Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Want More Jobs? Then RAISE Taxes. Really!

The more I educate myself regarding how economics works, the more I realize how the Hayek model (named after Austrian economist, Friedrich August Hayek), also known as the "Chicago school of economics," which is currently championed by disciples of Ayn Rand and most Republicans, fails in many regards. It refuses to acknowledge the obvious factor of luck, inevitably the source of nearly all the success of the wealthiest 1%. Through their lenses, an undeserved dollar simply does not exist. An unearned buck is seen as having been gotten by the sweat of their own brow rather than by the winds of fate. Any tax system which compensates for this is seen therefore not as a counterweight for fairness' sake, but as theft of what's theirs. No wonder they scream so loudly about taxation!

But in our current budget fight, one thing outweighs the national debt crisis, and that's jobs. Currently, we have competing views on how to create jobs, and there's two main schools of thought. On one side, the idea is that if the wealthy are taxed, they'll cut jobs in order to hang on to more of their money. On the other side, the idea is that more taxes will ensure more government programs which strengthen social guarantees and the building of infrastructure -- both of which help create jobs, though not right away. The fight between these two sides has gotten rather heated as of late.

I've come to realize both sides are wrong.

Here's how it really works. Suppose you're wealthy (which is a very easy thing to both wish for, and imagine). You've just been given a big tax break. What do you do with the money? According to Republicans, you'll hire more workers. But that model assumes you're content with what you have, and primarily desire to build more business. This is hopelessly naive. You could just as easily want to take that extra money and do something else with it. Like party. Or travel abroad. Or finally open that Swiss bank account you've been pondering (which sometimes costs a premium to open, especially these days). Maybe a sailboat, or a winter home? Maybe buy gold. Maybe buy a mistress. All kinds of things besides hiring another worker to do with that money, and you know as well as I do that the chances are far, far better that those other things will come first.

You see, the wealthy will hire more workers, but only when it's in their interest to do so. If it isn't, then cutting taxes on the rich is as helpful to the "trickle down" system as filling the cistern, and then failing to turn the spigot! What good is all that liquidity going to do way up there if none of it "trickles down" to here because the rich didn't turn the damned faucet on? Oh, sure, there will be a few philanthropists, but most won't be. (There are too few Herb Kohls and Chris Abeles.) So, the trick is to make sure that it's in the best interest of the wealthy to hire more workers, of course. How on earth do we do that?

Let's imagine that you're wealthy again. (Fun fantasy.) This time, let's say that you've enjoyed the benefits of a large tax break for some time. Say, since the Bush II years. But now, that cushion's about to disappear, and you'll be returned to Clinton-era tax rates. Now what? It's the opposite scenario of the above, isn't it? Obviously, you'll want to restore that extra income, if you can. But how? Do you cut your business, slash workers' salaries and fire people? Well, you can't, because in this shaky economy, you've likely already done that. Your business has been waiting for the economic recovery, but the recovery has been sputtering, and you've been reluctant to hire. Now you're income is about to take a hit. You can't pare down. What can you do?

You have only one choice: Build your business and gain greater market share. In other words, because your taxes got hiked, your best bet at restoring your lost income will be to HIRE MORE!

Holy shit! REALLY?

Really. The way to make it in the best interests of the wealthy to hire more is to restore the balance between too much, and too little taxation. We've had an imbalance of too little taxation for a long time now, and so there's been too little hiring. Raise taxes on the wealthiest just a bit more, and more hiring takes place as they struggle to continue keeping up with the Joneses the way they have been. Isn't that what we want?

The current hue and cry is that raising taxes will be bad for the economy. Indeed! Okay, it's going to make those who have it made have to make a little bit more, but so what? Aren't these the clydesdales we want to harness to pull our economy out of the dumps? Why leave them in the barn?

Make no mistake, the "raise no taxes" line in the sand is exactly the same as a "hire no workers"
line in the sand.

Atlas has shrugged long enough. It's time for him to punch back in and go to work!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Marijuana Laws.

The Huffington Post recently reported that "the federal government" (the article did not specify what office or branch) ruled that cannabis had no accepted medical purpose. This, from people who've likely never smoked it and/or experienced its nausea-reducing effects on themselves or observed it in other people. No, these bureaucrats, most of whom I'm certain have no medical or even science degrees, have taken it upon themselves to declare what should or should not be prescribed.

You know, when between 70% and 80% of every state in the union approves of medical marijuana being made legal, you'd think that there might be politicians everywhere clamoring all over themselves to be the first one to endorse legalization. Aside from Ron Paul, I don't know of any prominent Republicans who are even bothering to address the issue. For the most part, major Republican players remain firmly opposed to marijuana for medical, recreational, or spiritual use. Could there be a deeper reason?

Here's a thought: In 1972, Richard M. Nixon declared his "war on drugs." At the time, he was firmly opposed in the war on Vietnam, and one thing every unpopular president loves to do is throw up a war and drum up national crisis in order to bolster bad polling numbers. But in Nixon's case, I believe it went deeper. Many of Nixon's opponents were hippies - long-haired bead-wearing young people who were smoking cannabis on a regular basis. How to go after these pot-headed peaceniks? Why, by taking away their weed, that's how! And in 20 years' time, who knows? The lack of marijuana could spark a war-mongering right-wing revival.

