Monday assorted links


(5.) Women economists' higher unhappiness compared with STEM. Could it be selection bias? Women who study STEM know precisely what they are getting into. But economics attracts many people who'd like to make the world a better place, and what they find are theorems, proofs, and asymptotic properties of regressors.

#2. Any government that tries to deny people access to anti-aging drugs purely on the basis that "aging" isn't a disease, deserves to be violently overthrown. Which it will be since kids don't want to see their elderly parents suffer any more than the parents do. The FDA better get it's priorities in order, because they is about zero chance that the public is going to swallow the idea that suffering through old age is natural and therefore mandatory.

Governments like tax revenue. Any drug that increases your working life will be of interest to them. If it just prolongs your retirement or increases your net drain on state resources, maybe less so.

That said, the government is fine being selective with benefits.

Old age was good enough for my grandparents, is being good enough for my parents and soon will be good enough for me. There is no rason to invent solutions for non-existing problems at the price of societal stability.

I’m giving top in the Davos Forum.

+1 to Hazel.

Burn it down, but only the white bureaucrats.

@Hazel: remember the fountain of youth myth. What makes you think this time is different? want to believe? Leave that to UFO fans.

The real problem with anti-aging drugs is that they probably don't work. That isn't an interesting problem though.


What Steve said.

6. Another argument for religion, it relates to #5 as well.

Perhaps I'm dense, but after reading #5 and #6 I'm missing the connection. The argument for religion, though, makes sense.

Then you're not a good Straussian ...!

#7 - There's some real tension in his piece between the idea that "less bad" means that fewer upper middle class taxpayers pay more, and the idea that having provisions expire earlier is bad. The revisions from the House bill mostly make the bill better for households making $100k-$500k than the original (the exception is the Rubio change, the one thing that helped the lower middle and working class compared to the original; not repealing the AMT but only raising the deduction might hurt some $400k-$500k families, but the $200k-300k will still be fine with the higher AMT exception.) A reform bill that was permanent and didn't hit the Byrd Rule would have had to raise taxes on more upper middle class taxpayers, in order to pay for other changes.

That's all why true tax "reform" is unpopular, as opposed to just cuts (real reform with permanent changes and deficit neutrality has to have some who pay more), especially when the Democrats' biggest objection seems to be the mortgage interest deduction limit falling from $1M to $750k on principal, along with the SALT limitation. Those are pay fors that hit the top 5% the most.

Josh is accurately reflecting the politics of the thing, which is that nobody (in the short term) wants real tax reform that gets rid of loopholes, even in a progressive way, because everyone likes their own existing specific loopholes so much and doesn't care about lower rates or other people's loopholes. In the long term, though, I imagine it will be difficult to raise the MID level.

"let people create education savings accounts for fetuses" - People can and do already do this. What they do is create a 529 and name a different beneficiary, and then change the beneficiary once the baby is born. There are plenty of financial guides out there telling people to do this. The proposed law change would have codified the practice without the loophole, but of course became more about abortion politics.

I think Josh wrote a fair assessment, but FWIW I am one of the "nobodies" who would prefer revenue neutral tax reform, even if it gored my ox a bit.

Me too. The deficit needs to come first before the cuts.

The deficit increased $230 billion in the past two years, a faster increase than anything scored in this bill. We have an underlying systemic issue here.

Everyone should be concerned that the structural deficit is exploding right now.

The deficit as a share of GDP is about the same size as it was in 2003 when the economy was much weaker and our near term demographic picture was much brighter.

We could *easily* be running trillion dollar deficits every single year throughout the 2020s.

Why does the bond market not seem to care? 30 year treasuries are only up about 15bp since when Trump was elected and are down from the start of talks on the tax bill.

@eccdogg, good question. As far as I can tell, the bond market is reassured by current and projected low inflation, because the Fed has actually been running a really tight monetary policy over the past several years.

