Thursday, December 01, 2011

Newt Gingrich for Secretary of Health and Human Services 

Newt Gingrich has threatened, or maybe promised, or at least predicted, that he is going to be the Republican Party's nominee to run against Barack Obama in 2012.

I hope he is wrong, because I want to beat Barack Obama, and while I would vote for any of the first 100 names in the Boston Houston phone book before Obama, there are at least a few million people in six or eight critical states that are not so committed as I am.

Look. There is no person in politics with whom I would rather have a bull session than Newt Gringrich. Newt is smart, creative, eloquent, and entertaining. But he lacks self-discipline, and is therefore very vulnerable to attack. If you believe, as I do, that the future of the country hinges on beating Obama next year, do you really want to bet all the ranches on The Newt?

Ron Paul, doing Mitt Romney's dirty work, served up only part of the case against Newt in one of the most brutal intra-party political ads I have ever seen.

The ironic thing is that at certain versions of Newt are in many respects not in the least socially conservative. It is precisely this mental flexibility that renders Newt both interesting and a poor choice for president -- people just cannot stand that much nuance (to be charitable about it). He will blow his campaign up catastrophically as surely as the Lord made little green apples. Let us just hope it happens before GOP primary voters hand him the nomination.

However, there is an essential role for Newt Gingrich in the next Republican administration: Secretary of Health and Human Services. Obamacare vests enormous power in the Secretary, and has extended the reach of that department in to every American household. Provision by provision, the Affordable Care Act delegates so much regulatory authority to the Secretary of HHS that one is forced to wonder whether Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid even imagined that a Republican might ever again occupy the White House. Newt's wonkish mind, capacity for conflict, and impish sense of humor are perfectly suited to the job of "refining" health care reform, the Food and Drug Administration, and any number of other agencies and programs in that vast department.

We simply cannot afford to foreclose that opportunity by nominating Newt Gingrich for president.

UPDATE (Friday lunch): Charles Krauthammer pretty much captures the Mitt vs. Newt question, in my opinion, more or less the way I see it.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 01, 09:59:00 PM:

We've had some potentially good Repbublican candidates not even try, and others quit early. Ron Paul is annoying, and I'm a libertarian. I wouldn't trust the likes of Bachmann and Santorum to valet park my car.

Still, Mitt Romney can't get over 25% support within the party. He only has support from the "corporate tool / establishment" wing. You can try to paint this as a a virtue -- that it's because he'll play well in the general if he gets the nomination, but that's not necessarily true. Mitt's entire platform is really: "I'm less likely to step on my own dick". That's not a winning proposition.

We've had a succession of Republican candidates jump ahead of Mitt only to falter. Rick Perry, Herman Cain. The party really wants someone else. Anyone else.

Romney can lose in the general. He doesn't fit the times. Whoever is the biggest populist -- who can capture the angry middle -- will win. Mitt ain't a populist. He can't take on Obama on the key issues. It's a hard election for the Republicans to lose, but Mitt can do it. ... and if he wins. meh.

I've expected an anti-Mitt to emerge. I hadn't cast Newt in this role. I had thought Newt was just out to sell more books. But with all the other anti-Mitts eliminated, why not Newt?

Taking on Obama head on is the key. Mitt can't. Newt will be great at it. It'll make for a hell of an election.

But you say, what about the Holy Roller wing of the Republican party? Watch Sarah Palin's next move. She's going to endorse Newt.  

By Blogger Eric, at Thu Dec 01, 10:26:00 PM:

"People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz." Newt really said that.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 01, 11:01:00 PM:

Romney's interview with Bret Baier was brutal to watch. As much as I hope Gingrich finds a graceful way to lose, since Romney doesn't look as if he can beat him, I really worry about Romney's ability to campaign. Maybe Palin can help out too-- now is the time for all to come to the aid of the party. Beating Obama is just too important!  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Dec 01, 11:30:00 PM:

I agree with the first comment to a great degree; Romney does not really fit the times. But everybody else in the GOP field has serious shortcomings -- a couple at least seem pretty dumb, a couple lack any sort of personal and/or intellectual self-discipline, and a couple have no money and organization. Gingrich appears to be in the middle group, as is Cain, though for different reasons.

