Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Reform (page 1 / 3)

Congress Needs to Bring Back Earmarks →

I dislike Congressional earmarks, as I dislike all wasteful government spending. I've long viewed them as bribes that corrupt the political process, by inducing Congressmen to vote for legislation that they'd otherwise oppose.

I'm rethinking my opposition, after reading Tyler Cowen's essay at Bloomberg View.

In essence, earmarks give congressional leaders more control over individual members. Recalcitrant representatives can be swayed by the promise of a perk for their district. That eases gridlock and gives extreme members of Congress something to pursue other than just ideology.

But is more legislation always a good result? Advocates of smaller government should keep in mind that reforming spending and regulation requires some activism from Congress. Gridlock today is not the friend of fiscal responsibility, coherent policy, or a free, well-functioning capitalist economy.

Most of all, I think of earmarks as recognizing that compromise and messiness are bound to remain essential features of American government, and that, whether we like it or not, there is something inherently transactional about being governed. Earmarks are a risk insurance policy against extreme outcomes, and like many other insurance policies, in any given year they may appear a pointless waste of resources. Still, we should keep in mind they may be protecting us against the very worst outcomes.

A New Flag for the New South

For the past two days, I've been listening to Dan Carlin's conversation with Sam Harris. This morning, I heard an exchange around the Confederate Flag that caught my attention. First, Dan floated the thought of a redesigned Confederate flag, to show regional pride without showing racism.

I would love to interview these folks, because whenever someone writes me a letter about this, they always say "It's not about the slaves and it's not about the racial situation, it's about the right to seceede, to protect your life, it's a right to do all ...", in other words, take every reason for the civil war besides the slavery aspect and they will say it's about that because nobody's, or very few people I've ever spoken to, say "Yeah, I fly the flag because black people are inferior and blah, blah, blah." I would love to see a notation then to the flag, you know there's a lot of flags from other countries where something will happen and a new regime will take over or something will change and they'll alter the flag slightly, you know we'll always put another star on our flag when a new state came in. Seems to me you could put something like a chain being snapped or something in the center of the flag or something that indicated that this flag isn't in favor of slavery or this is the post-slavery Confederacy or "Welcome back black people to the New South", whatever. Something that just sort of said, "You know the little chain on the flag being freed, yeah, that shows that this flag does not represent something that said that the slavery was the part that we would like to see returned."

A few minutes later, Dan came back to that thought and expanded on it a bit more.

In the emails that I'll get about this people will talk about "It's just a pride in your heritage sort of thing". I think the pity then is that there isn't an alternative symbol that if you wanted to say "I'm a Southerner and I'm proud of it" that you could show that didn't have the same overtones, that didn't appear to some people that you're not just saying "Yes, I'm proud of the South but I'm proud of things the South did before the Civil War". I mean the United States for example has a whole bunch of other flags that we've flown at one time or another, the Gadsen Flag, all those kinds of things, which different people can appropriate to show different aspects or different ideas. Seems to me, if you're into Southern pride—and I don't think there's anything wrong with having pride in your heritage, or your grandfathers, or anything like that. It's a pity that the symbol you could use to show that has all sorts of other overtones that are not just deeply offensive but that make people who are valued members of your community feel, not just like second class citizens, but maybe even a little afraid. Who would want to show that in a way that took other Southerners and, instead of making them feel proud, would make them feel the opposite of proud?

I decided to take that idea and run with. What if I took the Confederate flag and changed the colors? I decided to keep the basic elements, to represent some continuity of Southern culture, but change the colors to signify that this is a New South that doesn't embed the racism and hate of the past.

Original Flag

I think the defining features of the original flag are the bold, red field that dominates the flag and the two blue bars that crisscross the field. That's what I need to change, to make this feel like an updated, more modern, version of the flag.

Original Confederate flag

Redesign 1

For my first attempt, I wanted to deemphasize the red. I moved the blue from the bars to the field and moved the red from the field to the stars and the outline of the bars.

