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More Honesty Please

Andrew Sullivan and Gene Healy both denounce Hillary Clinton's insidious plan to "take things away from you [a group of wealth people] on behalf of the common good." And I'm glad they did it. If I may plug my column again this is a debate that liberals will win every day of the week. And it's the debate we should be having -- this is the real ideological divide in the country.

June 29, 2004 | Permalink

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» The leftist mask slips... from Gene Expression
From Yglesias: Andrew Sullivan and Gene Healy both denounce Hillary Clinton's insidious plan to "take things away from you [a group of wealth people] on behalf of the common good." And I'm glad they did it. If I may plug... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 30, 2004 2:08:17 AM

» The leftist mask slips... from Gene Expression
From Yglesias: Andrew Sullivan and Gene Healy both denounce Hillary Clinton's insidious plan to "take things away from you [a group of wealth people] on behalf of the common good." And I'm glad they did it. If I may plug... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 30, 2004 2:20:13 AM

» Clinton, Yglesias and Van Winkle from Chicago Report
Matt Yglesias is praising Hillary's rather honest declaration that the Democrats are going to "take things away from you on behalf of the common good". Matt apparently thinks this demonstrates a fundamental difference between the two parties ... a repu... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 30, 2004 10:37:07 AM

» Common Good from Deinonychus antirrhopus
What exactly is it? Is it rounding up all HIV+ people and dumping them in a large quarantine camp? After all, with nobody with HIV the disease can't spread. If you don't have it this is clearly a benefit to you. Or how about rounding up people who eat ... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 30, 2004 6:15:52 PM

» Life's Great Debate from Now That Everyone Else Has One
The original chum in the water: "Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 30, 2004 7:46:53 PM

» Idiotarian + Keyboard + "Journalism" = Hanlon's Razor from Who Tends the Fires
The Word for the Day is: "Chickanery" Not that I'm looking for sympathy or ennythang, but I do want ya'll to know that assembling a DailySpam! with two teenage cats doing their best to detach your hand from the trackball,... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 5, 2004 3:23:15 PM

» Gift Basket from Tom Jamme's Blog
Sweet Blessings, a new Christian-based online shop featuring cookie bouquets, candy bouquets and gift baskets, opens with a campaign to donate a portion of all profits to Habitat For Humanity. The devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while not a... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 6, 2005 6:56:02 PM

Comments

By "winning the debate" do you mean winning elections or actually winning the debate?

Posted by: Will Wilkinson | Jun 29, 2004 7:21:58 PM

Will,

He means winning elections, apparently.

But anyway...

I think the point at the end is somewhat curious. Here in California, liberal policies are finally succeeding in driving business to low-tax states like Nevada and Arizona. Their economies are booming, and their state governments aren't completely broken, as California's is. Maybe California isn't a typical case study, but we've had one-party rule by the Democrats for ... god... at least 20 years, and it sucks. There have been Republican governors, but the Dems are so entrenched in the Legislature that they basically do whatever they want. "Whatever they want" is usually really, really stupid regulation and out-of-control spending.

Posted by: Steve | Jun 29, 2004 7:36:29 PM

"Here in California, liberal policies are finally succeeding in driving business to low-tax states like Nevada and Arizona."

From the Tax Foundation's web site:

Combined State and Local Tax Burdens (Rank)

Arizona 10.0% (20)
California 9.8% (26)
Nevada 9.7% (30)

Adding Federal Taxes to State/Local Taxes (Rank)

Nevada 28.4% (9)
California 28.4% (10)
Arizona 27.2% (22)

Posted by: alkali | Jun 29, 2004 7:44:42 PM

Mr. Alkali,
There's more than one way to skin this cat -
From the Federation of Tax Administrators (an association of taxation agencies) =

State and local taxes as a % of personal income -
CA 12%
AZ 11.2%
NV 10.5%

Actually, I think the worst CA competitive problem is high housing prices due to lack of new home construction as a result of over-regulation.

Posted by: luisalegria | Jun 29, 2004 8:36:58 PM

It's not entirely clear to me how Clinton's statement is any different from "you're going to have to pay taxes." To jump on that seems silly.

