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Author Topic: How to stop America from turning into a third world kleptocracy
Jack Squat
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http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/05/5-dirty-secrets-about-the-u-s-economy/?utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=blogs&utm_term=5-Dirty-Secrets-About-the-US-Economy
quote:
The US is a rich country that’s beginning to resemble, for the average person, a poor one. Its infrastructure is crumbling. Its educational systems barely educate. Its healthcare is still nearly nonexistent. I can take a high-speed train across Europe in eight hours; I can barely get from DC to Boston in nine. Most troubling of all, it is poisoning its food and water supplies by continuing to pursue dirty energy, while the rest of the rich world is choosing renewable energy. The US has glaring deficits in all these public goods — education, healthcare, transport, energy, infrastructure — not to mention the other oft- unmentioned, but equally important ones: parks, community centers, social services.

So the US should invest in its common wealth. For a decade, and more. Legions of people should be employed in rebuilding its decrepit infrastructure, schools, colleges, hospitals, parks, trains. To a standard that is the envy of the world — not its laughingstock.

Why? If the US invests in the public goods it so desperately needs, the jobs that it so desperately needs will be created — and they will be jobs that (wait for it) actually create useful stuff. You know what’s useless? Designer diapers, reality TV, listicles, reverse-triple-remortgages, fast food, PowerPoint decks, and the other billion flavors of junk that we slave over only to impress people we secretly hate so we can live lives we don’t really want with money we don’t really have by doing work that sucks the joy out of our souls. You know what’s useful, to sane people? Hospitals, schools, trains, parks, classes, art, books, clean air, fresh water … purpose, meaning, dignity. If you can’t attain that stuff, what good are five hundred aisles, channels, or megamalls?

So: invest in public goods; employ armies to build them; create millions of jobs. And they won’t be the dead-end, abusive, toxic McJobs that have come to plague the economy; they will be decent, well-paid, meaningful jobs which people will be proud to have.

America's on its way to becoming a third world kleptocracy:

quote:
The rich are getting vastly richer, to the point that it’s absurd that anyone should be so rich. But the average household is getting poorer; and the poor are getting trampled. The US is becoming a caste society; and the divisions between the castes are widening. Investing in basic goods is the only way—the only way — to lift millions out of the ruins of imploded lives, and into prosperity again. Yes; the only way.

Selling doggy dating apps for billions while the average household can’t afford healthcare and education isn’t an economy — it’s a travesty. Too many of our growth industries produce low-paying service “jobs” that amount to essentially being maids and butlers to the super-rich. Sound like a healthy economy to you? I didn’t think so. Hence: invest in the basic building blocks of society — if, that is, it’s a functioning society we wish to enjoy.

Where will the money come from? Dirty secret number three: It doesn’t matter. Print it. Borrow it. Tax it from the super-rich, in whose coffers it’s merely sitting idly. It does not matter one bit. It’s a second order question. If the U.S. doesn’t invest in public goods, it will not prosper; and if it doesn’t prosper, it cannot pay off the debts it already has. Conversely, if it does invest in public goods, and creates millions of decent jobs, the source of investment will matter little; for the economy will have grown and people will be prosperous. We can debate until kingdom come whether to borrow; print; tax; and we should. But we are having a fake “debate” if we pretend that we cannot invest in society first; and then wring our hands that society is falling apart.

quote:
Remember this old story: a Soviet citizen arrives in the US at the height of the cold war. On arriving, he’s taken to the grocery store. He looks around, eyes wide, and exclaims, bewildered: “But there are no bread lines! How can this be?”. You see, everything he’d been told about the US was a lie. It wasn’t a land of decadence and barbarism; but, at that time, a land of plenty, of opportunity.

Now, in a grand irony of history, the shoe’s on the other foot. Here’s my new version of the story above.

I live in Europe and the US. I tell my friends in the US that in Europe, if you’re disabled, or seriously ill, or just elderly, many national health services will send carers to your house. That’s right; your house. To … care for you. Like the Soviet citizen of yesterday, my American friends of today say, bewildered: “But how can this be?! That’s impossible.”

Wrong. It’s not impossible. It’s precisely how real prosperity happens.

