URLs du Jour

2019-11-02

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  • So in a dump-your-bad-news-on-Friday move, CNBC reports: Elizabeth Warren would double billionaire wealth tax for 'Medicare for All' plan. First "key point":

    Elizabeth Warren called for a doubling of her proposed billionaire wealth tax as part of a new “Medicare for All” proposal, from 3% to 6% on wealth over 10 figures.

    Yes, Senator Liz's unconstitutional, unworkable, indecent tax that hasn't been passed… has already been doubled.

    Just wait until she reveals that the "wealth over 10 figures" includes cents.


  • But CNBC tries to avoid making the obvious point made by Peter Suderman at Reason: Elizabeth Warren Wants To Pay for Medicare for All With a $9 Trillion Tax That Will Hit the Middle Class.

    Right now, Warren's plan says, employers spend about $9 trillion a decade on health insurance coverage. Her plan aims to move the private spending onto the federal budget. Under her proposal, large employers who currently pay for health coverage would be required to pay a comparable amount (equivalent to 98 percent of what they pay now, adjusted for the number of workers they employ) in order to help finance Medicare for All.

    Warren shies away from calling this a tax, and she even claims "we don't need to raise taxes on the middle class by one penny to finance Medicare for All." Instead, she refers to it as an employer Medicare contribution, under which companies "would send payments to the federal government for Medicare."

    But there is a commonly accepted term for a plan that requires companies to send payments to the federal government in order to finance government programs. That word is tax. And that is essentially what this is—a nearly $9 trillion payroll tax (or, perhaps, a head tax with some small-business carve outs). It is thus hard to see this as anything other than a massive middle-class tax hike.

    Well, of course.

    Which brings us to another recent discussion topic, Facebook's/Zuckerman's decision to accept political ads without "fact-checking", and Twitter/Dorsey's refusal of all (paid) political ads.

    If you believe that fact-checking political ads is desirable, how would you react to a decree that Senator Liz could not advertise her M4A proposal as middle-class-tax free?

    Anyway, the progressive hounds are out after Zuck, which almost makes me feel sorry for him.


  • For example … Aaron Sorkin 's NYT Op-Ed Scolding Zuckerberg for Free Speech Stand Botches Key Details.

    “People worry, and I worry deeply, too, about an erosion of truth,” Zuckerberg told the Post at the time. “At the same time, I don’t think people want to live in a world where you can only say things that tech companies decide are 100 percent true.” Earlier this week, it was revealed that Facebook employees were protesting the policy internally. 

    “This can’t possibly be the outcome you and I want, to have crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together,” Sorkin wrote Thursday. “Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children’s lives.”

    Yes. What about the children‽‽‽‽

    Unfortunately, as the article goes on to point out, Sorkin's column contained three misstatements, necessitating corrections.

    So if the NYT can't protect us (and our children) from Aaron Sorkin's lies, how can he, or we, expect Facebook to do a better job?


  • And the WSJ Notable & Quotable noticed some cognitive dissonance between (1) a different NYT columnist, Thomas Friedman, who wrote:

    Look at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who was questioned last Wednesday at a House hearing by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A.O.C. was trying to grasp why Zuckerberg thinks it’s O.K. for politicians to run political ads that contain obvious lies. . . .

    This is all about money for Zuckerberg, but he disguises his motives in some half-baked theory about freedom of the press.

    … and (2) the NYT's own Advertising Acceptability Manual:

    We believe that the broad principles of freedom of the press confer on us an obligation to keep our advertising columns open to all points of view. Therefore, The New York Times accepts advertisements in which groups or individuals comment on public or controversial issues. We make no judgments on an advertiser’s arguments, factual assertions or conclusions. . . . We do not verify, nor do we vouch for, statements of purported fact in advocacy/opinion advertisements. We reserve the right, however, to require documentation of factual claims when it is deemed necessary. . . .

    Our stance with regard to the acceptance of political advertisements is the same as it is for the acceptance of opinion advertisements.

    Can someone ask Thomas Friedman whether the NYT's assertions are "half-baked"?


  • As another example of claptrap emanating from the "sophisticated" progressive media, we have one Fred Vogelstein, who chirps from his perch at Wired: Zuckerberg's View of Speech on Facebook Is Stuck in 2004. (I would have gone for 1791, but that's me.)

