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

My response to Run’s and Barkley Rosser’s analogies to the 1980 election

Run’s post here discusses and elaborates on a comment by Barkley Rosser in the Comments thread to this post of mine.  I posted the following reply to Barkley’s comment, and reposted that comment as a comment to Run’s post:

Barkley, I certainly share your fear that Trump actually could pull this off, but I don’t think your analogy to Carter-Reagan works.  Key here is the generational change.  Reagan had been a two-term governor of California, and although even back in 1980 I had only a pretty general idea of what he’d done as governor, I read a detailed article recently discussing his actions during the Free Speech Movement (that’s what it was called, right?) at Berkeley.  It was pretty aggressive, rough stuff.

I don’t think I realized back in 1980—or at least I don’t remember doing so—that apparently a part of Reagan’s appeal to blue-collar whites and I guess to some WWII and Korean War generation, and Silent Generation voters was an anti-counterculture persona, which still mattered, a lot, in 1980.

After all, the Vietnam War had ended only six years earlier.  And the Cold War was still very much raging.

What I remember about the 1980 election was a dog-whistle racist appeal to blue-collar whites, coupled with inflation that seemingly could not be brought under control and for what unions (along with the oil cartel) was given substantial blame.  The unions would incorporate anticipated high inflation into their three-year wage contracts, providing part of the inflation spiral—so Reagan’s anti-union schtik didn’t have the normal effect on union members.

But more than anything else, there was the Iran hostage situation—which, it later was reported, continued past the election because Reagan somehow quietly was able to communicate with Iran’s powers-that-be that they should hold out until after the election and that Reagan, as president, would negotiate better terms with them.  (Like Nixon’s secret plan to end the war!!)

The reason that the “There you go again” line was so effective was that a key thing that Carter had going for him was something similar to a key thing that Johnson had going for him against Goldwater: a real fear that he could start a nuclear confrontation or actual war.   So “There you go again” was a promise that he was not Goldwater on the issue of confrontation with the Soviet Union, and would instead use other means against it.  It was, in other words, a promise that Reagan would avoid nuclear war, not precipitate it.  And although Reagan, like Trump, was a pathological liar, he was not so obvious a one.

Nor did Reagan gyrate wildly between opposite policy positions, nor come off as clueless about policy and the workings of government, nor seem care about policy.  To the contrary, Reagan was all about ideology and therefore policy proposals.

So while it’s not inconceivable that Trump could beat Hillary Clinton, I guess the bottom line on that is:  I knew Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was no friend of mine.  And, Donald Trump, you’re no Ronald Reagan.  Nor is today’s electorate the 1980 electorate.

As for the possibility of a Clinton indictment, I think it’s virtually nil.  But if something major happens before the Convention, then as long as Sanders manages to keep Clinton from clinching with pledged delegates, I think that there would be a consensus draft of Warren or (possibly but less likely, in my opinion) Biden, now that the story was published that he would ask Warren to be his running mate.

One thing that I think matters in whether Trump can get a sizable vote among blue-collar workers in Rust Belt states—I don’t know how his vote total compares with Clinton’s in those states, but remember: Kasich beat Trump in Ohio—is that Build the Wall doesn’t have even nearly the same appeal to Rust Belt blue-collar workers as it does to Southern and Southwestern older and middle-aged white voters.

Another is the critical allegiance of blue-collar Rust Belt voters to the idea of unionization.  Suffice it to say that few blue collar workers in the Rust Belt these days fear an inflationary spiral caused by generous union-negotiated contracts, as, I noted above, was the case in 1980.

Nor do most blue-collar Rust Belters worry that a raise in the federal minimum wage would cause them to lose their Walmart or fast-food jobs because of competition from Chinese or Indian or Vietnamese workers.  Most Walmart and fast-food customers in the Rust Belt don’t commute to Asia to shop or dine.  Not often, anyway.

