Why economic growth is better than “equality”

Amity Shlaes:

Free marketeers may sometimes win elections, but they are not winning U.S. history. In recent years, the consensus regarding the American past has slipped leftward, and then leftward again. No longer is American history a story of opportunity, or of military or domestic triumph. Ours has become, rather, a story of wrongs, racial and social. Today, any historical figure who failed at any time to support abolition, or, worse, took the Confederate side in the Civil War, must be expunged from history. Wrongs must be righted, and equality of result enforced.

The equality campaign spills over into a less obvious field, one that might otherwise provide a useful check upon the nonempirical claims of the humanities: economics. In a discipline that once showcased the power of markets, an axiom is taking hold: equal incomes lead to general prosperity and point toward utopia. Teachers, book review editors, and especially professors withhold any evidence to the contrary. Universities lead the shift, and the population follows. Today, millennials, those born between 1981 and 2000, outnumber baby boomers by the millions, and polls suggest that they support redistribution specifically, and government action generally, more than their predecessors do. A 2014 Reason/Rupe poll found 48 percent of millennials agreeing that government should “do more” to solve problems, whereas 37 percent said that government was doing “too many things.” A full 58 percent of the youngest of millennials, those 18–24 when surveyed, held a “positive” view of socialism, in dramatic contrast with their parents: only 23 percent of those aged 55 to 64 viewed socialism positively.

At least for now, most progressives acknowledge that markets and economic growth are necessary. But progressives in academia contend that growth has proved itself secondary to equality efforts—something to be exploited, rather than appreciated. Not just nationally, but worldwide, policymakers and the press regard the subordination of growth to equality to be a benign practice, as in the recent line in the Indian periodical Mint: a policy aimed at “reducing inequality need not hurt growth.”

The redistributionist impulse has brought to the fore metrics such as the Gini coefficient, named after the ur-redistributor, Corrado Gini, an Italian social scientist who developed an early statistical measure of income distribution a century ago. A society where a single plutocrat earns all the income ranks a pure “1” on the Gini scale; one in which all earnings are perfectly equally distributed, the old Scandinavian ideal, scores a “0” by the Gini test. The Gini Index has been renamed or updated numerous times, but the principle remains the same. Income distribution and redistribution seem so crucial to progressives that French economist Thomas Piketty built an international bestseller around it, the wildly lauded Capital.

Through Gini’s lens, we now rank past eras. Decades in which policy endeavored or managed to even out and equalize earnings—the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt, the 1960s under Lyndon Johnson—score high. Decades where policymakers focused on growth before equality, such as the 1920s, fare poorly. Decades about which social-justice advocates aren’t sure what to say—the 1970s, say—simply drop from the discussion. In the same hierarchy, federal debt moves down as a concern because austerity to reduce debt could hinder redistribution. Lately, advocates of economically progressive history have made taking any position other than theirs a dangerous practice. Academic culture longs to topple the idols of markets, just as it longs to topple statutes of Robert E. Lee.

But progressives have their metrics wrong and their story backward. The geeky Gini metric fails to capture the American economic dynamic: in our country, innovative bursts lead to great wealth, which then moves to the rest of the population. Equality campaigns don’t lead automatically to prosperity; instead, prosperity leads to a higher standard of living and, eventually, in democracies, to greater equality. The late Simon Kuznets, who posited that societies that grow economically eventually become more equal, was right: growth cannot be assumed. Prioritizing equality over markets and growth hurts markets and growth and, most important, the low earners for whom social-justice advocates claim to fight. Government debt matters as well. Those who ring the equality theme so loudly deprive their own constituents, whose goals are usually much more concrete: educational opportunity, homes, better electronics, and, most of all, jobs. Translated into policy, the equality impulse takes our future hostage.

Touring American history with an eye on growth, not equality, has become so unusual that doing so almost feels like driving on the wrong side of the road. Nonetheless, a review trip through the decades is useful because the evidence for growth is right there, in our own American past. Four decades, especially, warrant examination: the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1960s, and the 1970s.

Advertisements

Foxconnsin

Tom Still knows more about Wisconsin business than those campaigning against Foxconn:

There are still plenty of people in Wisconsin who think the Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group is giving the state a giant head fake.

Skeptics think the company has no intention to put down roots in Wisconsin, and is simply waiting for the chance to abscond with our tax dollars and scamper home.

The latest company announcement rammed home the fact that nothing could be further from the truth.

Foxconn is buying a seven-story building in downtown Milwaukee from Northwestern Mutual, Wisconsin’s 161-year-old insurance giant. It will be the company’s North American headquarters and a center for activities outside its planned manufacturing plant in Racine County.

Those activities will include innovation, incubation, venture capital investment possibilities and other commercial dealings. The building has the capacity to hold 650 people and will be renamed Foxconn Place.

