Banks and bunkum

An infrastructure bank is a proposal no reasonable person could oppose; therefore Republicans will oppose it. But don’t despair; for every stupid Republican argument against it one can construct an equally stupid Democratic argument for it.

Larry Seidman, Bob Hockett, and I are working on a project to estimate the amount by which well-chosen investments in infrastructure would reduce national debt levels, so we naturally applauded President Obama’s recent proposal to create a $50 billion infrastructure renewal bank. In a rational world, no one could possibly oppose this proposal, yet no one expects Republicans to show the least interest in it. In a recent email exchange, Seidman sent Hockett and me the following pitch-perfect prediction of what Republicans will have to say:

(1) Do you want a new BIG GOVERNMENT BANK, AN OBAMABANK, and its bureaucrats to take over your roads, bridges, and trains?
(2) Do you want BIG GOVERNMENT projects to get you snarled in traffic jams while BUREAUCRATS decide what lanes to shut down on the roads you drive?
(3) Do you want construction UNION BOSSES shutting down your roads so they can grab your hard-earned taxpayer dollars?)

Not to be outdone, Hocket proposed the following responses for Democrats:

(1) Would you rather have a public-private partnership bank investing in real infrastructure that brings real jobs, lower deficits, and a better quality of life to ALL AMERICANS, or more budget-busting TAX CUTS FOR BIG WALL STREET BANKS and their robber baron clients who are trying to CONVERT AMERICA INTO A CASINO?
(2) Do you want our roads and bridges and airline routes to deteriorate even further and MAKE TRAVEL EVER MORE SLOW, SNARLED, AND HELLISH, JUST SO THE MONEY that would have repaired them CAN MAKE RICH UNPRODUCTIVE WALL STREET CLIENTS RICHER?
(3) Do you want all the DECENTLY PAYING JOBS THAT SUPPORT A VIBRANT MIDDLE CLASS to continue to be SHIPPED OVER TO CHINA? No, we didn’t think so.

Let the debate begin!

Frank v. Friedman on redistribution

This blog got started in response to the insistence by many on the right that evidence from the real world is no longer relevant for public policy decisions. But the left and right have been talking past one another since way before the appearance of the reality deniers. When the left says that redistributive taxation is required in the name of social justice, for example, the right counters that forced income transfers are morally illegitimate. There the conversation typically ends.

There seems little hope that the right will start trying to see things from the left’s point of view. But progress may be more likely if the left is willing to confront the right’s arguments in their own terms. As a case in point, I call your attention to a potentially fruitful dialog provoked by this strategy.

Continue reading “Frank v. Friedman on redistribution”