Assorted links

by on February 28, 2013 at 3:39 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Austerity wine markets in everything.

2. Will Wilkinson blogs other stuff; “defamiliarization.”

3. It is legal to buy a tank and indeed there are “tank brokers.”  (Will there be a profession using tanks to discipline errant NYC nannies?)

4. The bottom line dilemma facing the Republican Party.  (Whoops, correct link here.)  And Matt on sequestration, and Josh Barro on sequestration.

6. Some kind of weird experiment with rats, caveat emptor.  And are special interests growing weaker?

byomtov February 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm

The link to the Republican dilemma points to your “Economics of Media” course.

I doubt that was intentional, but maybe.

mulp March 1, 2013 at 12:21 am

I see the query “Is the media biased?” at quick glance, which does point to the second preoccupation of Republicans, which of late has been used to explain how Obama got elected twice in the past five years. Why even Fox News has become part of the radical leftist Obamabot media establishment.

Vernunft March 1, 2013 at 5:04 am

Would you prefer the uncharitable explanation? Certain, ahem, demographics vote Obama. And aren’t very smart.

Skip Intro March 1, 2013 at 7:53 am

Or maybe the public _is_ smart, and they realize that 30 years of Republican economic policies have done very little for the vast majority of people, and rationally prefer to be governed by adolescents than feckless children.

Vernunft March 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Hi, Matt Yglesias sock puppet

Ted Craig February 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm

4. What do either of you know about the topic?

John Thacker February 28, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Judging from your Twitter feed, you meant this for the bottom line dilemma.

bjssp February 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I’d be very curious to see what Barro considers as wasteful discretionary spending, not so much because I doubt that this is entirely clean, but because he’s so levelheaded and reasonable that I’d almost rather him examine the books and come up with cuts, if any.

John Thacker February 28, 2013 at 4:18 pm

While Ezra is certainly right that the aging of America presents problems for Republicans in that the cost of entitlements and transfers will require higher taxes, I think it’s equally true that it presents problems for Democrats and for the country and young people in general.

Young people face the choice of either having spending on goods and services going to them cut, or having to pay more and more to support the elderly. Saying “we can just raise taxes” ignores that that puts a burden on the non-retired as well. And dubious supposed cuts in the future (that will likely not last any more than the SGR) don’t help the long term situation when they’re spent immediately.

It’s not just a bottom line dilemma for Republicans, but for the entire country.

John Thacker February 28, 2013 at 4:25 pm

There is a reason why President Obama has felt it necessary to promise repeatedly to continue to be irresponsible and kick the can down the road by saying no middle class tax increases. And why on many occasions when he has tried to actually submit a budget, it called for equally draconian discretionary spending cuts starting this year.

The American people strongly believe in a free lunch of continued spending on almost all programs but no middle class tax hikes. And thus their politicians tend to give it to them, as any deviation is swiftly attacked by the other side and punished.

john personna February 28, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Obama succeeded by being slightly more rational and numerically competent than his Republican opposition. The strange post-election pattern has been for some members of the “party of no tax increases” to themselves say “wait, Obama should be honest that middle class taxes must rise.” Serious?

We have the Nordic option of higher taxes and higher happiness. Democrats aren’t the ones blocking movement in that direction. As I say, they only have to be slightly more real than “low taxes, cutting waste, fraud and abuse.” Indeed they can’t be much more real than that, given the opposition that 9-9-9 or other BS can work.

Urso February 28, 2013 at 6:45 pm

You appear to be of the belief that anyone who criticizes Obama must necessarily agree with every policy set forth by the Republican leadership. I assure you that this is not true. “Your guys did it too” is a particularly weak argument when they are not, in fact, “my guys.”

john personna February 28, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Not at all. I am very specific about what I deride. We just had a GOP primary cycle all about impossible (magic) budget plans. Now many of those supporting past fantasy think they can pull a little cognitive dissonance. They themselves can claim that tax at less than 20% of GDP is sustainable, while at the same time if Obama claims that slightly higher taxes work, he’s a liar.

(It would be different if the GOP had found big cuts they can name and that the public will accept on the front end, as in now, but they haven’t. And so higher tax is the only possible outcome, after all the dust settles.)

maguro February 28, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Eh. Obama’s “plan”, if you can call it that, is no less a fantasy than the GOP’s. He won reelection selling the idea that we can have all the government we have now, plus Obamacare, without raising taxes on anyone but “the rich”. It’s absurd.

john personna February 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm

But that’s precisely the point, maguro. Slightly higher tax receipts are slightly more real, given public reluctance to accept real spending cuts. It’s the pretending otherwise that is strange.

maguro February 28, 2013 at 7:33 pm

The idea that spending cuts absolutely won’t be accepted by the public is questionable. They accept spending cuts at the state and local levels, do they not? What’s so sacred about Federal spending?

