Month: February 2015

The battle at the margin is about wealth taxes and families

President Barack Obama will propose raising $238bn by levying a one-off tax on the cash piles held by US companies overseas to repair the US’s crumbling roads and bridges.

The measure, a key plank of the president’s budget to be outlined on Monday, would impose a 14 per cent “transition” tax on the estimated $2tn in earnings US companies have amassed overseas, the White House said on Sunday.

The FT story is here, Vox is here.  Part of the plan also involves replacing the 35 percent rate — which many large corporations avoid — with a 19 percent flat rate which would apply to foreign earnings as well.

And what might these taxes eventually go to pay for?  Matt Yglesias reports:

…there’s an emerging Democratic consensus over what’s next — children and family policy. There are a few different threads to this, including early childhood education, special tax benefits for working moms, child care subsidies, and paid sick leave and maternity leave.

Greece needs Thatcheropoulous

On Thursday, Russia announced that it would consider extending financial aid to Greece if the latter asked.

There is more here, of interest throughout, though not fundamentally surprising.  Greece is seeking to auction its EU veto between the EU and Russia.  And over the weekend Chris Calomiris told us that Tsipras is a longstanding admirer of Fidel Castro, and furthermore he named his youngest son “Ernesto” after [Ernesto] Che Guevara.  He also has voiced his opposition to Nato in the past.

As I’ve said, these are the Not Very Serious People, enough to make you want to have the Very Serious People back.  As Garett Jones has noted, Greece needs its Thatcheropoulous — strong, credible, pro-debt renegotiation, pro-capitalism, anti-corruption, pro-tax fairness, and pro-foreign investment.  People, that is not what we are getting.

The best chance scenario is that this is all an elaborate bluff for a pivot toward sensible reform.  The bluff I can see, the sensible reform sorry no.  Is a Thatcheropoulous possible when one can read headlines such as “Death threats forced me to quit my job, says Greece’s top tax man“?  How many of the cultural preconditions of successful reform are present in Greece right now?

Here is the FT on the evolving game of chicken:

Eurozone officials are increasingly worried that Greece’s €172bn bailout will expire at the end of the month and potentially plunge it into chaos, after a series of meetings with the new Greek government convinced them Athens is unaware of how perilous its financial situation has become.

Fortunately, 70% of the Greek public believes that Tsipras will succeed as Prime Minister.

Assorted links

1. The detailed program for the Coase conference, late March in DC.

2. The concept of tipping is spreading.

3. I am very happy to see my former Ph.D student, Shawn DuBravac, who recently finished his degree, at #10 on the NYT non-fiction bestseller list.  His book Digital Destiny is here.

4. “The most unforgivable sin in the world,” Mr. McKuen told The Washington Post in 1969, “is to be a best-selling poet.”  An excellent obituary.

5. Paul Krugman on how blogging is changing, or not.

6. “Semanas atrás, durante un viaje a Panamá, el economista estadounidense Tyler Cowen estaba aburrido y se puso a ver en la TV un viejo partido de básquet de 1980 entre Los Angeles Lakers y Portland.

7. Can you have a Chinese Communist Party without an ideology?

Super Bowl art museum landscape betting lending markets in everything

Seattle Art Museum and New England’s Clark Art Institute are wagering temporary loans of major paintings based on the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. The masterpieces that have been anted up showcase the beautiful landscapes of the Northwest and the Northeast respectively.
The article is here, more here, and for the pointer I thank Chris F. Masse.

The new Econ Journal Watch

Symposium co-sponsored by the Mercatus Center:

Economists on the Welfare State and the Regulatory State: Why Don’t Any Argue in Favor of One and Against the Other?

The symposium Prologue suggests that among economists in the United States, on matters of the welfare state and the regulatory state, virtually none favors one while opposing the other. Such pattern is a common and intuitive impression, and is supported by scatterplots of survey data. But what explains the pattern? Why don’t some economists favor one and oppose the other?

Contributors address those questions:

Dean Baker:
Do Welfare State Liberals Also Love Regulation?

Andreas Bergh:
Yes, There Are Hayekian Welfare States (At Least in Theory)

Marjorie Griffin Cohen:
The Strange Career of Regulation in the Welfare State

Robert Higgs:
Two Ideological Ships Passing in the Night

Arnold Kling:
Differences in Opinion Among Economists About Government and Market Efficiency

Anthony Randazzo and Jonathan Haidt:
The Moral Narratives of Economists

Scott Sumner:
Moral Differences in Economics: Why Is the Left-Right Divide Widening?

Cass Sunstein:
Unhelpful Abstractions and the Standard View

The home page for the issue is here.

Consumer rating sentences to ponder

“Highly specific pools of reputation information will become more useful in aggregate,” said Mr. Fertik, co-author with David C. Thompson of “The Reputation Economy,” a guide to optimizing digital footprints. “If you’re a really good Uber passenger, that may be useful information for Amtrak or American Airlines. But if you add in your reputation from Airbnb plus OpenTable plus eBay, it starts to get useful globally.”

There is more here, interesting throughout.  But will there be errors in these measurements?  As I wrote to Ashok Rao, fresh regressions are a public good.

How Andrew Sullivan changed America

I wrote a short piece on this for Vox, here is one excerpt:

Who is the most influential public intellectual of the last 20 years?

This designation should go to someone who actually has helped change the world, rather than just changing lots of minds. It also should go to someone who has embodied key trends of the time, noting that for both standards I am focusing on the United States.

Based on those standards, I am inclined to pick Andrew Sullivan, who is most recently in the news for his announcement that he is quitting after fifteen years of blogging.

Any discussion of Sullivan’s influence must begin with gay marriage. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia already have legalized gay marriage, representing a majority of the American population, with possibly Alabama and others to follow. A broader Supreme Court decision for nationwide legalization may be on the way. More generally, gay rights have taken a major leap forward.

…I thought long and hard before selecting Andrew for the designation of most influential public intellectual. Perhaps Paul Krugman has changed more minds, but his agenda hasn’t much changed the world; we haven’t, for instance, gone back to do a bigger fiscal stimulus. Peter Singer led large numbers of people into vegetarianism and veganism and gave those practices philosophic respectability; he is second on my list. A generation ago, I would have picked Milton Friedman, for intellectual leadership in the direction of capitalist and pro-market reforms. But that is now long ago, and the Right has produced no natural successor.

Self-recommending!  And again, please note, you should not confuse the designation “most influential” with “the person who, I, the reader, would most like to see elevated in status.”  That would be a fallacy of mood affiliation.