As for comparing CA to NV and AZ, just remember that California is a net giver to the federal government (getting $0.93 for every dollar paid in), while AZ is a net getter ($1.17). So things are easier for Arizona in that regard.

As for Nevada, it's a strange place to compare to anywhere else. Most of the state is owned by the federal government (while I assume pays for alot of the roads and ancillary services), and it generates so much money from tourism--probably more per capita than any state, other than maybe Hawaii. Im not entirely sure how this all effects NV's finances, but it's a tough state to use as a comparison.

Posted by: Doug | Jun 29, 2004 9:05:41 PM

Ah yes, those core Democratic labor policies. Are you referring to NAFTA, flip-flopping on MFN status for China, or just the overall beginning of the Age of Wal-Mart?

Posted by: Warbonnet | Jun 29, 2004 9:35:04 PM

The crazy thing is that Andew Sullivan advocated a tax increase to reduce the deficit not that long ago. It's hard to justify his pretty harsh comment.

Posted by: Tom Gunderson | Jun 29, 2004 10:22:47 PM

Assuming the state and local tax figures for California and Arizona presented by Alkali and luisalegra are even reasonably accurate, it's pretty obvious that Steve's claim that "liberal policies are finally succeeding in driving business to low-tax states like Nevada and Arizona" cannot be correct.

Hey Steve, perhaps the reason the Democrats have remained so powerful in California for so long is because your post is representative of the quality of the arguments produced by their critics.

Posted by: Don P | Jun 29, 2004 10:30:38 PM

Steve wrote:

"Maybe California isn't a typical case study, but we've had one-party rule by the Democrats for ... god... at least 20 years, and it sucks. There have been Republican governors, but the Dems are so entrenched in the Legislature that they basically do whatever they want. "Whatever they want" is usually really, really stupid regulation and out-of-control spending."

California sure isn't a typical example.

And I'm sure the initiatives and referenda which have constrained both revenue and spending and created some perverse fiscal situations have had nothing to do with that.

Keef

Posted by: keef | Jun 29, 2004 11:31:34 PM

I think the worst CA competitive problem is high housing prices due to lack of new home construction as a result of over-regulation.

Actually, these high prices and "over-regulation" (in truth, simply NIMBYesque refusal of zoning boards to approve new housing) comes because Proposition 15 in California provides an incentive for homeowners to promote spiraling real estate costs because the homeowners themselves will not be affected or pay the consequences in the form of higher real estate taxes.

In any case, California has been "doomed" for at least 30 years. You know, it still keeps growing. At the end of the day, no one graduates from college and decides, "I'm going to move to Nevada to make my fortune!"

Posted by: Constantine | Jun 30, 2004 12:11:45 AM

Right on, Constantine. It's good someone understands California.

Posted by: Gabriel Rocklin | Jun 30, 2004 1:36:39 AM

I'm not sure the point my brother is making is even comperable to the state of california's tax or political sturucture. Remember that state governments are NOT the federal gpvernment made small--they levy entirely different kinds of taxes. I think the discusion of Calfornia may be immeterial to nation level democratic tax policy. I mean, in the end the connection between property and income tax policy is thin at best, one could easily promote very low property taxes and still support high income.

Posted by: Nicholas Yglesias | Jun 30, 2004 1:38:38 AM

You're right, this IS the debate we should be having.

The question is this: would you rather give $100 to the government to (hopefully) spend on your behalf...or would you rather spend it *yourself*?

The fact is that liberals don't really believe in sacrifice. They believe in robbery. If liberals believed in sacrifice, they'd have staged a unilateral repeal of the Bush tax cut. There's a box on the income tax form that you can check to send the money back to the government.

Did you check that box, Matt?

(crickets...)

Right. Didn't think so. What passes for altruism is really the desire to spend *other people's money* in the way you see fit. In order to appeal to people's worst sentiments, you call those other people "the rich" and imply that they don't deserve their money and/or they've looted it from "the poor" (= favored leftist group).

Posted by: gc_emeritus | Jun 30, 2004 1:58:43 AM

I agree wholeheartedly with Matt; its all about the economic issues...

