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Krugman’s Morality

Today, New York Times columnist/Nobel Prize winner/hardcore partisan hack Paul Krugman, the man who Ann Coulter rightly labeled as the “only known economist who despises the free market,” wrote a column that, even in my post-election anti-political stupor, still managed to enrage me.

Keep in mind that I’m coming to accept the fact that America has decided it wants to join Europe in inevitable economic decline and destitution, that the fight for America’s future is over, and that Krugman and his ideological ilk have won. That means the country at large has about ten years or so before we go the way of Greece and California, and I have only a short time to make the most of what little economic potential we have left. So why should I waste it worrying about what a clueless hack like Krugman has to say?

Nevertheless…

Krugman begins his editorial atrocity by pointing out that we survived a 91% income rate in the 1950s, so it’s time we gave in brought back the good ol’ days. No surprises there. This last election confirmed the idea that higher taxes somehow create prosperity, despite the plethora of historical evidence and common sense that says otherwise. No, it’s not Krugman’s smug stupidity that is galling, but rather his snide assessment of Republican motives and his breathtakingly presumptuous invocation of morality.

Here’s the paragraph that had me coughing up my Crunch Berries…

There are, let’s face it, some people in our political life who pine for the days when minorities and women knew their place, gays stayed firmly in the closet and congressmen asked, “Are you now or have you ever been?” The rest of us, however, are very glad those days are gone. We are, morally, a much better nation than we were. Oh, and the food has improved a lot, too.

Can’t speak for the food – he may be right there – but the rest of this is, to invoke Joe Biden, malarkey. Literally malarkey.

“Some people” pine for a more oppressive society based on race, gender, and sexual orientation? Just who are these “some people?” Which politicians are calling for the oppression of women and minorities and gays? I’ve also searched in vain for any Republican proposal to recreate the House Un-American Activities Committee. But Krugman insists that such people, “let’s face it,” are front and center in our political life. If it’s that blindingly obvious that even a cretin like Krugman can see it, then what am I missing?

This time around, the Republican Convention had more women and minorities addressing delegates than did the DNC. Mitt Romney’s much-mocked phrase about “binders of women” was actually a ham-handed attempt by the former governor to indicate that he’d gone out of his way to give women prominent leadership positions in Massachusetts. Yet to the Krugmanites, all of that was simply a smokescreen to mask a legacy of permanent, insoluble racism and sexism and homophobia that, according to projecting bigots like Krugman, is the only reason why anyone could possibly be a conservative.

Then Krugman concludes with this money quote, which is stunning in its intellectual dishonesty: “We are,” he says,” morally, a much better nation than we were.” [Emphasis mine.]

What on earth is this bearded clown talking about?

When a statist like Krugman invokes morality, you have to ask: which morality? Morality isn’t like fashion sense, where anyone’s taste is as valid as anyone else’s. An appeal to morality requires objective and unalterable standards of right and wrong. Such standards cannot be legitimately created by the state, nor can they be altered by means of legislation or shifting societal mores. We are a nation that was founded on the ideal that all of us are “endowed by our Creator” with “certain unalienable rights.” Rights and morality are inextricably linked, and therefore, all morality originates with God, not with government.

Where does that leave Krugman?

When the state is the center of your moral universe, then morality, like everything else, is solely about economics. But if that’s the case, how do you justify the fact that more people live in poverty in the United States today than ever before? If morality is about the economic conditions of minorities and women, why are we more moral now that 72% of black children are born into families without a father, which all but guarantees that they’ll be locked into a multi-generational cycle of poverty? Indeed, a little more of that traditional, God-given morality about waiting until you’re married to start making babies might help clean up this mess. But sexual behavior generally has no moral implications for the left, unless it’s the moral right to free contraception or the right to kill a gestating infant at any time and for any reason.

Up is down; day is night.

Many things have improved over these past few decades, but, overall, I don’t think the nation’s moral condition is one of them. It doesn’t matter what I think, though. I’ve lost. We now live in Krugman’s moral universe.

Heaven help us all.