Yes, this is a populist moment and Romney does not seem to fit the mood in that respect, but people are also sick of endless partisanship and rank incompetence. Romney gives off the impression of competence and experience, and will strike people as a lot more willing to compromise than any of the other people on the GOP side. Newt, for example, proved to everybody that he would not compromise years ago in the shutdown crisis, and many people have not forgotten. While that may be a feature among GOP activists, it is a serious bug as far as most middle Americans are concerned. Romney, on the other hand, can say he was the Republican governor of Massachusetts, a job that inherently demands compromise.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Dec 02, 12:12:00 AM:

I have a different take on the whole thing with respect to Romney. WE are looking for a populist but living in a blue state (MA) I can tell you that the middle is not. Newt will get crucified or "Cained" might be a better word in the general to the point the middle will be turned off and the left couch potatoes might get inspired to come out and vote for Obama again. I think everyone is looking for a leader with business savvy and executive experience that appears "presidential" and calm. I've seen Mitt in action during crisis and there's nobody I would want more.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Fri Dec 02, 01:53:00 AM:

Can someone please explain to me again what, exactly, was wrong with Sarah Palin, especially in comparison to the remaining Republican candidates?  

By Blogger Aegon01, at Fri Dec 02, 02:39:00 AM:

Palin has the same issues as Bachmann, in my opinion. Her knowledge of history seems pretty lacking to me. I wonder about her foreign policy knowledge. What kind of experience does she have, outside of Alaska?

That said, she scares me a lot less than Bachmann does. I would have been fine with her as a VP.

I'd like Mitt to be President, and Newt and Ron can be Czars of things.

I think Ron has some valuable, original ideas (some of them aren't very good or tried-and-true, but novelty is certainly something politics hasn't had in awhile), is happy to hear outside opinions on those ideas, and is genuinely willing to look outside the Party Talking Points Memo, and "doesn't afraid of anything." Problem is that he's not incredibly inspiring outside of a few rehearsed soundbites. Few politicians are as genuine, honest and thoughtful, and I value that a lot.  

By Anonymous Gref, at Fri Dec 02, 07:39:00 AM:

Speaking of hypocrisy, are none of the blogs who were concerned over Obama's birth certificate going to ask the same of Romney?

You're about to put a cyborg into a presidential race and none of you have the decency to ask to see his warranty card?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Dec 02, 09:34:00 AM:

"Palin has the same issues as Bachmann, in my opinion. Her knowledge of history seems pretty lacking to me. I wonder about her foreign policy knowledge. What kind of experience does she have, outside of Alaska?"

You Sir, or Madam, need to look past the villification of Palin by all concerned.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Fri Dec 02, 09:35:00 AM:

"WE are looking for a populist but living in a blue state (MA) I can tell you that the middle is not."

Massachusetts won't figure in 2012, except that Romney might not carry his home state. The middle of Massachusetts is to the left of the ten or so swing states that will decide the election. I'm in NY -- my vote won't count either.

The middle woke up, got angry and drove the 2010 election to a landslide midterm. That anger has dissipated but will return once we're collectively made to see the gravity of what we're dealing with (a federal government run amok). This should happen in 2012, but may not if we're beguiled into thinking that our current doldrums are sustainable -- a new normal that sucks but is OK for most of us.

I was in a bar recently and the TV had captioning of Gene Sperling -- an Obama economic guy -- on CNN or MSNBC talking about how ending the Bush tax cut for those over $250,000 would raise $800 billion that we really, really needed. The reporter asked a hard question -- "but if we ended the Bush tax cuts on everyone we's raise $2,700 billion that we really, really needed".

What neither spoke to was that these figures are for ten years. They do hardly anything to close gaps that are over a trillion every year. Obama is also doing "three card monte" to double and triple apply the proceeds of the tax raise he wants on those over $250,000.

Newt will put that harsh truth on the table, with relish. I doubt Mitt would.