And in that parable is the story of how economies grow into prosperity. A job is created; and not just a McJob; the carer earns an income; the sick are nurtured; the economy doesn’t just grow; but it creates real human prosperity.

America used to do great things.
quote:
We don’t live the lives we were meant to by merrily shoving Artificially Fried Chicken Flavored Dorito Slurpees down our gullets while watching our societies crumble. We live them when we build things. Great things. Worthy things. Noble things. And the greatest, worthiest, and noblest of all things that mankind has ever built are not apps, drones, corporations, or profits. They are societies in which every life counts. In which every life is truly, fully lived.

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Seneca
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quote:
Where will the money come from? Dirty secret number three: It doesn’t matter. Print it. Borrow it. Tax it from the super-rich, in whose coffers it’s merely sitting idly. It does not matter one bit.
Ah, always nice to see the psychotic New Monetarists come out and deny that inflation exists, or even when they grudgingly concede that it exists, they deny that it harms the poor the most.


Tax the rich! They can't flee or shelter their assets somewhere else or stop being rich in a short amount of time leaving us with no one to tax. Those things are IMPOSSIBLE! [Roll Eyes]

I notice the author seemed to have forgotten the unemployment rates across much of the EU or the fun of socialized healthcare systems.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8349297/Cancer-sufferers-refused-life-extending-drugs-despite-Government-pledge.html

[ May 30, 2014, 12:07 PM: Message edited by: Seneca ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
They can't flee or shelter their assets somewhere else or stop being rich in a short amount of time leaving us with no one to tax.
Stop being a quitter and defeatist. If the problem is not that it's immoral to tax the rich, but merely that the rich will try to find ways around it, arguing that we shouldn't use those monies to help the rest of the country is like arguing that we shouldn't make murder illegal because murderers will try to get away with it.
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Jack Squat
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Seneca's right that this one line is psychotic:
quote:
Tax it from the super-rich, in whose coffers it’s merely sitting idly.
The writer is cogent in other matters but the "coffers" remark suffers from McDuck syndrome. In the real world, the super rich don't create massive coffers where they lie around on beds of bills and gold coins. [Roll Eyes] Wealth is invested in stocks and bonds and banks, so it isn't "sitting idly;" it's invested in jobs and spending.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
They can't flee or shelter their assets somewhere else or stop being rich in a short amount of time leaving us with no one to tax.
Stop being a quitter and defeatist. If the problem is not that it's immoral to tax the rich, but merely that the rich will try to find ways around it, arguing that we shouldn't use those monies to help the rest of the country is like arguing that we shouldn't make murder illegal because murderers will try to get away with it.
We know that the rich will try to find ways around it. At the point the question is how to make those ways productive for everyone else. As per Adam Smith, they're not going to do anything to improve the market or make things better for anyone else out of the good of their own hearts, we need, instead, to find ways to make doing so appeal to their own self interest at the same time.

TAxes shouldn't exist to take money from them, but rather to make productive uses of the large sums of money that we know will inevitably manage to collect in a small number of hands more attractive and profitable than non-productive uses.

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Jack Squat
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If we simply print a trillion dollars and don't create any new value for it, then yes there's inflation, Seneca.

But if we print a trillion dollars and use it to create value, i.e. fixing & building new infrastructure, then there's no inflation; each dollar is just a narrower wedge of a bigger pie.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Jack Squat:
Seneca's right that this one line is psychotic:
quote:
Tax it from the super-rich, in whose coffers it’s merely sitting idly.
The writer is cogent in other matters but the "coffers" remark suffers from McDuck syndrome. In the real world, the super rich don't create massive coffers where they lie around on beds of bills and gold coins. [Roll Eyes] Wealth is invested in stocks and bonds and banks, so it isn't "sitting idly;" it's invested in jobs and spending.
It's invested in making loans to other people. That's part of the problem, actually- instead of being re-spent on productive investments, where it's value is translated into the potential of income for future sales, by and large it's put into financial funds that make money from extending loans and credit, which creates pressure to push down lending standards to produce high returns on that potential credit (and similarly the portion of it that goes into stocks expecting high returns creates significant corporate pressure to make short term decisions that inflate stock prices at the expense of long term financial stability)
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Jack Squat:
If we simply print a trillion dollars and don't create any new value for it, then yes there's inflation, Seneca.

