Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Tax

Bernie Sanders: What the Economists are Fighting About

Economists have gotten into a big fight with each other about the potential economic impacts of Bernie Sanders’ proposals. First Gerald Friedman came out with a new paper anticipating a tremendous improvement in economic performance under Sanders. Then four economists (Krueger, Goolsbee, Romer, and Tyson) affiliated with the Obama and Clinton administrations wrote a joint letter asserting that Friedman’s claims “cannot be supported by the economic evidence”. Paul Krugman subsequently took their side on his popular blog. Others have defended Friedman–Jamie Galbraith accuses the four of not having rigorously reviewed the paper, while Dean Baker claims that the New York Times is not giving Sanders’ side a platform and that there’s far more support among economists than we are being led to believe. In the popular press, this argument has rapidly devolved into a question of which authorities are more or less credible. I want to give you something better–a readable analysis of the actual arguments at stake here.

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The Third Republican Debate and the Tale of the Terrible Tax Plans

In the third republican presidential debate, the moderators gave the candidates a hard time over their tax plans, and the candidates responded by accusing the moderators of being biased. Said Ted Cruz:

The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions — “Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?” “Ben Carson, can you do math?” “John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?” “Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?” “Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?” How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about? And Carl — Carl, I’m not finished yet. The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, “Which of you is more handsome and wise?”

This was a clever move by Cruz–republican voters have been trained to believe that the media is out to get them, to suspect that whenever the republicans get asked tough questions that the journalists’ claims are exaggerated or even fabricated. He succeeded in distracting the viewing audience from the real story of the third debate–the deeply flawed tax plans laid out by the GOP candidates.

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Trump’s Tax Plan is Regressive and Unrealistic, Copies Bush and Romney

I was disappointed to read Donald Trump‘s tax plan today. In recent weeks, Trump has been talking a pretty progressive game on taxes. Many of us, myself included, speculated that Trump might be a bit left wing on this issue and might be attempting to shift the Republican Party a to the left on economic issues. Unfortunately, this appears to have been wishful thinking. Trump’s new plan is almost precisely the same as Jeb Bush‘s and Mitt Romney’s. This still puts him to the left of flat tax and fair tax candidates (Carson, Cruz, Paul, Huckabee, Perry, Walker all explicitly endorsed one or both, while Rubio and Kasich have expressed interest in ultimately going to a flat tax), but it puts him to the right of Hillary Clinton and far, far to the right of Bernie Sanders. So let’s talk a bit about how the Romney/Bush/Trump tax plan works, why it’s so disappointing, and what the differences are between the various versions of the plan.

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The 3 Ways Governments Raise Money Part I: Taxation

One of the things I’ve noticed lately is that there is a lot of confusion about how governments finance themselves. Many people try to make sense of the state’s finances by extrapolating from their own experiences with household budgets or running businesses. This leads to a lot of misconceptions, the most prominent of which is the idea that whenever governments borrow money, they must be acting irresponsibly. So I’m embarking on a 3-part series that I hope will clear things up for some people.

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Thomas Piketty is Not a Marxist

I subscribe to a weekly news magazine called The Week. It’s an excellent magazine highlighting the various things commentators have been saying in the popular press over the past week. In the most recent issue, however, I saw something strange. In the banner, there was a picture of Karl Marx, and the question “Is Marxism Back in Fashion?” This struck me as quite bizarre–I hadn’t seen any mention of Marx or Marxism in the last week. I turned to the relevant article and discovered that the controversy being highlighted was over Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Many commentators, particularly those writing in right-leaning publications, were referring to Piketty and his work as Marxist (for an example, see Kyle Smith’s piece in the New York Post) This apparently is so uncontroversial that The Week felt comfortable guiding people to the story with a Marx reference. I found this extremely troubling, both because Piketty is most certainly not a Marxist and because the practice of calling all those with radical left-wing views “Marxist” is an attempt to straw man those leftists and prevent people from thinking seriously about their views. I’d like to elaborate on both themes today.

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