinking of the middle class (and of those in the lower-income bracket) is directly connected to a significant advance in economic well-being as the combined size of the middle- and upper-income groups grew by 5 percent.

Thus, while the New York Times headline evoked a disheartening picture of middle-class decline, the data easily yield a more promising interpretation of the middle-class experience since 1970. The Pew findings offer a somewhat different conclusion, in part because the middle-class definition was pegged at a higher level of income. Although the middle-income group fell by 10 percent, about 6 percent of those who left had climbed into the upper-income category. What a way to go.

Of course, there are other benchmarks against which to evaluate the economic progress and status of the U.S. middle class. Certainly, those concerned about inequality would judge that the middle class has not fared very well in comparison to the income gains realized by the country’s top 1 percent. True; but consider everyone else on the planet. The U.S. middle class boasts among the highest disposable household incomes in the world. The average U.S. family has 38 percent more disposable household income than a family in Italy, 25 percent more than a family in France, and 20 percent more than a household in Germany, when adjusted for differences in purchasing power. (Of course, that doesn’t take fully into account the more efficient provision of many services in Western Europe via the public route: think health care, for example. Which only confirms the point that numbers alone cannot really tell us very much.)

Although some academics invest considerable intellectual energy in debating how to quantify inequality and the significance of change in measures such as the Gini coefficient, most members of the middle class have no idea whether this index is going up or down unless they read about it in the news. And even then the average middle-class citizen is more interested in how much money remains for her family to live on after the give and take of government taxes and transfers than whether or not the Gini index rose or fell by three-tenths of a point.

Could We Ask for More?

Several issues have so far been raised about the divergent approaches to the measurement of inequality, the disparate characteristics of those in different income brackets, the absence of cost-of-living adjustments, the plight of the middle class, the soaring 1 percent, and the sobering revelation of international comparisons. On the whole these issues enable us not so much to dismiss concerns about rising economic inequality as to calm public apprehensions about its rate, degree, and implications. The disparities related to the changing distribution of income in the United States look a lot more acute before taxes and benefits are taken into account, for example—are you listening, Dr. Piketty? As such it can be said that the capitalist market generates and the welfare state mitigates inequality.

Recounted in its most auspicious light, the story of this interaction over the past three decades reveals that while inequality increased, so did household incomes at every level. Measured by disposable household income the U.S. standard of living is among the highest of all the advanced industrial democracies, not to mention the rest of the world. Indeed, reflecting on the rest of the world, Tyler Cowen urges us to preface all discussions of inequality with a reminder that although economic inequality has been increasing in advanced industrialized nations, over the past two decades global inequality has been falling.16 And given global economic patterns, this is not a coincidence but a relationship.

Of course, in an ideal world everyone would have been even better off if the top 1 percent had taken home less than 13 percent of all the income and the bottom 20 percent had gained more—even while the economy grew at the same overall rate. Not to promote the best as an enemy of the good, there is nevertheless a convincing case to be made for social reforms that would to some degree shift the distribution of income away from the top. Progressives and conservatives generally agree on the need to rein in government transfers received by wealthy citizens, particularly the special benefits derived from the favorable tax treatment afforded to homeowners. These benefits, known as “tax expenditures,” allow home owners to deduct the interest paid on mortgages and to net up to $500,000 of capital gains tax-free on the sale of their homes.

The amounts are not trivial. The CBO estimates that the tax expenditures for mortgage-interest deductions amount to $70 billion, almost 73 percent of which goes to households in the top 20 percent of the income distribution, while those in bottom 20 percent receive no benefit. Although there would be some downside for the home-building industry, limiting tax subsidies to wealthy homeowners could lower the level of inequality without seriously adverse consequences for the rate of homeownership.

Yet even if these adjustments were made, much income inequality would still remain, which takes us back to the question: Could we ask for still more? Obviously, there are many ways for government to appropriate additional money from those in the upper-income brackets and deliver more to those on the bottom. Raising income taxes, lifting the ceiling on taxable income for Social Security, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and eliminating its marriage penalties, boosting the minimum wage, means-testing Social Security benefits, and taxing the fringe benefits of employment are among the evident alternatives. Then there are the less well-recognized but hardly trivial proposals to tax some classes of advertising and to eliminate the corporate income tax altogether in the context of comprehensive tax reform. Progressives and conservatives argue about whether any and all such measures would kill jobs or boost the economy, discourage work or stimulate activity, generate class conflict or enhance social solidarity, and advance social justice or deny the just deserts of individual merit. A vast literature on these issues has generated mixed findings about the implications of various measures.

Considering the uncertainty surrounding these issues, the degree of support for additional measures to spread the nation’s wealth is heavily influenced by one’s answer to the question: How serious is the problem of rising economic inequality amid abundance? The answer rests on competing ideas about the current state of material well-being in the United States, the integrity of free-market capitalism and, above all, the putative consequences of inequality.

Progressives tend to think that inequality is the story and that, as already noted, nearly everything wrong in U.S. society stems from it. But this argument ultimately depends on presumed maladies arising from inequality that more than stretch scientific criteria for medical causality. The evils ascribed to inequality expand roughly at the same rate as the DSM manual, and that is a suspicious thing.

As long as household incomes are increasing at every level (as measured by the CBO), conservatives are less concerned about rising economic inequality than progressives. They accept inequality as the tribute that equality of opportunity grants to merit, productivity, and luck in the free market, recognizing that this transaction is sometimes distorted by discrimination, exploitation, corruption, and outright larceny, which need to be checked by government. With the average family’s disposable household income in the United States among the highest in the world, inequality is perceived less as a source of social friction between the “haves and the have-nots” than as an imbalance between those who have a lot and others who have even more. This, on balance and seen in an historical perspective, ought to be a cause for celebration, not an occasion for mass self-flagellation.

