Dylan Matthews’ post on the evidence that rich people don’t flee high-tax states is interesting. One wonders how much of this relates to the regionalized nature of American political culture. If you like living in Connecticut, you’re presumably not going to just go move to Alabama to save on your taxes. But if you like living in Connecticut you might also enjoy New Jersey. Except New Jersey’s also a high tax state. And so’s New York.
Conversely, Alabama might hope to attract migrants with lots of human capital from Mississippi with its low tax rates, but this is hard to pull off since Mississippi also has low tax rates. If you look at a state pair with a steeper policy gradient, you might see bigger effects. The shape of the Boston-Quincy MSA seems to me to support the thesis the idea (which you certainly here anecdotally) that some people choose to live in Greater Boston’s New Hampshire fringe rather than other geographically closer locales in Massachusetts for tax reasons.
Bonus fact: Most Americans would faint instantly upon hearing about Swedish levels of taxation, but when I was in Copenhagen I was told that one reason many people choose to commute across the Øresund Bridge is to avoid the even-higher Danish taxes. One suspects that if Sweden adopted Canada’s tax code, that Denmark’s current policy might become non-viable.
But of course as I said yesterday one of the key issues here is what your jurisdiction looks like on the spend side. If your higher taxes are paying for better infrastructure and superior services, then it seems to me you’re in great shape. But a problem many U.S. states will increasingly be facing is that their higher taxes will be going to pay pension and health care benefits for retired civil servants, thanks to decades of earlier fuzzy math in terms of funding these plans.
After winning the GOP nomination for the California U.S. Senate race last week, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has been quick to tout her chief executive credentials in her race against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). While claiming to fight for “millions of Californians [that] are struggling without a job,” Fiorina has mounted a fierce defense of her record off-shoring American jobs and has glossed over her rocky tenure at Hewlett Packard.
Portfolio named Fiorina one of the 20 worst CEO’s of all time, saying she was “busy pontificating on the lecture circuit and posing for magazine covers while her company floundered.” And Fiorina’s even gone as far as saying that “of course” she would still cut 10,000 jobs, like she did in 2003, if she were the HP CEO today.
“If you’re a business owner and there are stimulus dollars that might help your customers buy more of your product or might help you, of course you’re going to accept the stimulus dollars,” Fiorina said. “But that is not an argument that the stimulus package has worked because the stimulus package clearly, factually, manifestly has failed because people are losing their jobs for every single dollar that’s out there.”
Interestingly, both Rex Moore and the window-making plant Fiorina’s campaign visited yesterday both benefited from stimulus funds — the first receiving $447,000 subcontract through the program and the latter advertising that customers could receive energy tax credits. The New York Times also reported that there is another California business benefiting from the Recovery act: Fiorina’s former company, Hewlett-Packard. The Times called this “the kind of benefit to private industry that Fiorina says has been missing from the stimulus program. ”
As The Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo has pointed out, the Senatorial candidate’s “only real solution to anything is to cut taxes. But that doesn’t do much good for those who are already out of work and have no taxable income, and it doesn’t spur demand that will give businesses more customers and thus a reason to expand.”
Additionally, while Fiorina argues “people are losing their jobs” because of the stimulus, she clearly fails to recognize the stimulus’ positive impact in California. Although the Golden State is undeniably still struggling economically, the more than 70,000 jobs created as a result of the stimulus are difficult to ignore. Furthermore, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Recovery act has already saved or created 2.8 million jobs — an estimated 3.7 million by September.
Shortly after BP’s catastrophic oil spill in the gulf, the New York Times spoke to Quenton Dokken, the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, about the environmental impact. “The sky is not falling,” Dokken told the paper, adding “it isn’t the end of the Gulf of Mexico.” ProPublica dug into the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, and reported that the Times had failed to disclose that Dokken and his group are funded by a consortium of oil companies with business in the gulf, including companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon rig, Transocean and Anadarko. Today, the Times reported that the Foundation has been downplaying effects of the spill, possibly because of its funding from oil companies.
