Paul Ryan on Birth Rates

December 14, 2017 at 10:55 pm

The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has caused a bit of a stir with his comment, "I did my part, but we need to have higher birth rates in this country."

The context was a reporter's question about entitlement reform, which got Ryan talking about economic growth and ways to pay for retiring baby boomers.

It seems to me that people would be better off deciding whether to have children, and how many to have, without a lot of pressure from the government in either direction. I'd settle for government neutrality on the matter (which might entail a shift from the current practice of mandating free contraceptives but not, say, free fertility treatment or free childbirth). Mr. Ryan is correct, however, that more people, especially more young people, helps the federal budget and helps with economic growth. A higher birth rate is one way to get there; so would be increased legal immigration, which, unfortunately, is a path that is at least for now opposed by the politically dominant wing in Mr. Ryan's Republican Party.

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D.C. Housing Prices

December 14, 2017 at 10:23 pm

What state has the highest percentage of homes worth more than a million dollars? The District of Columbia isn't a state, but if it were, it would easily beat the other 50 for that distinction, a graphic based on census data shows. Part of the story here is zoning rules and height restrictions that restrict supply, but, as noted in the earlier post on Richest Counties, some of the story is wealth derived from the centralized taxing, regulating, and spending power of the federal government (and lawyers and lobbyists who help companies navigate that).

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For This We Need AEI?

December 14, 2017 at 2:20 pm

Heterogeneity within think tanks is great, and I've got my own issues with the tax bill. But even so, it was a bit of a shocker to open up the New York Times and see an op-ed from someone identified as a "resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute," claiming "The Trump administration's budget-busting tax cuts risk overheating markets even further and limiting the government's ability to respond when the bubbles pop." If any Republican senators are indeed, as I suspect, looking for last-minute reasons to justify abandoning this bill, AEI just helpfully (or not so helpfully, if you'd like the bill to pass) offered some up.

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Jones and the Tax Bill

December 13, 2017 at 11:53 am

Given the precedent of the ObamaCare repeal, which passed an initial Senate vote but failed to become law after Senator McCain changed his position, it seems to me there is at least some considerable chance that a similar thing will happen on the tax bill. Yesterday's election in Alabama may mean that instead of having to get to three Republican Senators (assuming Vice President Pence would break a tie), Democrats just have to peel off two Republicans to kill the tax bill. Bob Corker was already against it, so that leaves one more. Who really thinks that McCain, or Susan Collins, or Jeff Flake, or Marco Rubio are really going to be able to resist the temptation of being lauded by the liberal media as profiles in courage? I'm not saying the tax bill is definitely dead. But the chances of it faltering are greater than most people now think.

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Regulation and Corruption

December 12, 2017 at 11:34 am

The federal indictment of Brian Joyce, who was a Democratic state senator in Massachusetts and is charged, among other alleged offenses, with accepting 504 pounds of free Dunkin' Donuts coffee to distribute to his constituents at open houses, is the topic of my column this week. Please check the full column out at Reason (here) and at Newsmax (here).

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Building Restrictions Hurt Growth

December 8, 2017 at 2:23 pm

At the risk of repetitiveness (you can say that again), here's yet another story from the New York Times about how rules limiting new construction wind up hurting people and hampering growth:

Some people aren't moving into wealthy regions because they're stuck in struggling ones. They have houses they can't sell or government benefits they don't want to lose. But the larger problem is that they're blocked from moving to prosperous places by the shortage and cost of housing there. And that's a deliberate decision these wealthy regions have made in opposing more housing construction, a prerequisite to make room for more people....

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Richest Counties

December 8, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Ranked by median income for the years 2012 to 2016, all five of the top five counties in the entire United States are Washington, D.C. suburbs, reports:

According to the American Community Survey's new five-year estimates (2012-2016), the five richest counties in the country are: Loudoun County, Va., where the median household income was $125,672; Falls Church City, Va., where it was $115,244; Fairfax County, Va., where it was $114,329; Howard County, Md., where it was $113,800; and Arlington County, Va., where it was $108,706....

An additional four Washington-area counties made it into the Top 20: No. 9 Fairfax City, Va. ($104,065); No. 14 Montgomery County, Md. ($100,352); No. 17 Prince William County, Va. ($98,546); and No, 20 Stafford County, Va. ($97,606).

