Thursday Highlights

Good morning … from the DAL (Love Field) airport.

  1. Advice for prayer.
  2. The seen and unseen.
  3. Fiscal policy in a nutshell.
  4. I hadn’t parsed this quote … but prompted to take a second look, why didn’t his head explode (or at least the audience break into laughter).
  5. Labor relations nominee.
  6. Well, at least somebody still has a fine sense of humor. I wonder what search terms find stuff like that.
  7. Cap and trade … one of those broken campaign promises (that would be not raising taxes on the middle and lower classes)?
  8. Speaking of taxes “fighting for jobs” by forcing companies out? Don’t worry, “blame corporate greed” will resurface soon.
  9. The elder and the pornographer.
  10. The left wing points to democrat intransigence on the healthcare matter.
  11. AIG bailout broke laws?
  12. A question on economic policy.

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9 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    Cap and trade … one of those broken campaign promises (that would be not raising taxes on the middle and lower classes)?

    I’ll give you two answers to this, one suitable for the political hackery/cheap talking points POV, another more suitable for serious discussion of the issue.

    Hackery/talking points/spin- Notice how, when Obama takes credit for cutting taxes on the middle and lower classes, Republicans tend to immediately jump on the fact that payroll tax cuts and refundable tax credits often help people to the point that they don’t pay any federal income taxes? In other words, to the GOP the only taxes that really exist are Federal Income taxes hence any tax cut that isn’t cutting Federal income tax is not a real tax cut. Well the rhetorical sword cuts both ways. Since cap-n-trade isn’t causing anyone to write a check to the gov’t and isn’t raising anyone’s income or even payroll taxes it isn’t a tax increase. If Republicans want to consider it a tax increase they *must* offset it with the various tax cuts Obama has enacted to truely see if he has raised, lowered or kept level middle class taxes

    More englightened answer- Cap-n-Trade is basically about property rights. Calling it a tax increase is problematic because:

    a. It obscures what taxes are. In theory not only can any given gov’t policy but also a lack of gov’t policy can cause you to incur expense. If you consider that tax increases you basically make it impossible to do any true apples to apples comparisions of tax policy. For example, I read somewhere that poorly maintained roads cause the average driver about $500 a year in car repair costs. Is that a tax? If so would a program to raise registration fees by $100 and plow the money into pothole repair be considered a tax cut if it lowers cost by $125.

    b. It confuses market results with taxes. Apple Itunes raises their prices. Is that a tax increase? Apple sells its itunes because it holds intellectual property rights. Perhaps IP law is too strong allowing Apple to hold too tight a grip on IP. If so, though, I wouldn’t consider viewing that as a ‘tax’ to be very helpful.

    In cap-n-trade’s case the essence is property rights. Carbon use basically disrupts proprety that isn’t yours hence cap-n-trade brings that into the market mix with all other property rights. When you buy a soda you are paying for the bottler, the shop, the trademark, the R&D work of the soda company and so on. Since that can takes up a small amount of space in the store’s property, the cost of that soda to you incorporates the cost of infringing on that few cubic inches of space. Why shouldn’t the cost likewise include (even if imperfectly) the costs of the carbon emitted? Likewise why shouldn’t the prices of things that are exceptionally light on carbon emmissions likewise incorporate that value?

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    On (a), yes a higher registration fee is a tax, that it then goes to a program which provides benefits is irrelevant (and “goes into such and such” is an accounting fiction, as the money just goes into a general pool).

    Apple iTunes is a consumer resource, it is a choice. You don’t need to buy music from iTunes, you have many other retail outlets from whom to buy the same product. However, if you do buy your energy from somewhere else, the same tax will apply.

    Whether or not environmental carbon is harmful is a matter that is being debated, but even taking it to be so, cap/trade remains a tax (see point (a)).

  3. Boonton says:

    Actually by your ‘a’ cap-n-trade wouldn’t be a tax since you are paying nothing to the gov’t for using carbon. The purchase of credits is done by companies producing CO2 & as you pointed out with iTunes your use of them is a choice. Even if you buy your tunes elsewhere, you have to legally satisfy the copyright owner of those tunes. The radical extension of copyrights by the late Sony Bono’s bill, for example, has increased your ‘tune cost’ regardless of where you shop. Yet that is not a tax but an application of property rights. Maybe its a poor implementation of property rights but to try to analyze it as a tax leads to the confusion and distortions above.

  4. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    What property right? Do you think the government “owns” the environment, and therefore can charge a use-fee on that. I think we’ve a different notion of what exactly is government. I don’t think they have ownership of the environment and therefore their cap/trade is a tax.

  5. Boonton says:

    Actually that’s not very relevant to the question. Who does own the environment? Whoever it is should be selling the credits but regardless rejection of cap-n-trade is essentially saying the person who ‘owns’ the environment is whoever wants to burn carbon. Where does that idea come from and what supports it?

  6. Boonton says:

    Do you think the government “owns” the environment, and therefore can charge a use-fee on that. I think we’ve a different notion of what exactly is government.

    This is an statement that is amazingly ignorant of not just the last few thousand years of political philosophy but even conservative philosophy. The environment is ‘owned’ collectively and the gov’t represents us collectively. Who or what else is supposed to represent the interests of that which is not individually owned? For example, suppose Canada goes to war with Mexico and wants to ask for flyover permission for its air force. Who is supposed to handle such questions? Each individual title holder from the northern border to the southern one? What happens when their planes fly over the Grand Canyon, owned by no particular individual?

  7. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    And your argument is amazingly consistent with the rapacious and fallacious notion that government should be free to tax and regulate all human activity, recall the article linked a bit ago about “taxing” accomplishments in virtual worlds.

    All government income is tax, that’s what tax means. That isn’t to say governments cannot provide benefits. But to decide some of their income is not tax by some weird notions of property to avoid problems in thinking of cap/trade as a tax is not a solution. You have this problem with taxes it seems. You think the corporate half of SS is not a tax on you because it doesn’t show up on your statement (and apparently have never been self-employed).

  8. Boonton says:

    So your perception of property rights is basically you own everything unless we can prove someone else owns it. Kind of a ultimate king of the mountain style of philosophy. This is why I like to say the right has been intellectually bankrupt for quite a while now.

  9. Boonton says:

    Of course here property rights are actually a bit too strong. If I own something I’m entitled to set any price I want for its use. If I own the air the price I charge you for putting carbon into ‘my air’ can be whatever I want. Not the damage you may or may not be causing me.

    The more accurate concept here is internalization of costs. Free enterprise works because decisions internalize their costs. If I choose to buy a McDouble tonight, the price I pay covers the cost of the store, the clerk, the cook, the meat, the bun, the R&D spending McDonald’s took to come up with the recipe and so on. This makes my decision efficient in the sense that all costs have been accounted for and covered.

    If, though, I’m able to make certain decisions but without internalizing the costs I’m actually infringing on others. This will be inefficient in the sense that I will opt to consume something more than I otherwise would because I’m not really internalizing its true costs. It will also be unfair in the sense that I will consume more if I buy things that do not fully internalize costs than someone who does.