Archive for October, 2011

2012 Tuesday: A deeper look at Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan

If one thing comes of tonight’s GOP presidential debate, I hope it’s some understanding of why Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan is actually a good idea.

The first two 9’s sound good — no, great — at first blush: a 9 percent flat tax on individual and corporate income! No deductions, exemptions or credits (except for charitable gifts). No payroll taxes, capital gains tax or estate tax.

The last 9 is more problematic on its own: a 9 percent national sales tax. Let’s look first at why this is a potentially large problem, and then look at some broader criticisms of the entire plan.

Cain sells his plan as a first step toward the Fair Tax, which calls for the federal government levying only a consumption tax to fund itself. The problem that I and other people — mostly, but not only, conservatives — have with the plan is the 16th Amendment, which created the federal income tax.

Fair Taxers say their plan includes repealing the 16th Amendment, but in my estimation they gloss over the sheer …

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A Nobel rebuke to Obama’s economic policies

The conservative argument against President Obama’s policies got a boost from an unexpected place Monday: the Nobel Prize committee.

Thomas Sargent, who with Christopher Sims won this year’s Nobel Prize for economics, was rewarded for a body of work that demonstrates the folly of Obamanomics. While it’s not always easy to translate the words of Nobel-winning economists into terms that into the political debates of the day, Sargent spoke plainly enough in an interview last year with Art Rolnick of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. (H/T: Ira Stoll at Reason’s Hit and Run blog.)

On taxes (from the interviewer’s summary of Sargent’s “rational expectations” work):

[P]olicymakers can’t manipulate the economy by systematically “tricking” people with policy surprises. Central banks, for example, can’t permanently lower unemployment by easing monetary policy…because people will (rationally) anticipate higher future inflation and will (strategically) insist on higher wages for …

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Rick Perry attacks Romneycare, but who benefits? (video)

When you raise $17 million in seven weeks, you have the wherewithal to make the primary race about more than your poor debate performances. And that’s what Rick Perry is doing, going after Mitt Romney’s health reform in Massachusetts:

But, having fallen behind not just Romney but Herman Cain in some polls, is Romney really Perry’s target at the moment? I suppose Perry’s strategy could be to become the “anti-Romney” by proving he takes the best shots at Romney. And, certainly, an attack on the likable, popular Cain could very well backfire.

That said, given Cain’s comments about Perry during his recent surge — e.g., that he is open to being the running mate for any eventual GOP nominee except Perry — it would appear Cain is trying to solidify his newfound lead over Perry before he tangles with Romney. Will Perry’s attacks on Romney help Perry, or simply help whoever happens to be the leading anti-Romney candidate at the moment? The ad is potentially effective; it’s the first …

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T-SPLOST list doesn’t spend the money where the traffic is

If local poohbahs want to derail a regional transportation sales tax, they should give DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis what he wants. Shift tens of millions of dollars away from road projects where traffic is heaviest, put them toward a MARTA extension where it isn’t — and watch the T-SPLOST crash and burn.

It’s one thing to devote 55 percent of the tax’s projected proceeds to mass transit, now used by 5 percent of commuters. But the current project list, due for final approval within one week, compounds the error by spending money completely out of proportion to where the traffic is.

The Atlanta Regional Commission produces maps of the top 10 percent and top 25 percent most-congested roads in the region. Among surface streets, the lion’s share of the congestion takes place in the northern suburbs of Cobb, North Fulton and Gwinnett counties, plus Dunwoody. Among freeways, six of the nine worst stretches are along I-75 in Cobb, I-85 in Gwinnett, Ga. 400 north of the perimeter, …

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Dems block vote on Obama jobs bill; maybe Congress is broken, after all

I normally don’t buy the idea that “Congress is broken.” It’s not that I think our federal government runs like a well-oiled machine; far from it, as anyone who reads this blog regularly will surely attest. But I disagree with the usual premise behind the statement: that “Congress is broken” because of institutional problems, usually in the Senate, whose procedural rules, including the filibuster, are designed to encourage thorough debate and slow down the legislative process. Congress has two distinct chambers for a reason. The House is supposed to be more populist and majority-rules; the Senate is supposed to be the place where cooler heads prevail, where ill-considered ideas don’t escape reconsideration simply because they have the benefit of a simple majority. Democrats and Republicans alike are expected to protect the rights of the minority party, since they take turns serving in that role.

Then last night happened.