As a Californian, I have a few things to say about the state of my state. First of all, the reason California was a magnet for the rest of the country in the early 20th century was (in addition to the weather) that California had great public services and jobs (courtesey to defense contractors). The government made the L.A. desert bloom and educated a world class workforce.

Unfortunately, the individualistic reagan wannabes ignored this and screwed up the state's public institutions that had been so carefully erected by people like Warren and Brown...partly because the people who were now benefiting most from them were now brown/yellow/black.

Its really absurd, meanwhile, for anyone who understands the concept of free trade to suggest that California is losing jobs because of its high taxes and regulations. California is losing certain jobs because its an f'ing expensive place to live and the cost of labor is high because its so desirable to live here....but those jobs are replaced by other jobs......so, naturally, a lot of manufacturing jobs and whatnot are leaving the state. How is it, then, that california still manages to keep its people employed? Well, one way is by promoting tolerant social attitudes and by investing in a world-class university system , efforts that attract talented people to our states' ideopolises in places like silicon valley, irvine, hollywood, etc.

Now, people are right to point out that the "american dream" as defined by a huge suburban house, three suvs, etc, is becoming more difficult to acheive here... but tough... CA could use denser housing anyway. But what it needs most, of course, is an increased commitment to fostering and protecting those public goods that make society successful...its hard to build that type of society with a bunch of uneducated right-wingers hanging around...but fortunately they're moving to arizona and nevada. Good riddance!

Oh, and, in response to gc, the reason liberals support rescinding only the tax cuts for the wealthy is because we're interested in helping the economy. In order to reduce the slack in aggregate demand, which is keeping wage growth down, we need to put money in the pockets of those who have the largest marginal propensity to consume... thus, for the good of the economy and society as a whole, we cannot increase taxes on the poor/middle class.

Posted by: seank | Jun 30, 2004 2:41:55 AM

Wait...I disagree with Matt...I think Dems should emphasize economic issues, though I think we win on both...

Posted by: seank | Jun 30, 2004 2:56:49 AM

the reason liberals support rescinding only the tax cuts for the wealthy...we cannot increase taxes on the poor/middle class.

1) Where is the dividing line between "wealthy" and "middle class"?

2) Can you now admit that it is not at all altruistic to propose spending other people's money when you exempt yourself from any sacrifice?

(exemption = stipulating at the outset that your taxes won't be raised.)

3) Rather than getting into theoretical arguments over demand-raising redistribution (which will waste time as the proof is in the pudding), look at the empirical consequence of socialism: a $10000 GDP-per-capita gap between the US and Europe.

Also consider the far worse economic fates of India, China, and (of course) the USSR under progressively harsher Marxist redistribution schemes. Only after they shucked off those "demand-raising" shackles did their economy start growing.

PS: health insurance costs about $1-2000 per year. So *even if* you include that as a "bundled in" cost (an inappropriate assumption, but for argument's sake)...we're still talking $8000 per year per person difference between the US and the continental big four, France/Germany/UK/Italy.

As well as structural unemployment rates in France & Germany of 10% and above, more than double the US rate.

Posted by: gc_emeritus | Jun 30, 2004 2:57:56 AM

gc_emeritus:

a. where is the dividing line between wealthy and middle class?

Indeed, tax brackets create this difficult conundrum. That's why I, along with Matt, believe the tax system would ideally be just some formula that changes the rate slightly with each incremental increase in income...but, um, its really pretty obvious that there is a difference between someone earning $500,000 a year and someone earning 30,000 a year...and the tax system should (and does) reflect that...

b. Liberals advocate spending others' money....um, you're assuming that i'm not advocating increasing my own taxes. If I were wealthy I would gladly pay higher taxes. The thing, of course, is that I'm not wealthy (because of birth) and likely will not be phenomenally wealthy in the future by virtue of the fact that I just don't value possessions that much...but if i do happen to make it big, I'd feel obligated to give back a lot to society that gave me so much. On the other hand, poor people to whom society has given little are likely to have weaker obligations to such a society...and may be more likely to try to tear it apart in an effort to harm the position of those with money/power....as a rich person, i, then, have a self-interest in promoting investment in public goods in an effort to make those under me feel more connected to society...