    Vogelstein takes for granted that "Russia's manipulation of News Feed" impacted the election. (Never mind that the evidence on that score is at best muddled. But what really gets my goat is the mean-girl insult drops, e.g.:

    Meanwhile, Zuckerberg is still lecturing us with the sophistication of a college student about the importance of free speech in politics.

    I'm not sure at what post-college milestone one is supposed to pick up more "sophisticated" attitudes toward free speech. Rest assured, Vogelstein has attained super-"sophisticated" enlightenment, which gives him the the ability — nay, the duty! — to lecture us all about how we need to be protected from screen pixels that might have been paid for by them Russkies.

    His bottom line:

    Zuckerberg says he gets the complexity of the decisions he and Facebook must make. “The question is, where do you draw the line” between what you keep up and what you take down? he asked in his Georgetown speech.

    The world doesn’t seem to like where Zuckerberg has drawn that line. But Zuckerberg has made it clear he isn’t going to change where he draws it. The only question now is whether someone forces that choice upon him.

    And the more interesting question: is the US a country where the First Amendment still applies?


  • Meanwhile, Bradley A. Smith has some questions for the "enlightened" Jack Dorsey: Twitter’s Banning of Political Ads Demonstrates Confusion About Free Speech..

    Dorsey’s incoherent statement of principles is nothing compared with the confusion likely when the policy is formally announced on November 15. For instance, Dorsey seeks to draw a distinction between those who have “earned” influence and those who “pay for reach.” Presumably, under Twitter’s new policy, a campaign will be able to pay a celebrity $50,000 to tweet out an endorsement or mention. However, a candidate without celebrity fans will be unable to spend $5,000 to promote a tweet. The paid ad may be truthful, while the celebrity tweet may contain what Dorsey calls “unchecked, misleading information,” but only the former will be banned. Or will Twitter disable the accounts of celebrities who accept payments for their tweets, or who relay “unchecked, misleading information?” As determined by whom?

    Dorsey says that he wants to “level the playing field.” Perhaps he, with 4.2 million followers, should shadow-ban himself. Why does being a highly visible CEO mean one has “earned” more political influence than Walmart, the AFL-CIO, or any other entity that seeks to promote its political ideas? Dorsey spent his cash to start Twitter. They want to spend theirs to advertise on Twitter. How does this new policy “level the playing field?”

    Smith notes that Dorsey can run his company as he wants. (A courtesy that Vogelstein, above, is unwilling to extend to Zuck.)

    Just as I'm free to call Dorsey a sanctimonious, incoherent, twit.


  • Just one more link on this? OK, here you go, from John Samples at Cato: Political Ads and Political Truth.

    Let’s consider a hypothetical but realistic case. Imagine the Elizabeth Warren for president campaign wants to buy an ad from Facebook that says, “Two prominent economists—Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman—have found that inequality has grown rapidly. We need a wealth tax now. Vote for Elizabeth Warren for president.” Seeing the ad, some demand it be taken down because critics of Saez-Zucman have argued that their conclusions involve manipulating data; it is, the critics say, filled with falsehoods. Other people associated with the Justin Amash for president campaign buy a Facebook ad that says, “The studies of inequality come from the Data Fudging School of Taxation Advocacy. Let’s have prosperity not a wealth tax. Vote for Justin Amash for president.” Seeing this ad, Saez-Zucman demand that it be taken down. The ad is, they say, based on lies about their research.

    What should Mark Zuckerberg do? I see three choices. He would be well within his rights to refuse to run either ad. Jack Dorsey at Twitter has decided to go down this path. Second, Zuckerberg could take sides and run the Warren ad or the ad of its critics. In short, he (or a fact-checking organization) could decide which one is true and protect Facebook’s users from the other one, the lie. Third, Zuckerberg could do what he has done: he could run both ads and leave it to those who see the ads on Facebook to decide their truth or falsity and the implications of either answer. Zuckerberg has selected the most liberal choice. He has refused to decide whether Piketty-Saez-Zucman or their critics have the best of the argument. Facebook has placed that power and responsibility to decide with its users.

    … which, in a free society, is where it should reside.