Saturday, January 12, 2019

Tammy Bruce's Ode To Traditional Masculinity

Tammy Bruce, a guest on Fox & Friends, a right-wing political television show, gave such a brilliant example of everything that can go wrong when we debate concepts such as femininity and masculinity that I am going to dedicate a whole post to her utterances. (1)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Short Posts 1/10/19. Trump's Shutdown as a Game of Chicken, Higher Marginal Income Tax Rates And The Flu

1.  I believe that Trump sees his government shutdown as a game of chicken.  The big problem for a narcissistic man is that he is playing it against a woman, Nancy Pelosi.  He can't lose, because then he would lose face.  And, possibly, other parts.  That the shutdown causes real suffering to many is not something Trump can relate to, sigh.

2.  His immigration speech the other day was an odd one.  He read it quite fluently, if we ignore the sniffing, and what he read was clear enough.

Wonder who wrote the speech?  Stephen Miller is one possible guess, but Miller (the fascist architect of the current immigration policies) would never include the bits about emotions and the heart and all that crap, because he doesn't know what those things might be.  Neither would Trump, of course, so I smell a new speech writer.

As an aside (because truth now is just an aside in these debates), the speech was based on two major factual errors which this Vox piece spells out.

It was also based on the familiar be-very-very-afraid trick which the Republicans have successfully exploited for a few decades now.  What's hilarious is that we are told to be very very afraid of migrants from South America (foreigners bring disease and crime and cost us money and jobs), but not of some very powerful foreigners, such as Vlad (the Impaler) Putin, though the latter has most likely caused a lot of damage to this country (and democracy) by his shenanigans.

3.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' suggestion that annual incomes above ten million dollars should be taxed at marginal tax rates rising to seventy percent created the expected reactions from the wealthier pundits of the right.

Sean Hannity, in particular, worried about all the toys that he and his friends might lose if her awful proposal actually became reality:

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Now she wants to confiscate what would be the equivalent, if you lived in her state of New York, of 85 cents of every dollar. Well that means the rich people won't be buying boats that they like recreationally, they're not going to be taking expensive vacations anymore and they probably won't be investing their money in America anymore because it won't be profitable for them.

Hannity doesn't understand marginal tax rates!  Ocasio-Cortez' proposal would tax incomes above, say, ten million dollars per year, at a higher tax rate, not all the income that someone who makes more than ten million dollars per year earns.

If the seventy-percent top rate was applied to income above ten million dollars, the first dollar that would be taxed at that rate would be the first someone earns after already having earned ten million that year.  The dollars earned earlier would have lower marginal tax rates.

So it wouldn't be true that the effect would apply to "every dollar," as Hannity argues.

Hannity's argument in that above quote is something he elaborated on later:

You know, and people got mad at me, they said, "Hannity, you were talking about, well, rich people won't buy boats" -- no, rich people won't go to restaurants, because they won't have the money. Rich people won't invest in companies, that means they're not going to hire people.
Rich people are not going to remodel their homes, they're not going to build new homes -- who benefits? The contractor, the electrician, the plumber, the -- the carpenters, they're the ones that benefit, when rich people spend money on their homes.

This is the old assertion that rich people are job creators, and if they are not allowed to keep a lot of their money then they will stop creating jobs!  So trying to tax high incomes is no different from shooting ourselves in the foot (feet?).

But reality is quite a bit more complicated than assuming that jobs come only from the consumption and investment of the very rich.

One complication is that the marginal propensity to consume is probably a lot lower for the very rich* than for the rest of us, and this means that raising the top marginal tax rates would not cut the consumption by the very rich as much as Hannity fears.  This means that fewer jobs would be lost.

A second complication, and one which links to the previous one, is that Hannity's argument doesn't take into account the additional tax revenues Occasio-Cortez' proposal would create.

They would not just vanish into the empty air, but would ultimately  be spent or invested, preferably in the domestic economy, and the individuals whose paychecks, say, will rise because of that might also decide to remodel their houses, go out for a meal, or buy a small rowing boat.