1Vlastos, “Justice and Equality,” in Social Justice, edited by Richard Brandt (Prentice-Hall, 1962), p. 32.

2Frankfurt, On Inequality (Princeton University Press, 2015).

3“Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas, 2008-2012,” U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, April 24, 2014.

4Michael Forster et al., Society at a Glance 2011, (OECD 2011).

5“Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years: Trends in American Values: 1987-2012,” Pew Research Center, June 4, 2012.

6Piketty & Saez, “Income Inequality in the United States,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (February 2003).

7Burkhauser, “Presidential Address Evaluating the Questions that Alternative Policy Success Measures Answer,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (Spring 2011).

8Philip Armour, Richard V. Burkhauser, and Jeff Larrimore, “Deconstructing Income and Income Inequality Measures: A Crosswalk from Market Income to Comprehensive Income,” American Economic Review (May 2013). The government transfers included here involve both cash and in-kind benefits, specifically food stamps, housing subsidies, and school lunches, but not the value of employer- and government-provided health insurance. For an analysis of the income growth when cash transfers and health insurance are included, but not in-kind benefits, see Richard Burkhauser, Jeff Larrimore, and Kosali Simon, “A ‘Second Opinion’ on the Economic Health of the American Middle Class,” National Tax Journal (March 2012), pp. 7-32.

9Congressional Budget Office, The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2008 and 2009 (Government Printing Office, 2012). The major components of income included here differ from those recommended by the Canberra Group mainly in regard to capital gains, which the Canberra guidelines exclude from the measure of household income in favor of their treatment as changes in net worth.

10Congressional Budget Office, The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2010 (Government Printing Office, 2013).

11U.S. Treasury Department, Income Mobility in the U.S. from 1996 to 2005 (Government Printing Office, 2007). A similar rate of mobility was reported for those in the bottom quintile from 1986 to 1996. Unlike the CBO measure, these findings are based on pre-tax market income plus cash but not tax-exempt or in-kind transfers. Also, the unit of analysis is not adjusted for household size.

12Wilcox & Lerman, “For richer, for poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America,” AEI, October 28, 2014.

13The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2010. In 2010 the top 1 percent netted almost 13 percent of all the after tax income (15 percent before taxes).

14Peter Eavis, “Invasion of the Supersalaries,” New York Times, April 13, 2014.

15Dionne Searcey & Robert Gebeloffjan, “Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up,” New York Times, January 25, 2015. Rakesh Kochhar & Richard Fry, “America’s ‘Middle’ Holds Its Ground After the Great Recession,” Pew Research Center, February 4, 2015.

16Cowen, “Income Inequality Is Not Rising Globally. It’s Falling,” New York Times, July 19, 2014.

Neil Gilbert is Chernin Professor of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. This essay is adapted from his latest book, Never Enough: Capitalism and the Progressive Spirit (Oxford University Press, forthcoming3
144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Chuck Schumer on: January 09, 2017, 01:06:02 AM
"...worthy of his own thread? "

Run of the mill leftist, on a par with Dick Durbin, Pelosi, Reid and Wasserman-Schultz.  Foes anybody see any more in him than that?

More important (sadly) might be Claire McCaskill, the 8th most centrist Dem in a 52-48 Senate, and other red-state Dem Senators, especially those up for reelection.
145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Leave the UN on: January 07, 2017, 02:38:41 PM
It needs us (to fund its corruption and globalist financial and political interests as well as those from countries that skim - no not skim milk) more then we need it. 
Andrew McCarthy:
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/443642/us-leave-united-nations.


Repeal and replace, ASAP, s'il vous plaît.

The new organization should have entrance rules so tight that the US doesn't qualify until we pass our own reforms, get5 back some freedoms and balance our budget.  And if we host it, we host it in Peoria or Topeka, not NYC, equal distant between Europe and Asia.

What has the UN done lately about the South China Sea?  How are they doing on Middle East peace?  Did they stop the nuclear program in NK yet?   China and Russia have veto power, are you kidding?  Qaddafi was the head of the Human Rights Commission.  George Orwell couldn't have come up with that.  And the UN has the worst charity record on the planet. 
146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Corruption, Sleaze, Skullduggery, and Treason on: January 07, 2017, 02:18:33 PM
From media thread, ccp: Media purposely distorts Trumps firing ambassadors.  Obama fired all the Bush ambassadors and I don't remember hearing a single peep about.  These are not lifetime appointments.  Their shift is up.  Go home.  No controversy here.  I don't know how we can defeat the msm CNN ha become the worst of bunch.


Bill Clinton fired all 50 US attorneys as he took offrice just to get at the Arkansas one without making too big a scene.  There were no right wing websites then.  There was one big radio show and the WSJ editorial page.  Otherwise no one screamed and he eventually was reelected - before getting impeached, disbarred, shamed for other crimes.
147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WaPo takes on Breitbart on: January 07, 2017, 02:12:39 PM
"I'd vett everything from Brietbart, it's as untrustworthy as the Washington Post."


Or the NY Times.  It's a good comparison.  There was Breitbart the man, deceased, a very aggressive investigative journalist.  Breitbart the website is an agenda driven outlet just as eager as Wash Post and NYT to advance their narrative at the expense of accuracy.  And then there is the double standard.  When NYT or Wash Post gets it wrong they just run a correction - or not.  When Breitbart gets it wrong they are forever deplorable and unworthy of ever citing again even when right.



