Taking your pulse

By: Andrew S
October 30, 2010

taking your pulseHello, dear readers of Wheat and Tares!

We’ve come quite far from our launch day, which was a little less than a month ago (yes, I just couldn’t wait the full month to begin taking your pulse.) As the junior technical admin of the site, I hope that we have been responsive to your requests for features and to your complaints about site bugs and hiccups.

That being said, I often don’t catch on to what you are saying until it’s been said a few times in a few comments — or until another author brings it to the table in our super duper round table discussions.

So this kind of column will be for taking your pulse. What do you like about the site? What do you dislike? What are some features you’d like to see? We can’t guarantee anything (especially not a button that will babysit your children or grant you immunity from bullets), but I’m all ears.

Additionally, here are some things I’d like to bring up that you may or may not know about.

1. Comment Numbering

Early on, we debated whether we would have comment nesting (a cool feature that allows people to directly reply to other commenters) or numbered commenting (which still allows for indirect, low technology replies by addressing the comment number of a previous comment). Comment nesting was cool for a while, but became a hassle because people couldn’t easily find the *latest* comment to a post. It might be somewhere buried within other comments as a reply instead of being ordered sequentially from top to bottom. So we have implemented for the majority of this first month comment numbering.

Why do I mention that you may not know about it? It’s because if you use an older version of Internet Explorer (or if you use Internet Explorer 8 in compatibility view), you will not be able to see the numbers at all!

We have tried many things to bring the site browsing experience in older versions of IE up to parity with the rest of the browsing world, but so far we haven’t been able to figure anything out for comment numbering. (I admit I may not be trying hard enough.) So, if possible, I would recommend using another browser — like Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, or Opera Software’s Opera.

2. Gravatars

Next to comments, you may notice a location for a picture. But how can you set up a picture? The service that we (and many other blogging sites) use is called Gravatar, or Globally Recognized Avatar. When you sign up at Gravatar, you can have a picture be associated with any of the email addresses you put in the email address blank whenever you comment. Since Gravatar is used across many sites, as long as you comment with the email address you have set up with Gravatar, your picture can be shown.

Of course, gravatars are optional. But we feel that gravatars are a neat little feature to bring some personality and humanity to each and every post.

3. Sharing and liking features

The third feature I’d like to share with you is none other than our site’s sharing options.

Beneath every post (but above the comments!) is a strip of options to like or share posts.

These options allow you to “Like” a post (if you’re signed into a Facebook account at the time — note that if you “like” a post, it will show on your Facebook wall that you liked the post), to tweet a post (if you have a twitter account), or to Reddit a post (if you are a redditor).

72VFWMJ39W9C

^ignore that number.

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63 Responses to Taking your pulse

  1. Stephen Marsh on October 30, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    Guess I need to get a gravatar avatar of my own.

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  2. Andrew S on October 30, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    Yes, Stephen. Join us. It’s bliss. Bliiisssss.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  3. MH on October 30, 2010 at 10:11 PM

    Andrew, I know you’ve spent a lot of time putting this site together, and I want to tell you I really like these features that you’ve added (especially the mobile phone plugin.) The Gravatars are a really cool feature I think, as well as the “like” buttons.

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  4. hawkgrrrl on October 31, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    I am extremely grateful for Andrew & jmb’s efforts on the tech side. You guys have really brought things to life!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  5. Will on October 31, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    A politically conservative LDS commentator or perma-blogger. In the liberal world of media their idea of diversity is everyone but a conservative.

    My vote, if he is willing, would be Thomas. He could submit a weekly George Will or Jonah Goldberg style commentary on an off beat LDS topic. It would do to Wheat and Tares what conservative commentators did for Fox — have combined reader/viewership of all the liberal outlets combined.

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  6. Andrew S on October 31, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    That’s an incredibly interesting suggestion, Will.

    It, of course, all depends, on what you already noted: “If he is willing.”

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  7. Stephen Marsh on October 31, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Well, I got my gravatar now, think this site is going well. Really enjoyed nested comments, but appreciate the issues.

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  8. AdamF on October 31, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    I second Will’s suggestion (as I’m sure many would). Being a so-called “moderate” or “independent” I’m the opposite of “diverse” but having a “politically conservative” poster would be nice, again, as Andrew said, if they are willing.

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  9. Dan on October 31, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    who is the liberal poster here?

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  10. Will on October 31, 2010 at 8:42 PM

    Dan,

    Every perma-blogger on this site, with perhaps the sole exception of Firetag, is left of center. Moreover, all of the recent guest posters are left of center. It would be nice to have a weekly blog with a conservative slant from the start so conservatives like me aren’t on the defensive on every single post.

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  11. brjones on October 31, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    Any chance of bringing the edit button back?

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  12. Will on October 31, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    Sorry Adam, I would agree with your self described moderate status

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  13. Andrew S on October 31, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    brjones,

    Like, the edit button that would allow you to edit within the first 3 minutes of posting a comment?

    Or something else?

    re conservative bloggers,

    I think it would be interesting if we could get Bruce Nielson to W&T. I remember he used to be a Mormon Matters writer (one of my faves), and then he went to Millennial Star. I don’t know how conservative he would qualify as, though.

