It's the Hassle:Washington Monthly's Charles Peters mocks the "new proletariat" of Americans in the "$100,000-$500,000 income range," especially their agitation against the Alternative Minimum Tax. ... My impression is the main complaint against the AMT is not the extra tax it extracts but the extra paperwork hassle it imposes on those who essentially have to calculate their tax two times, using different sets of rules (or, almost as annoying, pay an accountant to do it for them) ... I would think the anti-bureaucratic Wash. Monthly would join in the fraternal struggle against unnecessary government-imposed complications--realizing that Washington could probably collect a lot more tax money, indeed more money from the complaining top 20%, and if only it did so with less hassle. ... Similarly, I think the hassle factor--the hassle of figuring out which insurance company is going to screw you in what way, of reading the fine print and artfully filling out forms and switching plans and negotiating with gatekeepers and getting pre-op approval and worrying about treatments that won't be covered--is why even the well-insured 'new proleteriat' will ultimately care about universal health coverage (contrary to what Peters suggests in his last item). ...
Update: Ann Althouse, who uses Turbo Tax, says it's the money, not the hassle. ... Instapundit wonders "if Turbo Tax isn't a friend of Big Government." [link omitted] ... I wonder a) if the AMT effectively eliminates the tax benefits of the home mortgage deduction and b) more and more affluent Americans are going to be subject to the unindexed AMT, then c) the resulting decline in utility of the tax deduction will produce a corresponding fall in the price of high-income homes. ...
P.S.: My anti-hassle argument is simply that we shouldn't have to do two tax calculations. I'm not saying there's not a good argument that, of the two, we should keep the AMT and ditch the deduction-riddled regular tax code. That may be where we are headed already--as more Americans are obviously going to have to pay the AMT, they eventually may not bother with the regular tax code calculation at all, no? Result: Back-door slow-motion tax reform. ... 10:26 P.M.
Hagel's Hyperbole: Like most people--including, perhaps, most supporters of the "surge"--I don't expect it to work. But (assuming we don't initiate a new war with Iran or Syria) I don't quite understand why, if it fails, the U.S. will be in all that much worse a strategic position than it is now in Iraq. This doesn't seem like a doubling down. It seems more like raising the bet 15%. So when Sen. Chuck Hagel calls Bush's latest plan
"the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out"
that seems a bit odd. If the surge fails, surely the 'most dangerous foreign policy blunder' will be not the surge but the initial invasion of Iraq. Hagel voted for that, remember. ... Perhaps not just publicity-seeking political ambition but guilt is at work behind Hagel's hyperbole. ... P.S.: On Charlie Rose, Hagel equivocates, Kerry/2004 style, not quite being able to bring himself to say he was wrong on the Iraq war vote. He also defends his hyperbole, citing both the strains of increased troop deployment and the possibility of conflict with Iran and Syria. But note that Hagel's own plan, as he outlines it, would involve putting our troops on Iraq's borders with Iran and Syria, which might not exactly reduce the possibility of conflict ... 8:08 P.M.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Auto Snow: Not So Fast, Comrade Kuttner! [Note: It may actually save you time to watch the accelerated video version of this rant.]
The shift lever falls readily to hand for one R. Kuttner, who road tests the Pontiac G6. He doesn't like the door-lock releases. Or the steering. Kuttner concludes the problem wiith GM isn't its workers--or unions--it's GM's incompetent designers and executives:
You might blame GM's woes on poor American workmanship or the cost of American labor. But Japanese total labor costs are comparable, even with Detroit's higher health insurance costs. Increasingly, Japanese cars are being assembled in the USA, and the quality holds up just fine.
So what's wrong with GM? The cars. GM is famous for being run by bean counters and ad men. Toyota is run by engineers.'
This is a common viewpoint, I've found, among my Democratic friends--Jon Alter, this means you!--who would never actually buy a Detroit product but who want to believe the UAW can't be blamed. The argument seems to be roughtly this: a) American cars are now reliable enough, having closed the gap with the Japanese brands, so b) the workers are doing their job; therefore c) if Detroit cars like the G6 are still obviously inferior--tacky and cheap, with mediocre handling--it must be because they're designed badly by white collar professionals, not because they're built badly by blue collar union members.