But at some level of debt, devaluation/inflation is the only end game. Not sure if there will be a tipping point or just a gradual dawning realization of this reality. Bond holders have had a great 35 year run. As the last traders who remember the 1970s fade away, another bloodbath becomes more likely. Market participants remember everything in the short-run, some things in the medium-run, and nothing in the long run.

"But at some level of debt, devaluation/inflation is the only end game."

But what's the level? Japan's national debt is 239% of GDP and the CBO forecast US debt before the tax plan to be 140% of GDP in 2040.

If you think that the deficit needs to come first before the cuts, then you absolutely must disagree with Josh's assessment that reducing the number of upper middle class and upper lower class taxpayers that got a tax increase made the bill better. From a purely political standpoint of what is popular, that is true, but it is mathematically impossible to deal with the deficit and get rid of loopholes without having a lot of upper middle class families who benefit from those loopholes pay more.

It's not only tax receipts/revenues. Expenditures are to be attacked.

Accounting and Finance 101: when revenues cannot be raised and/or suffer declines, expenses are, to the extent possible, to be reduced.

Anyhow, a revenue-neutral tax reform is not really tax reform. People need to erase from hard drives/brains the dictum that the government owns their money.

Of course, liberals and academics should be taxed until they squeal.

Frankly, I don't understand how you can say that "prefer revenue neutral tax reform" and think that Josh wrote a fair assessment (at least from a "what is right" versus a "what is popular" sense,)

Josh's points about making sure that only 4% of taxpayers instead of 12% of taxpayers get a tax increase are completely at odds with wanting revenue neutral tax reform. Revenue neutral tax reform must have people who get a tax increase. Josh is arguing simultaneously that:
1) Tax reform should have been revenue neutral, and
2) Almost no one should have had a tax increase.

This is inconsistent. This is impossible. However, this set of impossible, contradictory opinions is quite popular as a generic impossible set of principles, even though it's impossible to meet in real life.

Josh's column and people who think it was a fair assessment are absolutely part of the problem, and an ENORMOUS part of the reason we can't have revenue neutral tax reform.

As I read him, a revenue neutral tax bill was never on the table, but at least this one doesn't *both* expand debt and punish workers while cutting taxes at the top.

It is now one kind of bad, not two.

but at least this one doesn’t *both* expand debt and punish workers while cutting taxes at the top.

It is now one kind of bad, not two.

It now, thanks to what you and Josh are praising, cuts taxes at the top more than the House bill. It paid for extra temporary tax cuts at the top by making more of the tax cuts expire earlier, instead of paying for them by eliminating and reducing loopholes highly tilted towards the rich.

Josh, and you, are praising making the bill making things better for the rich and those at the top by still giving them a tax cut but cutting their loopholes less so that very few of them pay more, except for the ones with particularly heavy usage of a few of the loopholes.

The great mass of people, inconsistently, agree with the following propositions:

1) Tax reform should be revenue neutral
2) Tax reform should eliminate loopholes
3) Tax reform shouldn't make hardly anyone pay more.

This is impossible.

This is the same reason that the gas tax will almost never be raised, nor will any other serious action on climate change. People only favor changes when they are entirely neutralized.

You and Josh are an enormous part of the problem. I can buy Josh's argument as part of a "this was necessary to make the bill more popular, even though it's a bad idea of policy grounds." However, he appears to be pushing it as a good policy position, which makes his views completely incoherent. A good fit for Trump though, who reflects the incoherence of you and other median voters perfectly in wanting mutually exclusive things.

It's not just the higher AMT exemption that benefits upper-middle income taxpayers but also the higher phase-out thresholds...from $187,800 for MFJ to $1 million. In 2016 my AMT exemption was reduced by nearly half due to the phase-out, with the new threshold I won't be subject to AMT at all.

From the Conference Committee summary:

"The conference agreement temporarily increases both the exemption amount and the exemption amount phase-out thresholds for the individual AMT. Under the provision...the AMT exemption amount is increased to $109,400 [from $84,500] for married taxpayers filing a joint return (half this amount for married taxpayers filing a separate return), and $70,300 [from $54,300] for all other taxpayers (other than estates and trusts). The phase-out thresholds are increased to $1,000,000 [from $187,800] for married taxpayers filing a joint return, and $500,000 for all other taxpayers (other than estates and trusts). These amounts are indexed for inflation."