I've got nothing against Mitt personally. But I don't think he's the right guy for 2012. We need a fighter. If you get into a fight you can lose. Deal with it. But sometimes you have to fight.

Sarah's the best fighter in the bunch. Christie's second.

Mitt could do a self-turnaround. A few new parts. He needs Paul Ryan's endorsement -- and should make him his VP. Batman and Robin -- think on it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Dec 02, 10:39:00 AM:

Anon Attorney here. I'll go out on a limb and predict a landslide victory for Obama if Romney is the nominee--300+ electoral votes, enough to deliver the presidency with a mandate attached to it. Ignoramus nailed it when he characterized Romney as Obama in corporate whiteface. Under no circumstances will I vote for Romney.

I suspect 2012 will be a sad year for the Republican party. I hope events prove me wrong.  

By Blogger darovas, at Fri Dec 02, 11:24:00 AM:

All the Republican candidates except for Huntsman, are poison. Bachmann, Cain, and Perry are certifiably nuts and their self-inflicted wounds have provoked much Schadenfreude among us Democrats. Santorum is a religious wacko. Newt is a recycled candidate with a zillion skeletons in his closed. Romney is a plastic man with no convictions. There's much one could criticize about Obama, but Republicans have shot themselves in the foot by kowtowing to their lunatic Tea Party wing.

If Huntsman were the nominee I suspect he'd destroy Obama - Americans are now hungry for a leader with proven experience who understands business but is not driven by simplistic ideology (either from left or right). I think Huntsman would be good for the country as well since he represents a sort of geometric mean of our collective political spectrum.  

By Blogger darovas, at Fri Dec 02, 11:28:00 AM:

I just realize I forgot to mention Ron Paul. Ron Paul! Let's close all our overseas bases, let Iran develop nukes, and eliminate the Fed and the Civil Rights Act. Taxes are theft! He will receive strong support from the thorazine crowd.

(Actually, I think about 50% of the stuff Paul says is excellent. The problem is with the other 50%.)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Dec 02, 11:50:00 AM:

@ darovas

Why am I not surprised that Huntsman appeals to a Democrat?? Perhaps because he is one . . .

Contrary to the teachings of the two Davids (Frum and Brooks), America does not need two Democratic parties. If you believe in an expansive, unlimited, and intrusive Federal government then you belong in the Democratic party. By contrast, if you believe in individual freedom, market economics, and a limited federal government in accordance with the constructs set forth in that quaint little Constitution, then you belong in the Republican party.

Candidates like Huntsman don't just blur the lines, they erase them completely. I'll take four more years of Obama over Huntsman, or Romney for that matter.

-Anon Attorney  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Fri Dec 02, 01:14:00 PM:

"lunatic Tea Party wing."

Call me crazy then. I'm fucking batshit nuts.

Darovas, don't you realize that on current trajectory our federal government is unsustainable.
You can't run trillion dollar plus deficits forever.

You can't tax the "rich" enough to close that gap -- they're not rich enough. Ben Bernanke can't keep putting everything on the Fed's balance sheet forever. The President can't use the same tax hikes on the "rich" to pay for three different things. You can't say that you're for energy independence if you only back wind and solar. You can't expand healthcare coverage but still cut total healthcare costs, just because you create a new bureacracy to do so. Debt way over 100% of GDP will have consequences, even for the USA.

Now either you don't get this -- in which case you're a moron.
Or you do get, and you're not a moron, but you are something else.

Your move, Darovas.

I second Anon Attorney but add that not everyone in the Republican party thinks like we do, which is part of the problem.  

By Blogger darovas, at Fri Dec 02, 02:43:00 PM:

I'll stipulate to the claim that we "can't tax the rich enough" without also cutting some spending if we are going to right our fiscal path. But that doesn't mean we can't tax them at all.

Tell me, what is the magic/sacred number which determines the appropriate capital gains tax rate? Or that for the highest income tax bracket? Whatever numbers you give me, I can ask: why not one point lower? Why not one point higher? Why not ten points higher? If you can't answer these questions, then you must admit that either (i) there really is no magic number, or (ii) you really don't know what you are talking about when you say that taxes are too high.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Fri Dec 02, 03:46:00 PM:

Darovas, you ignored all my points, but I'll play.

