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March 08, 2009

This Just In: Greg Mankiw Smoking Crack... Again

Please conceal your shock:

Fans of David Hume and G.E. Moore will recognize that Mankiw's first argument falls face first into the naturalistic fallacy. Mankiw cannot get an 'ought' from an 'is.' A description of the current tax code has absolutely no implications -- zero, zip, zilch -- for how progressive the tax code should be. The fact that we already have a progressive tax code is not an argument against making the tax code more progressive.

It is if your argument is that the rich aren't paying their "fair share" or that taxing the rich more will bring about increased "fairness". What a progressive tax code does is tax the rich more heavily than the poor. Not because they use more services or get more from the government (that would be "fair") but because they have the temerity to have more money than their fellow citizens.

And as I mentioned the other day, when you factor in government spending per household the tax code is revealed to have far more of an income equalizing (read: redistributive) effect than simple examination of marginal tax rates would indicate:

Some households clearly benefit much more from current tax and spending policy on a dollar-for-dollar basis than others. Overall, households in the bottom three quintiles are net beneficiaries from tax and spending policies.

They received more than one dollar of government spending for every dollar of taxes they paid in 2004. In contrast, households in the top two quintiles are net fiscal payers, receiving less than one dollar of government spending for every tax dollar paid to governments.

When all government spending is included, households in the lowest quintile received about $8.21 in spending for every dollar of taxes paid. Households in the middle quintile received $1.30, and households in the top quintile received $0.41.

That, my friends, is what's known as a transfer of wealth. Or, if you're Barack Obama, as the rich finally paying their "fair share". But wait! There are more of Prof. Mankiw's drug-induced rantings to rebut!

As for Mankiw's second question -- well, I think the answer is pretty clear: No. Redistributive decisions within the United States have no necessarily implications for redistribution outside the United States. The reason has something to do with a thing called "democracy." I suspect Mankiw has heard of this because we live in one. Our constitutional democracy isn't a system in which some poor schmo can "lay claim" to his rich neighbor's garden hose. It's a system in which we make majoritarian decisions about issues of fairness and distribution and submit to be governed by them. One such majoritarian decision came around last November.

Surely the gentleman can't be referring to this kind of "majoritarian decision", under which Constitutional rights were automagically conferred upon non-citizens (some of whom have openly declared war upon us)?

In a stinging defeat for the Bush administration, the Supreme Court ruled today that detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have a constitutional right to challenge their detentions in federal court and that congressional legislation has failed to provide a reasonable substitute for such a hearing.

As we all know, that sort of thing could never happen in America. The only law that applies to Americans is American law arrived at in a "majoritarian" decision making process:

The Court further noted that that the execution of juvenile offenders violated several international treaties, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and stated that the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty provides confirmation for the Court’s own conclusion that the death penalty is disproportional punishment for offenders under 18.

I tell you: you have to keep these neo-cons in check. They're everywhere.

Posted by Cassandra at March 8, 2009 10:35 AM

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Great post, Cassandra. I know you don't do trackbacks but I really wish you had in this case.

Posted by: Elise at March 8, 2009 02:27 PM

Thanks, Elise.

They are just too much trouble. I spend too much time deleting trackback spam, and since I'm one of those weird bloggers who is trying to limit my traffic, trackbacks actually don't do me any good. But feel free to put a link to your post in my comments.

That's the only think I don't like about not having trackbacks - I'd like people to be able to see related posts.

Posted by: Dude... Where's my Country??? at March 8, 2009 03:09 PM

Actually what I meant was that I wish people reading Conor could see your post here. I do realize, however, that that could result in sorts of undesirables wandering over here.

Posted by: Elise at March 8, 2009 04:03 PM

Don't bother, they're here.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha, some sort of undesirable at March 8, 2009 04:13 PM

Well, Mark *told* you they were on the way.

Posted by: BillT at March 8, 2009 04:49 PM