That gave the Washington, D.C. area a total of 9 out of the 20 richest counties in the United States.

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New York and the Senate Tax Bill

December 6, 2017 at 11:41 am

The news columns of the New York Times, borrowing a dull rhetorical knife from the drawer of Senator Schumer, are describing the tax bill recently passed by the Senate as "an economic dagger aimed at high-tax, high-cost and generally Democratic-leaning areas — most notably New York City and its neighbors."

What's the risk? The Times explains, "The bill, if enacted into law, could send home prices tumbling 10 percent or more in parts of the New York area, according to one economic analysis."

Also, the Times says:

local politicians could find it harder to raise taxes to pay for services. Mr. de Blasio, for example, has called for a tax on millionaires to help fix the city's subway system. Mr. Murphy, the New Jersey governor-elect, wants a similar tax for public schools.

Without the state and local tax deduction, those plans could face more opposition.

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Patagonia's Corporate Political Speech

December 5, 2017 at 1:49 pm

The outdoor clothing and gear retailer Patagonia has been getting a lot of attention, mostly positive as far as I can tell, for turning its home page over to a political campaign with the emphatic headline, "The President Stole Your Land." The website claims, "In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments."

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Senate Tax Bill

December 5, 2017 at 9:52 am

The tax bill passed by the Senate is the topic of my column this week. Please check the column out at Reason (here) and the New York Sun (here).

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Voluntary Pay Cut For ObamaCare Subsidy

December 4, 2017 at 6:16 am

Kaiser Health News, via the New York Times, has the story of Anne Cornwell, 62, who "made $80,000 a year as a project manager for a small consulting firm that doesn't offer health insurance. Her husband, Donald Donart, 63, and a cancer survivor, receives Social Security and a small pension, bringing their pretax household income to $92,000."

They live in Tennessee. Their health insurance premium for 2017 was going to be $2,100 a month for a plan with a $6,500 per person deductible. The article reports:

Ms. Cornwell asked her boss to reduce her hours 30 percent, dropping her pay by $24,000 a year. She became a part-time hourly employee — at $56,000 a year. The couple now qualified for a $27,000 subsidy that made up for Ms. Cornwell's lost income. They claimed their subsidy as an advance tax credit — an option under the health law — to reduce their upfront insurance costs as much as possible. The Internal Revenue Service paid their insurer directly, which reduced the couple's premium.

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Photos of the Day

November 29, 2017 at 11:15 am

Over the post-Thanksgiving holiday weekend we took a family outing to the factory outlet mall in Wrentham, Mass. Wrentham is about a half hour away from Boston, vaguely near Gillette Stadium and in the direction of Cape Cod. It's the town that truck-driving Republican Scott Brown was from when he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

I've been shopping there for years. What was new on this visit was the proliferation of Chinese-language store signs throughout the mall. Here are two ads that were on display in the food court.

The ads are from Chinese banks offering credit cards. Remember, this isn't Flushing, Queens, or Chinatown in Manhattan, or San Francisco. It's Wrentham, Massachusetts.

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Regulation and Inequality

November 28, 2017 at 3:56 pm

From the New York Times, of all places, comes an article about how regulation contributes to income inequality:

...the escalation of land-use controls that drive up rents in desirable metropolitan areas; favoritism toward market incumbents via state occupational licensing regulations (for example, associations representing lawyers, doctors and dentists that block efforts allowing paraprofessionals to provide routine services at a lower price without their supervision).

These are just some of the causes contributing to the 1 percent's high and rising income share. Reforming relevant laws can make markets more efficient and egalitarian

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Reagan Bush 2017?

November 27, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Reagan nostalgia is the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at the New York Sun here or at Newsmax here.

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Minimum Wage

November 24, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Andrew Terhune has an interesting letter in the New York Times. He was responding to a Times op-ed proposing regionally varying minimum wages as opposed to a national, uniform minimum wage. He writes:

their proposal for different minimum wages in a country with "hundreds of different micro-economies" is not only exceedingly complex but also avoids the fundamental question: Why have a minimum wage at all?

The New York Times itself opined in a 1987 editorial, "The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00," that the minimum wage prices the working poor out of the job market. It still does. But it's also about choice. Shouldn't adults have the freedom to decide the price at which they are willing to exchange their labor with other adults? If we are pro-choice, we should be supporting the right of adults to make choices in all aspects of their lives, personal and economic.

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