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  14. mh on October 31, 2010 at 10:37 PM

    Will, I don’t know where you live, but here in Utah County, my moderate views are seen as liberal. Everywhere else in the US (especially the Democratically controlled Northeast or California), I would be considered a staunch conservative. But I do like the stir the pot a bit, starting tomorrow…. (Stay tuned.)

    I wish we could get DKL as a guest post from a conservative. He gave a really interesting conservative viewpoint on Glenn Beck.

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  15. Dan on November 1, 2010 at 7:25 AM

    so far none of the permabloggers have yet acknowledged they consider themselves “liberal.” All that have responded so far stick with “moderate.” If this trend continues, why would anyone need to add a DKL or a Thomas to this permablogger list?

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  16. Will on November 1, 2010 at 9:36 AM

    I think the election will speak volumes and we flat out reject liberalism. It has destroyed our nation and no one wants to hear it anymore.

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  17. hawkgrrrl on November 1, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    “Every perma-blogger on this site, with perhaps the sole exception of Firetag, is left of center.” I disagree with this characterization. I’m a political independent. I find fault with both ends of the spectrum. I’m very much a fiscal conservative, but a social libertarian.

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  18. Andrew S on November 1, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    re 16:

    Will, I think the issue is that politics itself is a distasteful enterprise and the skills needed to do well in it select for distasteful people.

    Voters on each side haven’t caught on to this. We haven’t abandoned the political enterprise itself. So we just swing from one side to the other and back again without considering that maybe the grass isn’t greener (or redder, or bluer, or whatever color) on the other side.

    (This isn’t to be taken as an endorsement of anarchy…it’s just a note that whether voters “flat out reject liberalism” or not, nothing will improve because the kind of people who become politicians just…aren’t good people. So it matters not what party alignment, what economic alignment, what social alignment, what ever alignment people have.)

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  19. Bored in Vernal on November 1, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    I consider myself a liberal, politically and in Church matters. Does that do it for you, Dan?

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  20. Mike S on November 1, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    I don’t know that this election will be as much about “rejecting liberalism” any more than the last election was about rejecting Bush’s brand of conservatism.

    At the end of the day, it will be about what politics has always been about – money. Politicians spend an inordinate amount of time not actually governing but raising money so they can stay in office to continue to raise money. The people and corporations with the most money control the message. The message is largely intended to keep them with the most money.

    To be honest, I could care less who wins the elections – Republican, Democratic, or whatever. The end result is going to be the same.

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  21. jmb275 on November 1, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    Every perma-blogger on this site, with perhaps the sole exception of Firetag, is left of center.

    Dang, I resent that remark! Perhaps I need to write a post or two to disabuse our readership of this erroneous notion!

    so far none of the permabloggers have yet acknowledged they consider themselves “liberal.”

    Okay, here I go. I’m liberal. Though this clearly needs refining. If “liberal” is code for “democrat” then I’m definitely not “liberal.” But if “liberal” means what Wikipedia claims “the belief in the importance of individual liberty and equal rights” then I’m as “liberal” as they come.

    Like Hawk, I’m independent. I wish to maximize liberty which I believe occurs by being fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

    As for our blog, I really appreciate all that Andrew S has done for the blog, especially for picking up slack when I have been under the gun in “real life.”

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  22. brjones on November 1, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    #13 – Yes, Andrew S, that’s the one. That was a really nice feature.

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  23. Dan on November 1, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    looks like y’all have got to find someone to counter the liberalness of Bored in Vernal. :) And since Firetag is apparently the conservative voice, they cancel each other out.

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  24. hawkgrrrl on November 1, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    Andrew: “nothing will improve because the kind of people who become politicians just…aren’t good people.” Amen to that. Not sure which comes first – are they corrupted by politics or is politics just where the corrupt congregate? Liberals become sell-outs (because they start as idealists), whereas conservatives often become hypocrites (because they start as moralizers).

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  25. Will on November 1, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    Hawk,

    I am on the very right—a full fledged conservative, so I may be somewhat bias in my assessment of you and the other bloggers.

    With that said, let me say this. Most of the issues on this site are social or doctrinal in nature, so fiscal issues are someone irrelevant. I would maintain, and please correct me if I am wrong; but, my opinions are based on the following:

    Most of the perma-bloggers are sympathetic to same sex marriage, or our in favor of the church easing their stance on this issue. Given the fact the Socialist Republic of California supported Prop 8; I would maintain they are left of center on this issue.

    With respect to Women’s issues, I would maintain most of the perma-bloggers on this site are left of center relative to the LDS church as a whole. Women and the Priesthood, role definitions, etc – you and I have gone the rounds on this one.

    Redistribution of Wealth/Communal issues and the correlation to the Law of Consecration are supported by most of the perma-bloggers. In contrast, most LDS members favor a more traditional provide for you own stance.

    I would gather most of the perma-bloggers would align themselves more with Matheson than Philplot; they would align themselves more with Reid that Beck; they would align themselves more with Udall (either brother) than Buck.

    Just my observations, please correct me if I am wrong.

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  26. Andrew S on November 1, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    re 24:

    hawkgrrrl, I think there is a bit of both. I think that to win big, you have to be willing to “sell out” (to whatever principles you have)…and so people who don’t sell out don’t win. People who win will necessarily have acquired some political skeletons somewhere in the process.

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  27. AdamF on November 1, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    Just to get the record out there, I have never said anything about redistribution of wealth and consecration, nor about my voting record. I also think that some of the so-called “conservative” views on gender roles are to the right of where the church is, if it’s even a binary spectrum.

