Morning Ed: Politics {2016.10.31.M}


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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249 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Trump effect: Good.

    Big Sort: Here is the problem. Who makes the first move and what if we are on a path to just policy areas where there is no room for compromise or agreement. A former OTer of a libertarian bent has been writing on Facebook about how he believes civility will increase once we get government out of many aspects of life. The problem is that I think this benefits libertarians and conservatives far more than it benefits the anyone on the left. As far as I can tell, liberals would need to give up everything to gain nothing. No SSM would please many on the right and libertarians would gain their no government kick but what do supporters of SSM gain? Certainly not more support for LBGT people. Same with any aspect of gutting the welfare state. So what compromises to liberal policy especially the welfare state are conservatives and libertarians to liberals for more compromise and civility.

    Conservatives on Campys: Here’s the thing. From what I have read about people like Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza, they spent their undergrad careers cutting their teeth on writing “liberals are disgusting and stupid” pieces of “satire” for newspapers that they founded. They also manage to be complete hypocrites as well. IIRC there was a story a few years ago about murder and attempted suicide among two conservatives at Yale or Princeton. It turns out their group was dedicated to “stupid liberal” “satire” and group sex. I think it was the group sex and subsequent fight over a girl that led to the murder and attempted suicide.

    Again, I am not sure what libertarians and conservatives want from the left except silence and shut up. There are lots of kids on campus with relatives who were illegal immigrants and/or the victims of police violence and/or the member of another minority group. Suppose a student was an illegal immigrant or children of illegal immigrants, what should they say to a student who is a build the wall Trump supporter? Should they say, “I am intrigued by your views and want to subscribe to your newsletter.”

    I can’t get over how shocked, shocked so many right wingers are that minorities are not being silent or subservient when confronted with bigotry. “Mummy, these kids are not laughing at jokes daddy and his banker pals told at the country club” they cry.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I believe something that ties Yale and Big Sort together is this: Just because there’s a problem doesn’t mean there is a solution, and just because there is no solution, doesn’t mean there is no problem.Report

      • Avatar Pillsy says:

        There may be a problem with the Big Sort [1], but I really don’t think the proposed solution in that article from The Federalist is remotely likely to help [2]. If nothing else, in pretty much every circle I move through where politics are discussed, including this one, I’m basically the total asshole who is absolutely convinced that Trump supporters are Trump supporters because they’re crypto-Nazis [3].

        Now, you might think that this is exactly the sort of viewpoint I’d get from living in some sheltered Smurfville of Volvo-driving vegans, and yet! That is not the kind of place that I live. Sure, I live in New Jersey, which is a Dem stronghold, but I also live in a heavily Republican congressional district, in a neighborhood with a lot of cops, single-truck contractors, and the like, ones who tend to skew distinctly older and whiter than the national average. Incomes are pretty high, even for NJ, but most of the people succeeded in trades, without college degrees. I’m an outlier in terms of class and educational background.

        This has, suffice to say, not rubbed off my rough edges. It doesn’t take a whole lot of Confederate flag bumper stickers [4] or people loudly complaining that Ted Cruz isn’t white and at least Trump will piss off those liberal Jews from NYC [5] to keep those edges honed nice and shop.

        [1] The idea that there’s a problem with Yale is much less persuasive. Conservatives have been complaining about how Yale is a hive a godless liberalism for 60 years.

        [2] Which isn’t to say it didn’t have other virtues. It was refreshingly free of the sort of right-wing shibboleths that such pieces often contain.

        [3] Like Walter Sobchek, just because I’m not wrong doesn’t mean I’m not an asshole.

        [4] In, I remind you, New Jersey. “Heritage Not Hate” doesn’t even work as a dumb rationalization.

        [5] The idea that a liberal Jew might be sitting the next table over didn’t occur to them. In, I remind you once more, New Jersey.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “It doesn’t take a whole lot…”


          Seems like that says more about you and your love for a well-honed, nicely sharpened edge than it does about the rest of us.Report

          • Avatar Pillsy says:

            I think it’s downright fascinating that liberals are supposed to be endlessly sympathetic to people voting for Trump because they think that liberals look down on their white, culturally Christian, rural or blue collar lifestyles. When Trump supporters support Trump because they literally hate us for being liberal and Jewish, or they’re flat-out white supremacists, well, that’s not supposed to influence our views at all.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              Oh, I’m not saying that you don’t feel how you feel. Just don’t be surprised when playing “I’m a pissed-off asshole BECAUSE OF YOU” doesn’t get you to a place you want to be.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


          How far are you from NYC or Philly? Do most people in your county work in either of those cities or in NJ?

          I’m always sort of shocked about how many people out there think cities are out of Escape of New York or the Get Down for a lesser but still broken down vibe. But they are there. And despite being a city-loving late Gen Xer, there are still plenty of people around my age or younger who never learned to love cities. At my old firm, a lot of the younger clerks did not like the city life and stayed in the burbs of Sonoma and upper-Marin.

          The Confederate Flag thing outside of the South always perplexed me. As far as I can tell, it has become a kind of Epartier Le Bourgeois for the right-wing WWC or Single-Truck contractor vote. They know it pisses off liberals and uses it.

          But yeah, I don’t think liberals moving to conservative areas is going to help.Report

          • Avatar Pillsy says:

            People in my county definitely work in NYC, because it’s a manageable train ride from where we are. People in my neighborhood mostly seem not to, though.Report

          • Avatar Pillsy says:

            As for the Confederate flag outside the South, I’ve run across enough racist skinhead types using it as a slightly less inflammatory alternative to the swastika that I’m ill-inclined to even be that charitable. Still, I find the idea that I shouldn’t regard people doing things that are deliberately being done to piss liberals off as acting in a hostile manner laughable in and of itself.

            Cleek’s Law is a diagnosis, not an excuse.Report

          • At my old firm, a lot of the younger clerks did not like the city life and stayed in the burbs of Sonoma and upper-Marin.

            Where it’s peaceful, and you’re surrounded by trees and hills instead of buildings, and your kids can walk or bike to school in little or no traffic? Who needs that?Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


              When I was growing up in the suburbs, I lived too far to walk to elementary school (2 miles and crossing some major roads) and my middle and high school were on a major highway. Plus it is difficult to walk while carrying a tenor sax.

              In SF, if I stay in the same neighborhood. There is an elementary school down the road.

              That being said, as a person without kids, the suburbs just seem too inconvenient for fun.Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog says:

              FWIW, the only years I walked to elementary school were the year we lived in Leicester (a mid-sized UK city with about the density of Chicago; we lived in an area of Victorian row houses, Coronation Street style), and the year we lived in Paris.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                Oh, and in Kindergarten, when the school was just two blocks from the house. The next year was Leicester, and when we got back my school had moved across the river, in part I think because there wasn’t enough population density to sensibly keep it where it had been.Report

              • I grew up in the area Saul mentions, and I walked or biked to school every day through high school.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Our elementary school was in the next town over. About ten years ago, they built one right down the street. You might think that parents would be thrilled about this, but no. Since the school was ten blocks away, kids were expected to walk. But they didn’t like their kids walking ten blocks, so they drive their kids.

                “How is it that a new school nearby created more work for us?” they all asked in unison.Report

              • Avatar Pillsy says:

                Wait, why on Earth would parents be upset with their kids walking ten blocks?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Evil men behind the bushes.Report

              • Avatar Pillsy says:


              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                I posted this article before when the topic of free range children came up in previous threads. A big problem is that a lot of modern development in the United Sates favors cars over people, so there aren’t a lot of places for kids to roam without being flattened unless you live in a city, inner suburb, or rural area.Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                I can attest you can grow up free range in a cityReport

              • Avatar Pillsy says:

                Neither cars nor suburban sprawl are that new in the US. I know this is apparently multi-generational trend, but I’m not sure why I was less at risk of flattening (much less stranger abduction) thirty years ago than kids are now.

                In any event, the not-really-controlled automotive chaos that takes place in front of elementary schools around drop offs and pick ups doesn’t really seem like a great idea if the goal is safety.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                That’s what I wrote. You can grow up free range in many cities because most of them were built up before the car came along. The lay out is designed for humans, not cars.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Depends very much on the suburb. The places I lived in central New Jersey, big roads sans crosswalks sharply limited what would have been accessible to my kids. Where I live now, in a suburb west of Denver, there’s access to at least a couple of square miles that includes shopping, parks, greenbelts, a small wilderness area (“Kids, let’s discuss what you do when you encounter a coyote… or a deer during rutting season…”). If you allow crossing one four-lane road, speed limit 35, with big crosswalks and traffic lights, probably six or seven square miles. Some of it’s a matter of knowing where the bike underpasses and such are — something free-range kids figure out pretty quickly.Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                I started walking to school at age eleven, carrying a case heavy enough that my right arm is almost two inches longer than my left (all my shirts need alterations).

                I just checked google maps. I walked about a mile in each direction, crossing a six lanes, very congested, avenue. It took 15 minutes each way.

                And school started at 7 am. I had to leave home by 6:30, still dark most of the year.

                Surprisingly I wasn’t kidnapped even once.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                My mom was upset when the school district we were in closed down the elementary school that we could walk to. She thought that walking to school was an important part of learning how to navigate on your own. I think that most kids walked or rode their bikes to school until the late 1960s or 1970s. It wasn’t until the 1980s that going on the school bus became the norm for most people.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        That’s a fair point.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      The rub is that both you and the former OTer are right regarding the big sort and other associated problems. Reducing the role of politics and government in everyday life favors people with anti-statist beliefs and policy preferences. In the American context, this means it favors conservatives and libertarians over liberals and the left.

      One big problem in a society where politics and government are very important though is that nearly everything becomes an epic battle of good against evil for both sides or at least an exercise in tribalism. This is true even for the most technical and routine services like waste management, transportation infrastructure, and other things that really shouldn’t be overly political. If you believe that the beliefs of your political opponents are so wrong-hearted to be actively evil and harmful than the only moral option is to fight them to the death through any means possible. We saw this on LGM when we had a fight over the Democratic Party giving money to rebuild the vandalized GOP headquarters in North Carolina. To some it was a decent thing to do and good politics. To others, it was just an act of cowardice.

      Likewise, if you see the size of the pie as limited than it makes sense to fight for a larger slice of the pie for your tribe over other parts of society. We see this in how the rural areas of the United States seek the largest share of federal largess for themselves at the expense of everybody else.Report

      • Avatar J_A says:

        Public transportation is a good example of why a lack of a culture of duties towards the Commonwealth hurts us all.

        In general, most Americans do not support public transportation because of either:

        1. I don’t use public transportation. Why should I be taxed to support something I don’t use.

        2. The people that use public transportation are not my people, and I’d rather they stayed away from me. Public transportation only makes it easier for them to be closer to me. So, no.

        The argument that public transportation allows all members of the Commonwealth to move around and helps them to be more productive members of it is nowhere to be seen, because the concept that there is a Commonwealth we all have a duty towards is alien to America (though totally unremarkable in Europe, Asia, or even Latin America). USA politics are all about ME and MINE and MY rights, and making sure Not ME does not encroach on ME and mine. Hence our political issues are almost invariably presented in terms of rights (right to life, right to marriage, religious liberty, taxes are the government taking MY money).

        The Big Sort is the natural consequence. We are not members on a Commonwealth. We are just a collection of individuals fighting for (against, really) the geographical and legal limits of our rights. In other words, I want Not ME as far away as possible.