The move was praised by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Gov. Scott Walker, who joined in the Feb. 5 announcement.

“Foxconn is putting a stake in the ground,” said Abele, once touted as a Democratic candidate for governor. “This is an extraordinary opportunity…”

At the same news conference, Foxconn executive Louis Woo pledged the company will “work for the next 161 years to not only witness but actively participate in the transformation and growth of Wisconsin.”

If that’s a head fake, it beats anything we just saw in the Super Bowl.

People may continue to debate whether Foxconn’s 13,000 direct jobs and its predicted supply-chain effects are worth the state tax credits, but they need to remember Foxconn won’t get those credits unless the company meets specific job and capital goals over time.

The contract between the state and Foxconn is tightly written, as it should be, and lays down job and capital investment markers over a 15-year schedule. It’s a “pay-as-you-grow” strategy that can throttle up or down depending on the company’s performance.

In the meantime, skeptics should at least acknowledge that Foxconn is working hard to be a permanent and active corporate citizen of Wisconsin.

It shows not only in the Milwaukee headquarters announcement, but in job fairs, research and development relationships, supply chain spadework, land acquisition, transportation planning and more across the state.

In Milwaukee, the Regional Talent Partnership organized through the Milwaukee 7 economic development group is trying to meet the area’s workforce attraction and retention demands – including those tied to Foxconn.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone is leading that partnership, which involves other universities and technical colleges. The group includes UW-Parkside and Gateway Technical College, which is knee-deep in Foxconn workforce planning in Racine and Kenosha counties. Mone will speak at the March 19 Wisconsin Tech Summit in Waukesha, where Foxconn representatives will meet with emerging companies.

Marquette University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering are examples of colleges where Foxconn representatives have met with students and faculty; MSOE has announced plans for a gift-funded $34 million computational science and artificial science center to keep up with growing talent and R&D demands.

The city of Milwaukee is examining the possibility of expanded Amtrak service in the Milwaukee-to-Chicago rail route, in part to accommodate anticipated Foxconn workers traffic from the city to Racine County and back.

Meanwhile, reconstruction of I-94 south of Milwaukee is set to begin in earnest in 2019.

The highway will be widened from six lanes to eight from College Avenue in Milwaukee south to Highway 142 in Kenosha County. Interchanges will be rebuilt, as will frontage roads between Highway 20 and Highway KR, the stretch of interstate closest to the planned Foxconn campus.

While it’s a bittersweet experience for many farmers in the Racine town of Mount Pleasant, Foxconn is paying about five times per acre — about $50,000 — what land sold for before the company decided to build there.

Many people still have their doubts about the size of the Foxconn deal and remain concerned about environmental effects. At this point, however, those who still believe Foxconn is giving a giant head fake are only faking themselves.

A corrective word

The Associated Press reports:

Investor fears about higher interest rates escalated into rapid, computer-generated selling Monday that wiped out all the market’s gains for the year. At one point, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 1,000 points in less than an hour, and it ended with its worst day in more than six years. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is now down nearly 8 percent from its record high, set a little more than a week ago.

Market professionals warn that the selling could continue for a bit. But many are also quick to say they see no recession looming, and they expect the strengthening global economy and healthy corporate earnings to help stock prices recover.

“The reasons for the increase in rates is the stronger economy,” said Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust. “The reasons are positive. It’s not as if something like 2008 or financial Armageddon is coming.”

The trigger for the sell-off came at the end of last week when a government report showed that wages across the country rose relatively quickly last month. While that’s good for workers, traders took it as a signal that higher inflation may be on the way, which could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more quickly than expected. Higher rates not only make it more expensive for people and companies to borrow, they can also drive investors away from stocks and into bonds.

The sell-off Monday was so steep that some market-watchers blamed automated trading systems. These systems are programmed to buy and sell based on several variables, and they may have hit their sell triggers following the first wobble for stock prices after an unusually placid run.

That may mean even more volatility in the coming days, something that investors haven’t had to deal with during a blissful year-plus of record-setting returns. Before Monday, the S&P 500 index had gone a record period of time — roughly 400 trading days — without a drop of even 5 percent.

Monday was also the first day in office for the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, and investors are wondering how closely he will stick with the low interest-rate policies set by his predecessor, Janet Yellen.

Still, many market-watchers said they remain optimistic that stocks will recover.

Despite worries about interest rates, they still see a recession as a long shot. With economies growing around the world, profits for U.S. businesses are expected to continue rising, and stock prices tend to follow the path of corporate earnings over the long term.

“The rate worries have been the trigger” for the stock market’s swoon, said Melda Mergen, deputy global head of equities at Columbia Threadneedle. “But fundamentally, we don’t see any new news. It’s earnings season, the time that we get more direct feedback from our companies, and we don’t see any concerns.”