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15 Comments

  1. Well done, SC. Anger focuses you – now you are hitting the spot that itches the most. Other than a brief flirtation with the idea of an LDS president, my interest in politics goes only as far as these, and similar, moral issues. Everything else is remote and secondary. Destroy the nuclear family and society will inevitably follow. A simple truism proven over millenia, one would think. We have become selfish imps.

    For an idea of our nation’s possible near-term future, look no further than California, a Worker’s Paradise. Democratic super-majorities in both houses, a thrice-failed retread Democratic governor from the 70′s, a political machine beholden to public employees unions, the highest marginal income and sales tax rates in the nation, ranked last in business climate, 49 out of 51 in 8th grade test scores (Mississippi and D.C.), 33% of all welfare recipients with 10% of population, and constant threat of insolvency. Leftists have run this state with near carte blanche for two decades. Us smarties in CA just magnanimously appointed ourselves another income and sales tax increase two weeks ago. Clearly, we in CA know lots of things the rest of the nation is just starting to catch up to.

  2. That 91% was the “marginal” tax rate, not the effective tax rate. Two very different things.

    Also, I was re-reading “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and in our entitlement minded society, this sentence really caught my eye:

    “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

    I’d be willing to bet that if that entitlement were more strictly observed the need for other entitlements would greatly be reduced.

  3. You said: “This last election confirmed the idea that higher taxes somehow create prosperity, despite the plethora of historical evidence and common sense that says otherwise,” when in fact the opposite is the case. Talk about up is down; day is night. Since Reagen was elected taxes have gone down, the financial sector was deregulated, and unions have been marginalized. Contrary to what you often assert, policies are much more conservative now than in the 1960s-70s. Has this benefitted the middle class at all? Not one whit. Medial real incomes haven’t increased since ~1989 and in 2010 93% of the income gains went to the top 1%. I just don’t see why you would want to double down on such policies.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/post/in-2010-93-percent-of-income-gains-went-to-the-top-1-percent/2011/08/25/gIQA0qxhsR_blog.html
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/09/us-household-income

    • You’re all over the map here. I didn’t say anything about unions or doubling down or income inequality. I said taxes don’t create prosperity. And they don’t.

      The line you quote is based on the idea that the Law of Supply and Demand cannot be repealed. That means that when you subsidize something, you get more of it, and when you tax something, you get less of it. Taxing economic activity results in less economic activity. That’s an immutable fact, regardless of your partisan affiliation or where you choose to double down.

      • Perhaps I should have prefaced my reply more, as it did come off as all over the map. Rather than talking about Krugman specifically, I was responding to your blog’s laments regarding the fact that we’re (supposedly) heading toward a future of poverty because the country’s policies aren’t conservative enough.

        Certainly the laws of supply and demand generally do hold. BUT, if they worked as simply vis-a-vis tax policy as you say they do, then the economy would have performed better the last thirty years than it did during the 1950s-70s when taxes were much higher.

        See the simple data below, for example. While the economy is complicated (and correlation doesn’t equal causation), one would think that, if the Republicans were right regarding taxes, there’d be a negative relationship between tax rates and economic growth rates. If not, please help me understand this.
        http://www.deferredconsumption.com/2012/11/can-we-cut-taxes-and-supercharge-growth.html

        • The study cited in the NYT piece from your blog makes the mistake that you’re accusing me of making; i.e. presuming correlation is causation.

          Assuming the tremendous growth of the Clinton era was due to higher taxes, for instance, would be ridiculous in light of the fundamental economic transformation created by the emergence of the Internet. The wiser assumption would be that taxes at the time were not sufficiently high to notably slow a period of remarkable economic growth. Are you truly trying to argue that economic growth would’ve been even higher if the taxes had been higher, too?

          It’s simple math. Higher taxes mean lower incomes, because money not eaten up by taxes would be part of your income. The goal should be finding a level of taxation that produces benefits superior to the unavoidable loss in economic activity such taxes produce.

          To claim higher taxes spur economic activity is to claim that letting people keep less of their money gives them more money. Ludicrous.

  4. Before we go any further, let’s step back. Republicans do claim that lower taxes create higher economic growth, correct? If this is what they claim, wouldn’t they think that the 80-90% marginal tax rates of the 1950-60s would have stifled economic growth?

