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Matt Miller on Taxes and Stimulus
Matt Miller is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; a contributing editor at Fortune; and the host of "Left, Right & Center," public radio's popular week-in-review program. Miller's first book, The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America's Problems In Ways Liberals And Conservatives Can Love, was published in 2003, and was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. His latest book, The Tyranny Of Dead Ideas, was published by Henry Holt/Times Books in January 2009. Miller served as Senior Advisor to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1993 to 1995. He lives with his family in Los Angeles.
Question: Is cutting taxes a dead idea?
Miller: There’s no question that a huge stimulus that includes a big chunk of new government spending and also big new tax cuts needs to be part of what we do to get through the next couple of years. But after that, and we will reach the far side of this downturn, there’s just no question. It’s pure math that taxes will rise as a share of the economy, as a share of GDP over the next decade. It doesn’t matter who’s in power. In fact, in the book I quote a couple of John McCain’s top economic advisers who say there’s no question that taxes will go up because we’re going into the baby boomers retirement right now and that means, you know, 76 million baby boomers sit at their rocking chairs were doubling the amount of people on social security and Medicare. There’s already $50 trillion in unfunded liabilities in these programs and there’s just no way the math works at current levels of taxation. So people in both parties behind closed doors will tell you this but no one will utter it publicly. One of the points I’m trying to make with the book is even though no one would really want this, no one wants taxes to go up, but they’re going to. I mean that’s inevitable. And the good news is we’re not going to become France or Sweden. The economy is still going to thrive and, in fact, as I try to do with the research, when you look at the history of taxes and spending as a share of the economy, we’ve seen that civilizations and societies get more modern and wealthier, taxes and spending have gone up as a share of GDP and the economy is fine. So, it’s unutterable now but the idea that taxes hurt the economy and are too high isn’t dead idea, and the fact that we can’t have the honest discussion about it stops us from having the debate we really need, which is given the taxes are going up inevitably over the next decade, what’s the best way to do that for the economy? You know, there are good ways and bad ways to do this and I think it means we need to shift our tax system away from taxing payrolls and corporations, which is where a lot of our taxes come from now and tax things like dirty energy and consumption which will help us made environmental goals, national security goals and be better for the economy in general.
Question: Has the U.S. approached taxation with more wisdom before?
Miller: Everything is a function of our history and at certain times. I mean, FDR created the payroll tax as part of paying for social security. That developed a life of its own. It started very small, you know, if you’ll look at the history. Now, you know, it takes 12.5% and 15% if you’ll include the Medicare part out of both the employer and the employee. But back in FDR’s day and around the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was only around 2% of payroll. So politicians found it was the kind of thing people didn’t notice much. You can ratchet it up a little bit to increase benefits. But now we’re at that point where actually most families pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes and it’s crazy ‘cause it’s a job killing tax, you know, it’s not sensible for a host of reasons, but what’s sensible doesn’t often, you know, end up becoming what seems politically possible until enough folks start talking differently in ways that change our thinking and then change what we do.
Question: What’s the tax outlook as baby boomers age?
Miller: Taxes are going to go up. And if Republicans are in power when all the boomers are hitting the fan, they’ll find a way to raise taxes and try and call it something else. Or more likely what usually happens we get both parties to get together in the dark of night, you know, jump off the cliff together. But, you know, I think it’s one of those situations where when you can see what has to happen in terms of just the sheer numbers and the logic of it, because there’s just a stake that the Republican Party has in their tax cut mantra ‘cause it’s been so effective politically for almost 30 years since Reagan, they don’t want to give it up. Democrats, because they know powerful the tax cut mantra is and ‘cause they know, as you said, that average families feel squeezed and want to hear that we’re going to get more of our money back, they want to be for tax cuts too. This will all going to collide with reality in some point in the next 5 or 10 years and it’s hard to know exactly how it will get resolved except that the one is thing is sure is that taxes will rise.
Question: What’s one live idea about taxation?
Miller: There’s one idea in the book that I [float] from a Conservative economist, Kevin Hassett at the American Enterprise Institute who said, you know, who knows taxes are going up and knows there are better ways to do it than dumber ways for the economy. And he said, what we really could use is a federal reserve of taxation where, you know, which would be [staffed] in his view by, you know, economist like himself and where the politicians would say, look, we need taxes because the boomers are retiring, taxes have to go from 18% of GDP where they are today up to 23 or 24 and you politicians tell us what the level is and then we’ll design a tax system that optimizes for the economy, there’s a least damage to the economy given how much money you need to [hit]. Now that’s kind of a platonic ideal will never happen in the real world but it’s a useful way of thinking about the fact that there are better ways to raise the money we need to do the thing as a country that we want to do. And if we can get that conversation going, we’ll be better off.
Matt Miller on the rising costs of baby boomers
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.
- Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
- More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
- SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]<p>Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.</p><p>Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.</p>