        All our political discussions are presented in terms of rightsReport

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          I agree. From the opposite side, public transportation is a good example of why treating everything as social justice issue can sometimes do more harm than good. Many pro-public transportation advocates like to point out how the lack of public transit really hurts poor people and therefore people of color that can’t really afford to own a car. That’s true but it doesn’t strike me as an entirely convincing argument for public transportation spending. Mainly because it only reinforces what most people who hate public transportation think about it.

          The developed countries with good to great public transportation basically see it as an infrastructure issue. They realized that having everybody rely on private cars, usually with one or two people in them at most, to get around is just going to cause traffic congestion and that a more balanced transportation system is needed. There wasn’t any emphasis on social justice, just pragmatism from what I can tell.Report

          • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

            Some years ago, there was talk of (1) expanding my county’s inadequate intra-county public transit system, and/or (2) connecting it with Baltimore’s transit system. One of the local mayors had a regular column in the local paper. He wrote a piece opposing the ideas, conflating them as if they were one and warning of the danger of “urban problems.” He is a lawyer. I wondered at the if he wrote legal briefs that were this incoherent. It could well be. I’ve read some pretty darned incoherent legal briefs. My favorite part, though, was how he carefully wrote about “urban problems” without explicitly describing these, and then patting himself on the back for having the courage to be so open about it.

            He now represents me in the state legislature. I couldn’t be more proud.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              Opposition to public transportation rests heavily on a combination of racism and the apathy to cities that was part of American life since the colonial era. Besides fearing giving people of color an easier way to move around, residents of suburban, ex-urban, or rural areas will turn their beloved suburbs, ex-urbs, and countryside into dense urban cities. Meanwhile, the sprawl required by cars is causing more and more of the countryside to be eaten up.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


              I’ve wondered the same about someone like Dinest D’Souza and their college papers. My guess is that the answer is no and the guy is smart enough to know his audience and write in different styles depending on the audience.

              I’ve also come to the depressing conclusion that people are wonderful compartmentalizers and they can succeed in fields that require logic, reason, science, etc. while still falling or believing in some really bullshit things.

              Ben Carson is a good go to example here. The man is clearly a brilliant surgeon but that hasn’t applied to other areas of thought or he is grifter par excellence.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                Well, as I say, I have seen some pretty incoherent briefs. A couple of years ago we received a motion to transfer one of our cases to a more defendant-friendly venue. My boss gave it to me to draft the response. I didn’t know diddly about the various legal theories, and the motion didn’t help any. So I spent a peaceful morning educating myself about the difference between improper venue and forum non conveniens, and spent a page or so pointing out where the motion had confused the two, making arguments appropriate for one while actually arguing for the other. The thing is, I don’t believe whoever drafted the motion was trying to pull a fast one. My guess is this was handed off to a junior associate, who also didn’t know the difference between improper venue and forum non conveniens, and didn’t take the time to figure it out.

                The education served me well. A year or so later I was able to crib from my response for another case. I am running two for two in venue arguments.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Likewise, is framing opposition to such measures as a moral bad. We have a public transit bill this election, and I really want to support it, because we need it, but it’s got something like a 30 year timeline before I have a hope in hell of seeing rail serve my area*, and Sound Transit has a REALLY bad track record of spending money wisely, especially as projects extend into the long term. So I want to vote against it, because it’s asking for a lot of money for a very long plan, to be given to an organization that is really bad at it’s core function**, but if I vote against it, I’m a bad person for voting against public transit.

            *It’s real hard to accept a 30 year timeline when I’m watching places like Portland lay down rail lines like they got a train set for Christmas.

            **They are also really bad at keeping to their timelines, or their promises.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Run your own plan up. Make it something interesting. (Force ’em to vote it down, then submit it again next year.)
              You can’t be a bad person if you’re trying to fix the problems yourself.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


          Someone I know once quipped that the United States is the country where people moved to when they could not play well with others in their home country.

          Now sometimes it is the other way around and often people were fleeing from pretty shitty situations. IIRC Lee used to point out that 19th century Italians were considered lucky if they worked half the year.

          Public Transportations suffers because the United States is so large and I guess people in Central Cal don’t want to pay for the Bay Area to have BART and the benefits seem diffuse because we don’t really have commonwealth beliefs. Plus while libertarians are small in number, they are outsized in influence and have a strong hatred of subsidy for the greater good.

          Libertarians would argue that private based mass transit is possible and should be allowed because the competition would drive prices down. There is some truth to this Uber and Lyft do have to compete on price and Taxis needed to compete as well once those were allowed. This raises a question though, if people want public transit run by the government, should it be preferable over private transit.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            The one advantage government has over private enterprise when it comes to mass transit is eminent domain and being able to force rights of way.

            Private enterprise can probably run the system more cost effectively.

            Does the US have any public transit system that is a public-private partnership?Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              Parts of Denver’s light rail system are public-private.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Does it work well?Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Too early to say. The initial lines with their own right of way seem to be working fine. The newest ones, including the line out to the airport, are having technology glitches where they share at-grade crossings with commercial rail. Said glitches are probably going to delay the opening of the new line that goes through my suburb.

                Ask me again in ten years after we’ve seen whether maintenance keeps up.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Maintenance seems to be an issue for public transit systems (see D.C.). I think a lot would depend on how contracts are written. If goals & requirements are such that deferred maintenance is likely to cost more money than it could hope to save, then maintenance shouldn’t be an issue.

                I mean, this is something that dogs airlines, right? Airliners have excellent safety records, but a lot of that is because the FAA doesn’t fart around on maintenance demands, and airlines that are caught skimping on it not only face serious fines, but loss of public trust (the rest of it is that a hull loss is a hell of hit to the bottom line, not only because hundreds of millions of dollars of airplane just became flaming wreckage, but there is more public loss of confidence & paying out the potential lawsuits & fines if maintenance is found to be a root or contributing cause will keep costing money for years).

                Come to think of it, this is actually a strike against public transit, in that government agencies have a real hard time being held to account in a sufficiently painful way when they screw up.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Actually, my “wait ten years” statement is probably unfair. One of the claimed benefits — that the private partner would be able to borrow money on better terms than the transportation district could get — has been accurate.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Another issue is that, at least for DC, the reason for the deferred maint. was that the operating hours were so long it impaired maint. The city wanted the trains to run late on weekends to support all the bars and stadium and event activities. That contributed significantly to the need for the safe tracking project. And now DC is pushing to have extended w/e hours again, even in the middle of Metro still trying to get all the maint. done….cause money…safety be damned.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

              I think it is the cost effective part the worries people. It is one thing if cost-effective means running fewer or no busses/trains at off peak hours. It is another thing if it means taking away bus lines or rail lines from areas with lower socio-economic status.

              The problem with public transit in the US is that it is often seen by both advocates and detractors as a social service instead of a transit service. So it can be easy to cut or underfund in most cities except a handful.

              During the height of the fiscal crisis, I remember reading a Times article about an exurban/rural part of the midwest that was considering cancelling its bus service to save money. The problem was that there were a lot of nursing homes in the area and the dedicated but low paid staff of these nursing homes needed public transit to get to and from work.

              Transit advocates can often be their own worse enemy. A while ago. they wanted to remove some bus stops on my street. This would mean the bus stopped every three blocks instead of every one or two. There was a massive amount of opposition to removing the bus stop in the name of people with disabilities and/or the elderly who can’t walk very far. There is a somewhat valid point here but it can get easily abused as well. I do think that sometimes my side has issues with things like limited resources, cost efficiency, and opportunity costs.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Pittsburgh’s was completely private until like the 1970’s, when everything went bankrupt and then they turned it public.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            Plus while libertarians are small in number, they are outsized in influence and have a strong hatred of subsidy for the greater good.

            This is a totally unbiased summary of the crux of the disagreement that doesn’t beg the question at all.Report

            • Avatar nevermoor says:

              …and that was a comment that complained about the insult but provided no basis to falsify it…Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                I’m not going to write an essay every time someone writes some pissy throw-away comment. It should be pretty obvious that the “greater good” part is exactly what’s in dispute.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Do you seriously not believe mass transit provides a public good?Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                I’ll bite. It does. The issue for me is whether it provides a cost effective public good vs some other form. However, perhaps in providing that public good, it also provides a public bad as a negative externality. I can’t say since I pay little attention to transit-I’m not in an area that has much of it.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                I can’t imagine how it isn’t cost effective in places with regular commute traffic. Shaving even 5 minutes off everyone’s commute because more people are off the roads, in and of itself, is probably billions in annual productivity for any city.

                And that’s discounting environmental / health / accessibility issues to zero.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Logically that makes sense, but “imagine” is doing a lot of work. You can and should be able to do studies to determine where the best locations for transit, what the cost should be, etc. to make an effective system. However, since there is a political factor, one needs to remember that can have a big negative influence. Example: DC metro being told to operate late on the W/E for all the resturant/bar patrons to get home. That had the negative impact of causing part of the main’t backlog and failures.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                nevermoor please go read the actual thing that Brandon replied to and tell me whether you think it was written in the spirit of encouraging good-faith exchange of ideas on a purely intellectual level.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Not my comment.

                I think the sentiment is fair (in that mass transit is a government good and I don’t see a lot of libertarian support for such spending), so I was hoping the pushback would come with an explanation.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                I’m not going to write an essay every time someone writes some pissy throw-away comment.

                This is a piece wisdom that has saved me a lot of time and frustration.Report

              • Someone is being pissy on the internet!Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Heard an interview with the author of this book over the weekend. Didn’t catch all of it, but what he was talking about made some sense, especially his comments regarding our public discourse.

      He said that the problem we have isn’t that we have disagreements, it’s that we have gotten into the habit (and this touches on Saul’s point about Coulter, et. al.) of talking about those with which we disagree with contempt. Contempt is the voice we use for the enemy. You can’t have a constructive, cooperative society, even one that has strong disagreements, if you speak of the others with contempt, because they are the enemy, and the enemy deserves no quarter.Report

      • Avatar gregiank says:

        Agreed. We also need to accept that we won’t get everything that we want in the political arena and that is okay.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Agreed and the problem is that contempt drives contempt. There was a time period when the Democratic Party did seem to be in a “Please don’t kick me” but now a lot of younger and youngish liberals are getting tired and fighting back and a lot of conservatives are dumb struck.

        I do admit that there was a large amount of contempt when writing about Coulter and I do have a lot of contempt for people like Eric Erickson who don’t want to take responsibility for creating Donald Trump, a base responsive to his red meat, and a general violation of constitutional norms.

        What is happening with Merrick Garland and other appointments* might be constitutionally permitted hardball but it was generally off limits for much of history for a lot of reasons. Yet the conservatives will bring up Bork and ignore the fact that Bork got his vote on the floor. They will also ignore that a Democratic Senate gave Scalia a near unanimous confirmation. I believe it was 95-0.

        *The logical conclusion of this is to refuse to appoint a cabinet position.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          Oh yeah, once that ball of contemptuous butthurt gets rolling..

          All I can say is that for me, the goal is not to place blame, or try to force others to behave, but to myself try not to be contemptuous of others (even if I don’t always succeed), and to hopefully foster an attitude that contemptuous discourse is right up there with ad hominem attacks.

          It’s the heart of the charitable read.Report

      • He said that the problem we have isn’t that we have disagreements, it’s that we have gotten into the habit (and this touches on Saul’s point about Coulter, et. al.) of talking about those with which we disagree with contempt.

