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Joel Slemrod - Tax Issues


Slemrod has Taxing Ourselves, and my favorite: Does Atlas Shrug?. Some of his articles are available at the Urban Institute, and some abstracts are available at NBER.

Cheney interviewed in Plame Investigation

The New York Times

2006 Budget Cuts

2006 Cuts In Domestic Spending On Table (washingtonpost.com)

Lamar Smith Dear Colleague Letter:

Was There Any Doubt?
Facts for your file...
  • A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that there are five times as many self-identified liberals in the media as conservatives (U.S. News & World Report; June 7, 2004).
  • Just 7% of journalists and news executives call themselves conservative, while 34% identify themselves as liberal.
  • Nearly half of the journalists polled stated that journalists too often let their ideological views color their work.
  • The percentage of liberal journalists is on the rise: nine years ago only 22% described themselves as liberal, while 34% do now.
Lamar Smith
Member of Congress
It should be a crime for a member of Congress to waste taxpayer money spreading tripe and half-truths. Eric Alterman argues that the study's most important claim is that journalists, but not management, think conglomeration is hurting journalism. He also usefully analyzes what conservatives think is the increasing liberalization of the media:
True, the number of liberals is rising — it was only twenty-two percent nine years ago — and the trend among local journalists is moving the same way — twenty-three percent say they are liberals, up from fourteen percent in 1995 — but this is largely a product of the ability of the far right to move the discourse into its home territory. A decade ago, someone who held the views espoused by George W. Bush would be considered a far right-extremist. Someone who held views to his left — say Senator McCain or perhaps George H.W. Bush — was considered a liberal. Today, top Republican leaders want to kick McCain out of the party and Bush himself refers to his father as "weak" and mocks his desire in 1991 to seek a UN mandate and genuine coalition before going to war. If more journalists are calling themselves "liberal" and fewer "conservative," well that's because the word conservative has been hijacked by radical reactionaries and neocons who are closer in temperament to revolutionaries than to historic conservatives like Edmund Burke or Alexander Hamilton.
He also repeats his argument - made so effectively in What Liberal Media - that the politics of management and owners matter as much or more than the politics of journalists.

One of the more frustrating things about the "liberal media" debate is how closely it parallels the debate on judicial nominations. The nominations controversy centers on whether a candidate will constrain his or her personal ideology with the professional and doctrinal norms of the judiciary. Republicans say that people like Priscilla Owen - who have a demonstrated track record of ignoring precedent and abusing normal legal conventions - will "follow the law." Those same Republicans think the personal ideology of journalists is all consuming. Lamar Smith can be contacted here.

Bush Ad Accuses Kerry of Talking Down the Economy

LA Times:

"'The Bush campaign countered with a new television ad accusing Kerry of grasping for bad news in the midst of a robust recovery.

He's talking about the Great Depression,' states the ad, which is scheduled to begin running Monday on national cable channels. 'One thing's sure: Pessimism never created a job.'"
Remember these?
  • BUSH: This is going to be a very practical administration. We will view problems, analyze them, and deal with them. We'll be as up front as we can with the American people. We'll explain when we can get something done quickly, and we'll explain when we can't get something done quickly. We're not going to shirk from the problems with which we're confronted.

  • BBC: "Some commentators suggest Mr Bush is seeking to bolster the case for his proposed $1.3 trillion tax cut and to pin the blame for any further economic downturn firmly on the outgoing administration.

    "What you're seeing is President-elect Bush and his team actually talking down our economy, (and) injecting more fear and anxiety into the economy than is justified," said Gene Sperling, an economic advisor to President Clinton."

  • "JIM LEHRER: But what about the specific charge, Mark, that the President has actually been talking down the economy in order to justify his tax cuts, and say see, I told you we needed tax cuts because look what the economy is doing?