But if we print a trillion dollars and use it to create value, i.e. fixing & building new infrastructure, then there's no inflation; each dollar is just a narrower wedge of a bigger pie.

And, along with that, if we announce that we're going to create that money and put it in the hands of the segment of our population that spends money on goods in services in a relatively high proportion to it's overall income, whither as payment for working on such projects, or by other means, that people with money will move to invest in producing those goods and services such that they're ready just in time for the spending to begin.
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Jack Squat
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If they are buying goods from China, that's not going to do us much good.
quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
quote:
Originally posted by Jack Squat:
Seneca's right that this one line is psychotic:
quote:
Tax it from the super-rich, in whose coffers it’s merely sitting idly.
The writer is cogent in other matters but the "coffers" remark suffers from McDuck syndrome. In the real world, the super rich don't create massive coffers where they lie around on beds of bills and gold coins. [Roll Eyes] Wealth is invested in stocks and bonds and banks, so it isn't "sitting idly;" it's invested in jobs and spending.
It's invested in making loans to other people. That's part of the problem, actually- instead of being re-spent on productive investments, where it's value is translated into the potential of income for future sales, by and large it's put into financial funds that make money from extending loans and credit, which creates pressure to push down lending standards to produce high returns on that potential credit (and similarly the portion of it that goes into stocks expecting high returns creates significant corporate pressure to make short term decisions that inflate stock prices at the expense of long term financial stability)
Why do you assume that loaned money isn't going to be used for productive investment?
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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by Jack Squat:
If we simply print a trillion dollars and don't create any new value for it, then yes there's inflation, Seneca.

But if we print a trillion dollars and use it to create value, i.e. fixing & building new infrastructure, then there's no inflation; each dollar is just a narrower wedge of a bigger pie.

There will be inflation either way because the pie size is unlikely to be increased to the same extent as the capital that you're injecting. That said, inflation would be lower if new value is created, but we're already fairly saturated with free money injections (and the crushing public debt that goes with it).
quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
And, along with that, if we announce that we're going to create that money and put it in the hands of the segment of our population that spends money on goods in services in a relatively high proportion to it's overall income, whither as payment for working on such projects, or by other means, that people with money will move to invest in producing those goods and services such that they're ready just in time for the spending to begin.

Which will put the money back into the pockets of the same rich people who have it now in exchange for the new consumer goods purchased. Then you'll be required to start the process again.

Essentially, your economic model is a variation of the classic churn and burn strategy, and will in fact emphasize and enhance the existing imbalance between rich and poor. The standard of living of the poor will increase, but so will the gap.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Why do you assume that loaned money isn't going to be used for productive investment?
I don't, I assume that loaned money will eventually have to be paid back, effectively creating a private tax on that investment and net economic drag, requiring even more private debt to be created to compensate for it (and eventually the total of private loan obligations will again hit a critical point where they can't be paid back fast enough, setting off another financial crisis)

Public credit/money issuance doesn't have that problem, because the public sector can always, by fiat pay its obligations, regardless of its income rates, so printed money can circulate forward indefinitely, with taxing only being necessary if there is an actual economic need to produce drag or to shift market incentives away from those activities that produce a tax obligation.

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Jack Squat
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quote:
Originally posted by Seriati:
quote:
Originally posted by Jack Squat:
If we simply print a trillion dollars and don't create any new value for it, then yes there's inflation, Seneca.

But if we print a trillion dollars and use it to create value, i.e. fixing & building new infrastructure, then there's no inflation; each dollar is just a narrower wedge of a bigger pie.

There will be inflation either way because the pie size is unlikely to be increased to the same extent as the capital that you're injecting. That said, inflation would be lower if new value is created, but we're already fairly saturated with free money injections (and the crushing public debt that goes with it).
I don't remember the WPA causing inflation.

I don't remember even the Cuckoo tea party saying the government should stop building roads.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Seriati:
There will be inflation either way because the pie size is unlikely to be increased to the same extent as the capital that you're injecting. That said, inflation would be lower if new value is created, but we're already fairly saturated with free money injections (and the crushing public debt that goes with it).


