Saturday, December 29, 2018

Restoring Democracy Through Tax Policy:

Dying is Easier Than Giving a Eulogy

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking.
Number two is death.  Death is number two!  Does that sound right?
This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral,
you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.

By Jerry Seinfeld

Are We Really Living?

The living are just the dead on holiday

By Maurice Maeterlinck

After Bloodbath, The National Zoo’s Naked Mole-Rats Finally Choose Their Queen DCist. Everything is like CalPERS

Closing tax loopholes has long been a central priority for both center-left and progressive tax policy proposals. This approach provides an appealing messaging strategy by focusing on tax cheaters and by prioritizing incremental change. It is also necessarily inadequate. While closing loopholes is by no means detrimental, designing a tax platform around tax loopholes is insufficient to achieve progressive policy priorities: It’s inherently reactive and small in scale. A preoccupation with legislative fixes to loopholes also creates the negative inference that our tax administrators are not positioned to close loopholes on their own, shifting responsibility for loophole closing away from the Treasury Department while consuming scarce room on the congressional tax agenda. 
Repealing the so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 is also insufficient as a progressive tax platform. While there are many elements of TCJA that should be repealed, the pre-TCJA baseline was no promised land; inequality was already rampant prior to TCJA, our infrastructure was already crumbling, and the federal government was failing to provide basic services to the American people. The deep pockets of concentrated wealth left outside of our tax base prior to TCJA also produced political inequality. Indeed, the passage of TCJA is a natural consequence of these pre-TCJA trends: wealth concentration enabled by a broken tax code allowed huge businesses and their owners to further tilt tax policy in their favor, compounding their wealth and political power even further. Meanwhile, middle class workers continued to see themselves shut out of both the political process and the purportedly growing economy.
An alternative approach to loophole closing or TCJA repeal is to view tax policy as central to restoring our democracy. To the extent rising inequality and the collapse of the middle class is a threat to our Constitution and the values it enshrines, tax policy offers a direct answer to this crisis. More than just closing tax loopholes or repealing fly-by-night tax giveaways to the rich, tax policy can be central to the functioning of our democracy by rebuilding the middle class and reviving the full potential of our public institutions.
This report proposes a suite of tax policies to put forth an affirmative vision of tax policy. These proposals are rooted in four principles:

Ms Dell and her Harvard colleagues Isaiah Andrews, Nathaniel Hendren and Stefanie Stantcheva; Parag Pathak and Heidi Williams of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology…Emi Nakamura of the University of California, Berkeley and Amir Sufi of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business…
Mr Pathak and his co-authors have compared pupils who only just made it into elite public schools with others who only just missed out, rather as Ms Dell compared villages on either side of the Pentagon’s bombing thresholds. The study showed that the top schools achieve top-tier results by the simple contrivance of admitting the best students, not necessarily by providing the best education. Ms Dell and her co-author showed that bombing stiffened villages’ resistance rather than breaking their resolve.
Ms Williams has exploited a number of institutional kinks in the American patent system to study medical innovation. Some patent examiners, for example, are known to be harder to impress than others. That allowed her to compare genes that were patented by lenient examiners with largely similar genes denied patents by their stricter colleagues. She and her co-author found that patents did not, as some claimed, inhibit follow-on research by other firms. This suggested that patent-holders were happy to let others use their intellectual property (for a fee).

Fake Everywhere: How Much Of What’s On The Internet Is Fake

How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Timesreported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake.  – New York Magazine

PETER MAGUIRE. Regulate It, Man. Marijuana

*The Economist* picks eight young top economists , it fails to mention MEdia Dragon again ;-)