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Monthly Archives: November 2008

All you have to connect are two dots to see that today’s terrorist carnage in Bombay is yet another wakeup call about the 100,000-fold danger of letting Iran get the nuclear bomb — let alone start turning out nuclear weapons on an industrial scale.

We now wait to learn what language(s) are spoken by the terrorists attacking Bombay; where they were trained, armed, and who dispatched them. But the horror of seeing the landmark Taj Mahal burn, of the grenades and gunfire, of counting the dead, of seeing India so bloodied at her main international crossroads — this is an attack not only on India, but on all civilized states. The demands for passports, and winnowing out of American and British citizens is a message that in particular ought to concentrate the minds of President Bush, President-elect Obama, and the fools in America’s “intelligence” community who produced last year’s National Intelligence Estimate implying there is no real urgency to stop Iran.

Diplomatic talks with the Iranians have been going on for years, courtesy of the feckless European Union. The only real squeeze has come from the U.S. Treasury, which, as noted on Pajamas by Matthias Kuntzel, faces such obstacles as gross disregard by many of our erstwhile allies.

Short of a military strike — which may ultimately and in the not-so-distant future be the only way – an idea for leverage on Iran, which President-elect Obama has endorsed, is to try pressure Iran’s gasoline suppliers into cutting off the sales to the mullahs. Here’s an article by one of my FDD colleagues, Orde Kittrie, on that approach. Here’s a piece from The Chicago Tribune, along similar lines. The clock is ticking.

Today, around family dinner tables, over turkey, in the comfort of a free country which has not suffered a major terrorist attack in more than seven years, we have so much to give thanks for.  A happy Thanksgiving to all. Our hearts go out to the people of India.

Now that America is replacing capitalism with a system of proliferating bailouts, there is the intriguing question of whether the U.S. mint is physically capable of printing all the banknotes that might be needed if anyone tries to redeem as cash even a portion of the hundreds of billions worth of rescue-stimulus-bailouts-of-the-rescues-of-the bailouts. As the numbers head toward the trillions, where might extra $100 bills be produced in a hurry?

A friend suggests that the U.S. Mint might profitably enlist the help of North Korea, which has a rich history of printing exquisitely crafted U.S. banknotes — counterfeit, of course, but almost indistinguishable from the real thing. At the U.S. State Department, with its endless quest to engage with Pyongyang, surely folks like Condi Rice and her point man for North Korea, Chris Hill, would grasp instantly that this idea is a paragon of win-win diplomacy. Hey, give North Korea some aid, and Pyongyang might be your friend for a day (if that). Give North Korea an official blessing to help America print hard cash, and it almost goes without saying that Pyongyang would think twice before helping anyone blow up Washington.  

OK — before the State Department gets all excited about the possibilities — I’m kidding. But is this idea all that much more absurd than some of the things the Bush administration has actually been doing? — including taking North Korea off the terror list in October, just weeks after U.S. authorities apparently blocked a North Korean plane enroute with a load of missile parts to terrorist-sponsoring, uranium-enriching rogue state Iran. The Wall Street Journal broke the story of the blocked plane on Nov. 1; Newsweek has just published an item elaborating on the likely cargo: “missile parts (possibly including gyroscopes for guidance systems).”

And there must be plenty to this story we have not yet heard. The plane was blocked not in North Korea, but in Burma, where it had stopped over enroute to Tehran. Permission for the plane to fly to Iran through Indian air space was first granted by India, then suddenly revoked — reportedly at the request of U.S. authorities. Good for them. But what has not been reported is what the plane stuffed with missile parts was doing in Burma in the first place. Or, after being refused permission to overfly India, where did it go? Where are those missile parts today?

As in the case of that secret nuclear reactor built with North Korean help in Syria, and near completion when it was blown up by the Israelis last year, all we get from Washington is a sketchy and belated admission (in this case, from nameless U.S. officials) that something outrageous and dangerous was thwarted. That also means that even after all the Six-Party Talks and promises from North Korea and concessions from the U.S., Pyongyang remains wedded to its longtime proliferation habits.

The game at State seems to be that nothing North Korea does, no matter how egregious, will be allowed to derail the process of ”engagement.” Help Syria build a secret reactor to make nuclear weapons? Airlift missile parts to Iran? Test missiles, miss deadlines, demand money, refuse inspections, and unilaterally revise the terms of any and every step of any deal? You name the outrage; North Korea’s regime since signing Chris Hill’s vaunted Feb. 2007 denuclearization deal has tried it.

