• The Republican Tax Proposal: A Quick Summary

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Republicans roll out their tax plan. Here are the key provisions

    The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports:

    Business: 

    • Rates permanently drop from 35% to 20%, with lots of other changes in deductibility
    • One-time tax of 12% to repatriate overseas profits, returning them to US

    Individuals:

    • Reduces seven individual income tax brackets to four at 12%, 25%, 35% and 39.6%.
    • Top tax bracket set for married couples earning $1,000,000 per year and individuals earning $500,000.
    • Bottom tax bracket extends up to $90,000 for couples and $45,000 for individuals.
    • The proposal doesn’t change the top tax rates on capital gains and dividend income.
    • Keeps 401(k) rules intact
    • Nearly doubles individual standard deduction to $24,400 for married couples and $12,200 for singles in 2018.
    • Increases child tax credit from $1,000 in 2017 to $1,600 plus $300 for each taxpayer, spouse and non-child dependents.
    • Places new limit on home mortgage-interest deduction at loans up to $500,000, down from $1,000,000, but existing loans would be grandfathered.
      • Comment: Big impact on expensive homes, especially hitting NYC, San Francisco, Boston, and wealthy suburbs
    • Keeps estate-tax. Sets exemption at $5.6 million per person and $11.2 million per married couple. Repeals the tax in 2024.
    • Repeals the alternative minimum tax
    • Repeals an itemized deduction for medical expenses.
    • Repeals deduction for student-loan interest.
    • State tax deduction eliminated; local tax deduction changed (link here)

    Families would also no longer be able to deduct their state income taxes from their federal taxable income, another change that would have a particular impact on places like New Jersey and New York, where state taxes are higher than in other areas. Taxpayers will be able to deduct their property taxes up to $10,000. –Washington Post

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  • The values needed to succeed in modern society–and those who hate them

    Amy Wax and Larry Alexander make a powerful case that America is America is paying a heavy price for the steady breakdown of our country’s bourgeois culture (Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com)

    In this post, I will explain their argument and then show how they have been viciously attacked for it, culminating in a petition that their universities investigate them.

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    Professors Wax and Alexander begin by listing some of our country’s most difficult problems, from opioid abuse to low labor-participation rates. Lawyers call them a “parade of horribles,” and both Wax and Alexander are distinguished legal scholars.

    But this is not a legal article. Rather, it’s a thoughtful meditation on the deeper sources of our country’s problems and is intended for a general audience.

    The problems Wax and Alexander mention are well known. What’s important is that they argue that these problems are rooted in a breakdown in “bourgeois values,” once revered in the US but now ignored or damned in public discourse.

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    The contribution “bourgeois values” to American life–

    And the breakdown of those values

    To quote Wax and Alexander:

    The causes of these [bad outcomes] are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

    That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime. –Wax and Alexander in Philly.com

    These ethical precepts and social guidelines were widespread, broadly endorsed, and were not limited by race, income, or religion.

    These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement.  –Wax and Alexander

    They do not excuse the racism, anti-Semitism, and other black marks of that period. They mention them by name, before adding two significant points:

    • Those stains on our culture were being steadily remedied during that era, and
    • The remedies work best when they accompany bourgeois culture rather than condemn it.

    Banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture. Quite the opposite. –Wax and Alexander

    Their bottom line is powerful–and, naturally, has irritated the very people who are hell-bent on destroying bourgeois culture.

    All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all. –Wax and Alexander

    They conclude by urging Hollywood, the media, and cultural arbiters to return to celebrating the values that ultimately opened American society to upward mobility and integration and made our country so successful.

    Their argument broadly tracks two of the most important social theorists writing today, Deirdre McCloskey (writing on bourgeois virtue) and Charles Murray (writing on the social breakdown of lower classes).

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    The Left Hates these Bourgeois Values

    So They Hurl Invectives at Wax and Alexander

    “Racist, Sexist, Patriarchal, Hetero-normative” ⇒ “White Supremacist”

    54 Students and Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, where Wax teaches, write a scathing denunciation of her (Daily Pennsylvanian, student paper at UPenn)

    Their op-ed is a self-parody of academic-leftist clichés, ad hominem argumentation, and virtue shaming. It is sliming, not thinking coherently, and is virtually untethered to the argument they are purportedly rebutting.