    I’m certainly “left of center” if that means being sympathetic to those less fortunate than myself. Count me in.

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  28. Dan on November 1, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    Adam,

    heh, yeah, on Women’s issues, the majority of Mormons are further to the right than the church itself!

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  29. Andrew S on November 1, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    If the determinant of left of center is supporting anyone vs. Glenn Beck, then I’m guilty.

    (then again, I’m guilty anyway, if we are talking about same sex marriage, women’s rights, etc.,)

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  30. hawkgrrrl on November 1, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    Will: as you say, you are full-fledged right wing. I suspect anyone here (and probably lots of places) does look left to you, even though most of us are moderate or independent. I find the ideals of both parties leave me flat in one way or another.

    “fiscal issues are someone irrelevant” – I disagree because the church does talk a lot about provident living and personal responsibility (in addition to caring for the sick & the poor). I do like the church’s stance overall.

    “sympathetic to same sex marriage, or our in favor of the church easing their stance on this issue” I’m not sure most here are pro-SSM. I’m pro-rights and anti-discrimination, but I’m not strongly inclined to legislate marriage. I am not in CA, so I was not asked to take a stance on Prop 8. In AZ, we had prop 102 to make it constitutionally illegal to ever allow any other definition of marriage. I voted against that since it was superfluous legislation. I do favor the church taking a similar stance to my own. Who doesn’t?

    “With respect to Women’s issues, I would maintain most of the perma-bloggers on this site are left of center” Sexism isn’t a current political issue. Neither party is pro-sexism. As to doctrinal issues about women and priesthood, those are likewise not political; there’s no vote on that. The only issue that might fall into this is abortion I suppose. My stance on this is identical to the church’s, that it should be rare and generally only in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is in danger. I assume yours is either the same or more stringent. But whether it is legal or not makes no difference to me; I view moral stances as personal.

    “Redistribution of Wealth/Communal issues and the correlation to the Law of Consecration are supported by most of the perma-bloggers.” Absolutely incorrect. When I say I’m a fiscal conservative, this is in large part what I mean. I am not in favor of wealth redistribution. I favor personal accountability and free market (with some regulation to avoid stupidity ruling the day).

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  31. FireTag on November 1, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Will:

    I’m very limited on computer time this week because of an eye problem, but since you mentioned me specifically, I feel I have to respond.

    Please do not classify any of us on the basis of any single issue. It forces us into a left-right axis that doesn’t reflect our views on other issues. I’m more of an up-down person than a left-right person, as shown by this post:

    http://thefirestillburning.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/pyramids-r-us/

    That’s when I’m not off in some weird multidimensional space where the spiritual and physical realms are connected in ways that have nothing to do with “pre-existence” or “afterlife”.

    I decide SSM on the principle that monogamy trumps gender. That makes me to the “left” of what my liberal CofChrist has been willing to commit to publicly. At the same time, I believe that the Book of Mormon provides “actionable intelligence” about the MesoAmerican past and the North American future, which would classify me to the right of a lot of Mormon priesthood.

    Bloggers, like others, are complex.

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  32. Last Lemming on November 1, 2010 at 8:11 PM

    Checking out my new Gravatar.

    Not pretending to be moderate–just cautious.

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  33. Last Lemming on November 1, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    Dang. Way too cautious, it would seem.

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  34. hawkgrrrl on November 1, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    Nice lemming!

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  35. jmb275 on November 1, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    “Redistribution of Wealth/Communal issues and the correlation to the Law of Consecration are supported by most of the perma-bloggers.”

    Chalk me up as a big NO on that one too. Besides just giving an extra big “thumbs up” to what Hawkgrrrl said already, I favor liberty (if I didn’t make that clear). To me that means austrian economics, and civil liberties.

    Basically, I oppose people enforcing their morals on others by force. Republicans enforce their morals (usually safety, preserving marriage, pro-life, etc. and most recently by spending us into a hole) and Democrats enforce theirs (usually in social service programs which shunt economic growth and steal from hard-working taxpayers, but most recently by not repealing “don’t ask don’t tell,” “the patriot act,” etc.). Both, to me, do the exact same thing but don’t realize it.

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  36. jmb275 on November 1, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    BTW, one thing that has always surprised me about political discussion is how most people simply MUST pigeon-hole everyone into a binary category. If you’re “liberal” you must want redistribution of wealth, and gay marriage, if you’re conservative you must be a heartless, bible-thumping ignoramus.

    Keep in mind too that many people are morally righteous even if they favor allowing others to be morally unrighteous (in their opinion). What that means is that just because I support maximum agency does not mean I endorse everything someone choose to do with their agency. Isn’t this a moral judgment in an of itself – to allow other maximum agency as God has? As Hawk said, I find abortion (particularly late term) to be rather morally repugnant for me, but I’m not in favor of telling a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body and whatever is inside it.