And as for Michiganders, I can attest that fear of Muslims living in their midst is no widespread.  Southeast Michigan has the largest population of Middle Eastern immigrants and descendants in this country, and make up a large percentage of small-business owners in the area.  Only once did I hear a derogatory comment about—as this man put it to me—“AY-rabs”, from a Michigander.  Only once.

Clinton makes a mistake if she opts to focus mainly on Trump’s misogyny, racism, xenophobia, meanness, vulgarity, physically aggressive language.  Everyone already knows these things.  She needs to focus, in addition to her own policy proposals, on two things about Trump: that he is openly demonstrating that he will be a tool of the Club for Growth and Ayn Ryan, and that this is especially so because he has no ability to understand actual policy; that because he is a pathological liar, and prides himself on it, they cannot ever actually rely on any promise he makes, any more than they could rely on a promise by a typical four-year-old.

I don’t think there can be any real doubt that Trump suffers from severe, untreated mental illness—severe bipolar disease or non-hallucinatory schizophrenia, is my guess, but I’m certainly no expert in the field.  But I think Clinton should expect that that is something that most voters will see for themselves by November; they will not need her to tell them this.

Not that Clinton normally refrains from telling people the obvious or the already-widely known, a point I made in a recent post here, but ….

She needs to educate the public about what the Ayn Ryan policy agenda is.  I mean, the actual specifics of it.  Not in her usual singsong soundbite cliché manner, which is likely to be as effective in informing the public as her rotating string of vapid campaign slogans (“Breaking down barriers!” is the current one, I think, although that might be out-of-date) has been in generating excitement.

No, actual specifics, enunciated in normal conversational sentences.  Nothing cutesy, no sleights of hand, no non sequiturs, no seminar-speak like “the energy sector,” a phrase she used when campaigning in West Virginia because she confused her audience (many of them former energy-sector workers) with members of the finance sector.  Just the facts, Ma’am.  And just in normal-speak.

She needs, in other words, to give herself–and us–some breathing room.

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Remembering the Carter-Reagan Race

Barkley Rosser made an interesting comment on one of the threads which is worthy of a separate posting. He is pointing out similarities between Trump and Reagan in saying whatever they want to say, backing away from them (it was just a suggestion), and never being held accountable for making statements devoid of facts. People leap to the unrealistic or untrue commentary and when the statement is challenged, the candidate disavows them while the voters remember what was initially said.

“Trump is pulling something that I think he is going to get away with, which is that he can just say all kinds of things that appeal to certain people, but when people who dislike those things complain, well, he just disavows them or “walks them back,” maybe, for a little while, whatever. So he gains with those who like this stuff, but he manages to avoid being really held accountable seriously for any of it (“that is just a suggestion”). So none of us really know what his positions are on anything, and he in fact may not really have any. It is all about him and his ego and his claim to power, and those who are impressed will vote for him.

What I worry about on this is remembering the Carter-Reagan race. About this time in 1980 Dems were hoping Reagan would be the nominee. He had just said that “trees cause pollution” (which is technically correct if one counts pollen as pollution), which had led to him having very low poll ratings. Oh boy, the Dems were drooling at the prospect of running against this numbskull who would say all kinds of goofy stuff in contrast to more serious candidates like BWH Bush.

Now of course there were other reasons Reagan won, including a bad economy and the embarrassment of the Iran hostage crisis, but I remember all too well the first debate between them, which was universally viewed as a victory by Reagan, with Carter never recovering after that in the polls. I remember that if one was paying close attention, Carter “won on points,” doing well at pointing out the silliness of much of what Reagan was saying. But then there was that magic moment when after Carter criticized him for his warmongering foreign policy statements, Reagan just leaned back and said, “There you go again,” and that was it. He won the debate on a single well-delivered phrase that was in fact devoid of content. But, it sold.

So I fear that whether it is Hillary or Bernie (still has a small chance, much better if HRC gets indicted before the convention), they can win on points showing how nonsensical statement after statement Trump has said is, but then he wins the darned debate with some wisecrack along the lines of what Reagan pulled with Carter.