    [Wax and Alexander] extol the virtues of white cultural practices of the ‘50s that, if understood within their sociocultural context, stem from the very same malignant logic of hetero-patriarchal, class-based, white supremacy that plagues our country today. These cultural values and logics are steeped in anti-blackness and white hetero-patriarchal respectability, i.e. two-hetero-parent homes, divorce is a vice and the denouncement of all groups perceived as not acting white enough i.e. black Americans, Latino communities and immigrants in particular.

    –Guest Column by 54 Penn students & alumni 

    They don’t just disagree with Wax. They explicitly attack her as a fellow traveler of the KKK and neo-Nazis: “it has come time to challenge the weak foundations of white supremacist rhetoric like Wax’s on cultural grounds.” Oh, and Wax and Alexander are sexist, too. Due to some oversight, they neglected to call them Zionists, imperialists, and capitalists.

    But they conclude with a chilling proposal, that the University of Pennsylvania investigate Wax so they can put a stop once and for all to her thinking.

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    The letter by the 54 (almost all from the anthropology and education departments) illustrates a point made by Norman Podhoretz:

    Our culture is ill-equipped to assert the bourgeois values which would be the salvation of the under-class, because we have lost those values ourselves. –Norman Podhoretz (Daily Mail, November 1989)

    Ironically, though many upper-middle class progressives will not defend these bourgeois values, they actually live their own lives by them and raise their children to respect them (even as they feel guilty about their achievements).

    This same hypocrisy applies, I am sure, to many of those who signed the letter condemning Wax and Alexander.

    • How many of those PhD students and professors have children out of wedlock (much less while they were teenagers)?
    • How many aspire to live in stable domestic situations, whatever their gender orientation?
    • How many are postponing families until they can afford to raise them well?
    • How many will move to a good school district and encourage their children to develop strong work habits so they can enter the white-collar workforce?

    The answer, I’m sure, is that nearly all these signers demonstrate their true regard for bourgeois values by living their lives that way–valuing hard work and education, postponing gratification, waiting to have children until they can raise them in stable environments.

    What, pray tell, is wrong with asserting that those values make sense if you want to succeed in the modern world? What’s wrong with defending those values?

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    Comment: My views on this should be clear.

    • The 54 are slinging mud, not making arguments. They are certainly not making sustained, rational arguments.
    • The 54 are doing their best to stifle reasonable debate on major issues, first by shaming, then by trying to get Wax investigated and perhaps fired
    • The 54 are engaged in mass bullying, pure and simple.
    • The 54’s letter bears no rational relationship to the argument they are sliming.
    • The issues raised by Wax, Alexander, McCloskey, Murray are others are crucially important and deserve open, reasonable debate. The arguments should ultimately be logical and empirically-based, not virtue signalling.
  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, April 15

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     North Korea displays new missiles but holds off another nuclear test (Washington Post)

    Comment: The situation is incredibly dangerous. North Korea’s leader is not only bellicose. He may well be mentally unstable. No one is sure.

    South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul, is very close to the DMZ, and very vulnerable to attack–including a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.

    China could put the squeeze on North Korea, but that does not mean it has control over the Kim regime’s actions. Beijing knows that China’s population is also threatened by North Korean weapons and that the two countries have a complicated, sometimes fraught history.

    My hunch is that Beijing would prefer to engineer a change of leadership that is friendly to China, less bellicose, and willing to pursue a Chinese-style market opening. But trying to achieve that is very risky.

     Good news on free speech at one college, Wichita State They tried hard to do the wrong thing, but they eventually got it right.

    An embattled student group at Wichita State University is finally free to engage in on-campus activism as a registered student organization. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government overturned the Student Government Association’s unconstitutional decision to deny recognition to Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student group, because of the group’s belief in First Amendment principles. –FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

    Comment: If you support free speech and don’t already know about FIRE, you’ll be happy to learn about it. It is truly even-handed, defending right and left alike.