First, let me acknowledge that I am not a Senatologist, …

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Poll Position: Did Deal cave too quickly on HOT lane pricing?

On Monday, Georgia’s first experiment with high-occupancy toll lanes began on I-85. Before the Thursday evening rush hour, Gov. Nathan Deal waved the white flag.

As my AJC colleagues have documented, frustration with the new HOT lanes ran high this week. But no one, including advocates of the lanes that charge variable toll prices depending on traffic levels, expected things to run perfectly from the get-go.

And we barely finished with “get” before Deal decided to “go” in a different direction.

Did Gov. Deal act prematurely in changing the HOT lane prices after four days?

  • No (271 Votes)
  • Yes (140 Votes)

Total Voters: 411

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The lanes have drawn complaints from motorists for the prices charged, but the data available so far indicate that the tolls actually paid have been toward the lower end of the pricing scale of 10 cents per mile to 90 cents per mile: “Before Deal’s action,” the AJC reports, “the maximum that had actually been charged to travel the full …

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Another unintended consequence of the war on drugs?

Here’s an argument for ending, or at least curtailing, the war on drugs that you don’t hear every day. From the Associated Press:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says the quality of federal judges has suffered because there are too many of them. Testifying before a Senate committee Wednesday, Scalia blamed Congress for making federal crimes out of too many routine drug cases. In turn, that created a need for more judges.

“Federal judges ain’t what they used to be,” he said during a rare appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee..

The federal judiciary should be an elite group, said Scalia, who has served on the high court for 25 years. “It’s not as elite as it used to be,” he said.

He was responding to a question about what he sees as the greatest threat to the independence of judges.

The AP story says there are 874 federal judgeships. That means there are three times as many federal judges as there were in 1950 — and twice as many federal judges as there are …

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Georgia will lose if U.S.-China trade is less free, more hostile

We have a trade problem with China. But Georgians will pay dearly if Congress keeps taking the wrong approach to solving it.

That approach is to punish China for currency manipulation. The bill being debated in the U.S. Senate applies to any country that Washington deems to have undervalued its currency and hurt our exports. But China, with which we had a $273 billion trade deficit last year, is the target.

Beijing’s manipulation of its currency, the yuan, has been a favorite bogeyman of members of Congress for years — most notably Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Generally speaking, when politicians from both major parties continue to flog an issue for years on end, it makes for much better politics than policy. The currency bill would not solve our problems with China, real or imagined.

First, the imagined problem: that yuan manipulation contributes to our high unemployment rate.

The yuan was most undervalued versus the dollar from the mid-1990s to …

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Herman Cain leads in Georgia — and three other states

Not in time for 2012 Tuesday: Some truly impressive poll results for Herman Cain — and Newt Gingrich.

First, from an Insider Advantage/WSB-TV poll of Georgia Republicans:

Cain, with 41 percent, ranked first by a large margin. The former businessman and talk show host received more than double the votes of second-place candidate Gingrich at 17 percent.

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, the two men often seen as front-runners on a national scale, finished essentially tied with 10 percent and 9 percent respectively. Twelve percent of voters said they had no opinion at this time.

The rankings aren’t terribly surprising, but the margin for Cain — his support equals that of Gingrich, Romney, Perry and Ron Paul combined — should raise some eyebrows. I know it’s early, but I’m about thisclose to predicting he wins the Georgia primary next March.

Second, and somewhat more intriguingly, a trio of state polls from PPP:

North Carolina: Cain 27, Romney/Gingrich 17, Perry 15, Paul/[Michele] …

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2012 Tuesday: Putting Iowa and others in their (primary) place

Last week, Georgia and Florida took two opposite approaches to the primary-election calendar and the rush to ensure relevance for a state’s voters in the major parties’ nominating processes. Georgia followed the wishes of the Republican National Committee and scheduled our primary in March. Florida leaped forward into January, setting off a stampede toward New Year’s Day by the traditional early states.

There was logic behind each decision. Georgia ensured that it will keep its full complement of delegates to the 2012 GOP Convention. Florida stands to lose delegates, yet it may have actually increased its say in determining the nominee. A glance back at 2008 — when John McCain was trailing, trailing, trailing until he won New Hampshire and surged upward, leaving front-runner Rudy Giuliani and his focus-on-Florida strategy in the dust — suggests staging an early primary vote gives a state more influence than its delegate count would indicate. After all, isn’t that why Iowa, New …

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