Friday, October 8, 2010

In Which The Devolutionist Tells Arthur Laffer Where He Can Put His Famous Curve

Your Devolutionist does not make a habit of reading the Wall Street Journal, mostly because he assumes it is written for one (admittedly large) demographic only: wealthy and selfish assholes.  Today's editorial by "economist" Arthur Laffer does nothing to dispel that impression.

Laffer is of course the man who thought up the infamous Laffer Curve, which we're not even going to try to sum up here.  Suffice to say that it has always sounded to your Devolutionist like magical thinking, and the results of the Reagan and Bush tax policies, which cited Laffer, have borne out this contention.

In his WSJ editorial Laffer rails against Bill Gates and his father, who have been pushing an initiative in Washington state to impose a 5% income tax on individuals making over $200,000 a year and couples making over $400,000 (the state currently has no income tax.)

To back up his argument that such a tax would hurt the state's economy, Laffer has a chart showing how income taxes adopted in eleven states over the past fifty years have negatively affected those states' gross state product and personal income per capita.  He does not in any way indicate that other factors might have hurt GSP and income in those states, such as in Michigan, which has suffered because of the utter collapse of the domestic auto industry and mismanagement of the major car companies; the Rust Belt states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, which have suffered from the collapse of the country's once-thriving manufacturing economy; West Virginia (coal mining being much less lucrative and much more expensive than it used to be); Nebraska and Illinois (hurt by Big Agribusiness running small family farms out of business, paying low wages to slaughterhouse workers, even sometimes hiring undocumented immigrants to work even cheaper than already-underpaid Americans.)

In other words, implementing state income taxes may not be the scourge of states that Laffer imagines them to be.  Personally, the Devolutionist does not think that a couple making half a million dollars a year will suffer that terribly if they have to send the state of Washington a check for $2000 every spring.  Are people suddenly going to flee Seattle for South Dakota or Nevada to avoid paying income tax?

But what really frosted the nads of your Low-Income Devolutionist (whom no amount of tax-free income could lure to Nevada) was Laffer's breathlessly whiny and juvenile sign-off:
If Mr. Gates Sr. and his son feel so strongly about taxing the rich, they should simply give the state a chunk of their own money and be done with it. Leave the rest of Washington's taxpayers alone.
Just wow.   Does Laffer really not understand the difference between billionaires writing checks and Washington instituting a structural revenue system that can help the state pay its bills for the indefinite future?  Is he mad because his mommy told him to clean up his room and he doesn't wanna?  The Devolutionist might expect such whining from his twin nephews, who are not quite two and a half, but not from an allegedly esteemed economist.

Mr. Laffer also sneers at Gates Sr. and Jr. for "pushing (bad policy) on others."  Um, we're pretty sure that what the Gates men are doing is lobbying for a political cause they believe in.  Perhaps Mr. Laffer does not appreciate that aspect of democracy.

Just for shits and giggles, let's do a quick compare-and-contrast with this six-month-old editorial from JK Rowling.  Let us note how appreciative this woman is that she lives in a country that gave her the opportunity to make her fortune writing fantasies about wizards (which at the moment seems no more fantastic than anything posited in the Laffer Curve.)  Let us note how grateful she is to the welfare state in the UK that helped keep her afloat when she was a single mother working a low-income job as a teacher.  Let us note her observation that it would be "contemptible" of her to run off to some tax-shelter like the West Indies just because she now has more money than the royal family, thus depriving her homeland of the taxes on her income that might then go to some other struggling single mother who could use the extra couple of pounds to buy food for her kid.  Let us note the moment in this editorial when JK Rowling calls this her form of patriotism.

Now let us imagine Bill Gates wrote this editorial for the Seattle Times.  Then let us compare it to the "Fuck you, I've got mine" attitude exhibited by Arthur Laffer.  Let us be grateful for the wealthy like JK Rowling and Bill Gates, who feel a sense of social responsibility to the less fortunate in our society and endeavor to give something back.  It's nice to know civic pride is not yet dead in our fair Republic, no matter how much the Arthur Laffers of the world might wish otherwise.

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