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  37. Dan on November 2, 2010 at 6:59 AM

    jmb,

    Democrats enforce theirs (usually in social service programs which shunt economic growth and steal from hard-working taxpayers, but most recently by not repealing “don’t ask don’t tell,” “the patriot act,” etc.)

    what’s your evidence that social service programs “shunt economic growth?” I don’t mind you being against a Democratic position, but I do mind if it’s not based on fact. Here, for example, is actual reality (not Republican propaganda):

    http://frac.org/initiatives/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act/snapfood-stamps-provide-real-stimulus/

    You can see on there, for example, that making Bush’s tax cuts permanent only provides 29 cents on the dollar of a stimulus (terrible number), while providing food stamps, provides 1.73 stimulus for every dollar spent on food stamps. Extending unemployment benefits are at 1.64 for every dollar spent. I honestly don’t know why anyone else thinks differently. There are literally no examples of tax cuts stimulating an economy to the same effect that providing social services do. Because tax cuts generally go to the wealthy who are not going to spend that extra money right away. I know that if I were to receive a tax cut right now, it will go toward paying down my credit cards, and not toward buying some plasma tv or something. And my income is in the top 10% in the country. If I’m unemployed, I have literally no money coming to me for food or housing. If I receive money, I spend it immediately, thus stimulating the economy. Republicans lie, jmb, and I’m tired of seeing this lie propagated.

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  38. Mike S on November 2, 2010 at 8:18 AM

    Dan: I am not an economist, but I think it depends on the range of outlook. I absolutely agree with your comments on the study, looking at the value of a stimulus. A tax cut doesn’t necessarily turn into an immediate stimulus because the money doesn’t NEED to be spent immediately, while food stamps do. This, however, is a very short-term “solution” looking at things merely as a stimulus to a sputtering economy.

    Long-term, I think almost the opposite is true. Looking at the numbers from the study, food stamps and unemployment benefits provide a lot of bang for the buck, but they are non-sustainable. If everyone is getting unemployment and food stamps, eventually we will go bankrupt. At some point, capital will need to be invested, jobs will have to be created. And the history of the United States suggests that, for all of it’s problems, there is no better system than capitalism for doing that.

    Granted, it’s made some people “obscenely” rich. But look at Microsoft, for example. Bill Gates is doing tremendous good with his money now. There have been billionaires and millionaires made in Microsoft, who have all spent that money and stimulated the economy and paid billions and billions in taxes.

    So, short-term I agree – cutting taxes is NOT a great way to stimulate the economy. But in the long run, it has helped the country become the lone “superpower” in the world.

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  39. Dan on November 2, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    Mike S.,

    I agree that capitalism is the better way to have long term economic growth. My argument was against the point that somehow social services “shunt economic growth” which just simply is not true. However, it should also be noted that American capitalism worked just fine with high taxation under Eisenhower, where the top 1% were taxed at 90%. I don’t recommend that now (not close to a dire situation where such tax levels are required), but I don’t see a problem with a 50% tax level for the top 1% (that would be individuals/families who make more than $486,000 a year). That was the tax rate under Reagan. We could even survive just fine with 70% as it was under Carter, Ford, and Nixon (by the way, when Bill Gates still somehow innovated and created Microsoft, and Steve Jobs innovated and created Apple). Taxation levels do not have as negative effect on the economy as we are led to believe by some (people who, by the way, would benefit from lower tax levels, so obviously they have an incentive to argue for lower tax levels). The biggest difference coming from taxes cut for the wealthy from Reagan onwards is that income for the wealthy from that point onwards skyrocketed leaving everyone else behind. Income for middle class workers has remained effectively stagnant over the last 30 years, accounting for inflation. So much for trickle down economics…

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  40. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    “Income for middle class workers has remained effectively stagnant over the last 30 years, accounting for inflation. So much for trickle down economics…”

    Ah, but even Paul Krugman acknowledges that the vast majority of the growth in inequality is in pre-tax income, not post-tax income. Thus, tax policy (“trickle down,” to borrow someone’s grossly distorting phrase) is not what’s responsible.

    Income for middle-class workers has (allegedly*) stagnated in past decades, because what a worker brings to the table — basically, his time and skills — hasn’t changed much during that time. (If anything, worker quality has declined, if my observations of students and people generally is any indication.) What has changed? Technology and organization, which are generally supplied by the business operator, who consequently reaps most of the gain from the increased added value. In other words, the worker is still bringing X to the employer-employee partnership, but the business operator is now bringing 2X.

    *”Allegedly,” because compensation has only stagnated when you ignore benefits. When you include medical costs — which continue to skyrocket, thanks to a ludicrously distorting third-party payer system — overall compensation has risen.

    In any event, we now get a far greater share of our income-tax revenue from high-income earners than we did back when we had 90%, 70%, or 50% tax rates. The reason ought to be obvious: When you face a high marginal rate, you have a higher incentive to shelter or defer your marginal income. That’s why after every single reduction in the top marginal tax rates, the share of income tax revenue from the top-bracket payers increased.

    So generally speaking, if you really want to soak the rich — if you want to make them pay a greater share — you cut the rates. This isn’t partisan puffery; there are hard numbers to bear this out. Now of course there can be a point of diminishing returns; once you’ve lowered rates enough that pretty much everybody would prefer tax payment to the costs of tax avoidance, cutting taxes further won’t generate much money. But talking about returning top rates to 50% runs against some pretty powerful evidence that 50% is not the revenue-optimal point on the marginal rate/tax base curve.

    But of course smacking “the rich” is satisfying, and makes for good political theater.

