What Milton Friedman Got Wrong

First, Friedman in praise of greed or “economic self interest”.*

Oliver Hart and Luigi Zingales on what Friedman and his fellow free market true believers got and get wrong:

“. . . the conclusion is that this idea, which seems to have taken hold that companies should be all about making money and that indeed managers, the CEO, they have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to be concerned only with the bottom line. We think this is wrong — a serious mistake. Actually if they want to act — be loyal to their shareholders — which is what fiduciary duty means, they should actually ask them what they want. That’s the loyal thing to do. Rather than just assume that it’s making money at the expense of all else.

* Seriously underrated. . . Phil Donahue’s hair.

 

 

 

It’s So, So Sad, That The Top 20% of Americans Pay 87% of Taxes

Tax day is almost upon us in the (dis)United States of America. What better time to press pause and reflect on wealthy Republicans’ rhetoric about how unfair the tax system is.

Wealthy Republicans routinely lament that The Left “plays the victim” time and time again, but that doesn’t stop them from complaining endlessly about how unfair it is that they have to pay such a large percentage of the country’s taxes. When I listen to them complain about the unfairness of it all, they kinda, sort of, almost sound like victims.

I might have some empathy for them if they weren’t getting wealthier over time, but they are, and that point is lost on passive readers of recent tax headlines. It’s time for at least a little critical thinking by digging deeper into the much publicized 20%-87% refrain.

Specifically, key details from a recent Wall Street Journal article deserve closer scrutiny.

Drawing on research conducted by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, they report:

“For 2018, households in the top 20% will have income of about $150,000 or more and 52% of total income, about the same as in 2017. But they will pay about 87% of income taxes, up from about 84% last year.”

There’s two very different ways to read this. The wealthy Republican way is to focus exclusively on the second sentence. “Hey, now we’re paying even 3% more of the total, whah, whah, whah.” The other way is to ask, “What effect did that 3% bump have on your total income?” The details in the article show that in 2017 the top 20% earned 52.1% of the country’s total income, in 2018 it is projected to be 52.2%. As they used to say on the tough streets of Cypress, CA, no harm, no foul.

Two more critical sentences for our wealthy Republican friends to try to spin:

“To be sure, this analysis doesn’t include the flow-through effects of corporate-tax cuts, which benefit higher earners more than lower earners, or the doubling of the estate-tax exemption to about $11.2 million per person. Neither levy is part of the individual income tax.”

Those ultra-wealthy tax advantages mean the total wealth of the top 20% (including stocks, real estate, and other assets) continues to increase relative to the remaining 80% at an even faster clip than income.

Therefore, all of these things are true:

• the wealthy pay a lot in taxes

• in 2018, the wealthy will pay a slightly larger share of total taxes

• the income of the top 20% tax-payers; and especially their total wealth, continues to increase relative to the bottom 80%

Wealthy Republicans are determined to distract the masses from the fact that their share of the economic pie continues to increase. One tried and true way to do that is control the message by repeating over and over that the tax system is inherently unfair.

Also, ever notice how they keep threatening to stop working as hard given their unfair tax burden, and yet, somehow, their proportion of total income and wealth continues upwards?

Here’s another sentence our wealthy Republicans friends will wrap themselves in like a warm, cuddly blanket.

“Roughly one million households in the top 1% will pay for 43% of income tax, up from 38% in 2017. These filers earn above about $730,000.”

The above logic applies to this factoid in the exact same manner.

In summary, wealthy Republicans only want one question asked, “What share of the income tax do the wealthy pay?” They work tirelessly to avoid anyone asking “How are the wealthy doing vis a vis everyone else?”

Because I’ve raised it, I will now be entering the Witness Protection program. Hoping to land in a warmer, sunnier locale. Depending on how Cleveland does in the playoffs, I will be changing my name to LeRon.

Postscript: WSJ commenters are scary conservative. The linked article has 815 comments attached to it. I would rather serve a ten year sentence in a Turkish prison than have to read any of them.

