Creative Destruction

May 12, 2006

The Black-Drum Test

Filed under: Blogosphere — Off Colfax @ 1:01 am

This one's been going around these here Intarwebs for about a news cycle, so I figure I might as well give it a shot. For those that don't know yet, this is inspired by this post from one Duncan Black and cleaned up into it's current form by Kevin Drum. So let's go down the list, shall we? (For the sake of simplicity, I'll be using the exact version quoted on NewDonkey.com.)

1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration.

I'll go out on a limb here and say "Maybe". Bankruptcy reform of some kind has been too long in coming and the one or two beneficial provisions in the current policy need not be thrown out with the bathwater.

2. Repeal the estate tax repeal.

Only the so-called Paris Hilton clauses. The rest can stay.

3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI.

Increase minimum wage: check. Index to CPI: Uncheck.

4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)

I know I would have loved for my broken wrist to not cost me a leg plus my good arm. But as Kevin so lightly put it, the devil really is in the details, and a flawed system would cost us more than no system at all.

5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.

Increasing the CAFE standards is only common sense, particularly when the announced position of the White House is to improve fuel economy in order to reduce dependency on imported oil. And unless someone can define more precisely what "some other environment-related regulation" is supposed to mean, I will reserve comment until some later date.

6. Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there's probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.

Reproductive rights: Check, even though I have a moral disagreement with abortion. Absistence-only education: Check. Access to contraception: Check. Supporting choice: Check, as my standard of morality need not apply to the country as a whole.

7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code

Simplify: Check. Increased progressivity: Uncheck. One thing Forbes had right, in my view, was the flat-tax platform. I thought he had it set too low, but that's a detail for a different post. Anyways, how can you simplify the tax code while simultaneously make it more progressive? Oxymoron, in my view.

8. Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.

Kill off faith-based funding: Huge check. For an organization to get money from the government simply due to their religious affiliation is contrary to the Establishment Clause.

9. Reduce corporate giveaways

I thought this was covered in the tax-code section, wasn't it? Regardless, just as with the health-care plank, it depends on how one defines a corporate giveaway, doesn't it.

10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan

Not only no, but hell no. First off, the Medicare drug plan is among the biggest boondoggles I've ever laid eyes on. And Medicare in general is probably one of the most ineptly-run organizations this country has to offer.

11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.

Force companies to… Well, that just gave this one a big uncheck right off the bat. Now, keeping companies from escaping their pension-related legal commitments via bankruptcy proceedings, on the other hand… That one I'll meet with a big check.

12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too.

Oi. The drug issue. Seems like no list of erstwhile progressive goals can be complete without inserting the freedom to blaze up. While I don't use drugs (aside from caffiene, nicotine, and chocolate), the small-L libertarian in me agrees with this. And one detail that few mention is that, should marijuana become decriminalized, it should be regulated in the exact same manner as alcohol. Should this happen, me and my allergies will simply have to suffer through. (Yes, folks. I'm allergic to most species of cannabis or, specifically, certain byproduct chemicals from the burning of said species of cannabis. So for simplicity's sake, I avoid the drug entirely as to avoid anaphylactic shock.)

13. Paper ballots

Like the writer of NewDonkey, I must assume that they do not mean the removal of electronic voting machines and, instead, intend the mandate of paper receipts. In the former case: No. In the case of the latter, which is more likely the intended meaning: Check.

14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.

Abso-friggin-lutely. I don't see why the RNC has been against these obviously pro-family policies… Perhaps our resident Republican could shed some light on why they aren't thought fo as pro-family by the other side of the double-yellow line?

15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.

I do not touch the third rail, and if raising the FICA cap is the only way they have of maintaining Social Security, they've got a serious problem. Only in concert with other reforms (increased retirement age, elimination of mandatory retirement, repayment of all moneys to the trust fund, et cetera) will this work. Otherwise, it's not only a Band-Aid, but a Band-Aid too small.

So let's see here… I have a final tally of Yes: Five. No: Two. Split/Maybe: Eight.

Yup. About what I expected. Left-of-center but not too far from the center. Of course, there are those that will look at the base numbers and say whatever they wish, but it's not too likely that I'll be part of the Black-Drum lovefest anytime soon.

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7 Comments »

  1. All right, here goes.

    1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration.
    Yes.

    2. Repeal the estate tax repeal.

    No.

    3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI.
    No. (Hey, these are easy!)

    4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)
    What? Oh come on. There’s no way in hell you can give a simply yes/no answer on this one (as Duncan himself seems to acknowledge in the parenthetical.) I guess I’ll skip this one.