Redesigned Southern flag, attempt 1

Redesign 2

I didn't like how bright (eye searing?) the red and white bars were. I decided to make the field white and match blue bars with white stars. I deemphasized the red even more, relegating it to the outline of the bars.

Redesigned Southern flag, attempt 2

Redesign 3

The second attempt was better than the first, but I didn't like the bright expanse of white, now that the entire field was white. I made the field blue again and decided to get rid of the red entirely, replacing it with green. Now the stars are green and the outline of the bars is green.

I'll say that the green is there because it can represent the rebirth of the South into the new South.

Redesigned Southern flag, attempt 3

Redesign 4

This is nearly identical to the third redesign. In this one, I removed the outline of the bars, to make for a starker contrast against the blue field and a further distancing from the Old South design.

Redesigned Southern flag, attempt 4

What do you think? Can you imagine seeing one of these flags as a common symbol of the New South, one not associated with racism and hate?

This entry was tagged. Culture Reform

Towards A Solution for Medical Price Transparency →

The biggest problem in healthcare is that providers—doctors and hospitals—are allergic to straightforward pricing and refuse to give actual prices before providing services. This idea for a solution isn't perfect but I think it's worth trying.

Perhaps a solution in the healthcare arena would be to institute binding arbitration in cases where providers refuse to agree on prices before providing service. And perhaps the binding arbitration could be based on the fee the patient offered to pay upfront, but declined by the provider in favor of bureaucratic claims processing. For example, if a patient had offered (in good faith) to pay $5,000 for the surgery; but the EOB and claim came in at $50,000, the arbitrator would award one or the other. Common sense tells us that the arbitrator will almost always award the patient’s upfront offer.

Minimizing authority of judges →

Senator Rand Paul, at the Washington Times:

For these reasons and others, last week I joined my colleague Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, in introducing a bill that would authorize judges to disregard federal mandatory-minimum sentencing on a case-by-case basis.

Some might think it is unusual for a conservative Republican to join a liberal Democrat on such a bill, but contrary to popular belief, the protection of civil liberties and adherence to the Constitution should be a bipartisan effort.

In my younger days, I would have regarded this as rank liberalism and heresy. Now it just seems like common sense. I'll stand with Rand on this one.

Read the whole thing. His reasons are dead on.

The Revenue Deficit From Progressive Tax Rates →

Michael Solon, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

Why? A more progressive tax code now leverages the negative impact of slow economic growth. The share of all individual income taxes paid by the top 1% has risen to 41.8% in 2008 from 17.4% in 1980—but almost two-thirds of the income from the top 1% comes from nonwage income, including capital gains, dividends and proprietor's profits.

Individual income taxes as well as corporate taxes are now far more rooted in the shifting sands of volatile business income and capital profits rather than in the terra firma of wage income that stabilizes payroll taxes. From 1960 to 2000, payroll taxes were never lower than in the previous year, individual income taxes dipped only twice, and corporate taxes dropped 11 times. Since 2000, individual income and corporate tax revenues dropped five times, while payroll taxes fell twice. Not only do revenues from individual tax returns drop more often now. They fall more severely, with recent collapses of 14%-20% versus the 3%-5% range before 2000.

If "the rich" pay all of the taxes (and they pay a massive share in the U.S.) than tax revenues will be directly tied to the fates of the rich. Right now, the federal government needs high income earners to continue earning high incomes. As soon as the high incomes take a hit, tax revenue takes a massive hit.

We now have a government that has a massive incentive to ensure that "the rich" never see their incomes drop. We might have a more just government if we evened out the tax code, so that income taxes were spread more broadly and more evenly over the entire country instead of being concentrated over a very small portion of the country.

Texas Congressman's Plans Put Wall Street on Edge →

From Patrick O'Connor, at the Wall Street Journal:

During Jeb Hensarling's first congressional bid, a man at a campaign stop in Athens, Texas, asked the Republican if he was "pro-business."

"No," the candidate replied, drawing curious stares from local business leaders who had gathered to hear him speak, a former Hensarling aide recalled. "I'm not pro-business. I'm pro-free enterprise."