And the U.S. response? One concession after another, with more talks due early next month. The scene we have here is that American officials spot North Korea red-handed, ferrying missile parts via Burma to Iran — and what happens? I have no inside information, but it is becoming all too easy to imagine a scene in which North Korea’s nuclear negotiator unfolds a scribbled note from his American counterpart. It reads: Hey guys, if you insist on supplying Iran’s arsenal, would you please re-route those missile parts so we can’t track them.  

The Green Gravy Train

November 20th, 2008 - 6:25 pm

While the UN issues scare reports about global warming, other reports keep stacking up that these alarmists are full of hot air.  The earth’s climate is immensely complex. The UN’s “consensus” process is immensely opaque. The UN’s accountability for anything it does is close to zero. What we really need is not UN-brokered, state-imposed restrictions on all productive activity (for which carbon rationing is a pretty close proxy), but the freedom to invent and adapt to whatever might lie ahead.

Thirty years ago the fear was climate “cooling,” with worries that a glacier would be back over Manhattan’s Central Park in no time. Now we are told the climate is warming so fast that we must re-tool almost all human activity pronto, or live out our days surrounded by underwater cities awash in the skeletons of dead polar bears. Actually, whether the climate is warming or cooling, or whether carbon dioxide emitted by mankind has anything to do with it at all, is far from clear.

But what is clear is that there’s lots of dictatorial power to be gained by any outfit — whether the UN, any national government, or some global Ministry of Air — that ends up in charge of rationing the right to give off carbon dioxide. For pals of such a crew, there’s lots of money to be made by trading in those rights. And in the fancy circles where multilateral bureaucrats and big business sup together, there seems to be almost no interest in signs that the great global warming scare could be the millennial equivalent of the idea that the sun revolves around the earth.

Last week I went to a black tie dinner in Manhattan, in which the theme was “green.” The main event was the webcast appearance on two huge screens, like some oracle from on high, of UN climate guru Rajendra Pachauri — whose agenda and credentials for this role ought to evoke dismay and probing questions, not the applause he got. More on that in my column this week for Forbes.com , “Dinner With the Green Glitterati.”

I don’t doubt that among those now counting their carbon emissions are people of good intentions. I can see good reasons for trying to cut down on good old-fashioned crud (which carbon dioxide is not) — which is something that democracies tend to do of their own accord, in answer to popular demand, as soon as they can afford it.

But as the cult of carbon sweeps the banquet halls of the high and mighty, complete with awards, prizes, back-scratching speeches and plans to turn this stuff into a global carbon-emissions-rationing regime (in which the U.S. would be expected to comply with its promises, and others would not), I do wonder how much in the way of unnecessary sacrifice — let’s say that again, quite possibly pointless, useless and unnecessary sacrifice –  these climate demi-gods might impose on the world before they’re done. I also wonder who among the well-connected is going to get awfully rich in the process.

Ban Ki-Moon’s Marie-Antoinette Moment

November 19th, 2008 - 2:14 am

People around the world may be tightening their belts, but at the United Nations in Geneva it was party time on Tuesday, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on hand to celebrate the new ceiling decor for the chamber now named “the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room” — meeting place for the UN’s so-called Human Rights Council.

The chamber’s new ceiling, product of Spanish artist and moneypit maestro Miguel Barcelo, rang up a price tag of — take a guess:

a) $230,000

b) $2,300,000

c) $23,000,000

Yep, if you guessed $23 million, you got it right. For photos of this latest piece of UN self-indulgence, check out Fox News, where you can click through pictures of millions of dollars worth of UN ceiling, including 100 tons of paint. Ban Ki-Moon describes it as “a wonderful addition to the United Nations that will capture the imagination of all who work here.” (That would include the imaginations, then, of the toilers on the Libya-chaired preparatory committee for the anti-Israel, anti-U.S. Durban II conference scheduled for next year; the Mercedes and BMW-chauffered diplomats from assorted tyrannies who cover for each other to deflect criticism mainly toward democratic states; the Organization of the Islamic Conference gang now seeking to block free speech worldwide under the label of banning blasphemy…).

