Tax ‘Reform’: Good for Senator Collins

by Andrew Stuttaford

Veronique, like you, there are plenty of things I do not support in the House and Senate tax bills (bills that, at the moment, are, overall, of  (I’ll be kind) uncertain economic value, but will come in very handy politically for the Democrats in 2018). However, I am afraid that I don’t even like some of the things you do like.

You like the reduction in the corporate tax rate, and so do I, although I do not see any magic in the 20 percent number. A reduction in the rate to, say, 25 percent would be likely to deliver similar advantages and, by reducing the cost, make the overall package easier to sell, not least to fiscal conservatives. I agree with you that lower rates will “improve competitiveness, and reduce corporate malinvestment and tax avoidance”, but I am unconvinced that they will mean higher wages any time soon. I also doubt that they will generate (at least in the short term) much in the way of additional growth or, for that matter, investment. US companies are already enjoying historically high profit margins and have plenty of cash in the till. If they wanted to invest more now, they could and they would. A tax cut that could easily—look at the polls—be reversed within 2-4 years is not going to alter the planning of investments when the desired rate of return is typically calculated over periods of five years, ten years or longer.

Ideally, a sharply lower corporate tax rate should be funded (at least in no small part) by steep cuts in the corporate tax breaks (I use the loaded term ‘break’ with reservations) for which lawmakers have been so well paid over the years. That does not appear to be on the agenda for now.

Instead, the war on tax breaks is directed mainly at individuals, and, in an example of quite astounding political naivete, often at tax breaks that, up until now, have enjoyed bipartisan support. By turning against them now, the GOP has, I fear, removed some of the last defenses that might have held up in the face of the next Democratic raid on taxpayers, a raid that will be coming along sooner or later, and, if I had to guess, sooner, not least if anything resembling the House plan goes through.  This is true of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction that the GOP is, of course, proposing to scale back (full disclosure: I’m a New York City taxpayer), a change you support. I agree with you that removing or reducing that deduction makes the tax code even more progressive than it already is (and, believe it or not, the tax code is very progressive for all but the richest taxpayers), but I see no particular advantage in that.  And if it is an attempt at virtue-signaling, it will not change the minds of those already convinced that the GOP tax plan is a giveaway to the rich.

I’ve heard the argument that slashing the SALT deduction will persuade voters in Blue States (particularly on the coasts) to rein in the taxing and spending of their state and city governments. That would be great, but, looking at your numbers, there won’t be enough voters hit by this change to make, say, a Bill de Blasio change course. We both believe that higher taxes hit growth. Well, the result of this policy will (effectively) be to increase taxes on some of the more economically productive and thus, following our shared logic, pose a danger to growth in a not insignificant slice of that shrinking part of the country able to boast growth in new businesses or new jobs. That’s unwise.

Worse still, those affected by those higher tax rates will not blame local taxers and spenders, but, almost certainly, the GOP that changed the status quo. On a rough count, New York, New Jersey and California send just under 30 Republicans to the House of Representatives. Ahead of likely tough midterms in 2018, that is a total worth remembering. Those who believe that a substantial cut in the SALT deduction is economically and/or fiscally beneficial need to face the uncomfortable reality that those benefits will be more than canceled out by the consequences of a Democratic win.

More work to be done, I reckon.

Do NeverTrump Disagreements Matter?

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Republicans and conservatives who are highly critical of President Trump disagree with one another about nearly everything else. That was the main point of my Bloomberg View column yesterday: noting an interesting fact about “never Trumpers” that hasn’t occasioned much comment. People sometimes speak as though there is an anti-Trump faction within the Right. But it does not have the coherence that factions usually do.

Rachel Lu says she disagrees with me. She writes of me, “he suggests that anti-Trump Republicans have rendered themselves futile and irrelevant through their inability to get on the same page.” But she counters that the range of views among them should not “be regarded either as a failure or as a problem.” Instead it makes for potentially interesting and fruitful debates.

I wouldn’t say that anti-Trump Republicans had rendered themselves “futile and irrelevant.” I did observe, though, that the divisions among anti-Trump conservatives impose limits on their political impact. I gave an example of how this works. But even without the example I think the point is inarguable. A party or a majority faction of a party can be successful while containing diverse viewpoints. A sizable minority can be effective if it is cohesive. Anti-Trump Republicans are currently neither a large nor a unified group.

