URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Ryan Bourne, at Cato, is asking the important questions. Well, one important question: Do Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders Really Care About Wealth Inequality?.

    My answer would be: only insofar as they can demagogue the issue to gain political power. But Ryan has a less cynical observation.

    Every year, Credit Suisse calculates a wealth “Gini coefficient” for major countries, indicating their level of wealth inequality in a single number from 0 to 100. Higher numbers indicate higher inequality. In 2018, the U.S. really did have a comparatively high figure at 85, as Warren and Sanders lament. But how this number compares to other countries is instructive.

    Many poorer economies, such as Ethiopia (61), Myanmar (58), and Pakistan (65), have lower wealth inequality than America. Meanwhile, a diverse range of countries have similarly high wealth inequality, including Russia (88) and Kazakhstan (95), through to Sweden (87) and Denmark (84). Unsurprisingly, neither Warren nor Sanders argue for the U.S. to adopt Ethiopia or Pakistan’s economic model in pursuit of more equality. But Bernie Sanders has said in the past that Denmark and Sweden are exemplars par excellence of his vision of “democratic socialism,” seemingly not caring that their wealth distributions are “outrageous,” “grotesque,” or “immoral,” according to his own self-defined standards.

    Ryan co-authored the Cato study on wealth inequality we blogged about yesterday.

  • It's apparently Democrat-slagging Day here at Pun Salad. Here's another look at Senators Bernie and Liz by Veronique de Rugy at Reason: Plans by Warren and Sanders Neglect Logic, Math, and Honesty.

    To be fair, Warren and Sanders aren't the first candidates to make promises they can't deliver. Nor are they unique in campaigning on platforms that would be disastrous for our economy. Most politicians behave this way. In fact, both parties are to blame for implementing bad policies that failed to deliver advertised benefits while adding significant sums to the national debt (think the Affordable Care Act and Medicare Part D, for example). And of course, the lack of fiscal responsibility by the current president is evidenced by the speed at which the budget deficit is rising.

    But what is unique about Warren and Sanders is the scale of their schemes to grow the size of government in America without any consideration for fiscal sanity.

    What truly puzzles me is that while the math doesn't add up at all—and the worlds they want to produce won't see the light of day without serious pain for most Americans—they have hundreds of thousands of people cheering them along the way. This is crazy. Let's be honest, the plans by Warren and Sanders almost sound like a 4-year-old's wish list to improve the country (e.g., more candy, more unicorns, more desserts, cartoons throughout the day, all of which is to be paid for by the Wicked Witch of the West and Captain Hook).

    Veronique references a Daily Beast column by Brian Riedl, headlined "The Magical Thinking Behind Warren’s Medicare for All Plan". His bottom line:

    If Warren is elected president, this plan will face neutral third-party scores likely to show a financing shortfall far into the trillions of dollars. When that happens, advocates will have no alternative than to add significant middle-class taxes, as well as family co-payments or premiums. From there, the plan will face questions as to whether the economy can handle the largest tax increase in American history–as well as whether health care costs can be contained with reforms that both increase the demand for health care services and squeeze the supply of health providers through aggressive payment rate reductions. Medicare-For-All faces a long and difficult path to enactment.

    Brian is diplomatic and restrained, although I'm reading "batshit crazy" between every line.

  • Kevin D. Williamson at National Review gets a little closer to the truth, I think: Elizabeth Warren Thinks Voters Are Stupid.

    Sub-headline: "There isn't any obvious reason to doubt that she's right." Kevin isn't running for office, so he can afford to be honest.

    The bad news is, Elizabeth Warren has some barmy ideas about raising your taxes. The good news is, she’s a proven coward. She says she likes to “nerd out” on the policy details. Okay, let’s do that.

    Warren estimates that her health-care scheme would cost about $2 trillion — every year, forever. As often is the case when we are talking about the federal budget, the numbers sound incomprehensible to many people: millions, billions, trillions, squidillions, whatever. To put that $2 trillion a year into perspective, a comparison: That is more money than the federal government collects annually in all of the personal and corporate income taxes combined. Put another way, even if the federal government were able to successfully double the revenue it gets from personal and corporate income taxes, the additional revenue would not pay for Warren’s health-care plan.

    KDW suggests a new campaign slogan for Liz:

    Give me the power now — we’ll work out the details later.

    Ghastly, probably honest.

  • Writing at the Federalist, Nathanael Blake has an interesting take: How Libertarianism Makes People Susceptible To Huge Government. As someone who's somewhere around 70/30 libertarian/conservative, my ears prick up…

    David Marcus, The Federalist’s New York correspondent, recently tweeted that he can’t make up his mind about whether he fears “the socialists or the libertarians more.” Robert Tracinski, an author and the editor of The Tracinski Letter, responded, “LOL. God forbid we should…leave you alone.” This was a good Twitter burn, but I suspect that for many people, that is precisely what they fear about libertarianism: that they will be left alone.

    They have a point, insofar as libertarianism has become less about a commitment to limited government and more a philosophy of autonomous individualism. The latter is an ideology that undermines the possibility of the former, in large part because it really does leave people alone. Cordially leaving the two gentlemen to settle their dispute, I will attempt to elucidate this point.

    … and he does. I think Nathanael unfortunately strawmans libertarians when he implies that they ignore the necessity of strong cultural underpinnings for a free society. But some libertarians sometimes sound as if they've forgotten that, so maybe take Nathanael's article as a friendly reminder.

Case Histories

[Amazon Link]

I heard good things about Kate Atkinson, so I thought I would give her a try. This book is her first in the "Jackson Brodie" series. Jackson is an ex-cop private eye. But this book doesn't follow normal PI-genre conventions. For one thing, Jackson doesn't even show up until page 69, after three separate crimes have been committed: a missing toddler; a young woman murdered by a crazed knife-wielder; a young wife and mother giving her husband ax-whacks. Worse, the crimes are old: 1970, 1994, 1979.

But eventually Jackson gets entangled with all of them: two of the toddler's sisters make a shocking discovery that casts a new light on the disappearance, asking Jackson to check it out. The guilt-burdened father of one of the murder victims seeks Jackson's services. And (eventually) the sister of the ax-whacker in the third case asks Jackson to track down the murderer's daughter, entrusted to her parents, now missing.

And, oh yeah, someone's apparently trying to kill Jackson. Related to one of these cases, or not?

Ms. Atkinson keeps things tricky by jumping around in time, using multiple points-of-view (sometimes describing the same incident later from a different POV). And the book describes some pretty sordid, twisted, and generally abhorrent behavior. A back-cover blurb describes this as a "tragi-comedy for our times", but I'd go with 95% tragi.