 

 

 

Friday Assorted Links

1. This Man Expects to Run a 2:50 in the Boston Marathon on Monday. His passion and commitment are inspiring, but it’s also kind of sad that he can’t imagine what else he might do in life post athletics.

2. Roubaix’s showers a dying part of cycling lore. I’m a privileged, aging, soft lap dog for gentrification; sometimes though, we need downmarket grittiness for contrast if nothing else.

“It’s not the nicest of place to take a shower, to be honest. It’s freezing cold and not much privacy. That’s the beauty of it. It was so grim in there that it was a way to finish off a grim race. Why would you have a nice, comfy seat in a cubicle to have a shower after 260km of hell? It was a race from hell, so they were the showers from hell.”

3. What I’m reading.

IMG_1132.JPG

4. What I just watched. Among other reasons to commit the 55 minutes, the incredible vividness of the Charlottesville footage.

Trump’s Takeover.

2118 Thinking

Easter service at Good Shepherd Lutheran brought a surfeit of babies. One particularly endearing one craned her neck to look up at the ceiling lights one minute and head butted her grandpa the next. The red-headed one, sadly, didn’t get quite as much attention as the blonde head butter.

Those babies may live until 2118, which prompted me to think how differently a President might govern, a Congress might legislate, and a Judiciary might rule if they focused their attention on the later years of Good Shepherd’s littlest Easter service congregants.

What if our news cycles were ten years long and all of us adopted 2118 thinking?

We’d reign in our federal debt, we’d conserve natural resources, and we’d focus on reducing global poverty. In contrast, the Associated Press reports, “The Trump administration is expected to announce that it will roll back automobile gas mileage and pollution standards that were a pillar in the Obama administration’s plans to combat climate change.”

Is that what he means by “Make America Great Again”?

 

 

Trump Really Say That?

Did he say, “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”? Or did he say. . .

  • “If I wasn’t watching Fox News in bed, I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
  • “If I wasn’t tweeting, I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
  • “If I wasn’t golfing, I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
  • “If I wasn’t bloviating at CPAC, I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
  • “If I wasn’t having sexual relations with a porn star, I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
  • “If I wasn’t looking in the mirror, I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
  • “If I wasn’t having sexual relations with a Playboy Playmate, I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”

There have been so many selfless acts of bravery, he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt.

 

On Trying To Silence King James

Here’s the context.

Michael C Wright of ESPN on what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had to say about Laura Ingraham’s criticism of LeBron James:

“I don’t pick and choose what LeBron should talk about any more than any talking head should try to pick and choose what he talks about. To me, when I heard about that, it was like an unbelievable show of arrogance for a talking head to try to tell someone else if they can speak, what they can speak about, when and where to do it. It’s just ludicrous. But to not have a feel for who this guy is…think about when he came into the public view. How young was he? And to this day he hasn’t missed a step. He hasn’t fallen off the ledge. He’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially of kids of lesser opportunity who haven’t had the same advantages of others. And they see in this guy somebody who’s consistently exhibited excellence in the workplace. It gives them a voice, let’s them know that you can speak about anything. There really is a first amendment, and I can have opinions as a coach, as a plumber, as an astrophysicist, as a lowly reporter. I can have whatever opinions I want. And that’s what’s amazing about this. When you look at this guy, how many tens of millions of dollars he’s given? Tens of millions of kids that see him, that are inspired by him. It’s kind of like the Black Panther movie. How cool is that for kids to see that and have that superhero? Well, now, LeBron has been that for a long time. And for somebody to be totally numb to that and attack him in such a childish way, really speaks more volumes about that individual than it does Lebron. He’s very, very special. We should all be very proud that we have somebody like that who’s willing to speak about a variety of topics, and you’ve listened to them all.”

Ingraham probably thinks Pop should just shut up and coach.

Make America Safe, From Well Armed, Troubled Teens

Yesterday, before “Parkland”, I read this story. I can’t help but wonder how little the public probably knows about similar stories of averted shootings, meaning the problem is worse than we realize.

Related, sometimes the Onion isn’t funny, just damn perceptive. “No Way To Prevent This,” Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

Out of respect for the Parkland families, can we stop the “Make America Great Again” bullshit?