There is nothing "crushing" about private savings (which is what public debt is, by mathematical identity). Our "free money" injections come primarily from the creation of private debt, which is, in fact crushing, and why we should be issuing public debt (private savings opportunities) instead, since they allow for long term growth instead of retraction when the loan term comes due.

quote:
Which will put the money back into the pockets of the same rich people who have it now in exchange for the new consumer goods purchased. Then you'll be required to start the process again.
In other words, more real wealth for everyone, which is the entire point.

quote:
Essentially, your economic model is a variation of the classic churn and burn strategy, and will in fact emphasize and enhance the existing imbalance between rich and poor. The standard of living of the poor will increase, but so will the gap.
No, the gap will narrow, because, as you pointed out, more wealth and resources will be circulated among the poorer portion of the population while toe overall availability of meaningful wealth at the top end wont shift much, because there simply isn't as much more to but at that point from a practical standpoint, and the top level competition for what limited status symbols there are will affect prices that aren't relevant to the average person. Even more, the additional wealth that you note will be created for the average consumer will mean that, more and more, they have on hand the resources they need to produce their own wealth and contribute to growth, rather than being dependent on someone with control of real wealth to employ them to do so.
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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by Jack Squat:
I don't remember the WPA causing inflation.

You don't? Do you remember how before the WPA inflation was often negative, often positive, and since the WPA (and lots of other government interventions) it's almost always positive?
quote:
I don't remember even the Cuckoo tea party saying the government should stop building roads.
Why would they? No believes we don't need infra-strutcture, some just believe that we don't need a million other things that we can't pay for on top of that.
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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
There is nothing "crushing" about private savings (which is what public debt is, by mathematical identity).

Depends on who holds the private savings, and whether the private debt can be paid back. It is crushing when it causes diversion of needed resources to meet the interest burden.
quote:
Our "free money" injections come primarily from the creation of private debt, which is, in fact crushing, and why we should be issuing public debt (private savings opportunities) instead, since they allow for long term growth instead of retraction when the loan term comes due.
I agree that our free money injections are grossly misallocated, which increases the scope of the problem. But free money problems will exist regardless of how its allocated because it will always warp incentives.
quote:
quote:
Which will put the money back into the pockets of the same rich people who have it now in exchange for the new consumer goods purchased. Then you'll be required to start the process again.
In other words, more real wealth for everyone, which is the entire point.
No that's not "other words" that mean the same thing. What you will have is an overallocation to the production of consumer goods, many of which will be dead-ends as far as wealth goes. It may increase the standard of living (and in fact that's much of the history of the US) but it won't increase wealth for the "consumer" class, only for the provider class.
quote:
No, the gap will narrow, because, as you pointed out, more wealth and resources will be circulated among the poorer portion of the population
Purchase of consumable consumer goods will have a minor impact on standard of living. It will not in any way increase the amount of wealth and resources in that class at a rate that even remotely approaches the rate of the producer class. Meaning the gap will grow.
quote:
while toe overall availability of meaningful wealth at the top end wont shift much, because there simply isn't as much more to but at that point from a practical standpoint, and the top level competition for what limited status symbols there are will affect prices that aren't relevant to the average person.
The gap grows now because there is isn't anything to buy, which leads to investment rather than consumption at the top. Nothing you suggest will do anything but dump more wealth on those who already have more than they care to spend.
quote:
Even more, the additional wealth that you note will be created for the average consumer will mean that, more and more, they have on hand the resources they need to produce their own wealth and contribute to growth, rather than being dependent on someone with control of real wealth to employ them to do so.
Which is a pipe dream in a country where they can not compete with the already super efficient producers of goods. Money in their pocket will not allow them to buy tools to build tables that will allow them to make a living when IKea is down the block. You're all theory and no reality on this.

Handing out money will not cause small businesses to pop up and survive in a market where small businesses are not competetive. It just causes everyone to buy more stuff at the big businesses that are already feeding the rich.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
What you will have is an overallocation to the production of consumer goods...
I thought this thread was specifically discussing spending on national infrastructure.
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PSRT
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quote:
Handing out money will not cause small businesses to pop up and survive in a market where small businesses are not competetive
So you agree we need much more stringent regulations on large businesses?
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Seneca
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Those evil rich people are just the worst!

