Is There a Fair Maiden in Need of Rescue?

Maidens aside, Megan McArdle thinks that it's time to dispose of a pesky dragon: Slay the mortgage interest tax deduction! Now, while we can!.

Well, that was her original headline. Now it's "What any economist will tell you (but no real estate agent will)". Too clickbaity, I prefer the original. But anyway:

It is fashionable to say that the United States’ best days are behind us, that we are too divided and dysfunctional to fix things that are broken, or to do anything worthwhile. I think America is still great, capable of both advancing onward to greater things and rectifying our past mistakes. As it happens, this is the perfect political moment to fix one mistake in particular: ending the mortgage interest tax deduction once and for all.

Maybe that’s not at the top of your list of America’s problems. And it’s nowhere near the worst sins our nation has committed. But the mortgage interest tax deduction is terrible policy, as any wonk who is not working for a real estate lobby will tell you (volubly, at great length, and very possibly punctuated with explosive profanity).

The deduction is regressive, benefiting only the small minority of taxpayers (under 10 percent as of 2020) who have enough income to bother itemizing their deductions. Since someone has to make up the lost tax revenue, it’s a transfer to the upper class from the middle class; to homeowners in expensive markets from those living in modestly priced locales; and to people who buy the biggest home they can, and mortgage it to the absolute hilt, from those who save for a sizable down payment, buy a sensible amount of house and pay down their loan as quickly as possible. “Tax the middle class more heavily so that successful professionals can buy bigger houses in pricier cities” obviously is not good public policy, though of course it might sound appealing if you happen to be a successful professional living in a pricey urban area like, oh, say, Washington, D.C.

That last bit is an indicator that Megan is arguing against her own interest (heh) here.

There's probably going to be a lot of re-jiggering the tax code next year, and its a safe bet that the usual demagoguery will be cranked up to at least 11, probably more. But this reform seems sensible and (unlike many otherwise sensible proposals) seems politically possible.

Also of note:

  • A futile effort. But Jeff Maurer makes it anyway, offering A Calm, Rational Message to Doomsaying Climate Maniacs. It's in response to the recent Oranging of Stonehenge by said maniacs. Maurer provides four pieces of good news:

    1. He gets to post the classic Stonehenge clip from This Is Spin̈al Tap!
    2. They'll probably be able to clean up the damage.
    3. The maniacs will probably go to jail. (Or, "gaol", since it's Britain.)


    The fourth bit of good news is that after years of bizarre protests that include damaging artwork and disrupting traffic, these groups are widely known to simply be cults. They’re not environmentalists, they’re not political demonstrators — they’re cults whose tactics are probably best described as “maximum assholery”. Future actions will probably include painting pubes on the Venus de Milo, throwing pig’s blood on Julie Andrews, and digitally editing all existing copies of E.T. so that the alien has massive boobs. Because these people just revel in being dicks.

    Maurer is optimistic that "we" can move to a low-carbon future while continuing to ignore (and when necessary, imprison) the cultists. He does not mention the Official Pun Salad crackpot solution, Artificial Photosynthesis.

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Kevin D. Williamson offers his answer to that burning question: It Is Time for Radical Candor. KDW concentrates on the GOP primary race in Florida Congressional District One between incumbent and "cartoon villain" Matt Gaetz and Aaron Dimmock.

    I really hope the Dispatch paywall is porous enough to let you read the whole thing, but after KDW writes a standard profile of Dimmock, he lets loose:

    And that’s how you write your basic congressional candidate profile. I can do this all day. Give me 20 minutes on the phone with some dentist in Scarsdale who thinks he’s going to be the next Donald Trump (I’d have written something like “the next Sam Rayburn,” but, come on, none of these Navigator-driving suburban Republican jackwagons knows who Sam Rayburn was, and would be terrified to say an admiring word about a Democrat even if they did) and I will give you a column.

    I’m not turning my nose up at that: There is—can be—real value in such work, and there are people who do it really well here at The Dispatch, at the Washington Post, at the New York Times, at the Wall Street Journal.

    But like our politics and political campaigns per se, our political journalism has rules and parameters, conventions, lines within which you are expected to stay. I suppose that if I were better at that—if I could take the boredom—I’d probably have had a different kind of career than the one I have had. But I get hung up on stuff, e.g., the idiotic words “radical candor” coming out of the mouth of a sniveling little weasel who is going to get stomped into goo by a beady-eyed, cosmically worthless, evolution-missed-a-generation smegma smear of a subhuman being such as Matt Gaetz and deserve it. It’s another little Battle of Stalingrad: It’s a pity somebody has to win; all a decent person can do is pray for casualties. 

    It is not lost on me that, if what Florida’s 1st Congressional District wants is a “Trump Republican,” then Matt Gaetz is exactly what the witch-doctor ordered. And so I asked Dimmock: “From a certain point of view—and it is my point of view—what you’re doing is trying to beat one dishonest, disreputable, dishonorable man so that you can go and do the bidding of a different dishonest, disreputable, dishonorable man.” Yeah: Gaetz is Gaetz—but Trump is Trump, too, and Dimmock insists he is a “Trump Republican.” And how in the hell does a self-styled “Trump Republican” have it in him to complain about anybody’s character: Matt Gaetz, Joe Biden, Pol Pot, etc. 

    Oh, but Mr. Radical Candor has an answer for that!

    You will be unsurprised to learn that KDW finds Dimmock's "radical candor" is neither radical nor candor. "Discuss."

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