January 29, 2013

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 PM


The State Tax Reformers : More Governors look to repeal their income taxes. (WSJ, 1/29/13)

Washington may be a tax reform wasteland, but out in the states the action is hot and heavy. Nine states--including such fast-growing places as Florida, Tennessee and Texas--currently have no income tax, and the race is on to see which will be the tenth, and perhaps the 11th and 12th.

Oklahoma and Kansas have lowered their income-tax rates in the last two years with an aim toward eliminating the tax altogether. North Carolina's newly elected Republican Governor Pat McCrory has prioritized tax reform this year and wants to reduce the income tax. Ditto for another newcomer, Mike Pence of Indiana, who has called for a 10% income-tax rate cut. Susana Martinez, New Mexico's Republican Governor, has called for slashing the state corporate tax to 4.9% from 7.6%, and the first Republican-controlled legislature since Reconstruction in Arkansas is considering chopping its tax rates by as much as half.

But those are warm-up acts compared to Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman's announcement this month that he wants to eliminate the state income tax and replace it with a broader sales tax

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 PM


Obama embraces Senate immigration plan in call for reform (Michael O'Brien, 1/29/13, NBC News)

The president embraced of a statement of principles offered Monday by four Democratic and four Republican senators, which would strengthen border security and employment verification in exchange for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States.

The only comparably passive president in recent history must by GHWB, for whom the presidency was, likewise, just a matter of resume-building.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


A Second G.O.P. (DAVID BROOKS, 1/29/13, NY Times)

Americans are still skeptical of Washington. If you shove a big government program down their throats they will recoil. But many of their immediate problems flow from globalization, the turmoil of technological change and social decay, and they're looking for a bit of help. Moreover, given all the antigovernment rhetoric, they will never trust these Republicans to reform cherished programs like Social Security and Medicare. You can't be for entitlement reform and today's G.O.P., because politically the two will never go together.

Can current Republicans change their underlying mentality to adapt to these realities? Intellectual history says no. People almost never change their underlying narratives or unconscious frameworks. Moreover, in the South and rural West, where most Republicans are from, the Encroachment Story has deep historic and psychological roots. Anti-Washington, anti-urban sentiment has characterized those cultures for decades.

It's probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It's smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party, one that can compete in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, in the upper Midwest and along the West Coast.

Except that nearly all the big reforms are occurring in the Deep South and Midwest.  Nevermind that Bill Clinton, Newt and W were all Southerners, nearly every Third Way governor is (or is Midwestern) too: Jeb, Jindal, Mitch Daniels, Sam Brownback, Scott Walker, etc.   The simple reality is that you can't move entitlement policies away from their Second Way sclerosis unless you have a Republican legislature, so the Northeast, West Coast, etc. are non-starters.  And they will be until successful reform on the national level makes Republicans palatable again in those regions.  What Mr. Brooks is calling for is a second Democratic Party, when the one we have is already the main obstacle to entitlement  reform.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


Study finds leafy green vegetables top source of food poisoning (Associated Press, January 29, 2013)

A big government study has fingered leafy greens like lettuce and spinach as the leading source of food poisoning, a perhaps uncomfortable conclusion for health officials who want us to eat our vegetables.

"Most meals are safe," said Dr. Patricia Griffin, a government researcher and one of the study's authors who said the finding shouldn't discourage people from eating produce. Experts repeated often-heard advice: Be sure to wash those foods or cook them thoroughly.

The problem is washing won't do much good; it's the cooking that kills the bad stuff.  Folks just don't cook their vegetables enough.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


Don't Repay the National Debt : It's time to revive a British financial innovation from the 18th century: perpetual bonds. (Matthew Yglesias, Jan. 29, 2013, Slate)

As of Friday, the inflation-adjusted yield on 10-year Treasury bonds was negative 0.56 percent. Savers, in other words, want to pay the American government for the privilege of safeguarding their money. For the longest-dated bonds we sell, the 30-year Treasury bond, rates were 0.51 percent. That's higher than zero, but far below the long-term average economic growth level. A sensible country would be taking advantage of that fact to finance some valuable public undertakings. Alternatively, if we think there's nothing worth spending money on we could enact a big temporary tax cut aimed at reducing the unemployment rate and boosting the population's skill level. Prolonged long-term unemployment, after all, has lasting effects that reduce the efficiency of the labor market and make it much harder to grow in the long term.

Another way of looking at it is that global financial markets are sending a clear signal to the United States. At a time when demand for goods and services is depressed, demand for American government debt is sky-high. The responsible choice is to let the supply meet the demand and borrow more.

The global economy faces catastrophe as America's budget heads into balance/surplus.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 AM


Norway Data Shows Earth's Global Warming Less Severe Than Feared (Adam Ewing - Jan 27, 2013 , Bloomberg)

After the planet's average surface temperature rose through the 1990s, the increase has almost leveled off at the level of 2000, while ocean water temperature has also stabilized, the Research Council of Norway said in a statement on its website. After applying data from the past decade, the results showed temperatures may rise 1.9 degrees Celsius if Co2 levels double by 2050, below the 3 degrees predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.