More than half the companies in the S&P 500 have told investors how they performed in the last three months of 2017, and most have topped analysts’ expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Even more encouraging is that more than three quarters of them made more revenue than expected, which means it’s not just cost-cutting and layoffs that are allowing companies to earn more.

The White House cited some of those trends Monday and said “long-term economic fundamentals … remain exceptionally strong.”

President Donald Trump, unlike his predecessors, bragged repeatedly about stocks as the market rose. Monday, he avoided the topic as they plunged.

During the bull market of the last year, Trump complained that the media weren’t giving him credit for record highs in securities values.

“I mean, it’s something that’s pretty amazing,” he said to a group of mayors last month, in characteristic remarks, citing an estimate of $8 trillion in added wealth.

He also has said that the market would have lost 50 percent of its value had Hillary Clinton won the election, a claim that he repeated publicly during a recent speech to global leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The assertion is impossible to prove or disprove.

Trump’s comments came despite frequent reminders from fact checkers and others that stocks began rising during the tenure of former President Barack Obama. In his administration, Obama and his aides were especially careful to avoid making comments about the market, for fear that the president would be blamed when it fell, as markets inevitably do.

During Monday’s market plunge, Trump was delivering a speech touting his tax cuts at a factory in Cincinnati, calling employees to the stage to discuss the gains they expected to make as a result of changes in the tax laws and what they intended to do with bonus checks they were receiving.

Trump did not mention the falling market, but as he bragged about the soaring economy, all three cable news channels airing the speech displayed graphics showing the market dropping in real time. As the speech wore on and stocks continued falling, all three — including Trump-friendly Fox News — pulled away from the speech entirely to report on the Dow.

If the stock market does indeed bounce back, though, many market-watchers expect returns to be more muted than in prior years because prices have already climbed so high. The S&P 500 is up nearly 292 percent since bottoming in early 2009.

And investors should remember that drops like those of the past two days aren’t a unique occurrence for stocks. They’re inherently risky investments, and investors should be prepared to see drops of 10 percent. Such declines happen so regularly that analysts have a name for them: a market correction.

Yesterday’s record drop totaled 4.5 percent, which is not remotely close to a record. The Black Monday 1987 drop was 22.61 percent, and those 508 points were recovered in a year. The Black Tuesday 1929 drop was 12.82 percent, followed a day later by another 11.73-percent drop and a week later by a 9.92-percent drop. In the two months before and after the 2008 election, the Dow Jones dropped 2,870 points over four days. Even with the drops of last week and Monday, the Dow Jones has gained 6,000 points since Election Day 2016.

Investors should look at the long term, not what happened yesterday or last week, and look at their own financial situations instead of what the news media reports.

 

The anti-Obama (and anti-Hillary)

Victor Davis Hanson:

Donald Trump continues to baffle. Never Trump Republicans still struggle to square the circle of quietly agreeing so far with most of his policies, as they loudly insist that his record is already nullified by its supposedly odious author. Or surely it soon will be discredited by the next Trumpian outrage. Or his successes belong to congressional and Cabinet members, while his failures are all his own. Rarely do they seriously reflect on what otherwise over the last year might have been the trajectory of a Clinton administration.

Contrary to popular supposition, the Left loathes Trump not just for what he has done. (It is often too consumed with fury to calibrate carefully the particulars of the Trump agenda.) Rather, it despises him mostly for what he superficially represents.

To many progressives and indeed elites of all persuasions, Trump is also the Prince of Anti-culture: mindlessly naïve American boosterism; conspicuous, 1950s-style unapologetic consumption; repetitive and limited vocabulary; fast-food culinary tastes; Queens accent; herky-jerky mannerisms; ostentatious dress; bulging appearance; poorly disguised facial expressions; embracing rather than sneering at middle-class appetites; a lack of subtlety, nuance, and ambiguity.

In short Trump’s very essence wars with everything that long ago was proven to be noble, just, and correct by Vanity Fair, NPR, The New Yorker, Google, the Upper West Side, and The Daily Show. There is not even a smidgeon of a concession that some of Trump’s policies might offer tens of thousands of forgotten inner-city youth good jobs or revitalize a dead and written-off town in the Midwest, or make the petroleum of the war-torn Persian Gulf strategically irrelevant to an oil-rich United States.

Yet one way of understanding Trump — particularly the momentum of his first year — is through recollection of the last eight years of the Obama administration. In reductionist terms, Trump is the un-Obama. Surprisingly, that is saying quite a lot more than simple reductive negativism. Republicans have not seriously attempted to roll back the administrative state since Reagan. On key issues of climate change, entitlements, illegal immigration, government spending, and globalization, it was sometimes hard to distinguish a Bush initiative from a Clinton policy or a McCain bill from a Biden proposal. There was often a reluctant acceptance of the seemingly inevitable march to the European-style socialist administrative state.