ThinkProgress has obtained more documents and evidence that the Gulf of Mexico Foundation has operated as a front for the oil companies involved in the spill. In addition to Transocean and Anadarko, this 2008 “Guardians of the Gulf” award ceremony hosted by the Foundation shows that BP is also a “CEO council member” of the nonprofit. View a screenshot here:
On May 20 and 21, about thirty days into the BP oil spill, the supposedly pro-”environmental conservation” Gulf of Mexico Foundation hosted a conference with oil industry lobbyists to promote further deep water drilling not only the in Gulf of Mexico, but in environmentally sensitive areas throughout the United States. The Foundation pretends it is just a do-gooder organization, sponsoring learning trips for Middle School students and other positive events. But clearly displaying the Foundation’s true goal of greenwashing the oil industry and suppressing the environmental impacts of oil spills, Dokken spoke at length downplaying the impact of the current BP oil disaster, minimizing the impact of ExxonValdez, boasting that the BP oil spill clean up jobs are better than “normal jobs,” and even “guaranteeing” that a hurricane will clean up any remnants of BP’s spill:
Dokken explaining why the “sky is not falling”: “Oil is not new in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s been entering the Gulf of Mexico for as long as the oil has existed.”
Dokken on how the spill has helped the local economy: “In Alabama, speaking on a sea grant program, the big problem he had was the spill response jobs were paying so much more than the normal jobs, everybody was leaving their normal jobs for spill response.”
Dokken on minimal impact of ExxonValdez: “And don’t forget, it was Governor Sarah Palin who championed the drill, baby, drill slogan, and that was after Exxon Valdez! So apparently, it didn’t scare Alaska away from the spill or the oil and gas industry, and you know I can, say after the smoke cleared and the headlines cleared or the headlines were cleared with another catastrophe, the true and financial impact was not the disaster that was predicted or portrayed.”
Dokken on how a hurricane will clean the oil: “I guarantee you there will be very little evidence that the Deepwater Horizon ever blew out, if its shut off by the time the hurricanes gets here. And it’s not magic, its just dilution. It mixes it up, spreads it out, breaks it down and it’s gone. We still shouldn’t be putting it in there, don’t get me wrong, but storms and nature is what keeps getting us out of these binds.”
Watch a compilation of clips from Murkowski and Dokken’s remarks:
In reality, the courts struck down ExxonValdez settlement payments, and victims still have not been compensated for their losses. In addition to the lives ruined and suicides caused by Exxon’s spill, the environment is poisoned and herring, the prime economic engine of the Prince William Sound, have not returned.
Current oil drilling trade association head Randall Luthi, who previously worked for Dick Cheney on the team that signed off on a vast expansion of dangerous drilling leases and who later served in the Minerals Management Service in the Bush administration, gave a presentation at the conference. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a close friend of the oil industry who previously said wellhead blowouts are “impossible,” spoke at the Foundation conference, telling attendees “we should be careful and not pass reactionary legislation that hasn’t been fully thought through” in response to the spill. Notably, Murkowski blocked legislation to raise the liability cap for oil companies.
Extended transcript of Dokken’s remarks: Read more
But I just don’t trust arguments of this sort. Regulate business to prevent negative environmental externalities, sure. Basic safety, okay. But the idea that what we need is for a bunch of people to get together and say that it would be better to ban this and that and the other capitalist act between consenting adults just strikes me as the wrong way of going about things. Purely economic regulation of this sort doesn’t have a compelling track record, runs into all kinds of Hayek-esque knowledge problems, and is basically an open invitation down the road for regulatory capture and the use of rules to prevent the emergence of competition. Count me out. For me, it’s all about higher taxes to finance more and better public services. That’s my brand of liberal economics—take the rich people’s money and use it to pay for stuff, don’t tell them what to do with the companies they run.
That said, this whole discussion around credit cards does have me thinking that there might be a niche out there for something along the lines of “charitable entrepreneurship.” Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are trying to urge billionaires around the world to give half their money to charity. That would be great. But maybe what we really need some super-rich charitably inclined businessmen to do is finance some new ventures in these quasi-utility markets like charge cards, cell phones, mortgage origination, etc. based on a “don’t screw the customer over” business model. The striking thing about the credit card universe, after all, is that there’s very little competition and no meaningful difference in business practices between Visa and MasterCard. But I don’t think it’s written in stone anywhere that there can be only two.
