Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Failures of the Catholic Church: The Girls

The issue of priest misconduct (rape, molestation, sexual abuse of minors) in the Catholic Church is one that reviles us, as it should. Figures who supposedly represent authority, wisdom, and virtue are committing some of the most vile acts humans are capable of. Think about what you’d do if your kid was a victim.

That said, the issue as I’ve heard it in my brief foray into mature thinking being-hood (it’s a word now) has revolved around priest misconduct with boys. This got me thinking in recent months. Something sounded a bit off about this. Why is it that we don’t hear as much about girls? The discussion on news channels, in journal articles, in jokes on late night comedy hours; they always reference boys. Seemingly, this rhetoric needs to change, and instead of talking about boys, we need to talk about girls too, and universally framed, about children.

The reason many people come out about their own terrible experiences with priest misconduct is that others are doing so too. As more and more people speak out, a movement grows, and there is a sense of support in the existence of that movement. It’s hard to speak out if you feel like you’re alone and alienated. But since this issue is somewhat skewed towards discussing one gender over the other, it seems that snowball effect has not been as pronounced with girls, and thus they are more hesitant to reveal their stories and start a sort of healing process.

That snowball effect is picking up. Lots of people are asking the same questions. They’re saying similar things as I am, but better than I am.

Andrew Sullivan has had a whole month of stories about this topic, and again, he’s better at this stuff (Boom boom boom boom boom).

We need to change the sound of this story.

The political leanings of sports fans

The Republican Health Care Plan

With a new round of health care negotiations about to start, it seems likely that Republicans will try to put forward their version of reform.  The basic idea of the Republican plan is that it allows insurers to sell across state lines, increasing competition and lowering costs in the process.  The typical response to this from liberals is that adopting this plan would essentially deregulate the insurance industry, where companies would cluster in the states with the most lax regulatory standards.  Indeed, some states may lower their standards to entice companies to relocate to their state.  That being said, I think it’s important to point out that, even beyond the issue of regulation, that there is little reason to believe that the Republican health care plan would actually lower costs. Continue reading

Mitch McConnell and the deficit commission

“No single vote by any single senator could possibly illustrate everything that is wrong with Washington today. No single vote could embody the full cynicism and cowardice of our political elite at its worst, or explain by itself why problems do not get solved.

But here’s one that comes close.”

Fred Hiatt, describing Mitch McConnell’s decision to filibuster a deficit commission that he’d been very vocal about supporting.  He decided he was against such a commission after Obama back the proposal and it became clear the bill would pass the senate.  Six of the seven Republican co-sponsors of the bill also withdrew their co-sponsorships and joined the filibuster, including John McCain.

Also: James Fallows and Bruce Bartlett on the state of the GOP.

Lazear ctd.

Yglesias catches a few other problems with his WSJ op-ed.

Lazear on taxes and growth

Ed Lazear has an article in the Wall Street Journal decrying Obama’s plan for a discretionary spending freeze (again, it would have been nice if people like him has been saying things like this back when Republicans wanted it).  Anyway, he’s correct that it’s in no way a serious effort to cut the long term budget deficit.  However, the article also includes this interesting bit Continue reading

Some conjectures

I guess the depressing turn of recent events has put me in somewhat of a conservative bashing mood.  Anyway, here are a list of conjectures (not all necessarily wrong) that I think many Republicans in congress would agree with.  At the very least I think they’re fairly conventional sentiments within the Republican party.

1. Government is a leviathan.  Once a program is implemented, it is taken over by special interests, often to the detriment of its stated goals and it is then difficult/impossible to get rid of.

2. The budget for defense should never decrease in absolute terms (or perhaps even relative to GDP).

3. Free trade is good policy, as it increases the efficiency of the economy.  It’s a myth that protectionism provides jobs- it simply changes the complexion of the jobs available.

4. Letting the F-22 die was a mistake.  It created jobs for Americans and those will be lost now.

5. Government spending does not create jobs.  When the government spends money while in deficit, people see the implied future taxes, and simply save more.  There is no effect on output (or even a negative one since government is so inefficient).

6. Lower taxes raise revenue, or at least raising taxes will not increase revenue.

7. (Again) Government spending does not increase output.