There is a magic number -- or at least an identifiable range. If you tax capital gains too high you actually bring in less revenue. At an even lower level you drive investment away from riskier but worthwhile investments -- that's because the government is in effect the worst kind of partner -- it wants a cut of the winnings, but doesn't share in the losses. Experience shows that 20% is at the top end, we'd be better off with 15% or even 10%. Not unless your guiding philosophy is to make everyone equally miserable.

A lower capital gains rate is important because if it's too high you misdirect -- or even stop -- investment, which kills growth and job creation.

We let too much ordinary income get transmuted into capital gains, however. Carried interest, stock options. It's not fair. I'm looking at you Mitt. The truly rich can finagle. Which is why "soak the rich" is a canard. In practice, it's "soak the local obstetrician". This is fixable, but I don't see Mitt doing a Nixon to China on this one.

VAT is great in concept but a pain in the ass in practice. It never replaces the income tax, which we're stuck with.

You can't fix income inequality through the tax code. You only make it worse. Income inequality has grown in large part because of the way that we've let the Borg State grow, which in turn has been based on runaway federal spending and regulation (an un-virtuous cycle at work). There's more money to be made now in speculating on Bernanke's moves than in investing in anything real.

The income tax works well because enough poor bastards get up every morning and their employer has been turned into the government's collection agency. Sadly, the Pigs can work Boxer to death. But it's un-American. It also tends to fail over time, as people learn to cheat or not work hard.

Experience shows we shouldn't have a top rate over 30%, 25% would be better still. That's with a broad base and few or no exclusions.

I'd eliminate the corporate tax completely (Sarah's with me on this -- in fact she gave me the insight). It causes no end of problems, including driving half the K Street lobbyist business. So why cut to 10%, just get rid of it. Few companies pay the full rack rate -- only those which are US only, actually make or do things, and don't have K Street lobbyists. I only recently learned about how the USA withholds on dividends paid by the US subsidiaries of foreign companies, on top of the USA corporate tax. What foreign company in their right mind would want to have a subsidiary making things in the USA?

The estate tax isn't worth the bother and actually breaks up family businesses -- which is part of the reason why Warren Buffet loves it.

With a tax regime like this you'd get a lot of growth. You'd collect about 15% of GDP, maybe more. But with growth you'd actually bring in more dollars over time. That last point is the critical one. Darovas is demanding a bigger cut but over time it's from a much smaller pie. The difference in the USA growing at 4.0% or only growing at 2.0% over 30 years is enormous.

Am I wrong?

That's the revenue side. You want to talk spending.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Fri Dec 02, 04:02:00 PM:

God comes down to Darovas, the Russian peasant:

"Darovas, I will grant you one wish but with one condition as a test."

"Anything my Lord!"

"Whatever you ask for I will give your neighbor Ivan double."

Darovas things long and hard. A plow? -- but Ivan would have two plows! More land? But then Ivan would have even more land! Enough money to be the richest in town -- but then Ivan would the richest by far.

Finally, Darovas was inspired:

"Please God, put out one of my eyes!"  

By Blogger darovas, at Fri Dec 02, 04:07:00 PM:

How exactly is it that "experience shows" that the top marginal tax rate should be 30%? According to this table, the top rate has been above 30% every year since 1932, with the exception of 1988-89, when it was 28%. From what orifice are you pulling your data?  

By Anonymous Gref, at Fri Dec 02, 04:23:00 PM:

"Darovas, don't you realize that on current trajectory our federal government is unsustainable.
You can't run trillion dollar plus deficits forever.
You can't tax the "rich" enough to close that gap"

But you can let the Bush tax cuts expire and get most of the way there over 3 years...

...something I don't hear chanted at any tea party rallies. As you wouldn't if these were just token platforms.
You know, if a massive chunk of the deficit was down to an unfunded policy that had to expire by law, but keeps getting extended for political purposes.  