148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Economics - The Inequality Hype on: January 05, 2017, 12:41:56 PM
Good to see more experts weigh in on this.  Piketty debunked (again).  Inequality is the ladder there for everyone to climb.  It isn't a bad thing that people in different careers, at different points in their careers, with different effort levels and different talents get different pay.  It's how our most scarce resource, our time, gets allocated best.  But it gets measured wrong and then hyped for political and economic folly.  I suppose this debate has been going on since Adam and Eve but it restarted in the Bush years as a way of saying a good and growing economy was bad.  Mis-measure the differences and then sound the alarm.  The point of the deception was to foster dissatisfaction with economic growth and gain support for greater redistribution.  

John F Kennedy said a rising tide lifts all boats.  He didn't say all boats have to be the same size and travel at the same speed, now matter how small or slow or how vulnerable they would have to be to the next wave.
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http://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/01/03/the-inequality-hype/

The Inequality Hype
NEIL GILBERT
The great devil of progressives turns out to be mainly a figment of accounting. Better data gives us a more heartening picture of American well-being.

For most of the 20th century, poverty represented the root of all evil to Americans—sprouting criminality, violence, hunger, disease, stunted achievement, and premature death. With the tremendous growth of both the economy and the welfare state over the past sixty years, the political campaign against poverty has almost vanished from the public square. Today, many see economic inequality as the root cause of most, if not all, of our social ills. President Obama described it as the defining challenge of our time—one that threatens “the very essence of who we are as a people.”

It should go without saying that poverty and inequality are not the same. However, it’s worth repeating, because over time a conflation of the two has taken root in common perceptions. The evils once associated with poverty have been transferred lock, stock, and barrel to inequality, whether justifiably or not.

Although political efforts to reduce income (and wealth) inequality do not carry the moral force of religious edicts (leaving aside those for whom Das Kapital has assumed biblical status), they have an intuitive moral appeal not dramatically different from appeals to reduce true poverty—again, since both are seen as causing the same cluster of social evils. Long before any exposure to ideas of social justice one typically hears young children yelling “that’s unfair!” when a pie is divided unequally among them; the quickest to complain are invariably those handed the smallest slices.

And why shouldn’t they? All else equal, there seems to be little ethical justification for one child to get a bigger slice of the pie. As adults we usually make peace with reality by recognizing that it is rarely if ever the case that all else is equal. Karl Marx got around this problem by arguing that the secret expression of value, namely that all kinds of human labor are equal and equivalent, because in so far as they are human, labor in general cannot be deciphered until the notion of human equality has acquired the fixity of a popular prejudice.

For Marx, in other words, all human labor has the same value because we are all equal in what he deems people’s most important characteristic—their humanity. This tautological formulation skirts the issue of how, or even whether, to adjust for merit (and of course it famously leaves out every other factor of production in an economy, but never mind about that for now).

Since classical antiquity the balance between merit and equality has animated philosophical debate about what constitutes a just distribution of material goods. Aristotle believed that a fair and just distribution could not ignore merit, which, once taken into consideration, made a fair distribution essentially an unequal one. He qualified the idea that “equal” is just by differentiating between numerical and proportional equality. The former dictates that everyone gets exactly the same basket of goods, while latter prescribes that the amount of goods received by different people be relative to the amount of effort each contributed to their production. With this deft distinction, Gregory Vlastos observes, “the meritarian view of justice paid reluctant homage to the equalitarian view by using the vocabulary of equality to assert the justice of inequality.”1

Still, the case for reducing inequality made in the political arena appeals to the intuitive sense that fair means equal. All that is being asked is that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. This leaves aside the meritarian question of whether they legitimately deserve to possess such vast wealth in the first place. For the most part, proposals to advance equality by taxing tycoons evoke little public opposition. Whether or not targeting this group is really just, many argue that the millionaires can easily afford it. Others question how lawfully the super-rich came by their wealth in the first place, and still others, law aside, assert that all wealth distribution systems are based ultimately on coercion, made necessary by the original sin of private property. The merely progressive as opposed to radical case for income redistribution gains added support from the prevailing assumption that economic inequality is inherently bad because it causes stress, low self-esteem, and a whole raft of dubiously medicalized effects. This assumption reflects the growing tendency to conflate the equality of material outcomes with the incontestable fair-mindedness of equal opportunity.

Champions of increasing economic equality have an emotionally compelling argument that ensures the moral high ground for those making the case. It is not an argument that any sensible politician (or aspiring academician, as opposed to a professional gadfly like the Princeton philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt) wants to enter on the other side.2 Thus in contemporary Western political discourse equality is so thoroughly vested as an abstract good that questions are rarely raised about exactly how much economic inequality is unacceptable, how much is fair, or even how much really exists. The next time someone lectures you about the need to increase equality, you might try asking: How much should we have? As much as Sweden, is one likely response. But inequality has been on the rise in Sweden as in most other industrialized countries, so is the acceptable level that of Swedish equality in 1995 or 2016? Now there’s a conversation stopper for you.

Income inequality is at once a palpable and amorphous condition. That some people have more money than others is a tangible reality. But most people have no idea about the actual distribution of income and their position in the population. An analysis of several surveys of ordinary citizens in nearly forty countries reveals widespread misperceptions about the degree of inequality, how it is changing and where they fit in their country’s income distribution. For example, in the countries surveyed an average of 7 percent of respondents owned a car and a second home, yet on average 57 percent of this group thought they belonged in the bottom half of the income distribution. Among low-income respondents receiving public assistance, a majority placed themselves above the bottom 20 percent of their income distribution. These findings raise serious doubts about the extent to which the median voter knows how much she might lose or gain from redistribution. More important, it means that discontent with economic trends has a lot less to do with perceptions of material inequality than it does with a whole host of other factors that are, as it happens, a lot harder to quantify and therefore much less well appreciated by elites.

