Thursday, April 11, 2013

One Man's Take on Race in America

I have been a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates for years, reading his column on The Atlantic's website on a fairly regular basis.  He is such a mixed bag of obsessions -- politics, culture, literature, French, gaming -- and  there's always something interesting in what he writes.

You can catch a pretty candid series of pieces regarding the recent Brad Paisley/LL Cool J collaboration on Paisley's song, "Accidental Racist," here, here, and here.  Read up.  It's pretty great.  Money quote:

I just don't believe everyone should be engaged in a conversation [about race]. I strongly believe that people often have disparate interests. White racism is an actual interest held by actual people. Some people should be talked to. Other people must be defeated.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It Didn't Take Long

On a lark, I decided to check out what  highly-regarded, intellectual conservative writers were talking about today.  My first stop was National Review Online and Reihan Salam.  In the past I've read his work at The American Conservative and watched him as a guest on Bill Maher's show on HBO.  He's a passionate guy and very intelligent, even though I may disagree with him a lot.

Well, it didn't take long for me to find something with which I totally disagreed, something that was indicative of just how conservatives manipulate the shortness of Americans' memories to drive home a point that seeks to replace the truth with something completely false.  In his column today, Salam argues against the elimination of the capital gains tax preference, which is advocated by a couple of centrist legislators, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI).

Here's where Salam goes in for the kill to assert something that just isn't true:
Among conservatives, this last aspect of the Modified Zero Plan is likely to prove particularly unattractive, as there is a broad consensus on the center-right that while the capital gains tax preference is not an ideal policy, it is useful in that it counteracts other provisions of the tax code that discourage savings and investment
My italics.  See what he did there?  He asserted as a given that lower capital gains taxes acts as a counter-balance to other parts of the tax code that discourage savings and investment.  Which parts are those, exactly?  Would they be those parts of the code that taxed the highest incomes at somewhere over 90%?  Oh, wait, those tax brackets disappeared before 1963.  Would it be those parts of the tax code that shows  corporate taxes at 40%, which of course has stifled growth so much that corporate profits were at record lows this past year?  Oh, wait, corporate profits were at record highs last year!  As were the Dow Jones  and S&P 500 Indices.

But wait, he's talking about savings and investment, isn't he?  Well, how does he explain this chart, which shows personal savings rates declining over the years despite the fact that the top tax brackets kept on dropping and dropping, down to its lowest level ever in the past year?

Salam goes on to discuss "human capital," which I interpret to mean employment.  Apparently, the lower capital gains tax rate is supposed to "shield investment income from double taxation," so that "job creators" can invest in their businesses and hire more people.  Well, tax rates are at their lowest point ever and private jobs are slowly returning (last month's brutal numbers notwithstanding).  And when capital gains tax rates were equal to regular income, and unemployment figures were up and down much the same as they are now,  those tax rates stifled all kinds of job creation.

No, I think it's safe to say that Salam is pretty much blowing smoke up our asses, much the same way a hack like Tucker Carlson or Hugh Hewitt might.  I'm sure Salam wouldn't appreciate that comparison, but if the shoe fits...