What I find strange is the hysteria surrounding the sequester cuts. The Feds could easily absorb a 2% budget cut without completely failing in their duties, but they’ve chosen to be melodramatic for political reasons. The crisis is entirely contrived.

john personna February 28, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Public acceptance of big cuts would change my mind. As it is, I’ve seen to many of those polls where voters say “yes” to generic cuts, but “no” to every named cut in specific form. I’m taking the specific “noes” as the real answer. We’ll see.

Cliff February 28, 2013 at 9:01 pm

John,

Surely you would get the same results with a poll on the state and local levels? And yet the cuts happen, and they are accepted.

Cliff February 28, 2013 at 9:03 pm

It’s not at all clear that we have that “option,” which would also involve massive business-friendly changes to our regulatory scheme. We also have the “option” of being a low-tax, low-spend state.

Brian Donohue March 1, 2013 at 8:27 am

Cliff, this is less true than a few years ago. Obamacare passed, the Court upheld it, and the guy was re-elected.

So, the needle has moved here. Meanwhile, we’ve been busy not paying for the government we’ve already been getting for the past 10 years at an astonishing clip.

How do taxes not go up?

Cyrus February 28, 2013 at 11:04 pm

In the end, we will be forced into a VAT or other national sales tax. It’s the way to cut entitlements while upholding rhetoric about not changing the entitlement programs for those past or approaching retirement.

mulp March 1, 2013 at 12:33 am

Obama and Democrats proposed a carbon tax which is like a VAT that you can dodge.

What I do find fascinating is the claim (in part true) that the US has the highest income taxes and we should be more like the EU and Asia with 15% corporate tax rates and a 15% VAT instead of 30% corporate rate. Just without the VAT…

Of course, all the standard ploys of running goods virtually through offshore tax havens and keeping the patent profits there deposited in NYC money funds invested in T-bills apply. The only way to tax those goods is with a VAT.

ad nauseum March 1, 2013 at 10:50 am

Pardon my anecdote, but as a younger american, the attitude I often get from my peers is that we can easily tax the rich out of any financial problem federal programs may face. This is often reinforced by the education establishment, many of whom actually do decry “profits” of any kind and say we need to garnish more of them to pay for things like healthcare, education and other unsustainable programs.

In the end, yes, we are kicking the can down the road, but we aren’t even aware of it. Got a problem? Tax the rich guy/gal, they have enough money…. Truly sad.

john personna March 1, 2013 at 10:56 am

Part of the confusion arises from the difference between wealth distribution and single year income distribution. The rich are not easily caught. (Says John who this year may have more wealth than taxable income.)

Finch March 1, 2013 at 11:04 am

Also, the young are not the rich. 20-year-olds don’t sweat 30- and 40-year-olds paying exorbitant taxes to transfer to even wealthier 60- and 70-year-olds.

Rahul February 28, 2013 at 4:23 pm

#3 Would driving a hard tracked tank on a public road abuse / damage it?

Finch February 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I think they can generally be fitted with rubber pads which prevent the metal track links from actually touching the road. Since the whole idea of tracks is to keep ground pressure low, I imagine this would work okay. I’m not sure this _is_ done, but I think it _can_ be done.

JWatts February 28, 2013 at 4:48 pm

“Would driving a hard tracked tank on a public road abuse / damage it? ”

A heavy tank using it’s standard metal tracks will quickly destroy an asphalt road. As Finch says there are rubber pads to protect surfaces when needed, but for the most part Tanks are transported by truck or train when they need to move long distances.

mulp March 1, 2013 at 12:36 am

Only if you never turn – the tank skid steer even with rubber pads would tear up the pavement.

Dismalist February 28, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Oooh! One could pass driving straight ahead!

ivvenalis February 28, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Depends on the model. All American armored vehicles have rubber track pads which substantially decrease wear on paved roads (both on the road and the track). Russian armored vehicles don’t. Don’t have any experience with other countries. Even superheavy tanks like the Abrams have surprisingly low ground pressure per square inch (about 14psi IIRC) since they have such an enormous contact area. Which isn’t to say they do roads any good, but I’d be more worried crossing bridges and the like.

Finch March 1, 2013 at 9:08 am

There’s an annual parade in my town which involves a few WWII-era tanks, and they seem to make it down the main street without causing any problems. I believe they use rubber pads on the tracks. As you point out, the ground pressure is so low that it shouldn’t be a problem. I think the rubber pads must slightly raise the ground pressure, as they don’t cover the whole track, but you’re starting from less than half that of a passenger car, so I think you’ll be alright. I don’t think turning is a particular problem, as the rubber just skids. Like I said, they do it, they don’t repave the road after, and everything seems just fine.