        That’s nonsense. He sounds like a complete moron.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        The big problem is that everything seems to become an epic battle of the forces of light fighting against the forces of dark. This is true for liberals on conservatives.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Economists: Doing all of those at once would create havoc. They also don’t really have anyone on the left per se. The best they could do was a registered Democrat who called himself a “radical pragmatist.” What does that mean?

    For example, I think that the big issue with consumption taxes is that the left feels they can not be made progressive. A consumption tax is de facto regressive.Report

    • Avatar Pillsy says:

      I think most people would describe Dean Baker as left of center, too.

      That being said, they don’t really bother presenting much in the way of arguments for their proposals. I agree with four or five of the items on the list, but I went into the article agreeing with four or five items on the list.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Economists engage in what Saul calls the Vox method of political advocacy. Our policy papers and research says this. Therefore, we should do this and nothing else needs to be considered. We don’t even need to make an effort to convince people to go along, just do as we say and all will be fine.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        Well, that’s because the article is a summary of a Planet Money episode. IIRC, the full episode goes into more detail on the arguments for the proposals.Report

      • Avatar Pillsy says:

        I’m fine with this sort of idea, as long as it’s coupled with a huge estate tax hike. Why subsidize death with tax preferences?Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          I never understood opposition to a healthy estate tax on money. I can see not taxing the transfer of real property (like the family business/farm/home/etc.), but cash should be free & clear.

          I mean, if you have enough assets that you could be hit with estate taxes, you have enough assets to make sure that your assets are either protected or distributed prior to death. So to me, an estate tax is really a “Failed to plan for your eventual demise” tax.

          I have no problem heavily taxing stupid.Report

          • Avatar Mo says:

            Define cash (this is a serious question). Cash not in a bank or do checking and savings accounts count? What if the checking account is a money market? Bonds? Stocks? You say real property, but what about ownership of REITs? If you are a Walton and the family business is Walmart (publicly held) is that affected? What if you’re a Koch, so your family business is still huge, but privately held? &c.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              Fair point. Cash is a bad term. My caution was more about an estate tax harming small business owners where the value of the business as an asset would qualify it as something the estate tax would consider.

              Now I could see, if an inheritor were to receive a business in probate, that the estate tax would apply if the new owner sold the business in a time frame sufficient to establish that they had no real interest in keeping the business in the family (e.g. Junior sells dad’s local pizza chain 6 months after dad dies, then the sale proceeds would fall under the estate tax, rather than whatever tax scheme applies to regular business sales).

              However, this is just details. My larger point holds that if an estate/inheritance is of sufficient size to qualify for an estate tax, then the dead person failed to plan for one of the very few things we can always count on happening at some point. Which is just stupid.Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          Why should the gov’t tax you for the privilege of dying?Report

          • Avatar Pillsy says:

            Why shouldn’t it? Isn’t the argument against taxing wages, investment income and the like that, by doing so, you’re discouraging economically beneficial activity?

            It’s not like the government can discourage death! Besides, the person whose assets are being taxed is, well, dead. They can’t take it with them.Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog says:

              If they tax death highly enough, perhaps that will provide the incentive for an immortality serum. Then we will always have Larry Ellison.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              Then why not institute a birth tax as well?Report

              • Avatar Pillsy says:

                Because we don’t want to use taxes to discourage people from having kids…?Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                I suppose we could. Is this supposed to be some morally outrageous reductio that makes everybody see how crazy the estate tax is?

                Like I said, I’m totally OK with eliminating the estate tax and just calling it all income for the recipients. But that’s not what the anti-estate tax crusaders want. They’d rather zero out the capital gains tax, dividend tax, corporate income tax, and estate tax and create a permanent class of dynastic wealth that never pays taxes.

                Why they want this is not really clear to me. There are good arguments against corporate tax (I think it should be zero) and there are good arguments for playing with how we do dividend and capital gains taxes. But the estate tax seems like a pure win. In fact, if we zeroed out all of the other “rich people taxes” and replaced it with a robust and unavoidable* estate tax, it seems like we’d be much better off. No behavior distorting rules during your lifetime. Just amass as much wealth as you want as efficiently as you want and you can pay your taxes when you die.

                * Unfortunately, there’s your problem. Making estate tax unavoidable seems impossible.Report

              • Avatar Hoosegow Flask says:

                Seizing even 100% of a baby’s assets at birth isn’t likely to get much.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

              WRT the estate tax, I have a pretty radical notion which I’ve mentioned before, that I don’t accept the ownership claims of inherited wealth as being fixed and unassailable.

              If we start with the notion that “He who does not work shall not eat”, then it seems to me that the inheritors who never worked to produce the wealth have a very weak claim over it.

              It was this sort of inherited wealth that Mark Twain savagely ridiculed in A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in the part about the dim witted nobleman whose only claim to wealth was that his great great grandfather did something worthy, and the family had been coasting on that wealth ever since.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                I’d like to point out that not even the Communists got away with this even though they tried.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


                The Soviets couldn’t even institute a 100 percent estate tax. I don’t see why Americans can.

                I’ve seen Loomis on LGM advocate for a 100 percent estate tax. Then LGM points out that this would mean the government would confiscate a lot of items that have sentimental value to families and might or might not have large amounts of material value.

                I do think that there is a lot of materially valuable stuff that stays in families because of tradition and/or sentimental value. I don’t see why the government should be allowed to take this away.

                The estate tax is probably too low but I worry about setting it too high as well. Does the government really need to confiscate a silver set that has been in a family for 4 or 5 generations?Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                The Soviets couldn’t even institute a 100 percent estate tax.

                According to whom, is this true?Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                How does the page you linked to prove the commies tried to ban inheritance? All I saw was a statement that Marx thought it was a good idea but yet those counties still had it. I guess I’m supposed to assume it says when you claim it does.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                @saul-degraw @leeesq
                Your lack of faith in the People’s Will is troubling, and has been noted to Commandante Soros.

                However, the claim I am making is not for a 100% tax always.

                The point rather is that the claim which I am making (from a moral standpoint) on any wealth is flexible, beginning with a very strong moral claim when immediate to the production, and at subsistence level, then growing weaker the further away from the production the claim is made.

                Like, when a Steve Jobs builds a computer in his garage, its easily intuitive that he has a strong moral claim to ownership; but removed to the point of being a retired CEO of Apple, where the actual wealth is produced by thousands of people, I assert that Steve Job’s claim to the wealth is very weak, and can rightfully be taxed at a very high rate.
                And his children’s claim is even weaker.Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                So where’s the limit?

                I shouldn’t tax grandma’s silver tea set that she brought from the old country. I agree,

                Should I tax the Walmart shares? They were grandpa’s.

                Ok, let’s say I can only tax financial investments, cash and cash aequivalents, and real estate. So what about my beloved parents’ collection of twenty two Picassos? They don’t fall in the above categories?

                The only fair thing is to add everything into a pile, real estate, silver sets, Picassos and Walmart shares and pay accordingly (income tax rates sounds reasonable). You can sell the Walmart shares to pay taxes and keep the Picassos, or viceversaReport

              • dim witted nobleman whose only claim to wealth was that his great great grandfather did something worthy

                This describes half of P. G. Wodehouse’s characters. I shudder to think about Bertie Wooster having to earn his own living.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                But if Bertie didn’t inherit, how would he pay Jeeves? I mean, the mere idea that Barmy or Pongo would have the better gentlemens gentlemen is preposterous!Report

              • Without Jeeves to save him,Bertie would have have married Florence Craye, who would have insisted on “making something of him”. Perhaps he’d have followed Freddie Threepwood into the dog biscuit game. Or Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright would have found him work on the stage as a juvenile. “Tennis, anyone?” would almost be within his range.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            Well, we could dump the estate tax and just tax all inheritance as ordinary income. But I strongly suspect the people who think estate taxes are bad would not take that deal if offered.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              Or we could just not tax money or stuff you leave to your kids at all. I don’t see why the gov’t suddenly has a claim to your stuff became you die.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                For all the same reasons it does when your vendor transfers their stuff to you (via sales tax). From the perspective of the recipient, they’re getting well over $5 million in new assets ($10.9 when from a couple), which certainly functions the same way as income in every other sense, but not paying taxes on it. Which is pretty close to a windfall.

                And for the additional reason that high wealth inequality is a bad thing, so there’s a pigovian argument in further support.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                “For all the same reasons it does when your vendor transfers their stuff to you (via sales tax).”

                Reason: because they have the power and tacit acceptance of the majority to take your stuff and throw you in jail/kill you should you object. That’s the bottom line.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Ain’t you a conservative? Don’t you believe that a kid ought to earn his own way? I’m all for the government taking it’s cut, simply because kids who don’t have to earn their way turn into grade A assholes.

                Please, don’t defend the pedophiles.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                To be clear, is the principle you’re trying to articulate that there should be no taxes of any sort? Or is there something that’s allowable to tax? If the latter, what’s the distinction between what’s allowable and what’s not?

                My thought is that you need a certain amount of tax money to keep society going, so some sort of taxes are going to be paid. If that’s the case, the best thing we can do is to make those taxes as painless as possible and create as few causes to change good behavior as possible. So, for example, a gigantic tax on starting a small business is probably a bad idea, but a tax on a transfer of wealth between somebody who’s dead and somebody who did nothing to earn that wealth is pretty lightweight. It has quite a lot to recommend it, practically speaking.

                If you’re saying that there’s no principle that allows governments to tax at all, that’s a fine and defensible philosophical position, but I’m really more interested in its practical ramifications than its philosophical ones.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                the principle you’re trying to articulate

                That’s a good one.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Did I say anything about any taxes other than the death tax?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                We’re back to reading comprehension being an issue.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Shit. You got me there.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                A reading comprehension fail is assuming I’m against all taxes just because I talked about one particular tax.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “To be clear, is the principle you’re trying to articulate that there should be no taxes of any sort? Or is there something that’s allowable to tax? If the latter, what’s the distinction between what’s allowable and what’s not?”

                Try answering those questions.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Taxes in general are perfectly fine, I have a problem with the death tax. Its bad enough to have a family member pass without the gov’t tax collecter there.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                That’s not how it works. When my FIL died, no tax collectors showed up. We got a tax form at the end of the year (from the attorney who handled the probate, I think) and had to claim eligible income on the personal tax return.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                I would guess that Collector, used in this instance, is a generic reference to the fact that you do have to pay the IRS on those forms you filled out. Hence Death Tax.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                I’m glad you dont think so concretely, I mean it’s not like someone from the IRS showes up on anyone’s door on April 15 and yet the IRS is there.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                OK, people have been giving me some grief for trying to engage with you as though you’re making real points, but I’m going to keep trying. You clearly don’t like the estate tax. OK. Apparently other taxes are OK but the estate tax is not and it was absolutely foolish of me to think otherwise, so let’s go with that.

                Is there a particular reason for it being worse than other taxes? Or is it just self-evident and everybody here is clearly an idiot for not seeing it? Is it one of those things that’s built into the fabric of the universe like gravity and magnetism or can it be supported by some sort of appeal to common principles?

                Is the entirety of the problem the fact that death is upsetting and if somebody is dealing with death they should get a pass on paying taxes?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “Is the entirety of the problem the fact that death is upsetting and if somebody is dealing with death they should get a pass on paying taxes?”

                I’m more than happy to off a kitten every April 15.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                I would say that Notme is making a perfectly valid point here.

                “Is there a particular reason for it being worse than other taxes?” For many people, not on the left/”progressive” side of things, the mere idea that in dying you specifically owe money to the state is offensive. I am one of them. I feel no special need to keep feeding the ever more voracious maw of the government in the act of keeling over. Doubly so when one considers that the monies have been taxed already.