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  41. Dan on November 2, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    Thomas,

    I’m curious to see those hard numbers. You’re saying that if someone making, say, $100,000 a year, is taxed at 60%, thus pays $60,000 in taxes, will magically make more money after his taxes are reduced to 50%? That he will magically have a raise to $125,000 and thus his 50% tax will bring the government $62,500? Because, all other things being equal, 50% of 100,000 is LOWER than 60% of 100,000. How does a 10% tax cut increase a worker’s salary by 25%?

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  42. Peter R. on November 2, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    I know that social media integration is all the rage, but does anyone really post and share bloggernacle stuff on reddit? I’ve been a redditor for a couple years, and there doesn’t exactly seem to be vibrant Mormon community, whereas the ex-mormon subreddit is very active.

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  43. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Dan: This works less with salaried workers, than with people whose income is in business profits, or run through Subchapter S corporations. Since there aren’t all that many salaries north of $250,000, that means when you talk about the top brackets, you’re mostly talking about raising taxes on business profits.

    And those absolutely are sensitive to marginal tax rates. The whole calculation as to whether to expand a business operation (to generate additional revenue) is based on the after-tax return on investment. The lower the return, the less investment there will be.

    A scholarly article from the IMF, with hard numbers, is at http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2008/wp0807.pdf.

    It is simply, mathematically true that after every major episode of tax cutting over the past century — the Mellon tax cuts in the 1920s, the Kennedy tax cuts in the 1960s, and the Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s — revenues increased, and so did the share of income taxes paid by top-bracket earners. In fact, if we are going to be precise, we really shouldn’t call them “tax cuts” at all (since the amount of taxes actually paid wasn’t in fact cut), but “tax rate cuts.”

    Because, all other things being equal, 50% of 100,000 is LOWER than 60% of 100,000.

    All other things are not equal. That’s the point.

    What we have here, is a simple refusal to even consider that there might be an economically optimum marginal tax rate — and that it’s not always the highest. That is the crippling thing about the liberal, envy-baiting “tax cuts for the rich” nostrum (which can be, and is, deployed against literally any tax cut). Just ask yourself, Dan, as a liberal: Can you conceive of any scenario where cutting the top marginal income tax rate would be justified, and where the “tax cuts for the rich” sound bite wouldn’t be launched?

    One problem with Laffer Curve tax adjustments, as a practical political matter, is that in order to cut the upper tax brackets — the ones that are the most sensitive to marginal rates — you typically have to cut the lower brackets even more. (That’s what happened with the Bush tax rate cuts: The majority of tax relief, which Mr. Obama proposes to renew, went to lower-bracket earners.) But that allows people who oppose tax relief on general principle to point to the resulting overall loss of revenue and say “A-HAH! Tax cuts don’t increase revenue!” Well, some do and some don’t — but ironically, it’s the ones that do that liberals can’t abide, and it’s the ones that don’t (like the child tax credit, for which I am desperately thankful) are the ones liberals want to keep. The lesson? You can’t consider economic efficiency in a vacuum.

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  44. Dan on November 2, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    Thomas,

    I don’t want high taxes. I’m merely stating that America’s economy has historically worked just fine with a high tax rate. I don’t think the tax rate for the top 1% being at 50% is a bad thing, particularly when we have such a deficit that we’re unwilling or undesiring to cut the social or defense programs that eat up most of our tax revenue. The Bush tax cuts, for example, have not increased tax revenue, probably because we’ve reached the point where we now achieve diminishing returns on tax cuts for the ultra wealthy. The Bush tax cuts need to be reversed and have the wealthy go back to the rate under Clinton. The Bush tax cuts also were not combined with any kind of expense cuts to counter the lost revenue (and in fact, Bush increased spending and the size of government—Medicare Part D, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, the Department of Homeland Security, and so on).

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  45. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    “The Bush tax cuts need to be reversed and have the wealthy go back to the rate under Clinton.”

    All of the Bush tax cuts? That puts you to the left of President Obama, and virtually every Democrat in government.

    Really, if you want to duplicate the Clinton Administration’s economic performance, raising taxes to 39% wouldn’t do it. You also need to inflate another dot-com bubble. ‘Course, the last decade provides a salutary lesson about the wisdom of replacing one bubble with another….

    “The Bush tax cuts, for example, have not increased tax revenue….”

    Hard to say. Revenue did, in fact, increase following the tax cuts, the vast majority of which didn’t go into effect until 2003 — and that’s even including the fact that the tax cuts were heavily weighted to low-bracket earners, whose taxable income is the least sensitive to marginal rates. I do think that the revenue-optimum marginal tax rate is somewhere in the 30-40% range; more than 40% and less than 30%, to the best of my judgment, and you start losing revenue.

    Given that fact, I would agree that the apocalyptic rhetoric we see from people on both sides of the tax issue, is probably not justified, when what we’re really talking about is a few percentage points one way or the other from what almost everybody would identify as the optimum point.

    Where I am most concerned, is with the extent to which we have become accustomed to argue, not for raising our own taxes, but raising the other guy’s. We must preserve at least something of the fiction that we are taxing ourselves, rather than having taxes imposed on us without our meaningful consent. This can be discounted as silly, self-serving three-corner-hat stuff, but I do see problems for national cohesion, and voluntary obedience to law, when a sense grows that some people are marked down as public enemies who can be looted at convenience.

    I have in mind President Obama’s statement that he would support raising the capital-gains tax rate, even if raising the rate resulted in a loss of revenue, in the name of “fairness.” In other words, we just don’t think you should have that much money, and we’re going to take it away from you not to provide for the general welfare, but because we can.

