Written and edited by Norm Scott:
EDUCATE! ORGANIZE!! MOBILIZE!!!
Three pillars of The Resistance – providing information on current ed issues, organizing activities around fighting for public education in NYC and beyond and exposing the motives behind the education deformers. We link up with bands of resisters. Nothing will change unless WE ALL GET INVOLVED IN THE STRUGGLE!
Over the past weekend, AOC was featured in all of the above with some of the most progressive ideas put on the table in decades. Yet the far left trashes her just as much as the right. I'll get to that another time.
have no idea how well Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will perform as a member
of Congress. But her election is already serving a valuable purpose.
You see, the mere thought of having a young, articulate, telegenic
nonwhite woman serve is driving many on the right mad — and in their
madness they’re inadvertently revealing their true selves.
of the revelations are cultural: The hysteria over a video of AOC
dancing in college says volumes, not about her, but about the hysterics.
But in some ways the more important revelations are intellectual: The
right’s denunciation of AOC’s “insane” policy ideas serves as a very
good reminder of who is actually insane.
controversy of the moment involves AOC’s advocacy of a tax rate of
70-80 percent on very high incomes, which is obviously crazy, right? I
mean, who thinks that makes sense? Only ignorant people like … um, Peter
Diamond, Nobel laureate in economics and arguably the world’s leading
expert on public finance. (Although Republicans blocked him from an
appointment to the Federal Reserve Board with claims that he was unqualified.
Really.) And it’s a policy nobody has ever implemented, aside from …
the United States, for 35 years after World War II — including the most
successful period of economic growth in our history.
To be more specific, Diamond, in work with Emmanuel Saez — one of our leading experts on inequality — estimated the optimal top tax rate
to be 73 percent. Some put it higher: Christina Romer, top
macroeconomist and former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic
Advisers, estimates it at more than 80 percent.
do these numbers come from? Underlying the Diamond-Saez analysis are
two propositions: Diminishing marginal utility and competitive markets.
marginal utility is the common-sense notion that an extra dollar is
worth a lot less in satisfaction to people with very high incomes than
to those with low incomes. Give a family with an annual income of
$20,000 an extra $1,000 and it will make a big difference to their
lives. Give a guy who makes $1 million an extra thousand and he’ll
barely notice it.
What this implies
for economic policy is that we shouldn’t care what a policy does to the
incomes of the very rich. A policy that makes the rich a bit poorer will
affect only a handful of people, and will barely affect their life
satisfaction, since they will still be able to buy whatever they want.
why not tax them at 100 percent? The answer is that this would
eliminate any incentive to do whatever it is they do to earn that much
money, which would hurt the economy. In other words, tax policy toward
the rich should have nothing to do with the interests of the rich, per
se, but should only be concerned with how incentive effects change the
behavior of the rich, and how this affects the rest of the population.
here’s where competitive markets come in. In a perfectly competitive
economy, with no monopoly power or other distortions — which is the kind
of economy conservatives want us to believe we have — everyone gets
paid his or her marginal product. That is, if you get paid $1000 an
hour, it’s because each extra hour you work adds $1000 worth to the
In that case,
however, why do we care how hard the rich work? If a rich man works an
extra hour, adding $1000 to the economy, but gets paid $1000 for his
efforts, the combined income of everyone else doesn’t change, does it?
Ah, but it does — because he pays taxes on that extra $1000. So the
social benefit from getting high-income individuals to work a bit harder
is the tax revenue generated by that extra effort — and conversely the
cost of their working less is the reduction in the taxes they pay.
to put it a bit more succinctly, when taxing the rich, all we should
care about is how much revenue we raise. The optimal tax rate on people
with very high incomes is the rate that raises the maximum possible
And that’s something we can
estimate, given evidence on how responsive the pre-tax income of the
wealthy actually is to tax rates. As I said, Diamond and Saez put the
optimal rate at 73 percent, Romer at over 80 percent — which is
consistent with what AOC said.
aside: What if we take into account the reality that markets aren’t
perfectly competitive, that there’s a lot of monopoly power out there?
The answer is that this almost surely makes the case for even higher tax
rates, since high-income people presumably get a lot of those monopoly
So AOC, far from showing her
craziness, is fully in line with serious economic research. (I hear that
she’s been talking to some very good economists.) Her critics, on the
other hand, do indeed have crazy policy ideas — and tax policy is at the
heart of the crazy.
Republicans almost universally advocate low taxes on the wealthy, based
on the claim that tax cuts at the top will have huge beneficial effects
on the economy. This claim rests on research by … well, nobody. There
isn’t any body of serious work supporting G.O.P. tax ideas, because the
evidence is overwhelmingly against those ideas.
at the history of top marginal income tax rates (left) versus growth in
real GDP per capita (right, measured over 10 years, to smooth out
we see is that America used to have very high tax rates on the rich —
higher even than those AOC is proposing — and did just fine. Since then
tax rates have come way down, and if anything the economy has done less
Why do Republicans adhere to a
tax theory that has no support from nonpartisan economists and is
refuted by all available data? Well, ask who benefits from low taxes on
the rich, and it’s obvious.
because the party’s coffers demand adherence to nonsense economics, the
party prefers “economists” who are obvious frauds and can’t even fake their numbers effectively.
brings me back to AOC, and the constant effort to portray her as flaky
and ignorant. Well, on the tax issue she’s just saying what good
economists say; and she definitely knows more economics than almost
everyone in the G.O.P. caucus, not least because she doesn’t “know”
things that aren’t true.
