Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Jeb Bush Declares His Support For Raising the Capital Gains Tax, Ending the ‘Carried Interest’ Tax Break, and Taxing Most Inherited Wealth. Seriously.

To be sure, after distancing himself from Romney’s formulation, Bush launched into a speech that was loaded up with the usual anti-government boilerplate. Bush did say that “only a small portion” of Americans are “riding the economy’s up escalator,” in keeping with his apparent goal — which is shared by other GOP presidential candidates — to focus his candidacy on inequality, stalled mobility, wage stagnation, and the failure of the recovery’s gains to achieve widespread distribution. But he then went on and on about the folly of expecting “government to deliver prosperity,” trafficked in the usual rhetoric about government picking winners and losers and impeding the magic of competition and economic freedom, and tossed off a few cracks about Washington being a “company town” that “recklessly degrades the value of work.”*

Jeb Bush will liberate the 47 percent, Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, yesterday

Sargent’s report is about a speech Bush gave yesterday to the Detroit Economic Club, which was last in the national political headlines in January 2012, shortly before the Michigan primary, when Romney gave what quickly became my very, very most favoritest of Romney’s public speeches (y’know; the ones that were intended to become public).

Bush recognizes that Washington is a “company town” that “recklessly degrades the value of work.” Cool!!  It is indeed reckless that capital gains, “carried interest,” and the like are taxed at a much lower rate than income from work, and that most inherited wealth is taxed not at all.  But it’s surprising that Jeb Bush recognizes this.

Bush also said that he can’t just run as George Bush’s brother; he has to be his own person with his own political identity.  But who expected such a dramatic break from brother George’s seminal domestic policy?  And so soon into the campaign season!

Jeb Bush, you are indeed not just your brother’s brother.  Are you even your brother’s brother at all?


*Presumably, the company Bush references is Koch Industries. (Added 2/5 at 5:55 p.m.)

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Hillary Clinton Finally Announces Her Campaign Message: She’ll Run as Sarah Palin.

After Republican 2016 hopefuls spent a day struggling to finesse the vaccination debate, the 67-year-old Clinton weighed in roughly an hour before midnight: “The science is clear,” she tweeted late Monday. “The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest.”

Hillary Clinton, grandma-in-chief, Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, yesterday

That’s right, folks.  Hillary Clinton thinks that the debate (such as it is) about childhood vaccines concerns whether or not the vaccines are effective in preventing the targeted diseases, rather than whether the vaccines can have the side effect of causing autism.

Most people, I’m pretty sure, know that the controversy actually concerns a research paper (published in 1998) that suggested a causal relationship between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and the increase in the rates of diagnosed autism in recent decades, a research paper that has long been discredited.  But apparently Clinton is unaware of the nature of the controversy and thinks it’s about the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing measles, mumps and rubella.

Or else she thinks that a cutesy social-media sound bite announcing which side she’s on in this current, high-profile controversy—even a sound bite that misleads about the very nature of the controversy—is a good idea because the subject provides a tie-in with her new status as a grandmother. Discussing the actual nature of the issue would require more than 140 characters and some intellectual input, especially if the statement would provide facts such as that the research study at the heart of the debate has been debunked.  So that’s out-of-the-question.  The purpose isn’t to persuade about an important and imminent matter; it’s to make a statement about her campaign.

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Analytical Perspectives on the Budget: FY 2016


For those not familiar with it the Analytical Perspectives is a companion to the President’s Annual Budget and is a massive compilation of Tables and Figures and explanatory material on all aspects of the economy and of government operations as they pertain to the Budget. And since all such aspects do pertain the Analytical Perspectives offers a comprehensive counterpose to similar (though generally less comprehensive) publications including various Annual Reports of government agencies (cough, cough ** Social Security Administration ** cough) and of CBO Budget Outlook and other publications. For example it allows side by side comparisons of such things as unemployment and GDP projections.

The Analytical Perspectives also serve as a textbook on Government Financial Reporting and so explains why interest payments on say the Social Security Trust Fund are not counted as “outlays”. As defined. In the handy Glossary. It doesn’t make for easy reading but is valuable for all that. Or because of all that. For many of us will come out of a reading understanding that much of our “common sense” “knowledge” of what budget terms HAVE to mean (because we speak English or even Financial Accounting) do not necessarily have the same connotations or even denotations.

For example “deficit”. Anyway I am going to try to re-read the sections on Social Security and examine the contrasting economic projections as compared to those found in the Social Security Reports and corresponding CBO publications. Because the Government does NOT speak with one voice on these matters.

As time allows I will try to break out some Tables into files that can be imported into Excel and other spreadsheet programs. It should be noted that these will still be Tables and not computed Spreadsheets, i.e. no embedded formulae. Still THERE WILL BE NUMBERS. Lots of ’em. Good computing everyone.

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Ryan’s Hope and Change

Jonathan (FBD) Weisman hands the mike to Paul Ryan who denounces Obama’s trickledown envy economics

Mr Ryan [skip] also opposed “envy economics,” a hit on Mr. Obama’s proposals to curb tax breaks on huge individual retirement accounts, to raise the capital gains tax and to tax inheritances based on the value of assets when they were purchased, not based on their value when the owner died.


Mr. Ryan says, the creators are doing well. Others are not.

“The Obamanomics that we’re practicing now have exacerbated inequality. They’ve exacerbated stagnation. They’re made things worse,” he said. “The wealthy are doing really well. They’re practicing trickle down economics now.”

Now it isn’t completely clear to me if the last “they” refers to the wealthy or to the Obamanomists. The sentence makes no sense either way.

But the point is that supply sider Ryan, after reinventing himself as a green eyeshade deficit hawk when the villagers agreed that the deficit was the defining issue of our times, is trying to re-reinvent himself as someone who cares about inequality now that the conventional wisdom is “what may be the defining economic issue of the era — the rising gap between the rich and everyone else —”.

I am not a fan of Mr Weisman. However, both his willingness to quote Ryan at length and his epitomizing of the VSP consensus make this article fascinating.

I do have a problem with the abstract “President Obama’s proposed 10-year budget, to be announced on Monday, will focus on increasing the incomes of the middle class through new spending and tax credits, while adding nearly $6 trillion to the debt” and this sentence “President Obama will propose a 10-year budget on Monday that stabilizes the federal deficit but does not seek balance, instead focusing on policies to address income inequality as he adds nearly $6 trillion to the debt.” The reason is that the proposed reforms “address income inequality” are paired with the total 10 year deficit. It seems to me that the reasonable comparison is the proposed reforms and the proposed 10 year deficit minus the business as usual 10 year deficit.

Weisman (and the anonymous Post staffer) could have well have written that Obama proposes mass production of the extremely expensive F-35 flysing Swiss Army knife and an additional $ 6 trillion in debt. With a bit of work, they could even have reported on the effect of Obama’s proposed reforms on the deficit. But they didn’t.

Weisman didn’t even make it clear that the $ 6 trillion is the proposed 10 year deficit (not the proposed increase in the 10 year deficit). I am sure it is, because the article also says that the debt/GDP ratio will remain about 75% and I can do the math.

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