What happened? 22 years later, 1994, Bill Clinton watched his Democratic majorities in both the house and Senate disappear, as Republicans took control with their "Contract with America." The Republican revival was on!


We should be cautious before drawing any conclusions, here. Correlation does not imply causation. It could entirely be just happenstance. But it doesn't necessarily need to be true, does it? What needs to be true, is that certain Republican party leaders believe it. If they think that legalizing pot will cause the hippies to come back, and result in more recreational-use-inspired liberalism to boot them from office, it would explain their stubborn refusal to bow to the overwhelming majority of their constituents.

Now, obviously smoking pot doesn't make you a liberal, any more than taking oxy contin makes you a conservative. But if politicians believe that such mind-altering drugs can indeed alter the mind in just this way, it would explain a great many things, wouldn't it?

Especially not legalizing and taxing, and thus boosting the economy, and jobs, and treasury revenues, at a time when our government is so desperately in need of a balanced budget, and a thriving economy.

To help end the Great Depression, prohibition of alcohol was ended. It worked. Yes, a war helped, too, but the recovery began before the war did. So isn't it time our government woke up and legalized cannabis? Like now, when it's so bloody obviously the right thing to do?


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Some Brewer Observations

A break from my usual stuff, even as the political right is trying so desperately to keep the fat cats from going on a much-needed diet while simultaneously playing chicken with the debt ceiling and the global economy which depends upon it. No, this time I'm bringing my number-crunching powers of observation to bear on our Milwaukee Brewers, and why they can't seem to win a road game against any team other than the Florida Marlins.

First, let's recognize that the problem is offense. Par-value offense or defense is 3 runs. The Brewers meet or exceed par offense in Milwaukee, but not in other cities. At home at Miller Park, our offense is unbeatable. Six of our regular starters are batting over .300 (Lucroy, Braun, Rivera, Fielder, Morgan, Weeks) while two more are batting over .290 (Betancourt and Hart). Even most of our starting pitchers are batting over .300 at home (Narveson, Greinke, Gallardo). At home, the Crew hits the damn ball.

But something happens when the team goes on the road. Apparently, aliens come down and kidnap the regular team and replace them with mannequins that resemble them somewhat. Away, only two players bat over .300 (Nyger Morgan, and, of course, Ryan Braun). Even Prince Fielder's average drops to .272 on the road (down from .326 at Miller Park). But the biggest disappointment when the team travels is Jonathan Lucroy. That man bats a whopping .364 at home, and an appalling .216 on the road! Next up on the disappointment list would have to be Yuniesky Betancourt, who bats .295 at home, and flirts with the Mendoza line at .191 when travelling. Corey Hart, who bats .293 in the home court bats a disgusting .230 when away. We might be tempted to brand Braun as the only player who can hit on the road, and even he takes a slight dip, batting .338 at home, and .306 on the road.

Jesus, that fucking sucks!

But amidst these foul-smelling numbers, one shining star does emerge. Nyger Morgan! At home, he bats a very nice .316. But when away, he does even better! A .333 average on the road!

I say, Nyger starts every road game.

What about pitching? So far as I can tell, it's worse on the road as well, but not markedly so. Each pitcher gains one ERA point when travelling. Randy Wolf has the lowest downside, with an ERA of 2.78 at home and 3.75 away. Gallardo pitches 3.47 at home, and 4.39 in alien ballparks. Narveson does 3.91 at home and 4.93 on a road trip. But Zack Greinke is the biggest disappointment, showing 4.26 at home, and 7.77 while away. Granted, that's only because of a couple of bad outings, but they were road outings.

Inexplicably, the bullpen seems affected as well. Kameron Loe, the apparent go-to guy in the eighth inning, has an ERA of 4.22 at home, and 5.19 away. John Axford has a sparkling ERA of 0.82 at home, but 5.02 on the road (Most of that thanks to the Yankees debacle.)

But again, there are some nice exceptions. Sean Marcum pitches 4.13 at Miller Park, and 2.26 everywhere else! (If only he could start every road game!) Tim Dillard pitches 7.36 at home, and 3.38 when sleeping in hotels. But the biggest difference, making me wonder why the hell he doesn't get more time on the mound, is La Troy Hawkins. At home, his ERA is a fantastic 0.75. And on the road? His ERA is 0.00!!!

Okay, La Troy Hawkins is definitely our set up man on the road!

So what's going on here? Could it be that when these guys are away from their wives and kids and not getting laid that they do worse? It's certainly possible, and if so, plane tickets for player's families might be a relatively cheap investment in road wins, especially down the stretch. The other thing (and I don't have solid numbers to back me up on this, but it seems true) is that hitters seem to swing outside the strike zone on the road. The number of walks the team gets isn't significantly higher at home than on the road, but there are sure a lot more strikeouts when the Crew takes a road trip! Almost double, in fact! How to correct this? Well, chiding from coaches has never worked. In 30 years of watching baseball, I've learned you can never coach a player into being more disciplined at the plate if that S.O.B. is determined to swing at shitty pitches. But what a coach CAN do (which is entirely within Brewer tradition) is put a game within a game. On the road, any player who strikes out by swinging at a pitch outside the strike zone scores a "shitlist point." The three players with the most shitlist points after a road trip have to pay for the next team party.

The Brewers win when they play with good ol' fashioned Milwaukee gemutlichkeit. Let's add some of that to the game by making a game out of doing the right thing at the plate, and winning on the road, especially for the hitters.