None of them EVER worked for their money! None of them! If someone has lots of money, it is ONLY because they acted immorally to get it, and they need to be punished!

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PSRT
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quote:
Those evil rich people are just the worst!

None of them EVER worked for their money! None of them! If someone has lots of money, it is ONLY because they acted immorally to get it, and they need to be punished!

Who are you responding to? No one has said anything like that thin this thread. Your interpretation of these posts as being anything like what you said is coming entirely from you.
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Seneca
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
quote:
Those evil rich people are just the worst!

None of them EVER worked for their money! None of them! If someone has lots of money, it is ONLY because they acted immorally to get it, and they need to be punished!

Who are you responding to? No one has said anything like that thin this thread. Your interpretation of these posts as being anything like what you said is coming entirely from you.
quote:
If the problem is not that it's immoral to tax the rich, but merely that the rich will try to find ways around it, arguing that we shouldn't use those monies to help the rest of the country is like arguing that we shouldn't make murder illegal because murderers will try to get away with it.

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Jack Squat
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quote:
Originally posted by Seriati:
quote:
Originally posted by Jack Squat:
I don't remember the WPA causing inflation.

You don't? Do you remember how before the WPA inflation was often negative, often positive, and since the WPA (and lots of other government interventions) it's almost always positive?
quote:
I don't remember even the Cuckoo tea party saying the government should stop building roads.
Why would they? No believes we don't need infra-strutcture, some just believe that we don't need a million other things that we can't pay for on top of that.

So ... it's not that you don't believe in government infrastructure, as that you don't believe we should be allowed to talk about it?
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PSRT
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quote:
If the problem is not that it's immoral to tax the rich, but merely that the rich will try to find ways around it, arguing that we shouldn't use those monies to help the rest of the country is like arguing that we shouldn't make murder illegal because murderers will try to get away with it.
Do you know what an analogy is?
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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
quote:
Handing out money will not cause small businesses to pop up and survive in a market where small businesses are not competetive
So you agree we need much more stringent regulations on large businesses?
No, but we may need more break-ups of businesses based on the same theory that caused the forced break-up of the classic monopolies. But there are certainly serious tradeoffs in going down that route, and it's not something that can just be lightly analyzed.
quote:
Originally posted by Jack Squat:
So ... it's not that you don't believe in government infrastructure, as that you don't believe we should be allowed to talk about it?

There must be something about my style of writing that is causing us to talk past each other. I don't get how anything I said could reasonably be interepretted to suggest that we shouldn't be allowed to talk about it. I'm not even particularly adverse to the idea of spending more on infrastructure, though I'd like to see that mean more actual infrastructure produced and not just the same amount with a higher price tag (which is what we get these days).
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Seneca
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It is immoral to punish people just because they are successful...
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Jack Squat
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Agreed on more infrastructure. I'd also like to see better.
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PSRT
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quote:
No
Lack of regulation is what makes an environment favor large established businesses over start-ups. So... I see your responses as contradictory.
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Jack Squat
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quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
It is immoral to punish people just because they are successful...

Asking you to help pay for the road you drive your big fat Hummer on isn't punishment.
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Wayward Son
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quote:
Those evil rich people are just the worst!

None of them EVER worked for their money! None of them! If someone has lots of money, it is ONLY because they acted immorally to get it, and they need to be punished!

This screed is, of course, the mantra of the current crop of Libertarians--that taxes are only used to punish the rich for being better than everyone else. [Smile]

Only the Libertarians themselves believe this, but they project it on everyone else to justify themselves, telling themselves that's what others really believe and are trying to do. [Eek!]

I find this wording particularly ironic, since it can so easily be changed to what the Libertarians seem to believe about the poor. To wit:

quote:
Those evil [poor] people are just the worst!

None of them EVER worked for their money! None of them! If [one of them has] money, it is ONLY because they acted immorally to get it, by stealing it from those who earned it, and they need to be punished!

That pretty well fits, doesn't it? [Smile]
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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
It is immoral to punish people just because they are successful...

Taxes are not inherently punitive. They are policy decisions that are designed to achieve certain ends. Those ends don't have to include sticking it to the rich.