This is why in creasing the standard deduction is so important.
Only people who use itemized deductions care about all the tax deductions that are itemized, so if you can make it so almost everyone just takes the standard deduction, you can eventually get rid of itemized deductions.

Hazel brings up an important point.

Increasing the standard deduction substantially will weaken the political support for itemization. The real estate industry knows this and that's why they lobbied so hard against it. They can see the writing on the wall.

Yeah, this is real reform IMO. There are short-term winners and losers, and nobody's happy about losing because it's real money, but this is a small step toward a much better tax code.

Right-- and the only way to get that passed was to make it a big tax cut, because under real revenue neutral reform, it would be absolutely impossible to reduce those particular deductions because there would be too many losers. The great mass of political criticism, both from Dem politicians and from the public, is about too many loopholes and deductions being eliminated, so any change was always going to happen in their direction, away from the economists' preferred direction. It's annoying but there it is. Now that the plan has been changed, it's fine for Krugman to pop up in a Vox interview and say that "actually, the original House plan had some good features that even Democratic economists could like, it's a shame they moved away from the DBCFT and eliminating so many deductions." Few Dem-leaning economists were going to stick their neck out that way when the House plan was a live thing, though.

The only foreseeable path to a better tax code, if you hate those deductions, is a big tax cut like this, then raising the rates but not re-introducing these deductions. At the same time, that's why the pass-through bit is annoying, because it introduces another hard to eliminate provision.

This tax bill gets us closer to Canada's system on all accounts. (Rates, reducing the MID, reducing the SALT deduction.)

If you are a leftist who wants single-payer, you have to like the tax bill. It's been much easier in history to raise rates (they're nothing but a number) than to reduce the value of big upper-middle class deductions like the MID or SALT. (Holding the line on the MID limit has been possible, so over time it has degraded. The SALT limit of $10k is also not indexed here, like MID.)

If you want single-payer, you have to raise taxes on the upper-middle class, there's no way around that. There's not enough money from only the people that the Obama Administration was willing to call "rich." The single-payer strategy is to run on backlash against this bill, take Congress and the Presidency, raise rates, but instead of restoring the deduction, use the money for single-payer.

Europe pays for it with a high consumption tax. This is the one tax we don't have.

And a high consumption tax is a tax on the middle class... same difference.

Can't I be for single payer for efficiency reasons? A proper plan would remove unnecessary or low ROI care, and slash price per capita to more mainstream OECD levels.

And free job hoppers, entrepreneurs, etc of insurance driven decisions.

That is a myth. It would soon become fatally expensive and would have to be rationed. single payer or better known as socialist health care, is a killer. In theory it is an equal opportunity killer but the rich find ways to pay for their own health care and thus get better health care. It is a trap, easy to get into and almost impossible to get out of.

It is not a myth that other rich countries manage lower per capital spending.

It is just defeatism that we can't.

The track record of cutting costs via centralization and socialized funding is not great, though, you must admit.

It is kind of a catch-22 in America.

The right won't save money with a strict Canadian-ish system because they want higher service for the rich, reduced for the poor.

The left won't save money with a strict Canadian-ish system because they want higher service for the poor, reduced for the rich.

You need to be a lot more pragmatic and centrist to accept that lower service for healthy people is the not-that-cruel necessity. You need to limit spending by both need and efficacy.

All goods are rationed one way or another. And calling single payer healthcare a "killer" is lurid hyperbole. Healthcare systems will always triage care one way or another, Triage by expected health outcome (can the person recover if treated aggressively?) is a more rational way to proceed than triage by bank balance or insurance status, The latter is almost guaranteed to misallocate resources.

Thankfully, the poor have no problems to pay for their healthcare right now and rich enjoy no advantages whatsoever.

What a chicken shit you are GWTW!

