Monday, August 30, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
There’s a great paper put out by the Tax Policy Center, which puts into greater detail what the effect of the Obama administration’s proposed tax plan would actually mean at different income levels. The paper determines:
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
--Robert L. Rabin, Federal Regulation in Historical Perspective, reprinted in Peter L. Strauss, Todd D. Rakoff & Cynthia R. Farina, Administrative Law 13, 17 (2003).
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
On June 10, when the Iranian opposition movement cancelled its planned commemoration of the anniversary of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection, commentators assumed that the Green Movement was finally finished. For months, it had been criticized as lacking strong leadership and for being unable to seriously challenge Iran’s entrenched regime.
But the history of political turmoil in twentieth-century Iran suggests that the movement may yet survive. After all, movements propelled by similar social currents have succeeded in dramatically changing Iran in the past.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Speculation as to the source of the damage abounded during the days in which the tanker sat in port being examined by officials from the UAE. Among these were freak waves, terrorist attacks, collisions with submarines, or collisions with a marine mine, potentially left over from the Iran-Iraq war.
Then, eight days after the event, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an al-Qaeda affiliate responsible for attacks on resorts in Egypt in 2004 and 2005, claimed credit for what it termed an attack on the tanker. At that time, most experts dismissed the claim as untrustworthy because it came so long after the attack occurred, the damage to the hull of the tanker was regular, there was no apparent breach of the hull, and no scorch marks. But just one day later, Officials from the United Arab Emirates reported that their investigation had determined the tanker had been attacked using homemade explosives and dingy.
Attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf are extraordinarily rare. Any assault—attempted or successful—in the vital Straits of Hormuz should cause considerable concern. A successful assault in the Straits could potentially bottle up 40% of the worlds crude—at least temporarily. The effect on the price of crude would likely be astronomical.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The basic framework we have for thinking about consumer spending goes back to none other than Milton Friedman, whose “permanent income” hypothesis says that people will save most of any income change they see as merely transitory. Telling rich people that we’ll keep their taxes low for a couple more years is, for them, a transitory income gain; they’ll save the bulk of it.
Isn’t the same true for lower-income people? Not to the same extent. Permanent-income reasoning doesn’t fully apply when some people are “liquidity-constrained” — they have depressed income, which would make them want to spend more than they earn right now, but they’re out of assets and unable to borrow, or unable to borrow except at relatively high interest rates. People in that situation will spend much or all of any temporary windfall.
So if we give money to people likely to be liquidity-constrained, they are likely to spend it. That’s why aid to the unemployed is an effective stimulus; it also suggests that tax cuts for lower-income workers will be relatively effective at raising demand. But the affluent, who typically have lots of assets and good access to borrowing, are much less likely to be in that situation.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
[Y]ou cannot start from scratch. You cannot forget history. You cannot pretend that the Republican Party has not supported big and wasteful spending programs—energy subsidies, farm subsidies, unnecessary homeland security projects, profligate defense contracts, you name it—for the last decade. Before the Republican Party can have any credibility on any spending issues whatsoever, Republican leaders need to speak frankly about the mistakes of the past.
They also must be extremely specific about which policies and which programs they are planning to cut in the future. What will it be? Social Security or the military budget? Medicare or the TSA? Vague "anti-government" rhetoric just doesn't cut it anymore: If you want a smaller government, you have to tell us how you will create one.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Though his tone is negative, Sanger is ultimately inconclusive. He does question, however, whether “30,000, or even 60,000, [troops] could have brought stability to a vast country, where tribes, not governments, are the ruling powers?” He notes, “The Taliban—a native movement—would almost certainly have waited it out, figuring Washington could not sustain so large a force for very long.”
It strikes me that Sanger’s analysis rolls up a bit of Orientalism with two curious assumptions. The Orientalism is obvious in Sanger’s contrast between government and tribes. The dichotomy is, of course, false. Tribal power and governmental power are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, tribes can be an incredibly effective mode of governance and an excellent building block on which to develop communal reconciliation and broader governance. Both the US experience in Anbar province in Iraq and the history of Somaliland since 1991 provide excellent examples of tribes behaving in just this way. The dichotomy, though, is not Sanger’s alone—the Western penchant for contrasting civic government, epitomized in Western states, with any mode of governance that is alien is well trod territory.
The curious assumptions in Sanger’s analysis are that he apparently believes the Taliban to both be static and monolithic, and popular. Sanger’s belief that the Taliban could have waited out a US/NATO deployment of 30,000-60,000 troops suggests that he believes the Taliban circa 2001 and the Taliban today to be the same, unchanging, and monolithic. Sanger’s implicit contrast of the Taliban, “a native movement,” with Karzai’s government and its supporters suggests that he believes the Taliban to have an Afghanistan-wide base of support.
Comparing the budding truth of Sanger’s second assumption to the origin of the Taliban—and its level of popular support in 2001—demonstrates that his first assumption is false. The Taliban began as a Pashtun movement and in large measure it remains so today. It is true that the insurgency is spreading from Pashtun heartlands—both in the south, Helmand, and in the north, Kunduz—to reach non-Pashtun majority provinces. The Taliban’s emerging national strength has only come through nearly a decade of Western malfeasance in Afghanistan—without failing to deliver on promises of reconstruction and improved livelihood, without scuttling the goodwill of the Afghan people by killing so many civilians, without supporting an obviously corrupt regime while pretending otherwise, it is unlikely that the Taliban would have garnered popular support beyond the ranks of the Pashtun. It is little wonder that the Taliban were able to inflict so little damage on the ISAF for so many years—it took time for ISAF to do sufficient damage to itself vis-à-vis the civilian populace for the Taliban to reap benefits in the form of increased popular support, greater numbers of fighters, and greater freedom of movement. Thus, a greater security presence at the outset—provided that security force employed COIN principles properly—would likely have made all the difference in the world.