Finch March 1, 2013 at 10:49 am

With respect to turning, the parade route isn’t straight, but the tanks aren’t spinning in place either.

Willitts March 1, 2013 at 10:53 pm

As others have said, the tracks have pads. Tanks are also track layers. The drive sprocket is usually in the back and the front pads gently lay on the ground. Then the tank moves over the track. It’s weight is distributed evenly across the length of the track. Only the drive sprocket is powered.

It it similar to items moving along rollers on an assembly line. It’s actually more similar to moving 30 ton marble blocks on top of logs by repeatedly taking the log emerging from behind and moving it to the front.

Tanks can damage roads, especially if their pads fall off. But there won’t be as much damage as you might imagine. For long distances, armies use rail, truck, or boat to move tanks over land. That has more to do with getting only half a mile per gallon of fuel.

JWatts February 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm

#4) Ezra Klein includes the graph of Current vs Paul Ryan’s plan. What’s unstated is the current plan is a 20% cut to Medicare reimbursement that’s been delayed for the last 10 years.

So the Current plan is vaporware.

“This is a problem the Republican Party has to grapple with more fully. The country’s changing demographics, alongside the growth in health-care costs, make funding anything even close to the current level of government services at traditional levels of taxation impossible.”:

How is this a problem of the Republican Party, but not a problem of the Democratic Party?

“Perhaps the numbers could work if Republicans were open to truly dramatic cuts to programs for seniors, but they are, at this point, arguably even more protective of those programs than the Democrats. ”

Didn’t Paul Ryan’s plan have Medicare vouchers? Wasn’t that an attempt at a market based reduction in future spending? Didn’t Democrats Literally portray this as throwing Grandma off the cliff?

Calling this a problem specific to Republican’s seems to be a big stretch.

anon February 28, 2013 at 5:44 pm

As John Thacker points out above, the country (not just the Ds and not just the Rs) has a problem. We have a problem – including little ls and upper case Ls.

As we Boomers retire, I expect the younger generations’ anger to increase substantially.

Therapsid February 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

People perpetually predict a generational war of libertarian youth battling against their entitlement-swaddled elders but it never seems to happen. Note that it hasn’t even happened in European countries in much worse fiscal states than the U.S. It’s a figment of the fevered imagination of elites who, like their Marxist forebears, anxiously await the day when the masses will see the light. It’s not happening.

Cliff February 28, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Okay, but the situation now is worse than it ever has been before, and getting worse and worse. It’s impossible to believe that at some point there might be some discontent? What if we start spending 50% of GDP on entitlement for the elderly? 75%?

Ricardo March 1, 2013 at 5:43 am

Wouldn’t it be more productive to talk about the actual fiscal situation of the United States rather than some fantasy of 50% entitlement spending?

Look, the idea of privatizing SS and Medicare or other radical entitlement reform sounds great when you are a single, 25-year-old libertarian. It’s empowering and you probably aren’t thinking much about growing old anyway. However, most 25-year-old single libertarians eventually become 40-year-old parents. When you are in that position, it’s a bit nice to think that there is a backup in case you live to be 90 years old and run out of money. Social insurance never makes sense to the young or the wealthy but most people who vote are not either.

Urso March 1, 2013 at 10:54 am

Sure, but this only works until a cohort is told “whoops, we know you paid in, but looks like there isn’t enough money for you to take anything out. sorry about that.” And I get a terrifying feeling that that cohort is me.

Benny Lava February 28, 2013 at 6:57 pm

No, in fact it didn’t have vouchers. Not for people 55 and older. Vouchers were to be given to those 55 and younger and indexed to inflation. So essentially a huge cut considering health care costs have been rising faster than inflation. Or, as the article stated, goodies for the old on the backs of the young.

Ricardo March 1, 2013 at 2:27 am

“So the Current plan is vaporware.”

So is the Ryan plan, so at least it’s an apples-to-apples comparison.

More substantively, I think it is worth noting that Ryan’s plan doesn’t do much about entitlement spending for 10 years despite all the talk about how entitlements are bankrupting the country and the supposed urgency of balancing the budget. The Ryan plan — for all its flaws and fantastic assumptions — is useful because it illustrates using basic arithmetic that you cannot balance the budget by freezing revenues and cutting discretionary spending by any realistic amount. And when you add long-term entitlement cuts into the equation, you don’t balance the budget within the next 30 or 40 years which in politics is the same as saying you don’t balance the budget period.

JWatts March 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm

“that Ryan’s plan doesn’t do much about entitlement spending for 10 years”

Since the current plan doesn’t significantly address the entitlement problem, that’s a pretty poor criticism. Indeed, it’s a classic perfect solution fallacy.

