John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis

Roubini and Altig on the WJS BLog – Does Overseas Appetite for Bonds Put the U.S. Economy at Risk?
“But not all economists agree with Mr. Greenspan. invited economist bloggers Nouriel Roubini and David Altig to duke it out over the potential perils of the current-account deficit. Take a look at what they have to say…”

Filed under: Economics

Tax Advisory Panel Comments

Comments on the “Advisory Panel’s Request for Comments #1”, from Cassandra Butts and John Irons, March 18, 2005
Recent tax policy changes have moved our system away from the basic principle of fairness.
TAX_REFORM_PANEL-CAP_COMMENTS.PDF (application/pdf Object)

Filed under: Economics

Social Security Privatization in a Nutshell

From Max Sawicky…

MaxSpeak, You Listen!
Under the George W. Bush Excellent Privatization Plan for Social Security, the Government borrows money and purchases capital assets on your behalf, selecting how much of each asset you will buy, dictating the process whereby your portfolio is transformed from equities to bonds to an annuity, charging you a stiff interest cost for the purchase, gutting what remains of your public pension, and guaranteeing you a feeding tube until the Lord calls you home. This is far superior to socialism, since you will be unconscious during the entire process.

Filed under: Economics

Rethinking the blog…

Blog –
So, I’m thinking out loud here…
Over the past couple years, I have posted a range of economic (and related, and not related) “stuff” here. As weblogs have moved from the fringe of the information society into the mainstream, I think a re-think is in order… about how often to post, about what I want to accomplish with this blog, about how best to make this blog useful.
With the explosion in the number of blogs out there, I think it’s becomming a burden for typical readers to read more than, say 3 or 4 blogs on a regular basis. In the early days, there was much less content per blog, so people would surf to a greater percentage of the blogs that are out there. In addition, it is getting to the point where there is just a flood of information comming from the blogosphere that the signal to noise ratio is just too low.
So what does this mean for ArgMax? I don’t want to contribute to the instant response of the econ blog community – there is not much space for that any longer, and unless someone is willing to spend 10-12 hours a day doing this, there are plenty of other sites where you can get the up-to-the-minute info better.
What is missing is something that is less instant post, but one that 1) maintains the relevance/style of a blog 2) filters some of what is out there, 3) finds new stuff that is not being echoed in a million other blogs, and 4) lets me express my views on what’s going on in economic policy.
Does this dictate a different kind of posting/medium? Perhaps.
My initial thinking is that the right approach might be to post a once-weekly article that has a general update to what’s going on in the world of economics and economic policy; as well as links to other things worth taking a look at.
In addition to posting the result here, I would send it to a list of people who sign-up to receive such updates.
This format would 1) save me time during the week, 2) would allow for a more thoughtful approach to posting, and 3) would make it easier for readers than having yet another blog to bookmark and remember to visit.
I’m not sure if this is the right approach, but I’m mulling it over – and it sounds right to my ear. Or, at least it sounds like a movement in the right direction.
So, what would be in the weekly update?

  • Updates for the Week
    • Economic Policy
    • Economy
    • Issue of the week (?)
  • What to Read
    • My Stuff from American Progress, other places
    • Blogs
    • Magazine Articles
    • Analysis
    • Research
  • Viewpoint
  • Links
  • Parting words
    • Interesting Quotes, Recipe, Soccer stuff.

Just a draft.
Anyway, let me know if you have and comments/suggestions…

Filed under: Website

Personal Network Manager

I am looking for some software that I would call “PNM” or personal network manager. I would like some software that made it easy to manage emails, addresses, etc., and that would also allow me to send email out so selected sets of contacts (e.g. family, friends, professional, etc.)
Ideally the software would allow me to categorize people in multiple groups and would have some nice graphical represenation of the results.
The most important part though is the email function… ideally it would let people change their info on-line, would allow people to sign-up for the lists, etc.
Any suggestions?

Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s your money.

So, I’m sitting here listening to the Senate’s debate on PayGo, and am not happy (to say the least).
The Senate’s Budget resolution (as well as the president’s proposal and the House) contains PayGo that applies to new spending but not taxes.
From the people supporitng the one-sided PayGo, there lots’s of people talking about how 1) tax cuts spur job creation and 2) how “it’s your money, and you should keep more of it” rhetoric.
1) While there are problems, the American economy is dynamic and vibrant enough that business doesn’t need to beg for a tax cut a year to survive. Congress needs to realize that the economy/jobs line is wearing a bit thin.
2) It’s OUR money, and WE get to decide how to spend it. If we want to spend it on education, scientific research, the national highway system, national parks, and health care for low-income Americans, that is OUR choice.
The PayGo from the 90’s worked.
This budget is a sham, top to bottom.