     Related Story: Meanwhile, at Wellesley, a very selective liberal arts college, the student newspaper writes:

    Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. (The Wellesley News via HotAir)

    These students actually say that the “Founding Fathers” (a phrase that must stick in their craw) “put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised . . . [and] suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”

    Comment: The First Amendment does not mean “anything is acceptable.” As everyone knows, you cannot yell fire falsely in a crowded theater. Nor can you take a bullhorn and wake up the whole neighborhood at 3 am with your rendition of “I did it my way.” There are, in other words, some legal restrictions on the time, place, and conditions for speech. There are legal remedies for “damaging” speech, if it is false and defamatory (and perhaps known to be false when uttered).

    But for Wellesley students to actually defend their speech suppression as being true to the First Amendment is either disingenuous or historically clueless. Either way, it is wrong. 

     Two data-driven opinion pieces on wealth disparities between blacks and whites with college degrees

    Comment: The disparity is troubling and thoughtful, open-minded discussion is valuable.

    Going back to the previous two stories: this kind of discussion is much harder to have on campuses where everyone walks on eggshells, fearing a wrong word might offend.

     How deep is the Clinton camp’s denial?

    Well, Hillary’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told a Yale audience “Ukraine and the horrible ISIS beheadings” were “sort of manufactured press stories” (Daily Caller)

    There were the obvious crazy things happening like the website melting down, Ukraine, and the horrible ISIS beheadings; these sort of manufactured press stories that hopefully you all have forgotten about. –Daily Caller

    Comment: Those manufactured stories were nothing compared to that fake moon landing.

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    Many thanks to Christopher Buckley for the Wellesley story

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Monday, January 2, 2017

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ If I wrote checks . . .  I would undoubtedly be writing 2016 on them and then crossing it out. Actually, I would probably be putting 1996 on them.

    ◆ You know the country is goin’ to hell when . . . a waitress gets fired from the Waffle House for shooting at robbers. (Newnan Times-Herald in Georgia)

    Comment: I thought shooting at robbers outside a Waffle House made you employee of the month.

    ◆ Minimum Wage Hikes in 20 States. California, for instance, raised it 50¢ to $10.50. Gov. Jerry Brown fought for $15 but couldn’t get it. The story is here. (Daily Caller)

    Comment: In Austin, Texas, the starting wage at Dairy Queen is $12/hour. That’s because Austin is at full employment and every business there has a “help wanted” sign. As it turns out, higher demand for entry-level workers is a better route to raising their incomes than passing laws.

    Why? Because Dairy Queen knows that it can make money from new workers of average skills at that rate. Jerry Brown and the legislature don’t know. The rate that works in San Francisco might–just might–be too high in Stanislaus or Shasta, California. If so, then businesses will employ fewer workers (taking those with more skills) or not hire anyone at all. As Tom Sowell once wisely observed, “The effective minimum wage is $0.”

    ◆ Stronger together, sinking into oblivion. Minyon Moore writes an opinion piece entitled “Hillary Clinton is Not Done Making History Yet!”

    Comment: Wrong. Hillary is extinct, gone to meet her maker, joined the choir invisible. She is toast. 

    As for Ms. Moore, you can read her piece as, “please, Bill and Hill, put me on your payroll.” Moore is a Democratic “strategist” who was named in court documents as putting together an illegal campaign fund for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

    Related StoryVan Jones says “Clinton days are over,” and enthusiastically says the days of the Democrats being a moderate party are over, too. (CNN) He has endorsed Keith Ellison as a great progressive leader for the Democratic Party.
    Comment: When Jones says the days of moderation are over and touts Keith Ellison, every Republican shouts “Hallelujah” from the rooftops. Most would even be willing to tell Democrats what that word means.

    ◆ Guardian names Hillary their “person of the year.” Story here. 

    Comment: These people are idiots. Did they go on vacation in early November?

    ◆ School choice saves money, says a study of Wisconsin schools. Jason Riley writes about it in the Wall Street Journal.

    Comment: America has one of the highest per student expenditures in the world and is still getting mediocre outcomes. My own sense is that people are much more worried about schools’ poor performance than their cost. The costs become more irritating when we see generations of students leave urban schools with minimum skills.

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