By Anonymous Gref, at Fri Dec 02, 04:31:00 PM:

"If you tax capital gains too high you actually bring in less revenue. At an even lower level you drive investment away from riskier but worthwhile investments -- that's because the government is in effect the worst kind of partner -- it wants a cut of the winnings, but doesn't share in the losses."

No, the govt is the cost of doing business in an economy. You think people are in business with the Chinese govt because of tax rates?

" Experience shows that 20% is at the top end, we'd be better off with 15% or even 10%. Not unless your guiding philosophy is to make everyone equally miserable."

It's 30% in Australia, where their growth rates in the decades prior to and including the GFC were envious for most of the world.
Hasn't exactly been a tumbleweed ghost town either. I'm not aware of any corporation fleeing for tax reasons.
This "tax them and they'll flee" meme is simply a fantasy.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Fri Dec 02, 04:44:00 PM:

The historical top tax rates are misleading. For most of the 20th century, they only kicked in at quite high levels of earnings. We've always had lots of exclusions and tax shelters that have brought the effective rates down for most. So having a quite high top-end didn't raise all that much.

My 25-30% without exclusions isn't much different than the current 35% with exclusions, but is fairer and simpler.

It might feel good for some to take a lot of the last dollar earned by someone who is just "lucky". But when you do, from a practical standpoint you create too much tension with the capital gains differential. Most people who are "lucky" with ordinary income still worked to get it. If you tax Nick Swisher at 90%, Derek Jeter will be relatively richer still. Derek earns bazillions on endorsements which I'd bet are transmuted into capital gains.

@ Gref
Your first comment is nonsensical on the numbers. We take in just less than a trillion in personal income tax right now. We're running deficits larger than that. Is that clear enough? The hole is that big.

Also, for offical budget deficit purposes the Bush tax cuts have already been counted as expiring.  

By Blogger darovas, at Fri Dec 02, 05:29:00 PM:

@Ignoramus : Wrong again.  

By Anonymous xtron, at Fri Dec 02, 05:35:00 PM:

i've al ready created my first election bumper sticker for next year.....


i stole it from one of newt's comments, but don't care who the repubilicans nominate, as long as it is not josheph stalin, or mao tsedung, i will vote for him.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Fri Dec 02, 05:47:00 PM:


Are we looking at the same chart?

For most of the last century, $200,000 was lot of money. $1 million was a lot of money in 1934.

Reagan's deal in 1986 brought the bogey down but with a top rate of only 28%. We had a long period of prosperity that followed.

You have yet to address let alone refute any of my points. Your as bad as "AGW Brian" was on climate change.  

By Anonymous Cassandra, at Fri Dec 02, 06:04:00 PM:

Tigerhawk, it's a pleasure to say that I couldn't agree with you more on this one.

Christie nailed it when he observed that Newt has never run anything nearly as big as a state (much less the world's biggest superpower). There's a reason the President is called the Chief Executive - and that the vast majority of Presidents have been former governors. No company in their right mind would hire a CEO who had zero experience a company.

We just elected a legislator whose relevant job experience placed him in the bottom 6th percentile of Presidential candidates.

Experience matters. Romney may not "excite the base" but frankly I don't expect a President to excite me. I want a guy who knows how to execute a plan and run a large government, how to work with Congress, how to veto a bill he disagrees with.

You've got to love FactCheck.org. If Romney is such a liberal/panderer, why did he veto so many spending bills? Having a veto overturned indicates that the bill had widespread support (hardly the act of a panderer or spineless leader to veto a popular bill, is it?) When a legislator takes an unpopular stand, he's one of hundreds. When an governor does the same thing, he takes all the heat. Romney has a track record of doing that.

You'd think someday we might learn that campaign rhetoric is a poor guarantor of future performance in office and pay more attention to actions than words.



By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Dec 02, 08:30:00 PM:

Reagan's deal in 1986 brought the bogey down but with a top rate of only 28%. We had a long period of prosperity that followed.