As it is, both Hillary and Bernie are seriously wonkish, with pretty well developed platforms. We have seen extended discussions and debates about their positions on various issues here, and it is known that Hillary especially has a very long and detailed set of positions, with some charging that she has overdone it going too wonkish. Unlike others I do not think she will just drop all that the minute she gets in, if she gets in, but I do think that both she and Bernie will end up modifying what they advocate when face a GOP-controlled House, which I think is highly likely, even if hopefully the Dems do manage to take the Senate.

But there is a real possibility of a replay of 1980, whichever of them is the Dem candidate.”

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President Chauncey Gardiner: ‘Being There’ at the Bait-and-Switch [Updated]

But one of Trump’s campaign advisers suggested Wednesday that Trump might indeed change Social Security and Medicare — but only after he has been in office for a while. “After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Sam Clovis said during a public forum, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Has Donald Trump stolen Paul Ryan’s party out from under him?, David Fahrenthold, Washington Post, today

As the above quote illustrates, Donald Trump hasn’t stolen Paul Ryan’s party out from under him.  Fahrenthold didn’t write the headline; he just wrote the article, and the headline writer missed its point, reversing the puppet and the puppeteer.

Unlike Chance, Trump knows he’s being coopted by the Republican establishment and that he is perpetrating a coup-like bait-and-switch on a sizable swath of his primary voters.  The most dangerous thing about Trump isn’t even the breadth of his ignorance but instead the casualness with which he has decided to simply front the Club for Growth agenda.

But he does have this in common with President Chauncey Gardiner: the sheer depth of his dumbness.  And therefore the completeness of his manipulability.  He’s switched entertainment genres, from reality TV to puppet theater.


UPDATE: Last weekend after reading an article or two about Trump’s statement to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that he would like to see the minimum wage increased but wanted it left up to the states, I recognized that Trump was parroting the leave-the-minimum-wage-up-to-the-states standard Republican line, which one of his campaign officials had fed him.  I assumed that he knew this was the standard Conservative Movement invocation of “federalism”—a.k.a., states’ rights!—in the service of the Chamber of Commerce/Club for Growth anti-regulatory agenda.  These folks, after all, don’t put Republican state legislators and governors into their elected positions for the fun of it.

But I was wrong.  The articles I read didn’t quote enough of Trump’s answer.

I just finished reading a post by Paul Waldman on the Washington Post’s Plum Line titled “Trump is waging an assault on the entire structure of our democracy. Now what?”, in which Waldman uses as an illustration Trump’s statements about the minimum wage last fall and his several statements about it within the last four days.   Waldman writes:

Speaking [to reporters after his meeting with Trump today, Paul] Ryan said, “It was important that we discussed our differences that we have, but it was also important that we discuss the core principles that tie us together,” and that “Going forward we’re going to go a little deeper in the policy weeds to make sure we have a better understanding of one another.”

This is a fool’s errand, not just for Ryan but for us in the media as well. And it poses a profound challenge to democracy itself.

Just in the last couple of days, something has changed. Perhaps it should have been evident to us before, but for whatever reason it was only partially clear. The pieces were there, but they didn’t fit together to show us how comprehensive Trump’s assault on the fundamentals of American politics truly is….

The foundation of democratic debate is policy, issues, the choices we make about what we as a nation should do. That’s what the government we create does on our behalf: it confronts problems, decides between alternatives, and pursues them. That’s also the foundation of how we in the press report on politics. Yes, we spend a lot of time talking about the personalities involved, but underneath that are competing ideas about what should be done. Should we raise taxes or lower them? Spend more or spend less? Make abortions easier or harder to get? Give more people health coverage or fewer? How do we combat ISIS? How should we address climate change? How can we improve the economy? How can we reduce crime? What sort of transportation system do we want? Which areas should government involve itself in, and which should it stay out of?

We all presume that these questions (and a thousand more) are important, and that the people who run for office should take them seriously. We assume they’ll tell us where they stand, we’ll decide what we think of what they’ve said, and eventually we’ll be able to make an informed choice about who should be the leader of our country.