Some of them, nonetheless, have ambitions to be more than just a debating society. From time to time there is talk of a primary challenge to Trump in 2020. If a challenge is to be at all viable, Trump’s Republican opponents will both have to grow in numbers and overcome their disagreements. On immigration, for example, either they will have to arrive at a generally shared position or many of them will have to be willing to support a candidate with whom they disagree. Ignoring the problem will not speed this process along.

A Professor Gets a Lesson on the First Amendment

by George Leef

A pro-life student group gets permission from the university to write messages in chalk on a campus sidewalk. After they’ve done so, along comes a bossy, officious prof who tells them they can only exercise free speech in the school’s free-speech zone — but the speech-zone policy no longer exists. He goes to his morning class and comes back with a number of students who want to confront the pro-life group. They all begin to erase the chalked messages. Will this brazen assault on free speech just be forgotten?

Apparently not. I write about the case in my latest Forbes article.

Costs and Benefits

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Dylan Scott starts a Vox article this way:

Senate Republicans are gambling that repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate will make the math work on their tax bill.

But the $340 billion in savings comes at a huge cost: 13 million fewer Americans are projected to have insurance in 2027, and premiums are expected to rise.

The fact that 13 million fewer people are projected to have health insurance without the mandate is not a cost of repealing the individual mandate; it is much closer to being a benefit. If the projection is right, then the vast majority of those 13 million people will be leaving the insurance rolls because they want to leave it. They are currently signing up for insurance only because the federal government fines people for not signing up. Ending the fines will leave them, by their own lights, ahead.

Hillary’s Version

by Conrad Black

From my most recent NRO article, about Hillary Clinton’s book: “It was generally panned when it came out a couple of months ago for blaming everyone but herself for her defeat. I have never been a Clinton-basher and I was astonished by the venom, untruthfulness, and zealotry of her account.”

Whether you agree or disagree, your comments are, as always, most welcome.

Facebook Shouldn’t Censor Pro-Life News Outlets

by Michael J. New

This month, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Rossalyn Warren entitled “Facebook Is Ignoring Anti-Abortion Fake News.” In the piece, Warren expresses displeasure over the fact that articles from pro-life websites such as and are frequently shared on Facebook, while abortion-related stories from mainstream-media outlets apparently receive less online attention. Warren applauds Facebook’s efforts to censor articles that are hoaxes, generated by spammers, or written with a clear profit incentive. But Warren also calls on Facebook to explicitly censor content from pro-life news outlets because she believes such articles spread “misinformation.”

There is plenty to criticize about Warren’s piece. First, she provides no evidence that pro-life websites run stories that are factually inaccurate. Certainly some articles rely on anecdotes and some engage issues – such as the abortion–breast cancer link — about which there exists scholarly debate. But Life News, Life Site News, and Live Action make no effort to disguise their ideological leanings. Online viewers certainly account for this when they read those articles, and surely those sites receive so much traffic in part because mainstream media outlets rarely publish news or commentary that even bothers to include pro-life perspectives.

An article recently published in the journal Contraception is instructive on this point. The authors interviewed 31 progressive journalists who frequently report on abortion-related issues. During the interviews, over a third of the journalists admitted that they felt no need to present “pro-life” and “pro-choice” arguments with equal weight. Instead, these reporters felt it was their responsibility to address differences in merit between the two sides. Of course, in practice this often means entirely ignoring pro-lifers. While pro-life spokespeople tend to be quoted from time to time in political stories about abortion, the useful perspective of pro-life researchers is almost always ignored when policy developments occur or when new studies on these topics are published.

Warren’s notion that mainstream-media outlets present unbiased information on life issues is truly laughable. For instance, in 2006, the New York Times ran a front-page story claiming — based on a superficial analysis of state-level abortion data — that six recently passed pro-life parental-involvement laws were ineffective at lowering abortion rates among minors. The article all but ignored the 15 peer-reviewed studies in academic journals finding that parental-involvement laws reduce minors’ abortion rates.

Furthermore, in 2016, New York Times columnist Gail Collins claimed that funding cuts to Planned Parenthood resulted in an increase in the unintended-pregnancy rate in Texas. But Collins’s source was George Washington University law professor Sara Rosenbaum, who in fact wrote a study predicting an increase in the unintended-pregnancy rate; Rosenbaum provided no data indicating that such an increase had actually occurred. When this was brought to the attention of Collins and Rosenbaum, neither took steps to issue a correction.

