Alexander Hamilton and the principle of infant industries

December 31, 2015 at 11:08 am

Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill.

Recently, Republican utility regulators in Nevada rolled back incentives for solar energy. One of the big arguments put forward is that these subsidies “distort markets.”

In 2013, fossil fuels accounted for 115x the amount of production from solar energy. Source: Forbes In 2013, fossil fuels accounted for 115x the amount of production from solar energy. Source: Forbes[/caption]

Solar power accounts for roughly 0.7 quadrillion Btus of annual power generation compared to 81 quadrillion Btus of annual power generation from fossil fuels.

In other words, the energy market is already “distorted.” If you think about it, we all know the problem with these distortions. It’s hard to break into a market already dominated by big existing players. Even if something better exists.

Here’s a little bit more about how markets work.

7 things it’s no longer possible to believe after Donald Trump

December 18, 2015 at 11:35 am

With the rise of Donald Trump, there’s certain things that have become almost laughable to believe. Here’s seven.

Donald Trump at CPAC. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore. Donald Trump at CPAC. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Why regulations increase when you privatize government

November 15, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Every now and then some politician pulls a stunt where they print out a list of regulations from some agency or other to try to make the point about the “burden” of regulation.

Mitch McConnell speaking at the CPAC 2011 conference. Photo CC 2.0 courtesy of Gage Skidmore. Mitch McConnell speaking at the CPAC 2011 conference. Photo CC 2.0 courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

What they don’t talk about is that privatization creates more regulations.

Why?

Robert Reich’s “Saving Capitalism” or how to have better conversations about the economy

November 6, 2015 at 7:19 pm

A few weeks back, I saw Robert Reich speak at Joseph-Beth Booksellers here in Cincinnati. He is an outstanding speaker and if you ever have the chance, go see him talk. Brilliant. Funny. Experienced. Gregarious. He is just as good in person as his writing.

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He started out by joking that his new book alienated everyone. He said, half the people I spoke with said, what needs saving? And the other half said, why save it? First of all, I could tell he spoke with a lot of people on both sides because he spoke about the elephant in the room – how the conversation is so often framed. And second of all, he used this as a great segue to how to get out of this trap we so often face, that the conversation comes down to some kind of less government/more government argument. The beauty of Reich’s book isn’t necessarily economic. The beauty of it is that Reich understands how to have better conversations with people about the economy. This ability to have better conversations about the economy is important because almost every discussion relates back in some way to our views about the economy. Every one. So today, I’m going to set aside self-publishing and talk about a few of the things Reich said, because this is a conversation I have with people all the time, and his new book, Saving Capitalism.

Two charts that explain the difference between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and unions

September 14, 2015 at 1:51 pm

We often hear that unions are somehow on a par with corporate special interest groups when it comes to lobbying.

From 2008-2015, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Institute for Legal Reform spent $792,420,000 (#1 and #3 in the graphic). This is roughly 3x what second place lobbying organization the National Association of Realtors spent.

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By comparison during the same time period, the first union to appear on the list at #182, the AFL-CIO, spent $22,300,000. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent roughly 35x the AFL-CIO on lobbying over this eight year period.

Distribute it right to begin with

June 26, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Corporate special interest groups have hit upon a very powerful framing of the economy and government that involves something they call “redistribution”.

It has been played over and over in the media more than any annoying pop ballad I can remember. So much so in fact that I bet you could describe the framing w/o me saying a word.

It looks like this:

You earn your money. It is yours. Then the government takes it away in the form of taxes (often referred to as theft) and gives it to someone who hasn’t earned it (redistribution).

When people you know say “socialism,” it is this process of taking from the “deserving” to give to the “undeserving” they are talking about.

I state this argument as strongly as possible here because this is what we’re up against. Professional, audience-tested propaganda.

If we, when you are talking to people, fall into arguing the side that wants to “redistribute,” you will be seen as someone who wants to use government to take away and give to the “lazy” or “undeserving”.

There is an easy way to flip this framing and talk about the actual situation with people you never thought you could reach.

All you have to do is talk about distributing it right to begin with.

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Father John Cahill: “We are not going to provide you with cheap labor”

June 6, 2015 at 1:03 pm

I think this might be the quote of the week by Father John Cahill, former director of Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, Kentucky.

Father Cahill writes:

It is time to tell corporations that taxpayers have had enough. We are not going to provide you with cheap labor out of our wallets while you receive favored tax rates on capital gains, reinvested dividends, accelerated depreciation, tax abatements etc. etc. and severely underpay your workers.

Father Cahill recognizes that in our one-sided pursuit of profits, we seem to have lost sight of why we were pursuing profits to begin with.

We’ve lost sight of our values. We’ve lost sight of why we allowed corporations to begin with: for the public good.

He contrasts this with today’s insanity of subsidizing multinational corporations while many of these same multinationals fight to pay people less and less.

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Must read economics books: On value and values

May 20, 2015 at 2:57 pm

For a recent project, I’ve been researching organizations and values within organizations. I happened to come across On Value and Values by Douglas K. Smith because of the following quote: For many years now, I have heard people speak about value and values disjointedly, as though the singular, value, and […]

Why we have an inheritance tax

April 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm

The House of Representatives recently voted to eliminate the estate tax. Because of the recent vote, the topic may come up in conversations with people you know.

This is an easy case to “win” because there is such a strong moral case for inheritance taxes and it’s also a great opportunity to practice talking about what you believe.

Most of what you’ll see in the media, however, consists of the “strong” moral case for corporate special interest groups and a “weak” response. By weak response, I mean a case that doesn’t talk about the morality of the estate tax. A case that is often simply the negation of conservative arguments. A moral case should explain ‘why’ we believe in inheritance taxes.

To start, I believe …

1. Privilege should be earned (not inherited).

To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered – not gambling in stocks.

Roosevelt said it better:

No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered — not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective — a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

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10 tax cuts and who they benefit

March 24, 2015 at 10:01 pm

It’s tax season once again and I’d like to address a question that I rarely see addressed: Who do tax cuts benefit? To start, let’s make a list of the major tax categories: Sales taxes Fees, tolls, and licenses Sin taxes (alcohol, tobacco, etc.) Capital gains taxes Estate taxes Luxury […]