It doesn't become 'fatally expensive'. Like anything else, its got to be policed, and tuned continually.

Australia has a private system overlay on Medicare ['socialised medicine' in your parlance]. For elective surgery, you can self insure. Otherwise, its into a queue [waiting list]. So what?

The pachyderm in the room for US healthcare are costs-you didn't even make a peep about that!

Why would you have to raise taxes? We could just borrow the money like we're doing now.

Indeed. In which case you should love the precedent. Either way, single-payer advocates win.

"If you are a leftist who wants single-payer, you have to like the tax bill. It’s been much easier in history to raise rates (they’re nothing but a number) than to reduce the value of big upper-middle class deductions like the MID or SALT."

Good observation, but I would not limit this to "single-payer". Generally, the raison d'etre of the left is to redistribute income from the top to the bottom . This bill helps them do that. Count on this: Next time the Dems are in control, the top rate will be raised on the top 1-5 percent of earners or whatever slice they can politically afford. Raising the top rate is politically easier because it affects fewer voters. If this bill becomes law, the GOP will have done the hard work for them. The reduction of deductions and the corporate reforms are important and will survive. When was the last time we had such a major corporate income tax reform? It's hard to do.

4. "The Norwegian Health Committee is planning a trip to Portugal in February, which decriminalised personal possession of drugs in 2001."

And why not? Most of Norway spends February in Spain/Portugal anyway. Turn the thermostat down before you get on the plane.

The policy will probably make little practical difference in Oslo (the capital city) where drugs including heroin are openly sold and taken in areas close to the city centre.

Maybe they(the Norwegians) can buy it(Sp/Port) from the Germans who I understand own it.

I checked, and I have 2 observations:

1. The first reference to this news was regarding the progress party yourh group differed from the mother party in their support of this finding. This was further down the page than the 2 week old permanent story about how Weinstein raped Salma Hayek.

2. This is more a recommended executive action than an actual law, or we can compare it to a US bill clearing a committee.

#6 must be a mistake. That is the wrong URL

6. OK, so if my date brings along two butt plugs, should I be more cautious if they are not in their original wrapping?

Do they come in pink and blue?

You got me to read it, which I wasn't going to do. Hahahahaaaaaahaha. Oh my. Yes, the problems ppl have these days. I'll pass on the butt plugs too.

The barbarians within the gates. This contributes to my belief that middle American bourgeois society should have purged all its humanities intellectuals in the late 60s in the same way that humanities scholars have purged traditionalists in the last few decades.

6. Reads like unused passages from Submission that even Houllebecq thought were too depressing.

I just roughed this out for me (upper income, married, one dependent, significant itemized deductions for state and local taxes); looks a $5K tax increase, mostly due to the cap on deductions.

C'est la vie. This is not the 2001 Bush tax bill.

Hard to do the Bush tax bill when about 50% of the taxpayers aren't paying any taxes! How do you cut them?

Fwiw mine stays about the same. Win some lose some. If I get some special divideds I'll be alright.

6. This is, in fact, the type of thing that pushed me from "Agnostic, sides with atheists" to "Agnostic, will always defend the religious." These people have no idea how sad their lives are and seem to think it's normal to live a life bereft of love.

What Americans call "love" is almist always a lie, a farce, a sham, a ruse used by malefactors of great wealth to control the society.

Love is the basis of the family, which is the last institution of primitive communism in the west. The "malefactors of great wealth" would prefer a liberalized sexual market, where people give detailed information as to their preferences to corporations (tinder, youporn) who are then able to provide a gratifying experience to keep the customer coming back. Remember, a stable relationship built on love causes a dating website to permanently lose two customers.

tinder is the read john updike crowd too.

#6. I don't see this as an argument for religion, so much as an argument for using church groups as dating pools, if you happen to be a recovering alcoholic.

You are underestimating the extent to which religions and dating pools are the same. This is clearest for Judaism, the worlds best dating agency, complete with weekly friday night meet-ups and a calendar packed with other fun parties. Tinder is larger in terms of membership, but is even more diffuse. Nonetheless membership on Tinder does reveal at least a little bit about someone's values and dates will play out in the light of this common knowledge.

