Firedoglake Book Salon

Starting in about 15 minutes — 5 pm EDT — I'll be hosting a Firedoglake Book Salon on Ryan Grim's This is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America. Stop by and join the discussion with Grim about his fascinating new book.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

6 thoughts

  1. Will,
    I’ve been making almost this exact argument for months, arguing, as you do, that the future of the Dem Party will make them ever more fiscally conservative, and the future of the Republican Party will make them ever more fiscally liberal. I haven’t read Gelman’s book, though. Anyways, the bottom line for me is that the future of libertarianism more generally lies much more with the Dems than the Republicans, with whom we have been more closely associated for decades.
    Pedro – If you have two competing priorities, and neither party adequately represents both priorities, then you have to decide which priority is more important. If you have a good amount of income, then the difference between a 35% tax and a 39% tax is not the end of the world. There is also plenty of evidence that, above a certain level, additional income has little-to-no effect on one’s happiness…which is, of course, the highest priority for most people.

    1. publiusendures,
      Happiness studies also say that, after 6 months or so, becoming a quadriplegic has no affect on happiness. Does this demonstrate: (a) people don’t care about being quadriplegics, (b) that what people want can’t be collapsed to “happiness” or (c) happiness literatures is just junk that comes from taking utility theory waaaaay too seriously [except for the part about how a utility function is only unique up to a monotonic transformation]?

  2. Ryan yin: You seem to miss my point, which is simply that it is unsurprising that the prospect of a slightly higher marginal tax rate would be a comparatively low priority to someone with a particularly high income. If we were talking about a situation where their marginal tax rate was likely to increase by a tremendous amount (perhaps by 50% or more), then we could maybe expect a different result. This is not to say that no one with a particularly high income would deem this a comparatively low priority – only that it is unsurprising that a substantial number of such people would do so.

  3. Only about 5% of americans have a personal income above $100,000. A 8% gain among these voters isn’t as big of a deal as the 5% gain among the 95% of americans with personal income below $100,000.

  4. publiusendures,
    I see the point, and I think it’s reasonable (though I don’t think I agree). I’m just saying that the happiness literature doesn’t make your point more convincing, and also that the claim “happiness … highest priority for most people” is provably false (at least if you define “happiness” to mean whatever it is those studies measure).
    Regarding priorities, is it in fact the case that high income people do want lower/less progressive taxes? If they simply have other priorities that trump what they actually want on economic issues, then this should show up in public opinion polls. Does it?

  5. Will: Thanks for the link and the discussion. I basically agree with what you wrote (of course) except that it’s always iffy to try to predict what will happen next. Also, my impression from poll data from 2004 is that, like it or not, the Republicans could gain by moving to the left economically (i.e., in favor of more regulation and government intervention). More generally, voters prefer more ideologically moderate candidates, but the electoral benefits from moderation, at least in the short term, appear to be pretty small.
    Finally, I think you might be right that the Democrats will have difficulty shaking off the support of the rich, now that they have it. The influence of upper-income Americans is not just in their votes (although that does matter in some of the richer states) but in campaign contributions and political influence felt in other ways (whether it be a news reporter or media executive with socially liberal views, or a business executive who opposes unionization).

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