                Apparently you feel differently, which is cool. But this isn’t an uncommon thought outside the leftosphere.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                There are two ways to look at inheritance.

                1) Something you get from your parents.
                This is bullshit. Not everybody is lucky enough to be born to the right parents. Those trustifarians? Absolutely insufferable. I mean, I met a guy who explained to me that he didn’t have a large trust fund, he only got $600 a month from it. Being told this at a time where any one of my biweekly paychecks were less than $600, it was like hearing someone say “I get 3 checks a month, to your 2.”
                Screw that. That guy should have been paying 50% of that bullshit in taxes.

                2) Something you leave to your children
                Well, that just makes sense. Of course you want them to get what you’re leaving them instead of the government getting half of it. You’re trying to take care of your kids. That makes sense. Everybody wants that.

                Theory: lawmakers and people who hang with lawmakers are far more likely to think #2 than #1.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Also, let’s remember that estate taxes don’t kick in until you hit values north of $5M.

                If you have $5M in assets and you haven’t sat down with a lawyer specializing in estates & trusts, then I have a real hard time feeling bad that the government is taking 50%.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                haven’t sat down with a lawyer specializing in estates & trusts

                What I dislike about this is that it presents pretty closely to “if you don’t game the system, you shouldn’t be surprised if the system games you.”

                I mean, it has a robust sense of reality. Don’t get me wrong.

                That said, it seems like a setup that we ought not want to reward.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                If you have over $5 million in assets and you don’t visit a estates & trusts lawyer, that’s not “gaming the system” anymore than visiting a financial planner if you win the lottery is “gaming the system.”

                This isn’t a loophole put in the tax code to specifically help one specific business (ie. the PGA in one instance), it’s the law being crafted to help out the supposed flaws in a more broad based law.Report

              • “if you don’t game the system, you shouldn’t be surprised if the system games you.”

                Which everyone in the world knows is true when it comes to investing or running a business. If you do what makes sense to you rather than consulting with experts (or becoming an expert yourself), you’re going to get fleeced.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                But we should reward dynastic family inheritance even more than we already do?

                Like I said before, estate taxes are a stupid tax. If I want to be very pessimistic, they are a tax specifically designed to prevent the formation of new dynastic wealth among stupid people who get lucky, because of course the existing dynastic wealth has already figured out & lobbied for the tools to shield their wealth from estate taxes, and smart people who build sufficient wealth will sit down with an estate and trust attorney the moment they are within striking distance of that $5M mark..Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But we should reward dynastic family inheritance even more than we already do?

                How’s this plan: I submit that you will need to hire two additional lawyers specializing in estates & trusts instead of the number required today.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Not that it’s a critical point, but I wouldn’t worry about the estate tax too much even as you approach that cutoff. The $5M (closer to $5.5M in 2016) is an exemption. If you earn a dollar over that, your taxable estate is $1.

                That’s why the estate tax works out to be a better deal than paying income tax on inheritance for most people. You have to get pretty high up above that generous exemption before you’re paying an effective rate close to what you’d have paid if it was ordinary income.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                This is why I just can’t get too concerned about the idea, because it is so far out of the normal realm as to be a bit of niche law.

                I mean, I get the point you & Jaybird are making about gaming the system being a bad incentive, but I think of it more as an incentive to properly manage your wealth. The only people whose descendants will be subjected to the full brunt of an estate tax are those who basically stuffed all the cash in a mattress.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                The estate tax along with the income tax were exactly implemented to prevent the formation of a pseudo-nobility in the United States.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Allow me to proffer a theory that this measure has largely failed, and we lawyers are to blame.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Why are the lawyers to blame? Who said it was our job in the first place?Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                I’m going to agree with @jaybird here and say that, “The system isn’t screwed up because you can always hire an expert to help you avoid the system screwing you,” doesn’t really sit well with me. The idea that the law is a booby trap that snags money only from people who aren’t clever enough to avoid it should be troubling.

                My argument is that the estate tax has a lot to recommend it that makes it one of the least bad of all taxes. To the extent that there are edge cases that are problematic, we should probably think about smoothing out those cases rather than saying, “Your fault for not preparing for the rock I just threw at you.”Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Isn’t an inheritance tax, rather straightforwardly, a tax on savings? And isn’t the point of getting rid of income, corporate, and capital gains taxes to eliminate the privileging of consumption over investment?Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                IMO, the point of an inheritance tax, an income tax, a sales tax, or any other kind of tax, is first and foremost to generate revenue for the government.

                Thereafter, the incentives on individual behavior may be considered from a policy perspective. But the paramount objective is funding the government.Report

              • Avatar Pillsy says:

                When it comes to progressive income tax and capital gains taxes, folks on the right will make (pretty solid) public policy arguments against them, and contrast those arguments with the muzzy-headedness and emotive, envy-driven ideas of the left.

                However, when it comes time to look at a tax that doesn’t have those problems, all of a sudden the argument switches to their feelings.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Man. What hypocrites.Report

              • Avatar Pillsy says:

                While we’re on that subject, claiming you want “equality of opportunity” while fighting desperately for the children of millionaires to inherit huge amounts of money from their parents is also extremely unconvincing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If by “inheritance” you mean children of millionaires to inherit huge sums of money, I assure you, I am opposed to that.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Sure, I have no problem believing that plenty of people believe they’ve gotten far in life all on their one, while ignoring the help the structure set up by society and government has created for them – after all, there are numerous studies showing that most people vastly underestimate the amount of government assistance they receive.

                But, we shouldn’t set policy on what people believe instead of the truth on the ground.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                I would say that Notme is making a perfectly valid point here.

                I would say he’s making his preferences known. I’m just hoping to get to something deeper than the reexpresion of his preferences.

                For many people, not on the left/”progressive” side of things, the mere idea that in dying you specifically owe money to the state is offensive.

                That’s perfectly valid, and it’s something notme or anybody else could have said outright. But it sort of ends there, doesn’t it? If I don’t find anything offensive about what happens to my money after I die but I do find paying taxes on my income while I’m alive tremendously offensive, are we just at an impasse? Do we just agree that our guts disagree on this issue, or is there some further analysis we might do to find some sort of common framework to analyze the problem? If the latter, I’ll put you and notme down on “estate taxes bad” and some of the rest of us down for “estate taxes good” and acknowledge the reminder that not everybody shares my priors.

                If I could dig a little bit into the idea that owing money to the government after death is distasteful because I think part of the problem here is framing. Absent the estate tax, the most obvious way to look at that money is as income to the recipient. We explicitly carved out estates to be something different, and in doing so we actually created a pretty substantial tax break for most people. If we flip around the legalities again and say that we’re no longer taxing the estate but rather the living person on the receipt of income, does it become less of a problem?

                If we want to get into the particular practical problems of certain types of taxes, we can do that, but it seems unlikely that notme wants to do that.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                “Absent the estate tax, the most obvious way to look at that money is as income to the recipient.”

                Beyond the idea that I will be charged for the death of my family members, the fact that it could be looked at as income, what my family has put aside for the future benefit of its members is not, is in my eyes wrong. Again, if it is income*, it has been taxed at the appropriate level already.

                Is my great grandfather’s professorship income? That has benefited me greatly, and he was taxed on the earnings of that at the time. My mothers business contacts? I gained nothing from them so far, should I write them off? My father’s alzheimer’s? Any other health issues? These are all part and parcel of an inheritance, whatever monies come with it. Or debts.

                *This might be part of the disconnect. I have no idea if others share my point of view, but I don’t consider this to be income in any way, but simply what is earned by intangibles much like what my college degree bestows upon my child.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is my great grandfather’s professorship income?

                Hell, his professorship benefitted you and does to this day.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                That’s definitely the source of the disconnect, and it’s what I was trying to get at by raising the point. It sounds like you’re drawing a bubble around the family unit and calling that a taxable entity, and that transfers within it are not reasonable to touch. For example, would a $1M gift from father to son be nontaxable while a $1M gift from the same person to a non-family member be considered income? If so, would the same thing work in the context of a family business? If you spend your life working for the family business, would you owe income tax on that money?

                Or, going the other direction, is this limited to families only? If I leave my estate to a total stranger, would it be special in the same way that leaving my estate to a child is special? Tim Kowal made a convincing argument here that our right to pass on our property after death is just the logical extension of our right to give our property to others while we’re alive, so it seems to me that who receives the inheritance shouldn’t be limited. I’d think the stranger would have the same rights as my child. But then it implies that while family isn’t special, death is special, because we definitely wouldn’t allow a huge untaxed gift to that stranger during life.

                My take on the idea that the money has already been taxed once again reflects our difference: Money gets taxed over and over again all the time as it moves from person to person. My dentist pays taxes on my fees even though I’ve already paid taxes when I earned the money to pay those fees. We’re differing on where we draw the line on what’s a transfer between separate entities and what’s all within one “unit.” My dentist isn’t family, but if she were, would it make a difference?Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                “It sounds like you’re drawing a bubble around the family unit and calling that a taxable entity, and that transfers within it are not reasonable to touch.” Precisely, this is why I mentioned all the intangibles. If we want to increase wealth and prosperity in the country, I feel that the surest way to do that is helping build up intergenerational wealth.

                “Or, going the other direction, is this limited to families only?” I feel it should be, but could be open to arguments. And while Tim did make a good argument, I feel that the family is the logical break point. And is isn’t so much that death is special* but that it does need to be logical.

                Yes, money gets taxed over and over again, but not while it is in your pocket. As it moves from one person (outside the bubble) to the next, that is when it should be taxed. And while your dentist pays taxes on your fees (income to him!) it is money that was taxed when you earned it. It moved between two agents, therefore it was taxable. Again, it was not taxed when it sat in your pocket, but only when it changed hands. And had you walked into his office, but not received work, it wouldn’t have changed hands.

                *It shouldn’t be special to move assets around a corporation, which is what this essentially is. Simply to move it towards an action that happens at death is where it gets ghoulish.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                So how big is the free transfer bubble (because that is what you are calling for, a tax free income, since an inheritance is income)? Does it extend just to children, or to grandchildren, or to cousins? Close friends? Acquaintances?

                What if you don’t have kids, natural or legally adopted, can you extend the bubble? How far?

                I mean, this can all get very complex in a hurry.

                And what of the very obvious negatives of intergenerational wealth that is represented by tangible assets? I can certainly agree that intangibles shouldn’t be taxed, even if we had a nicely objective way to do so, but tangible assets can be.

                Of course, if we didn’t tax income, but rather consumption, justifying an estate tax is more of a lift.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                Well, I would say children, as that encompasses quite a bit, and yet keeps it central. So right now, with that great grandfather mentioned above, there is a house. My grandfather was the second of four (first moved behind the iron curtain, so is out of the picture as she couldn’t take possession of it.) Which then goes to my aunt(older brother passed young.) And then to my cousins. This is predicated on oldest child, but it doesn’t have to be that way, it could just as easily be a corporation based on the last name. Eg, each named family member is eligible for a share, and someone could be living in the house, or it could be rented, possibly sold. But the group holds the the estate (real) in a trust. This keeps it in the family, allows it to pass generationally and builds wealth (it is in the Berkeley hills, so the land value is pretty high.)

                As long as it is consistent, and the people keep the same name attached to it. If someone decided to take the risk of moving to another family unit, say through marriage, they would have to take that name. Like I would have to take my wife’s last name to be a voting part of that family/corp.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                So you are saying we should create a legal construct to protect generational wralth againt inheritance tax?

