Blargh Blog

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Budget Deficits

To go with this comment, here are the projected deficits, 2009-2019, according the the CBO's January 8, 2009 baseline projections (their last forecast before Obama took office) and their March 20, 2009 projections under Obama's budget. In yellow is the projected increase to the deficit due to the policies of Obama (and the current Congress). Forgive the ugly Excel graph.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Government Taxes

The FairTax has been getting a lot of attention lately, including support from Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson. It sounded good to me when I first heard about it - I am in favor of fairness - but after hearing some more about it from responsible conservatives like Bruce Bartlett, I've realized that it does not entirely live up to its name.

Perhaps they should call it the FairerTax, since, while fairer than the ridiculous tax system that we currently have, it does not come close to the model of Pure Fairness that someone like Aristotle would have expected out of a tax system.

The most fundamental problem with the "FairTax" is that it is paying for government spending by taxing ordinary people like you and me, every time we buy anything. If the government is the one buying goods and services, then why should the America people get stuck with the bill? Shouldn't that be the government's responsibility?

Of course it should be. That is why I am promoting a new tax plan, which I call the Government Tax. The idea, in a nutshell, is this: whenever the U.S. government spends money on something, the U.S. government should have to pay for it.

The details, for my wonkier readers, look like this. The Government Tax consists of a 100% sales tax on all spending by the United States federal government, including all goods and services. When the government buys a $1 million tank, it pays an additional $1 million in taxes. When it spends $100,000 on military escorts to the President's convoy, it also has to pay the $100,000 Government Tax. The government sends out a $740 Social Security check? Then it pays the $740 tax. The math works out the same way with all of the other pens, salaries, treasury bills, and whatnot that the government pays for.

All other federal taxes, including the income tax and the payroll tax, will be eliminated under my plan. Thus, in addition to the obvious fairness benefits, the Government Tax would vastly simplify things and make tax collection far more efficient and far less distorting on the economy, since ordinary people wouldn't need to worry about the tax implications of all their decisions.

I won't bore you with all the math, but calculations similar to those performed by the brilliant minds behind the FairerTax demonstrate that the Government Tax would be sufficient to cover all existing federal spending, without any deficit or any additional revenue from other taxes. Projections also suggest that it will allow us to afford the coming budget increases for Social Security and Medicare due to our aging population (not to suggest that we don't need major changes in both of those "entitlement" programs - another iffy naming).

What do you think, readers?


Thursday, November 16, 2006

What is wrong with our society?

I'm usually not one to drown in my own outrage, but how can this be happening? A man murders his ex-wife and a friend of hers, but is found not guilty in trial. Then he writes a book about how he killed them, which is published by one of the premier publishing companies, and goes on television on a major network to talk about it.

O.J. Simpson is now a celebrity murderer in more ways than one. I can imagine him doing the celebrity talk show circuit, with Leno and Conan and all the rest asking him questions about the people he killed, just like they ask everyone else about their latest project, and that's interesting, what's the name of the book again? When's it coming out? Keep repeating that info, because you know this murderer is only here because he has a book to plug. (But be sure to talk in hypotheticals, because you know that makes all of this okay.)

It's times like this when all of those crazy-seeming claims about how our society is completely corrupt and falling apart start to take on an air of plausibility.
Parodies and cultural criticisms cannot keep up. I can only hope that a massive boycott is coming. These appear to be the two companies to start with: Regan Books/HarperCollins and FOX. Enough people can work up their outrage over fictionalized documentaries that strike them as unfair to politicians in their preferred political party. Can the public match that outrage when an unconvicted murderer gets invited to talk about his, uh, "work" on prime time television?

Update (11/20): Canceled. Hurrah.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Easy Answers to Easy Questions

Is foreign aid the solution to global poverty?

No, of course not. There isn't "a solution" to global poverty, unless you want to count the macabre (e.g. global death) or the deeply unhelpful (e.g. patience).

Alternative question #1: Can foreign aid contribute to a substantial reduction in global poverty over the short to medium term?


Alternative question #2: Can foreign aid help put the world on a relatively stable long-term trend in reducing global poverty?


Obviously, it matters how the foreign aid is spent. Simply throwing money at the problem won't fix anything, but many potentially productive plans for fixing things do require money.

The original question is the topic for a Garvey Fellowship essay that can win you money, if you fit the applicant qualification criteria. You probably also have to write something consistent with their description of the question:
A 2005 United Nations report called for a doubling of foreign aid to poor countries as the means to reduce poverty. Yet the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a for-profit microloan bank and its founder, an apparent vindication of the ideas of Peter T. Bauer, Henry Hazlitt, Deepak Lal, and others. As Bauer wrote, “Development aid, far from being necessary to rescue poor societies from a vicious circle of poverty, is far more likely to keep them in that state.…Emergence from poverty requires effort, firmly established property rights, and productive investment.”
In other words, because some forms of for-profit investments can be effective at reducing global poverty, foreign aid must be completely ineffective. Airtight logic. Unbreakable logic, we might even call it, in honor of the gentleman who reasoned that, since his body was easily injured, there must be someone out there who is incapable of being injured.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Close Elections

With 98% of precincts reporting in Wyoming's Congressional district, the incumbent, Barbara Cubin (R), currently has a 653 vote lead. The Lindgren method (which assumes that unreported precincts will vote the same as reported precincts in the same county) projects Cubin to finish 2 votes behind Gary Trauner (D).

