In a troubling harmonic convergence of this and that, Glenn links to an annoying article that pretends "mansplaining" is not deliberately sexist and offensive, but of course it is, and is meant to be. (And yes, I caged my inner Sheldon Cooper and ignored the author's scarecrow/hypotenuse/squares, not roots problem. Almost).
This definition of mansplaining is offered:
In case you’re late to this word party, here’s the first definition of that delicious neologism from the Urban Dictionary: “Delighting in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation.” And the example: “Even though he knew she had an advanced degree in neuroscience, he felt the need to mansplain 'there are molecules in the brain called neurotransmitters.' ”
I think we can preserve the value of the word communicating a combination of condescension and misinformation while eliminating the sexism by simply substituting "Voxsplaining". I am inspired by this ode to confiscatory taxes by Matt Yglesias. His launch point:
The Laffer Curve — the idea that tax cuts can sometimes increase tax revenue — is one of the most influential and widely debated ideas in the past two generations of American politics. Beloved by the right and despised by the left, one thing that both sides have tended to agree on is that knowing what side of the curve we're on should be a key driver of tax policy.
But in an era of surging inequality, it's time to revisit that assumption. Maybe at least some taxes should be really high. Maybe even really really high. So high as to useless for revenue-raising purposes — but powerful for achieving other ends.
Oh, we will experience the Laugher Curve all right. It's hard to pick a favorite bit of absurdity but here are a few candidates:
With the growing concentration of wealth an increasing subject of public concern, it's time to reconsider whether the application of Laffer-style reasoning to very prosperous individuals is appropriate.
Imposing a marginal tax rate of 90 percent on inheritances worth over $10 million, for example, would probably raise very little revenue. Rather than pay $90 to Uncle Sam for the chance to send $10 more to their kids, rich people would give the money to a tax-exempt charitable institution instead. That wouldn't help balance the budget — in fact, it would hurt those efforts — but it would help break the doom loop of oligarachy whereby concentrated wealth breeds political power breeds greater concentration of wealth.
Reihan Salam of NRO was thoughtul and interesting about the current scope of Big Philanthropy. Let me add this - if Matt doesn't yet realize that foundations, including scary right-wing foundations, can have political power he has lost track of progressive boogeymen such as Scaife, Koch, and now Walton.
And if Matt thinks that an heir to Sam Walton who can control the disbursements of a multi-billion dollar foundation somehow lacks for access, clout and A-list invitations, well, yikes.
Here Matt illustrates the power of positive wishful thinking:
Even more intriguing would be to apply the same principle of taxation-as-deterrence to very high levels of income.
About twenty years ago, Congress and the Clinton administration took a step that they thought would curb what they thought was excessive CEO pay. They said that salaries of over $1 million wouldn't be deductible from the employer's corporate taxes. Since that time, CEO pay has gone further up. Now the typical S&P 500 CEO earns 311 times more than his median employee. The reason isn't that tax deterrence doesn't work, it's that the authors of the law left a loophole big enough to drive $10 million through — you can deduct whatever payment you want as long as you jigger your compensation scheme to label it "performance based."
Imagine a world in which we not only closed that loophole, but imposed a 90 percent marginal tax rate on salaries above $10 million. This seems unlikely to raise substantial amounts of revenue. If you really really really really desperately wanted to give your CEO a raise, you would have that option. But for every extra $1 you give him, you'd have turn over $9 to the government. Why not use that same $10 to give raises to three or four people lower down the food chain who pay lower taxes?
So let's see - the last time we tried this Lucy's accountants pulled away the football before Charlie Brown could kick it. But this time will be different!
If Matt had some familiarity with Pikkety's work he might recall (as Mickey did) that back in the high-tax 60's the high earners saw a notional top rate above 70% yet paid an effective rate of 32.2% (p. 18, Table 3a). After the deplorable Reagan and Bush tax cuts, the 2004 top rate was 35% and the high-flyers paid an effective rate of (Table 3b) 26.2%.
Pikkety manages to calculate a higher overall rate for high-earners in 1970 by imputing corporate and unheritance taxes to them. Why (or whether) these tax rates are additive or should be weighted by, for example, revenue raised is left unanswered. Also left unanswered is why (or whether) a healthy fifty-something executive cashing a big bonus in 1970 should be worried about inheritance taxes well down the road, when that road may include tuitions, alimony, bequests, reversals of fortune and changes in tax law.
Finally, Matt has forgotten that back in the day corporation lavished perks rather than paychecks, which makes the comparison of stated income a bit suspect. RJR Nabisco bought multiple corporate jets which the chairman could use or lend at will; did that make him poorer than a magnate who has bought his own jet?
As to the idea that if the top executives are paid less the beneficient corporation will blithely pay the underlings more, well, sure. Or they might cut prices, or raise the dividend, or get everyone a free subscription to Vox. To be fair, part of the compensation of hanging around in the Number Two (or Ten) spot is the prospect of a promotion and the associated jackpot. Reducing the jackpot reduces the expected value of future compensation for the current underlings, and they may get balky if their expexted lifetine compensation is cut. Sort of like seeing all the waiters and hostesses fleeing Manhattan and heading back to Nebraska if Broadway stops paying actors.
Matt expanded on his fever dream:
Of course, the CEO might threaten to quit if he can't get his raise. But what are his realistic options? Every company in the country would be faced with the same dilemma — why waste the salary budget on paying confiscatory tax rates rather than on hiring and retaining front-line workers? That might turn around the deplorable stagnation in earnings that typical households have faced over the past several decades:
Hmm. That reminds me of some Big Mac math which had libs arguing (among other things, and until updated away) that by reining in the $8 million paid to the McDonalds CEO McDonalds could dramatically raise their $4.7 billion payroll. Total payroll could rise by 0.2% if the CEO were paid nothing; for someone earning $40,000 per year that is an $80 raise. I am not sure that kind of money will turn around the deplorable stagnation that is not actually happening anyway.
I lack for time but not targets. Carry on!
A QUICK HIT:
"Of course not every highly paid person in the United States is an executive at a large company."