    5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.
    No.

    6. Pro-reproductive rights….
    Yes.

    7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code Simplify yes, but he loses me after that. I’ll go with “No.”

    8. Kill faith-based funding.
    Sure.

    9. Reduce corporate giveaways
    Sure.

    10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan
    I agree with others, Hell no.

    11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions.
    I have to say “No” here. Any company that perpetrates fraud by raiding pension funds in bad faith should be punished, but I can’t support a federal mandate for companies to fund pension plans.

    12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana.
    Well sure, but why stop at medical marijuana? Gotta love Duncan’s selective federalism here (In fairness, however, the Republicans are guilty of the same thing.)

    13. Paper ballots
    Oh, why not?

    14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.
    I fear Duncan’s “details.” He’s right, they do matter. I fear he’s not referring to building a wheelchair ramp in front of “Tot World.” My guess is he’s talking about a new middle class entitlement. The answer is “No.”

    15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
    No.

    So all right, I count 6 affirmatives in my answers. So I guess that makes me about 40% liberal (or more like 43%, if I toss out the question I refuse to answer.) Sounds about right, I guess.

    Comment by bazzer — May 12, 2006 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

  2. All right, here goes.

    1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration.
    Yes.

    2. Repeal the estate tax repeal.
    Yes.

    3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI.
    Yes. (Hey, Bazzar’s right, these are easy!)

    4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)
    Yes, yes, yes. Personally, I’d like something like the French system, but Medicare for all would be fine too.

    5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.
    Yes.

    6. Pro-reproductive rights….
    Yes.

    7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code.
    Yes and yes again.

    8. Kill faith-based funding.
    I have very little against government grants to faith-based charities, so long as nondiscrimination laws and other reasonable limits (i.e., no forcing homeless people to pray in order to get food) are followed. No.

    9. Reduce corporate giveaways
    Yup.

    10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan
    Abstain, due to ignorance of issue.

    11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions.
    Yes.

    12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana.
    Yup.

    And what’s wrong with selective federalism? Do you really think federalism has to be an all-or-nothing question?

    13. Paper ballots
    Assuming he means that votes must leave a verifiable and recountable paper trail, then I say yes.

    14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.
    Horray for new middle class entitlements. My answer is “yes.”

    15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
    Yes.

    And here’s one that Duncan added to his original list….

    16. Marriage rights for all, which includes “gay marriage” and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.
    Resoundingly yes.

    And here’s one Duncan didn’t include, but should have:

    17. Support Affirmative Action.

    So let’s see, that’s 15 out of 16 (not counting the abstain one way or the other), which makes me 94% liberal. (It would be 93% if I hadn’t added in the AA question.)

    Damn Duncan for including that item about faith-based stuff and thus ruining my perfection!

    Comment by Ampersand — May 12, 2006 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  3. Damn Duncan for including that item about faith-based stuff and thus ruining my perfection!

    Christofascist tool.

    Comment by Robert — May 12, 2006 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  4. Off Colfax:
    I can understand any combination of answers to the two parts of the minimum wage question except for the one you gave. If you want to increase it, why wouldn’t you want to index it to the CPI (at least as a lower bound)?

    Comment by Brandon Berg — May 12, 2006 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

  5. Regarding the Black Drum test: If the drum is coming out all black, it’s probably leaking toner.

    Here goes.

    1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration.

    I’m totally pissed about the misinformation that informed the bankruptcy debate, but I’m not really well versed in how many of the terrible aspects of the original reform bills got into the final law. So I’ll plead ignorance.

    2. Repeal the estate tax repeal.

    Yup (although it’s scheduled to repeal itself in 2011, I think). Still open to considering a consumption tax, though.

    3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI.

    A second-best solution. I prefer creating an adequate social safety net (indexed to inflation), and letting private actors then negotiate for whatever wages they like.

    4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)

    Still puzzling over this. I prefer to subsidize the poor rather than the sick, but I understand that a single-payer system could create real efficiencies in eliminating the incentive for health care providers to discriminate among patients.

    5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.

    Again a second-best solution. Ideally we structure prices to reflect the cost of the environmental consequences people make (such as taxing each gallon of gas adequately to pay for providing a benefit comparable to the harm done by using a gallon of gas), and then let people make their own decisions.

    6. Pro-reproductive rights….

    Sounds good.

    7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code

    Sure. And the “tax code” should encompass more than just the income tax code.