Define "long." By 1990 there was a recession underway and the federal deficit was exploding after growth in mandatory spending (national debt tripled during Reagan two terms). 1990 budget negotiations were marked with fierce disagreements (Newt was minority whip, need I say more?); characteristically, the Republicans and Dems took to their respective corners (spending cuts only vs spending cuts and tax increase--sound familiar?) with no resolution in sight. Finally, during a "no pre-condition summit" in summer 1990, Bush agreed that taxes should be put on the table to reduce deficits (and avoid automatic Gramm-Rudman-Hollins cuts).

The budget deal raised the new top tax bracket to 31%, raised the tax limit on Medicare from $53K to $125K, personal exemptions were phased out for 4 years, itemized deductions were limited, gas and airline excise taxes were extended, PAYGO was created, the deficit was reduced and Bush was defeated for reelection.

In 1993, with most of the country still in a recession (unemployment rate in NY was at 8.75%) Clinton raised taxes again on high income earners raising marginal tax rate from 31 to 36 with a 10% kicker to 39% for those earning over $250K.

Thereafter, a longer period of prospecrity followed.  

By Blogger darovas, at Fri Dec 02, 11:40:00 PM:

Our resident Ignoramus has spoken again, but he continues to dissemble and make a mess of things. He began by breezily asserting, without proof, that "experience shows" that the top marginal tax rate should be below 30%. When confronted with the reality that it has basically not been so low since 1931, except for a tiny window in the late 1980's, he asserts that this is proof enough. Of course the economy was doing splendidly in the 1950's when the top rate was 91%, but this doesn't fit his worldview so he simply ignores it. He also ignores the fact that by 1991 the rate was back up to 31%, then up again to 39.6% in 1993, which coincided with the economic boom under Clinton. (The previous poster alertly pointed this out as well.)

Ignoramus' next claim is that the top marginal rate only kicked in for extremely high salaries in previous years. Let's see if that's true. In 1982 and 1983, the top marginal rate of 50% kicked in at $106k, which is roughly $250k today.

OK, how about 1950? The top rate then was 91%, but it kicked in at $400k, which corresponds to $3.8M today. That is indeed a huge salary! Incidentally, I'd be very happy if we taxed salaries in excess of $3.8M at 91% today. Would this also make the Ignoramus very happy?

What Ignoramus fails to consider is that the tax bracket structure in 1950 was such that even someone pulling in $24k back then, which is equivalent to about $225k today, was being taxed at a rate of 39.13%

In other words: Ignoramus' claims that high tax rates (relative to today) historically only applied to the highest income brackets is demonstrably false.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Dec 03, 09:01:00 AM:

@ darovs,

Actually, Ignoramus' assertion that virtually no one paid the top rates is accurate. Prior to the Reagan tax reform the tax code was littered with loopholes that allowed high income earners to reduce taxable income. The quid pro quo of the Reagan tax reform was lower rates in exchange for closing loopholes. This information is widely available and not in dispute, at least by anyone with functioning gray matter.

--Anon Attorney  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Dec 03, 09:56:00 AM:

Further to davros'/Anon Atty's points, and for those with fuzzy memories, it should be noted that while the '86 Tax Reform Act lowered income taxes, it also repealed cap gains exclusion, INCREASED cap gains rate equal to the top income rate of 28% (up from 20%), repealed ITC, eliminated a number of deductions including interest on consumer loans and sales tax, limited depreciation deductions, defined contributions/IRA contributions, and expanded AMT.

The cap gains rate stayed at 28% from 1986 through the 90s (save a dip to 21% in 97 before it returned back to 28% the following year) until 2003 when Bush lowered it to the current 15%, a level which allows Buffet to pay less taxes than his secretary.

When current cap gains rate expires along with rest of Bush tax cuts next year, the cap gains rate will rise from 15 to 20 percent, which it should be noted for those who are paying attention is still lower than the 28 percent rate in place when Reagan left office.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sat Dec 03, 10:32:00 AM:

A couple of incremental notes.

I think the best answer on capital gains (which really means gains on assets held for more than a year) would be to extend the period an asset needs to be held in order for it to be considered "long term" and subject to the limit. I'd probably leave the rate low, but require that more risk be taken by extending the minimum holding period to 3-5 years. That would tend to favor genuinely long-term investors and actual business builders over portfolio manipulators.