8. Loans made by Freddie and Fannie to low income people led to an orgy of sub-prime lending and caused a massive housing  bubble.

Ayn Rand hearts Pigou

When a firm produces a good, they face a certain set of costs.  These costs could include wages, rent, raw materials, etc.  If production also leads to pollution, then that is a cost as well.  This extra cost is called an externality, because it is shouldered externally by society and not by the firm.  Since this cost does not enter to the firm’s production function, the cost the firm sees is lower than the true cost, which leads to overproduction.  In other words, the presence of an externality leads to an economically inefficient outcome.  There are very real economic costs associated with pollution, and the externality cost effectively acts as a subsidy from the rest of society to the polluter.

What to do about this problem?  Many argue in favor of a Pigovian tax.  Pigou’s idea was to internalize this cost by calculating the cost to society imposed by the externality and then taxing the firm by this amount.  If a firm is polluting, you can calculate the cost to society per unit of pollution and then put a per unit tax on production so that the firm sees closer to the overall cost (It won’t see the full cost because the incidence of these taxes don’t fall fully on the producer, but that doesn’t really matter).  The result is that the firm’s supply curve shifts up (and the demand curve shifts down), so that the quantity produced will fall.  You can then use the revenue gained from this tax to compensate those who are affected by the externality.  This outcome is more economically efficient and the firm now has an incentive to make its production process cleaner.  Cap-and-trade works through different mechanisms, but the results and rationales are similar.

What’s important here is that the outcome where  Pigovian taxes (or cap-and-trade markets) are used is economically efficient, and the outcome where neither is used is not.  The implicit subsidy given to firms who pollute is no different than the explicit subsidies given to the poor in terms of decreasing economic efficiency.  These firms leach off the hard earned money of the rest of society, burdening it with extra costs.  As Ayn Rand once said, “Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others
is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel.”

Welfare Queen:

What’s next for health care?

Now that it looks like the Obama health care bill may fail, some conservative economists are putting forth ideas on what we should do instead.  Most of the proposals are very interesting, and some seem like they may be better that the bill now before congress.  Of course, a bill in theory will usually be better than the one before congress, but the ideas are still worth considering.

Tyler Cowen

Megan McArdle


Eugene Fama (scroll down toward the bottom)

The common thread is that moral hazard is the main problem.  These answers make sense economically.  Here’s what I’d like to know: as much as I run into this theme, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a health economist make these arguments.  I can’t remember seeing a conservative economist quote a health care expert.  However, Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein seem to regularly quote health care economists at places such as MIT and Harvard.  What is the reason for this?  Does the research in this field say that this is not the main problem and these people are just unaware?  Are these opinions backed up by research in this field but just aren’t brought into the discussion?  Is there some kind of selection bias (only liberals want to research health care!) so that these people feel it is alright to ignore research by those in the field.



It’s not often that Democracy in America misses the mark, but wow, this really misses the mark.  Yes, if you’ve been living in hibernation for the past year, perhaps you would conclude that health care reform is receiving no support from the opposition party because it is pushing the country too far to the left.  This would be, of course, because you are viewing the situation in a vacuum.  However, none of us have been in hibernation.  There is no reason to view this development in a vacuum.  Republicans have said that the number one priority is to get Barack Obama out of office.  They feel that the best way to do this is to defeat his legislative proposals.  The Republican party has also been hijacked by it tea-party wing, which has made it clear that they will front primary challenges to any Republican who even thinks about working with the Democrats.

Anyway, the author also says that the five point margin of victory shows a change in the national mood.  I’m not sure where this is coming from.  For one, Scott Brown did well in districts that really like Barack Obama.  How does one interpret that?  The other thing is that Massachusetts already has a health care system that achieves near universal coverage, so there is much less incentive to vote solely on health care than would be the case in other states.  It’s also important to realize that Scott Brown is thought to be more liberal than Olympia Snowe.  Consider his reasons for opposing health care reform:

1) Massachussettes already has a great health care plan and shouldn’t have to subsidize other states that can’t keep up.

2)Party loyalty.

Not sure that counts as an overwhelming ideological victory.