c. my point on increasing demand is really fundamental economics, so I don't see why you find it so controversial. But your comparison of europe to the U.S. on this one dimension is absurd. If size of government or, for that matter, the amount of redistribution is all that matters in an economy's success, then places like Brazil and Argentina, with their highly unequal societies and dysfunctional public sectors should be paragons of virtue. Certainly, the European system has its problems, but you're analysis is incredibly simplistic. Moreover, democrats aren't advocating european style socialism, but american progressivism. A better comparative political natural experiment would be to (as matthew did) compare the gdp per capita/ economic development of progressive-leaning places from massachusetts to california and new york to places in the south. Indeed, the south (and places like nevada and arizona) have higher growth rates, but that's because they start from a lower position.

First of all, your argument that the u.s. should be compared

Posted by: seank | Jun 30, 2004 3:20:25 AM

gc_emeritus, do you think Hillary "common good" Clinton supports moving us all the way to the level of welfare spending seen in Europe?

do you think John Kerry does?

or is this just a red herring?

do you think that economic growth in the 1990s was intolerably slowed by the steep income taxes of the era?

do you think that economic growth would have been intolerably slowed had taxes been at the level required to support national health care, which would (1) make people more willing to take risks and change jobs (2) reduce massive economic inefficiencies caused by a sick labor force and a convoluted health care system?

(if you don't think #2 is possible because of the government's record on providing services, are you prepared to offer pragmatic solutions to try to make the system work, or are you really just ideologically opposed to the concept?)

Posted by: Gabriel Rocklin | Jun 30, 2004 3:27:17 AM

Gabriel:

Fair questions. I was sarcastic above in the post to Matt, but let me try to be more civil...

1) Hillary "common good" Clinton supports moving us all the way to the level of welfare spending seen in Europe?

No, but she wants to move us in that direction. And I see Eurosclerosis, and I don't *want* to go in that direction.

As for Kerry, his line about "Benedict Arnold" CEOs really gave me pause. I wonder if he considers the CEO of Nintendo to be a Japanese Benedict Arnold for employing engineers in America...or whether he *really* wants to follow his logic to its natural conclusion by preventing companies from hiring people abroad. Does he want every Heineken bottling plant, Mitsubishi dealership, and Airbus employee in America to be closed/laid off as a consequence of a ban on US companies employing workers abroad? Cuz that's what would happen when other countries start following suit (if the WTO didn't stop it...)

2) I think that growth in the 1990s was a consequence of several things:

a) the combination of a Republican congress and a fiscally right-of-center Democrat (who was pulled from the fiscal left after 94, but stayed there to his credit).

b) the fact that the top tax rates were slashed from 70% to 28% by Reagan (raised to 39 something by Clinton, kept back down to 35 something by Bush) defined the limits of government intervention in the economy. No one seriously proposed raising it back to 70% - a Reagan victory.

Ideally, some day no one would propose raising it past 28%, but that'll require another fiscal Republican revolution. Sadly, with GWB in power, fiscal rightism seems to be a dead letter.

c) Perhaps most importantly, the expansion of free trade in a post Cold War world and the impact of the computer revolution. Again, right-wing pro-free-trade policies were crucial here. It is to Clinton's credit that he fought the protectionists on the left (and the Buchananites on the right) to pass NAFTA et. al.

3) Concerning health care...

one of my favorite aphorisms is this: "only a left-winger would think that the way to reduce health care costs is by eliminating competition altogether".

What do I think about health care? Fundamentally I believe that increased competition is the solution to most economic woes. And I also fundamentally believe that at *some point* we must perform cost containment on health care, and the best person to contain those costs is person who is directly responsible for them. Think about: every hospital stay *could* cost an arbitrary amount of money as the quality of service is increased. 24 hour nursing, better meals, more tests, more labs, more pay for doctors and nurses, and so on. So we *must* have some cost-controlling mechanism in place. And the fact remains that *most* health care is not emergency health care, but nagging stuff on which cost decisions can - and should - be made.