    But focusing just on the income tax, progressivity arises primarily from the Tax Bracket table, which tells you what number to multiply with your Adjusted Net Income to produce your tax bill. Anyone who has studied the tax code (and the volumes of cases on the tax code) knows that very few disputes arise from this aspect of the tax code. The complexity arises from determining what constitutes income, and what may be excluded and exempted and deducted. Complexity also arises from alternatives: taxpayers are arguably better off because they get to choose from among a dozen tax-advantaged savings vehicles – but it does clutter up the code. The 1986 Tax Reform Act greatly simplified the tax code yet left multiple tax brackets in place.

    8. Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.

    Oppose discrimination on the basis of religion – both pro-religion and con-religion. Government should issue Requests for Proposals, and award contracts on the basis of the quality of the resulting bids. If the Moonies submit the best proposal for providing salmon, or elementary education, they should get the contract. (Government should write its RFPs tightly, of course.)

    9. Reduce corporate giveaways

    Why discriminate against corporations? Reduce all giveaways not based on need. No crop supports AND no mortgage interest deductions.

    10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan

    Dunno.

    11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.

    Fine, for all the good it will do.

    In bankruptcy, I suspect workers and retirees are already pretty high up the line of unsecured creditors. The problem is that by the time a firm is bankrupt, there ain’t enough $ to go around.

    I think the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 stopped firms from making their pension problems worse. What we are now observing are debts that accrued prior to 1974 and that are finally coming due. We can blame the head of General Motors or United Airlines all we want but 1) they didn’t make the problems, their predecessors did, and 2) they can’t fix it. The money’s gone.

    12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards “more decriminalization” of drugs, though the details complicated there too.

    Dunno.

    13. Paper ballots

    Support auditable voting. Paper’s good, but I’m open to other suggestions.

    14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obviously details matter.

    Generally I’m in favor of letting people bear the cost of their own decisions (down to the level of the social safety net), including the decision to bear kids. But I entertain arguments that kids are really a social resource, not an individual one.

    15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.

    Another second-best solution. Again, I support a social safety net that applies without regard to prior earning status – a REAL “social security system” if you will. But if we’re gonna keep a traditional SS system, then I’d like to eliminate the regressive quality of the FICA tax by eliminating the cap (although perhaps also reducing the rate).

    I’m not even gonna try to tally the score here.

    Comment by nobody.really — May 12, 2006 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

  6. > And here’s one that Duncan added to his original list….

    16. Marriage rights for all, which includes “gay marriage” and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.
    Resoundingly yes.

    Agreed, 1000%. To me, this is where American liberalism shines — in safeguarding civil liberties for everyone.

    Comment by bazzer — May 12, 2006 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

  7. 1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration.

    Works for me.

    2. Repeal the estate tax repeal

    No

    3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI.

    Hahaha, no. Tax people more and then make it mandatory that they pay employees higher salaries with the money that they now have less of. It cannot fail!

    4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)

    Uh, that’s a negative.

    5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.

    Isn’t this the sort of thing that’s made it unprofitable to build gas refinaries in the US? (so that’s a no)

    6. Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there’s probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.

    The Bush administration doesn’t believe in our right to reproduce?!?!

    7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code

    I wasn’t aware that “progressivity” was either, well, a word, or implied a specific plan of action.

    But I’m all about simplicity in taxes and in law.

    8. Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.

    Yeah, who cares if the charity is faith-based? Just look at the bottom line (IE, are they effective in helping out the people they’re setting out to help, if not, no money for you)

    9. Reduce corporate giveaways

    Another meaningful one, up there with “increase progressivity”

    10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan

    That’s a negative.

    11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.

    That’s a no, and take the time to learn some basic economics, you hippie!

    12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards “more decriminalization” of drugs, though the details complicated there too.

    Oh, those darn details. For instance, the whole “leave the states alone” detail.

    Taken by itself, I’d say that giving states more leeway would be a good thing. After all, if you don’t like how one state does things, and feel strongly about it, it’s easier to move to another state with a different policy than it is to move to another country.

    But as for relaxing on drugs, that’s a no. Not because I’m against it in principle, but because I don’t think tightening up or relaxing on this one will be a solution in it of itself.

    13. Paper ballots

    That’s a resounding no.

    14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.

    Yes, they do. I’d only take this if it were treated like a voucher program–your level of income and the hours you work evaluated in order to determine how much assisstance to give; and the daycare that you can get government-aid to go to would be private.

    15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.

    No.

    This questionarre has demonstrated to me that I remain firmly, staunchly, against couples having babies. If couples have babies, those babies might one day take away my job. I say, preempt the threat here and now with total sterility.

    Join me, in resisting the Breeders Agenda.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — May 14, 2006 @ 1:40 pm | Reply


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