Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Fisk Diane Feinstein's reply to my letter

Below is a response to my letter to Diane Feinstein. My snarky comments are in Bold.

Dear Mr. Meaker:

Thank you for your letter concerning the situation in Iraq. I appreciate hearing your views on this important issue.

I am deeply concerned about our Iraq strategy. President Bush sent our military into Iraq using faulty intelligence...

Earth to Diane F. Intelligence is always faulty. The fact is, we went in before sanctions broke down completely, before Saddam was able to reconstitute his WMD programs. We, rather cleverly, fought them before they were ready. That is better than waiting until our soldiers could be killed in tens of thousands by mustard gas, and nerve gas. The Senate was right to vote to authorize War. The Administration was right to go in, knock out the Saddam government, and then make war against any and all terrorists who came. Every terrorist killed or scared off in Iraq will not attack disarmed civilians in the US.

and inadequate planning. The Administration has consistently ignored the advice of high-ranking military commanders, our allies around the world...

The Administration has consistantly selected carefully from the best advice of the best commanders. Results speak for themselves. A country of more than 20 million is conquered, occupied, and civilian government is reconstituted despite no recent democratic experience. Significant parts of Iraq are now being run by Iraqis. Larger areas are being run by Iraqis with the US in support. The terrorists to include Baath holdouts, are on the run all over Iraq. Al Queda in Iraq are currently on their fourth "capital" in Iraq. The Administration ignored the advice of the French government, which had been suborned by Saddam. What world leader would you have us follow? George Galloway, the corrupt? Abscam Murtha? Cold Cash Jefferson? Please, don't embarass yourself.

, Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, and the Iraq Study Group by refusing to acknowledge that there is no military solution to the problems plaguing Iraq.

Every terrorist killed is a military solution. Saddam's sons killed are a military solution. Every tribal leader in Anbar province who shifts his allegience from Al Queda to the Iraqi government is a military solution. The place where there is no military solution is the US Senate. Really, you must get out more.

Conditions in Iraq continue to deteriorate by the day,...

Conditions in Iraq improve by the day. Although the Iraqi parliment has its shortcomings, you perhaps have some understanding of how a minority can stymie majority desires in a democracy. So far the Iraqi government has come! Certainly under Saddam there was no such ability to thwart the corrupt Ba'ath government.

with an increasing number of U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians killed monthly in horrific violence.

I would be amazed if fewer US troops and Iraqi civilians were killed monthly, as that would require resurrection from the dead.

Our troops find themselves caught in the midst of a complex civil war.

By the definition of Civil war, no such thing is happening. The terrorists are mostly from outside Iraq. That is no kind of Civil War.

This sectarian conflict cannot be solved by military intervention but only by the Iraqi leadership taking tough political actions to stem long standing grievances and hatred between Sunnis and Shi'as.

This is not a sectarian conflict. Though Sunni Al Queda murder Shia, they also murder Christians in US forces, Sunni Kurds, and Sunni government personnel. Shia in Iran support Sunni terrorists in Iraq to make trouble for the US. In the US, I have learned to be glad for each day the Legislature does not pass bad law. I don't think we should have much higher standards for the legislature of the new government of Iraq.

To date, more than 3,400 of our brave men and women in uniform have lost their lives and over 26,000 have been injured; tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been brutally murdered. The current situation is simply unsustainable.

In 4 years we have lost less than a single day of WWII, when the US had half the population of today. They have not "lost their lives", they have been killed in action, mostly by illegal combatants who also murder women, children, and non-combatants. We must not let such tactics defeat us, or our enemies, foreign and domestic, will increasingly use such methods against us.

For this reason, I joined my colleagues in the United States Senate in supporting a provision in the fiscal year 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, to require the President to begin a phased redeployment of our combat troops from Iraq no later than 120 days after passage of the bill, with funding for combat operations ending by April 2008, except for a limited supporting force focused on training Iraqi security forces and targeting terrorists.

As you are my representitive to the US Senate, I direct you to vote for support for the troops by providing the funding, equipment, and training for them to win against our horrific enemy. I forbid you to vote for any provision to abandon our allies in Iraq to such an enemy.

I was very disappointed that the President yet again ignored the calls of the American people to bring our troops home, and chose instead to veto this bill.

I am proud of President Bush for keeping faith with our allies and our soldiers. I am pleased that he has chosen to fight the terrorists overseas, where they can not select the time and place for their attacks. I am glad the Senate authorized this action. I am disappointed that the US Senate seems too dull to remember that they too are a target for the dull knives of Al Queda.

In order to ensure that our troops have the resources they need to carry out their missions safely, improve the standards of medical treatment for wounded troops and veterans, and provide critical assistance to those affected by domestic natural disasters, the United States Congress passed a second version of the Supplemental Appropriations bill, which was signed into law by the President on May 25th.

Passing supplemental appropriations is a good idea when the US is at war.

While this bill did not include important timelines for reducing our troop levels in Iraq, I remain committed to bringing our troops home soon and will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to push for a political and diplomatic solution to the situation in Iraq.

As my representitive in the US Senate, I direct you to vote for bringing the troops home only after Iraq has, in the judgement of the senior military commanders on the scene, the ability to defend themselves from the terrorists, and from unfriendly nations in the area such as Iran and Syria. As my representitive to the US Senate, I forbid you to deny soldiers in Iraq funding for continuing operations.

Again, thank you for writing. For your review, I have included my most recent statement on this issue. Best regards.

Best wishes. I hope you find new and better sources of information. Your current sources are betraying you, and hope to betray the United States, our service members, and our allies. Shame on them!

Donald L. Meaker

Monday, July 16, 2007

Review of Laffer Curve

Don Luskin has an interesting discussion on the Laffer Curve. Rather famously, Arthur Laffer drew it on a napkin for Gerald Ford, to explain how a tax rate cut could increase government revenue from that tax. Just a review. Government revenue is expected to be zero if the tax rate is zero. Government revenue is expected to be zero if the tax rate is 100%, because noone would do the job. (If there are other non-cash benefits to the job, then the tax rate is not 100%). If tax rates are low enough, there is less incentive to cheat/ or modify behavior, which leads to very high expected revenue from very low tax rates.

Government revenue from a given tax rate is expected to be positive when the tax rate is between 0 and 100%. This suggests you can increase government revenue from a high tax rate by lowering it, and can increase government revenue from a low tax rate by increasing it. Increasing revenue from a tax rate cut is refered to as "The tax cuts paid for themselves..."

One example in recent years was the luxury boat market. A high tax rate was placed on luxury boats, and revenue from the tax was nearly zero: noone wanted to buy a luxury boat when they were going to buy their boat, and essentially buy another boat for Uncle Sam. The luxury boat industry was essentially destroyed. When the tax rate was reduced, the luxury boat industry came back.

I took the data under discussion, and fit the data using Excel. It fit best to a 4th order polynomial, that is with 0 income associated with 0% tax rate and two positive government revenue humps. (I can not refrain from calling it a camel curve!) I submit that the hump at the very low 10 to 15% level is the tax rate where it begins to make more sense to hire accountants and lawyers rather than to pay the tax. The maximum government revenue point is about 25%, where the rational manager pays for accountants and lawyers, but still has to pay. Higher than 25% the rational investor begins to stop producing. Tax rates above 15% tend to be welfare for accountants and lawyers, but produce very little added revenue for the Government. Tax rates above 25 percent seem to reduce revenue for the government, showing that accountants and lawyers in government who advise government tax rate policy makers are obeying Director's Law: They are optimizing their personal life, not that of their government client.

If the countries which are not identified are removed (using Excel "hide" command) the R value shoots up to .43 for the 4th order curve. Not too shabby for a single parameter to have that much influence on a very complex data set with literally thousands of input parameters from many different countries.

Because I can, I append my comments to Brad Delong's blog, since he will soon delete them.

Grasping Reality with Both Hands: Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal

That there is a tax rate where human behavoir is changed can not really honestly questioned. Even the most liberal economist will advocate vice taxes on alcohol and tobacco as a means to reduce drinking or smoking. What is a criminal statue but an attempt to increase the cost of unacceptable behavior?

I took the data estimates provided in your comments, and used Excel to find the best fit. The best fit was a 4th order "Camel Curve". I found it didn't make any difference if I forced a fit to (0,0) or not. The exclusion of Norway, Luxemburg, or UAE didn't seem to make a difference.
I didn't know some of the countries, so used excel to hide the countries that were not identified. The R value for this "identified country data only" data was .43, rather high for one input parameter in a system that should literally have thousands of input parameters.

Why a 4th order curve? I think there are two Laffer curves. One where people (who can) start hiring accountants and lawyers rather than just paying their 10% to 15% tax rate, and another where people begin to not produce rather than pay the 25% to 30% tax rate after already hiring the accountants and lawyers. The revenue increase from increased tax rates from 15% to 25% is minimal but the demand for accountants and lawyers will greatly increase.

This would indicate that accountants and lawyers who recommend tax increases beyond 15% in their policy advice to government are being more loyal to their personal self interest, than they are to the well being of their government clients.

Hope this helps.

Update: As expected Brad DeLong deleted my comments. Big surprise! Don Luskin included my letter, complete with the camel curve. Thanks Mr. Luskin!

I impatiently await the sure arrival of a mass of heavy red gold for my wonderful writing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Piece of string as machinegun...

How nice of the ATF to permit us peons small bits of string...

The odd thing is I haven't managed to scrape together the cash for a Garand, Ruger Mini-14, or M-1A just yet. The same approach would probably work for a SKS too.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Why Mommy Votes Democrat...

This is in response to the toddler propaganda "Why Mommy is a Democrat".

Mommy votes Democrat because she wants to have that nice black lady visit to clean the toilet, cook, and do the laundry for her.

Mommy votes Democrat because the nice man who speaks Spanish mows the lawn, so daddy doesn't get sweaty.

Mommy votes Democrat because she wants to have higher pay than she has earned.

Mommy votes Democrat because that keeps the mean man who pays her from firing her.

Mommy votes Democrat so that the nice teachers don't have to give mean red marks on your paper when you don't know the answer.

Mommy votes Democrat because she is too scared of the terrorists to fight them. She would rather tax the Grocer and Gas Station Owner to pay them off.

Mommy votes Democrat to keep the Grocer and Gas Station Owner from raising their prices.

Mommy votes Democrat because she hopes to make lots of money by suing your wicked doctor for making you better.

Mommy votes Democrat to keep the doctor from raising his prices.

Mommy votes Democrat because the union thugs will beat up Daddy if she doesn't.

Mommy votes Democrat because she murdered your little sister, and doesn't want to feel bad.