To put it another way, whether or not the rich will hate it, and whether or not masses of relatively poor people will enjoy knowing that the rich are paying a lot of taxes, the most important effects of taxing the rich are unrelated to those factors.

Whether it's "fair" to the rich is a stupid argument unless we propose to tax them OUT of being rich, which is not remotely on the table.

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Seneca
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Raising taxes is inherently punitive since any basic understanding of taxes will include the knowledge that higher taxes yields less revenue.
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LetterRip
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Seneca,

quote:
Raising taxes is inherently punitive since any basic understanding of taxes will include the knowledge that higher taxes yields less revenue.
You seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of math and economics. Perhaps it is too 'basic'.

Presumably your misunderstanding comes from an overly basic understanding of the 'Laffer Curve', which states that with a high enough tax rate, the marginal utility of labor/investment decreases therefore resulting in reduced labor output/investment and thus less total tax revenues.

If there isn't a labor scarcity (we have massive excess labor) and there isn't a capital scarcity (startup investors have difficulty finding new investments, solvent businesses have ready access to capital) then revenues increase will increase pretty much directly proportional to the tax increase (it is slightly more complicated than that).

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LetterRip
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Also for capital gains an expected increase of the capital gains rate would result in massive profit taking, locking in gains under the current extremely low rates, generating massive amounts of tax revenue.
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DJQuag
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The state of bridges in the United States is truly shocking. You all remember that bridge collapse in Minnesota ten years ago that killed thirteen people? More incidents like that are going to happen.

http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/bridges/

That entire website is pretty depressing. There needs to be another WPA like program. Infrastructure needs work and repair, and people need jobs.

Of course, any suggestion of such is going to get screamed down in today's political climate. It won't reduce the deficit, after all.

The article in the OP was pretty spot on in regards to infrastructure in Europe as compared to the US. As a small example, broadband internet access is cheap and just about everywhere here; and I pay roughly 8 dollars a month for unlimited access.

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Pete at Home
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DJQuag's last post is right on.

What I've argued for a decade here is, extrapolate logically from the constitution's provision for a government-run post office, to have the government take over internet and cell phone business, and use that as a source of government revenue.

Looking at what Europeans pay for internet and cell phone access, compared to the exorbitant fees Americans pay, I think we can both reduce what Americans are currently paying and at the same time yank in beaucoup dollars into govt revenue.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Seriati:
quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
quote:
Handing out money will not cause small businesses to pop up and survive in a market where small businesses are not competetive
So you agree we need much more stringent regulations on large businesses?
No, but we may need more break-ups of businesses based on the same theory that caused the forced break-up of the classic monopolies. But there are certainly serious tradeoffs in going down that route, and it's not something that can just be lightly analyzed.
quote:
Originally posted by Jack Squat:
So ... it's not that you don't believe in government infrastructure, as that you don't believe we should be allowed to talk about it?

There must be something about my style of writing that is causing us to talk past each other. I don't get how anything I said could reasonably be interepretted to suggest that we shouldn't be allowed to talk about it. I'm not even particularly adverse to the idea of spending more on infrastructure, though I'd like to see that mean more actual infrastructure produced and not just the same amount with a higher price tag (which is what we get these days).

If we spend more money on it, it must be for more infrastructure? No money can be spent to improve the quality of infrastructure? As in, bridges that don't collapse and kill people?
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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
If we spend more money on it, it must be for more infrastructure? No money can be spent to improve the quality of infrastructure? As in, bridges that don't collapse and kill people?

Major bridge collapses are not terribly common, and I suspect will occur no matter how much is spent. But I can't believe that all the differences in cost are quality improvements.

Look at the Tappan Zee Bridge for example. Originally started in 1952, built for $81M. In today's dollar's that's about $580M. It's in need of replacement after 60 years of near constant incredibly heavy traffic. "Expected" cost to replace $5-6 B dollars. That's 10 times the original cost after adjusting for inflation. Most estimate that it will not come in on budget, with a final cost closer to the $12-15 B range. Are we getting a bridge that is really 30 times better than the old one? Or are we paying for something else?