Now, more than a decade later, that distinction has Wall Street on edge. The new chairman of the House financial services committee wants to limit taxpayers' exposure to banking, insurance and mortgage lending by unwinding government control of institutions and programs the private sector depends on, from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to flood insurance.

Banks and other large financial institutions are particularly concerned because Mr. Hensarling plans to push legislation that could require them to hold significantly more capital and establish new barriers between their federally insured deposits and other activities, including trading and investment banking.

A Republican who wants to make banks play by the same rules as the rest of a us? A Republican who wants to lets bad businesses fail? A Republican who believes it's a profit and loss system not just a profit system? Okay, I can buy that. But how'd he get to be chair of the House financial services committee? That seems too good to be true.

I'll have to keep an eye on Congressman Hensarling.

This entry was tagged. Capitalism Reform

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three Strikes Laws →

From Matt Taibbi, at Rolling Stone:

Despite the passage in late 2012 of a new state ballot initiative that prevents California from ever again giving out life sentences to anyone whose "third strike" is not a serious crime, thousands of people – the overwhelming majority of them poor and nonwhite – remain imprisoned for a variety of offenses so absurd that any list of the unluckiest offenders reads like a macabre joke, a surrealistic comedy routine.

Have you heard the one about the guy who got life for stealing a slice of pizza? Or the guy who went away forever for lifting a pair of baby shoes? Or the one who got 50 to life for helping himself to five children's videotapes from Kmart? How about the guy who got life for possessing 0.14 grams of meth? That last offender was a criminal mastermind by Three Strikes standards, as many others have been sentenced to life for holding even smaller amounts of drugs, including one poor sap who got the max for 0.09 grams of black-tar heroin.

Justice should be blind but it shouldn't be deaf, dumb, and stupid too. Shame on the politicians who passed these laws and more shame on the voters who supported them. I was one. As a kid, I thought Three Strikes and mandatory sentencing guidelines were a great idea to crack down on soft judges. I was wrong. These laws are wrong. And the people unjustly imprisoned for long sentences deserve release, apology, and restitution.

What the Tea Party Congress accomplished →

Conn Carroll, writing for the Washington Examiner:

Huelskamp and his Republican colleagues changed all that. The 2011 Budget Control Act cut spending by $1.5 trillion, and the sequester cut it by an additional $1.2 trillion. At the same time, House Republicans were able to preserve nearly all of the expiring Bush tax cuts and cut the debt.

The CBO's Budget and Economic Outlook for fiscal years 2013 through 2023 shows just how much House Republicans have actually accomplished. The federal government is now on track to spend just $46.2 trillion through 2021. That is a $3.6 trillion spending cut. And instead of taxes eating up 21 percent of the U.S. economy in 2021, now the government is set to take in just 18.9 percent. The 2021 national debt is projected to be a bit lower, too, down from the earlier $18.25 trillion in 2011 to just $17.87 trillion today.

Despite all of this supposedly economy-killing "austerity," unemployment has steadily fallen, too. When Republicans took control of the House in 2011, the nation's unemployment rate was 9 percent. Today, it has fallen to 7.7 percent.

This is why I'm not entirely pessimistic about working in politics. Change is slow and hard. But that's a feature of the system, not a bug. If the American populace wants to get engaged and fight battles over the long term, they will be able to have success. The key is not just getting engaged but also staying engaged over a long period of time.

This entry was tagged. Reform Spending Taxes

Aviation, Liability Law, and Moral Hazard →

Alex Tabarrok, of George Mason University, shares an interesting account of regulation, deregulation, and increased safety. In the mid-90's, Piper, Cessna, and Beach were no longer producing small airplanes for the general public. They were too afraid of lawsuits over planes that were decades old.

