Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bipartisan consensus, of a sort

Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I'll leave to the reader to decide.

Charles Krauthammer, in January of '07:

First, tax gas. The president ostentatiously rolled out his 20-in-10 plan: reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years. This with Rube Goldberg regulation — fuel-efficiency standards, artificially mandated levels of "renewable and alternative fuels in 2017'' and various bribes (er, incentives) for government-favored technologies — of the kind we have been trying for three decades.

Good grief. I can give you a 20-in-2: tax gas to $4 a gallon. With oil prices having fallen to $55 a barrel, now is the time. The effect of a gas-tax hike will be seen in less than two years, and you don't even have to go back to the 1970s and the subsequent radical reduction in consumption to see how. Just look at last summer. Gas prices spike to $3 — with the premium going to Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and assorted sheiks, rather than the U.S. treasury — and, presto, SUV sales plunge, the Prius is cool and car ads once again begin featuring miles per gallon ratings.

Thomas Friedman, today:

No, our mythical candidate would say the long-term answer is to go exactly the other way: guarantee people a high price of gasoline — forever.

This candidate would note that $4-a-gallon gasoline is really starting to impact driving behavior and buying behavior in way that $3-a-gallon gas did not. The first time we got such a strong price signal, after the 1973 oil shock, we responded as a country by demanding and producing more fuel-efficient cars. But as soon as oil prices started falling in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we let Detroit get us readdicted to gas guzzlers, and the price steadily crept back up to where it is today.

We must not make that mistake again. Therefore, what our mythical candidate would be proposing, argues the energy economist Philip Verleger Jr., is a “price floor” for gasoline: $4 a gallon for regular unleaded, which is still half the going rate in Europe today. Washington would declare that it would never let the price fall below that level. If it does, it would increase the federal gasoline tax on a monthly basis to make up the difference between the pump price and the market price.

Again, no comment from me.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


In the 1950s, the top individual tax bracket was a whopping 91%.

America's tax revenues were roughly 19.5% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Around 1965, the top individual tax bracket dropped to around 70%.

America's tax revenues were roughly 19.5% of the GDP.

1985--the top bracket was 50%.

America's tax revenues were roughly 19.5% of the GDP.

In the '90s, the top bracket was 40%.

America's tax revenues were roughly 19.5% of the GDP.

To summarize:

In (insert time period here), the top bracket was (insert percentage here).

America's tax revenues were roughly 19.5% of the GDP.

David Ranson, writing in the Wall Street Journal, calls it Hauser's Law, after the economist who first noted the post-WW II pattern 15 years ago. It's jarring, counterintuitive--and the last thing the likes of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton want to hear:

The data show that the tax yield has been independent of marginal tax rates over this period, but tax revenue is directly proportional to GDP. So if we want to increase tax revenue, we need to increase GDP.

What happens if we instead raise tax rates? Economists of all persuasions accept that a tax rate hike will reduce GDP, in which case Hauser's Law says it will also lower tax revenue.
Gee...imagine that.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The bottom line on Obama

On July 17, 2007, Barack Obama gave a speech before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in which he promised the following:

"[T]he first thing I’d do as president is ... sign the Freedom of Choice Act."

(HT: Christian Newswire)

This is the endgame for the pro-choice movement. FOCA is the abortion equivalent of Dred Scott v. Sandford; it would nullify any and all restrictions on abortion at any level--be it federal, state, or local--thus permanently banishing the pro-life movement from the legislative arena.

And with Obama-selected Justices packing the Supreme Court, there isn't be a snowball's chance in hell of FOCA being overturned.

An Obama victory is the final pro-abortion victory--government-sanctioned homicide, unhindered and irrevocable, on into perpetuity.


Friday, May 09, 2008


Over at Human Events, John Gizzi has been looking at potential running mates for John McCain in a series of columns. To my surprise, one of the candidates thus examined is our own Paul Ryan:

Earlier this year, when I asked Rep. Phil English (R-Penn.) his favorite choice for a runningmate with John McCain. “Paul Ryan,” he replied, naming his Republican colleague from Wisconsin and fellow House Ways and Means Committee Member and, in the process, giving me a jolt.

Paul Ryan? At 38 and after a decade in Congress from Wisconisn’s 1st District (Janesville-Konosha), Ryan is not exactly a “household word.” A graduate of Miami Univeristy (Ohio), Ryan worked as speechwriter for Jack Kemp and William Bennett at their “Empower America” organization, and was then legislative director for Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KA). Anticipating that incumbent Rep. Mark Neumann would run for the Senate in 1998, Ryan moved back to his hometown, mobilized a campaign in which he wouild easily win nomination and electon (57% of the vote) to Congress. As a Member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, he has been a force behind tax cuts and trimming discretionary spending. Ryan (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 93%) has also been a strong booster of gunowners’ right, pro-life legislation, and tougher measures on illegal immigration.

Impressive, all right, but the first impression is not ready for presidential politics. English disagrees. As he put it, “Paul is Catholic, from the Rustbelt, and has the economic credentials Sen. McCain needs.” Other Republican backbenchers agree, and talk of Ryan-for-Veep mushrooms in the House GOP Conference.

I, for one, agree with the first impression. (I also think Gizzi should have run this column through a spell-checker.) Ryan just doesn't enjoy the national prominence that one might expect out of a VP candidate; moreover, he lacks the executive experience that McCain is going to need in a running mate--given his age, President McCain's VP would have to be someone the country trusts to take over in the White House.

It should also be pointed out that, given the prevailing anti-Republican sentiment in the country, Ryan as McCain's running mate would almost certainly mean forfeiting his House seat to a Democrat, as happened to Mark Green's seat when Green ran for governor in 2006.

(Interestingly, quite a few of the early commenters on the Gizzi column argued for my own first choice for McCain's running mate: JC Watts.)