Here's the Maureen Dowd column:
WASHINGTON — Lucky there’s no Saturday detention at the Capitol.
— and some Democrats — would certainly make like Mr. Vernon, the
“Breakfast Club” disciplinarian, and lock down the irrepressible
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s only been in town a moment and has
already, in this city of acronyms, become famous enough to supersede the
shorthand for the Architect of the Capitol.
A.O.C. now simply signifies the congresswoman from the Bronx and Queens.
longer content with Nancy Pelosi, the right craves a new she-devil.
Republicans have mocked Ocasio-Cortez’s hardscrabble story, howled at
her proposal to soak the rich with a 70 percent tax, scrutinized her
clothes and booed her at Pelosi’s swearing-in. A.O.C. saucily tweeted
back, “Don’t hate me cause you ain’t me, fellas.”
frenzy reached new absurdity when a tweet popped up with a video of her
with friends at Boston University doing a dance from “The Breakfast
Club,” with this slam: “Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all
acting like the clueless nitwit she is.” Holy Footloose.
“It is unsurprising to me that Republicans would think having fun should be disqualifying or illegal,” she told The Hill.
“That’s it, Alexandria you’re in the club,” tweeted Molly Ringwald, one of the actresses from the 1985 movie.
Obama got to the White House, Republicans trembled at his midichlorian
count, but their fear faded as he grew more professorial and remote.
A.O.C., despite some stumbles and lacunae in political knowledge, is
more adept at using the force, especially on social media.
She claimed the mantle of dancing queen, tweeting out a new boogie
in front of her congressional office to Edwin Starr’s antiwar anthem
“War,” and taunting: “I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are
scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too!”
tableau at the Capitol Thursday, as Nancy Pelosi reclaimed the gavel,
was redolent of that iconic “Breakfast Club” scene, with all its
rebellious energy and zeal to fight The Man.
Ocasio-Cortez, a leader of the brat pack that has put the old guard on
notice, voted for Pelosi, it was an electric visual: two fierce women, a
controlled 78-year-old capping her career and an uncontrollable
29-year-old starting hers, joining forces to fight the 72-year-old
Neanderthal in the Oval Office.
I loved seeing the splotches of bright colors, from Pelosi’s hot pink dress to A.O.C.’s gleaming white suffragette-inspired suit, in a chamber that was once a monochromatic sea of men in gray pinstripes. When I covered an earlier “Year of the Woman,”
after disgust over the Hill-Thomas hearings swept a group of women into
Congress, it was startling to see the first dapples of gold and pink
and red lighting up the House floor in 1993.
McKinney, a young black freshman wearing gold sneakers, slacks, braided
hair and a Mickey Mouse watch, stepped into an elevator in the Capitol
and was rebuffed by the elevator operator, who icily repeated three
times, “This elevator is for members only” before finally noticing
McKinney’s congressional pin.
On Thursday, 102 women, nearly all Democrats, were sworn in as House members. This influx produced a gratifying inconvenience, reported by The Washington Post: a line for the first time to get into the ladies room off the floor of the House.
Pelosi is the ultimate rebuttal to the 1992 Barbie doll who chirped “Math class is tough.”
The new speaker can count, legislate, horse-trade and stroke. But she’s
also unapologetically tough. “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t
even know you’re bleeding,” Alexandra Pelosi said of her mother the other day.
Madam Speaker will need a few fancy dance steps of her own to keep her
exuberant freshmen and her socialist wing in line, so that the centrist
Democrats in the country’s middle are not alienated and President Trump
does not become, of all things, a sympathetic figure.
Hours after Rashida Tlaib became one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, Tlaib told a cheering crowd that “we’re going to go in there and impeach” Trump, referring to him with a raunchy word that made many Democrats cringe.
Put on the spot
to comment, Pelosi handled it deftly, saying that, being from an older
generation, she did not like the coarse language but that she’s “not in
the censorship business” and that it wasn’t worse than what Trump has
Indeed, Trump used the word publicly a number of times, including at a 2015 rally, and Kanye West spewed it over the Resolute desk recently while Trump laughed.
Cheney, part of the Republican House leadership, complained about “foul
language,” ignoring the fact that her father used an epithet during an argument about Halliburton
and Iraq on the Senate floor. Trump huffily called Tlaib’s vulgarism
“disgraceful” and “highly disrespectful to the United States of
The spectacle of
Republicans as snowflakes is rich. But while the fiery spirit among the
new Democrats is refreshing and members of Congress are entitled to say
what they want, the brat pack may want to avoid getting too far over
their skis while their learning curve is steep.
should focus on the big picture: Trump is doing such an amazing job as a
vulgarian and villain, it would be a shame to get in the way.