Congress eventually responded by saying that "manufacturers could not be held liable for accidents involving aircraft more than 18 years old". The result: an increase in overall safety.

a significant (on the order of 13.6 percent) reduction in the probability of an accident. The evidence suggests that modest decreases in the amount and nature of flying were largely responsible. After GARA, for example, aircraft owners and pilots retired older aircraft, took fewer night flights, and invested more in a variety of safety procedures and precautions, such as wearing seat belts and filing flight plans. Minor and major accidents not involving mechanical failure—those more likely to be under the control of the pilot—declined notably.

When it cames to safety regulation, more is not always better. Sometimes it's just more. People are more likely to be cautious if they believe that they bear risk themselves rather than believing that someone else bears all of the risk.

'Dental therapists' spark debate →

Americans in urban areas think of dental services as a kind of regular maintenance. It's little different than changing the oil in your car and occurs about as often. But that's not true for everyone.

According to the Pew Center on the States, more than 40 million Americans reside in areas with a shortage of dentists. And individuals without dental health access often end up in the emergency room, which is more expensive for everyone.

Advocacy groups and some state legislators think an alternative type of dental provider, often called a dental therapist, can fill the void. Dental therapists don’t receive as much training as a dentist. But they can perform some of the same basic services — such as pulling teeth and filling cavities — under the supervision of a dentist.

In Minnesota and Alaska, the two states that have practicing dental therapists so far, some of the therapists are able to take their work on the road, traveling to rural areas to treat those who have little or no access to dentists — or who have limited dental coverage. The dental therapists charge less than dentists and are able to take all types of insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare.

“The bottom line is that it will cost a state significantly less to hire dental therapists to provide basic restorative care to the underserved,” said Julie Stitzel, manager for the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign.

How are America's dentists responding to this? Not well.

“The No. 1 obstacle has been organized dentistry,” Pew’s Stitzel said.

“What we’re opposed to is the delegation of surgical procedures,” Faiella said. “Everyone deserves the treatment of a dentist and the care of a dentist.”

He says ADA is developing a range of programs to address the gap — pushing prevention measures such as fluoride and dental sealants, emergency room diversion programs in which dentists partner with community health clinics to ensure people needing dental care don’t end up in the emergency department — and an ad campaign to encourage parents to make sure their kids brush twice a day.

An ad campaign. That'll certainly take care of the dental problems of America's rural population. After all, they deserve a dentist not a less personage. And if they can't have a dentist? They're better off having nothing.

This entry was tagged. Reform Regulation

Consider the Milwaukee Evidence in Debate on Voucher Expansion →

Wisconsin's School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) recently finished a 5-year study of the effectiveness of Milwaukee's voucher program.

After five years, the SCDP team found:

Statistically significant gains for voucher users in reading compared to matched Milwaukee Public School (MPS) pupils (with the important caveat that the introduction of program wide WKCE testing in the final year of the evaluation could be responsible for some of the gains);

  • Statistically similar impacts on math test scores for matched MPS and MPCP users;
  • A modest positive impact on public school tests scores as more private schools participated in the MPCP;
  • Statewide taxpayer savings, though not in Milwaukee;
  • Higher graduation rates for voucher users compared to MPS;
  • Higher rates of four-year college enrollment for voucher users;
  • Evidence that closed schools in both MPS and the MPCP were the lower performers;
  • High levels of parental satisfaction;
  • No impact on housing prices or racial integration;
  • High rates of school switching;
  • Wide variation in achievement levels between schools.

So what are the practical lessons from the SCDP for other communities considering vouchers? Don’t expect the introduction of a voucher program to sizably increase test scores across the board for voucher users, or students in public schools. It’s safe to expect no negative impact on test scores, but any gains will likely be substantively small. So if the primary consideration in a community is raising test scores, a voucher program like Milwaukee’s may not be wise.

However, if you are a community struggling with high school graduation rates, particularly for low-income pupils (like Madison and Green Bay), a Milwaukee style voucher program could be a viable strategy to raise attainment.

I think this evidence justifies expanding the voucher program state wide. I'd love to see that happen.