The $23 million for the ceiling came from various pockets, some private, and some from the Spanish government — which has come under fire at home for ladling funds into UN decoration instead of using the money to help the poor. But at a time when Ban Ki-Moon has been moaning and groaning that the UN lacks enough money to feed hungry children, the larger question is why the UN would agree to this lavish gilding, let alone throw itself a party to celebrate. The UN bodies meeting under that ceiling have an abysmal record of serving not the people, but themselves. The price tag evokes echoes of the Russian czars, or the final days of the French court. All that’s missing is an inscription over the entrance to the chamber: “Let Them Eat Cake.”

Surviving the Age of Audacity

November 17th, 2008 - 3:50 am

Whatever the miseries of the markets, there’s one thing in rich supply – these are boom times for audacity. At the UN, Saudi Arabia has just sponsored a two-day forum on “interfaith dialogue.” Turn on the TV talk shows, and — Good Morning, America – there’s Bill Ayers lecturing Americans on politics. Open the Washington Post, and there’s Eliot Spitzer, opining about excess (ours, not his). And it just keeps coming, whether it’s Reverend Wright (back onstage, with Bill Ayers in the audence), the G-20, GM, that tinpot economist who wants to turn over the remains of your 401K over to the Social Security administration, the bailouts of the bailouts of the bailouts …

And this is before the era of “Change” has even officially begun, with its vague promises of grand social engineering; of socialism “rebranded” as “spread the wealth,” of censorship “rebranded” as “fairness,” of a potential super-majority chanting “Yes-we-can,” while re-creating America as a state-planned society in which No-You-Can’t. Somewhere in this sea of audacity, this slip-and-slide multi-flotsam relative-jetsam universe, words themselves start to lose all meaning. They convey no reality; just endless “narratives.”

How to survive this without going under, or going nuts? It will take more than pining over opportunities squandered, or pondering the demographics of potential swing states in future elections. What’s needed is a revival of clear-thinking and clear arguments about the principles and meaning of free men and free markets. This is a good time to re-read some of the classics, written in earlier battles in the same long war of ideas. To name just a few: Friedrich Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society“; Frederic Bastiat’s candle Petition; or, on another front, George Orwell’s ”Politics and the English Language.” Sure, you might have read them before. But odds are, they’ll make even more sense today, and they’re an awfully refreshing antidote to that phenomenon which has become known as the mass media.

Even more important, someone needs to teach these ideas to the next generation. Don’t count on that happening in schools already engulfed in political correctness; America by now has a teaching establishment to which Bill Ayers sells textbooks on how to teach. But there’s no reason why the “underground” should be the sole domain of the far left. Teach at home. Teach your children, your nieces, your nephews; read aloud to your family and friends — keep the ideas alive, so they will be there when America starts looking for answers more valuable than “audacity” and “change.”

In this spirit, I’ve been re-reading and would warmly recommend the works of C.S. Lewis, who died in 1963. He is best known today for his children’s books, the Narnia Chronicles, but he wrote brilliantly for adults as well — and bequeathed us a spectacular collection of essays and novels about the struggles of human nature in a world not of boundless relativity, but of good and evil. Like Orwell (who published “Animal Farm ” in 1945, and 1984 in 1949), Lewis did some of his best writing in the 1940s — staring at World War II, and the monstrous social engineering of Stalin and Hitler. You don’t have to subscribe to Lewis’s religious faith to find exquisite insights in “The Screwtape Letters” (1942) — letters from an wise old devil advising a young one on how to tempt a man into damnation. Some of the best advice ever offered to ambitious students (or to anyone, for that matter) can be found in Lewis’s Memorial Lecture given in 1944 at King’s College, University of London: “The Inner Ring.”

And, from “That Hideous Strength,” (1945), the closing novel of Lewis’s Space Trilogy, I’m copying in abridged version below just one of many passages that sounds as clear a warning today as when the book was published 63 years ago. It is part of a conversation in which a conspirator, belonging to an outfit called the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments, or N.I.C.E, is scheming to re-engineer to his own taste the nature of all mankind. He is explaining to an initiate how language can be used to hoodwink the public:

“Once the thing gets going we shan’t have to bother about the great heart of the British public. We’ll make the great heart what we want it to be. But in the meantime, it does make a difference how things are put. … Odd thing it is — the word “experiment” is unpopular, but not the word “experimental.” You mustn’t “experiment” on children; but offer the dear little kiddies free education in an experimental school attached to the N.I.C.E. and it’s all correct!”