    “and in fact, Bush increased spending and the size of government—Medicare Part D, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, the Department of Homeland Security, and so on).”

    We’ve spent more on “stimulus” (of doubtful utility) in two years, than Iraq and Afghanistan cost in eight.

    The argument I often hear is that because I supposedly didn’t object loudly enough to Bush’s deficits in the range of $200-$500 billion per year (not true, actually), I’m supposed to be estopped from voicing concern about deficits in the $1.5 trillion range. I leave it to others to measure the coherence of that argument.

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  46. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    “I’m merely stating that America’s economy has historically worked just fine with a high tax rate.”

    Meant to add that whereas Ameica’s economy may have worked “just fine” with a high tax rate (in an environment, incidentally, where all of our economic competitors had just been carpet-bombed into rubble), the evidence is that as far as concerns actual income tax revenue, at least, the economy worked even finer with lower marginal rates than 50%.

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  47. Andrew S. on November 2, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    re 40 and 41 (and to an extent 43 and 44):

    Dan,

    I’d point out that marginal tax rates aren’t everything. A 60% marginal tax rate doesn’t mean a 60% effective tax rate. A 60% marginal tax rate bankrolls tax accountants like me, who will figure out ways for people in that bracket to lower their effective rate.

    Tax planning, however, is more tax favorable for the wealthy…partially because they already have the expendable cash to spend on tax planning…secondly because they are able to do tax advantaged stuff and wage earners are kinda hosed (E.g., capital gains, home mortgage interest deductions on second home, etc., etc.,)…and thirdly, because deductions are valued based on tax rate, so a deduction against income that would be taxable at 60% marginal tax rate is worth a lot more than a deduction against income that would be taxable at a lower rate.

    Similarly, a 60% marginal tax rate doesn’t mean a 60% marginal tax rate on everything. I’m not an expert, but I am aware that the tax *base* has differed considerably throughout American history. Marginal rate cuts (at least the big ones) generally come with broadening the base.)

    Now, enough for that.

    re 42:

    Peter, Would you like to begin? There’s a reason there’s a big ex-mormon subreddit presence, and not so big Mormon subreddit presence — the faithful just seem to be leaving this channel on the table underutilized.

    This is, of course, something that can be changed, if people want it to.

    I would counter that, FWIW, I think that faithful members have a far better presence on twitter. #ldsconf and #mormon are solid hashtags, for example, but I can’t think of a comparable exmormon hashtag.

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  48. Dan on November 2, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    Thomas,

    All of the Bush tax cuts? That puts you to the left of President Obama, and virtually every Democrat in government.

    Indeed. But then again I’ve noted several times (mostly on my blog) that Congressional Democrats are too cowardly to do what was right, and of course Obama is a centrist, not some lefty. :)

    Really, if you want to duplicate the Clinton Administration’s economic performance, raising taxes to 39% wouldn’t do it. You also need to inflate another dot-com bubble.

    I don’t want to recreate the Clinton years. This is a rather weak argument on your part.

    Where I am most concerned, is with the extent to which we have become accustomed to argue, not for raising our own taxes, but raising the other guy’s.

    You won’t hear that argument from me, and I’m doing fairly well in this life. I dare you to show me liberals who make this point you raise.

    We’ve spent more on “stimulus” (of doubtful utility) in two years, than Iraq and Afghanistan cost in eight.

    Not of doubtful utility. Look at almost all economists and they’ll tell you that the stimulus saved millions of jobs, Thomas. That’s the whole point of a stimulus. It’s going to cost a lot, but inject needed medicine into an ailing body. The two wars…well, they didn’t stimulate the economy much did they? Makes David Broder’s argument that we should war with Iran in order to stimulate our economy look utterly ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yeesh!

    The argument I often hear is that because I supposedly didn’t object loudly enough to Bush’s deficits in the range of $200-$500 billion per year (not true, actually), I’m supposed to be estopped from voicing concern about deficits in the $1.5 trillion range. I leave it to others to measure the coherence of that argument.

    Thomas, com’on, be truthful about where most of that deficit comes from. It comes from tax receipts dropping because people are out of jobs! It comes from social services increasing costs because people are out of jobs! And then, the Bush tax cuts and Bush wars. :) Obama’s stimulus is only a small part of the reason the deficit is at $1.5 trillion. The largest part is that tax revenue went down with the downturn in the economy.

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  49. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    “Thomas, com’on, be truthful about where most of that deficit comes from. It comes from tax receipts dropping because people are out of jobs! It comes from social services increasing costs because people are out of jobs! And then, the Bush tax cuts and Bush wars.”

    In other words, pretty much exactly what I said, right before you called me a liar.

    In fact, the main components of the deficit are (1) downward revisions in projected economic performance (the CBO’s prediction of an eternal housing bubble were about as useful as their predictions, the *last* time around, of an eternal dot-com boom — the basis of the “Clinton surpluses”); (2) increased new spending (of which TARP and the $700 billion stimulus were far greater components than any increased social-services costs — most social services are state budget items, anyway); and only then the (estimated) revenue loss from tax cuts (and again, the biggest component of the lost revenue comes from the lower-bracket tax cuts) and the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The latter, btw, wasn’t a “Bush war” by any stretch, if memory re: who voted to authorize it serves.)