It’s the weekend. Clearly what you need is the inevitable, really quite good “Alejandro”-Ace of Base-”Don’t Turn Around” mashup. I am so totally fine with a nineties revival, something I never thought I’d say. Never:
Plus the heartbroken lyrics to “Don’t Turn Around” and the anti-love lyrics of “Alejandro” make for a nice, spiky conversation
WILL CAIN: Right here, at the top, “Chapter Two: Islamism.” The question for the house is what should we call the challenge that confronts the West? And your candid answer is, Islam. Is that what our battle is? Is this a war on terror, or is that kind of need to be backed up? Do we have a bigger fight in front of us, a fight with Islam?
ANDY MCCARTHY: Well, I ultimately come out and say that we should call it Islamism, but I face up to the idea that it may very well be that Islam is the problem. And I do think that we have to face the fact that all the terrorism that we’ve been dealing with in the past number of decades now, plus this wider civilizational threat to the West, is inextricably linked to an interpretation of Islam that is unquestionably legitimate and based on Islamic doctrine.
CAIN: Yeah, is that interpretation — you’re suggesting that that interpretation is legitimate, so does that suggest that Islam is an inherently violent religion?
MCCARTHY: Yeah, I think, well, it certainly — if there is a legitimate of it that’s drawn from the scriptures, I don’t see how you could say it’s not. Now you could say it doesn’t have to be violent, but the roots of the violence are in the doctrine. They’re not, you know, no one pulled those out of the sky, those are in the Koran.
It’s hard to really do justice to the utter absence of intellectual rigor on either end of this conversation. While the mainstream consensus over the last few years has more or less recognized that “war on terror” is too broad a description for the challenge the U.S. faces from violent extremism, here you’ve got two conservatives wondering whether it simply isn’t broad enough, and whether Islam itself is the problem. It’s like looking through a time portal into 2002.
It feels silly to even have to explain this, but there are very few religious texts that could not be, have not been, (and in many cases still are) interpreted as justification for violence.
Observe thou that which I am commanding thee this day; behold, I am driving out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest they be for a snare in the midst of thee. But ye shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and ye shall cut down their Asherim [idols]. For thou shalt bow down to no other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God;
Many extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank take these and other verses as license for violence against Palestinians and destruction of their property. And there are Jewish scholars who back them up on this. By McCarthy’s reasoning, that makes Judaism an inherently violent religion.
Anti-choice terrorist Scott Roeder justified his murder of abortion provider George Tiller through reference to Genesis Chapter 9, verse 6: “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man.” By McCarthy’s reasoning, that makes Christianity an inherently violent religion.
I think reasonable people understand that religious interpretation is something that is constantly contested, and meanings change over time. In the 11th Century, the Christian Bible was interpreted in such a way to justify sending thousands of European Christian knights into the Holy Land to slaughter thousands of Muslims and Jews. It’s interpreted differently now. Religions aren’t static things.
But the more insidious aspect of McCarthy’s argument is that, by simply granting the religious legitimacy of Al Qaeda’s call to terrorist violence, McCarthy basically proposes to cede the ideological battlefield to bin Laden. Worse than that, by positing a “wider civilizational” war with Islamic extremism, he effectively affirms bin Laden’s propaganda about the nature and extent of this war, letting bin Laden define us and our aims in a way that helps bin Laden, rather than the other way around. I’m not sure whether this is more a function of McCarthy’s own laziness about exploring the actual debates ongoing among Islamic scholars regarding the just use of violence, or if it’s just plain bigotry, or a mixture of both, but whatever the case it’s outrageous that National Review is promoting this conspiracy theory-spouting clown as someone worth listening to on these issues.
I neglected to point out how especially ridiculous it is for McCarthy to hold forth on Islamic justifications for terrorist violence, given that he himself defended Israel’s hugely destructive Gaza war as a method of “educating” Gaza’s civilians. Apologize for the oversight.
In April, Dawn Johnsen withdrew from consideration to be the next Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The progressive community had applauded Johnsen as one of President Obama’s best nominees, but Republicans ended up blocking her nomination twice. In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Johnsen suggested that the reason the GOP opposed her was simply that she opposed torture:
There is no simple answer to why my nomination failed. But I have no doubt that the OLC torture memo — and my profoundly negative reaction to it — was a critical factor behind the substantial Republican opposition that sustained a filibuster threat. Paradoxically, prominent Republicans earlier had offered criticisms strikingly similar to my own. A bipartisan acceptance of those criticisms is key to moving forward. The Senate should not confirm anyone who defends that memo as acceptable legal advice.
