Friday, November 1, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Natalia Tena, 29.

A new month, and more good stuff:

1. New evidence that how open a primary is doesn't have anything to do with polarization.

2. I'm pro-pork, but skeptical that more available pork within the system would have changed anything with regard to the shutdown. Still, John Hudak is right that pork is a good thing.

3. And the Monkey Cage's election reports continue to be one of the great resources out there -- here's a post-election report on Argentina from Julia Pomares.


  1. But the point about pork is that it's a one-way-only ratchet, forever increasing the ability of government to dispense largesse, at the expense of the citizenry. I would be much more sympathetic to the argument if one of the (or, preferably, the only) available forms of "pork" was tax cuts. If instead of wasting money on some boondoggle that will marginally help his constituents, it would be much better if McConnell could have bargained for a lower federal income tax for the state of Kentucky.

    1. But it wouldn't be a "Kentucky alone gets a generic income tax break," possibly for constitutional issues. Instead, it'd be a complicated little rule, benefiting only a small number of businesses in limited circumstances. This is, IMHO, a bigger problem. First, there's a one-way ratchet in this too, since Republicans are even more unwilling to increase taxes (even by closing loophopes and expenditures-disguised-as-tax-breaks) than Democrats are to reduce spending. Second, this is how we have an immense and complicated tax system - politicians who would hate to be seen as *spending* instead come up with little, targeted tax breaks which don't work any more effective than spending directly, but just gum up the works when Tax Season rolls around. Third, the kinds of tax breaks folks pass typically benefit small numbers of rent-seekers, rather than something like a bridge or a dam which, while of arguably small benefit, does so for a wider group of people.

    2. Shorter anon, the only pork I want to see is the pork I like.

    3. How is pork a one-way ratchet? The normal assumption is that pork means something like infrastructure spending, which is much less in upkeep than it is in initial outlay. Building a bridge is usually much more expensive than repainting one. In the meantime, those expenditures create jobs (for a population that is more vulnerable to economic fluctuations).

      Whereas targetted little tax cuts (there's absolutely no way that there would ever be something like lower rates across the board for a whole state), as tBF noted above, are REALLY inefficient. All they end up being is profit for people who already had the money to be able to afford to persuade Congresscritters in the first place. They make the tax code much more complicated, which only encourages gaming the system, not investing in anything that would actually help people (whether through jobs or innovations or whatever).

      Honestly, the only reason I can see to generally prefer tax expenditures over regular spending is a reflexive hatred of the existence of government.

    4. The point being that in fact pork *does* exist in the form of tax cuts; Anon is wrong in stating that it doesn't.

      Whether those pork-like tax cuts are a good thing or not, or even really constitute smaller government, is another question entirely. But they certainly do exist in the actual government we have.

    5. But I don't want "targeted little tax cuts" which I agree are stupid. What I am arguing for is precisely "lower rates across the board for a whole state." You say that would never happen; I quite agree, it's because it would be so obviously a good idea, so it would undermine the federal behemoth. If Kentucky could bargain for lower tax rates, pretty soon Tennessee would want them too, and so on, and instead of the evil ratchet of forever-higher spending, we'd get a virtuous cycle of politicians competing to get the lowest possible taxes.


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