Metrics of Inequality and Material Well-Being

In contrast to the normative moral appeals and vague calibrations of fairness in political discourse, the quantitative metrics of social science lend a certain precision to estimates of income inequality. However, these empirical estimates and especially what they signify rest on loose soil that offers fertile diggings for economists and philosophers less interested in facts than in changing facts. To really grasp the essential meaning of economic inequality requires examining how income is measured in relation to demographic changes, geographic differences, and shifting fortunes over the life course. But if that interferes with the propagation of a certain ideological position, then these requirements go unrequited. Let’s look more closely at the facts before we deign to tamper with them.

Income inequality in the United States is generally perceived to have increased over the past thirty years. However, the degree and implications of this trend remain in dispute. The disagreement reflects, in part, differences in the way economists measure inequality, which are rarely aired outside of technical publications. Even when the different measures are reported, what they signify is difficult to discern beyond whether the numbers are going up or down.

The most common measures of inequality include the Gini index and a comparison of income quintiles. They vary in convenience and transparency. The Gini index provides an expedient summary ranging from 0 to 1; zero denotes perfect equality of income and 1 represents a distribution in which one member possesses all the society’s income. Among the advanced industrialized countries Gini coefficients range from .250 to .500. By summarizing the dispersion of income in one number, Gini coefficients are useful for comparative purposes. They clearly show whether economic inequality is increasing or decreasing over time and is higher or lower among countries.

However, the numerical precision veils the existential reality of inequality, particularly in a country as large as the United States. That is, the numbers convey an empirical impression that those with an annual income of $100,000 have a higher standard of living than those with an income of $85,000. If this were not the case, why be concerned about income inequality in the first place?

But in fact it is often not the case. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis documents strikingly large differences in the cost of living throughout the country.3 Thus, for example, when regional price differences are factored in, a $100,000 income in New York State is worth less than an $85,000 income in Montana. Some might argue that it is worth the difference to live in New York. Having come from New York City, like many of my friends I once believed that civilization ended on the east bank of the Hudson. Yet people have different preferences for cultural amenities and natural beauty—and different levels of tolerance for traffic, noise, smog, and cramped apartments. Montanans typically refer to their state as “the last best place,” which may explain the influx of wealthy people over the past few decades. Cost-of-living differences are even more extreme among metropolitan areas. The San Francisco Bay area is almost 40 percent more expensive than Rome, Georgia, a charming locale nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. Since the cost of living is usually higher in states and metropolitan areas where the average household income is above the U.S. median, the Gini coefficient tends to exaggerate differences in the levels of material comfort and well-being implied by economic inequality.

Moreover, despite the suitability of Gini coefficients for comparing levels of income inequality over time and among countries, the findings expressed by these comparisons can obscure their implications for economic well-being. For example, the .378 Gini coefficient for the United States represents a much higher degree of income inequality than the .257 computed for the Slovak Republic. As for economic well-being, a look at how much money is actually available reveals that the Slovak Republic’s median disposable household income amounts to 29 percent of that of the United States.4 Its middle-class would be on welfare here.

Finally, the Gini coefficient lends numerical precision to the assumption that increasing economic equality is a social improvement. Yet during a recession economic equality as measured by the Gini index may well increase in a country where everyone is getting poorer. Earnings fall for people in both the upper and lower income brackets, but the decline is steeper for those at the higher end who have more to lose in the first place. By the same token, a country could experience rising inequality according to its Gini index when everyone is becoming better off. The rich are getting richer as the poor are also getting richer, just not as much. Rising inequality, however, can also signal that the rich are getting absolutely more and the poor are getting absolutely less. But the Gini coefficient metric by itself is powerless to tell you which is which.

So, are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? A 2012 Pew Research Center survey found 76 percent of the public answered “yes,” which was about the same as the 74 percent who held this view in 1987.5 In contrast to the Gini coefficient, which cannot answer the question, the analysis of income quintiles entails a direct examination of how money is distributed among the different groups, revealing the extent to which their incomes are rising or falling. Calculating the financial resources of five groups that range from the top to the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, this approach illuminates the economic well-being of families and how they fare over time. But here, too, the results vary according to the alternative definitions of income.

Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez’s well-known study of income inequality in the United States, for example, was based on the market income of tax filers.6 According to this definition, from 1979 to 2007 there was a 33 percent decline in the mean income of those in the bottom quintile in contrast to a 33 percent increase among those in the top 20 percent of tax units. Thus, left entirely to its own devices, the market allocation of income generated a pattern of increasing inequality wherein the rich got noticeably richer and the poor got poorer—a bleak testimony, supposedly, to the distributional problem of capitalism.

However as Richard Burkhauser pointed out in his presidential address to the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, the market income of a tax unit is a poor indicator of how much money families actually have to live on.7 A more inclusive measure of the income that remains in households after subtracting what they must pay in taxes and adding the money they receive through government transfers transmits a different image of the American experience. Applying these criteria, instead of a decline we see a 32 percent increase in the mean income of the poorest fifth between 1979 and 2007. (Table 1) Overall, this broader measure still reveals a rise in inequality during that period as the mean income of those in the top bracket climbs by 54 percent.8 But it, too, is incomplete.



Source: * Philip Armour, Richard V. Burkhauser, and Jeff Larrimore, “Deconstructing Income and Income Inequality Measures: A Crosswalk from Market Income to Comprehensive Income” American Economic Review (May, 2013). ** Congressional Budget Office, “The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2010” (Government Printing Office, 2013).