    MARK SHIELDS: I don't think there is any question that is a developed strategy. It was born in the campaign, you recall. Trying to rob Al Gore of any advantage he might receive as the Vice President of Bill Clinton during the greatest boom -- eight-year boom in the nation's history -- both Vice President Cheney, the nominee then, and Governor Bush warned about this signs of recession out there. I think the President walks a very dangerous line. I think it makes sense for him politically. Paul makes an argument that it probably does give a certain argument in the case for his tax cut, Jim, but what a President has to be in addition to being candid, is a President has to be reassuring. That's what a leader is. If you think that the economy is bad, the only analogy I can use, you are in a stopped subway car between stations, you want at that point an authoritative voice to come in and say this is where we are -- this is what' being done, this is how we are going to get out of here. And I don't think - I think there has been enough of that -- very little reassurance in the President's rhetoric."

  • Dick Gephardt: "I am disappointed that after months of talking down the economy and driving down consumer confidence, the President, in his speech today, offered only a warmed over rehash of his own proposals and priorities. Unchanged from a year ago, his economic plan fail to address both the short-term or long-term needs of the American economy."
If "talking down the economy" is a real phenomenon, then George W. has four years of recession to answer for.

Bush Weak With Swingers

LA Times: Key Voters Are Less Positive on Bush Than Most, Poll Finds:

"The survey tracked down 832 people in that group as part of a larger poll of 8,314 American adults, reached by phone from May 1 to May 31. The margin of sampling error was 3% for the smaller group and 1% for the public at large.

Overall, potential swing voters in the key states gave Bush slightly lower job approval ratings than Americans in general did. While 44% of those swing voters approved of Bush's job performance, 48% of the full American public gave him positive ratings.

On Iraq, just 30% of the potential swing voters in battleground states said they approved of how Bush was handling the situation, while 40% of the nation at large approved.

Like the public at large, these voters named Iraq as the most important problem facing the country, followed by the economy.

Just 30% of potential swing voters in the battleground states approved of Bush's handling of the economy, while 41% of the public at large approved.

'In general, they're more pessimistic about everything, and that's not good news for Bush,' said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the survey."
Good news.

New York Review is Out Again

I know that the newest Massing article is already in circulation. There are plenty of other good articles in the latest issue, though only one good political essay is online: The Logic of Torture, Mark Danner's second piece. His first was also quite good.

Andrew Hacker has a summary essay on Sam Huntington's new racist screed, Reich's Reason, Brooks' Paradise Drive, Greenberg's Two Americas, and Shipler's Working Poor. Gary Wills has a review of Edmund Morgan's essays from the New York Review. Charles Simic has an essay on Borislav Pekic's How to Quiet a Vampire.


Calling Out The Press

Michael Massing, NY Review: Unfit to Print?

The media really isn't getting it right. Their reporting is weak, their naive faith in this administration is catastrophic, and their timidity in the face of conservative bitching is appalling.

Massing has added to his invaluable earlier dismantling of the major media's reporting on the Iraq war. He argues that:

  • Woodward had the chance to reveal the weakness of the administration's case for war, and refused to take it.
  • The NYT Judith Miller apology is not open and honest, not a good sign of things to come.
  • "Aside from the Abu Ghraib scandal, which has taken over the Time's coverage, the paper has seemed intent on keeping bad news off the front page, especially when it reflects poorly on the Bush administration."
  • Institutional incompetencies - not speaking Arabic, inability to provide security - limit the quality of news coverage from Iraq.
  • Embedding distorts perception, and should be disclosed to the reading public.
  • Pentagon and White House analyses aren't independently vetted.
  • "In the current climate, of course, any use of Arab or European material —no matter how thoroughly edited and checked—could elicit charges of liberalism and anti-Americanism. The question for American journalists is whether they really want to know what the Iraqis themselves, in all their complexity, are thinking and feeling."
The left shouldn't have to carry water for the media. Their coverage of the war has been terrible, and articles like Massing's prove it, to say nothing of their ravaging of Gore and their endless obsequiousness towards Bush. The defense of the media - and the reestablishment of journalistic values - needs to come from the media itself. CNN should start an ad campaign - Better Correct than Right. The New York Times should start an ad campaign - News is Neither Right nor Left. They need to reestablish a center, rededicate themselves to professionalism and objectivity.