                Isn’t that what estate & trusts lawyers do?Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        I’ve never understood this preference, particularly among economists, for taxing money when you take it out of your pocket rather than when you put it in. It almost feels like it must be a moralistic thing where savings, investment, and production are seen as good — which they are! — while consumption is seen as… if not bad exactly, at least something that isn’t particularly virtuous and therefore can be discouraged via taxation with little negative consequences.

        This, frankly, is just bizarre.

        The entire frickin’ point of production is to consume that which is produced. Likewise, the entire point of investment (at least in tangible capital, and by extension, financial products as well) is to facilitate production. The entire point of savings, from the macro perspective, is to provide funds for investment.

        So… discourage consumption via taxes (presumably they’ve heard of deadweight loss??), now there’s less call for producing stuff as demand falls, there’s more money saved and available for investment (yay!) but less in the way of productive investments opportunities to make. Now this chain ignores the fact that government is going to spend that money back into the economy but that’s going to happen anyway regardless of the tax scheme.

        The main difference from current practice really does seem to be to rearrange who pays in a highly regressive fashion absent some pre-bate scheme.

        Another thing that’s rarely discussed is the effect on international trade. A shift to a consumption tax is equivalent to a pretty steep tariff regime. Foreign producers of consumer goods will face a steep tax hike at the register as will domestic producers, but the latter would enjoy a much reduced or zero tax at the head end. Similarly, domestic producers of export goods would enjoy a significant advantage over their foreign rivals.

        Now that all sounds pretty good from a Trump/Sanders f*** free trade perspective but it feels curious coming from folks who would normally scoff at the suggestion of imposing tariffs and such to improve our trade balance. To be perfectly honest it’s the one aspect of it that I sorta like.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


          I do think there is a Calvinistic/Puritan aspect to it. Frugalness and saving are good.

          IIRC the right-wing howled with dissent when the Government introduced the withholding of taxes from paychecks. They wanted it to hurt every year to write a tax to the Government.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            Without getting into whether a consumption tax is a good idea, economists spend a lot of time talking about investment because investment produces growth and growth is good for us. It doesn’t have anything to do with Calvanistic/Puritan ethics.

            It is possible to overinvest and underconsume (imagine a world with near 100% investment where we consume just enough to stay alive and keep building factories that build other factories–the total long-term happiness would be less than a culture that consumed more), but that’s not a problem the US has, so the policies you’ll see being pushed is to encourage investment.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          There is a very good recent history about the history of consumerism that was recently released. It’s called the Empire of Things. There has always been a sense of moral deed towards consumerism and debt even by the free markets most passionate advocates with a few exceptions. Non-marketers are worse. People spending money on things that might give them pleasure always struck many as shallow at best or evil at worse.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:


          I’ve never understood this preference, particularly among economists, for taxing money when you take it out of your pocket rather than when you put it in. It almost feels like it must be a moralistic thing where savings, investment, and production are seen as good — which they are! — while consumption is seen as… if not bad exactly, at least something that isn’t particularly virtuous and therefore can be discouraged via taxation with little negative consequences.

          The symmetry you’re assuming here doesn’t exist. There’s a common misconception that just as an income tax privileges consumption over savings, a consumption tax must privilege savings over consumption, and that just isn’t true.

          First, it’s worth noting that the real tradeoff is not between consuming and saving, but present consumption and future consumption. The whole point of taxing consumption rather than income is that while an income tax privileges present consumption over future consumption, a consumption tax is completely neutral between the two. (Both of them privilege leisure and home production over market production, but this is unavoidable unless you have a head tax). I don’t know of any tax system that privileges future consumption over present consumption. I guess government would actually have to subsidize saving.

          Suppose that in a given year you have $10,000 left over after paying all your expenses, and you’re trying to decide whether to spend it now, or save it for ten years and spend it then. For the sake of argument, let’s say you can make an investment that guarantees a 100% return after ten years. If there are no taxes at all, you can consume the $10,000 now, or $20,000 in ten years. That is, you can afford twice as much future consumption as present consumption.

          Now we add an income tax of 50% on both wages and investment income. Now you can consume $5,000 now, or invest than $5,000 for ten years, earning a $5,000 return, of which $2,500 goes to taxes. So you can consume $5,000 now or $7,500 in ten years. Because of the income tax, waiting ten years will only allow you to consume 50% more, instead of 100% more. The tax on investment income makes future consumption more attractive relative to present consumption than it otherwise would be, i.e., it privileges present consumption over future consumption.

          If we have a 50% consumption tax instead, you can either consume $5,000 post-tax today, or invest the full $10,000, earning a $10,000 return in ten years. At the end of the ten years, you have $20,000. After the 50% consumption tax, that allows you to consume $10,000 post-tax. As with the tax-free scenario, you can afford twice as much future consumption as present consumption. It doesn’t affect the trade-off between present and future consumption, so it neither discourages nor encourages saving.

          I’ll get to the old canard about a consumption tax being regressive later if I get a chance. I’m fairly certain I’ve explained it here before. The stuff about international trade doesn’t sound quite right, but I haven’t thought about it before, so I’ll need to think it through fully.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      In general, I’m good with all 6, although the specifics would matter, which means I’d have to listen to the Planet Money episode.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      For example, I think that the big issue with consumption taxes is that the left feels they can not be made progressive. A consumption tax is de facto regressive.

      “Feel” is the correct word to use here, since this simply isn’t true. One straightforward way to design a progressive consumption tax is to keep the current income tax in place, but eliminate contribution restrictions and withdrawal penalties on IRAs.

      Also, that’s a balanced panel. Two Democrats, two libertarians, and someone whom they identify as a centrist, but who I’d be willing to bet votes Democrat. The reason you won’t find many economists endorsing many far-left economic proposals is that those proposals are mostly objectively terrible. You also won’t find many economists endorsing objectively bad right-wing ideas, like the idea that the Laffer curve peaks at 30%, or that we should return to the gold standard, or that raising the minimum wage to $15 will result in the unemployment of everybody who currently makes less than $15.

      Imagine you’re having an argument with someone about some legal issue. Not only is he not a lawyer, but he clearly has no idea what he’s talking about. Nevertheless, he insists that you’re wrong and he’s right, even knowing that you are a lawyer. Also, he writes about legal issues for a web site with millions of daily visitors. This is what life is like for economists all the time.

      I agree that the arguments provided in this column are pretty underdeveloped, though that probably has more to do with word limits imposed by the NPR than with the arrogance of economists. These are all ideas that enjoy strong bipartisan support among economists, for reasons that require some economic background to fully understand.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        One straightforward way to design a progressive consumption tax is to keep the current income tax in place, but eliminate contribution restrictions and withdrawal penalties on IRAs.

        Erm, except now you’ve removed the *income* tax system, or rather moved it into this consumption tax, and made it less progressive than the *existing* income tax, because now wealthy people can just distribute their income over whatever years they want.

        I.e., that might be a progressive consumption tax, but doing it would make taxes, in general, *less* progressive.

        That’s sorta the ‘Our ladder is ten feet tall and needs to go up to fifteen feet. We need a five foot ladder to put on the end of it’, and you cleverly saw the 10 foot ladder in half to get the five foot ladder.

        Well, okay, you *technically* solved the stated problem, but now we’re worse off than we started.Report

      • One straightforward way to design a progressive consumption tax is to keep the current income tax in place, but eliminate contribution restrictions and withdrawal penalties on IRAs.

        That is consumption is taxed, but savings isn’t. That’s regressive as hell, since it taxes 100% of the income of those who can’t afford to save (or save enough to interest a bank in opening an account for them, or save enough that what they save isn’t eaten up by bank fees.)Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          That is consumption is taxed, but savings isn’t. That’s regressive as hell, since it taxes 100% of the income of those who can’t afford to save (or save enough to interest a bank in opening an account for them, or save enough that what they save isn’t eaten up by bank fees.)

          It taxes 100% of their income, but the theory is that you keep all the current income tax brackets, so you can do some progressive rate stuff.

          Of course, it’s still not progressive as *already existing income tax*, so cannibalizing existing income tax into it is nonsense.

          But it is *technically* a progressive tax in the strictest sense of the definitions. And it’s *sorta* a consumption tax, although technically not. It’s really just an income tax in which you can infinitely defer income.

          Of course, this raises the interesting question: Is a tax progressive because it taxes the rich more than the poor, or it is progressive because it taxes *low amounts* at a lower rate than *higher amounts*.

          I.e., if we had a cigarette tax that taxed *one* cigarette a day at almost nothing, but taxed ten cigarettes a day at a higher rate…is that a ‘progressive’ tax?

          Technically, yes, it *is*. A progressive tax is just one where the rates get higher the more the thing being taxed is there.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            I prefer to view it as acknowledging the simple fact that the ‘value’ of a dollar to a rich man is much, much less than the value of a dollar to a man making minimum wage.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Exactly, you keep tax brackets, maybe adjust them somewhat, and set the consumption rate that way, so people in the lowest brackets don’t pay much, if any, tax on their withdrawals. The more you draw out and spend, the more you pay in taxes.

            Certainly somebody could just hoard money into savings & investments, but that isn’t bad as long as the money stays invested, since it would fuel other things. The trick would be making sure the money stays invested in one spot, so to speak. Given my simplistic understanding of investment products (stocks, bonds, etc.), selling an investment would count as taking money out of savings, even if it is immediately put into something else, unless the sale counts as a loss (if I am understanding this all correctly).

            How much is paid depends on who did the sale and their bracket.

            It strikes me as something that could effectively tax the movement of money more. But I could be wrong.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              I’d only be okay with allowing people with money to move it forward in time and pay taxes on it later if it’s okay for the poor to move money *backwards* in time, and pay taxes on it in the past.

              I mean, not literally, of course.

              But if someone who is making $50,000 a year can keep putting $10,000 of income in the future, and then retire at 50 and live off the income they made in the past, paying taxes in the future….

              …someone who has a few years of no income, and then gets a reasonable good job, should be able to retroactively assign some of that income to previous years, and refile those years to pay whatever *those* taxes would have been. (Erm, this should probably be limited to their *adult* years.)

              I mean, it’s exactly the same idea. If it’s fair to move income one way, it’s fair to move it the other way.

              The problem, of course, is that people who want to move income *forward* are currently wealthier people, whereas the people who’d like to be able to move it *backwards* are the poor, or at least people who used to be poor.

              Thus the first idea is automatically a good idea, and the second idea is automatically a bad idea.Report

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    Bullying: I often come to jujitsu as the kids class is wrapping up. There’s a strong anti bullying message and they drill shouting something like “are you going to stop bullying me” as part of the submissions. I’ve always thought that that was silly. Wanna stop being bullied? Continue the submission until what you’re bending the wrong way breaks or they are choked unconscious.

    Obstructionism maybe be bad for gov’t, but it’s good for those of us who think a divided gov’t that doesn’t achieve much is much BETTER than having cooperation for higher taxes, etc.

    Big Sort: My VERY LIBERAL friend is just like this. “What’s the result? Our online lives devolve into an echo chamber, reverberating with the reassuring words of our peers.” She’s self isolated herself and does not want to hear any other opinion. I’m sure that’s the case for many conservatives. I remember being in Moab Utah on vacation once and reading a free newspaper, like The City Paper, that bemoaned that Salt Lack City was just soooooo conservative. My thought was, “Really? Did you expect NYC attitudes? Although I live in the heart of liberal central, and near big cities, I do find it better than the rural locale I grew up in. Most folk can get along with each other with a bit of tolerance.

