Friday, December 2, 2016

on self-interests in military policy and "scare inflation"

In the December issue of Harpers, Alexander Cockburn writes about foreign policy "threat inflation" out of one's worldview but esp. for cynical gain.

One of many naive takes on political economy is to assume largely-altruistic motives among agents (politicians, bureaucrats, interest groups). Business is profit-max in the private sector, but wouldn't pursue the same in the public sector. Scientists and those in the military sector are altruists when it comes to policy. And so on.

Here, Cockburn reminds us about the self-seeking in promoting inefficient weapons systems (one might add inefficient military bases) before focusing on the value of "scares" for the military in general (pun intended) and Hillary Clinton in particular (her claims about the Russians and her emails as a useful deflection).

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Democrats cause a lot more trouble with science

This article by John Tierney seems awesome! What is it missing?

The GOP's trouble with "science" in some arenas is well-documented. The Dems' (far-larger?) trouble is less discussed-- out of ignorance or bias.

Tierney talks about this-- but really focuses on the larger questions: Where does this come from and what's the *actual* impact of those views on the world? And the fact of the matter is that Dem trouble with science causes *much, much* more trouble for science and the world. 

Tierney also makes reference to Haidt, a little bit after I saw a connection. Haidt is must-reading on this topic. But of course, the ironic problem is that the very people who should read it are least likely since they suffer from confirmation bias and various forms of fundamentalism.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

on trying to help the poor (especially when the government causes so much trouble in this realm)

A post on the occasion of a new IFWE booklet by Kathryn Feliciano on trying to help the poor... (See also: Corbert and Fikkert's already-classic book.)
If you're on the ground, trying to help "the poor", you quickly realize how complicated and challenging it is.

Start with two key government policies: 1.) welfare programs which tax the poor at an average of 80-90% as they earn money, encouraging them to remain on welfare and to embrace trouble with family stability/structure; and 2.) govt's huge monopoly power over the poor in K-12 education, exacerbating the family problems they've helped to create.

Add in a mix of all sorts of personal problems-- from lack of discipline and job experience to addiction and mental illness.

Now, try to help this wide variety of people, especially when there are "compassionate" subsidies beckoning them to remain in the same position.

Olasky notes that the word "compassion" used to derive its contemporary meaning from its Latin roots-- "to suffer with". Now, it merely means sentiment and feeling sorry for someone, often from a distance. But "distance" doesn't work well here. If you want to help-- and especially if the government wants to continue messing with the poor-- you'll have to get your hands (really) dirty.


good/bad news (post-election) for the Dems

The occasion for this post is a related article by Michael Barone...

Good news for Dems:
-They would have easily won the Presidency and had some (sizable) coattails if they had chosen (not rigged?) any other candidate.
-The GOP is unimpressive and fractured.
-It's about time for another natural recession that they can blame on the GOP.
-Trump may be a really bad president in terms of economics (causing economic trouble) or civility.

Bad news:
-They have a penchant for making excuses rather than making adjustments. (As with many temptations, it feels good in the short-run, but hurts you in the long-run.)
-They're more into politics and power than policy. Or from another angle: They've mostly run out of ideas and we've mostly run out of money to spend as taxpayers
-African-Americans are increasingly likely to move away from them on economic policy and the embrace of modern science is catching up to them on abortion.
-They're not having as many kiddos.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Moore on the Religious Right, the 2016 election, and where to go from here...

First Things recently hosted Russell Moore on "Can the Religious Right Be Saved?". The title is a nice pun on "saved" and a useful depiction (in general terms) of political temptations (over time) for those on "the right" within the Church and its periphery.

I'm especially interested in Russell Moore's opening (4:15-11:15) on being a product-- and a survivor-- of his Southern, Religious-Right background. Good stuff, particularly if you've been burned by some common (but far-from-universal) aspects of the RR-- political idolatry, social or moral hypocrisy, and end-times hockery. For people with baggage in this area, his testimony may bring perspective and relief.

From there (until 1:03:00), he discusses the problem of the Trump candidacy (presidency?) for Christian public supporters-- not necessarily that he was supported but the manner in which he was supported and some of the arguments that were used in that support. And beyond that, what so much avid support tells us by revealing profound flaws in our efforts at promoting discipleship with Jesus. And beyond that, where do we go from here?

Q&A starts after that, including the need to empathize within politics and a reference to Haidt's Righteous Mind as must-reading!

book recommendations for me?

I'd appreciate your help on this:

I'm putting together a list of books to recommend as an aspect of discipleship with Jesus (particularly for small-group studies to be read and discussed together).