Overall, the development of Facebook and other social-media sites has been beneficial to pro-lifers, making it easier for them to organize online. These sites have also made it far easier for the pro-life movement to bypass mainstream media and disseminate news and commentary on a range of life issues. Americans of all political stripes benefit when there is rich and open debate about issues of public concern. Facebook and other social media sites should recognize this and take a clear stance in favor of free speech, resisting the urge to censor articles and opinion pieces simply because of their ideological content.

‘Trump Is Right about Trophy Hunting’

by Rich Lowry

I wrote about Trump and elephants today:

It’s not often that President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is the voice of reason and compassion, but on the issue of trophy hunting, it makes more sense than his own Department of the Interior.

Trump put on hold the department’s initial decision to reverse an Obama-era ban and allow the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. In a tweet, Trump referred to trophy hunting as a “horror show.” He said he would be “very hard-pressed” to conclude that such hunting advances the cause of conservation, the justification for the decision.

Trump, who has publicly dissented in the past from the notorious trophy hunting of his own sons, is right. In this case, government by tweet is better than the alternative, and more in keeping with the interests of the most majestic creatures on this Earth.

Tuesday links

by debbywitt

Thanksgiving miscellany: Mark Twain, science, WKRP, Cicero, the best turkey fryer PSA ever, more.

KFC releases bath bombs that will leave you smelling like the 11 secret herbs and spices.

For those of us born between the 22nd and 28th and have always wondered, here’s how it works: The Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern.

Advice from c. 1200: How to Survive the Winter.

This Celebrity Perv Apology Generator is my new favorite thing.

Recreating the diet of a 17th century sailor.

ICYMI, Monday’s links are here, and include color photos of the 1939 NY World’s Fair, the traditional drunken turkey recipe, engineering the world’s largest telescope, and President James Garfield’s birthday (when he was shot, Alexander Graham Bell showed up with a metal detector to try to locate the bullet).

The Morning’s Sleaze Update

by Jim Geraghty

The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt is an ugly but necessary sleaze update…

As a second accuser comes forward with a description of Minnesota Senator Al Franken behaving inappropriately – this time grabbing buttocks, while he was a senator – New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, who called for Franken’s resignation after the first accusation from Leeann Tweeden, suddenly backtracks…

If Democrats “set this precedent in the interest of demonstrating our party’s solidarity with harassed and abused women, we’re only going to drain the swamp of people who, however flawed, still regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms,” she wrote. And when the next Democratic member of Congress goes down, there might not be a Democratic governor to choose his replacement.

I’m partly persuaded by this line of reasoning, though conservatives mock it as the “one free grope” rule. It’s a strange political fiction that anyone can really separate partisanship from principle. In general, the character of the party that controls the government has a much greater impact on people’s lives than the character of individual representatives. Those who care about women’s rights shouldn’t be expected to prove it by being willing to hand power to people devoted to taking those rights away.

Meanwhile, breaking late last night…

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.

Hey, I’m sure Roy Moore will clean up the place when he gets there. Kyle Whitmire reads Moore’s autobiography, where he describes meeting his wife:

“Many years before, I had attended a dance recital at Gadsden State Junior College,” Moore wrote. “I remembered one of the special dances performed by a young woman whose first and last names began with the letter ‘K.’ It was something I had never forgotten. Could that young woman have been Kayla Kisor?”

Moore later determined that it was.

“Long afterward, I would learn that Kayla had, in fact, performed a special dance routine at Gadsden State years before,” he wrote.

…In an interview Moore gave earlier this year, he gave a similar account, but for one detail.

“It was, oh gosh, eight years later, or something, I met her,” Moore said. “And when she told me her name, I remembered ‘K. K.,’ and I said, ‘Haven’t I met you before?’”

It’s a simple matter of subtraction. When Roy Moore first took notice of Kayla she would have been as young as 15.

Or perhaps 16. Moore would have been roughly 30 at the time.

Can you stand one more?

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette said Monday that she is among the many women who have been sexually harassed while serving in Congress — telling MSNBC that former U.S. Rep. Bob Filner of California groped her while the two Democrats were in an elevator.

“Some years ago, I was in an elevator and then-Congressman Bob Filner tried to pin me to the door of the elevator and kiss me and I pushed him away,” said the Denver lawmaker in an on-air interview.

Some of us who covered Filner’s ugly end, forced to resign as mayor of San Diego, are not surprised.

