Archive for January, 2013

An obvious point rarely made about income inequality

We’ve heard a lot over the past four years about income inequality. The unequal distribution of wealth, and efforts to redistribute it more “fairly,” arguably have been the chief animating concerns of the Obama presidency, from tax laws to social-welfare policies.

With that in mind, I recommend the latest post by economist and blogger Mark J. Perry, who simply compiled census data to show what we know about the characteristics of U.S. household income. There’s a complete chart and fuller discussion of the data in his post, some of which echoes points I’ve made in the past about the correlation between marriage rates and poverty. I recommend reading the whole thing.

But in this space I want to touch on two other points he makes that ought to be blindingly intuitive, but aren’t always mentioned amid the heated rhetoric:

On average, there are significantly more income earners per household in the top income quintile households (2.03) than earners per household in the …

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Isakson: Revenue’s been dealt with, on to spending

The fiscal cliff is dead. Long live the fiscal cliff!

If you were unsatisfied with the deal struck last week or just miss the D.C. drama, fear not. We’ll be back at the abyss soon.

In March, the so-called sequester budget cuts stand to kick in; appropriations for federal operations will dry up; and the Treasury will run out of ways to pay the bills without raising the debt ceiling. As Congress faces that unholy trinity, Georgia’s Johnny Isakson will be right in the thick of things.

The second-term GOP senator was named Thursday to the Senate Finance Committee, which handles those big budgetary matters. Having to face those three pressures at once actually gives Isakson “some degree of optimism.”

“Because it is such a confluence of things, maybe we’ll get a macro deal instead of a micro deal,” Isakson said by phone Thursday.

Isakson has yet to attend his first meeting as a Finance member, but he knows where he wants the debate to go. “I think the revenue issue has been dealt …

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About the hold-up in the Sandy relief bill/pork-fest

Liberals’ new favorite Republican is Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who this week slammed House Republicans for delaying action on a bill with aid for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. (They’ll be back to hating him the next time he goes on an anti-union rant or some such.) As I’ve said before, the real problem lies with those who lard up such bills with extra spending because they know those pet projects have a better chance of passing when attached to such an urgent measure.

Apparently that can be clear even to a politician in the storm-ravaged area, as long as that politician is not a moderate Republican running for re-election in a blue state. From Politicker.com:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who previously declined to slam House Speaker John Boehner over Congress’ stalled Hurricane Sandy aid, took his argument to the next level this morning and suggested federal lawmakers are partially to blame for the delay in the vote on the package because they insert “things …

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Al Gore: Another guy who’s not ‘patriotic’ by Obama’s standard

Ira Stoll notices a timely little nugget in the New York Times’ story about the sale of Current TV, co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, to Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera did not disclose the purchase price, but people with direct knowledge of the deal pegged it at around $500 million, indicating a $100 million payout for Mr. Gore, who owned 20 percent of Current. Mr. Gore and his partners were eager to complete the deal by Dec. 31, lest it be subject to higher tax rates that took effect on Jan. 1, according to several people who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But the deal was not signed until Wednesday. (emphasis added)

Hmmm. Does this mean Gore is not one of the “well-to-do Americans, patriotic Americans, who,” according to President Obama in a campaign speech back in August, “… are willing to do the right thing, willing to do their part to make this country strong” by paying higher taxes? One of those people who has “made enough …

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Fiscal cliff ‘deal’ represents everything wrong with Washington

Only in Washington, D.C., do people raise taxes and fail to cut spending from what they were just a day earlier and call it the “American Taxpayer Relief Act.”

That more or less summarizes what I think about the itsy bitsy deal struck in the Senate earlier this week to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

I’m not going to rehash all the details of the deal. Nor do I plan to argue about whether we should consider the deal a) a tax cut for most people, because income tax rates were scheduled to go up this year and now will not, possibly resulting in a lower tax bill than many Americans were set to face in 2013 even after payroll taxes rise by 2 percentage points; or b) a tax increase, because the deal does not mean anyone will actually pay less in taxes in 2013 than they did in 2012, and many people will pay more.

It’s a rather stupid debate to have — not least because some of the same people who argue it’s a tax cut because taxes would have gone up anyway are also trying somehow …

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A new year’s note to MARTA’s new chief

“I’m a skeptic, and I want to protect taxpayers.”

Keith Parker spoke those words toward the end of his first visit to the AJC’s offices as MARTA’s new general manager, earlier this month. He was voicing his understanding of Georgia Republicans who view the transit agency with skepticism and the interests of taxpayers in mind.

Much of Parker’s broader message of working to find efficiencies and earn the trust of taxpayers, customers and skeptical state leaders could have been spoken by anyone. That’s no knock on Parker; he’d been on the job just one week when he met with us.

In fact, after listening to Parker, I found two reasons to think he just might have a fighting chance of doing at MARTA what hasn’t been done there before.

The first is that he has done it in politically similar states before. He has worked in Charlotte and, most recently, as head of the transit agency in San Antonio.

In the latter, he said, he persuaded Texas’ GOP-dominated state legislature to make …

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