Global climate data disappeared?

That’s the inference from this article. The original global climate data compiled in the 1980s seems to have been lost.  Adjusted data remain, but the adjustment methods apparently aren’t fully documented.

I doubt that this development is going to change anybody’s mind, especially because it originated in National Review. But it will be interesting to see whether it even gets much media coverage.

Wealth stolen thru privilege

We already know this in general, that government-protected privilege is used to steal wealth from the public.  An outrageous specific example appears to be Goldman Sachs, as profiled in Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi. The text seems to be here and a pdf scan here.

Tho especially aided by a revolving door between GS and regulatory agencies, none of this could happen under a government which sought to eliminate privilege where possible and tax it where it cannot be avoided.   Taibbi doesn’t seem to be aware of this latter point, or maybe it just isn’t as interesting to focus on policy solutions as to discuss evil persons and their organizations.

A rather weak response from Goldman Sachs is reported here, the good news being that

in the wake of the events of the past year or two, Goldman’s partners have pretty much lost their appetite for going into public service.

But as long as privilege thrives, some will find ways to manipulate it to their advantage.

Climate change uncertainty

It seems the Obamatons are much like the Bushies in their ideological approach to scientific issues, just using a slightly different ideology. This story, which I found on slashdot, made it into the New York Times, though not onto NPR nor what’s left of the Chicago Tribune as far as I can tell. The suppressed paper is here.  I’m not qualified to evaluate it, but it does support my doubts that restriction of greenhouse gas emission will prevent undesirable climate change.

According to the Times article, it was released thru the “Competitive Enterprise Institute,”  which hardly enhances its credibility, but probably helped get it some attention.

Unnatural Causes

This broadcast documentary looks at the relationship between income (and other status considerations) and health, including life expectancy. Statistically, your income is strongly associated with how long you’ll live.   And recent statistics indicate that Americans’ life expectancy is lower than that of 29 other countries.

One of my favorite points regarding health care is made:

NICHOLAS CHRISTAKIS: But the vast majority of improvements in health in our society over the last century have had very little to do with medical innovation. What really counts is other kinds of things we can do, and those other kinds of things tend to be non-medical things. Like, thinking about the distribution of wealth in our society, or providing public health infrastructure, or better education for people, better housing – all of those things which aren’t medical phenomena. It’s all those that are really material for public health.

Social Security reportedly provides a higher monthly payment, relative to the amount put in, for lower income workers.  But because low income people have shorter lifespans, this doesn’t mean that it redistributes income downward.

And any post about income inequality, including this one, should include a disclaimer such as the following:

Any system of taxes and subsidies intended to equalize incomes will do so inefficiently if at all, and is likely to be perverted. An effective solution to the problems of poverty requires the elimination of privilege and the preservation of opportunity for people to earn a good living.

Originally broadcast last year, this seems to be a four hour program, and I’ve only read part of the transcript for the first hour. Thanks to Bob Matter for pointing it out.

patents + taxes = insanity squared

Yes, over sixty patents have been issued for “tax planning methods.”  You discover (or contrive?) a loophole, then patent its use. Subsequent taxpayers (or tax avoiders) who might happen on the same idea are obligated to contact you and arrange to license your innovation.  This is not what the Framers had in mind when they empowered Congress

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Cong. Rick Boucher introduced a bill a couple of years ago to limit the benefits patent holders could obtain for such patents (summarized here(doc) with full text here(pdf)).   A message today from Vaughn Henry implies that this has been reintroduced.

Assessor ignores assessment policy

Last week, the Tribune published Cook County Assessor James Houlihan’s fiscal reform proposal.  He wants to restructure the state sales tax and the state income tax, claiming that this would not only balance the state budget but also provide more funds to localities, theoretically allowing them to reduce real estate taxes.

But Mr. Assessor, how about the assessment and extension of real estate taxes.  You know, the stuff you do?  Can’t you improve that?  Maybe you could start by assessing vacant land properly?  And making sure that land value is fully included in all assessments?  That’s not going to discourage any economic activity.

Then maybe we could ask the solons of the Cook County Board to change the property classification system, assessing improvements at only 40% of the ratio applied to land value? They could do this under existing law. Maybe they could even exempt improvements entirely?  And, while we’re asking the Illinois General Assembly to reform things, why not eliminate the sales and income taxes, by resurrecting the state sales tax?

Regular readers of this blog, and Henry George School students, know why this is a good idea.  Evidently Assessor Houlihan doesn’t want us to even think about it.

Earmarks

Wikipedia (right now) defines “earmark” as

a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees.

On the face of it, I don’t see that as such a bad thing.  If my Congressbeing has determined that the national interest requires a particular expenditure, it seems reasonable that she might want to make sure that a budget or appropriation item really will be used for that purpose.

The problem, of course, has been that earmarks are obscure, and invariably are for local projects in which the Federal government has no legitimate role.  Now, the earmarks are being disclosed, at least by House members, and our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense have compiled a list. Not of earmarks, but of URL’s where earmarks can be found.

I figured they might be bad, and they are.  “My” Congressbeing, for instance, has a list of mainly municipal and nonprofit projects, at least some of which are economically justified and therefore should be funded out of the savings or other benefits which they produce. There  are also a few government contractors being taken care of, and a couple of CTA projects.  Because the latter is something I know a little bit about, I can say that the descriptions are quite deceptive, greatly exaggerating the result (e.g. “extension of the Yellow Line”) which will be obtained by a relatively modest ($1 million) expenditure.

And that list is hardly the worst.