But Not So Ugly That It's Cute

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James Freeman looks at yet Another Ugly Beltway Consensus.

There may be some downsides to having an 80-year-old running the country. But among the benefits ought to be wisdom, an understanding of history and a focus on the legacy that will be left for future generations. Right now America’s children need President Joe Biden’s leadership in addressing the country’s massive and rapidly rising debt burden. Yet on Tuesday night the president clarified that he has no intention of providing it. Mr. Biden is so committed to rejecting Republicans’ efforts to restrain spending that in his State of the Union address he spent time attacking reforms they’re not even proposing.

It would be one thing if Mr. Biden were attempting to make an economic case that the government can finance massive annual deficits forever without consequence—or that the numbers published by his Treasury and the Congressional Budget Office are wrong. But he’s simply ignoring the problem and rejecting even the idea of discussing spending reforms as he seeks congressional approval for more borrowing.

I control-F'd though the SOTU transcript to find the expected mantra:

And we pay for these investments in our future by finally making the wealthiest and the biggest corporations begin to pay their fair share.

I’m a capitalist. But just pay your fair share.


Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years.


I will not raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year. And I will pay for the ideas I’ve talked about tonight by making the wealthy and big corporations begin to pay their fair share.

That tired phrase plays well in the focus groups. And while it's no longer as popular as it was a few decades ago…

… Joe's doing his best to bring that particular bit of Clinton-era malarkey back into style.

Needless to say, in all those decades, no demagogic pol has ever explained what the "fair share" actually is. No numbers! Work is not shown!

It means now what it always has meant: "Gimme more of your money." And it will never be enough.

But I suppose we could take it as seriously as we're supposed to. On that note, James Pethokoukis asks us to Imagine an America with steep billionaire taxes.

Two reasonable questions to ask about any public policy idea: First, what problem is the idea meant to solve or ameliorate? Second, what are the trade-offs? (Getting one thing typically means giving up another.) And the answers to both those questions make me queasy about ongoing efforts to “capture” more of the income and wealth of America’s richest people, especially those who got that way by starting and building great companies.

Let’s start with that first question. Whether we’re talking about Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax from her 2020 presidential campaign or President Joe Biden’s new billionaire tax, the main problems that these plans are supposedly attempting to address are revenue generation and tax fairness. To be sure, those are issues about which I’m also concerned. But I think it’s a mistake to not be equally concerned — perhaps even more so — about how the current tax code encourages or discourages productive economic activity. Likewise, we must consider how changes in tax policy affect business innovation and investment.

Spoiler alert: in the alternate universe where such proposals had been enacted, we'd lack Amazon, Pixar, SpaceX, Tesla,…

Briefly noted:

  • Speaking of malarkey, Emma Camp reveals more of it: Biden's Claims About Universal Pre-K Are Malarkey.

    During President Biden's State of the Union address this Tuesday, he called for expanding access to preschool for American 3- and 4-year-olds. In doing so, he made a startling claim about the effectiveness of preschool programs, stating that "children who go to preschool are nearly 50 percent more likely to finish high school and go on to earn a two- or four-year degree, no matter their background they came from."

    However, such dramatic evidence in favor of preschool—especially the public "universal pre-k" programs Biden has consistently advocated for—is spotty. This is particularly true when trying to give public preschool credit for positive outcomes—like college attendance—that occur over a decade later.

    I've said this before, but: whenever I see demands for "universal X", what goes through my mind is: "Including Klingons?"

  • George F. Will describes How public employee unions damage schools, policing and government itself.

    Two public schools in Manhattan illustrate the high stakes of a political choice that the nation, and many states and municipalities, must reconsider. In 2019, Success Academy Harlem 2 charter school ranked 37th among New York state’s 2,413 public elementary schools, one of which, PS 30, had only about a third as many pupils as Harlem 2, spent twice as much per pupil and ranked 1,694th. PS 30 and Harlem 2 operate in the same building.

    The contract for PS 30’s unionized teachers is 167 pages long, mostly detailing job protections, and what teachers can and cannot be required to do. The contract for Harlem 2’s nonunion teachers is one page long. Those teachers can be fired at will, and are paid 5 to 10 percent more than PS 30 teachers on the other side of the building.

    GFW notes the problematic SCOTUS decision in Luther v. Borden. Which was decided 5-1 in 1849. Might be time to revisit that.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:39 AM EDT