The LAT's John Carroll's speech is actually a decent opening salvo, and given the weakness of Ailes' response, the media can win this fight. I am still attached to the ideas of objectivity and professionalism, and think it would be tragic to lose them. The right's intentional assault on them - admirably revealed by Brock's new book - reduces us to epistemic relativism, opening the gateways for deception, distortion and propaganda, in the name of being "fair and balanced."

Class Warfare

washingtonpost.com: Rich Choices in November:

"'It is unclear whether the campaign of George Walker Bush (son of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush and grandson of Connecticut Senator Prescott Sheldon Bush) and Dick Cheney (worth between $24 million - $107 million; former Chairman and CEO of Halliburton who received a $20 million retirement package to run for vice president) has endorsed this line of attack. Bush (a CT-born Yankee who summered in Kennebunkport, Maine, and attended the Kinkaid school in Houston before moving to Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, where he became head cheerleader and earned the nickname the Lip from his chums for his rapier wit), was unavailable for comment.' "
Its class warfare to point out the distribution of George Bush's tax cuts, but its not to imply that Kerry is too wealthy to relate to the people? This is fantastically idiotic, but, again, the problem is that it might work. The argument already has currency at the bottom of the Noise Machine.

Some fraternal editorializing on the LAT and Fox "News"

Regarding the LA Times/Fox "News" imbroglio, Roger Ailes response to John Carroll's LA Times article is completely consistent with every criticism of Carroll's.

I honestly never watch Fox "News", not even for news entertainment purposes, so I don't have any first hand knowledge of it. That number on the cable dial is like a deadly poison where I will be killed or at least rendered incompetent and fit for the presidency if I linger too long on it, so I physically turn my head or close my eyes if I accidentally land on it.

But if I didn't know better I would have sworn that the Ailes article was written as a caricature of what somebody at Fox "News" would have said. He first accuses the LAT of calling Americans stupid, then he blusters about how cool Fox "News" is (First into Baghdad, video requested by whole world), tries to cloak his organization in the love of all Americans (Congressional Black Caucus praises us), then attacks the LA times on the spurious grounds that Fox is better than the LAT because Fox "News" is TV and the LAT is print. Finally, he aligns the LAT with Terrorists!

Ailes never addresses the issue of corrections. He never addresses the issue of the poll results indicating that Fox "News" misinformulates their viewers. The only thing he does do is EXACTLY what Carroll said he would: Attack.

This goes beyond caricature. It is a direct and significant threat to the stability of our nation. Witness how NYT's bad reporting on WMD in Iraq led to support for war on false grounds? But also watch them run corrections on it.

The LAT, NYT and other respectable organizations are the ones you turn to when the chips are down and you're in a crisis. How many more (mis)adventures underpinned by bad reporting before irrevocable damage is done? Hmm... I'd say that irrevocable damage has already been done, so the question then becomes how much more damage is this country willing to accept? Decent people on the left and right have to call this for what it is and compel Fox "News" and other like them to clean up their act.

When do workers get their share?

When do workers get their share?:

"Despite recent good news on employment growth, the current economic recovery, now approaching its third year, remains the most unbalanced on record in respect to the distribution of income gains between corporate profits and labor compensation. Essentially, rapid gains in productivity have been translating into higher corporate profits without increasing the wage and salary income of American workers."
Economics Question: On what basis to employers set their wages? In a competitive labor market, do they prepare compensation packages based on take home pay?

Bush's reductions in the lowest marginal tax rates had the effect of slightly increasing a wage-earners take home pay. It seems like employers may view that increase in take-home as a proxy pay increase, and feel less pressure to increase compensation accordingly. This, of course, would mean that the true beneficiaries of the reductions in marginal rates would be employers, who extract the rents through lower labor costs. All of this is contingent on a slack labor market.

