Day at the Circus: St. Elizabeth's Larry King interview sets HuffPo 's Lee Stranahan off : "Enough already, Mr. Edwards ... You could end this stupidity fairly quickly by simply telling the truth and clearing up all the lies you've told already." ... 12:51 A.M.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Do You Believe in Nudges? When Democrats talk about "reducing inequality," they typically mean more than simply providing universal health care. They mean reshaping a national income distribution that has gotten significantly more unequal in the past several decades. Quintile tables and Gini coefficients are rolled out, along with comparisons to the Gilded Age. Recently, TNR 's Franklin Foer and Noam Scheiber proclaimed that Obama was going to
"synthesize the New Democratic faith in the utility of markets with the Old Democratic emphasis on reducing inequality,"
but their article (on the president's reliance on incentives and regulatory "nudges") was missing any discussion of what his actual "nudge" plan for "reducing inequality" was . Noam Scheiber has recently attempted to fill in the hole. The arsenal of new policies is not impressive. True, there's an old standby, training, which a) last time I checked had way too slow a payoff to actually reverse historic inequality trends and b) would push workers into skilled professions where income inequalities tend to run riot (think Hollywood) and where the social inequalities that accompany those inequalities tend to be maximized (smarter people on top, slow learners below). There's traditional social insurance (e.g., social security). And then there are the Obama innovations! Here are two of them:
Two more nudge-ocracy ideas Obama has signed onto with an eye toward reducing inequality: 1.) More generous retirement saving incentives for working-class families. (Families who currently make less than $50,000 are eligible for a refundable 50 percent tax credit on up to $1,000 of savings; Obama wants to raise the income cutoff to $65,000.) 2.) Automatically enrolling workers in 401(k)s and (for those whose employers don't offer them) IRA accounts. This disproporationately benefits the working-class, who tend to leave a lot of retirement money on the table (via unclaimed matches and tax incentives, to say nothing of their not saving enough for retirement in the first place).
They're going to raise the income cutoff of a refundable $500 tax credit from $50,000 to $65,000. That'll do it! It's an insult to small potatoes. My colleague Matthew Yglesias had a phrase for it. ... Update: Sorry, forgot about "expanding rural broadband access"! .... 5:50 P.M.
Gawker , reporting . That can't be in the business plan. ... 5:49 P.M.
Developing: Should the editor of kausfiles ever come close to attaining a position of actual public influence, such as a "real" MSM job, kf interns have devised a "doomsday" strategy of sorts to immediately sabotage his career. According to sources in the inner circle, it could involve distributing the text of his unpublished novel about welfare reform. ... Update: "Ibrahim," cashier at a Venice, California 7-11, claims the so-called doomsday strategy is "complete BS." "I don't think there is an hour Kaus isn't in here," he says. "If there was a doomsday plan, I guarantee you we would know about it." ... 5:48 P.M.