Those individuals are likely to earn less, on average, than the folks who make more than ten million per year.  This means that their marginal propensity to consume is going to be higher, the demand for goods and services will rise**, and new firms might be created to take advantage of that demand.  They are also many more in numbers than the super-rich.

Whether raising the top marginal tax rates would produce enough money to finance various governmental policies is, of course, an empirical question, and to answer that properly requires actual research.  Sean Hannity's arguments are not that.***

4.  The iatrogenic illness I caught in December from my general practitioner turned out to be something more than just a bad head cold.  I spent about two weeks in the zombieland where the "me" that usually exists seemed to have gone to sleep, replaced by a zombie Echidne with no creativity except in making long lists of what hurt and where.

I think I had the flu, given the symptoms, but perhaps because I did get vaccinated the way it passed was odd.  Usually the flu symptoms start, one's condition deteriorates quite rapidly in the next day or two, the illness reaches its peak and then recovery takes place at some fairly constant daily rate.

But my most recent experience was nothing like that.  I felt the same level if discomfort and pain every single day, until, suddenly I woke up almost completely healthy.

But weak and feeble.  I made the mistake of trying some rather strenuous exercise on Monday and almost fainted.  So this is the long explanation why my research for this post might have mistakes I don't spot.
*  This is just a fancy way of saying that how much someone would spend out of the "marginal dollar," the "last" dollar added to your most recent paycheck depends on how big your paychecks are.  The bigger they are, other things constant, the smaller the percentage of that dollar people will spend.

** Thus, the poorer people are also job creators, because they consume goods and services in the marketplace and thereby become the customers that firms need to, say, expand their hiring of workers.

*** The real, hidden, arguments against higher marginal tax rates view them as governmental theft.  Those arguments are based on the belief that the rich truly deserve their higher incomes because they work so much harder than the poorer people and/or because they are so much more creative and productive than the poorer lot.

Should the rich have inherited their position, the argument just moves back one generation and maintains that the income was initially earned by hard work and great genius and those who created it had the right to pass its fruits to their children.

This way of thinking doesn't ask how the enterprises of the wealthy, for example, have benefited from public infrastructure investments, the creation of the Internet, the tax-payer subsidized education of the workers of those enterprises and so on.  Instead, it assumes that the wealthy earned their higher incomes with zero help from anyone else.

Monday, January 07, 2019

The Hillarization of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Not Going Well.

The attempts to Hillarize* Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are wonderful to watch.  The right-wing apparatus tries everything they can think of, but the usual approaches don't work quite as well with her as they work with older women, largely, because she is too young to have a lot of life history which can be mined for any minor infraction.

So the (hidden) focus now seems to imply that she has stepped out of the proper role of attractive young women which is to be eye-candy while staring adoringly at older powerful male politicians.

That's the best way to understand** why the right-wingers think that a video of her dancing while in college would matter or that her old nickname (Sandy) would matter.  Those things are supposed to embarrass her now because they are the types of things eye-candy-hotties are expected to do.

This Boston Herald opinion piece is a good example of the way Ocasio-Cortez is currently being Hillarized.

But she has learned the lesson from the past and refuses to silently accept the Hillarization.  We shall see if it works, though I hope that it does.


*  "Hillarization" is my cumbersome term for what the right-wing media did to Hillary Clinton over several decades by creating a loudspeaker which spewed nonstop information and misinformation about her perfidies and her sins, whether real or imaginary.

This approach creates the impression that something must be very wrong with a woman who receives such long-term treatment, even if actual data didn't support that conclusion.  Because all this worked so well with Hillary Clinton, it is now applied to other female Democratic politicians.

An important aspect of the Hillarization of female politicians is that the sins deemed important in the process are much milder and even insignificant if they applied to a male politician and that they are frequently about the kind of subtle violations of gender roles which would only matter when the object of criticism is a woman.

**  It's not the only way.  Some argue that the right-wing tries to label her as unauthentic, another device that the Hillarization process utilizes.  But I find the "eye-candy running wild when it's supposed to stay put and silent" theory the clearest explanation for what the right-wing tries to accomplish.