Problem is you have to believe a bunch of nonsense to join, and I'm not talking about the Biblical stuff.

The thing is that Tinder exists primarily as a casual hookup mechanism, which doesn't work well for non-drinkers. The people on Tinder probably want a glass of wine or two before getting it on. I can see how a recovering alcoholic might think that Tinder is a normal way to find dates, but then is surprised to discover once sober that those people aren't really long term romantic partner material.

Church groups have the benefit of being much more likely to have a large percentage of non-drinkers, including other recovering alcoholics. Plus, alcoholics might just need the obsessive commitment to religious belief to substitute for the obsessive commitment to drinking. Even if that doesn't work, if they can fake an interest in God long enough, maybe they can meet someone in the church group than they can have an enjoyable time with being sober together.

All religions spend some of their energy providing a social support structure to help people avoid temptations, including drinking. This is part and parcel of the support that also seeks to draw people away from a joys of hookups and the joys of marriage and kids. And explicit doctrine is only a tiny bit of this, the really important stuff is getting a bunch of people together to enable each other to walk roughly the approved path. Prominent in this buch of people are potential romantic partners.

What Tyler means is "take your kids to church, so they don't end up like that guy."(To be clear I, like Tyler, am a nonbeliever.)

I'm giving Top in the Davos Forum.

If the results pan out, the first drugs could be available in as little as a decade.

Oh, BS. There is so much wrong with this article. There is an implicit assumption there's some sort of clock which drives aging, and maybe there could be a drug which affects this clock. That's what the telomere and HGH people think, and it's not true. The closest thing to a clock is the age-related decline in tetrahydrobiopterin which affects endothelial function, which in turn affects cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and maybe Alzheimer's disease. The driver for this decline is reduced activity of GCH1 (formerly known as GTPCH1) which performs the rate-limiting step in tetrahydrobiopterin synthesis. The regulatory mechanisms for GCH1 activity are quite complex and poorly understood, but developing an effective treatment for this decline is likely to be protective against at least CVD and T2DM if not AD too. But it won't be an anti-aging drug. It'll be more like statins.

Todd K tell this guy the truth!

7. Josh Barro says the final version is more middle-class friendly because "they changed the bill to partially preserve the deductions for property taxes and state income taxes (capped at $10,000)"

I am always puzzled by argument like that. As Hazel said somewhere today, with the standard deduction at $24,000 for a families, how many middle-class (or even upper middle-class) families are going to still itemize their deduction? very little, it seems to me. If you can claim $10,000+ in property taxes and state income-taxes, you still need to find $14,000 in other deductions before getting 1 cent back by itemizing deduction. There is no medical expense deduction anymore, so what remains? Deduction for giving to charities? Yes, but how many families give $14,000 a year to charities? I would say not much among those who makes less than $250,000. And what else? Perhaps I am missing something big, or many little things that add up to a big one, but I don't see....

So, it seems to me that keeping this $10,000-capped deduction for state/local/property taxes is essentially a selling point with no real policy implication. Which, by the way, I like, because I think those deduction were unfair.

The mortgage interest deduction (on up to $1 million or $750,000 purchase depending on date) is still in there. A 3% mortgage on a $1 million property gets you a $30,000 deduction.

Still, even this family has now lost 2 exemptions, property tax deduction, and state income deduction, given the correlation between blue states and expensive houses, that is likely to be the typical case. A 30 thousand dollar deduction is just 6K above the standard deduction for a married couple.

Indeed, I forgot this one, and it is important. Thanks Brian and Vivian.

So many upper-middle class home-owners in high-tax localities will still have big deductions. Simply they will lose in absolute terms their deduction of local/property taxes above $10,000, and also in relative terms to commoners who will have a $24,000 instead of a $12,000 deduction.

I agree that reform is by necessity gradual, but still that's a point where the initial house bill, which capped the home mortgage deduction at $500K mortgage debt (instead of $750K o5 $1M) was better than the final bill in my view.