    Taste and calories: “To put it bluntly, if you want the government to force food companies to remove sugar, fat and salt from their products, you had better be prepared for your food to taste worse.” Nailed it. The fact that this is even a discussion indicates how far things have gone to hell. Again, if someone else is writing the checks, they are eventually going to get around to tell you how you can spend their money.

    Econ love/Pols hate: There’s really no need to tax health benefits. The assumption “That encourages fancier insurance coverage, driving up usage and, therefore, health costs overall.” may have been true in years before, but every single employer I’ve been with has been on a campaign to reduce coverage, reduce the number of plans, increase co pays, deductibles, and restrict benefits in one form or another. We’ve going from 5 plans 7 years ago to just 3 now.

    Eric Ericison: ““the most powerful conservative in America,” Until I saw this article, I didn’t know who the guy was.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      The big problem with not taxing health benefits is this: It gives companies a reason to give you health benefits instead of cash that you could use to buy your own health insurance, which in turn puts your employer in charge of your health insurance. A lot of our other pathologies come from that. If there was no incentive to do that, companies would never go to the trouble of putting their HR departments in charge of your health care.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        True, but we all know who created this problem in the first place. The ills you outline can be traced directly back to WW2 wage and price controls. These benefits weren’t, and still aren’t, considered part of wages. And now you’ve got 50 years of “status quo”. But slowly, these programs are being pared back because of the massive cost to employers, at least in my industry.

        Don’t get me wrong, I rather have the cash and I’d rather pick my own plans. That’s the way I think it should be. But that don’t mean that’s gonna happen anytime soon, nor should it. I’m all for starting a transition, but that would take quite a while to move through the population.Report

        • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

          I don’t see why the origins of the law should have anything to do with whether it’s a good idea now. It pretty clearly isn’t. If we’re worried about the effects of an abrupt change, all we’d need to do is say, “We’re going to tax health plans at 100% of their value 10 years from now, starting at 10% next hear and increasing 10 percentage points per year.”

          The same holds true for the mortgage deduction. Simply eliminating it right now would be chaos because so much of the present value of a house is tied up with the value of the deduction over 30 years, but it should be possible to set a tapering schedule up so that the deduction goes away in the long run but the downward pressure in present prices is slow enough that it doesn’t cause a crisis.

          No reason to keep bad ideas around just because they’ve been around for a long time. The only question is if there’s a way to do away with them without totally upsetting the apple cart.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            The point is that the reason this came about was that benefits weren’t taxable and still aren’t. I’m saying, let’s move to phase out employer provided benefits and convert that benefit cost to cash to the employee. I’m not sure if you’re saying that or if you’re saying…let’s just tax heath care benefits the employer pays for. I would object to that.Report

            • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

              I’m saying that regardless of how we got here, phasing in a tax on employer health plans would naturally cause a phase-out of employer health plans because the only reason they exist at all is a perverse tax incentive. No need to bother with any other mandates. Just slowly return to the baseline assumption that we tax benefits as income and the crazy tax-driven behavior will stop on its own.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Oh that will go over well. Here’s what’s going to happen. You know that “compensation statement” you get every year telling you your salary is x plus any bonus, plus the dollar value of you health plans? They are going to remove the health care line. You think they are going to start paying you cash for that? No, they are going to keep it. So employees are going to be paying taxes on a disappearing benefit with no corresponding increase in pay. I’ll sign up for that!Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Spoken like a true liberal! Or, at least, spoken not like a libertarian who believes in labor value and markets.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                I’m not a Libertarian. Just because I self identify as “libertarian-ish”

                I’ve said before that I deviate from SOP Libertarianism in several areas, one being immigration, which I’d not care about if we didn’t have a welfare state.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                That’s not really how labor markets work. If it was possible to take the value they were giving you and keep it for themselves, they’d be doing it already. This is analogous to the argument that if we raise taxes on a company, 100% of it will get passed through to the consumer. If the company could raise its prices to recoup 100% of the tax, it would have raised those prices already and enjoyed the extra profits. It’s not keeping prices low out of kindness.

                The same holds true for your compensation package. You’re getting a total package that’s worth $X because the market rate for you is a package worth $X. How they split that $X up in terms of cash and benefits doesn’t change that.

                But you’re not 100% wrong: this is a tax increase, so both employer and employee are going to lose something. Some of that will get passed through to the employers, just like some of a tax on a company is passed through to its customers. The other part of it will hit the employees, just like some of a tax on a company hits its shareholders. The incidence varies by market.

                We could make it revenue neutral by adjusting the income tax brackets, which would make the take home effect on workers smaller. The good news is that most of the benefits of the deduction are accrued in a small range of income bands, so that type of adjustment could go a long way. And to the extent it’s not, that’s really just a reflection of the fact that people at either end of the income spectrum were subsidizing health care for people in the middle, which probably isn’t a sensible thing to keep doing anyway.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                If that were the case, then as my company reduces medical benefits, which it’s been doing for the last decade, my cash compensation should be going up by the same amount, everything else being equal. After all, it’s the total market compensation right? I can assure that is NOT the case.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Maybe you should join up with your fellow employees in some sort of organized fashion to bargain for higher wages together. You could be say, unifying together or something.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Indeed. But then we’d have the union officials siphoning off our dues to contribute to democrats!Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Its entirely possible that the total cash market value of your labor is declining.

                I know it is the case with lots of people where they think they are earning more, while not noticing the stealthy loss of non-cash compensation like vacations, pensions, working hours and conditions.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                It is possible, but, but it’s not the market value…it’s the buying power. Given that that we’ve “quantitatively eased” a few trillion into the economy, my wage has been devalued while the costs have increased (dollar wise). The only real “decline” in my compensation has been higher employee contributions to health care, higher deductibles, new deductibles for stuff not previously having one, fewer health plans, and the like. Pensions? Those have been gone since the 90s.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                When you say benefits are cut, you’re probably referring to the actual medical care you’re getting from your package. I’m referring to the cash value of that package, which probably isn’t being cut. It’s just that the money the company is spending to pay you your market rate is buying less and less healthcare every year.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                I’d agree with that. I expect the cost of providing the same or similar benefits are going up. A lot of that is HC inflation and a lot is the “quantitative easing”Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                But that’s the reason why your example doesn’t work. Your original claim was that the company would just take the extra cash it saved and run, and you used your healthcare cuts as an example. Your health care reduction isn’t an example of that. There is no extra money for the company to take and not replace, so there’s no reason to expect a wage bump. If they stopped providing healthcare altogether, you’d need a wage bump to get back up to a reasonable market rate on the overall package, and the money for that wage bump would come from the money saved by not providing health insurance.

                As for QE, inflation is still very low by historical standards, so I don’t know what to make of the complaint.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          On days when I’m less charitable towards John Roberts, I assert that one of the reasons that he let the ACA through is that it provides a way for employers to get out of the group health plan business at a relatively fixed annual cost.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      There’s really no need to tax health benefits.

      There’s no need, but there’s also no need to exempt them. What’s special about health insurance, that it should be tax-deductible?Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        “There’s no need, but there’s also no need to exempt them.” Of course there is. They aren’t wages. See above my comments to Frog.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:


          They’re not wages, but they’re compensation. Do you think that all non-cash compensation should be tax-exempt? If we do that, then businesses are going to do the obvious thing and start offering their workers a bunch of tax-exempt non-cash benefits in exchange for lower cash wages, like company cars even for workers who don’t drive as part of their jobs, company housing, free meals at the cafeteria, etc., and the government is going to raise taxes on cash wages to make up the shortfall.

          If that were the case, then as my company reduces medical benefits, which it’s been doing for the last decade, my cash compensation should be going up by the same amount, everything else being equal. After all, it’s the total market compensation right?

          As you may recall, there was a major recession about eight years ago, and health insurance costs has been increasing faster than the overall inflation rate. Either of these could explain why your health insurance plan might have been trimmed back without an offsetting increase in wages. But what you’re suggesting here, that employers could just stop providing health insurance at all and not raise wages to compensate, and not lose employees doesn’t make sense. If they can do that, why are they waiting for Congress to eliminate the tax deductibility of health insurance? Why not just do it now?Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            “They’re not wages, but they’re compensation” Exactly and “compensation” isn’t taxed. Wages are.

            Yes, the recession. That explains why my benefits have been reduced for years PRIOR to 2008. In fact, thinking back over the 3 companies I’ve worked for over the last 20 years or so, EVERY year they’ve been doing this. It got much worse, however, in the most recent job and after the ACA.

            “But what you’re suggesting here, that employers could just stop providing health insurance at all and not raise wages to compensate, and not lose employees doesn’t make sense. ” Really? If every large corporation did it, there wouldn’t be anywhere to go where it was different, would it. The spur to reduce benefits would be the lack of tax deduction. Everyone would be in the same boat.Report

  4. Avatar notme says:

    So there is a trump effect but no Ferguson effect?Report

  5. Oh, Good Lord. This isn’t the first time Erickson has said that he’s sorry for being such an incendiary jerk and he’s going to grow up now, and none of those took, and there’s no reason to think this time will be different.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    The law school/law economy crisis finally claims its first law school shut down:–losses-at-millionReport

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      The closing of a school that had just opened in 2013 doesn’t have quite the oomph as would the closing of an established school. I do like that out of the one class it graduated, only one student passed the bar.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      I’m not expert, but it seems to me that a school with a 5% bar passage rate is probably better off shutting down. The only explanations I can think of for that are that they’re inept enough to take good students and turn them into bar exam failures or that the school exists primarily to separate students who shouldn’t have gone to law school from their money.

      With the boom in fake schools providing fake educations to soak up federal education dollars, I’ve become a bigger fan of independent credentialing exams wherever possible. It may not be reasonable to do in all disciplines, but this seems like a case where the existence of bar exams is doing a lot of good for the country.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Speaking of, I wasn’t too surprised when the DOE gutted places like ITT. I was more surprised when they (kinda quietly, IMHO) put a choke hold on a whole credentialing org.Report

        • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

          I’ll say I was surprised. Not displeased at all, but definitely surprised.

          On the topic of bar rates: A quick glance at California results shows a passage rate of about half. The interesting numbers are passage rates for retakes. For accredited schools, the retake passage rate is still pretty close to half. For an unaccredited subset, the passage rate is lower and the retake passage rate completely craters. This implies to me that those schools are admitting and graduating a substantial cohort of students who would probably never pass the bar exam no matter how many times they took it. That’s the kind of thing that should put a school out of business.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


            California has always been more liberal about allowing people who attended unaccredited law schools take the bar.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            California is unique in failing more Bar exam takers than other states. Two-thirds of practicing lawyers who take the California bar fail it.Report

            • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

              Even so, my interest is in the retake statistics. I bet the trend holds true in other states. A “good” law school will admit students who are intellectually capable of becoming lawyers and train them to pass the bar exam, so even among those who fail the first time around, a similar percentage should pass on the second time around. There should be a pretty small percentage of hopeless people who shouldn’t even bother with a retake.

              A “bad” law school will admit good students when possible and bad students if necessary as long as they have the cash, and they won’t put too much of a premium on providing a good education. The best students will learn what they need to learn through gumption and cleverness and pass. After that, the graduating class will be left with a pool of people who will take the exam over and over again until they run out of time/money and have to take jobs elsewhere.