FredR February 28, 2013 at 6:05 pm

On Wilkinson, Shlovsky and defamiliarization, it’s probably worth pointing out that Tolstoy actually used a lot of repetition: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/nov/22/tolstoys-real-hero/?pagination=false

dirk February 28, 2013 at 6:45 pm

2. LSD

Thomas February 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Barro says that non-rate tax increases would be better than defense spending cuts. He admits that any tax increase would have the same destimulative effect that he assumes the spending cut would have, but he’s found the “uncertainty” argument so oft-derided on the left. But I’m not sure why that would get him there. Opening a debate about what tax increases we should use to replace the spending reductions seems no less likely to have destimulative effects. Perhaps Barro is thinking that the step of negotiating and legislating will simply be skipped? And then there’s the fact that the legislation actually voted on in the Senate today included the “Buffet Rule” once eviscerated by Barro (as he described it as a “terrible policy idea”). All he’s really left with is an Augustinian, not yet, which he never really provides an argument for. It’s as if we were in a recession and there were no long run to worry about.

mulp March 1, 2013 at 1:15 am

If the taxes on returns to capital that are “spent” inflating the price of ca[ital are increased to fund government spending on the roads or teachers or Social Security or bombs, the taxes from returns to capital will be spent on consumer goods which then pay for labor.

How many jobs have been created from Apple shares going from $100 to $700?

And those jobs in China and in shipping and order processing were created before the stock price went up, and Jobs would have pushed Apple to deliver those tens of millions of products even if he knew the shares would stay at $100.

Dismalist February 28, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Some seem to think that defense spending shouldn’t be cut. Could we go to the venerable two-power standard [plus epsilon] and save at least the half of it?

DocMerlin February 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm

“And are special interests growing weaker?”

Yes, as government officials acquire more power due to special interests, they need the special interests less and less.

superflat February 28, 2013 at 10:21 pm

unless a proposal for additional revenue to cover spending includes tax increases on the great unwashed masses, it’s not serious. but prioritizing growth over just about everything else seems to be our only hope, given the size of entitlement spending (current and future). the tension between those two goals is pretty obvious (leaving aside the tension with increased taxes on the most productive members of society (in a literal sense), and those most likely to be able to avoid taxes in a variety of ways, including not being so productive going forward). neither party is honest about the problem, or potential solutions. so we can play the game of which side is somewhat more clownish, but that’s just fiddling at the margins these days.

Willitts February 28, 2013 at 11:04 pm

3, But don’t buy a rifle with a bayonet lug. We need to prevent drive-by bayonetting.

Andrew' March 1, 2013 at 8:14 am

Bayonets have to be illegal because you don’t need that bayonet that the military no longer uses and is not effective and only belongs on the battlefield, but doesn’t deter tyranny, so it must be prohibited.

Have a tank. And a shotgun. Because 12 gauge is fine, but a glorified 22 is too powerful.

Willitts March 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I’m in total agreement with your points and your crack at Obama. A rifle, though, is far more than a glorified. 22. A rifle is an order of magnitude more powerful and lethal than handguns. As for shotguns, they are about equally effective as a 7.62 within 100 yards.

Watch the video of Dr. Andreas Grabinsky on YouTube.

Foobarista March 1, 2013 at 12:44 am

Networked borg rats. Resistance is definitely futile.

axa March 1, 2013 at 4:36 am

#2: How to avoid familiarization from consumer’s side? Read books from a century ago, or 60 years ago. If it is not enough, read books in another language. If you still find “familiar sentences”, stop reading and get a life.

Andrew' March 1, 2013 at 6:34 am

The Republicans and Democrats already did that experiment of two rats with their brains connected.

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated March 1, 2013 at 10:39 am

4. I think you put too much stock in Ezra Klein (who I like for a pundit) and the rest of the talking heads who spend too much time talking about the demise of the Republican Party. Isn’t this the same conversation we had in 2008? Are the 2010 elections no longer relevant?

We live in a two party system. Adjustments will be made, but it’s an organic process of ever-changing coalitions and not the result of some grand strategy employed by Republican elites as the talking heads would have us believe. Most of it will occur as candidates make adjustments (or lose office for not adjusting enough) to the electoral incentives they face.

It’s also a bottom up process. Tomorrow’s national candidates are today’s state and local candidates, who are making adjustments to their platforms based on their experiences trying to win lower offices. The candidates who win these lower offices will take their winning positions with them to the next level (and make adjustments along the way). Similar changes will occur among the activists who play a crucial role in primary contests.

The link from the national party to those local partisans is only as strong as their shared identity as Republicans or Democrats. This is why Democrats dominated the House for so long prior to 1994–the South had an incredibly strong attachment to the Democratic party that only the civil rights movement could break.

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