Bring-it-on Dep’t

Republicans want to vote against taxing oil companies? This summer? What a gift for the Democrats!

Republicans want to fight a tax on oil drillers? This summer? Be my guest.

If the Democrats are smart, they’ll bring the jobs bill back to the floor with an additional oil tax – above and beyond the cost of the Gulf clean-up – to pay for it. Or instead of a tax, eliminate some of the tax breaks for drilling.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

9 thoughts on “Bring-it-on Dep’t”

  1. I hope Mark is right, but I'm at the point where I think the public will (a) not be informed about this, or (b) not care.

  2. If supporters of the Democrats are smart, they'd realize that the perceived cleverness of the Democrats is irrelevant. The Democrats are smart, very smart. They are achieving, with a remarkable degree of success, exactly what they set out to achieve: an ongoing transfer of wealth upward (with a few crumbs like the Comprehensive Access to Care Act tossed down to the masses). As such, the probability of an additional oil tax being enacted, whatever the rationale, approaches zero. I guess all those poor unemployed people are out of luck.

    Now, if the Democrats are uncorrupted (morally and intellectually) they'd realize that a jobs bill doesn't need any gimmickry for its funding. Aggregate demand is in the dumps. Capacity utilization is low and unemployment is high. A robust jobs program could be funded, without risking inflation, simply by "printing" dollars. Of course, if that is done, then the economic elites, the people who fund the Democrats, would not be able to extract rents at the level to which they've become accustomed over the past 20-30 years. Hence, the probability of this happening is zero.

    (Think the real reason a robust jobs bill won't happen is those mean ol' wepubwicans in the Senate? If so, you may be interested in some pristine beachfront property on the Louisiana coast I have for sale. Cheap.)

  3. what state does Ben Nelson represent? Oh yeah, OK. I don't suppose there are any oil companies in OK are there? And if there were, I don't suppose he'd be inclined to run interference for them, would he? Nah, what am I thinking?

  4. "They are achieving, with a remarkable degree of success, exactly what they set out to achieve: an ongoing transfer of wealth upward".

    So, when democratic voters elect representatives who basically do what they campaigned to do, does this mean that democratic voters want to transfer money upwards as well? I'm missing the big conspiracy.

  5. Eli:

    No conspiracy, just the nature of power. Powerful people seek to consolidate and expand their power. In a democracy this is often done through regulatory capture. Achieving favorable policy outcomes is done by contributing large amounts of money to political campaigns and offering lucrative post-government employment to politicians and their staffers. Power and wealth go hand in glove. Duh.

    Look at the evidence of income distribution trends over the last thirty years. Wealth, through income, is clearly being transferred upwards over this period. During these thirty years, the Democrats controlled the Presidency for almost ten years, the House for eighteen years, the Senate for 15-16 years (control changed hand for a time during the 107th Congress), and the both houses of Congress at the same time for twelve years. The Democrats surely own a large part of the responsibility for the trends in income distribution and they are being rewarded handsomely for their labors. Just look at the shining example of Billy Tauzin. And after steering an incredibly weak financial sector "reform" bill through the Senate, you don't think Chris Dodd is going to step into an extremely comfortable sinecure at some lobby shop or foundation after retiring later this year? (If not, call me about that Lousiana beachfront. Really.) Further, the revovling door continues to spin under the current administration serving as the primary conduit for the flow access, power and money between government and the private sector. Need more evidence? Look at who is largely responsible for the wording of theComprehensive Access to Care Act.

    As for Democratic voters' motivations, I suspect that like most voters they are relatively "low-information". Few people have the time or inclination to follow politics, much less the policy-making process, closely. I think they are are swayed by tribal narratives that offer emotionally comforting explanations and blame the other team for the long term effects of economic policy. What I don't get are the Democratic voters who are informed but don't feed at the government trough. Either their economic self interest is not of primary importance when deciding their votes or they are in deep, deep denial.

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