Meanwhile, Behind a Barred Window in Libya…

November 14th, 2008 - 8:26 pm

President Bush, in his second inaugural address, talked about advancing the ideals of freedom as “the calling of our time.” Strange, then, that a brave democratic dissident in Libya, who answered that call — and has spent years in Libyan lock-ups for his pains – has received so little support or attention from the Bush administration. I’m talking about Fathi Eljahmi, Libya’s most famous democratic dissident, now 67 years old, and still behind bars, his voice not heard in public for more than four years.

During those same four years, Moammar Gadhafi, dictator of Libya since 1969, has been riding high as the State Department’s Exhibit A of “diplomatic success” in winning over rogue regimes (since then, a raft of rewards lavished upon Gadhafi have failed to inspire any other rogue regimes to offer up their up themselves — and their WMD programs — as Exhibit B). By now, the message of the State Department seems to be that while freedom is officially America’s calling, when someone actually tries to answer, our diplomats hit the mute button. It would behoove President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice-President-Elect Joe Biden to correct that message very soon, possibly by finding the audacity to invite Fathi Eljahmi to Obama’s January inauguration — for reasons explained in my column this week for Forbes.com, “Free Fathi Eljahmi.”

But even more urgently, Michael Rubin reports on NRO’s The Corner that while Fathi Eljahmi begins his seventh year behind bars in Libya, the Condi Rice State Department is planning a welcome in Washington next week for Gadhafi’s eldest son and chief emissary, Saif Gadhafi. Has Condi briefed the President on this arrangement? Is that really the kind of note on which President Bush wants to end his second presidential term? The term that Bush began with the words: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your repression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you. Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.” For Fathi Eljahmi, time is running out. Will anyone in Washington now redeem that pledge?

Sarah Palin’s Path to Redemption?

November 11th, 2008 - 3:17 pm

Politics ain’t beanbag, and never was. But the changes already sweeping over America these past few months feel like Demolition Derby meets The Twilight Zone. America is morphing into an economy run on bailouts, handouts and government-without-limits-or-borders. The Fourth Estate has re-zoned itself as a domain of blatant bias populated by anonymous sources (as “people familiar with the discussion said“). At the United Nations headquarters in New York, where Saudi Arabia is sponsoring a conference this week on “World Religions,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is now demanding — (I’ll translate this for you) —  that whatever resources America might have left after the current exercise in self-evisceration should be turned over to the uses of other governments, especially those which have already so grossly mismanaged their own countries as to beggar their own populations.

In this landscape, from which John McCain seems to have vanished without leaving even a vapor trail (apart from a booking on Jay Leno), Sarah Palin has been left trying to fend off smears that inevitably return to such stuff as that $150,000 campaign wardrobe. No doubt this topic is terribly important, and I look forward to the day when the World Bank, in its global database, will include seasonal wardrobe expenditures by every prominent politician on the planet, including the poverty-fighters at the UN.

But from reading the current coverage of change, game-change, climate change, wardrobe change, and all the other changes now coming, I infer that if Sarah Palin wants to get ahead in today’s political climate, she’s a woman in serious need of goal change. To fill the big shoes of national office these days, one needs to think big, walk big, and above all, spend big. Forget that old-fangled business about success breeding success. To succeed these days, what it mainly takes is being too big to fail.

So my advice to Palin is, get in step with the changing times. She should put in an order this weekend for $15 million worth of clothes — no, make that $15 billion, or maybe $150 billion. Hire some of the big unions to organize the orders and haul them around. Then she should find a couple of foreign tycoons to fly her in a private jet to the UN in New York, where they’d surely give her a stage if she offers to pledge the entire oil and gas income of Alaska, in perpetuity, for carbon-neutral development programs administered out of Geneva, Beijing, Pyongyang and Nairobi. Then, by executive order, she should raise taxes on all Alaskan citizens greedy enough to be earning any taxable income at all, while signing orders for free universal healthcare, daycare, college tuition, and low-interest small business loans — to be forgiven for any business that fails, or repaid at triple the prevailing interest rate for any business that has the audacity to succeed. (It’s OK, celebrities keep saying they like being taxed, and in this climate, any business that makes money would be an instant celebrity.)

With credentials thus reinforced not only as an agent of change, but change that is Too Big to Fail, she could then head to Washington, flanked by her new staff of UN, academic, media and eco-advisers, to huddle with the U.S. Treasury over a bailout which, at least for those Americans still able to afford socks, would knock-yer-socks-off.  Then she could pick up a couple of awards at Washington and New York banquets, plus maybe a Nobel for subordinating the entire state of Alaska to the global cause of “economic justice.” After that, could anyone seriously question her credentials to run this country?