Along with taxes and transfers, the most authoritative and extensive measure of income also incorporates capital gains. Along with Burkhauser and his colleagues, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees that a comprehensive definition involves the sum of market income adjusted for taxes, household size, cash and in-kind transfers, and capital gains.9 However, the consensus unravels over the issue of exactly how to value capital gains. The basic choice is whether to focus on the total taxable gains realized in the year capital assets are sold or the annual change in value of capital assets whether or not they are sold. This is not just a matter of bookkeeping. The choice to include either realized or accrued capital gains in the calculation of annual income has a considerable impact on the rates of inequality.

The CBO favors the use of realized capital gains that are reported on tax returns. After factoring in the impact of taxes, capital gains, and government transfers the CBO data reveal a sharp decline in inequality compared to when it is measured solely by market income. According to these figures, between 1979 and 2010 the household income in the bottom quintile increased by 49 percent, the income in the middle three quintiles increased on average by 40 percent, and those in the highest bracket increased by 71 percent.10 While incomes increased across the board, the largest gains registered on the two ends of the income distribution. These findings temper progressive arguments that focus on the increasing inequality of market incomes to demonstrate the need for greater social welfare spending.

The income measures cited above all indicate a rising level of inequality that varies only in the rate at which it seems to have increased over the past three decades. In contrast, a different picture emerges if accrued capital gains, which include housing, are substituted for realized taxable gains. This approach yields a reversal of income trends between 1989 and 2007, which shows a decline in inequality as the household income in the bottom quintile climbed at a rate considerably higher than the increase experienced in the top quintile, which was hit much harder by the housing market crash in 2007. Needless to say, the choice between these methods of valuing capital gains is highly contested.

Every pertinent measure of income quintiles, especially the widely acknowledged comprehensive assessment by the CBO, dispels the notion that within the United States over the past three decades the rich have been getting richer as the poor have gotten poorer. The CBO measure reveals that from the highest to the lowest quintile, the mean household income of every group was lifted, even amid a rising tide of inequality. Among the bottom fifth the mean income increased by 49 percent. That’s not peanuts, particularly when we recognize what else is happening.

Another Dimension: Looking Within the Groups

Although the analyses of change since 1979 illustrate the extent to which household incomes climbed while the gap between the bottom and top fifths widened, it’s a one-dimensional picture that discounts what was happening within these economic bands. This image conveys a static impression that the same households within each quintile were experiencing these changes over time. In truth, a lot more was going on among the households within these five divisions, the particulars of which lend depth to the one-dimensional story of increasing economic inequality.

To grasp the full implication of rising inequality in household income, it is important to recognize that during the period in question young workers were continually entering the labor force as the older generation retired and died. A 25 year old who began working in 1979 while living on his own with an income in the bottom 20 percent would very likely reach a higher bracket by the time he was 53 years old in 2007. So not only did entry-level income rise between 1979 and 2007, but over the course of time many of those who started out at the bottom climbed toward the top. In just the period from 1996 to 2005, for example, the U.S. Treasury Department estimates that about half of the taxpayers starting in the bottom 20 percent moved into a higher income bracket.11 Of course, we do not know how many members of this upwardly mobile group were young scions spending their first year out of Princeton as shipping clerks in their fathers’ factory, serving Teach for America in a poor rural area or lolling lazily on the Left Bank—a reminder that numbers can impose a surface on patterns that shields us from the underlying reality.

There is even more to this story. As time passed, the 25 year old got married and had two children. Thus, what started in 1979 as a single-person household in the bottom fifth of the income distribution had morphed into a middle-income household with four people by 2007. This change illustrates an important characteristic of the income quintiles. Although they represent five groups with an equal number of households, the average number of persons per household within these groups varies as do other characteristics such as family structure and employment. The top fifth of households contain 82 percent more people than the bottom fifth. The proportion of married couples in each group ranges from 17 percent in the lowest income quintile to 78 percent in the highest. At the same time, single men and women living alone account for 56 percent of the households in the bottom fifth, but only 7 percent among the top group. And no one was employed in more than 60 percent of the households in the bottom quintile; while 75 percent of the households in the top quintile had two or more earners.

Taking account of the household characteristics within each quintile reveals that to some extent the increasing level of income inequality since 1979 coincides with the changing demographics of family life, particularly the smaller number of persons per household, the decreasing rate at which couples form and maintain stable marriages, and the increasing number of two-earner households. On that score, W. Bradford Wilcox and Robert I. Lerman estimate that 32 percent of the growth in family income inequality since 1979 is linked to the retreat from marriage and the decline of stable family life.12 The point, again, is that economic data are not self-interpreting, and that without a relevant sociological filter they can be made to mean almost anything except what they actually mean.

Concentrating on advances within just the top quintile offers a different perspective, which sharpens our understanding of what is behind the rising level of economic inequality in recent years. Two prominent findings based on the CBO’s all-inclusive measure of income tell the story: From 1979 to 2010 the after-tax income of the top 1 percent increased by 201 percent (compared to the 49 percent increase for households in the bottom quintile and the 65 percent increase for those in the 81st to 99th quintile).13 Research focused on the pre-tax market income of the top 1 percent generates an even higher level of inequality than the CBO findings.

Thus, a disproportionate degree of the increasing level of inequality was due to significant financial gains made by those at the apex of the income pyramid. As for the rest, a careful analysis matching data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service demonstrates that after 1993 there was no palpable increase of inequality among the bottom 99 percent of the population. Since the pre-tax incomes of the top 1 percent started at $388,905 in 2011, many of these families would not be considered the super-rich. It’s around the top one-tenth of 1 percent, where pre-tax incomes start at $1,717,675, that we begin to cross the line between relatively well-off and truly affluent.

