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September 26, 2003
Blogging Around

Brace yourself. Read Nathan Newman and then (it pains me to type this, yes), support the Bush Administration in calling for European countries to forgive outstanding Iraqi loans. Well, "loans" where the money was used to buy weapons, anyhow. Also read the comments on the post, where a few interesting points have been raised.

(Clicking on link on Nathan's site I see that the Bush Administration didn't "napalm" Iraq, they "firebombed" Iraq. That's a pretty tiny hair to split.)

Via John McKay, we get to the " Reagan had 'evil sex' angst story, which I mention only because of my amusement that in the "see also" column next to it is the headline, "Is George Bush following the Reagan path?"

Okay, it wasn't actually that funny. Reagan and Bush both rank about the same on my "interested in their sex life" scale, which is in significant 3-digit negative numbers.

On the other hand, I'm impressed by this Reagan letter excerpt:

But in a personal letter to Brezhnev at the height of the Cold War, he asked: "Is it possible that we have let ideology, political and economical philosophy and government policies keep us from considering the very real, everyday problems of the people we represent?"

As a matter of fact, I'm very impressed. I may buy the book.

Via Cursor, an interesting WaPo story

Some Republican aides say the numbers may be more defensible than they sound because the budget is not quite real. They suggest the administration has inflated costs, in part to avoid having to come back next year for a new emergency spending bill, and in part so they can skim some of the money for classified military efforts.

Remember that "cancelled" Pentagon spy program we were discussing just recently? The one I said the Pentagon could probably skim money from other places to fund if it wanted to?

Check out Hellblazer and be sure and click through from the link he provides to read the full text.

I'm pleased to read that someone with more expert knowledge than I have (well, that wouldn't be hard), Matthew Yglesias, thinks the "freedom of speech" connection to telemarketing is nonexistent. Many commenters disagree with him.

Over at TAPPED, John Judis says skeptics were right about Iraq. It's not news to the skeptics, but he's always worth reading.

Ezra Klein at NotGeniuses discusses tariffs. They're a tricky proposition.

The simplest illustration is that the Feds collect tax money from you to give to cotton farmers so that the price of cotton stays low. That's a subsidy.

You pay for the cotton, you understand. Whether directly or indirectly, you're paying for it.

In fact, it could be argued that because of the inefficiencies of large organizations, the amount of money swallowed up in "administrative costs" to process the tax dollars through the system and then get what's left to the cotton farmers makes the true cost of cotton much higher than it has to be.

But it's a mistake to look at economic questions too simplistically and you have to stop and remember that Dick Cheney and Warren Buffet are both paying about $3 to keep a bale of cotton cheap for every fifty cents that you pay (numbers grossly oversimplified). They pay $2 so that Pauline living in public housing and trying to raise three kids on her own and on an income of $12,000 a year, only has to pay 5 cents for her share of the subsidy. Since there are more Paulines in the country than Cheneys, Cheney's higher taxes support his "share" of the subsidy and the "shares" of several poor families. That keeps cotton cheap enough, in theory, that Pauline can afford to buy tee shirts for her three kids. A subsidy, looked at that way, is a way of spreading wealth around more equitably. It supports the cotton farmer (before the age of corporate farming, the vast majority of farms in the USofA were break-even family ventures) and gives the Paulines a little break.

Then you have to add international trade into the mix. It does no good to subsidize the price of USofA cotton to keep it within Pauline's reach if USofA cotton prices are higher than the price of cotton imported from Otherland. Pauline still has to pay her 5 cent subsidy, but with the 45 cents she saves, she can buy twice as much Otherland cotton as USofA cotton, so she does. That means the collected tax dollars are, effectively, being wasted. There's no point in subsidizing prices to keep them low unless you can keep them so low that demand remains high. There's no point in making Pauline pay five cents, or even making Cheney pay $3, if it's not going to result in a saleable crop (i.e., economic activity where the money spent and collected remains inside of and a part of the USofA economic cycle).

Anyhow, tariffs are extra taxes imposed on Otherland's cotton so that it's not cheaper than USofA cotton. So when you considering removing tariffs, you have to consider whether or not there's any real point, in the end, of continuing in the many, many domestic subsidies that the tariffs help make economically effective.

I'd imagine that an economist would have nightmares about that simplistic explanation and of course it leaves out a lot of critical factors like the lobbying dollars of the cotton industry and, in fact, the amazingly destructive impact on the environment that processing cotton makes anyhow, but my point, which I haven't quite lost sight of yet, is that while I support doing what we can to improve the economies of third-world countries, I'm not sure I support doing it at the expense of the domestic economy which is already pretty much in the toilet, so removing tariffs or rethinking subsidies is something we should really approach with enormous care.

When I re-read sentences like the one above, I wonder why anyone tries to read this blog at all.

You'd be better off going to check out Emma who is in the midst of educating herself about a related topic.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:17 AM