You failed to mention the biggest one---the deduction for mortgage interest. If one is paying real estate tax, one is also likely deducting mortgage interest. The interest deduction for new mortgages will be capped at $750K mortgage debt (not indexed for inflation) and home equity loans are out. The cap will gradually phase-out itemized deductions, which is a big positive, in my view.

I've read a lot of reviews along the line of "this bill is "bad" because the reforms don't go far enough" (e.g., because they did not *completely* eliminate the SALT deductions, *completely* eliminate AMT, etc, etc). That's a ridiculous categorisation if based solely on those types of laments. Those reviewers fail to realize that all true tax reforms are gradual (it's politics, not the classroom). A bill is "good" if, overall, it moves in the right direction. A bill is "bad" if it does the opposite. A bill is not "bad" because it does not contain everything the ivory tower critics think it should have contained.

Oops, Brian beat me to it.

So where does a family with a lot of kids end up with this tax bill? Say, 2 adults, 5 kids. I wasn't surprised to see Sen. Lee, of large family Utah, pushing for a higher child tax credit to make up for the new larger standard deduction.

1. is a very good reading, though long.

+1, enjoyed the piece a lot.

Near the end: "American pragmatists have been called “the plumbers of philosophy”—they attempt to solve problems, not provide elegant and clever descriptions of problems."

Jordan Peterson is a pretty good (Canadian) example of the type and has an interesting perspective on the French invasion.

Quick thoughts on #1

We learn, as if we needed it, what a fraud Derrida was... (When Bannon calls for the "deconstruction of the administrative state", he's ineptly combining Derrida and Rothbard.)

Girard is not discussed much in that excerpt, but he's really a fascinating thinker. One doesn't have to be a theist to find Girard important, especially the notion of mimetic desire and the complexities that issue from it.

Agreed. Girard is also a role model for all academics who fill estranged to their intellectual environment.

Mortgage interest deduction, that's the big one.


Putting phony expiration dates in to meet the ten-year requirements is an idiotic, utterly dishonest, tactic. Why not just say, "We abolish all taxes staring in the seventh year." That will put you in great position on this artificial rule.

It would make much more sense to simply assume, for the purpose of deficit calculations, that the various provisions will stay in place. If they need to be changed after, say, six years because of deficit problems then Congress can change them then.

2. What's sad I guess is if you die right before it becomes available ..

6. A single 35 year old guy had sex and this is an argument for religion? Do you mean in the sense that, "Yes! There is a God!"

He means the guy is obviously pathetic and that people like him are becoming more and more common because of the cheapening of sex due, in part, to declining religious observance.

"She was very pretty. Great tits. I love tits — big, small, fluffy, saggy. Hope that doesn’t sound misogynistic — I’m a feminist and pro-female in every way. I have five sisters!"

It's pretty funny the poz trickling down to the trash class.

The truly pathetic person in that story (yes, I read it) is the older professional woman desperately settling for a date with her friend's loser brother because tickticktickticktick.

Yeah, the United States sounds weird. Men who are socially skilled enough to have no trouble meeting women and have sex one day out of seven are generally regarded as the opposite of pathetic here. Most people here with those skills will use them to find someone they like and enter a relationship, but some don't. Then there are people who use those skills who use them to lie to and manipulate others. But we don't call those people pathetic. We have another word for them. Several, in fact.

Actually, give me say 10 hours and I'll give you a report on dating in Australia.

Okay, a friend of a friend invited me over to her place for a Tuesday afternoon of Netflix and ambiguity. Not sure if my friends told her I'm a greater guy than Tommy Wiseau, or they just said, "This guy's internet sucks. He can't watch anything."

As soon as I arrived she showed me her puppies. They were adorable and called Beebop and Rocksteady. After watching fine American entertainment and eating dinner her intentions weren't clear to me, but I didn't know if this was because she was not interested or because she had spent 12 years in a Catholic all girls school. So I basically asked her if she wanted to give a relationship a go and she said yes. So that was good.

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