As soon as the conversation on inequality begins to concentrate on the wealthiest households, the question increasingly comes to mind: What do these people do to deserve such immense rewards? A 2013 study commissioned by the New York Times discloses a median executive pay of $13.9 million among the CEOs of 100 major firms, described by one journalist as a “new class of aristocrat.”14 Although not terribly harsh, this description connotes a privileged class renowned more for its leisure pursuits than its productive labor. But it does suggest how easily personalizing the numbers can transform a dispassionate report on the top 1 percent into bitter accounts of debauchery and corporate corruption. The likes of Bernie Madoff, Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, and Ken Lay of Enron supply no shortage of infamy on which to justify a denial of merit. But then there are the brilliant hard-working multi-millionaires who created Apple, Google, and Microsoft, not to mention our favorite movie stars and athletes. Even here some might question why grown men should receive immense sums of money to stand around a few afternoons a week waiting for a chance to hit a ball with a big stick. Major League baseball players were paid on average $3.39 million in 2013. In contrast, for the same activity most minor league players earned between $2,500 and $7,000 for a five-month season—talk about inequality!

Like it or not, in a capitalist system the criterion for reward is ultimately associated with what the market will bear. Of course, many people doubt just how well this standard works in practice. They wonder, for example, how difficult it might be to replace a CEO earning $20 million a year with an equally qualified executive who would accept half that salary. Also, market demand is no guarantee of social value or cultural enlightenment. A writer’s worth varies by the number of readers willing to plunk down the price of a book, regardless of how crass or meaningless the content. Alas, Fifty Shades of Gray has earned millions, while my publishers will be fortunate to clear the all-too-modest advance awarded for Never Enough: Capitalism and the Progressive Spirit. What the market will bear is certainly an imperfect calibration, but most people still think it preferable to having the standard set by bureaucratic quotas or political bargains, though both are often in play, as well.

How Has the Middle Class Really Fared?

Politicians on both sides of the aisle contend that the middle class is being crushed by inequality and diminishing income. But with household incomes increasing amid rising inequality, what do the facts tell us about the real material state of the middle class? There are several ways to answer this question, depending on how the middle class is defined and the benchmarks against which its progress and well-being are measured. The historical absence of an aristocracy has bred a fluid sense of social class and a democratic ethos that instills a degree of reluctance in Americans to identify as “upper class.” Thus, the middle class is a well-regarded, if ill-defined, status to which most Americans subscribe. It is typically associated with one’s income, education, and occupation. Numerous polls capture the propensity of Americans to identify themselves as somewhere along the spectrum of lower-middle to upper-middle class.

When policymakers and the media talk about the middle class, however, it is usually defined by economic divisions. Estimates vary regarding the range of income that delineates the middle class, as well as the interpretation of how the economic fortunes of this group have changed over time. Thus, reviewing the same Census Bureau data the New York Times decries, “Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up,” while ten days later the Pew Research Center announces, “America’s ‘Middle’ Holds Its Ground After the Great Recession.”15 Both of these captions are correct and neither highlights the larger story in the data, which only underscores how those who write the headlines may parse the numbers to express the points they wish to publicize. The economic definitions of the middle class in these reports differ: $35,000-$100,000 in the New York Times and $40,667-$122,000 in the Pew study. But the findings are very similar. Both show a substantial contraction of about 10 percent in the size of the middle class, which started shrinking around 1970. Though it sounds ominous, this decline is not necessarily a distressing trend. It depends on where those who were squeezed out of the middle class ended up. If they all moved into the upper income brackets, everyone’s better off.

So where did they go? The answer hinges on the years in question. The New York Times headline focused on the period from 2000 to 2013, the decade of the Great Recession during which the middle class declined by around 2 percent, the upper-income group also declined by about 3 percent, and the lower-income group increased. The Pew caption referred to the period from 2010 to 2013, just after the Great Recession. Over this interval the size of the middle class remained stable, and there was even a small uptick in the upper-income group and a slight decline in the lower-income group.

Despite the fluctuation of a few percentage points during the Great Recession, the larger story in the New York Times report is that between 1967 and 2013 both the lower-income and the middle-income groups contracted while the size of the upper-income group expanded by 15 percent. From this perspective the shrinking of the middle class (and of those in the lower-income bracket) is directly connected to a significant advance in economic well-being as the combined size of the middle- and upper-income groups grew by 5 percent.

Thus, while the New York Times headline evoked a disheartening picture of middle-class decline, the data easily yield a more promising interpretation of the middle-class experience since 1970. The Pew findings offer a somewhat different conclusion, in part because the middle-class definition was pegged at a higher level of income. Although the middle-income group fell by 10 percent, about 6 percent of those who left had climbed into the upper-income category. What a way to go.

Of course, there are other benchmarks against which to evaluate the economic progress and status of the U.S. middle class. Certainly, those concerned about inequality would judge that the middle class has not fared very well in comparison to the income gains realized by the country’s top 1 percent. True; but consider everyone else on the planet. The U.S. middle class boasts among the highest disposable household incomes in the world. The average U.S. family has 38 percent more disposable household income than a family in Italy, 25 percent more than a family in France, and 20 percent more than a household in Germany, when adjusted for differences in purchasing power. (Of course, that doesn’t take fully into account the more efficient provision of many services in Western Europe via the public route: think health care, for example. Which only confirms the point that numbers alone cannot really tell us very much.)

