*--A lower bound estimate that seemed authoritative at the time was 20%--in other words, a fifth of the increased after-tax share at the top was due to tax cuts. The estimable Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice came up with an stunning high-end estimate of "two-thirds," but that seemed heavily inflated by a number of factors (it assumed, for example, that the top 1% of taxpayers were the same people every year, which they definitely aren't). See footnote 4 of Chapter 5 in my book for tedious details. Even McIntyre's number implied that if you reversed Reagan-era tax cuts the rich would still have gotten richer. ...
Update: See Wizbang and Drum. ... Wizbang notes Johnston's amazing, undocumented 'Oh, by the way, studies suggest mobility's declining' final paragraph. Not that mobility is or isn't declining. But "Studies Say" Journalism is lousy journalism if you don't even bother to say which studies. Must be those onerous space limitations the Times has placed on its "Class Matters" series!
More: I'm not saying that Johnston doesn't understand the underlying non-tax causes of rising incomes at the top. He mentions them. I'm saying he and his editors conflate his two subjects--rich getting richer, rich getting tax cuts--in a way that encourages readers to think the former caused the latter (for example, with a headline:. "Richest Are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind: Tax Laws Help to Widen Gap at Very Top"). Tax cuts at the top almost certainly "help" widen the gap. The interesting question is how much. Why don't the Times editors and writers tackle it? I suspect they rightly fear the answer would be highly discouraging to liberals who don't like rising income inequality, because it would indicate "progressive" tax changes can't hope to reverse that trend.
But why make the rich even richer, Drum asks. That's certainly not a good thing in itself. But it's also not nearly as important a phenomenon as traditional liberals make it out to be. At some point, who cares if David Geffen has $1 billion or $4 billion--except Michael Eisner? He's rich, OK? If our goal is (attainable) social equality rather than (unattainable) income equality--as I think it should be--there are more efficient, direct ways to achieve it than by raising Geffen's taxes. 3:22 A.M. link
Why Newsweek Should Be More Like KFC: The WSJ reported (on 5/25) that Newsweek magazine's Arabic edition did not contain the editor's note apologizing for the Koran/toilet story.
When asked why Newsweek didn't print an apology or offer sympathies in its Arabic version, Newsweek spokesman Ken Weine said, "because this is a licensing relationship, Newsweek provides its partners with a menu of article to select from and one of them was the editor's note, which they didn't use."
Hmm. The Arabic Newsweek did apparently run an Evan Thomas article that described the Koran story as erroneous--and (according to the WSJ) it published an apologetic editor's note the following week. Still, maybe it's time for Newsweek to renegotiate that licensing agreement. It's the magazine's name that's on the line. I suspect McDonald's keeps a lot more control over its franchisees than Newsweek seems to have over what its Arabic readers read under its banner. ... 2:06 A.M. link
Friday, June 3, 2005
The Washington Monthly presses its promising uber-argument that forceful government action can break economic logjams and create more jobs: Zachary Roth calls for reforming the patent office, which he argues is granting way too many patents--in part due to, yes, perverse bureaucratic incentives. Unjustified patent proliferation forces researchers and innovators to either challenge the patents in court or abandon their work. ... P.S.: What's specifically Democratic about patent reform? Not much. It requires a president and Congress that can stand up to some lobbyists--but, as Roth notes, there are lobbyists on the reform side too. That doesn't make it bad!... P.P.S.: It would also help if the government weren't running a huge deficit, which makes Congress reluctant to cut off the stream of fees the patent office generates by approving lots and lots of applications. ... 3:13 P.M. link
Deep Throat and the Organization Chart Fallacy: Slate contributor Edward Jay Epstein isn't giving up on the "composite" theory of Deep Throat. ... Hmmm. Doesn't Slate contributor David Greenberg denounce as "insidious speculation" such "reckless Deep Throat guesswork" that