Archives for July 2011

NPR Should At Least Pretend To Be Impartial

You know when you and another person or persons generally agree on things and you want to test your arguments by playing devil’s advocate – i.e. pose a question that you think your opponents would ask? Stating you’re asking a devil’s advocate question almost always implies that you and the other person are in agreement.

That’s the question a National Public Radio reporter asked a New Yorker reporter. The latter, one James Surowiecki, argued that the debt ceiling should be scrapped. The NPR reporter, Mary Louise Kelly, said, “Let me play devil’s advocate….many would argue that having a sort of ceiling in place fosters accountability.”

Mary Louise, you work for a taxpayer-subsidized radio corporation that is supposed to be for all Americans, not just left-leaning ones who are sympathetic to scrapping the debt ceiling. Your taxpayer subsidies don’t just come from lefties but righties as well. You can at least try to convey the appearance that you’re speaking on behalf of Americans of all political stripes. You should have dropped the “Let me play devil’s advocate.” That implies that you’re on Surowiecki’s side in the matter and that you don’t want him to think that you aren’t.

No, a hard-nosed reporter should in no way be worried about putting the  person he or she is interviewing in a tight spot provided the question is a legitimate one. And asking about the accountability issue is very legitimate.

Meanwhile, Surowiecki at first dodged the question. So Kelly asked it again. The only thing Kelly could muster up was that because Congress has raised the debt ceiling so many times in the past without a fight, it shows that the debt ceiling is a weak way to foster accountability.

Hey James – it appears that that’s changing. Congress is now starting to take the debt ceiling issue seriously as a way to foster accountability. In fact what’s happening now in Congress – a deal to raise the ceiling in exchange for spending controls – is unprecedented as far as I know.

So finally, the debt ceiling is fostering accountability! That kind of destroys Surowiecki’s argument that the debt ceiling is unnecessary because it has never worked in fostering accountability in the past. Well now, it is! And hopefully this will start a good precedent for the future.

One other note. Surowiecki said we’re one of the only developed countries that have a debt ceiling. “And, you know, most other countries, developed countries, seem to do reasonably well in terms of keeping their books in order without one.”

Yeah. Like Greece.


The Norwegian Terrorist Attack Could Have Been Prevented

The Norwegian killer’s “manifesto” and the video that accompanied it discusses making bombs, aquiring guns, and other obvious indicators that he was preparing to kill. Apparently he sent the manifesto and video to thousands of Facebook friends prior to the attack; the video reportedly six hours prior to the attack. (I’m not sure how long prior to the attack the manifesto was released.)

The minute they saw the references to killing, someone should have alerted police, who in turn should have immediately tried to locate and detain the terrorist. I supposed everyone had the mentality that something like that would never happen in Norway, but now we know differently. If readers and law enforcement really had been on top of things, the killings could have been thwarted.

So if you, reader, ever come across writings or ramblings of people desirous of killing, report them to the police, or in the case of potential terrorism, to the FBI.

Meantime, the terrorist really did a lot of damage to his cause. It was the single biggest blow he could have dealt to the push for reducing the flow of immigration into Europe. The people in charge no doubt will especially want to show how compassionate they are to accepting into their countries the world’s downtrodden. Now, expect Europe to get even more Muslim than it would have had the madman never carried out his unspeakable deed.

Protesting Terrorism With Terrorism

I remember as a kid hearing about the Christian militiamen in Lebanon committing a massacre, and puzzling over their description as “Christian”. If you massacre people, you’re not a Christian, I thought. You’re far from being a Christian.

The same is true of the Norwegian terrorist who massacred some 75 people in Norway yesterday. He’s described as a fundamentalist Christian. But if you kill people like that, you’re definitely not a Christian.

The madman definitely is mad. Apparently he was angry about Muslim immigration into Norway. Most folks who are opposed to mass Muslim immigration into Western societies are concerned about the potential disruptive effects thereof, such as terrorist attacks. So this Norwegian madman commits a large-scale and unprecedented terrorist attack in his country, supposedly in protest of the disruptive effects that mass Muslim immigration would bring.

In protest of Norwegian girls being raped by immigrants, he slaughters Norwegian girls by the dozens.

Mad indeed.

Economics, Not Politics

Regarding Al Hunt’s article “Politics, Not Economics, Drives Anti-Tax Stand”, as Michael Boskin notes in today’s WSJ, we’re heading toward a 70 percent marginal tax rate.

Hey Al, if you have to give 70 percent of each additional dollar you earn to the government, would you be inclined to work for those extra dollars?

I didn’t think so. Neither would millions of other folks.

That’s economics. Not politics.

Such is what I wrote as a comment to Al Hunt’s article. I received a reply to my comment saying that the top tax rate was 90% under Eisenhower and 70% throughout the 50s and 60s. I replied, “Do you actually believe that people actually worked for dollars that were taxed at 90 percent? No one in their right mind would do so. So they found all kinds of schemes to avoid that tax. Pre-Reagan tax reform, the tax code was filled with lots of loopholes that enabled them to escape a 90 percent tax rate. Either that, or they simply didn’t work for the additional dollars taxed at that rate. Hence the stagnation of the ’70s.

At least that commenter tried to use some logic and maturity in his comment. Another comment I got was more typical of leftists, i.e. just bombast, and devoid of facts. It read, “Your problem is that you blindly believe whatever you read on the WSJ editorial board. Like Murdochs other enterprises, it is a mindless and corrupt GOP marionette doll.”

So I replied to him (or her), “So you don’t think that we’re headed for a 70 percent marginal tax rate? OK, then prove it. Or, for you, wouldn’t a 70 percent tax rate on the rich be desirable? I’d be ecstatic at that prospect, if I were a rich-loathing leftie. Meantime, even for middle-class folks, the effective marginal tax rate is already near 50 percent. And it’s the marginal tax rate (i.e. the amount you’re taxed on each additional dollar you earn) that affects work incentives. Getting taxed so much that it’s not even worth it to work is a terrible thing indeed – even if it happens to the rich.”

Corporations are anything but “creatures of the state”

Bill Clinton recently said that in law school they’re taught that corporations are creatures of the state.

If that’s what they teach in law school, get your tuition money back.

To be a creature of the state means that you’re created by the state. The only corporations that are creatures of the state are companies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were in fact set up by the state.

As for almost all other corporations, in most cases they got their start in someone’s garage or basement or home office and grew from there. They are creatures of the private-sector person or persons who started them. They weren’t set up by the state or by any government official in any way.

To be sure, the state can create a good climate for corporations, such as transportation infrastructure and enforcement of contracts, but all too often it also throws up obstacles along the way, like over-regulation, over-litigation, and excessive taxation.

Note to Bill Clinton and to law schools: with a very few exceptions, corporations are not creatures of (i.e. created by) the state in any way.