Although some academics invest considerable intellectual energy in debating how to quantify inequality and the significance of change in measures such as the Gini coefficient, most members of the middle class have no idea whether this index is going up or down unless they read about it in the news. And even then the average middle-class citizen is more interested in how much money remains for her family to live on after the give and take of government taxes and transfers than whether or not the Gini index rose or fell by three-tenths of a point.

Could We Ask for More?

Several issues have so far been raised about the divergent approaches to the measurement of inequality, the disparate characteristics of those in different income brackets, the absence of cost-of-living adjustments, the plight of the middle class, the soaring 1 percent, and the sobering revelation of international comparisons. On the whole these issues enable us not so much to dismiss concerns about rising economic inequality as to calm public apprehensions about its rate, degree, and implications. The disparities related to the changing distribution of income in the United States look a lot more acute before taxes and benefits are taken into account, for example—are you listening, Dr. Piketty? As such it can be said that the capitalist market generates and the welfare state mitigates inequality.

Recounted in its most auspicious light, the story of this interaction over the past three decades reveals that while inequality increased, so did household incomes at every level. Measured by disposable household income the U.S. standard of living is among the highest of all the advanced industrial democracies, not to mention the rest of the world. Indeed, reflecting on the rest of the world, Tyler Cowen urges us to preface all discussions of inequality with a reminder that although economic inequality has been increasing in advanced industrialized nations, over the past two decades global inequality has been falling.16 And given global economic patterns, this is not a coincidence but a relationship.

Of course, in an ideal world everyone would have been even better off if the top 1 percent had taken home less than 13 percent of all the income and the bottom 20 percent had gained more—even while the economy grew at the same overall rate. Not to promote the best as an enemy of the good, there is nevertheless a convincing case to be made for social reforms that would to some degree shift the distribution of income away from the top. Progressives and conservatives generally agree on the need to rein in government transfers received by wealthy citizens, particularly the special benefits derived from the favorable tax treatment afforded to homeowners. These benefits, known as “tax expenditures,” allow home owners to deduct the interest paid on mortgages and to net up to $500,000 of capital gains tax-free on the sale of their homes.

The amounts are not trivial. The CBO estimates that the tax expenditures for mortgage-interest deductions amount to $70 billion, almost 73 percent of which goes to households in the top 20 percent of the income distribution, while those in bottom 20 percent receive no benefit. Although there would be some downside for the home-building industry, limiting tax subsidies to wealthy homeowners could lower the level of inequality without seriously adverse consequences for the rate of homeownership.

Yet even if these adjustments were made, much income inequality would still remain, which takes us back to the question: Could we ask for still more? Obviously, there are many ways for government to appropriate additional money from those in the upper-income brackets and deliver more to those on the bottom. Raising income taxes, lifting the ceiling on taxable income for Social Security, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and eliminating its marriage penalties, boosting the minimum wage, means-testing Social Security benefits, and taxing the fringe benefits of employment are among the evident alternatives. Then there are the less well-recognized but hardly trivial proposals to tax some classes of advertising and to eliminate the corporate income tax altogether in the context of comprehensive tax reform. Progressives and conservatives argue about whether any and all such measures would kill jobs or boost the economy, discourage work or stimulate activity, generate class conflict or enhance social solidarity, and advance social justice or deny the just deserts of individual merit. A vast literature on these issues has generated mixed findings about the implications of various measures.

Considering the uncertainty surrounding these issues, the degree of support for additional measures to spread the nation’s wealth is heavily influenced by one’s answer to the question: How serious is the problem of rising economic inequality amid abundance? The answer rests on competing ideas about the current state of material well-being in the United States, the integrity of free-market capitalism and, above all, the putative consequences of inequality.

Progressives tend to think that inequality is the story and that, as already noted, nearly everything wrong in U.S. society stems from it. But this argument ultimately depends on presumed maladies arising from inequality that more than stretch scientific criteria for medical causality. The evils ascribed to inequality expand roughly at the same rate as the DSM manual, and that is a suspicious thing.

As long as household incomes are increasing at every level (as measured by the CBO), conservatives are less concerned about rising economic inequality than progressives. They accept inequality as the tribute that equality of opportunity grants to merit, productivity, and luck in the free market, recognizing that this transaction is sometimes distorted by discrimination, exploitation, corruption, and outright larceny, which need to be checked by government. With the average family’s disposable household income in the United States among the highest in the world, inequality is perceived less as a source of social friction between the “haves and the have-nots” than as an imbalance between those who have a lot and others who have even more. This, on balance and seen in an historical perspective, ought to be a cause for celebration, not an occasion for mass self-flagellation.

1Vlastos, “Justice and Equality,” in Social Justice, edited by Richard Brandt (Prentice-Hall, 1962), p. 32.

2Frankfurt, On Inequality (Princeton University Press, 2015).

3“Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas, 2008-2012,” U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, April 24, 2014.

4Michael Forster et al., Society at a Glance 2011, (OECD 2011).

5“Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years: Trends in American Values: 1987-2012,” Pew Research Center, June 4, 2012.

6Piketty & Saez, “Income Inequality in the United States,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (February 2003).

7Burkhauser, “Presidential Address Evaluating the Questions that Alternative Policy Success Measures Answer,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (Spring 2011).

8Philip Armour, Richard V. Burkhauser, and Jeff Larrimore, “Deconstructing Income and Income Inequality Measures: A Crosswalk from Market Income to Comprehensive Income,” American Economic Review (May 2013). The government transfers included here involve both cash and in-kind benefits, specifically food stamps, housing subsidies, and school lunches, but not the value of employer- and government-provided health insurance. For an analysis of the income growth when cash transfers and health insurance are included, but not in-kind benefits, see Richard Burkhauser, Jeff Larrimore, and Kosali Simon, “A ‘Second Opinion’ on the Economic Health of the American Middle Class,” National Tax Journal (March 2012), pp. 7-32.