OK, I know  … it’s not Palin’s style. But looking at today’s political landscape, exactly what is it in this scenario that qualifies as over-the-top crazy?

Change versus Change

November 6th, 2008 - 6:59 pm

Apart from the 10% rout since Tuesday in the stock market, and whatnot, voters can relax for a day or two. They have pulled the lever, or the trigger (pick your metaphor), and whatever “Change” actually means, it is on the way. I join those who hope that Barack Obama will find the wisdom to lead this country well, though I think that would require breaking most of his campaign promises.

If he turns out to be a great president, presiding over a secure and thriving America, we can all celebrate. Those of us not yet persuaded that prosperity and peace will come of spreading Joe’s wealth and cajoling the mullahs will have reason to re-think our ideas about how the world works, and thank the man who set us straight.

In the more likely scenario that Obama’s hope-change-and-spread agenda is heading for a crack-up, it would be a great service to the country — and to themselves — for the Republicans to be ready with some new, young voices and an alternative vision. That won’t come by way of back-stabbing, infighting and trying against rising odds to devise patronage plans that out-patron the Democrats. I have this notion that if the Republicans want to redeem themselves, there just might be some traction, not so far down the road, to forgetting the branding and positioning and polling and pork, and trying a good faith leap back to that venerable American first principle of protecting individual liberty – subject of my column today at Forbes.com .

But all that will take time. At the moment, still curious about Obama’s background, I am looking –belatedly, I admit — for a copy of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, which got some attention during Obama’s campaign. It is full of lessons on community organizing, and all about “change.” The book’s opening sentence includes a phrase which Obama appropriated for some of his grander theatrics on the campaign trail (the bold is mine): ”This book is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be.” … (Which has a certain resonance with the slogan plastered all over Beijing during the Olympics: “One World, One Dream” – a phrase to which a Chinese friend of mine responded with the question: “But what if I have a different dream?”)

Rules for Radicals was published in 1971, so you might think that these days it would be something less than a hot item. But as the dust settles on the 2008 presidential campaign, this book ranks way up there at #169 on Amazon. Who are all these people now reading up on how the Have-Nots can take away power from the Haves? The Republicans?

How could Barack Obama expose his kids week after week, year after year, to the teachings of Reverend Wright? It turns out that among Obama’s kitchen klatch of radical Chicago friends, it’s not unusual for God-damn-America activism to be a family affair. Thus do we find Bill Ayers in a father-son act, touting the Bolivarian revolution of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Thus do we find that the Ayers-Khalidi connection runs on from aging radicals to their expensively educated, “young activist” kids. Andy McCarthy and I began following some of the threads. Here’s our article, on NRO, “In Obama’s Hyde Park, It’s All in the Family.” 

It’s a scene that could leave you wondering what’s in store if Obama gets his dream of enrolling legions of American youth in “community service” in exchange for a college education. What, exactly, would they be taught? And whose idea of “community” would they be serving?

Barack Obama’s plans to “spread the wealth around” rely on the idea that under his policies, there would still be plenty of wealth to spread. But is this the audacity of bad math? Obama’s promise is that only those who have achieved Joe the Plumber’s dream of making more than $250,00 per year would pay higher taxes, and almost all lower-income Americans would get a bundle of “tax benefits.” Should we believe him? Or is Obama’s tax “Change” a trainwreck-in-the-making?

Below is a letter addressed to a future President Obama. It spells out how Obama’s promises of ”Change” would have to drive up the marginal tax rates on Joe’s dreams to 92% — and in the end, the regular Joes would still get soaked. (Full disclosure: this letter came by way of some emails that family and friends have been swapping around; the author is my brother, Joshua Rosett, who has a Princeton Ph.D. in economics and teaches financial accounting at California’s Claremont McKenna College. Discount as you like for family ties, but he’s not a politician making promises, he’s Josh the Economist, trying to figure out what’s about to happen to his income — and I think this is a letter worth sharing):

Dear President Obama,


During the campaign you repeatedly said that if I make $250,000 or less, my taxes will not go up by even “one cent.” When McCain called you on this, you mocked him.


Therefore, my plan is to stay under $250,000 per year from now on, and to use the 2008 tax code to file my taxes. That will ensure that I do not pay one cent more. Of course, I have the capability to make more and contribute more to our national productivity, but I do not think it will make sense for me to do so. Here is why.