              That’s an appalling waste of public and private resources.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            I was actually pleased as well, because as much as I find bad schools to be a problem, the bigger issue is the veneer of credibility credentialing orgs grant them. Going after credentialing orgs with loose standards will have a bigger effect than going after individual bad schools will, not only because it’ll strip away that veneer from the bad schools, but it’ll also strongly incentivize any good schools that have that certification to pressure the org to firm up their standards.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @troublesome-frog @richard-hershberger

        I agree with Frog’s point. The problem is people were saying that law schools should close down forever so this is a finally.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      One of the stories that caught my interest (I linked to it a while back) was the South Texas College of Law changing its name (to Houston College of Law) and branding (same color, similar font) to look at awful lot like the University of Houston Law Center. UHLC took HCL to court and won quickly and entirely.

      Some people are baffled as to why they did it. It cost them a lot of money and embarrassment.

      I find myself actually wondering if it’s in some pretty deep financial trouble and getting desperate.Report

  7. Avatar nevermoor says:

    Re: Yale, isn’t that the natural consequence of running an explicitly anti-intellectual campaign?

    Obviously the school is very liberal, but conservatives were never unwelcome when I was there. Just rare. But I’m not the least bit surprised a Trump supporter wouldn’t be welcomed.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I would think that the Ivies had more conservatives than my SLAC if only because they are larger and HYPS is really seen as the only path into Banking and Finance and possibly other conservative and traditional fields.

      There were conservatives at Vassar as well but you could count them on one hand given the size of the school.*

      *A friend told me that there was a secret club for the Evangelically minded at Vassar that acted a support group about all those scary ideas on evolution and gay rights.Report

      • Avatar Pillsy says:

        I’m pretty sure SLAC doesn’t stand for “Stanford Linear Accelerator Center”, but beyond that I haven’t a clue.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        You can make a great sketch about Evangelicals at Vassar. Why did they even go? Evangelicals are usually good at creating a sealed universe for their kids. I guess it might have been a reconnaissance mission.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Even if we eliminate the unserious, most evangelicals live outside the bubble. Most are going to end up at state college, though (if they go). If they are going to pay for private school, then they are probably going to a more amenable one. (No pun intended.) (Okay, small pun intended.)Report

      • Avatar nevermoor says:

        I think when I was there it was somewhere comfortably over 90% liberal. Unlike my law school, which was more like 60% liberal and therefore had a very conservative reputation.

        Highly educated young people tend to be liberal. What with facts and their well-known liberal bias.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      This is yet another thing that the Right today shares with Leftof my young adulthood in the early/mid 80s: This notion that you are owed some kind of institutional referee stepping in if your opinion isn’t popular, and forcing that to be give equal weight and time.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        I’ve found that a lot of the screaming about the “PC Police”, dating back even into the 90s, could be accurately described as “I want to be able to say anything I want, and people aren’t allowed to be offended or change how they act”.

        So telling a racist joke at work and getting stuck doing harassment training after HR reams you a new one? PC POLICE RUN AMOK.Report

  8. Avatar Aaron David says:

    Arg, misthreaded.Report

  9. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Chait on the GOP Age of AuthoritarianismReport

    • Avatar notme says:

      Did Trump have classified info?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Don’t you think it shows a staggering contempt for rule of law to deny court orders?Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          If a court finds that he did it then the court should sanction him.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            On the other hand, Trump ain’t no angel, that’s for sure. Amongst other things [long list I’m too lazy to include], this:

            It’s a suggestive body of evidence that doesn’t absolutely preclude alternative explanations. But this evidence arrives in the broader context of the campaign and everything else that has come to light: The efforts of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager to bring Ukraine into Vladimir Putin’s orbit; the other Trump adviser whose communications with senior Russian officials have worried intelligence officials; the Russian hacking of the DNC and John Podesta’s email.

            If we’re looking for a SCANDAL, this is the real deal.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              FBI believes it’s a nothingburger, apparently.Report

              • Avatar Pillsy says:

                Yup. I think they’re probably right.

                It’s a shame their director decided to kick his agency’s credibility right in the crotch a couple days ago so now half the people I know are like, “Pfft. They would say that, wouldn’t they?”Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                It’s a shame their director decided to kick his agency’s credibility right in the crotch a couple days ago so now half the people I know are like, “Pfft. They would say that, wouldn’t they?”

                That says much more about those people’s desire to see the world through a partisan filter than it does about Comey’s or the FBI’s credibility.Report

              • Avatar Pillsy says:

                More, but not everything.

                But I’m thinking about how, if I wanted to convince you [1] that this Alfa Bank server thing really is a big deal despite what the FBI says, I’d have a lot more facts at my disposal for dismissing them. Going through them might not convince you, but it would probably convince me more.

                And if you were already pre-disposed to distrust the FBI–and of course partisan filtering would have something to do with that–it would probably be easier to convince you.

                Not every anti-Trump story takes the world of anti-Trump partisans by storm.

                [1] Hypothetically. In reality, I think it’s hogwash.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                As someone who knows a lot about computers and even admins an email server, I have no idea what the claims about the connection to Alfa Bank *even are*.

                I mean, I understand the claim of ‘these two servers are repeatedly talking to each other over email’, but have no idea how anyone would *know* that. Are they sniffing his network traffic? Is that *legal*? How are they in a position to do that?

                Also…private mail servers that exchange email with each other using *email* aren’t really a thing, and kinda dumb thing to set up. If I had to set that up, I’d set up a single closed server that didn’t listen for email at all, or send it, except internally. Using two servers is weird, and having them communicate using standard email protocol over standard email ports is also weird. Make the only access point a single, password protected SSL web site (Which will raise no suspicions at all), and you login there and you get webmail, and you can only send and receive from other people on that server.

                That’s…not actually that complicated an idea. If people really really need non-webmail clients, well, put those services on non-standard ports, use SSL-only connections, again, no one would notice it’s email.

                But, okay, two servers. Let’s continue with this weirdness.

                Then they bring in ‘DNS expert Paul Vixie’, who, yes, is a DNS expert, but also a bit of a prickly ass, but what the hell *DNS* would have to do with this is unknown to me. (He is *also* a mail expert, sorta, but they mentioned him as a DNS expert.)

                I mean, I guess you could set up private mail servers to use public DNS, but *why*? Put a damn IP in the mail server’s transport table. Then, in case someone *else* accidentally ends up with an email (Like you sent it to both blah@mail1.supersecretnetwork and because your dumbass secret system was set up to communicate with other servers), no one has any idea where ‘mail1.supersecretnetwork’ is, because it only maps to an IP using that mail server transport table.

                And if you put it in the transport table, you can use another *port*, and have it encrypted from the start (Normal message hand-offs between mail servers have to connect unencrypted, and then enable encryption.), so people don’t even notice it’s email!

                I know these ideas sound complicated, but to mail administrator, they really aren’t.

                Then again, mail administrators are often *completely insane*, so maybe we accidentally got a few of those here.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                But still it raises questions, doesn’t it?

                Troubling Questions.

                Very Troubling Questions, that cast a shadow over the agency, and prompt still more questions of Comey’s veracity, and likeability problem.

                While there may be partisans who accuse Comey of corruption and criminal acts, most reasonable moderates conclude that while not technically illegal, there is an air of questionable ethics and sleazy dealings at the FBI that simply won’t go away.

                The question now is how the agency recovers, and what steps Comey can take to put to rest the questions, the very troubling questions that linger and threaten to tarnish his legacy.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                No, it doesn’t.

                The FBI and Comey has been behaving in a utterly disastrous manner WRT Hillary Clinton this entire time, repeatedly doing things the FBI does not normally do.

                And this has been in *both* partisan directions.

                For example, the FBI was not supposed to be the agency that decided it was not referring anything about Hillary for prosecution. In cases like these, that is supposed to be decided by a non-partisan panel at the DoJ, not the FBI. Comey just *decided* he was more non-partisan than the DoJ panel set up specifically to *be* non-partisan, muttering some nonsense about Bill Clinton talking to Loretta Lynch at an airport. (Because Bill Clinton has magical mind-control powers over women, obviously.)

                Until last week, the Republicans were *attempting to prove conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton bribed Comey with the Clinton Foundation*. Granted, conspiracy theories and Republicans go together like peanut butter and peanuts,but the reason they tried to make a theory about Comey is that they thought he was pro-Hillary!

                Meanwhile, as was pointed out by other people, it is the job of the FBI to issue indictments. It is not the job of the FBI to talk about how *irresponsible* Hillary Clinton was with using a personal email server. If there *had* been indictments, that sort of talk would have been seen as prejudicial, and it’s interesting how no one seems to have noticed that law enforcement *investigated someone* and then, while concluding that they committed no crimes, proceeded to trash talk them.

                What. The. Hell! That is goddamn small-town yokel sheriff behavior (We didn’t find anything illegal, but he’s sure got a lot of porn under his bed.), not the behavior of the fucking FBI!

                This is not ‘If the FBI annoys both sides, they’re doing something right’. That is *not true*. The FBI is not the press. The FBI should be completely invisible and silent on *all active investigations* until actual indictments are issued, and at that point it calmly states the evidence it founds, and it’s done. If it goes hauled in front of Congress, it repeatedly says it doesn’t discuss active investigations.

                And I don’t have time to get into this now, but there are some interesting hints arising about what is actually going on. The problem isn’t Comey is partisan. The problem is *he has no control over part of the FBI*.

                What appears to *actually* be going on is there is basically a rogue group of FBI agents who are anti-Hillary, and leak like a sieve whenever any evidence that could hurt Hillary is found.

                *They* are the reason he tried to assert control by not prosecuting, and then they came back and forced his hand by *hiding* these emails until last week (The FBI has had them for a *month*.), and then Comey had to step forward and admit they existed and people were looking into them, or he knew they would have been leaked.

                Comey is a complete disaster as an FBI director.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Which has, judging by the slew of leaks today on other issues, emboldened the other factions in the FBI to go ahead and play the game too.

                Finding out that Comey kept the FBI’s name off the “Russia seems to have been the ones hacking the DNC” governmental agency list, despite agreeing with it (most specifically his reasoning that it would violate that ‘we don’t influence elections’ protocol), was a real nasty knife in the back, for instance.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Well, it might have been if Comey really believed that Russia had hacked the DNC.
                I’ll retain skepticism on that point.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Which has, judging by the slew of leaks today on other issues, emboldened the other factions in the FBI to go ahead and play the game too.

                And now, judging by the ‘FBI agents claim indictments to be handed down any second now’, the anti-Hillary faction has *responded* to the other faction.

                The FBI is a total goddamn clusterfuck at this point. If I were Obama, the day after the election, I’d appoint approximately five hundred independent prosecutors to get to the bottom of what is actually going on over there, with the stated goal of weeding out the leaks.

                But that investigation would eventually wander into questions like ‘Why the hell does the FBI keep investigating Hillary based on *conspiracy theory books?’ and hopefully get all these assholes out of the FBI *before* Hillary takes office.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Well, now, when the shoe’s on the other foot, you’re certainly busy hopping to the Devil’s Tune, aint’cha?

                You heard me, I know you did, talk about GWBush’s witchhunts through the DoJ and the FBI and the CIA.

                Did you by any chance remember who he went after the hardest? Why, the Republicans — the sane and sober workaday “do our job right” folk that flock to the FBI and places like that because “it’s a job, and someone needs to do it.”

                You want another witchhunt. Go ahead, pat yourself on the back.

