Inforgraphic of the day

Very interesting series of charts/infographics about alcohol via planet money today.  Tough times for liquor:

What We Spend On Booze At Home

And, or course most of those wine drinkers are surely paying too much and deluding themselves about the quality of their wine.

Immigration public opinion (its the intensity, stupid)

In what most people (including me) would clearly find surprising, Americans are much more positive about immigration than you would think.  Here’s a few of the latest charts from Gallup:

Trend: On the whole, do you think immigration is a good thing or a bad thing for this country today?

Changes in Immigration Views, 2011 to 2012, by Political Party

You know what’s missing, though?  (Well sure you do, it’s in the title to the post).  This does not take into account intensity of views.  Short version: those people who oppose immigration– especially anything to make life easier for illegal immigrants– feel much more strongly than those in favor.  As I always say to my classes, an intense minority beats an apathetic majority almost every time.   The increase in support for immigration is indeed interesting and hard to explain, but I think without capturing the intensity, we’re missing a big part of the picture here.

Photo of the day

Pretty amazing photos of the western wildfires.  Two favorites (something about fire at night):

The Little Bear Fire burns in the Lincoln National Forest near Ruidoso, New Mexico, on June 13, 2012. Some of the 2,500 people forced to evacuate their central New Mexico houses by wildfires raging near the resort village of Ruidoso began returning home this week with the help of National Guard troops, officials said. (Reuters/Kari Greer/USFS)


Fire sweeps across the forest floor during the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, in May of 2012.(Kari Greer/USFS)

Can we be friends

Listened to an interesting NPR podcast the other day about what research has to say about male-female platonic friendships.  I’ve had really good female friends with no problems my whole life.  In fact, Kim and I started out as platonic friends.  Anyway, some new research suggests some interesting differences in how men and women experience these friendships:

Some of the research indicates that men, in particular, are somewhat likely to both report some level of attraction to their female friends and to believe their female friends feel some level of attraction to them.

So basically, men are somewhat attracted to their female friends and women are not attracted to their male friends.  I do wonder, though, how much of this is limited to friendships.  I.e., I would not be at all surprised to learn that men are, on average, more attracted to all the females in their environment than women are attracted to the males in their environment (and likewise falsely perceive themselves as being seen as attractive).

Now, presumably this represents some sort of a problem, but I think the issue is not so much attraction as what you decide to do about it.  If you are a happily married man (or woman, but more likely man), you simply say my friend X is attractive, but so what, and that’s that.  And if you don’t?  Well, you’re not a happily married man.   It’s presumably more difficult when you are single and you genuinely do have to worry about that whole ruining the friendship thing.  Or, maybe your wife reads your blog so you state unequivocally that you have never found one of your female friends–other than her, of course– the least bit attractive.

Tax cuts increase government spending

In a post yesterday, Ezra Klein hit on one of my favorite little unknown facts about economic policy: the  best evidence suggests that tax cuts lead to spending increases, not spending cuts.  William Niskanen, head of Cato and libertarian economist is respnosible for this nugget that Republicans completely ignore.  Here’s Ezra:

Norquist might say that the implication is a “starve-the-beast” strategy: You hold tax rates down and you eventually force massive spending cuts. But we have the evidence on starve-the-beast strategies: They don’t lead to spending restraint, but to deficits. Here’s the late William Niskanen, who served as one of Reagan’s top economists and later studied (pdf) the fiscal effects of starve-the-beast:

The relative level of federal spending over the period 1981 through 2000 was coincident with the relative level of the federal tax burden in the opposite direction; in other words, there was a strong negative relation between the relative level of federal spending and tax revenues. Controlling for the unemployment rate, federal spending increased by about one-half percent of GDP for each one percentage point decline in the relative level of federal tax revenues. Although not included in the sample for this test, the first three years of the current Bush administration were wholly consistent with this relation.

Got that? Tax cuts caused spending to rise, which caused deficits to grow. As Niskanen put it, “the demand for federal spending by current voters declines with the amount of this spending that is financed by current taxes. Future voters will bear the burden of any resulting deficit but are not effectively represented by those making the current fiscal choices.”

Boom.  That’s Grover Norquist’s head exploding.  Okay, not really.  He clearly has an unusually good ability (like most elite Republicans) to re-shape empirical reality to his own worldview.  If you haven’t read it, take a look at Jonathan Rauch’s “Stoking the Beast.”

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