First off, let’s assume that you will not raise spending so that we can focus just on taxes.


On the campaign trail, you’ve also repeatedly promised $1000 “tax reduction” to 95% of workers and their families ($500 for individuals). It also says this right on your website, here. (“Cut taxes for 95 percent of workers and their families with a tax cut of $500 for workers or $1,000 for working couples.”) Since there are over 110 million households in the lower 95%, this adds up to transfers from the top 1.5% of households (that is how many make over $250,000) to the bottom 95% of maybe $80 billion per year.


Evidently the roughly 3.5% of households that make less than $250,000 per year but are above the 95th percentile will get no tax reduction but also not pay once cent more in taxes. That applies to all households in approximately from roughly $150,000 to $250,000.


That leaves you with 1.7 million households making $250,000 per year or more. Based on figures for 2005, in total these households make about $562 billion per year. That’s a lot of money! And you only have to take about a seventh of it to pay for your transfer. However, your website also promises to raise their top marginal rate to no more than about 39% (your website says “But no family will pay higher tax rates than they would have paid in the 1990s.” Since the current top marginal rate is 35%, that is an increase of 4%. Assuming that rate only applies to income above $250,000 (otherwise the taxes on those below $250,000 would see their taxes go up at least a cent), that leaves $562 billion – 1.7 million x $250,000 = $137 billion that could be taxed at a rate higher than 35%. 4% of $137 billion is just under $5.5 billion, which is a bit short of the $80 billion needed.


So your tax policy alone will result in about a $75 billion shortfall per year compared to our current tax system, which is already running a very large deficit.


So what marginal top tax rate would allow you to pay for this transfer? Assuming that those earning over $250,000 are happy to continue working as hard as they do even if you greatly increase the taxes on their earnings over $250,000, the top rate would have to be approximately 58% higher than the 35% rate to pay for the $80 billion transfer to the lower 95% of the distribution. That is, the top rate necessary to pay just for the first item promised under the tax heading on your website would require a top marginal rate of about 93%.


OK. So you are only off by about a factor of about 15 on how much you will raise the top rate to pay for the “spreading the wealth around” part of your economic plans. No big deal.


There is just one problem with this. If you tax every dollar of earnings above $250,000 at 93%, no one will bother working to make more than $250,000. Suppose you are able to earn $125 per hour (just about enough to make $250,000 per year). If you get to keep 7% of that, after tax earnings on each dollar above $250,000 would fall to $8.75 per hour. Do you think people in that tax bracket will do a lot of extra hours at $8.75 per hour?


But of course you promise a lot of additional tax cuts on your website: “Provide generous tax cuts for low- and middle-income seniors, homeowners, the uninsured, and families sending a child to college or looking to save and accumulate wealth.”  Hard to say how much more you will have to raise the top rate to pay for this, since you don’t define “generous”. So let’s call it 7% on top of what we figured above. That would provide an additional $9.5 billion per year to pay for all of the other generous tax cuts you propose. However, it also brings the top rate to 100%. It’s not too wild a guess to say that no one earning $250,000 per year will do additional work if they get to keep none of the additional money they earn.


Then you also promise a lot of additional spending. Estimates are a trillion dollars over the next four years. So let’s be conservative and call it $200 billion per year. How much more do we need to raise the top rate to pay for this? Well, if we stick to just the household income above $250,000 per year, the top marginal rate necessary to bring in $289.5 billion ($80 billion for the transfer + $9.5 billion of other generous cuts + $200 billion in new spending) is 246%. However, you can’t raise the rate beyond 100% (at least, I don’t think you can), so perhaps you can start taxing income below $250,000 per year to pay for this additional spending. So you will quickly discover that you will have to raise taxes on maybe just a few more people. Maybe even everyone who actually currently pays income tax.


Hence I plan to hold you to your word, make no more than $249,999 per year, and pay using the 2008 tax schedule to ensure that I will not pay one cent more than before.


Good luck balancing your budget.


Best wishes,


Joshua Rosett

Professor of Economics and Accounting

Claremont, CA



[Ed. Note: As initially posted, the calculations above pointed to a 92%,  marginal rate on Joe's ambitions. Adding in some additional relevant information, that turned out to be optimistic -- as explained in the revised text above, Joe's marginal rate would actually come to 93%.]