Donald Trump has taken these presumptions and torn them to pieces, then spat on them and laughed. And so far we seem to have no idea what to do about it.

Let me briefly give an illustration. On the question of the minimum wage, Trump has previously said he would not raise it. Then Sunday he said he did want to raise it. Then in a separate interview on the very same day he said there should be no federal minimum wage at all, that instead we should “Let the states decide.” Then yesterday he said he does want to increase the federal minimum wage.

I clicked on one of the links, which was to the transcript of the Meet the Press interview.  Here’s the full exchange between Todd and Trump on the minimum wage:


Minimum wage. Minimum wage. At a debate, you know. You remember what you said. You thought you didn’t want to touch it. Now you’re open to it. What changed?


Let me just tell you, I’ve been traveling the country for many months. Since June 16th. I’m all over. Today I’m in the state of Washington, where the arena right behind me, you probably hear, is packed with thousands and thousands of people. I’m doing that right after I finish you.

I have seen what’s going on. And I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour. Now, with that being said, I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide. Because don’t forget, the states have to compete with each other. So you may have a governor —


Right. You want the fed– but should the federal government set a floor, and then you let the states–


No, I’d rather have the states go out and do what they have to do. And the states compete with each other, not only other countries, but they compete with each other, Chuck. So I like the idea of let the states decide. But I think people should get more. I think they’re out there. They’re working. It is a very low number. You know, with what’s happened to the economy, with what’s happened to the cost. I mean, it’s just– I don’t know how you live on $7.25 an hour. But I would say let the states decide.

Trump wants to leave minimum-wage legislation entirely up to the states so that the states could compete with each other on how low the wages of their fast-food workers, Walmart employees, hospitality industry workers and home-healthcare aides can go, folks.  This would be his aim as president.  Because he thinks these workers should get more because they can’t live on $7.25 an hour.  And because less is more.  And more is less.  More or less.

What’s happening here is that Trump hears terms, phrases, lines, clichés that people who talk about policy use, and since he doesn’t understand anything, he just says a memorized policy bottom line—the minimum wage should be left to the states, for example—fed to him from the Republican policy playbook.  And then, when asked to elaborate, he starts spewing terms, phrases, lines, clichés that he’s heard people who talk about policy use.  And—voila!—we have … non sequiturs.

Popcorn, anyone?

Update added 5/12 at 6:58 p.m.

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The Role of the U.S. in the Global Financial System

by Joseph Joyce

The Role of the U.S. in the Global Financial System

The mandate of the Federal Reserve is clear: “…promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates.” How to achieve those goals, of course, has been the subject of great debate: should the central bank use interest rates or monetary aggregates? should it rely on rules or discretion? The ongoing controversy within the U.S. over the benefits and costs of globalization opens up the issue of the geographic scope of the Fed’s responsibilities: does the Fed (and for that matter the U.S. Treasury) need to worry about the rest of the world?

Stanley Fischer, Federal Reserve Vice Chair (and former first deputy managing director of the IMF) sees a role for limited intervention. Fischer acknowledges the feedback effects between the U.S. and the rest of the world. The U.S. economy represents nearly one quarter of the global economy, and this preponderance means that U.S. developments have global spillovers. Changes in U.S. interest rates, for example, are transmitted to the rest of the world, and the “taper tantrum” showed how severe the responses could be. Therefore, Fischer argues, our first responsibility is “to keep our own house in order.” It also entails acknowledging that efforts to restore financial stability can not be limited by national borders. During the global financial crisis, the Fed established swap lines with foreign central banks so that they could provide liquidity to their own banks that had borrowed in dollars to hold U.S. mortgage-backed securities. Fischer cautions, however, that the Fed’s global responsibilities are not unbounded. He acknowledges Charles Kindleberger’s assertion that international stability can only be ensured by a financial hegemon or global central bank, but Fischer states, “…the U.S. Federal Reserve System is not that bank.”