9Congressional Budget Office, The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2008 and 2009 (Government Printing Office, 2012). The major components of income included here differ from those recommended by the Canberra Group mainly in regard to capital gains, which the Canberra guidelines exclude from the measure of household income in favor of their treatment as changes in net worth.

10Congressional Budget Office, The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2010 (Government Printing Office, 2013).

11U.S. Treasury Department, Income Mobility in the U.S. from 1996 to 2005 (Government Printing Office, 2007). A similar rate of mobility was reported for those in the bottom quintile from 1986 to 1996. Unlike the CBO measure, these findings are based on pre-tax market income plus cash but not tax-exempt or in-kind transfers. Also, the unit of analysis is not adjusted for household size.

12Wilcox & Lerman, “For richer, for poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America,” AEI, October 28, 2014.

13The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2010. In 2010 the top 1 percent netted almost 13 percent of all the after tax income (15 percent before taxes).

14Peter Eavis, “Invasion of the Supersalaries,” New York Times, April 13, 2014.

15Dionne Searcey & Robert Gebeloffjan, “Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up,” New York Times, January 25, 2015. Rakesh Kochhar & Richard Fry, “America’s ‘Middle’ Holds Its Ground After the Great Recession,” Pew Research Center, February 4, 2015.

16Cowen, “Income Inequality Is Not Rising Globally. It’s Falling,” New York Times, July 19, 2014.

Neil Gilbert is Chernin Professor of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. This essay is adapted from his latest book, Never Enough: Capitalism and the Progressive Spirit (Oxford University Press, forthcoming
149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Pravda on the Beach: Ocare working on: January 05, 2017, 11:50:05 AM
How do we answer the charts and attendant assertions herein?

http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-obamacare-charts-20170104-story.html

Good question and we can add to this with data but the simple answer is that the piece is deceptive by its omissions.  For example my plan was lost due to Obamacare.  I am switching doctors a second and third time due to Obamacare.  My cost has roughly doubled each year due to Obamacare.  The plan I choose to be on is illegal due to Obamacare.  I went from self-sufficient to subsidized due to Obamacare.  I am a ward of the state and disgusted by the thought of it.  (Yet I pay more than 100% of my take home income in taxes.)  Government subsidized healthcare is a concern and an extremely high marginal tax rate that faces each low to mid-income worker wishing to increase their income.  In other words, it keeps poor people poor, cripples the growth in the economy, and Democrats love that? Converting to subsidy is not lowering the cost.  On their charts I count as 'insured' and presumably satisfied with Obamacare - because I signed up for a lousy policy that has paid none of my actual expenses as opposed to breaking the law and paying penalties in addition to the cost of self-paid, over-priced healthcare.  

The last article published in Harrisburg (the political center of) Pennsylvania on healthcare before the election was that premiums are going up another 33% per year, in addition to all the other increases we had while Obama and Democrats were losing the House, Senate, state Houses and Governorships largely due to government over-reach and Obamacare.  Republicans hadn't carried PA (or MI or WI) in a Presidential election since Reagan's 49 state win in 1984.  Trump carried Pennsylvania by a greater margin, 67,000 votes, than Hillary had in NH, MN, NV and ME.  And it wasn't because of his high approvals!  People hate Obamacare and all it symbolizes in our government-run lives.  Club for Growth Republican Pat Toomey won reelection in (formerly) blue PA, by a wider margin than Trump.  Conservative Marco Rubio won Florida by eight times the margin of Trump, a combined margin of well over 2 million in a swing state over the nearest Democrat in 2 races since Obamacare.  Democrats lost 90% of their Presidential margin in MN in 8 years from 2008 to 2016.

The insurance companies failed and are pulling out of states and markets.  The risk corridors failed.  People are given fewer and fewer choices, less competition.  The system is broken.  It was broken before Obamacare.  Obamacare was sold on lies, rammed down our throats and made things worse.  If the charts don't show that, it's time for new and better charts.
150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: January 05, 2017, 01:11:49 AM
GM:  If I as the seller of a good or service decide to set the price differently for different customers, who is to tell me otherwise?


I believe the criteria for determining legal discrimination is 'rational basis'.  

If the provider can collect sooner or with greater certainty, say with cash or guaranteed payment, the price might be lower.  There still can be prices published, easy to access that can also list available discounts and surcharges.

Yesterday I had the vocation of 'medical coding' explained to me.  CCP likely knows more.  The medical coder goes through the doctor's notes and writes down the codes and from that the computer bills it out - based on the doctor's handwriting!

If the computer knows the codes and all the rates, why can't the consumer?
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CCP:
We all want world class health care.  And at the same time we want someone else to pay for it.
There appears no way to get around the fact that to pay for pre existing conditions all of us will have to pay.  Hence reason for the "mandate".



This question seems to be stumping everyone.  It seems to me that to qualify for the pre-existing conditions benefit you have to do a few things, sign up for coverage, pay extra, keep coverage as long as you have income, etc.  If it is subsidized, that subsidy should come out of general revenues and not drive up the rates for others making healthcare costs further out of reach for more and more people.

The federal budget already spends 1 trillion a year on healthcare.  We don't need to instantly or ever hit a zero number.  We can subsidize some healthcare and some people will still get healthcare for free.  The point of reform is to get more and more people, hundreds of millions of them, to be choosing and paying for their own private sector healthcare and for the government to be paying for less and less of it, at least as a proportion of the economy.  Within that privatization movement, the government can require better and better disclosure on services and prices, IMHO.
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