And that's a friendly estimate, Boston's Big Dig was originally estimated to cost around $2.5 B, with some estimates now that it ended up at closer to $25 B with debt service thrown in. Is it even possible that a bridge that worked for 60 years with some of the heaviest traffic flow in the country can be replaced with a bridge that is literally 100 times better? Will it be made out of Adamantite? Last forever? What percentage of major bridges actually fail, will it have a 100 times lower chance - ie go from what? one in a thousand? ten thousand? to one in a million?

I'm sure some of this is about quality, though you'd be hard pressed to convince me that modern construction is built to the same quality standards that were used in the past, there is definite improvement in material used. But these projects have way too much graft, payola and political favors built in. But ask yourself, is our infrastructure better off with one Tappan Super-Zee Bridge, or 10 bridges, or 100?

[ June 02, 2014, 11:26 AM: Message edited by: Seriati ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Are we getting a bridge that is really 30 times better than the old one? Or are we paying for something else?
I have a friend who is a bridge engineer. Would you like me to invite him to weigh in on this one?

Without asking him, I can tell you that a) he firmly believes that we're about to see a wave of major bridge collapses within the next 20 years; b) that modern bridges are much more expensive to initially construct, but have to be unless we're willing to tolerate a greater risk of collapse or actually plan to maintain them according to schedule; and c) many of the cost increases are due to capacity increases, which scale everything up.

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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Are we getting a bridge that is really 30 times better than the old one? Or are we paying for something else?
I have a friend who is a bridge engineer. Would you like me to invite him to weigh in on this one?
I'd be interested.
quote:
Without asking him, I can tell you that a) he firmly believes that we're about to see a wave of major bridge collapses within the next 20 years;
The Tappan Zee bridge is 60 years old, and was designed for a usable life of 50 years. It's not rocket science (or bridge engineering) to deterimine that there's a risk there. Would we though be better off replacing the bridge every 40 years at 1% or even 10% of the cost, or building the super bridge? Keeping in mind that we also get the other 9 or 99 bridges replaced in our infrastructure, how could the single super bridge be better than replacing 10 older bridges?
quote:
b) that modern bridges are much more expensive to initially construct, but have to be unless we're willing to tolerate a greater risk of collapse or actually plan to maintain them according to schedule;
This is the questionable part. Why are they so much more expensive?

Specifically what is the increased risk of collapse, given we have substantial background with major bridges this risk should be quantifiable. And what exactly in the cost is addressing that risk.
quote:
and c) many of the cost increases are due to capacity increases, which scale everything up.
Some are capacity, though the Tappan Zee is 7 lanes and my understanding is that the new one would be 8 lanes. They could build two "old school" 7 laners and have more capacity and save a bundle.
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msquared
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Serati

Having just used the Tappan Zee last week made me look up a bit on its history. From Wikipedia.

In 2009, the Tappan Zee Bridge was featured on The History Channel "The Crumbling of America" showing the infrastructure crisis in the United States.[20] Many factors contribute to the precarious infrastructure of the bridge, which has been called "one of the most decrepit and potentially dangerous bridges" in the U.S.[21] Engineering assessments have determined that "everything from steel corrosion to earthquakes to maritime accidents could cause major, perhaps catastrophic, damage to the span," prompting one of the top aides in the New York state governor's office to refer to the Tappan Zee as the “hold-your-breath bridge.”[22] A 2009 state report noted that the bridge was not built with a plan that was "conducive to long-term durability” and that the Tappan Zee’s engineers designed it to be “nonredundant,” meaning that one "critical fracture could make the bridge fail completely because its supports couldn’t transfer the structure’s load to other supports."[23]

It sounds like the Tappan Zee was not a great bridge to begin with.

msquared

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Seriati
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msquared, I just used it because it was convenient to me. You can look at the replacement cost on any bridge you like that is nearing the end of its serviceable life, or in the case of the Tappan Zee, past it. It's a virtual certainty you'll see the same trend, no matter whether the original bridge was great or horrible, the new one will cost grossly more in inflation adjusted dollars (one could argue that the measure itself is critically flawed, but that leads to all kinds of implications that inflation itself is far greater than we accept, and undermines some of the fringe economic policies we argue about).

One might think, that modern technology would let you build a safer bridge for the same price, or an equivalent bridge for cheaper, like we do with so many other things, yet not so much.

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