The U.S. did hold that hegemonic position, however, during the Bretton Woods era when we ensured the convertibility of dollars held by central banks to gold. We abandoned the role when President Richard Nixon ended gold convertibility in 1971 and the Bretton Woods system subsequently ended. Governments have subsequently experimented with all sorts of exchange rate regimes, from fixed to floating and virtually everything in between.

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The Most Successful Trojan Horse Since the Trojan War

A key to beating Trump is to point out that on fiscal and other domestic policy at least, the election contest will not be to determine whether there will be another President Clinton or instead a President Trump.  There will be either a new President Clinton or a President Manafort.

Every time Trump tries to hint at the beginning of a back-away from Conservative Movement fiscal and other domestic policy, and toward some genuine economic-populist fiscal and anti-Chamber of Commerce regulatory policy, Edgar Bergen, er, [longtime Republican operative and current Trump campaign chief] Paul Manafort, quickly aborts it.

This will be a source of amusement for me going forward, although less so if Clinton fails to note this early and often, whether for fear of losing campaign donations or otherwise.  And less so still if she appears to be running as President Manafort Light.

— Me, here, May 9

Call me prescient.  Or just observant.  In contrast to my own party’s standard-bearer-in-waiting. Who is not.

A dismaying hallmark of Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been her penchant for highlighting the obvious or the already-very-well-known.  That she’s a woman and would be the first woman president, for example.  And that Donald Trump has campaigned on xenophobia and racism, is a blatant misogynist, has invited violence toward protesters at his rallies, and is pretty clearly mentally unbalanced, for another.  The theory is that the public needs to be told or reminded of these things because they’re unaware of them or have forgotten them, see.

Yet, hiding from the public, but (presumably) in plain sight of Clinton and her campaign for more than a half-year, has been Trump’s extreme-supply-side tax plan, posted suddenly on his website last October after months of intimating a preference for anti-supply-side, far more progressive tax policy. Reversing himself, dramatically but quietly, that proposal out-supply-sided, out-fiscal-regressive’d the Koch brothers’ candidates’ proposals, in order to fend off a threatened torrent of anti-Trump ads by a Koch-affiliated super PAC.  Which he did.

Trump’s intended audience, the Kochs, et al., of course have known of that tax proposal since the day he posted it on his campaign’s website.  But since he never mentioned it at his rallies or in interviews, his supporters didn’t.  And they still don’t, because Trump has avoided telling them, and so has Hillary Clinton.

True to form, Clinton sticks mainly to her stock in trade: anti-anti-women, anti-anti-ethnic-and-racial-animus.  A.k.a. identity politics.  Important issues, of course.  But so is supply-side, extremely regressive fiscal policy.  She knows that everyone knows Trump’s campaign positions and conduct concerning the first set of issues, and that very few people know of his tax proposal.  Yet she remains mum on the latter.  Notwithstanding that all she actually needs to do to win in November is inform the public of the latter.  At least until, I had feared, Trump withdraws his Heritage Foundation-inspired tax proposal, slapped together by adopting Jeb Bush’s and just increasing the size of the tax cuts for the wealthy, and began once again intimating support for a more progressive tax code than the current one.

And for about 24 hours late last week, after vacillating between trying to unify the party (via supply-side fiscal policy) and telling the party to go to hell (reversing himself on his supply-side tax proposal), he hinted at the first steps toward a reversal, prompted by Paul Ryan’s refusal to indicate support for Trump.  But faced with the immediate need to decide to largely self-fund his general-election campaign or instead be coopted by the party’s establishment, he opted for cooptation.

Hook, line … and sinker.  Explicitly.  Very publicly.  And with the vigor of a genuine convert, in a burning-his-bridges interview on CNN on Monday.  Reiterated even more clearly to The New York Times’ The Upshot blogger Peter Eavis later Monday.  Eavis writes today:

The 1 percent can breathe a small collective sigh of relief.