Republicans Cave on Copyright Reform

I was ecstatic when I read this yesterday.

the Republican Study Committee expresses support for expanding fair use, treating the reduction of statutory copyright damages as a kind of tort reform, punishing false copyright enforcement claims, and limiting copyright terms to twelve years, with increasingly expensive extensions available for no more than 34 years.

It is the most radical proposal for overhauling copyright that we have seen in recent years — and the most head-turning change of direction in decades for either party on intellectual property issues.

This would have been a major step forward for the Republican party in two crucial areas. First, it's an issue that is important to many younger voters, a demographic that has little affection for Republicans. Second, it would have demonstrated that the Republican party is something other than a reflexive protector of big businesses.

Sadly, the Republican Study Committee withdrew their brief within 24 hours.

”Yesterday you received a Policy Brief on copyright law that was published without adequate review within the RSC and failed to meet that standard. Copyright reform would have far-reaching impacts, so it is incredibly important that it be approached with all facts and viewpoints in hand.”

Yes, the Republican Party has just caved to a major big business (Disney) representing a major industry (Hollywood) that hates Republicans. In the process, angering many younger voters and technology savvy voters. How, exactly, do the idiots running the party think that this will help them out? This only proves, again, that the Republican party protects big businesses no matter and cares nothing for other Americans.

Worse, our cultural heritage is rapidly disappearing. Virtually the entire cultural output of the 20th and 21st centuries—movies, music, art, literature—is locked up in restrictive copyright. All of these works will be lot forever, unless the copyright owner sees a clear, commercial benefit to keeping these works available. Copyright reform—and limiting the term of copyright—is a vital part of preserving our cultural heritage.

From a political, cultural, and policy standpoint, this is an absolutely stupid decision. I'm furious with the Republican Study Committee and the craven cowardice that they've spinelessly demonstrated.

This entry was tagged. Copyright Reform

After the ACA: Freeing the market for health care →

John Cochrane recently wrote about healthcare reform. This is the direction we need to go in, not Obamacare.

First, he talked about the insurance side of health care.

To summarize briefly, health insurance should and can be individual, portable, life-long, guaranteed-renewable, transferrable, competitive, and lightly regulated, mostly to ensure that companies keep their contractual promises. “Guaranteed renewable” means that your premiums do not increase and you can’t be dropped if you get sick. “Transferable” gives you the right to change insurance companies, increasing competition.

Insurance should be insurance, not a payment plan for routine expenses. It should protect overall wealth from large shocks, leaving as many marginal decisions unaltered as possible.

Preexisting conditions, lack of insurance by the young and healthy, and spiraling insurance costs– the main problems motivating the ACA -- are neatly addressed by this alternative. Why do we not have a system? Because law and regulation prevent it from emerging. Before ACA, the elephant in the room was the tax deduction and regulatory pressure for employer-based group plans. This distortion killed the long-term individual market and thus directly caused the pre-existing conditions mess. Anyone who might get a job in the future will not buy long-term insurance. Mandated coverage, tax deductibility of regular expenses if cloaked as “insurance,” prohibition of full rating, barriers to insurance across state lines – why buy long term insurance if you might move? – and a string of other regulations did the rest. Now, the ACA is the whale in the room: The kind of private health insurance I described is simply and explicitly illegal.

He finished by writing about the supply of health care and why we have expensive, low quality options.

So, where are the Walmarts and Southwest Airlines of health care? They are missing, and for a rather obvious reason: regulation and legal impediments.

A small example: In Illinois as in 35 other states7, every new hospital, or even major purchase, requires a “certificate of need.” This certificate is issued by our “hospital equalization board,” appointed by the governor (insert joke here) and regularly in the newspapers for various scandals. The board has an explicit mandate to defend the profitability of existing hospitals. It holds hearings at which they can complain that a new entrant would hurt their bottom line.

Specialized practices that deliver single kinds of service or targeted groups of customers cheaply face additional hurdles, as they undermine the cross-subsidization provided by “full service” hospitals. For example, the Institute for Justice is bringing a major suit8 by a specialty colonoscopy practice in Virginia, which local “full service” hospitals managed to ban.