The local Democratic Party has known for a long time about sexual harassment allegations against Bob Filner, a former Democratic assemblywoman said in a Thursday interview.

“I blew the whistle on this two years ago to the Democratic Party leadership,” former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña said.

Saldaña said that in summer 2011 six prominent women in local politics, business and education told her that Filner had physically or verbally harassed them. Saldaña had been exploring what turned out to be an unsuccessful bid for Congress and the conversations came in the context of the 2012 elections.

Saldaña said she contacted former party Chairman Jess Durfee with the allegations and Durfee was among a group of Democratic leaders who met with Filner to discuss them that summer. She said nothing happened.

“As disgraceful as Bob’s behavior has been, it’s been tolerated by our Democratic Party leadership,” she said.

Environmentalist Attack Against Capitalism in NYT

by Wesley J. Smith

The New York Times rarely publishes a guest op/ed piece with which its hard left-wing editors have a significant disagreement.

Which makes a frontal attack on capitalism as the primary cause of environmental degradation and the global warming, by Benjamin Y. Fong, a notable development. From, “The Climate Crisis? It’s Capitalism, Stupid:”

The real culprit of the climate crisis is not any particular form of consumption, production or regulation but rather the very way in which we globally produce, which is for profit rather than for sustainability. So long as this order is in place, the crisis will continue and, given its progressive nature, worsen.

This is a hard fact to confront. But averting our eyes from a seemingly intractable problem does not make it any less a problem. It should be stated plainly: It’s capitalism that is at fault.

As an increasing number of environmental groups are emphasizing, it’s systemic change or bust. From a political standpoint, something interesting has occurred here: Climate change has made anticapitalist struggle, for the first time in history, a non-class-based issue.

So, those who have charged that “green is the new red,” have it right.

Which is odd, because the dirtiest economies have tended to be communist ones, such as the old Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. I mean, when there is no democratic accountability or rule of law, the government can do what it wants.

Those facts notwithstanding, Fong is explicitly pro communist:

On the defensive for centuries, socialists have become quite adept at responding to objections from people for whom the basic functions of life seem difficult to reproduce without the motive power of capital. There are real issues here, issues that point to the opacity of sociability, as Bini Adamczak’s recent book, “Communism for Kids,” playfully explores.

But the burden of justification should not fall on the shoulders of those putting forward an alternative. For anyone who has really thought about the climate crisis, it is capitalism, and not its transcendence, that is in need of justification.

Socialism as an ideology is only about two hundred years old, but never mind.

Environmentalism is becoming both anti-human–as I have written elsewhere–and pro-authoritarian economic control. Reader take warning.


What the Heck Is Wrong With People?

by David French

Post-Weinstein America has outed its latest predator. None other than Charlie Rose:

Eight women have told The Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.

The women were employees or aspired to work for Rose at the “Charlie Rose” show from the late 1990s to as recently as 2011. They ranged in age from 21 to 37 at the time of the alleged encounters. Rose, 75, whose show airs on PBS, also co-hosts “CBS This Morning” and is a contributing correspondent for “60 Minutes.”

There are striking commonalities in the accounts of the women, each of whom described their interactions with Rose in multiple interviews with The Post. For all of the women, reporters interviewed friends, colleagues or family members who said the women had confided in them about aspects of the incidents. Three of the eight spoke on the record.

The details are gross, with apparently well-known forms of misconduct like the “shower trick.”

A woman who began as an intern in the late 1990s and was later hired full time described a “ritual” of young women at the show being summoned by Rose to his Manhattan apartment to work at a desk there. The woman described a day when Rose went into the bathroom, left the door open and turned on the shower.

She said he began to call her name, insistently. She ignored him, she said, and continued working. Suddenly, he came out of the bathroom and stood over her. She turned her head, briefly saw skin and Rose with a towel and jerked back around to avoid the sight. She said he said, “Didn’t you hear me calling you?”

She said she told someone in the office, and word got around. A few days later, she said, a male colleague approached her, laughing, “Oh, you got the shower trick.” The woman’s sister confirmed that her sibling had told her about the shower incident soon after it occurred.

Then there’s the “crusty paw.”

The young women who were hired by the show were sometimes known as “Charlie’s Angels,” two former employees said. Rose frequently gave unsolicited shoulder rubs to several of them, behavior referred to among employees as “the crusty paw,” a former employee said.