As for the argument over the top marginal individual income tax rates "back in the day," there are two main reasons why the "rich" almost never paid those rates. First, there was full deductibility of passive losses against ordinary income, which made leveraged tax shelters possible. As a matter of personal self-interest, I might take the old rates if we brought back the tax shelters that went with them. The problem is that those tax shelters led to a lot of distortion -- to much equipment bought, aircraft leased, and commercial building construction without tenants.

Second, the old rules allowed the "rich" to take a lot of their compensation outside of salary and wages in the form of lifestyle and retirement benefits. Executives had company cars, liberal expense accounts, first class air privileges, club memberships, and lavish long-term retirement schemes. (See the lives of many European and Japanese executives, who are subject to a lot less transparency.) Most of these are now taxed as income now, so executives would rather take their income in salary and bonus (which is, at least, a lot more transparent).

Point is, if the discussion is historical fairness, it is not clear that today's lower rates are worse. Instead, look at taxes actually paid as a percentage of income, with an allowance for today's greater inequality. That is a complex question and not easily subject to talking points.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Sat Dec 03, 12:13:00 PM:

Here's another way to look at this, and a point I've made here before: Post WWII we've fiddled with our tax regime a lot. No matter what, the federal government gets about 17% to 18% of GDP. This suggests that (1) we should budget to that figure, and (2) use the most pro-growth tax system we can to get that 17% to 18% consistent with simplicity and fairness.

GDP growth makes a huge difference in absolute tax receipts over time. That's the ball game folks.

Fed revenue has recently fallen below historic norms to as low as 15%. Boxer isn't pulling his weight, say some. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

There's a "tell" in the obsession of many lefties with ending the Bush tax cuts. It's not enough that they've found a cushy "rent" job somewhere in our Big Borg. Those in the private sector shouldn't have more. They're not worthy.  

By Blogger darovas, at Sat Dec 03, 01:33:00 PM:

TH is correct to point out that any discussion of "fairness" in the tax structure is fraught with uncertainty because of the changing rules with regard to tax shelters, population demographics, the changing degree to which different economic groups take advantage of infrastructure, etc.

There seems to be fairly broad agreement among economists that wealth in the U.S. is increasingly being concentrated in a narrow sliver of top income earners. In this regard, the work of Piketty and Saez is widely quoted, and they found, for example, that the share of income going to the top 1% of families doubled from 8% in 1980 to 16% in 2004.

If one is looking for a single metric for which to make "apples-to-apples" tax rate comparisons across different years, it would probably be the effective federal tax rate. Piketty and Saez found that those in the top 0.5% to 1% of incomes paid an effective tax rate of 34.0% in 1970 and 31.3% in 2004. For those in the top 0.01% to 0.1%, the effective tax rate was 71.4% in 1960 and 34.7% in 2004. Politico summarized these results (click here), and you can find more information at Emmanual Saez's website. (Saez is an economics professor at UC Berkeley.)

Piketty and Saez also found that the effective tax rate of the lowest 90% has decreased as well, and according to data from the Tax Policy Center, the total effective federal tax rate has decreased for each of the five quintiles since 1979.  

By Blogger darovas, at Sat Dec 03, 05:36:00 PM:

Oopsie I wrote Politico when I meant Politifact.  

By Anonymous Davod, at Sat Dec 03, 06:48:00 PM:

I read some time ago that the likes of the Kennedys and Heinz invested in tax free municpal bonds.  

By Blogger buck smith, at Sun Dec 04, 08:48:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by the author.  

By Blogger buck smith, at Sun Dec 04, 08:50:00 PM:

I appreciate the Tigerhawk's point about Newt's lack of self discipline. But maybe it is like U.S. Grant's reputation for problems with alcohol. Both are facts. Can Gingrich move past his demons as Grant moved past his when his country needs it? That is a question.

Just as Grant was the right man to lead the Union armies in the Civil War, Gingrich is the right man for President in 2012. As Lincoln said of Grant - [We] "cannot spare this man, he fights!"  

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