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■ I'm trying very hard (and mostly failing) to make sense of Proverbs 18:20:

20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
    with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.

This is the default New International Version translation. The other translations are all over the map, including some that stretch mightily for a moral lesson ("You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say.")

Ah well, tomorrow is another Proverb.

@JonahNRO offers handy guidelines: How to Tell When Deficits are Bad.

If you’re a normal person who pays attention to politics, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Washington can’t decide whether deficits are bad or not. Well, I have one easy trick that will help you make sense of it all.

In Washington, when you hear people complain that this or that piece of legislation will “explode” the deficit, what they are really telling you is that they don’t like the legislation.

I guess that's just one guideline. But an accurate one.

■ Also at NRO, Michael "Boom Boom" Cannon notes some seriously amusing Overheated Rhetoric on Tax Reform. And a little splash of math, so pay attention:

Start with the debt. It is wonderful that Democrats, who previously considered the national debt somewhere below lawn mold on their list of priorities, have now been reborn as deficit hawks. And there is reason to be concerned that the tax bill will add to the debt. But to keep things in perspective: Under current law, the federal government is expected to collect $43 trillion in taxes over the next ten years, while spending $53 trillion. That will increase the national debt to $30 trillion by 2028. If this tax bill passes, the federal government will collect $42 trillion in taxes over the next ten years, while spending $53 trillion. That will increase the national debt to $31 trillion by 2028.

To summarize:

  • National Debt in 2028 under current law: $30 trillion.

  • National Debt in 2028 if tax bill passes: $31 trillion.

■ Greg Mankiw looks at the blog of a once-respectable economist and says: Paul Krugman...Sigh. Among the flaws:

Paul seems to take the position that unless you agree with him about the tax bill, you are unprincipled. In the world as I see it, reasonable people can disagree, and progress is best made when people do not question the moral rectitude of others simply because they hold different opinions.

That's a refreshingly fuddy-duddy opinion, Greg. Long-term punditry trends indicate it's not a popular position to take.

[Of course, when we question the moral rectitude of Roy Moore, we are … just questioning his moral rectitude.]

■ At the Daily Signal, Nicholas Loris explains Why Congress Should Ditch the Renewable Fuel Standard. But first he makes a general point:

Politicians don’t have a crystal ball that can predict the future of energy prices, energy supplies, or demand for electricity and gasoline.

But they pretend to, and that’s a problem. It leads to market-distorting policies that harm Americans as consumers and taxpayers.

Loris shows that the 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard was justified on grounds that shortly proved incorrect. (Harry Reid: "We can’t produce our way out of the problems we have with oil." Oops. Turns out we could.) And the prediction that USA-produced renewables would make up an increasing fraction of our fuel needs was illusory.

And yet, despite failed predictions and false justifications, the Standard lives! Why? Because … well, you know why. Rent-seekers found their rents.

But draw a broader lesson: are those national debt predictions predicated on the behavior of the entire economy likely to be any more accurate?

■ Thanks to Language Log, I learned about Belgian whistles:

The Language Logger says "googling the phrase is not recommended…" I did it anyway, and … yes, googling the phrase is not recommended.

Last Modified 2018-12-28 5:43 AM EST