URLs du Jour

2019-01-11

[Amazon Link]

  • You may be wondering: can Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 percent tax finance socialism? At NR, Brian Reidl answers that burning question: No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 Percent Tax Cannot Finance Socialism. Brian looks at both the proposed spending and revenue side. The spending side is scary:

    While details of Ocasio-Cortez’s energy proposal are unavailable, former Green-party presidential candidate Jill Stein has proposed a “Green New Deal” costing between $700 billion and $1 trillion per year for public jobs and clean energy initiatives. That is roughly 4 percent of GDP.

    And when assessing the needed tax revenues, a green-energy initiative costing $7–$10 trillion over the decade should be examined in the context of $42 trillion in additional Democratic-socialist proposals that include single-payer health care ($32 trillion), a federal jobs guarantee ($6.8 trillion), student-loan forgiveness ($1.4 trillion), free public college ($800 billion), infrastructure ($1 trillion), family leave ($270 billion), and Social Security expansion ($188 billion).

    That 21 percent of GDP cost would double federal spending. And that does not even account for a baseline budget deficit rising to 7 percent of GDP over the decade — bringing the total budget gap to 28 percent of GDP.

    The revenue-raising proposals made by AOC are totally inadequate to fund any of that. Of course. As Brian notes, the proposals are mostly hot air meant to fire up their I-was-told-there-would-be-no-math supporters. Providing anything more concrete would end the discussion. "If the numbers added up, the Left would have produced them."


  • But are we beating up on AOC because she's a woman? Of course that's what she thinks. But at the WaPo, Megan McArdle begs to differ: No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The fact is, it’s not because you’re a woman..

    Ocasio-Cortez’s problem isn’t that she’s stupid, or that she’s a compulsive liar; she just got famous before she got wise. But neither is she being oppressed by the power structure — subjected to heightened scrutiny because she’s a woman, or browbeaten by ignorant slaves to neoliberalism who ought to study up on Modern Monetary Theory so they can grasp the revolutionary brilliance of her fiscal ideas.

    Intellectually, this is about on par with … well, with believing the United States spends more than $2 trillion a year on defense. Some of her critics are female, after all, and we’re not all victims of patriarchal false consciousness. Rather, we have some familiarity with the federal budget, and with monetary economics, and after careful consideration, have concluded that the parts of the Modern Monetary Theory that are true aren’t interesting, while the bits that are interesting aren’t true. And thus, that Ocasio-Cortez’s fiscal prescriptions are reckless bunkum.

    Megan seems to think that AOC will eventually move on to firmer ground tnan (for example) her July assertion that "unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs." Maybe, but that prediction seems very similar to the hopeful belief that President Trump would reel in his shoot-from-the-lip style. In both cases, we can ask: when's that supposed to happen?


  • At the Federalist, Hans Fiene notes a religious revival: Progressives Turn Their Public Shaming Into Formal Religious Ceremony. It's provided at the "Cathedral of Blessed Wokery", a "a 55,000-square-foot Malibu mansion normally reserved for climate change fundraisers and Lamborghini jousting."

    And they provide, for the transgressor ("you made an offensive joke about bisexual Muppets in 1997") the Rite of Perpetual Confession.

    "Create in me a clean heart, O Mob, and renew a leftist spirit within me. Cast me not away from employment, and take not your Holy Oscar from me. Restore to me the joy of activism and uphold me with thy progressivism."

    Further liturgical stylings at the link. "In the name of the Ruth, the Bader, and the Ginsburg."


  • At Power Line, John Hinderaker links to a Daily Mail article referring to The Great Issue of Our Time…. Specifically, the (long) headline reads: "Putting the Pi in pies: Twitter user stuns the internet with math that proves one 18-inch pizza has more in it than TWO 12-inch helpings".

    Yes. As John notes, if the pizza diameters are in a (18/12) = 1.5 ratio, the ratio of the total areas is 1.52 = 2.25. So a single 18-inch pizza has 12.5% more area than two 12-inchers.

    This is, at best, high school math. Yet, people are stunned, or at least claim to be. Including, perhaps, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Somebody should ask her.


  • And our Google LFOD alert rang for a Boston Herald plug for an upcoming Manchester NH event: N.H. Wine Week overflows with tastings, events and more.

    Famed winemakers Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset, a married couple with twin 7-year-old daughters who seldom have time to travel to such events together, will be there in tandem this year (a treat for anyone who knows wine). French-born Boisset says New Hampshire speaks to his passions.

    “New Hampshire represents freedom,” he said. “Look at the state motto: Live Free or Die. It’s so fun to be able to believe in this — that sense of where everything is vivacious and daring, where you truly are free.”

    My taste in wine is non-existent, I'm fine with anything that's even slightly better than plonk. And I've been cutting way back, just to lose some weight. Still, Gina and Jean-Charles might convince me to splurge with their nice words about LFOD…

Stubborn Attachments

A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals

[Amazon Link]

A short book, a mere $9.99 for the Kindle version at Amazon, and there's a nice feature: the author, Tyler Cowen, pledges to donate the receipts from the book to "Yonas", an Ethiopian tour guide he befriended during a visit. That was enough for me to cough up for the Kindle version instead of raiding the UNH library.

Tyler's pitch is for making economic growth, constrained by a healthy respect for individual liberty, our primary social goal. There are a few asterisks on that: he's really talking about the growth of "Wealth Plus", which factors in the values of sustainability, environmental quality, and leisure. Given that, though, he notes that the difference between (say) sustained 1% annual growth vs. 3% may seem trivial over the course of a year: $100 becomes $101 instead of $103. But after 100 years, it's $270 vs. $1921. (Assuming I can still do the math correctly.) Can you really deny your ancestors the benefit of that additional wealth?

Well, maybe. There's a possible counterargument: would you rather have $100 today or $100 next year? Obviously, today, amirite? Time value of money. So future-money is worth less than today-money. Doesn't that say we should be optimizing the here-and-now rather than the hazy future? Tyler makes a meticulous argument that it's not relevant; carrying things to their logical conclusions quickly run afoul of common-sense morality. (Similar arguments apply to running the thought experiments backwards in time; a $100 wrong done to someone in the past rapidly grows to vast sums today. Again, common-sense morality rejects the conclusion.)

Finally, how do we incorporate uncertainty into the mix? How can we take any actions today that will (almost certainly) have unforeseen consequences in the near or far future?

Tyler's book is a fine example of mixing philosophical and economic arguments. I was probably not as skeptical as I should have been; when it comes to arguments for prosperity, responsibility, and rights, those arguments are pretty much pushing on an open door.