    Yet the left-wing argument puts the wars and the “tax cuts for the rich” up front and center. Eliminate those items altogether, and you’re still facing a greater deficit than any of those Bush ran.

    I’ll grant you this: George W. Bush failed to effectively address economic and demographic forces that have been building for decades. But the present administration has essentially doubled down on the former group’s worst errors, and, in harping on “the failed policies of the last eight years” (which it never really identifies with any useful precision), it reveals that it has no interest, or probably ability, to see what needs to be done. (In a word, control entitlement spending and broaden the tax base.)

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  50. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    “You won’t hear that argument from me, and I’m doing fairly well in this life. I dare you to show me liberals who make this point you raise.”

    If you and your wife make more than $250,000 per year (which would be damn good for a librarian and a principal, and an excellent argument for my point that government overspends on its employees!) then you’re one of them.

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  51. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    *choke* I mean “unless”, not “if.”

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  52. Dan on November 2, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    Thomas,

    Sorry that I wasn’t clear on the point of raising taxes. I don’t mind our taxes going up (and no we’re not in the $250,000 range) to ensure our country lives within its means. And that’s what I was saying. At this point, the argument made is that raising the taxes on income over $250,000 would help reduce our deficit. Apparently no one is yet so overly concerned about defaulting on our loans that we would argue about increasing everybody’s taxes. I’m daring you to find a liberal who argues to raise someone else’s taxes and not his own, or that he wouldn’t be willing to have his raised. I may be wrong, but I thought I saw Warren Buffet state that he doesn’t mind his taxes increased. Or some other utterly rich dude.

    As for the other point on what brought our deficit, my apologies. I did notice earlier you had said that lower tax revenues were a cause, but you didn’t mention it in the part I quoted, which was what I was referencing. I’m glad you note the importance of that loss of revenue making an impact on the deficit. Would that your fellow conservatives see the importance of stimulating the economy to get tax revenues back up. :)

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  53. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    “Would that your fellow conservatives see the importance of stimulating the economy to get tax revenues back up.”

    Well, a huge part of Keynesian demand-side theory was tax cuts — arguably, the most effective kind of economic stimulus.

    Keynesian stimulus works best when the government represents a vast untapped reservoir of potential new spending. That was the case in the 1930s, when Keynesian stimulus was one of the handful of New Deal ideas that actually had a sound theoretical basis. But when the government is *already* a dominating component of aggregate demand, the effect of additional government spending is less. Diminishing returns, etc.

    After tax cuts, the most effective Keynesian stimulus is probably infrastructure spending (since infrastructure — if it’s truly useful, and not just make-work — can increase productivity, and thus national wealth). But only about 5% of the last stimulus package was investment in infrastructure.

    The question is not whether the economy should be stimulated, but how. The last stimulus probably had some effect (you can’t spend $700 billion and not do so), the notion that the money “created or saved” 3 million jobs is just not backed up by anything remotely worthy of being called evidence. And when (as was often the case) a million dollars or more was spent for each job “saved”, why not just hand me a million dollars?

    What if the current recession is the result of (1) a massive overhang of debt incurred for malinvestment, encouraged by over-loose central bank policy, and (2) the leading wave of a demographic crisis, as 80 million baby boomers try to unload houses onto 60 underpaid and overindebted Gen Xers like yours truly?

    The Bush and now Obama policy, facing this crisis, has basically been Herbert Hoover’s (the real one, not the left-wing fantasy): Try desperately to keep asset, retail, and labor prices at unsustainable, bubble-driven levels. Throw scads of money at banks that are insolvent in all but name. Keep people in their homes, no matter how much they may have overbought.

    It’s not going to work. There is not going to be a meaningful recovery, until we get to a price baseline we can get back to growing from. The Bush and Obama administrations were and are doing everything they can to keep us from getting to that point. It’s the exact opposite of the medicine we need to take.

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  54. Dan on November 2, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    Thomas,

    Well, a huge part of Keynesian demand-side theory was tax cuts — arguably, the most effective kind of economic stimulus.

    Indeed arguable, as I noted above, food stamps and unemployment insurance are the best stimulus per dollar. They are unsustainable, but in terms of quick injection of funds into a faltering economy, nothing beats them. And I agree with you that infrastructure comes next. And then tax cuts.

    The last stimulus probably had some effect (you can’t spend $700 billion and not do so), the notion that the money “created or saved” 3 million jobs is just not backed up by anything remotely worthy of being called evidence.

    So Moody’s Economy.com would not be “anything remotely worthy of being called evidence?” Sorry Thomas, but you’re wrong on this one.

    As for the rest, Obama simply didn’t put through a big enough stimulus. One thing David Broder was right on, World War II pulled us out of the Great Depression. The mobilization for World War II stimulated the economy. A government could do that again, but no politician is going to dare recommend the government inject $2 trillion dollars of additional spending to stimulate the economy back to life. Which is too bad. Because that’s what works.

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  55. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    “World War II pulled us out of the Great Depression. The mobilization for World War II stimulated the economy. A government could do that again, but no politician is going to dare recommend the government inject $2 trillion dollars of additional spending to stimulate the economy back to life. Which is too bad. Because that’s what works.”