... The increasing spread of medical tourism to cash-only offshore hospitals is a revealing trend. Why does this have to occur offshore? What’s different about the hospital location? Answer: the regulatory regime.

So, what’s the biggest thing we could do to “bend the cost curve,” as well as finally tackle the ridiculous inefficiency and consequent low quality of health-care delivery? Look for every limit on supply of health care services, especially entry by new companies, and get rid of it.

The Better Solution for 'Pre-Existing Conditions' →

John Goodman talks about why Obamacare was flawed from the very beginning.

Do you remember the debates over the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare? Now that repeal of the law has become a major campaign issue, it may be helpful to remember why Congress passed it in the first place.

Early in 2010, as the climactic votes neared, a parade of the legislation's defenders—from the House, Senate and Obama administration—appeared across the media. All had the same message: pre-existing conditions. They named the names of families "victimized" by companies that had refused to sell them insurance, had canceled their coverage or had refused to pay their medical bills.

The message surely resonated, but how many people have actually been affected since the law passed? The Affordable Care Act established a federally funded risk pool—the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan—that allows individuals with such disqualifying conditions to buy a policy for the same premium a healthy person would pay. About 82,000 people have signed up as of July 31, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's statehealthfacts.org.

That is not a misprint. Out of a population of more than 300 million, some 82,000 have the problem that was cited as the principal reason for spending $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years and in the process turning the entire health-care system upside down.

There is a much better way to ensure people with pre-existing conditions and you don't have to federalize health care in order to do it.

Key AMA Committee Endorses Paul Ryan-Like 'Defined Contribution' Reforms for Medicare →

Avik Roy, on a very promising development from the AMA.

At the Vice-Presidential debate last week, Joe Biden claimed that the American Medical Association sided with him, and against Paul Ryan, on the merits of the Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare reform. “Who do you believe?” exclaimed Biden. “The AMA [and] me? A guy who has fought his whole life for this? Or somebody [like Paul Ryan]?” Well, it turns out that the AMA’s key policy committee has come out in favor of premium support for Medicare, in a fashion that tracks closely with what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are proposing.

... The AMA Council’s report states that it came around to this view not at the behest of Republican operatives or candidates, but after speaking with Bill Clinton’s former budget chief, Alice Rivlin, who along with Paul Ryan proposed a version of this plan. “Dr. Rivlin emphasized that defined contribution amounts should be sufficient to ensure that all beneficiaries could afford to purchase health insurance coverage, and that private health insurance plans should be subject to regulations that protect patients and ensure the availability of coverage for even the sickest patients.”

Simulating the Economic Effects of Romney's Tax Plan →

The Tax Foundation runs the numbers on Romney's tax plan.

The debate over Mitt Romney’s tax plan has largely revolved around the short term concerns of who gets what and how much, rather than the more long term concerns of economic growth, job creation, deficit reduction, and tax reform. This is unfortunate, especially in a time of record unemployment and debt levels. These serious issues have been put aside to focus particularly on the results of a single study by the Tax Policy Center (TPC), which finds Romney’s tax plan would require raising taxes on low- and middle-income earners to pay for tax cuts for high-income earners. However, to get there, TPC assumes that tax rates do not matter for economic growth, i.e., Romney’s plan to cut income tax rates by 20 percent across the board will have no effect on labor supply or saving and investment decisions. Only among Washington score keepers does such an assumption make sense, but it certainly has no credibility among academic economists.

So, what will be the effect of Romney's tax plan?

The results are considerably different from TPC’s. We find that fully 60 percent of the static revenue loss from Romney’s plan is recovered when the dynamic effects of economic growth are taken into account. We find that while the cuts in the individual income tax rates do not “pay for themselves,” they do grow the economy 1.8 percent over the long run. The biggest boost to the economy comes from the 10 point cut in the corporate rate, which grows GDP by 2.3 percent, the capital stock by 6.3 percent, and the wage rate by 1.9 percent. The corporate rate cut is so economically beneficial that it does pay for itself, when all federal revenue effects are considered. So does the elimination of taxes on capital gains and dividends for middle-income earners and the estate tax.