    • It’s not a “claim;” it’s a fact. Supply and demand. Tax something, and you decrease demand. That’s one of the reasons we tax the hell out of cigarettes. When you confiscate a percentage of an individual’s economic power, you lessen their economic activity. That’s irrefutable.

      So, yes, you’ve got me right where you want me. Now you’re going to turn around and show me that there were high rates of economic growth during periods of high tax rates. Zing! We Republicans are such dolts. Chalk one up for the lefties.

      Here’s the problem with simplistic nonsense like that. An economy is not a closed system, and taxation is not the only factor determining the growth rate. Anyone, Republican or Democrat, who claims otherwise is peddling foolishness. So is anyone who claims higher taxes facilitate growth.

      To rephrase the question from my last comment, do you truly believe a country’s growth rate would be higher if only they would raise taxes some more? In the periods of high taxation/high growth that you think defeat the conservative argument, do you believe it was the tax rates that generated the growth, or that the growth would have been stifled by a lower tax rate?

      • I would state (and I think this probably isn’t controversial) that the modern Republican model of the world holds that high taxes stifle growth. Now, most intelligent people, when they find facts that don’t conform to their mental model, change the model. For example, when an objective person notices the fact that the high income tax rates of the 1950-70s were accompanied by a vibrant economy, they’d think long and hard about using a model that states high taxes stifle growth. Note that I don’t say that the economy is simple, nor do I say it’s a closed system, nor do I say that higher taxes bring growth, nor do I say that high cigarette taxes encourage their consumption. I simply say that it’s possible to have both high income taxes and high growth. This is a simple fact, yet it doesn’t conform to the modern Republican model.

        • High taxes do stifle growth. It is mathematically impossible for them to do otherwise, and you have provided no evidence to the contrary, other than provide corollaries and imply causation.

          The question, then, isn’t whether taxes stifle growth – they do – but how much they stifle growth, and how resilient the economy is despite higher rates. After World War II, for instance, when an explosion of new labor entered the workforce, it would be difficult to conceive of a tax increase high enough to stifle that measure of pent-up demand. As I mentioned before, Clinton-era tax rates were not high enough to stifle activity generated by a new economic paradigm that created a bubble of staggeringly high economic output. Clinton-era rates without the corresponding Clinton-era dot com bubble are a recipe for disaster.

          In no way have you presented “facts that don’t conform to [the conservative] mental model.” Taxes stifle growth, but strong economies can still survive higher taxes. To claim otherwise is to claim that heat waves produce water, because large bodies of water survive heat waves.

          You leave all my questions unanswered – i.e would higher taxes produce higher growth? You have yet to provide an explanation as to how confiscating people’s wealth somehow makes them wealthier.

          Put it in practical terms. If you were to ask small business owners what the government could do to help them grow, would you be able to find one that said, “raise my taxes, please?”

          • I am _not_ implying causation. I did _not_ say that higher taxes are good for the economy. Go back and read the end of my comment again. Republicans say we can’t have a vibrant economy amid high tax rates. For the Republican tax argument, it’s unfortunate the high-tax, high growth 50s and 60s happened, but they did. And never mind what might have caused the high growth. That’s irrelevant, because Republicans simply say that the strong growth _can’t_ occur amid high taxes.

          • “Republicans simply say that the strong growth _can’t_ occur amid high taxes.”

            They do? Sounds like a straw man argument to me. I certainly didn’t say that. You began this discussion by quoting me, wherein I said the following:

            “This last election confirmed the idea that higher taxes somehow create prosperity, despite the plethora of historical evidence and common sense that says otherwise.”

            Nothing in that statement precludes the possibility of a vibrant economy amid high taxes. My point is that high taxes do not create prosperity, and you seem to concede that point in your last comment. Yet initially, you cited this quote and added, “in fact the opposite is the case.”

            The opposite is the case? Wouldn’t that mean you believe high taxes do create prosperity? Now you insist that “I did _not_ say that higher taxes are good for the economy.” Well, yes, in fact, you did.

            If you want to argue with someone who claims that economic growth is impossible with high tax rates, you’ll have to argue with someone else.

  5. Good comments Stallion. I appreciate your help in working on Levi. He’s strayed, but hopefully he’s not lost forever:) Who is John Galt? :)