It’s amazing how many members of our so-called media elite are turning out to be disgusting, exploitive, and crass. But lest we’d like to see our country run by the first 100 names we find in the Alabama phone book, I give you Alabama pastor Earl Wise

“I don’t know how much these women are getting paid, but I can only believe they’re getting a healthy sum,” said pastor Earl Wise, a Moore supporter from Millbrook, Ala.

Wise said he would support Moore even if the allegations were true and the candidate was proved to have sexually molested teenage girls and women.

“There ought to be a statute of limitations on this stuff,” Wise said. “How these gals came up with this, I don’t know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line.

“Plus,” he added, “there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20.”

Not to be outdone, meet pastor Franklin Raddish. 

For 40 years, “these women didn’t say a word. They were cool as a cucumber,” said pastor Franklin Raddish, a Baptist minister from South Carolina and a Moore supporter.

“You’re asking me to believe them,’’ Raddish said, “when their own mother didn’t have enough red blood in her to . . . go and report this? Come on.”

There is a sickness loose in the land, and it is no respecter of ideologies, social class, or faiths. 

Study: Land-Use Restrictions Drag the U.S. Economy Down

by Theodore Kupfer

Something seems wrong with the American economy, despite strong headline numbers. Nine years into the expansion, GDP and productivity growth remain below their long-term trends. According to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, restrictive land-use regulations in California and New York are a major reason why. The paper, by Kyle F. Herkenhoff, Lee E. Ohanian, and Edward C. Prescott, argues that “these restrictions have depressed macroeconomic activity since 2000.”

The basic idea is that land-use regulations artificially constrain the supply of land, driving up prices for housing and commercial rent — and that these regulations are the most restrictive in places where productive opportunities are plentiful. Take the Golden and Empire States, where, compared with the rest of the country, jobs abound and productivity is high. These states have extraordinarily restrictive zoning and development laws that drive up the price of land. Someone considering a move to San Francisco or Manhattan might find the cost of moving to be prohibitive and decide to continue living in a place with comparatively fewer job opportunities. Hence, the authors say, land-use regulations “raise land prices, slow interstate migration, and depress output and productivity relative to historical trends.”

That’s not a novel insight. Harvard economists Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag, for instance, found a similar result in 2012. But these authors contribute to the literature by developing a general-equilibrium model that evaluates what the economic effects would be if restrictions on land use were eased.

And they would be significant. According to the model, “U.S. labor productivity would be 12.4 percent higher and consumption would be 11.9 percent higher if all states moved halfway from their current land-use regulation levels to the current Texas level.” Even if California and New York deregulated back to their 1980 levels, the authors find, “aggregate productivity” would rise “by as much as 7 percent and consumption by as much as 5 percent.”

Of course, this is an inexact exercise. Not everyone would pack up and move to San Francisco if it became a cheaper place to live. People have sentimental attachments to their homes and communities that no model can capture. But there are certainly people who would make the move, and these regulations benefit a small class of homeowners at their expense. Easing land-use restrictions would open up opportunities for ordinary Americans. According to this paper, it would also give a major boost to the U.S. economy.

Blurred Lines? Not Really

by Fred Schwarz

Response To...

Beware of Running with the ...

Douglas Murray makes a good point (though perhaps overtaken by events) that Al Franken’s conduct in 2006 might not be sufficient to justify the expulsion from the Senate that some conservatives have advocated. But by characterizing the call for expulsion, or at least hearings, as blurring “the difference between bad manners and rape,” Murray seems to suggest that these are the only two ways to describe a man’s sexual misconduct. In fact there is plenty in between that no woman should ever have to put up with, and even “bad manners” is all too often a euphemism, especially when the misbehaving person is in a position of power over the victim.

The MP’s line about “unwanted advances” that Murray quotes (“How do I know they’re unwanted until I make them?”) does not really clarify matters. To be sure, confusion does exist in some encounters between men and women, but before breaking the intimacy barrier, one is expected to at least perform some due diligence (worse comes to worst, you can ask) instead of plunging ahead furiously on spec. And while the occasional clumsy smooch from an overeager date may be part of many people’s lives, that’s a lot different from meeting with a powerful man and being forcibly molested — let alone having him grope you while you’re asleep and bring along someone to photograph the act.

Murray decries “the new etiquette” that has resulted from the recent exposures of sexual abuse by men in power. But if by “etiquette” he means treating women with respect, it’s actually the same old-fashioned virtue that has been taught (if not always followed) for centuries, now demonstrating its worth once again. And there’s nothing more conservative than that.