Trauner fans shouldn't wait up, and neither should Cubin fans (identify yourselves and I'll link), since this one is not going to be decided tonight.

Update (2:58 AM): After corrections in the already reported precincts, Cubin has stretched her lead to 700 votes, and after correcting my projection to be based on the exact number of precincts (rather than the rounded percentage that CNN reports), she is now projected to hang on to a 26 vote lead. The nation is still waiting on those last 12 precincts from Carbon County.

Update II (11/8): Carbon County is obviously not homogenous, and with the rest of the precincts in Cubin has extended her lead to 970 votes. They aren't calling the election yet, and there might be a recount.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

It's not what you say about the scandal...'s what the scandal says about you. And as even a "frustrated GOP strategist" can see,
his party's mishandling of Foley "speaks to our inability to govern and do the right thing. It says everything about who we are as a party."
All of the bizarre things that Republicans are saying about the scandal are just making it worse.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Go-Meme Go

Metapolitics Go-meme

How should politics be conducted? I've marked in my positions on the 7-point scales below. To participate yourself, simply copy this entire post (including links), and mark your choices accordingly before posting it to your own blog.

a) Liberalism - X - - - - - Radicalism (2/7)
Do the ends justify the means? Procedural liberals insist on the primacy of fair play and democratic process. Radicals care less about method, and more about getting the desired result.

b) Rationalism - - X - - - - Subjectivism (3/7)
Is there ever a "right answer" to political questions? Rationalists think that reasoned debate could, ideally, lead to consensus about the common good. Subjectivists see politics as a mere contest of wills, all rhetoric and power plays, where the goal is simply to have your individual preferences win through.

c) Direct - - - - - X - Representative Democracy (6/7)
Should power rest more with citizens or elected representatives?

d) Aggregation - - X - - - - Deliberation (3/7)
Should political decisions be reached by simply aggregating individuals' prior preferences, or by submitting reasons for deliberation and critical scrutiny?

e) Federalist - - - X - - - Globalist (4/7)
What's the most appropriate level for political decisions? Federalists favour local-level decision-making (which may vary across localities), in contrast to Globalists.

f) Libertarian - - X - - - - Authoritarian (3/7)
How much discretionary power should be allowed in politics? Libertarians favour greater (e.g. constitutional) constraints on the exercise of political power. Authoritarians (may include populists and paternalists) are the opposite.

g) Economic Left - X - - - - - Right (2/7)
How favourably do you view redistributive taxation and other typically "Left-wing" economic policies?

Track List:
1. Philosophy, et cetera
2. Kiwi Pundit
3. GeniusNZ
4. Blargh Blog
5. [Add link to your blog here]


Saturday, September 02, 2006

I am Two

Where were you on September 2, 2004? I was here, on the internets, for the very first time. Self, noted.

How have I changed over the years? Let's compare.

choice - then: in favor; now: in favor
democracy - then: in favor; now: in favor
family - then: in favor; now: in favor
freedom - then: in favor; now: in favor
friendship - then: in favor; now: in favor
happiness - then: in favor; now: in favor
health - then: in favor; now: in favor
incompetence - then: opposed; now: opposed
injustice - then: opposed; now: opposed
knowledge - then: in favor; now: in favor
life - then: in favor; now: in favor
murder - then: opposed; now: opposed
pie - then: in favor; now: in favor
progress - then: in favor; now: in favor
slander - then: opposed; now: opposed
slavery - then: opposed; now: opposed
strife - then: opposed; now: opposed
suffering - then: opposed; now: opposed
terrorism - then: opposed; now: opposed
torture - then: opposed; now: opposed
tyranny - then: opposed; now: opposed

Not that much, apparently.


Friday, August 11, 2006

More Moral Equivalence Nonsense from The Left

Today's moral equivalence nonsense comes from a prominent Democrat Senator from Connecticut:
I'm worried that too many people, both in politics and out, don't appreciate the seriousness of the threat to American security and the evil of the enemy that faces us -- more evil or as evil as Nazism and probably more dangerous than the Soviet communists we fought during the long Cold War.
As evil as the Nazis, more dangerous than the Soviet communists, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound - it must be Superterrorist! Seriously, what is it with the Left seeing Nazis everywhere? And this is the man who they wanted to be Vice President in 2000? No wonder they lost!

The Free Republic is on the case, as always, and various lefties are spinning predictably. But this is the best they can do:
Is Ahmadinejad "more evil, or as evil" as Hitler? ... [T]he potential is there, with his holocaust denial and all that...
Hmmm, denying the Holocaust vs. comitting the Holocaust. Morally equivalent? Outside of a few depraved leftists and Islamists, I trust that most of you can figure that one out on your own.

Go Joe
Rabble Rousers