How are those Bush tax cuts working out anyway?

It’s been 10 years since the Bush tax cuts passed, Slate’s Annie Lowery takes a look.  It’s a nice short read, but here’s the nutshell:

So, to recap: The Bush tax cuts were followed by low GDP growth, negative median wage growth, and little job growth. Even before the Great Recession, growth in the Bush business cycle was the weakest since World War II. And the cuts cost about $2.6 trillion between 2001 and 2010, according to the Economic Policy Institute—adding to a debt future generations of taxpayers will pay for, plus interest.

Even better, though, is her conclusion:

To state the obvious, tax cuts are not magic. They can help a strong economy get stronger or help a weak economy pick up some steam. They also have a direct impact on the government budget. But they cannot goose employers into adding millions of jobs, pay for themselves, and arrest the growth of government, all while delivering everyone cupcakes. So perhaps the best we can say about the Bush tax cuts is that they did exactly what we should have expected them to do.


Inside the Republican mindset

Apparently, some NC legislators wanted to do away with a program that allows free fishing licenses to poor people:

It’s a rare event for a bill to fail on a chamber floor.  In most cases, if it’s clear a measure doesn’t have the votes to pass, chamber leaders won’t bring it up for a vote – or if debate on a bill appears to be going the wrong way, they’ll intervene to send it back to a committee before it goes down in flames.

That wasn’t the case for freshman Senator Jim Davis, R-Macon, who saw his Senate Bill 571 fail today, 22-26, with bipartisan disapproval.

S571 was an attempt to repeal a law that gives free fishing licenses to people on food stamps, Work First, or Medicaid.  It’s called a subsistence license, and the idea behind it is to let low-income people fish for free in order to supplement their diet.

The regular price of an annual fishing license is $15.

Quite revealing to read why it is so horrible to give away the fishing license– clearly we are just teaching these poor people to be leeches on society:

Why are we giving all this stuff?” Davis asked. “Instead of enabling people, let’s empower them.”

Senator Andrew Brock, R-Davie, backed Davis up.

“Life is about choices,” said Brock, arguing that if low-income people want to go fishing, they should save up for a license, “maybe after they pay for their cell phone or their widescreen TV.”

Apparently, Brock does not realize that not all poor people choose to be poor (nor do they all have widescreen TV’s).  But, my guess is Brock didn’t choose to be born into a family that has owned its own land for over 200 years or to have a grandfather who had served in the state legislature.

Supply side failure

Been talking about the (failed) War on Drugs in my Criminal Justice Policy class this summer term.  One recurring theme is that efforts to fight the problem by working on the “supply side” have largely failed.  Drugs are as cheap and available as ever, as dicussed in this story about Mexican drug armies now basically jerry-rigging their own tanks:

The cartels are locked in a kind of arms race involving technology and techniques to keep one step ahead of authorities — and one another.

Last year authorities found an elaborate tunnel stretching more than 2,200 feet, complete with train tracks and ventilation, that was used to move marijuana between a house in the Mexican city of Tijuana and a warehouse in Otay Mesa, Calif.

On the high seas, maritime forces have intercepted dozens of “narco-submarines” hauling multi-ton loads of cocaine north. The semi-submersibles travel very low in the water to avoid detection.

With growing frequency, U.S. guards have spotted ultralight aircraft barnstorming over the border fences to drop 200-pound loads of pot in fields for waiting pickup trucks that flash their high beams or create a makeshift drop zone out of light sticks. According to U.S. officials, there have been more than 300 ultralight incursions into the United States in the past 18 months.

U.S. and Mexican border agents have found ramps, tunnels, and even a catapult that was used to lob drugs over the border fence between Mexico and Arizona.

Short version: drug traffickers have too much money at stake and are simply too nimble for us to stop this problem through cutting supply.  Of course, this also reminded me of “supply side” economics, another” supply side” failure (which I was forced to off-topic debunk in class today).  [If you need your own debunking on the matter, Jon Chait is always available.]

And, if you’ve never read Benjamin Wallace-Wells amazing, “How America Lost the War on Drugs” you really should.

Chart of the day

It’s nice to be rich in America (via Kevin Drum):

Of course, what’s most notable is that 25 years ago we really weren’t that much of an outlier.  It’s hard to argue that this is not the result of intentional (and wrong-headed policy choices).  I don’t see how you could possibly argue that our nation being such an outlier in this regard could possibly be a good thing.  Actually, what I’d love to see is some third-world countries thrown in– I suspect this statistic resembles them more than the rest of the industrialized world.  If so, certainly pretty damning.

Equal pay, academia, and horrible reporting

Came across this story yesterday from my generally outstanding NPR station and it really pissed me off.  Basically, it’s about all the supposed gender discrimination that still exists in higher education.  Look, I’m sure there’s some– especially in hard sciences– but I suspect that there’s probably less gender discrimination in Higher Ed than in about any field that employs more men than women.  I’m a proud feminist and I think we need to do much more to combat sexism, but pretending there’s sexism and discrimination where there’s not does a real disservice.  To wit:

Where they seem to be having more trouble is getting equal pay. The gender pay gap in academia is often described as a problem of experience. More men have been at it longer than women, thus the gap is usually wider at the top levels.

Surprisingly, at Duke, the reverse is true. The gap is the largest at the assistant professor – or entry – level.

According to the American Association of University Professors, women assistant professors at Duke earn just 80 percent of their male colleagues.

At U-C Chapel Hill, women assistant professors earn 91 percent of what their male colleagues earn, at Princeton, it’s 92 percent.

Oh, my look at that discrimination!  Right?  Yet the story basically rebuts this in the very next paragraph:

Allen says the problem at Duke is exacerbated by the low percentage of women in the highest paying academic departments and schools – like engineering, law, and economics. For example: Just 7 of Duke’s 47 econ faculty members are women.

Allen: So we still have a bit of a glass ceiling and in some ways, both in moving through the system and in the hiring, but it’s a complicated situation. There’s not one responsible reason for that.

John Curtis: Well my initial response to that is that it’s not a justification at all. It’s simply a further specification of the problem.

John Curtis is the research director at the American Association of University Professors.

Curtis: There really is no reason in 2011 that we shouldn’t have women just as well-represented in virtually every field.

Hello– the issue seems pretty simple.  More men are engineering professors; more women are English and Psychology professors.  There you go.  Curtis is obviously just an idiot.  Of course there’s a reason– it’s called society.  Blame society all you want, but don’t blame Duke (or any other school)  because it’s hiring more men to teach engineering when there’s more male engineering PhD’s and more females to teach English when there’s more female English PhD’s (and don’t even try and tell me that English is devalued relative to Engineering because more women teach in it– from what I’ve seen salaries are very responsive to the market and Engineering PhD’s are in dramatically more demand).

Would it be great if more women were entering the higher-paying fields of Economics, Engineering, and Computer Science?  You bet!  But that is most definitely not the fault of American universities.  These trends start to be shaped by society well before any male or female ever chooses a college major.  Yes, we should work on that, but it is truly ridiculous to try and blame universities.

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