Filed under: Economics

Bad process reforms

Here’s the weird spending provision in the Senate…
From the summary of the Chairman’s mark:
“The Mark establishes a new 60-vote budget point of order against legislation that would create new direct spending of more than $5 billion in any of the four 10-year periods between 2015 and 2055, as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.”

Filed under: Economics

PayGo, etc.

There are 3 to 4 big issues likely to emerge as big fights in the Senate’s version of the budget: 1) PayGo, 2) Medicaid cuts in reconciliation, 3) drilling in ANWR, and 4) a provision creating budget process restrictions on any entitlement spending increase of more than $5 billion over any of the 4 10-year periods between 2015 and 2055…
On PayGo…

The Decembrist
One vote in the Senate will be of profound importance, however: On Wednesday, Senators Chafee and Feingold are expected to offer an amendment to the budget resolution restoring the “Pay-as-you-go” rules, known as PAYGO, which will require Congress to pay for any further tax cuts with offsetting tax increases or spending cuts. The budget resolution as passed by the Senate Budget Committee lasts week instructs the Senate Finance Committee to come back with tax cuts totaling $70 billion, which will add to the deficit.
If the PAYGO rules, which were rejected on a party-line vote in the Budget Committee, pass, those tax cuts will either have to be paid for, or they will be subject to a “point of order” in the Senate which will require 60 votes.
More likely, if the PAYGO amendment passes in the Senate, it will not pass in the House, and the two houses will not be able to agree on a budget resolution, which is not the end of the world. It happened last year. Without a budget resolution, though, there can’t be a budget reconciliation bill. The effect is the same as having a budget resolution with PAYGO in it: Any further tax cuts will have to be subject to full debate in the Senate, and can’t be rammed through with 50 votes.
Few things are more arcane than congressional PAYGO rules. And yet, little is more important, especially right now. A few weeks ago, in writing about Goldwater, I noted that the genius of Rove and his followers was that they had figured out how to separate the ideological conservatism that Americans liked from the operational conservatism — the real cuts in government — that Americans did not. PAYGO rules are a way of forcing those two back together. If Republicans are serious about cutting taxes and making government smaller, they must be willing to come forward simultaneously with the cuts they are willing to make and bear the consequences. Or, if they do not want to make cuts but still want to cut taxes for the top 0.2% of the population, they must be willing to say whose taxes they are willing to raise to pay for those cuts.

Filed under: Economics,

Bad econmics of mercury control

This is the kind of stuff that gives economics and economists a bad name.
The economic (as well as scientific) analysis that went into the formulation of Bush’s new environmental regulations appears to be fundamentally flawed and dishonest.

  • GAO’s report on the misuse of the cost-benefit analysis of mercury controll
  • More detailed analysis of the process/economics of Mercury regulation: A Perfect Storm: Mercury and the Bush Administration, Part II
  • American Prospect article.

    Filed under: Economics

  • Tax rates and income distribution

    A Note on Effective Federal Tax Rates: 1979-2002 – Center for American Progress
    A Note on Effective Federal Tax Rates: 1979-2002
    by John S. Irons
    March 2, 2005
    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently published data on the effective tax rates paid by households in the United States for the years 1979 through 2002.[1] Between 2001 and 2002, the effective tax rate fell for all households from 21.4 percent to 20.7 percent. The share of total tax liabilities increased for the middle and fourth quintiles, while the share of total tax liabilities fell for the bottom two quintiles as well as the top. (See Box: Effective Tax Rates below for more information on this measure of tax rates.)
    Upon first glance, the data appear to show that federal tax rates have become more progressive over the past 23 years. For example, if you quickly look at the effective tax rate and/or the tax share paid by quintiles, it looks as if the tax federal system has become more progressive.
    However, assessing the progressivity of the tax code by examining the tax share or the effective tax rate by quintile can be misleading. Over time, the historical effective tax rate for each income class can change either as a result of changing tax laws, or it can be the result of changing household incomes within each income group. Assessing the change in effective tax rates does not by itself lead to conclusions about the progressivity of the tax code.

    Filed under: Economics