I'm dividing the list into "200-level" and "300-level"-- where 200s are shorter & easier; and 300s are longer and/or heavier. I have a zillion books for the 200s, but am looking for more.

300s includes series/combos of books (e.g., four classics by C.S. Lewis) and some mid-level "equipping" curricula, but I'm looking for more individual books. The three examples I have at present: Willard's Divine Conspiracy, Chesterton's Orthodoxy, Piper's Desiring God.

Please list last name of author, book title, and a brief (5-10 word description). Thanks in advance!

Friday, November 18, 2016

letter to the editor of the C-J on "trickle-down economics"

Dear Editor,

In his recent op-ed piece, Matt Erwin uses the phrase "trickle-down economics" and then mischaracterizes "supply-side economics".

"Trickle-down" may be useful as political rhetoric. But it is does not aptly describe the related concepts and it is not a term that economists or proponents have ever used.  We usually allow other groups the dignity to choose their own labels. For example, we let people call themselves "pro-choice" (on abortion) rather than "pro-abortion". And we let people say they support "a living wage", instead of noting that they want to make it much more painful to hire less-skilled labor. Perhaps we should do the same on tax policy.

"Supply-side economics" simply recognizes the incentive effects of reducing marginal tax rates. For example, if the government plans to take 90% or 60% or 20% of the last $10,000 you earn, this changes your incentives to earn (and to report) income. Depending on the change in tax rates, it is possible that work effort would increase enough to offset the lost tax revenue from lower tax rates. But it is certainly not guaranteed. Of course, this becomes more likely when marginal tax rates are quite high. This explains why JFK cut the top rate from 91% to 70% in the 1960s and why Reagan (with a strongly Democratic House) cut the top rate to 28% in the 1980s.

As Erwin points out, Kentucky has struggled for some time. So, why not look forward to some new experiments with economic policy? It was the last GOP governor who took most of the working poor off of the state income tax rolls. Hopefully, Governor Bevin and the legislature will finish the task. Perhaps Kentucky can move to the 21st century on K-12 education reform, embracing public charter schools and "backpack funding". Maybe Kentucky can lead the way on innovative public sector pension reform. I look forward to the changing of the guard and some policy innovation out of Frankfurt. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

a common temptation and sin-- for 1/4 of us pre-Nov 8th and another 1/4th after Nov 8th

I Timothy 2:1-3 is a helpful barometer of the Christian faith as it applies to the realm of politics. 

If you aren't obeying these verses out of ignorance, consider yourself knowledgeable now and get to it! 

If you aren't doing it-- or even, can't do it-- it's just like any other willful sin. You'd better check your salvation claims-- and make sure that you've actually embraced God's grace. Then, repent from something that is as bad as being addicted to porn or clubbing baby seals.

With the impending change in presidential regimes, many folks are being tempted now-- in ways that others have been tempted for eight years. Just because you've only been tempted (again) in recent days doesn't mean that you've been righteous for the past eight years; you'll get a better idea of your righteousness in the weeks and months to come. Just because you're not tempted now does not mean that your heart is right either. Remember your struggles to obey this passage over the last eight years.

Today's charge: Check your heart; get right with God; disciple with Jesus; and get more comfortable in the goodness of God's Kingdom by obeying I Tim 2:1-3.

After you've done that, feel free to (lovingly) address character flaws and jacked-up policy proposals! ;-)

Monday, November 14, 2016

on "trickle-down", Trump, Clinton and Reagan

a.) "Trickle-down" again? C'mon people. Will the same people be ok if we switch to labels such as "anti-science" or "pro-abortion" on Roe v. Wade?

b.) Comparing Clinton's job growth with Reagan's? Puh-leez. 1.) Clinton had the generally-healthy economy that Reagan bequeathed him and a slight recession at the end of the Bush years from which to recover. Reagan/Volcker had the high inflation of Johnson-Nixon-Carter monetary policy to deal with (leading to the recession in 1982-- a time that was worse than the Great Recession).
2.) Clinton benefited from Reagan winning the Cold War, allowing him to divert military/defense resources to more productive uses.

c.) But to argue in favor of the author's thesis: One would not expect the necessarily-small decreases in marginal tax rates to be all that consequential-- or helpful to tax revenues or to the economy. When JFK (the original "supply-sider") cut the top rate from 91 to 70%-- and when Reagan teamed with a Democratic House to cut the top rate to 28% (and index taxes for inflation-- a huge, vastly-under-rated policy change)-- the gains were (expected to be) much larger.