These benefits are widely shared. Every income group experiences at least a 7 percent increase in after-tax income.

That's reform I can get behind.

How much would it matter if we deregulated health insurance across state lines? →

A new paper from Georgetown University researchers suggests a third possible outcome: Absolutely nothing at all will happen. They looked at the three states – Maine, Georgia and Wyoming – that have passed laws allowing insurers from other states to participate in their markets. All have done so within the past two years.

So far, none of the three have seen out-of-state carriers come into their market or express interest in doing so. It seems to have nothing to do with state benefit mandates, and everything to do with the big challenge of setting up a network of providers that new subscribers could see.

Interesting. This is another argument in favor of spending out of pocket instead of purchasing healthcare through health insurance. You can negotiate and shop around immediately. You don't have to wait for an insurance company to set up a network and then pay them.

The Romney Tax Plan: Not a Tax Hike on the Middle Class →

Romney's tax plan is revenue neutral because he lowers rates while simultaneously eliminating exemptions, deductions, and other "giveaways to special interests". It's what I really want out of tax reform and it's one of the things that makes me look forward to a Romney administration.

Alex Brill, of the American Enterprise Institute, breaks down how the Romney plan would work and why the math, contra the Brookings Institute, doesn't point to a tax hike.

In summary:

Romney has proposed a bold tax reform that would broaden the tax base and lower statutory tax rates across the board. While maintaining preferential rates for savings and investment, his proposal repeals the tax expenditures that distort economic decisions and add complexity to tax returns.

Although Obama has no such plan for tax reform, his vision for the tax system appears clear. He has refused to endorse the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which would also have lowered statutory tax rates and broadened the tax base. Instead, his near-singular focus has been to raise statutory tax rates for high-income households and to leave untouched hundreds of special tax breaks for various political constituencies.

To Protect Medicare, Reform It →

Veronique de Rugy is worried that Romney / Ryan's talk about "protecting Medicare" means that they won't really push to reform it.

The only way to ensure that Medicare is there “for my generation, and for my kids and yours,” reform it. If when Representative Ryan says “protect” and “strengthen” he means “reform Medicare,” great. Reform can take many forms, obviously. But, then we can believe Ryan when he says “ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate.”

She lays out all of the reasons why Medicare desperately needs to be reformed, if it's to survive at all. It's worth a read, especially if you're not convinced about the necessity of reforming Medicare.

The Tea Party Budget →

A group of Tea Party activists has spent the last several months getting public input (including an open website vote) on ways to cut the federal budget. They recently unveiled a draft version of their plan.

It's quite ambitious. The group spends the first 9 pages of the document laying out the history of the project and the principles it was organized by. Then they dive into the specifics of the budget proposal.

I like their methodology and I think it shows that the Tea Party is capable of generating serious proposals, that it's not a know-nothing, knee-jerk reactionary movement.

Now we are ready to spell out the specifics of our plan. Before we do, we want to highlight some of its big-picture benefits. Here’s how the Tea Party Budget dramatically changes Washington:

  1. Balances the budget in 2015, and keeps it balanced. Almost all of the proposed reforms take place in the first year, 2012, rather than after a phase-in, because it’s legally impossible to bind future Congresses. The best way to ensure reforms never happen is to postpone them till “tomorrow.”
  2. Reduces total federal outlays by about 15 percent in the first year. This may sound like a deep cut, until we recall that spending went up by 19 percent in 2009.
  3. Shrinks the government by 30 percent, relative to current law. Outlays shrink from today’s 24 percent of GDP to a more affordable 16 percent of GDP.
  4. Reduces gross debt from 99 percent of GDP to 75 percent of GDP.
  5. Reduces the publicly held portion of the debt from 68 percent of GDP to 47 percent of GDP. Reducing the debt is extremely important, because it’s the key to ensuring lower future interest rates and more robust economic growth.

Warning: the link goes to a PDF file.

This entry was tagged. Reform Spending