Sep 7, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 48 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
The economic recovery is barely worthy of the name, and there is evidence that inequality in America is increasing. Ignoring the first rule of statistics—correlation is not causation—progressives see this as a new reason to expand government. Reduce inequality and the growth rate will increase.
But there is more assertion than fact in the claim that increased inequality results in slower growth. Some studies suggest that to be the case, others point out that so many factors determine an economy’s growth rate that heeding the call of the redistributionists will not add much to the flagging growth of our economy.
Still, respectable economists at the International Monetary Fund, famous for the speed with which they revise their forecasts, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development say significant income redistribution is needed if advanced economies are to grow faster. These practitioners of the dismal science are joined by our homegrown left-leaning economists—when they are not busy criticizing these very same organizations for backing the growth-devastating austerity Krugman & Co. contend has turned bad to worse in Greece.
All of this has morphed into criticism of the American economic model. Years ago it was Mussolini who made the trains run on time, then communism that would spread prosperity to the masses by sending capitalists north, then National Socialism that had the answer to a worldwide recession (rearmament). More recently we’ve heard hosannas to the centrally directed Chinese model, which now seems threatened by its internal contradictions. Now it is any system that is less unequal than ours, although beware of comparative data: The gap between Vladimir Putin’s reported income and that of a Moscow store clerk is probably less than the gap between a successful investment banker and a New York sales clerk. And if it turns out that reducing inequality can’t be defended as a growth enhancer, well, it surely can on grounds of fairness.
Not “surely.” If we are indeed engaged in a search for the economic system that looks in the mirror and declares itself the fairest of all, as President Obama believes he sees in the European democratic socialism model, it is not the income distribution figures that should be our guide. Most advanced economies do well by those on the top of the heap. The rich will always be with us, to borrow from Matthew, unless it was Mark. The place to look for which is the fairest is at the bottom: In which economic system is the living standard of the poorest highest? In America, some 50 million people live below the official poverty line, but that measure does not include food stamps, rent subsidies and entitlements, and other income transfers that supplement their wages. As scholar after scholar has pointed out, although being poor is not as much fun as being rich, and being poor can involve considerable hardship, the typical household living at 125 percent of the official poverty line or below owns a car, lives in an air-conditioned house, has cable or satellite service, a refrigerator, a microwave, and those with children have a game system. And 84 percent have two or three color television sets according to the Energy Information Administration. The average poor American has more living space than the average European.
So before attacking inequality by raising taxes on the rich and hiking the minimum wage, think of the word used by the great William Buckley: “stop.” Stop taking cash out of the paychecks of the poor and middle class to subsidize $85,000 electric cars for Hollywood celebrities; stop raising the energy bills of the poor and of struggling workers by forcing them to buy wind-produced energy instead of cheaper coal- and natural-gas-based energy; stop making it difficult for poor and even not-so-poor farmers to make a living so that little fish can swim around unimpeded; stop the government monopoly from fleecing middle-class taxpayers to support students who don’t want to repay their loans; stop taxing Joe the plumber for gasoline he buys to get to work so that richer cyclists have still more bike lanes in which to amuse themselves. There’s more, but you get the idea. I hope this bit of hyperbole helps to focus the debate.
2:20 PM, Jun 25, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON and WILLIAM KRISTOL
The Supreme Court’s ruling in King v. Burwell is disappointing. But it also provides a welcome moment of clarity: We can finally dispense with the false belief that the Supreme Court will save us from Obamacare.
1:36 PM, Jun 16, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
A review of $2.8 billion in subsidies paid to health insurers on behalf of Obamacare enrollees during the early days of the program could not verify the accuracy of those payments.
11:46 AM, May 26, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
In the initial years following Obamacare’s passage, Republicans remained solidly united on one crucial point: Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced, not “fixed.” But some Republicans and center-right pundits have since decided that trying to fix the president’s signature legislation is a good thing. Witness this advice from the Wall Street Journal editorial board. The Journal calls for a “subsidies-for-deregulation deal”
10:05 PM, May 13, 2015 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Assuming a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, his top domestic priority will be—and should be—to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The five hidden ways you’re paying to subsidize renewable power. Apr 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 31 • By BRIAN H. POTTS
Do you want to know how to beat the stock market? In 46 of America’s 50 largest cities, installing a fully financed, typical-sized, residential solar power system will do just that, according to a Department of Energy-backed study released earlier this year. In other words, by investing in solar panels, most homeowners will save more in electric costs over the next 25 years (the approximate life of the system) than they would earn from investing the same money in the stock market over that same time period.
10:05 AM, Mar 5, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who rode his opposition to Obamacare to a seat in the Senate, has introduced legislation that should help Republicans avoid turning a potential victory at the Supreme Court into a defeat for the cause of repeal. Sasse’s bill, introduced yesterday evening, is designed to keep Republican governors and state legislators from setting up state-based exchanges in the wak
Hosted by Michael Graham.1:00 PM, Nov 14, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Steve Hayes on Jonathan Gruber's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.
Halbig, but King bigger Nov 24, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 11 • By ADAM J. WHITE
In their final push to enact Obamacare, Nancy Pelosi urged her fellow Democrats to “pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” They probably should have found out first. Now they need the Supreme Court to “find” once again in their favor.
7:01 AM, Jul 28, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
The New York Times has described M.I.T. economist Jonathan Gruber as “a card-carrying Democrat” whose “position as an adviser to the influential Congressional Budget Office also left him perfectly positioned to advise the White House on health reform.” Moreover, the Times writes, “After Mr. Gruber helped the administration put together the basic principles of the [Obamacare] proposal, the White House lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation.” Now it turns out that, as the Competitive Enterprise Institute has unearthed, Gruber told audiences as far back as early 2012 that Obamacare’s taxpayer-funded subsidies couldn’t flow through federally established exchanges, but only through state-established ones. More recently, Gruber has been singing a different tune, as legal challenges on that aspect of the law have proceeded.
3:17 PM, Jan 26, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The boss reported this morning on CBS that Republicans will unveil an alternative to Obamacare tomorrow in the Senate:
Said host Bob Schieffer, "Bill, you actually have some news, I understand, because you've learned that the Republicans are going to, what, present an alternative to Obamacare?"
5:23 PM, Nov 20, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
As Congress moves ahead with the farm bill -- legislation that has historically been full of (figurative) pork -- there's one really obvious measure that needs to be eliminated. A new program that will require that catfish be monitored by the Department of Agriculture. Catfish, like all fish consumed by Americans, is already monitored by the Food and Drug Administration. Supposedly, this extra layer of regulation is a matter of food safety.
Plus, the law's privacy problems haven't disappeared.2:42 PM, Sep 12, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
As the October 1 implementation of parts of Obamacare nears, House Republicans continue to pass legislation aimed at highlighting the health care law's flaws and weaknesses. On Thursday, the House passed a bill to reform an Obamacare verification process that would better stop fraudulent claims to health insurance subsidies. Politico reports: