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February 2010

What should be the Republicans do about the Blair House debate and the Fiscal Commission

Keith Hennessey answers the first question.

Greg Mankiw answers the second. I fully support four of Mankiw's five suggestions. The remaining one, a VAT, I'm more doubtful about. But if it were part of a comprehensive deal along the lines he discusses, maybe--maybe--I could support it, too. (Daniel Mitchell argues against a VAT: "A Value-Added Tax Is Not the Answer . . . Unless the Question Is How To Finance Bigger Government".)

Note that Mankiw, as well as David Henderson, advocate raising the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare. I've long been in favor of this, as I've posted most recently here and here.

"Keeping You Safe"

Mark Steyn is usually excellent but he's especially good when he's angry. I thought, though, that maybe he was making this bit up;

It’s a mistake to think that the infantilization of once-free peoples represented by the micro-regulatory nanny state can be confined to pancakes and hot tubs. Consider, for example, the incisive analysis of Scott Gration, the U.S. special envoy to the mass murderers of Sudan: “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies, said Gration a few months back. “Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.”

Apparently not. As I've noted here a number of times, you can't make stuff like this up. 

More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws, Third Edition . . .

. . . by John R. Lott, Jr. will be published soon. John wrote me that it will have "about 180 pages worth of new material". John has kindly made available 15 proof pages that discuss "the only academic peer reviewed work that [he knows] off that has specifically examined Chicago's murder rates before and after the 1982 handgun regulations."

The pages are in a 8 megabyte .pdf file.

"Minimum Wages and Poverty: Will a $9.50 Federal Minimum Wage Really Help the Working Poor?"

Abstract of a paper in the Southern Economic Journal, January 2010, byJoesph J. Sabia and Richard V. Burkhauser.

Using data drawn from the March Current Population Survey, we find that state and federal minimum wage increases between 2003 and 2007 had no effect on state poverty rates. When we then simulate the effects of a proposed federal minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour, we find that such an increase will be even more poorly targeted to the working poor than was the last federal increase from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. Assuming no negative employment effects, only 11.3% of workers who will gain live in poor households, compared to 15.8% from the last increase. When we allow for negative employment effects, we find that the working poor face a disproportionate share of the job losses. Our results suggest that raising the federal minimum wage continues to be an inadequate way to help the working poor.

Digital music killed the A&R guys

The perennial gale of creative destruction at work.

"There is no doubt that the art of A&R has moved into the hands of the fans themselves," explains Ron Handler, who worked in A&R for DreamWorks Records and Interscope/Geffen and signed the likes of Rise Against and Papa Roach. A music site like Pitchfork and some of the major blogs have more influence over a band's discovery than an A&R exec at a major [label]. "There will always be filters for talent, it's just that they've shifted positions. Talent always rises to the top. The only thing that has changed is that the scouts are now from Pitchfork and Stereogum instead of Interscope and EMI."