Archive for the 'Welfare State' Category

The Government Shutdown and the Debt Default Issue: The Dreadful Lesson

October 18, 2013

by Mario Rizzo

I grant that the government “shutdown” and the perceived threat of default on the debt was a public relations disaster for the Republican Party. I think that the shutdown problems, like those of the Sequester, were grossly exaggerated by the traditional media and as well as by various left-wing hysterics. Neither of these spending or service adjustments affected the overwhelming majority of our (excessive) government spending.

The default problem could have been much worse. It would have presented the following options: Delay payments to bond holders, axe discretionary spending, and/or cut entitlement spending. Another possibility would have been to continue borrowing anyway, perhaps provoking a Constitutional problem. I believe that had this continued for only a few days not much would have happened that would not have been quickly undone afterwards. However, none of this activity would have served the interests of reducing the size and scope of government.

So what is the “dreadful lesson”? It is this. We do not know how to reduce the size of our Leviathan state. Tea Party critics are correct, for example, that the longer ObamaCare stays unaltered or unrepealed the harder it will be to get rid of it. This is not because it will suddenly turn out to be good but because, as with so many other laws, special interests will benefit and will not easily yield.  How well have the efforts to find alternatives to Social Security and Medicare gone?

Provoking crises will not work. The current Republican Party does not seem competent enough to devise clever political methods to accomplish the goal of smaller government, even if it were truly willing to do so. (And that is debatable.)

So we are left, politically speaking, with nothing. How dreadful.

Raise Middle Class Taxes Now!

December 26, 2012

by Mario Rizzo

I now favor expiration of the Bush era tax rates for everyone.  Why? Because the only way to curb spending in the long run is to make as large a number of Americans as possible truly feel the consequences of the expenditures they appear to desire.

If Americans saw the cost of the gigantic welfare state in their paychecks, they would, I am confident, radically re-evaluate the expenditure side of the situation we are in. Then when someone comes up with a genius idea for spending, the people would think: Is it worth higher taxes? Might I not spend it better on my family, my church – or even – on… champagne? Read the rest of this entry »

Student Debt Bubble Side Effect

August 9, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

Gore Vidal died a few days ago. He was a remarkably erudite author, as any reader of his marvelous historical novels – Burr and Lincoln are just a sample – notices.  He never went to college.  Read the rest of this entry »

Elitist Hokum from Krugman

February 19, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

It has become a standard left-liberal jibe that those complaining of government largesse receive a piece thereof themselves. Such beneficiaries go against their own interest if they favor smaller government—so it is alleged. Thus Paul Krugman in the NYT  largely agrees with Thomas Frank, who attributed apparent red state ingratitude to the exploitation of social issues by Republicans in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? 

In addition Mr. Krugman cites evidence suggesting large percentages of Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries  are confused about their use of these government programs.  They don’t seem to think they’re getting handouts.

Maybe that’s because they’re in fact not getting handouts.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Just Distribution of Income and Wealth

December 26, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

There has been a lot of talk this year, and especially during the holiday season, about the inequities in the distribution of wealth and income. But most of what has been written is quite simple-minded, if the writers mean to convey something more than their own personal preferences for a different distribution.

I have no objection to passive expressions of preference. But I do have objection when people attempt to bolster their case for intervention by the state under the banner of distributive justice, morality, religion or whatever is supposed to evoke some objectivity. Read the rest of this entry »

Revolution on Wall Street?

October 3, 2011

by Chidem Kurdas

Protestors have “occupied” a square near Wall Street for weeks. Hundreds of them were arrested, some 700 while blocking the Brooklyn Bridge. The movement may be spreading to other American cities. At least one demonstrator says: “This is a revolution.”

They complain of joblessness and the inequities of global capitalism, though the sources of their distress vary widely, from having to pay back student loans to the depredations of the internal combustion engine. At this point their immediate, tangible adversary appears to be the New York Police Department. It is easy to make fun of disaffected middle-class kids with Apple computers camping out in Downtown Manhattan. They bask in media limelight while taunting working-class cops. Still, we should try to understand the matter. Read the rest of this entry »

The Führer Principle – Light

August 12, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

David Gergen has written a piece decrying the lack of leadership on the debt-deficit “crisis” and calling for a new Churchill. David Gergen, who saw no problem working for both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, now teaches at the JFK School of Government at Harvard. He has a claim to being a member of the political establishment if anyone has.

This call is not confined to Gergen, however. It appears as a widely agreed-upon diagnosis in the news media, whether old or new. It is the conventional wisdom of the day.

Yet it is dangerously superficial. It completely misdiagnoses the problem before us. Read the rest of this entry »

The Current Debt and Budgetary Impasse

July 14, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

One of the most important, but frequently ignored, aspects of the current negotiations about raising the debt ceiling is the lack of credible commitment on each side.

The problem has two aspects. One is clearly analyzed by Michael McConnell in today’s Wall Street Journal.  (Perhaps also here.) What exactly is “on the table”? The president or the GOP says “I propose X in budget cuts.” Are specific reductions being proposed or just general goals to be worked out later? Is the base-line current spending or is it current budgetary authority (that is, the current planned rate of increase)? If the president suggests revenue “enhancements,” how specific are these? Are they increases in marginal rates or elimination of specific “loopholes”? We just don’t know for sure.  

The second aspect is how enforceable would be such agreements under the current gun? Read the rest of this entry »

The Long-Run versus the Short

July 13, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

In this past Monday’s New York Times (July 11th) there appeared an article entitled, “Economy Faces a Jolt as Benefit Checks Run Out.”  The following excerpt gives the gist of the article:

An extraordinary amount of personal income is coming directly from the government.

Close to $2 of every $10 that went into Americans’ wallets last year were payments like jobless benefits, food stamps, Social Security and disability, according to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics. Read the rest of this entry »

Confusion Masquerading as Science? Taxes and Spending

May 29, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

I am always amazed that when many economists give policy advice the sophistication and logical rigor that the discipline so values gets completely lost.

There are many ways to interpret this. One is that the level of precision appropriate to theory and to applied economics is not appropriate to the “art” of economic policy. Of course, I would suggest that maybe this teaches us something about the ultimate value of sophistication in the theoretical product. Do the precise concepts of theory and applied economics have referents in the “real world”? Or is most of the precision lost when we try to understand the world and recommend policies? This is an important question.

However, here I am interested in the sloppiness of the policy-relevant discussions that even very good and respectable economists produce. One interesting example is a recent “Economix” piece in The New York Times by the Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt.

I have two points: first, the confusing mix of science and value judgments; and second, the naïve analysis of the political process. Read the rest of this entry »


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