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Matthew Yglesias on the Intellectual Bankruptcy of teh Mainstream Media

The Case Against Obama...

Robert Waldmann watches Clive Crook make the case against Obama, and ends a more solid Obama supporter than before:

Robert's Stochastic thoughts: Clive Crook Says Obama is... French: He alleges that American liberals, like me, should be pleased.

Where has France gone too far, in the view of an American liberal?... Presumably, liberals approve of the universal health care, the generous and extensive welfare state, the comprehensive worker protections, the stricter regulation, the vastly more-generous subsidies for higher education, the stronger unions, the higher taxes, and especially the higher taxes on the rich

Henry Farrel sums it up perfectly "arguing that American individualism is likely to wilt if exposed to nasty foreign influences smacks more of a kind of capitalist-road José Bové-ism than any serious kind of intellectual analysis." But I [had already written] a long screed before reading [Henry Farrel's] post.

Crook claims I like "the higher taxes, and especially the higher taxes on the rich" in France (and Italy where I pay them) and that this has something to do with Obama. Obama is proposing higher taxes on the rich and lower taxes on everyone else. Now my enthusiasm might not be share[d] by all US liberals, but I think we all support low taxes on the lower middle class and working poor (not low in absolute value--as we like negative taxes). Crook is doing the usual trick of the depraved class warrior (on the side that's actually fighting the class war -- the allies of the rich) of asserting the question must be taxes high or low, not taxes progressive or regressive.

Now Crook (like many liberals) might argue that if you support increased spending, then you must support higher taxes on the non-rich, so the tax cuts for all but the rich are a feint a trick. None of them present calculations supporting their claims. All divide the US into the rich and everyone else--and suggest that if you increase taxes on the rich and the upper middle class (whose material wealth is rich beyond any dream avarice had a few hundred years ago) you must increase taxes on the working poor and the lower middle class. Spreadsheets at dawn. I am prepared to be convinced that the richest 10% don't have enough income that taxing them (us? I don't know or care) will cover anything Obama has in mind with (small) tax cuts for everyone else (and I'll let Crook assume that he has lots of secret spending in mind). I am also prepared to believe that some people at about the 90th percentile will go Galt.

My honest view is that taxes on the working poor and lower lower middle class choke off employment growth and that this, and nothing else, is the cause of poor employment growth here in Italy. The change in GINI (inequality) pre-tax to post tax is similar in the USA and in other industrialized democracies. They have higher taxes, but do not have especially higher taxes on the rich (or does Crook have other numbers ?). Yes higher taxes not especially on the rich imply more social welfare spending and much more equalization due to taxes and transfers, but the claims that Obama wants higher taxes and only especially on the rich and that France has higher taxes especially on the rich are absolutely without any basis in reality and demonstrate ignorance or dishonesty.

So my mind goes back to an actually good essay "The coming end of American Triumphalism" by Brad DeLong Despite the title it was triumphalistic. DeLong claimed that the US had discovered 3 wonderful things. One was the internet (called standards and identified with the antitrust case against ATT), I forget another [editor--that there is more room for expansionary monetary policy to lower unemployment without raising inflation than anyone had believed], and the third was the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Does Clive Crook know what that is? Does he think it is a coincidence that the US has the EITC and a high employment to population ratio? Does he think the increase in the EITC the last time the US went European and imposed "higher taxes especially only on the rich" was followed by a downward shift of the Phillips curve and extraordinarily rapid growth of employment because of another strange coincidence. Does France have a policy like the EITC? Finally, can Crook reconcile his critique of Obama with the making work pay tax cut which, you know, is law?

I'd say that Crook decided that someone had to criticize Obama, since the Republicans certainly aren't up to it. He had no ammunition, so he appeals to arguments which can't be refuted by evidence (claims about culture), the assertion that someone who has cut taxes for 95% of families (and proposes to make them permanent) will increase those taxes for oh about all 95%, pretends that taxes for the rich and non rich must move up and down together, identifies the 90th percentile with the 20th under the name "middle class",and appeals to nationalism and xenophobia.

Clive Crook is very smart. If this is the best case he can make against Obama, my opinion of Obama has improved, and I didn't think that was possible.