Just after my withdrawal, the New York Times wrote a very positive editorial about why I should have been confirmed. But the editorial concluded by decrying a potential chilling lesson of my ill treatment for people considering government service: “Don’t stand on principle and certainly, don’t speak out in public.” … I want to make clear, that is not the lesson I want anyone to draw from my experience.
My biography should hardly be used as an example of why we should not stand on principle or speak out in public. First of all, being willing to stand on principle and fight for liberties that were at times controversial has not hurt me professionally — quite the opposite. … Standing up for the right to privacy did not prevent a past administration from having me serve as acting Assistant Attorney General and running OLC and continuing to fight for the rule of law over the last decade did not prevent a new president from choosing me to return to head OLC. Nor did it deter a majority of the Senate from supporting me. … My message could not be more clear or more simple: I have no regrets.
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Johnsen added that trying to build a record that is so boring that Republicans won’t attack you is a futile endeavor. ”In the current climate, even if you attempt a crass political calculus about how to live your life, you may as well say what think, because they can always find a footnote to twist and distort in a twenty year old brief. In my case, it was footnote 23.”
Also at the conference, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) acknowledged Johnsen, saying that she “should be the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. What Republicans have done to keep you from doing that important job is flat out wrong.” He also joked to audience members, “Look to your left. Look to your right. Odds are, at least one of the three of you will someday be filibustered by Senate Republicans.”
Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.
Also: “In recent years Timber Lake Camp, a co-ed sleep-away camp in Phoenicia, N.Y., has started employing ‘friendship coaches’ to work with campers to help every child become friends with everyone else.”
Alan Greenspan wrote an absurd anti-deficit piece in the WSJ today, advancing the argument that it’s a bad thing that we’re not suffering adverse consequences from the deficit:
Despite the surge in federal debt to the public during the past 18 months—to $8.6 trillion from $5.5 trillion—inflation and long-term interest rates, the typical symptoms of fiscal excess, have remained remarkably subdued. This is regrettable, because it is fostering a sense of complacency that can have dire consequences.
Greenspan did, I think, a good job as a setter of interest rates. But he also consistently abused his prestige to try to manipulate the country into a low-tax, bad-services, high-inequality equilibrium. Out of office he doesn’t set interest rates at all, so all we get is the abuse of his prestige to wage a relentless war against revenue and public services.
Across the country, homeowners have been facing foreclosure after seeing their payments on adjustable mortgages increase while housing prices fell. According to the Palm Beach Post, this problem has even afflicted the Republican senate candidate in Florida, Marco Rubio.
Rubio is reportedly facing foreclosure on a Tallahassee home that he co-owns with David Rivera, a Florida state lawmaker. The duo “stopped making payments in February after a dispute about the amount [of the mortgage payment] once the interest-only period ended.” Rubio’s campaign has claimed that the issue has “been resolved,” even though documents do not show that the foreclosure process has been halted.
Rubio, of course, is basing his entire campaign on his version of fiscal conservatism, and has repeatedly criticized the Obama administration (as well as Republicans) for spending money that it doesn’t have:
“It’s not just good enough to say, you know what, we think Barack Obama’s doing a bad job. You’ve got to say what you would do instead. And I think there’s so much to be done, whether it’s stop the growth of the federal government, stop spending money we don’t have.” [CNBC, 1/12/10]
“President Barrack Obama’s economic policies are wrong, Rubio said. ‘We are spending money we don’t have,’ Rubio said.” [Florida News-Press, 5/13/10]
“Really, in the last 20 years it’s been a battle between the tax-and-spend democrats and the borrow-and-spend republicans. Both parties are guilty of spending money that we don’t have.” [Hotline, 10/23/09]
Of course, if Rubio wasn’t prepared to spend on his adjustable mortgage, he shouldn’t have taken it out. And if he was, in fact, led to believe that he could afford the mortgage or that the adjustment was not as drastic as it was, then he should be pushing for stricter government regulation of the mortgage market through the creation of a consumer financial protection agency.
As the St. Petersburg Times pointed out, “even if the [mortgage] dispute is finalized, it makes Rubio vulnerable to criticism once again about his personal finances. As House Speaker, he charged $16,000 in questionable personal expenses to a state Republican Party credit card, including $135 at a Miami barbershop, and later refunded $3,000 for flights he double-billed to taxpayers and the party.”