Hillary Clinton’s platform contains many new taxes for the wealthy, and in recent days it seemed that Donald Trump might be moving in the same direction. When asked Sunday on “Meet the Press” about taxing the rich, Mr. Trump said: “For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it’s going to go up. And you know what? It really should go up.”

He now says he wasn’t talking about the current income tax rate for people in the highest bracket, which is 39.6 percent. If he had been, it would have been a big move for Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to push that rate higher. His official tax plan envisions a top rate of 25 percent. In a phone interview on Monday, I sought clarification from Mr. Trump on his remarks about raising taxes on the rich. I asked him whether the highest earners would be paying more than 39.6 percent if he were president.

“No, in fact, you’d be lower than that,” Mr. Trump said.

But how, given that he had said that taxes would be going up for the wealthy? Mr. Trump explained that he meant he might have to accept a top tax rate that is higher than the 25 percent his plan calls for. To get his tax plans through Congress, he would probably have to compromise, but even after such concessions, the top rate would be lower than it is now, he said.

The title of Eavis’s post? “Donald Trump’s Plan to Raise Taxes on Rich: Just Kidding.”

That is all Clinton needs to win against Trump.  That’s it.  It also probably is all the Democrats need in order to win control of both houses of Congress.  Yet Clinton thinks triangulation is the way to go right now.  So, mum’s the word.  And I guess will continue to be.

Old habits die hard.  Or don’t die at all.

For all her habitual blow-with-the-winds, follow-the-crowd positioning, Clinton is remarkably slow in recognizing a change in the direction in which the crowd is going.

Her campaign reportedly is ringing its hands today that it, and she, must continue to fight a primary contest that she has already effectively won, rather than redirecting her campaign fully toward the general election.  By which she and her campaign mean rebutting Trump on what Trump rebuts himself on month after month.  And, reportedly, apprising the public of things in Trump’s background that no part of the general public knows about and that have nothing directly to do with actual policy preferences and proposals.  But they do not mean making known to the blue-collar Rust Belt voters who will determine the outcome of the result in, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania that Trump is proposing and vowing not to back away from a plan to dramatically reduce federal taxes for the very wealthy.

And it probably will not mean noting that he’s now mouthing, word-for-word, the Mitt Romney/Club for Growth lines about jobs creators needing very low taxes so that they can create jobs.  Or pay more in dividends, stock buybacks and executive bonuses. 

Tomorrow, behind closed doors with Paul Ryan & Friends, he will swear fealty to Mitt Romney’s platform.  And not just the part written literally, it turns out, by the Heritage Foundation and CNBC!  Also the part written by the Federalist Society. Including on Supreme Court and lower-court appointments.  Suffice it to say that his promise to hand Supreme Court and lower federal court appointments back to the Federalist Society would bode well for the Koch legal agenda.  And for the continued life of Citizens United.

For unions and people who aren’t so fond of Wall Street, though, not so much.

This all can be said to the public in a few sentences—most of them quotes from those two interviews, one of them videotaped and readily available.  There’s Trump, himself, saying these things.  This is what unifying “the party” means.  The price of running a modern general election campaign is this.  Literally.  And figuratively.   The pundits and Hillary Clinton have their eye on the red herring.

This candidate is the ultimate 0.1% proxy–potentially the most successful Trojan Horse since the Trojan War.  Trump has perfected to a science the art of the deal.

Clinton can begin saying these things now.  She doesn’t have to wait until the end of the primary season to begin saying them.  Her super PACs don’t, either.  And Bernie Sanders’ supporters won’t object.

Trust me.  I’m one of them.

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Religion and Tax–not an easy issue

by Linda Beale

Religion and Tax–not an easy issue

The Atlantic magazine has an article in the May 3 2016 issue asking “Should Courts Get to Define Religion?”

The article deals with a Catholic shrine in Attleboro Massachusetts, Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette, that covers almost 200 acres of land and includes what are undoubtedly religious places of worship as well as a coffee shop, conference rooms, bookstore and grounds that are decorated during the Christmas holidays with lights and Santa Claus and all the other gimmickry that draws thousands of tourists to see the Christmas display.