Never Trumpers Divided

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Over at Bloomberg View, I point out that Trump’s Republican opponents don’t agree with one another on anything except for Trump’s unfitness.

Should Republicans moderate on social issues? Embrace a more populist message on economics? Reject nationalism or try to ennoble it? You’ll find conservative anti-Trumpers on both sides of each question. Republicans who generally oppose Trump don’t even agree on what to call themselves. Many of the people who embraced the Twitter hashtag #NeverTrump last year think the term is obsolete, since it referred to never voting for him and the election is over.

The main pushback the column has received takes the form of furious agreement with its main thesis. Sure, Trump-opposing conservatives don’t speak with one mind about guns or health care or taxes or immigration, but diversity is a strength! Maybe it is. But that diversity makes certain forms of political action–such as a primary challenge to Trump in 2020–much harder to pull off.

Senator Collins’s Puzzling Tax Demands

by Veronique de Rugy

There are a lot of things I don’t like in the House and the Senate tax bills. I haven’t been shy about them. Yet even I recognize that the parts of the bills that are bad economics may be politically necessary in order to get two of the most important features of the reform proposals:

a) A permanent reduction of the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from its current 35 percent and b) the reduction or elimination of the state and local tax deductions (SALT).

The corporate-tax-rate cut is the most pro-growth provision in the tax-reform bills. It will trigger economic growth and some wage increases, improve competitiveness, and reduce corporate malinvestment and tax avoidance. The elimination of SALT will simplify taxes by getting rid of a profound unfairness and distortion in our tax code.

While the House and the Senate bills have different approaches to tackling these issues, both chambers deserve some credit for sticking to their guns. This is particularly true for SALT (the Senate plan would eliminate SALT and the House plan would keep a limited property-tax deduction) considering the extreme pressure from special-interest groups. Besides, the president has made it clear that a 20 percent corporate tax rate is the highest he will accept.

This is why I was puzzled to hear yesterday that Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine) is now arguing that we should settle on a higher corporate tax rate and use the revenue from that to restore SALT. According to ABC News:

I also think the reduction in the business tax rate is too steep, and that we could go to 22 percent, and then use that money, which is about $200 billion, to restore the tax deduction for state and local property taxes. That would really help middle-income taxpayers.

What on earth is Senator Collins talking about? Middle-class earners aren’t the ones benefiting from SALT. As I wrote recently:

Data show that the lion’s share of the SALT flows to high-income taxpayers, who are most likely to itemize. According to the Tax Policy Center, “about 10 percent of tax filers with incomes less than $50,000 claimed the SALT deduction in 2014, compared with about 81 percent of tax filers with incomes exceeding $100,000.”

Brian Rield of the Manhattan Institute breaks is down further:

Wealthy families are four times more likely to utilize SALT than other families. Only 24 million of 125 million tax filers earning under $100,000 take the deduction, typically lowering their taxes by $1,000. By contrast, 20 million of the 25 million filers earning over $100,000 take the deduction and typically save $4,000 (and often much more), even accounting for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

In fact, half the savings accrue to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers — and in New York, half of the SALT savings go to families making over $500,000.

To see why, imagine state income taxes rising by $1,000 for each family. A wealthy family in the 40 percent bracket may deduct that $1,000 and see its federal taxes fall by $400 (subject to the AMT). A family in the 25 percent bracket receives a $250 federal income tax cut. The 70 percent of taxpayers who don’t itemize their income taxes — often middle and lower incomes — receive zero federal income tax relief.

Since the number of filers who itemize will drop significantly if the standard deduction is doubled, there will be fewer taxpayers claiming the deduction in the first place. In addition, a majority of those itemizing and claiming the deduction will benefit from lower marginal rates overall. To be sure, there will be some losers, but they are likely to be seriously high-income earners. Now you know me. I am not in favor of jacking up higher-income earners’ marginal tax rates to raise revenue in order to pay for counter-productive tax handouts.

I am not in favor of jacking up marginal rates, period. But I have no problem getting rid of unfair tax subsidies such as SALT that benefit those higher-income earners.

Is Senator Collins (along with many Democrats in New York and California) really ready to go to war to protect these taxpayers at the expense of some of the economic growth that would have been produced by lower corporate rates? Apparently, she is.

