Photo of the day

Cool gallery of the original “instagram” i.e., early 20th century color photos.  This one from Norway is my favorite:

Romney’s tax plan

I’m going to go back the Kevin Drum well today, as 1) I’m behind in a bunch of stuff since I went to bed at 9:30 last night (but, damn do I feel good and rested) and 2) he provides my favorites breakdown of Romney’s plan:

Mitt Romney has released his new tax plan, and it calls for a 20% across-the-board reduction in income tax rates, elimination of the estate tax, repeal of the AMT, and a 30% cut in the corporate tax rate. Not to worry, though. It’s designed to be revenue neutral because….it’s going to….um….something. I really don’t know how you get revenue neutral out of all this. I suppose by claiming that lower taxes will supercharge the economy and pay for themselves. That’s the usual wheeze, anyway.

OK, so rich people will pay a lot less in taxes. But how about spending? Well, Romney says he plans to reduce spending by $500 billion in 2016. However, he doesn’t want to cut defense. He thinks that Medicare and Social Security reform should only affect “younger generations,” so he doesn’t plan to cut either of those either, at least not in the medium term. And interest on the debt is obviously outside his control.

So what’s left? Domestic discretionary spending. But Romney has no actual proposals here. He wants to repeal Obamacare, but Obamacare is fully funded and repealing it won’t save any money. He wants to block grant Medicaid, but that won’t save any money either. It’s just a different funding mechanism. And he wants government to operate more efficiently. Roger that.

So that still leaves us with $500 billion to cut out of the $1.7 trillion currently projected in domestic spending for 2016. How do you do that? Either with a 30% across-the-board cut or with smaller cuts to some programs and larger cuts to others. But which ones? Those are pretty big reductions. I wish guys like Romney had the guts to actually tell us where they want these cuts to fall, but they never do.

What interests me about the plan is that Romney makes a commitment towards it actually be revenue neutral.  As Ezra points out, it almost assuredly would not actually be revenue neutral, but I do appreciate the fact that Romney at least says he wants it to be.  I think he actually does a good job of trying to have it both ways with this.  For the general election, he can make the case that the plan is revenue neutral and not shifting the tax burden more on the middle class.  For the base, he can emphasize the 20% cuts in marginal rates, repeal of the estate tax, and big cut in the corporate rate.  Of course, the devil is in the details that Romney totally elides, i.e, and just how can you seriously cut domestic discretionary spending 30% (short answer: you can’t!).  Also, that revenue neutral bit means closing a lot of loopholes while lowering rates, but it seems that Romney has suggested the biggest loopholes are off limits.

So, ultimately, as Drum suggests, a lot of “smoke and mirrors.”   I’m going to give Romney credit at least for it being politically savvy smoke and mirrors and for at least embracing the principle of revenue neutrality even though there’s no way this plan gets there.   Of course, given all the fictions and elisions in this, this is not a good plan.

Awesome infographic of the day

Via Kevin Drum.  This display of the US interstate system in the style of a subway map is super-cool (at least to me):

Not faster than light after all

Oddly enough, my post a while back on the Higgs Boson was oddly popular.  It seemed to me that more of that traffic should have gone to bloggers who are actually, you know, scientists.  Anyway, I meant to also post about faster-than-light neutrinos (and even thought I had), but apparently I never did.  Anyway, presumably most of you are familiar with the story.  There’s now a second round of stroies (the first round was a month or two ago) about how some errors mean, no, some neutrinos do not move faster than light after all.  I do find it amusing– though not at all surprising– that the stories suggesting that there’s not faster than light neutrinos have way less coverage than the original stories suggesting this possibility.  Anyway, the deal:

It appears that the faster-than-light neutrino results, announced last September by the OPERA collaboration in Italy, was due to a mistake after all. A bad connection between a GPS unit and a computer may be to blame.

Physicists had detected neutrinos travelling from the CERN laboratory in Geneva to the Gran Sasso laboratory near L’Aquila that appeared to make the trip in about 60 nanoseconds less than light speed. Many other physicists suspected that the result was due to some kind of error, given that it seems at odds with Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. That theory has been vindicated by many experiments over the decades.

According to sources familiar with the experiment, the 60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos’ flight and an electronic card in a computer. After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed. Since this time is subtracted from the overall time of flight, it appears to explain the early arrival of the neutrinos. New data, however, will be needed to confirm this hypothesis.

Something like this honestly seemed likely in the end, as faster than light neutrinos would have basically overturned everything we think we know about the universe.  But how cool would that have been?  We’re talking Einstein and Relativity big.  Anyway, on the topic of cool physics stuff, I absolutely loved this Dilbert from earlier this week:

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

For those not in the know, some like to call the Higgs Boson the “God Particle.”

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