The state has a colonial-era law that exempts religious houses of worship and the dwellings of their ministers from payment of property taxes if they are used for religious worship or instruction.  The town of Attleboro has in the past allowed the entire shrine property to claim the exemption, but on closer examination it concluded that much of the property is used for secular, commercial purposes and should be subject to property tax.  The city sent a bill.  The shrine paid but is seeking redress through the courts by arguing that the entire 199 acre compound is used for religious purposes.  Not surprisingly, religious leaders across faiths have supported a brief claiming that local governments can’t “presume to deem whether one use of a religious organization’s property or another falls within the definition of ‘religious worship’.  That’s a claim, in other words, that a religion can proclaim that whatever it wants is to be respect as “religious use” and any government must accede to that religion’s view of itself, even if the activities are clearly commercial in nature and the same as what other enterprises do as part of their money-making ventures.

Here’s the problem.  As long as we single out religious institutions and properties for tax breaks, we have needlessly entangled the state in determining “what counts” as a religious institution or religious activity.  I do not think the First Amendment was meant to, or should, protect religious institutions or religious properties from paying their fair share of taxes.  I think the First Amendment was meant to protect a person’s individual views from the particularized attention of the state, either positive or negative attention:  that is, the State should not be able to target an individual for that person’s beliefs.  That is the core idea behind the notion of generally applicable laws: if public accommodations are supposed to be open to all, then no one can deny someone service based on either the owner’s or the customer’s religious beliefs.  Religion should not be disadvantaged relative to other institutional organizations, but neither should religious institutions be advantaged.  Accordingly, tax exemptions such as the property tax exemptions that exist in many U.S. cities and states, are problematic:  they provide a special advantage to people who work in churches (tax-free housing for parsonages, etc.) and a special advantage to commercial enterprises run by churches (property tax exemptions for bookstores, cafes, flea markets, tourist venues, performances, and all the other trappings of religious institutions, made even more clearly egregious when the religious institution claims to follow a “prosperity gospel” approach that treats commercial market success as part of its religious activities).

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Quick Links, 10 May 2016

Kevin Drum discovers what I’ve been telling people for more than a decade.

Brad DeLong admits that the reason economists don’t know jack about economic growth is that their models don’t support it. There’s a reason Mankiw, Romer, and Weil (1992) is the most dangerous short-form piece of immature fiction since Atlas Shrugged.*

(Original source, at the bottom.)

Paul Campos notes how deeply Matt Yglesias is in the tank in attempting to portray Trump as rational.

(full Salon article link)

Credit when due: Brad also noted that Robert’s recent AB post about being off the ZLB [now with link!] contains a bit of magical thinking. Robert’s response is well worth noting, as is ex-AB member PGL’s parry. Someone invite these guys to do a BloggingHeads.

*This is the long-form one.

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The Revenge Of Joan Robinson: Capital Theory Controversies Revive

by Barkley Rosser

The Revenge Of Joan Robinson: Capital Theory Controversies Revive

It is easy to argue about what is the most important or influential thing that the late Joan Robinson did in economics.  More conventional types would probably point to her widely accepted and even textbookified Economics of Imperfect Competition.  Some would point to her later more philosophical and methodological writings about historical time versus analytical time.  Many Post (or post-) Keynesians revere her closenss to Keynes and Kalecki and see her as the godmother-founder of their movement  who could see the unity among their various bickering factions.  But others would look to her work on capital theory in the 1950s, her 1954 paper in the RES, “The production function and the theory of capital,” along with the appendices to her 1956 The Accumulation of Capital, as well as her influence on Piero Sraffa to publish his famous book in 1960.  This was the trigger for the famous Cambridge controversies in the theory of capital that reached a culmination a half century ago when Paul Samuelson agreed that the “parable” he and some of his students had set forth was not true in general, given such paradoxes as reswitching (called the “Ruth Cohen curiosum” by Joan Robinson), with him declaring in 1966 in the QJE that, “the foundations of economic theory are built on sand.”

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