Monthly Archives: December 2003

Paul Krugman Dissects Republican Tax Cuts

I posted a link to a Paul Krugman column the other day. Since then, though, I saw that a financial guru whose work I respect very much, William Bernstein, thinks highly of Krugman. So, I found myself looking at the Krugman archives on the NY Times website. Unfortunately, most of the archives require payment, but there was one long article, from the September 13 edition of the NY Times magazine, which was available for free. It is the most thoughtful and insightful deconstruction of Republican tax cut rhetoric that I have ever seen. I don’t know how long it will continue to be available for free. So go, read, and raise your economic IQ by 10 or 12 points.

Confused Republicans

There is an editorial in this morning’s New York Times which summarizes the contradictions inherent in today’s Republican party.

At the moment, I think that the American people have a choice between the Republicans, with an agenda full of contradictions, and the Democrats, who don’t seem to have an agenda at all.

Ragged Books

Two of the hardcover books that I received for Christmas have ragged right edges on the paper. That is to say that after the book was bound, they cut along the top and bottom edges to make them even, but they didn’t cut along the right edge, leaving you with pages that are slightly different widths. At first I thought this was an accident – an error at the book bindary – but all of the copies that I saw of these two titles were the same way, so I suppose it was intentional.

Bah! I say. It may be an effect that some book designers like to add, but I hate it. Will you please just finish the book instead of leaving me with this ragged edge! I’m seriously tempted to take a blade and do my own trim job, but I’m afraid that I’ll make matters worse instead of better.

The World According to Mister Rogers

It has been almost exactly 10 months since Mister Rogers left us. For Christmas, my mom got me a little book called The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember. It is a delightful little collection of quotes from Fred Rogers, though I do wish that better attributions were provided. The most amazing thing to me was that as I read each quote, I felt as if Mister Rogers were speaking directly to me personally. That was always his way.

Two little gems:

The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile. The child is in me still… and sometimes not so still.

New Year’s Resolutions for Journalists

I’ve just started working on my own new year’s resolutions, and I’m not terribly likely to report them here. In this morning’s New York Times, though, Paul Krugman has an outstanding set of election year resolutions for journalists.

My personal favorite:

Don’t fall for political histrionics. I couldn’t believe how much ink was spilled after the Gore-Dean event over Joe Lieberman’s hurt feelings. Folks, we’re talking about war, peace and the future of U.S. democracy—not about who takes whom to the prom.

Earth to Republicans…

I wasn’t planning to post this morning. I have about 1.5 million last-minute Christmas chores to complete, and on top of that Becky has the flu (or something). Then I read this article in the USA Today about the political gender gap and the effect of education on that gap. (Thanks Medley!) To summarize: Women are more likely than men to vote Democrat. Increasing education increases the gap between the sexes. I was disappointed that the article didn’t provide more hard data about the statistics. It didn’t make it clear, for instance, whether the increasing gap was because the two were moving in the same direction but at different rates or because each sex was becoming more entrenched in a paticular ideology. The only suggestion on this topic was that both became more democratic when they took some post graduate courses. (Perhaps this ties in with my belief that undergraduate education in America is failing to teach students critical thought, but that’s an argument for another day.)

What made my blood boil, though, were the reasons given by the men for voting Republican. Here are the relevant quotes:

Scott Albert, 48, says his experiences as a businessman have made him more concerned about issues Republicans emphasize. “I have to spend surprisingly large amounts of time figuring out the tax ramifications of issues” and dealing with government regulations that are “frankly not quite understandable in many cases,” he says. He calls his wife “a little bit softer on the use of tax revenue to help the government largesse.” “I like smaller, efficient government” � one run more like a business, [Thomas Hurlbert] says. But [June Coldren’s] husband, Clint, a businessman who also works in the oil and gas industry, is a reliable Republican. “He’s all about cutting taxes,” she says.

If all you care about is cutting taxes and don’t care about the consequences then I will concede that the Republicans are still your party of choice. Way to go Clint! If, though, like both Scott and Thomas, you claim to have concerns about the size of government, then its time to pull your head out of the sand and take a look at the current Republican party, which has increased federal spending at an unprecedented rate.

If you start with a balanced budget (which we didn’t, but that isn’t terribly relevant here), then cutting taxes and cutting the size of government, the classic conservative position, is logically consistent. Similarly, raising taxes and increasing the size of government is also logically consistent. Cutting taxes and increasing spending, though, represents a complete denial of reality. It would be like deciding to buy a bigger house right after taking a major income hit. It doesn’t make sense in a household, and it doesn’t make sense in a government. (There is the old Republican saw that decreasing taxes will increase revenues by spuring growth. Ignoring the fact that this argument is seriously flawed, shouldn’t we at least wait for that growth to materialize before spending the money?)

How long can the Republican party continue to be the party of increased spending and lower taxes? And which will implode first, the party or our country?