Given this constraint, I think the best way to think is in terms of the issues affecting the insurance consumer. One of the big issues is portability and "dead zones". I think a few good bills (analogous to the cell phone portability bills) could break up this log jam by making it much easier for people to shop around between health care & insurance providers rather than being stuck with their company's plan.

furthermore, I think that...

a) the uninsured figure is about 10 million over what it really is, as it includes illegal aliens and noncitizens
b) as judged from their personal possessions (car, cable TV, cellphone, etc.) most of the uninsured *could* afford health insurance but rank it as a lower priority. Can provide cites on this.
c) *BUT*, human nature being what it is, those people who choose not to participate in plans will need to be forced into buying insurance lest they free-ride on everyone else by getting into an emergency. This is like the mandatory auto-insurance law.
d) Caps for malpractice pain + suffering damages, and possibly loser pays.
e) repeal of the artificial scarcity of doctors set by the AMA.


...perhaps that was longer than i intended. Still, the basic issue is that I believe (with ample evidence) that government provision of a service tends to make it bloated and inefficient.

You can only change the government every 2-4 years. But you can choose to change your health insurance provider much more rapidly, and possibly overnight. It is that choice - that feedback - that is the only way to keep costs down.

Posted by: gc_emeritus | Jun 30, 2004 4:13:21 AM

So is Sullivan going to denounce Shrub's plan to take away gay peoples' marriage rights for his perverted view of the "common good"? Give me a break.

Posted by: raj | Jun 30, 2004 7:16:54 AM

*If I were wealthy I would gladly pay higher taxes. The thing, of course, is that I'm not wealthy (because of birth)*

Sean, the great thing about this country is your individual ability to become rich without being born wealthy. If you choose not to, as you state, that is your individual decision. Consider Michael Moore. Was he born rich?

I fail to see how "society" is who makes you wealthy, and you feel a need to give back to society through more government spending. Will society make you wealthy in spite of yourself? If you are unwilling to put effort into wealth creation because possessions mean little to you, does that mean you would be happy living off government subsistence?

Altruism is a personal emotion, not a governmental one. Feel free to be altruistic. Give something to the homeless guy on the street. I do. But don't insist the government take money from someone you feel doesn't deserve to have so much, and give it to someone you feel sorry for.

As for being rich, where is that cutoff? Who determines what level of income is "rich"? The really wealthy people pay no taxes right now because they have no income. Consider any of the really wealthy Senators. The only income they have is their Senate pay, and all the perks are gratis.

Posted by: Mike | Jun 30, 2004 7:21:49 AM

If nothing else, Hillary's comment highlights the difference between her political skills and Bill's.

Hillary:
"We're going to take things away from you for the common good"

~~~~~~~~~~~ reaction: blech.

Bill:
"As a people we know in our hearts that government is about helping with the common good - to help others less fortunate, ease their pain, put them back on the path to helping us, together, make this nation greater than it already is --- so I'm going to take your money.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ reaction: My that's a smooth talkin' guy

Posted by: Hillary4Prez | Jun 30, 2004 8:50:12 AM

Listing individual tax burdens in California in order to determine the tax and regulatory burden on business doesn't strike me as particularly well-thought-out. Politicians in California thought they could legislate the most generous workman's comp, the cheapest power and social services for anyone who turned up at their door. And they figured there'd never be a day of reckoning.

You can see why many of us are reluctant to further indulge in this "altruism".

Posted by: spongeworthy | Jun 30, 2004 9:14:03 AM

Whether you're a libertarian or a socialist (I lean towards the former), Hillary is probably right - there's no avoiding a tax increase in the next few years. The politicians who bite the bullet and admit this earn a few cojones points in my book.

Overall, I'd like to see politicians on all sides speaking more honestly about their positions - in particular, I want 1994's fiscal conservatives back.

Posted by: digamma | Jun 30, 2004 9:50:41 AM

Would you please define what you (and Hillary) mean by the "common good".

I've argue here that your character completely mis characterizes the right (surprise!) ... if anyone is interested.

Posted by: mike van winkle | Jun 30, 2004 10:51:30 AM

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