“An editor,” Adlai Stevenson famously said, “is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff – and then prints the chaff.”
In a week when our own Department of Sound Editorial Judgment and Cheesy SEO Gimmicks was unhealthily focused on Waity Katy-Big Willie wedding fever, Obama’s snoozzzefest appearance at Facebook and Charlie Sheen’s long overdue entry into the birther controversy, here’s a look at the top stories that got stuck in the thresher:
1-Myths about U.S. taxes. Must-read of the week is the hard-hitting takeout on federal taxes by David Cay Johnson, the former New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer in 2001 for his reporting on such matters.
Johnston left the MSM in 2008 in favor of more, um, honest work, and this authoritative and detailed dismantling of the loopy, 30-year old theory of tax cut supply side economics, which congressional Republicans once again are trumpeting as the easy answer to all of life’s problem, is the toughest policy takedown since Dr. Pierre Louis put the kibosh on using leeches to treat pneumonia:
For three decades, we have conducted a massive economic experiment, testing a theory known as supply-side economics…
You would think that whether this grand experiment worked would be settled after three decades. You would think the practitioners of the dismal science of economics would…pronounce a verdict, the way Galileo and Copernicus did when they showed that geocentrism was a fantasy…But economics is not like that. It is not like physics with its laws and arithmetic with its absolute values.
Tax policy is something the Framers left to politics. And in politics, the facts often matter less then who has the biggest bullhorn.
The report got precious little pick-up, no doubt because it was distributed by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, giving the MSM a perfect (to them) reason to ignore it; Johnston, however, is a very serious guy, and his fact-upon-fact-upon-fact reporting offered overwhelming evidence that the supply side economic growth fantasy has done little but shift the tax burden from the rich onto working people.
2-Paul Ryan gets booed. Some of our conservative ideologue friends have recently been bashing us for harping on the fact that American democracy is morphing into oligarchy, and we confess that we have been recently guilty of over-reliance on, you know, facts rather than opinions on the matter.
But if anybody doubts that the extraordinary concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny cohort of the uber rich is fast becoming a mainstream issue, check out this video, as Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the genius behind the GOP’s budget plan, gets booed and hooted by his own constituents for his claim that the 1 percenters are paying their fair share.
3-Both debt plans are goofy. We’re not much for on-the-one-hand-this-on-the-other-hand-that reporting, but Washpost financial columnist Robert Samuelson does a swell job of explaining why neither of the long-term debt plans put forth by Ryan and by President Obama represent serious economic policy.
In the Great Budget Debate, Democrats and Republicans are closer than you might think. Neither is proposing a balanced budget anytime soon; both peddle soothing myths to convince supporters that they’re upholding either “liberal” or “conservative” values….
We won’t make much progress until (a) Democrats concede that spending control requires genuine cuts in Social Security and Medicare, which now total $1.3 trillion annually and represent 35 percent of federal outlays; and (b) Republicans acknowledge that, even after significant spending cuts, tax increases will be needed to balance the budget. Last week, there was little sign of either. ..
What we have instead is a public relations war. Both parties propound brands of wishful thinking designed to make it seem that they’re accomplishing more than they are.
4-Donald Trump: Of course, I’m an excellent driver. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump (now there’s a phrase we never thought we’d write) is confounding the pundits by employing the evermore popular “death of truth” strategy of saying whatever the hell he wants without regard to, uh, the real world. The producers of “Hardball” put together a terrific mash-up that makes clear how he gets away with it. (PS: Calbuzz bets he won’t actually mount a real campaign.)
5-What the Standard & and Poor’s move means. Much hysteria and rending of garments, not to mention new record amounts of political spin, followed the S&P’s warning that the U.S. could lose its highest sovereign credit rating if Washington doesn’t get adopt a serious long-term debt policy (see #3).
6-Schwarzenegger stricken with logorrhea. As if there was much doubt, it’s becoming clearer all the time that Susan Kennedy was the brains, such as they were, behind the Schwarzmuscle Administration. Now that there’s no one around to make him stop flopping his gums, the playacting former governor keeps digging himself in deeper by yammering on about his scandalous behavior on his way out the door, reducing the prison sentence of the son of former Speaker Fabian Nunez in the stabbing death of a college student.
First off, Herr Orange Hair feigned boredom and emitted a sarcastic snore when a reporter asked him about the matter, and then he sought to defend himself by admitting that he did it for the excellent reason that Nunez Sr. is a pal of his.
“I feel good about the decision …. I happen to know the kid really well. I don’t apologize about it,” said Schwarzenegger, who noted in his commutation order that Esteban Nuñez, 21, did not deliver the fatal wound that led to Santos’ death. “There’s criticism out there. I think it’s just because of our working relationship and all that. It maybe was kind of saying, ‘That’s why he did it.’ Well, hello! I mean, of course you help a friend.”
What a no-class jerk.
7-Say it ain’t so, Meg. Our close personal friend Failed Republican candidate for governor Meg Whitman dealt a serious dash to our hopes for a 2012 Dream Cage Match, when she told Politico she’s “definitely not” making a run against Senator Difi next year.
That said, eMeg definitely did leave the door ajar for a future campaign, offering Fox a mealy-mouthed “I doubt it” when they asked her if she’d run for office again. Mores’ the pity, since it finally dawned on Her Megness what a huge blunder she made in botching the immigration issue.
8- Pot’s not green. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researcher Evan Mills reports that indoor marijuana production accounts for 1% of the entire electricity consumption of the U.S. or about $5 billion a year.
While 1% may not seem like a lot, the report claims that smoking one single Cannabis joint is equivalent to running a 100-watt light bulb for 17 hours. That Cannabis cigarette carries two pounds of CO2 emissions.
Each four-by-four-foot production module doubles the electricity use of an average U.S. home and triples that of an average California home. The added electricity use is equivalent to running about 30 refrigerators. Processed Cannabis results in 3000-times its weight in emissions. For off-grid production, it requires 70 gallons of diesel fuel to produce one indoor Cannabis plant, or 140 gallons with smaller, less-efficient gasoline generators.
9-Memo to Joel Fox: Corporate apologists and anti-tax jihadists just love to cite business climate rankings and indices that show California compares poorly with other states when measuring productivity, taxes, regulation and other costs of doing business – even though California continues to grow at or above the national average in terms of employment, wages and output. How can that be? Researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California wondered. Here’s what they found:
Business climate indexes that focus on productivity exhibit essentially no relationship to economic growth. In contrast, some of the indexes that focus on taxes and costs demonstrate a clear relationship with employment growth and, to a lesser extent, wage and Gross State Product growth . . .
But factors beyond the control of policy—for instance, a state’s weather, population density, and industry mix—demonstrate a stronger relationship with economic growth than the measures included even in the tax-and-cost-focused indexes…
The clearest policy recommendations resulting from this study would be for California to examine its welfare and transfer policies, with an eye toward reducing work disincentives, and to simplify corporate taxation by better aligning the state tax with the federal corporate tax and by reducing credits and other non-uniform treatment of corporate income. These features—not the overall tax rate or the overall size of government—demonstrate the strongest relationship with economic growth in our analysis.
Now about that split roll tax assessment…
10-Girl makes cool animal sounds. What can we say – we’re simply in awe. H/T Jezebel.