The American Bear


Desert Theory and Social Darwinism | Matthew Bruenig

Paul Ryan has never specifically spelled out which conservative economic philosophy, if any, he supports. However, he is an avid Ayn Rand fan and even requires his staff to slog through her comical treatises. I suspect then that Ryan subscribes to a desert theory view (high-productivity people morally deserve higher incomes) as that is the view Rand clumsily puts forward. For Rand, business people are the most productive and intelligent people in the world, and without them the entire economy would fall to pieces. As such, they are deserving of immense compensation. […]

What should we make of the comparison of Ryan’s budget to social Darwinism? Social Darwinism interacts with desert theory as an ultimate, biological explanation of deservedness. One of the problems with buying into conservative desert theory at all is that it supports awarding people according to how much they produce, but it does not take into account what factors affect how productive a person winds up being. Immense amounts of evidence show that where one winds up in life economically has a lot to do with one’s socio-economic background. America is not the beacon of social mobility we like to pretend it is.

That fact seems to cut against the very notion of deservedness because it suggests that people from wealthier households for instance wind up capturing more productive jobs for reasons totally outside their control. When rich kids who do not go to college have a better chance at making a top 20% income than poor kids who do go to college, it sure seems like those rich kids wind up in high-productivity jobs for reasons other than their own merit and hard work.

But the social Darwinist can dismiss those charges. For social Darwinists, rich kids doing better than poor kids can be explained by the rich kids’ superior genes. As Romney adviser Greg Mankiw once wrote “Smart parents make more money and pass those good genes on to their offspring.”

The social Darwinist explanation is also extended to discount race-based inequalities as well. Social Darwinist conservatives like John Derbyshire, an admitted racist, remark simply that Blacks, Hispanics, southeast Asians, and so on wind up poor because they — like poor whites — possess inferior genes.

Social Darwinism represents the biological and racist wing of the desert theory view. It exists for all sorts of sociological reasons to be sure, but it is used within argument to get around the immensely problematic data that shows parental background has way more to do with how much income one pulls down as an adult than any other variable. To the extent that Paul Ryan appears to have desert theory views, Obama’s charge that his budget is driven by social Darwinism is entirely plausible. Not all desert theory conservatives are social Darwinists, but many — like Mankiw and Derbyshire — certainly are.

Dean Baker on the Romney-Ryan “Vision” and the failure of the Pundit Class

Let’s assume that Representative Ryan wants to keep defense spending somewhere between its 3.0 percent of GDP low and the 4.0 percent current level. That leaves somewhere between zero and 0.75 percent of GDP for everything else the federal government does other than Social Security, health care and defense.

This spending must cover all of the federal government’s spending on road and bridges, airports and every other form of transportation. It covers its spending on aid to education, from running day care and Head Start to Pell grants and other college aid. It covers research and development including funding for the National Institutes of Health. It includes the money needed to run the State Department, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the federal prison system. It includes the money to pay for the border patrol and immigration enforcement, the patent office, and Food and Drug Administration. […]

The arithmetic in the Romney-Ryan budget says that they want to shut down the federal government outside of Social Security, health care and defense. Maybe the reporters who are singing about competing visions can try to tell the rest of us what the Romney-Ryan vision means, since the information on the table does not give a clue as to what the Romney-Ryan world looks like. […]

These are the questions that reporters should be asking about the Romney-Ryan vision:

How do they envision that Pfizer and Merck will make money when there is no patent agency to register their drug patents or courts to enforce them? The same applies to copyrights for Microsoft, Time-Warner and all the other firms that depend on copyright protection.

What will be U.S. immigration policy when we have no one to enforce borders or even issue passports? Is the Romney-Ryan vision an open country with no borders? How about the airwaves, what will broadcast and telecommunications giants like Comcast and Verizon do to secure their access to the airwaves when there is no Federal Communications Commission to parcel out bandwidth?

Will there no longer be an interstate highway system, since there will be no federal funds to maintain it? Will airports and air traffic control be left to states, since there is no money for the Federal Aviation Commission?

[…] Since the Romney-Ryan vision makes zero sense (challenge to pundits: try to show otherwise), let’s try an alternative story. Suppose that there is no Romney-Ryan vision. Suppose that Romney and Ryan are politicians trying to appeal to rich people by promising them big tax cuts. After all, big tax cuts for the rich is the item is that is most clearly defined in the Romney-Ryan budget.

So why don’t “neutral” reporters just tell us what the budget does — it gives tax cuts to the rich and guts programs that benefit the middle class and the poor. The stuff about “vision” is just nonsense to tell children and Washington pundits.


You can’t cut spending without cutting spending

However, if he’s not cutting Pell by as much as the White House thinks, he’s cutting other things by more. But he won’t say what. Obama “imposed” the simplest of all assumptions: Equal cuts across-the-board. I think Brooks would agree that it would have been far more unfair for Obama to guess at which programs would have taken a big cut, and which programs would take a small one.

There’s a bottom line here: You can’t cut spending without cutting spending. But Ryan wants to have it both ways: He wants to get the credit for cutting spending, but he doesn’t want to have to propose specific spending cuts. Oh, and he doesn’t want anyone to extrapolate what those cuts would be, either.

Of course, even Ryan’s supporters should see the problem here. If these cuts are too unpopular to detail, then they’re going to be too unpopular to pass. If the only way to defend Ryan’s budget is to beat back any attempts to make it specific, then it’s an empty, useless document.

(Source: azspot)

Pink Slime Economics and the Most Fraudulent Budget in US History | Paul Krugman

WHEN I say fraudulent, I mean just that. The trouble with the budget devised by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, isn’t just its almost inconceivably cruel priorities, the way it slashes taxes for corporations and the rich while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the needy. Even aside from all that, the Ryan budget purports to reduce the deficit — but the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes.

And we’re talking about a lot of loophole-closing. As Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center points out, to make his numbers work Mr. Ryan would, by 2022, have to close enough loopholes to yield an extra $700 billion in revenue every year. That’s a lot of money, even in an economy as big as ours. So which specific loopholes has Mr. Ryan, who issued a 98-page manifesto on behalf of his budget, said he would close?

None. Not one. He has, however, categorically ruled out any move to close the major loophole that benefits the rich, namely the ultra-low tax rates on income from capital. (That’s the loophole that lets Mitt Romney pay only 14 percent of his income in taxes, a lower tax rate than that faced by many middle-class families.)

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