URLs du Jour

2017-07-06

GLUTTONY

■ We leave Proverbs 24 and move … backward … to Chapter 23. And it starts out with Emily Post-style advice gone horribly wrong in Proverbs 23:1-3

1 When you sit to dine with a ruler,
     note well what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat
    if you are given to gluttony.
3 Do not crave his delicacies,
    for that food is deceptive.

Not for the first time, I'm trying to flesh out this scenario, trying to picture the situation that caused the Proverbialist to issue this advice. Maybe something like the baseball bat-wielding Al Capone's dinner party in The Untouchables? Did something like that happen in ancient Israel?

■ Veronique de Rugy has a late Independence Day post at Reason: we're also (sort of) Celebrating Our Independence—From the Export-Import Bank

In an imperfect environment where cronyism—that's the unhealthy relationship between government and businesses—runs rampant, the fact that Boeing, General Electric and other giant manufacturers haven't been able to benefit from taxpayer-backed loans for the past two years is a huge victory. For the first five months of that period, the bank's charter had actually expired —but even since it was renewed, it hasn't been able to extend loans above $10 million.

The doomsaying was unwarranted, when it wasn't outright dishonest. Ms. de Rugy urges that Ex-Im be put out of its misery, and it would be nice to think that the GOP-controlled Congress could manage that.

■ At the Washington Examiner, Byron York is a little mystified: Why the rebellion over Trump voter commission?

In the past week election officials in dozens of states have rejected a request from the newly-formed Presidential Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity to provide voter records for a study on the extent (if any) of election fraud. Some of those officials have expressed great indignation that the commission would even ask. Yet many of those same officials would gladly sell those very same records — to campaigns, to candidates, to political consultants, even to you. It's a situation that baffles some political veterans.

I'm baffled too. I can get that Democrats might freak out over anything that might illuminate and quantify voter fraud issues, but there are a lot of Republicans clutching their pearls too.

I recently learned that the SMH acronym stands for "shaking my head", and so: SMH.

■ At Cato, David Boaz looked himself up in the index, and yes, we have Another Misleading Quotation in Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains”. The relevant single sentence:

David Boaz of the Cato Institute […] speaks of the "parasite economy" that divides us into "the predators and the prey."

This is supposed to illustrate the "big lie of the Koch-sponsored radical right" that the "takers" in America are mooching off the "makers".

Almost needless to say: Boaz's point in The Libertarian Mind (which MacLean cites as her evidence for the above characterization) was different. It was in the midst of a discussion of public choice theory, rent-seeking, etc. And:

Let’s be clear: when public choice economists and I talk about “rent seeking” and “concentrated benefits,” and we point to “subsidy, tariff, quota, or restriction on their competitors,” we’re not trying to protect the rich. We’re talking about ways that businesses, unions, and other organized interest groups seek to use government to gain advantages that they couldn’t gain in the marketplace. And when we suggest limiting the power of government to hand out such favors, we are arguing in the interests of workers and consumers.

Why, it's almost as if Nancy MacLean was a dishonest hack!

■ But wait, it gets worse. At the Skeptical Libertarian blog, Daniel Bier outlines his problems with the leadoff quote from the same paragraph Boaz quotes in The Juvenile “Research” of “Historian” Nancy MacLean.

Prof MacLean's Nazi-baiting:

“If you tell a great lie and repeat it often enough, the people will eventually come to believe it,” Joseph Goebbels, a particularly ruthless, yet shrewd propagandist, is said to have remarked.

Problem being: Goebbels said no such thing, as near as anyone can tell. Bier provides the easily-done research that MacLean was too lazy to do.

Of course, none of that really matches up to the version that MacLean made up and misattributed to Goebbels, either. But it’s certainly the original source for the dumbed-down, badly mangled fake version that she probably saw on a half-forgotten Internet meme. This is the caliber of thought and effort that you’d expect from a drunk Facebook status or a circa 2002 “Gore really won the election!” Geocities blog post.

It is baffling that MacLean — a tenured academic historian at Duke University — wrote this laughable nonsense and that her editor (if she had one) let it be published. It’s the kind of dumb, unsourced, pseudo-profound “deep thought” that freshmen use to lard up a half-assed term paper. D- — apply yourself!!

■ But here's my own meager contribution to MacLean-debunking. From the same paragraphs quoted by Boaz and Bier, purporting to debunk the "big lie":

[…] Is it true that the wealthiest among us are being unfairly fleeced by government? If so, how do we square that with what is now common knowledge that the secretary to a billionaire will often pay a higher tax rate than her boss?

People who were paying attention at the time know that this allegation was pumped by Warren Buffett alleging that his secretary, Debbie Bosanek, paid tax at a higher rate than he did. Ms Bosanek declined to make her tax returns available to check whether this was true or not. That didn't stop then-President Obama from using it as a rhetorical bludgeon to advocate raising taxes on "the rich".

It might be true, since a lot of Buffett's income comes from capital gains, and Bosanek might have an unusually high salary income for a "secretary". (Her actual duties were far above normal secretary-level.)

But is it "common knowledge" that this situation "often" happens? No. That's actually the "Big Lie" involved here. Even the left-leaning Politifact had to demur, after a lot of hemming and hawing: Does a secretary pay higher taxes than a millionaire?

As we said at the outset, we don't get into questions of opinions such as whether secretaries should pay a higher tax rate than billionaire bosses. But that situation is possible under the current tax code, if an employee is sufficiently well paid and if the boss's income comes from stock market investments or managing a hedge fund.

Is it the norm? No. Millionaires who count on a salary pay higher taxes than those who draw most of their earnings from investment income. And most secretaries earn too little to pay such high rates.

Nancy MacLean is a dishonest propagandist.