I did some research on this a couple of months ago, but couldn't find anything other than articles about efficiency wages. Not so helpful.


The Onion

What Do You Think?: "'Those terrorists don't scare me. At least not without the help of my government.'"

More News I Missed While in South Dakota: Cheney-Halliburton

Shamelessly stolen from the Progress Report: CALLS FOR A SPECIAL COUNSEL: Reuters reports House Democrats urged a special counsel on Wednesday to probe whether Vice President Dick Cheney broke the law after internal Pentagon emails say his office "coordinated" billions in government contracts to his former employer Halliburton. If true, Cheney would have had direct involvement in giving contracts to a company he still receives deferred salary from and owns stock options in. Roll Call reports that in light of the controversy, Senate Democrats are planning to force more votes on the oversight of government contracting in Iraq. Last year in the Senate, legislation was offered to force Cheney to terminate his financial relationship with Halliburton after the Congressional Research Service deemed it a "potential conflict of interest." The bill, however, was voted down.

Waxman has sent a letter to Rumsfeld, asking why there wasn't competitive bidding. Waxman is also pushing the Discount Card issue, asking where the discounts are, and pushing hard on Abu Ghraib.

News I Missed While In South Dakota

Drug Discount Cards. According to the Christian Science Monitor, seniors aren't signing up for the discount cards. Senate cadidate Jim Hoeffel has a pleasant chart explaining why. A brief look at Google News, available here, shows that it is the local and regional papers that are leading on this front. The Washington Post's single article is here.

Fox News Imbroglio. John S. Carroll of the Los Angeles Times colorfully criticized Fox News as pseudo-journalism, or propaganda. Roger Ailes responded in the Wall Street Journal.

Judith Miller. The NYT "correction" that appeared on A10 of the May 26 paper is available here; a sample of the Times' coverage is available here. New York Metro has a long analysis of the Times' culpability for the Miller/Chalabi scandal. Daniel Okrent, the Times' PPublic Editor, had a scathing review in the Sunday NYT. Salon has an excellent summary of the mess.

More coverage: Editor and Publisher, noting that Miller hasn't learned from her mistakes. Boston Phoenix article placing the Times mess in a broader journalistic context. Joe Conason in the New York Observer criticizes the leeway given to Miller. Jim Romenesko, the Poynter Institute's online media analyst, has a larger roundup here and also here. FAIR also has good coverage, most of it here.

Stephanie Herseth. Keloland carried a bunch of positive stories: on the reaction in Herseth's hometown, on Herseth getting started in DC, on Herseth's bipartisan support from women. The Hill reported on her placement on Ag. The Rapid City Journal reported on high voter turnout. KOTA TV reported on reservation turnout, which was as high as 94% for Herseth. WaPo coverage is here and here. The Washington Times, unsurprisingly, says the victory doesn't mean anything for the Democrats nationally.

The Aberdeen American News had this to say:

"Once [sic] constant refrain heard over the last couple of days, though, was not quite so positive. The campaigns for both candidates for the U.S. House seat were, shall we say, overly zealous in their attempts to get out the vote. This is, of course, a noble cause, but one that may have backfired in many cases simply because some voters felt they were almost being harassed. Numerous phone calls per household - in some cases almost two dozen - came in over the holiday weekend, often accompanied by personal visits. The solicitors were friendly enough. There were just too many too persistent reminders to vote."
I still haven't seen anything on the turnout in Rapid 2-4, but I'll find it and forward it around.

Misc. Good Articles

Dana Milbank ridiculing Bush: Making Hay Out of Straw Men (washingtonpost.com)

Matt Yglesias in American Prospect (Humor): Bush is an Iranian Agent

Ashcroft Terror Warning Based on Questionable Sources, Lisa Myers, NBC News May 28.

E.J. Dionne, The President: Paying the Price, May 30 2004.

Editorial, U.S. Security, Iraqi Freedom Are Unrelated, Christian Science Monitor, June 3 2004.

EPI, Snapshot on Workers' Share of GDP Growth, May 27 2004.


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