                Clinton ain’t the first person the FBI went after this election, dearie, she was just the one they didn’t intimidate into folding before the season started.

                You shouldn’t be surprised when the Political Corruption wing of the FBI seethes at the Clintons. Clintons are as corrupt as anything. Which, I might add, wouldn’t have stopped me voting for Hillary.

                I’m not voting for her because she’s no longer sane. That’s a different sticky wicket, if you know what I mean.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                You heard me, I know you did, talk about GWBush’s witchhunts through the DoJ and the FBI and the CIA.

                What the hell are you talking about?

                Not only did I not talk about them, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

                The only ‘witchhunt’ I am aware of is Bush’s firing of *prosecutors* that wouldn’t invent instances of voter fraud.

                I am unaware of any witchhunt in the DoJ besides that, and not aware of any at the FBI at all. Nor any at the CIA. (Now, part of the CIA was *ignored* about WMDs, but I don’t know of any _witchhunts_.)

                And more to the point…leaking information about active investigations is a violation of FBI policy, and leaking them in an attempt to influence an *election* is a pretty serious thing, that *should* be investigated.

                This isn’t some ‘try to track down whistleblowers pointing out government violations of the law’ leak sniffing, which I form opinions on on a case by case basis. Sometimes that’s justified, sometimes not. People alleging wrongdoing *by their own employers* is one thing.

                But a *law enforcement agency* leaking information about people *accused of a crime* but where the level of accusation has not reached ‘grand jury indictment’ levels, and giving people no ability to defend themselves in a court of law, is absolutely unacceptable. Utterly unacceptable. That is not how the justice system is supposed to work in this country. It would be unacceptable even if it *wasn’t* political, but being political makes it tens time worse.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                From the dueling leaks, what appears to be happening is this:

                Some field agents really liked “Clinton Cash” and thought it was, you know, a legit book with legit evidence. So they interviewed the author a lot and took it all to their superiors. Who looked at it and said “What, are you serious?”.

                Then they said “But wait, we have a recording of two people talking about how corrupt the CF is, although neither of them have ever worked for it or are in any position to know!” and their superiors said “Seriously, stop wasting time and money. That’s not evidence, that’s a pile of made up BS by a known BS peddler, thrown out there to make money. We’re not wasting time on that”.

                And so they started leaking, furious that the FBI was preventing them from proving it.

                All those leaks about how the FBI would indict over the emails? Them. That the emails contained super damaging stuff? Them. The CF? Them.

                It’s a handful of FBI agents who have drunk the kool-aid, and are basically trying to turn Alex Jones level conspiracies into real investigations, and are frustrated because their bosses keep shutting them down. As they are True Believers that the Clintons are, clearly, corrupt vile people who were bribed to pardon Marc Rich and had Vince Foster killed, they’re certain the reason they’re getting shut down is because of corruption, partisan lackeys, threats, or blackmail.

                The fact that the book “Clinton Cash” is basically a laughable pile of CT level nonsense, made up entirely to separate the rubes from their cash, is unfathomable to them. So they can’t understand why their superiors won’t take it seriously.

                So, straight to the public it goes.

                So two years of leaks on Clinton’s emails, all those “indictments will be handed down” and “it’s bigger than you can imagine” crap filtering out? It appears to be coming from people who take Peter Schweizer seriously.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Yeah, this comes from the same government that can’t even tell who the hackers are.

                Color me unconvinced — not when the Clinton Campaign behaves like it’s stepped on a hornet’s nest.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:


                It’s been months since internet security firms pinpointed the likely suspects, a GRU affiliated group. (Fancy Bear, if you want one of the names Western firms has given them. I suspect the CIA and NSA have more information than simple cybersecurity firms).

                I’m sure ThreatConnect and CrowdStrike have fallen for whatever devious misdirection you see through clearly, but they don’t have the AI that infests the internet telling them the truth either. Definitely a downcheck.

                I’m sure the Cat AI told you it was really a DNC led false flag attack that had Bill Clinton and Sidney Bluementhol learning to hack in some sort of CIA training montage and doing it themselves.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                There is no rogue group of FBI agents.
                There is 40+% of the FBI who was willing to resign in protest over Comey burying the e-mails.

                People who think Comey works for Hillary are just as much Idiots as people who think Comey works for Trump.

                He, like trump and clinton, works for The Powers That Be.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Kim, I know you live in your own little world, but there has not only been no evidence that 40+% were going to resign over something Comey did, there’s absolutely no evidence Comey was trying to ‘bury’ anything to start with.

                In the actual world, that laptop was collected a month ago in the investigation of Anthony ‘The Weiner’ Weiner underaged sexting, and it was *recently*, like in, the start of last week, brought to Comey’s and other FBI officials attention that it had some of Huma’s emails on it.

                He then asked the DoJ what he should say, and the DoJ said ‘Our policy, as you are *supposed to already know*, is that we don’t talk about active investigations, and we *especially* don’t talk about active political investigations within 30 days of an election.’

                He then did it anyway.

                The question is, should Comey have *announced* they exist when he had literally no evidence they had anything to do with Hillary’s email investigation about classified information? He doesn’t know if they are emails that have already been looked at, he doesn’t know if those also contain some of the personal emails that Hillary’s lawyers deleted, he doesn’t know anything.

                The answer as to whether he should have announce this, BTW, is pretty clearly ‘No’.

                He shouldn’t have announced that *even if* they had something to do with that investigation, in fact, because he operates the goddamn *FBI*, not a media outlet, and the FBI doesn’t talk about active investigations!

                There was no ‘burying’ at all. Those emails *were* going to get investigated. ‘Not announcing’ is not ‘burying’.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Even if you take the official version, someone “forgot” to actually get a warrant earlier. That sounds a lot like “buried something they’d rather forget about.”Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                According to Comey, the FBI does not comment on ongoing investigations unless it’s about Hillary Clinton.

                (Apparently that list of 17 agencies claiming Russia was behind the DNC hack and playing with American politics? Comey lobbied, successfully, to keep the FBI’s name on it — despite agreeing with it — because the FBI did not want the appearance of taking a side in the election. Very rich stuff).Report

          • Avatar switters says:

            Just trying to figure out what your intent is here. Is it just to let the readership, and particularly Saul, know that other people/orgs have deleted emails too, even when ordered not too. Thanks, I guess. I mean, I can hardly believe such a thing. I’m sure Saul is in disbelief too.

            Or do you expect, because Liberals like taxes, and the IRS is the org that collects taxes, and that therefore liberals love the IRS, that we’ll find some way to differentiate the IRS’s deletion and defend their behavior? Not sure about anyone else, but i certainly wont.

            If was so inclined though, its fortunate that Notme has provided the ultimate defense, implying that unless there is classified info in the emails, deleting them is never a big deal, even when a judge issued preservation order is in effect.Report

            • Avatar Aaron David says:

              In the main, I was reminding the local fauna that many, many groups have done this and it tends to pass with nary a whisper. But if the Trump is involved then it must be particularly nefarious.

              Notmes positions on this are his own, but I would think that the reason he was bringing it up would be the possible false equivalence of someone trying to compare a tax issue vs. classified docs. being handled improperly.


  10. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    At the end of the first full week of ballot returns in Colorado, total ballots are +31% compared to 2014, registered Democrats are +55%, registered unaffiliated +42%, and registered Republicans +6%. I have to admit that I’m much more curious about what this turnout means for a couple of the ballot initiatives than about the candidates.

    Donald Trump has been here talking how mail-in ballots will be discarded. Interesting that he’s doing it in counties with Republican election officials.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      IIRC, that talk about mail-in ballots has led to at least a few supporters voting twice, which was a problem. Apparently in New York, if you fill out an absentee ballot and then vote in person, your absentee ballot is discarded. Trump assumed that was true nation-wide, but in Colorado that’s considered a felony (you voted twice, after all).

      It’s been interesting to note how elections vary between states — in Texas, electioneering is prohibited within a certain distance of a polling place — which has led to voters having to remove hats, turn shirts inside out, etc. (Nothing that indicates a candidate — not name, not slogan, not hot-button issues, nothing). I’ve seen a few people shocked that it’s NOT the case in other states (or people voting for the first time in Texas angry their HRC t-shirt or MAGA cap had to be dealt with before they could enter the polling site).Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        It’s been interesting to note how elections vary between states — in Texas, electioneering is prohibited within a certain distance of a polling place — which has led to voters having to remove hats, turn shirts inside out, etc. (Nothing that indicates a candidate — not name, not slogan, not hot-button issues, nothing).

        Electioneering is *always* prohibited within a certain distance of a polling place. It’s just that in some states, supporter clothing counts as electioneering, in some states, it does not.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      Donald Trump has been here talking how mail-in ballots will be discarded. Interesting that he’s doing it in counties with Republican election officials.

      That would only be interesting if Donald Trump, like most politicians, classified people into ‘us vs. them’ via *party*. Then it’s be like ‘Wait, why he’s attacking people on our side?’.

      But Donald Trump instead classifies people where ‘us’ solely consists of ‘me, most of my family, and known sycophants standing directly next to me that haven’t annoyed me today and I can’t get applause out of by insulting’.

      Not only is he attacking Republican election official at *local* levels, it’s been repeatedly pointed out that, thanks to the Republican’s systematic takeover of state government, most swing states have *Republican* governors and Sec of States. Does Trump care? Does Trump even *know*?

      No, he does not. People cheer when he says the words that the voting is rigged (Why people are cheering that is unknown), so he says those words. Expecting him to know anything about the *meaning* of those words is expecting way too much.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Oh, if you were wondering if the Marc Rich emails would have me nudge Greg and ask him about them, the answer is “No.”

    While they do kinda look bad, there’s a lot of counter-arguments that you can give to them.

    1) It was something that Bill did, not Hillary
    2) It’s not illegal to sell pardons (it might be unseemly, but it’s not illegal)
    3) Even if it were illegal, the statute of limitations got passed way back there a million years ago
    4) This won’t change any minds. It might confirm a handful of priors for a handful of people. It *MIGHT* make a couple of #NeverTrumpers say “Holy crap! I remember how much I hate Hillary Clinton!” and get them to get back in line… but it’s not going to really affect that many people. Not enough to notice.
    5) George Bush pardoned John Forté.

    All that to say, this might look bad but it doesn’t look *BAD* bad.

    So this one ain’t the email we’re looking for.

    Maybe tomorrow.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Not sure if i missed something. The Marc Rich info was from a FOIA data dump that just happened to happen now ( coincidence you be the judge). At least that is what i thought. Was there something in the Weinergazi emails about Rich??? I admit i hadn’t bothered to go to wikiP to remember all the details about the Rich affair.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Yeah, this information wasn’t something that would make me say “Let’s see what Greg has to say.” I even gave reasons why.

        It looks like the week is speeding up, though.

        Edit: I admit that “this doesn’t have to do with Weinergazi” didn’t occur to me.Report

        • Avatar switters says:

          I could be offering a clarification that is not needed. If so, I apologize. But I think Greg’s point is (if its not his point, I’ll make it), that the Marc Rich email didn’t come from Wiener’s laptop or Huma’s emails on that laptop. In other words, the Marc Rich email doesn’t have anything to do with yesterday’s discussion of why Comey acted “extraordinarily” WRT the Huma/Clinton emails on weiner’s laptop being reviewed.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I guess my focus was on the “holy cow, this looks bad” portion of the coming revelations and not whether they came from the laptop surfacing.

            But I’m glad we agree that this stuff isn’t sufficient.Report