Uncommon Knowledge: John Cogan and The High Cost of Good Intentions

by Peter Robinson

How old are entitlement programs in the United States? Entitlement programs are as old as the Republic, according to John Cogan, former deputy director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a Hoover Institution senior fellow. John Cogan joins Peter Robinson to discuss his latest book, The High Cost of Good Intentions, on the necessity for entitlement reform in the United States.

Recorded on October 24, 2017.

University of North Carolina Faculty Tries to Hide Behind Accreditation

by George Leef

Accreditation is a great paper tiger. Supposedly it ensure that colleges are of high quality, but accredited schools routinely get away with degrees of almost no quality, as long as they have done everything necessary to look like a college. Accreditors don’t make any effort at monitoring the content or rigor of courses. Famously, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill let the athletics department get away with bogus courses for years — courses in the African-American Studies Department that were academic jokes just to keep star players eligible.

And now the faculty is imploring the regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to step in and tell the UNC Board of Governors that it cannot make the changes it wants (such as preventing the law school’s Center for Civil Rights from engaging in ideological litigation) without violating SACS’s standards. In other words, the faculty wants to use the threat of loss of accreditation to keep the Board of Govenors from doing its job.

The good news, as Jane Shaw writes in today’s Martin Center article, is that it isn’t going to work. She writes,

Last February, the assembly sent a letter to Belle Wheelan, president of the SACS commission, with a list of 17 actions by the Board of Governors or the legislature that it claimed may have violated SACS standards. The list was clearly flawed from the start. SACS obviously does not have any control over legislative actions, and yet most of the supposed violations of SACS standards dealt with changes made by the legislature, not the Board of Governors. They included such actions as “packing” the board by electing new members with “partisan bias.

What is going on here is that the Board of Governors consists largely of conservatives who are trying to exert control over the very leftist faculty and administration. Whining to SACS that the Board is doing things that violate accreditation standards is just a desperate ploy.

Shaw concludes, “Without fearing loss of accreditation for every little policy change, perhaps the governors can step up and bring badly needed reform to the UNC system.”

Don’t Buy the Apologetic Narrative on Al Franken

by David French

I very much appreciate Douglas Murray’s warning on the homepage that we shouldn’t blur the various lines of sexual misconduct. As he says, we can’t blur the lines between bad manners and rape. I’m keenly aware that atmospheres of hysteria can feed false narratives that all men are somehow “rapists or proto-rapists.” And I’m sure that we’ll reach the point where an accusation should make us shrug our shoulders and say, “That was bad manners, not illegal misconduct.”

But that’s not Franken’s case. Whenever there’s a photographic evidence of anything, we tend to fixate on the photograph itself — at the expense of the larger context. Here, the photo by itself appears to show a comedian groping a model, and the cheesy grin communicates a joking intent. But that interpretation ignores Leann Tweeden’s larger story

Remember, after she reacted strongly to his unwanted kiss, she claims that she avoided him as much as she could. He responded with “petty insults” and then, ultimately, groped her while she slept. Now, does all that sound like fun-loving Al was just joking around? Or does it seem more like a more-powerful entertainment figure was humiliating and degrading a woman who refused his advances? 

Not only does the distinction matter morally, it also matters legally. As I wrote before, when determining whether a person is guilty of sex crimes like sexual battery or forcible touching, intent matters. For example, in New York a person can be guilty of “forcible touching” when they make contact with a person’s “intimate parts” if it’s for the purpose of “degrading or abusing” that person. 

While rape is rape, grabbing a person’s breasts (even over their clothes) is no small thing, and it gets worse if there is malign intent. I’ve seen no one suggest that Al Franken should be prosecuted (there are a host of jurisdictional and other legal issues with a potential case), but resignation is hardly too much to ask. 

Al Franken

by Rich Lowry

He was very likely going to survive the Leeann Tweeden imbroglio. What would put him in real danger would be an accusation from his time as senator and/or any suggestion that he’s a repeat offender. The latest accusation from a woman who says Franken grabbed her backside during a photo at the Minnesota state fair in 2010 constitutes both. Given that she complained about the interaction at the time on Facebook, she’s credible. This pushes Franken closer to the brink, although I’m guessing it will take something else — and perhaps something more lurid — to push him over the edge.

‘This Horror Show’

by Rich Lowry

Needless to say, Twitter is a forum for Trump airing his instinctual reactions, and very often it isn’t pretty. But his gut appears to be in the right place on trophy hunting:

Here’s hoping that he doesn’t change his mind and we keep the ban on elephant trophies as a gesture toward affording these marvelous creatures the respect they deserve.