    I would argue (along with some other historians who challenge the consensus view of what ended the Depression) that it was not so much that World War II directly ended the Depression, but that it did so indirectly — by causing Dr. New Deal to make himself over into Dr. Win the War, as FDR put it. In other words, the war caused the Roosevelt administration to cease its constant tinkering and master-planning, which caused investment-damping uncertainty and distorted the economy away from rationality, and focus on breaking down Germans and Japanese into their constituent molecules.

    If World War II ended the Depression simply by virtue of government pouring massive amounts of deficit-financed money into the economy, then when the stimulus ended at war’s end — there should have been a massive recession in 1946. (That’s Krugman et al’s explanation for the Depression-Within-The-Depression in 1938, i.e., the government ended its stimulus effort too soon.)

    “So Moody’s Economy.com would not be “anything remotely worthy of being called evidence?””

    Moody’s is a source, not evidence. What it has produced are estimates of the stimulus’s job creation effect. What are these estimates based on? They’re based on models that assume that X dollars of stimulus will produce Y many jobs. Those are the same models the stimulus was based upon in the first place. In other words, the evidence that the stimulus created 1.5 million jobs is that it was designed to create 1.5 million jobs — and so of course it must have done that.

    As evidence, this falls only somewhat north of “numbers pulled out of your…hat.”

    I would add that Moody’s hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory lately, being responsible for the utterly moronic AAA ratings given to senior mortgage-backed securities — a major cause of the housing bubble and subsequent collapse. If they couldn’t estimate that people making $50,000 a year are likely to default on $500,000 home loans, I question their ability to estimate the number of jobs created or saved by the stimulus.

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  56. Dan on November 2, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    Thomas,

    which caused investment-damping uncertainty and distorted the economy away from rationality, and focus on breaking down Germans and Japanese into their constituent molecules.

    heh, and how exactly did he do this, but by borrowing gazillions of dollars and spending it…essentially, the war was one big stimulus package.

    As evidence, this falls only somewhat north of “numbers pulled out of your…hat.”

    There is no other way to accurately judge what could have been is there, but to pull numbers out of a hat. I’m gonna go with the stimulus saving or creating millions of jobs because up to the point the stimulus package was passed, our economy was shedding millions of jobs. After the stimulus was passed, the economy slowed shedding jobs, and then stopped shedding jobs. There’s nothing you can offer that can challenge those numbers. The stimulus is the only remotely close thing to that change that could possibly have affected the change.

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  57. Thomas on November 2, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    “There is no other way to accurately judge what could have been is there, but to pull numbers out of a hat.”

    Exactly. And yet the defenses of the stimulus are made with significantly less humility about the uncertainty surrounding its effectiveness.

    After the stimulus was passed, the economy slowed shedding jobs, and then stopped shedding jobs. There’s nothing you can offer that can challenge those numbers. The stimulus is the only remotely close thing to that change that could possibly have affected the change.

    Strong words.

    How about “The recessionary job losses, having already gone on substantially longer than is the case in most recessions, finally ran their course.” I mean, the economy lost just under 800,000 jobs in January of 2009. It could hardly get worse. The monthly losses stayed high for several months after the stimulus was passed in February. There was no sharp inflection point at the time of the stimulus, as you imply.

    In any event, the bulk of the stimulus spending that actually occurred by the fourth quarter of 2009 (where monthly job losses had dropped to 90,000) consisted of tax cuts. (As the President later discovered, there was no such thing as the “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects he said would get stimulus money. It takes us as long to wade through all the approvals and studies for any given project, as it once took us to build the whole project.) So to the extent that you’re trying to argue that the upward bending of the job-loss curve is attributable to the stimulus package, you’re arguing for the effectiveness of tax cuts as stimulus. ;)

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  58. Dan on November 2, 2010 at 7:56 PM

    Thomas,

    I mean, the economy lost just under 800,000 jobs in January of 2009. It could hardly get worse.

    Of course it could. Just look at the original Great Depression. No stimulus was passed in 1930, 1931, or 1932. By the time Roosevelt came to power and began attempting stimulus packages, there were 25% unemployed Americans, and the DOW was down to, what, 80 points, if I remember correctly? It can always be worse.

    So to the extent that you’re trying to argue that the upward bending of the job-loss curve is attributable to the stimulus package, you’re arguing for the effectiveness of tax cuts as stimulus.

    No doubt the tax cuts helped. I’ve not been against tax cuts to stimulate the economy. I’m against tax cuts just to have tax cuts. That’s the conservative position.

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  59. Troth Everyman on November 2, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    About suggestions for the site:

    First: I really like the site.

    Second: What about including brief bios about each of the permas?

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  60. Andrew S on November 2, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    re 59:

    Troth, we are SO looking into that. We actually have bios in our profiles…we just haven’t figured out the way to make the author links on the sidebar go to an author page. It’s not a totally tough problem to fix, I guess

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  61. aquinas on December 8, 2010 at 11:55 PM

    I know this is coming a little late but I just wanted to say how much I like the aesthetics of this blog design. The font type and size and length of the comments section together with the shading every other comment is very easy on the eyes. Nice work.

    I echo the comment on an edit feature. Clark uses one over at Mormon Metaphysics that is pretty amazing.

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  62. [...] quite a year ago, I took your pulse the first time. That pulse-taking was about technical aspects of the site: things like comment numbering, [...]

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  63. [...] once again, dear readers of Wheat & Tares…We’ve taken pulses twice before now, and now makes three…the issues I’d like to discuss today is blog [...]

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