Of course, there were sometimes differences between the two parties, such as the George W. Bush’s tax cuts or the Republicans’ opposition to Obamacare. Yet for the most part, since 1989, we’ve had lots of rhetoric but otherwise no serious effort to prune back the autonomous bureaucracy that grew ever larger. Few Republicans in the executive branch sought to reduce government employment, deregulate, sanction radical expansion of fossil-fuel production, question the economic effects of globalization on Americans between the coasts, address deindustrialization, recalibrate the tax code, rein in the EPA, secure the border, reduce illegal immigration, or question transnational organizations. To do all that would require a president to be largely hated by the Left, demonized by the media, and caricatured in popular culture — and few were willing to endure the commensurate ostracism.

Trump has done all that in a manner perhaps more Reaganesque than Reagan himself. In part, he has been able to make such moves because of the Republican majority (though thin) in Congress and also because of, not despite, his politically incorrect bluntness, his in-your-face talk, innate cunning, reality-TV celebrity status, animalistic energy, and his cynical appraisal that tangible success wins more support than ideology. And, yes, in part the wheeler-dealer Manhattan billionaire developed real sympathy for the forgotten losers of globalization.

Even his critics sometimes concede that his economic and foreign-policy agendas are bringing dividends. In some sense, it is not so much because of innovative policy, but rather that he is simply bullying his way back to basics we’ve forgotten over the past decades.

The wonder was never how to grow the economy at 3 percent (all presidents prior to 2009 had at one time or another done just that), but rather, contrary to “expert” economic opinion, how to discover ways to prevent that organic occurrence.

Obama was the first modern president who apparently figured out how. It took the efforts of a 24/7 redistributionist agenda of tax increases, federalizing health care, massive new debt, layers of more regulation, zero-interest rates, neo-socialist regulatory appointments, expansionary eligibility for entitlements, and constant anti-free-market jawboning that created a psychological atmosphere conducive to real retrenchment, mental holding patterns, and legitimate fears over discernable success. Obama weaponized federal agencies including the IRS, DOJ, and EPA in such a manner as to worry anyone successful, prominent, and conservative enough to come under the federal radar of a vindictive Lois Lerner, Eric Holder, or a FISA court.

Trump has sought to undo all that, point by point. The initial result so far is not rocket science, but rather a natural expression of what happens when millions of Americans believe they have greater freedom and safety to profit and innovate, and trust they will not be punished, materially or psychologically, for the ensuing successful results. The radical upsurge in business and consumer confidence is not revolutionary but almost natural. The Left and Never Trump Right claim that Trump is Stalin, Hitler, or Mussolini. In fact, for the first time in eight years, it is highly unlikely that the FBI, IRS, CIA, DOJ, and other alphabet-soup agencies see their tasks as going after the president’s perceived opponents.

The same about-face is true on the foreign-policy front, as the ancient practice of deterrence replaced the modern therapeutic mindset. Obama blurred, deliberately so, the lines between allies and hostiles. America experienced the worst of both worlds: We were rarely respected by our friends, even more rarely feared by our enemies; loud rhetorical muscularity was backed up only by “strategic patience” and “leading from behind.”

On the supposedly friendly side, Europe assumed that the United States would fawn after the virtue-signaling Paris Climate Accord. The Palestinians concluded that there was no shelf life on victimhood and that America simply would not, could not, dare not move its embassy to Jerusalem as the Congress had chronically showboated it would. NATO just knew that endless subsidies were its birthright and prior commitments were debatable. The West apparently lapped up Obama’s Cairo speech: But when even the European Renaissance and Enlightenment were seen as derivatives of Islam, there is not much left to boast about.

On the unfriendly side, China sensed there was little danger in turning the Spratley Islands into an armed valve of the South China Sea. Russia understood that America was obsequiously “flexible” and ready to push a red plastic reset button in times of crisis.

ISIS assumed that American lawyers were vetoing air-strike targets. Iran guessed rightly that the Obama administration would concede a lot to strike a legacy deal on nonproliferation. It was unsure only about whether the Obama administration’s eagerness to dissimulate about the disadvantageous details were due to a sincere desire to empower revolutionary, Shiite Iran as an antipode to Israel and the Sunni oil monarchies, or arising from a reckless need to leave some sort of foreign-policy signature. Kim Jung-un concluded that the eight years of the Obama administration provided a rare golden moment to vastly expand its nuclear and missile capability — and then announce it as an irrevocable fait accompli after Obama left office.

Again, the common denominator was that the Obama administration, in quite radical fashion, had sought a therapeutic inversion of foreign policy — in a way few other major nations had previously envisioned.

Trump’s appointees almost immediately began undoing all that. There were no more effective avatars of old-style deterrence than James Mattis and H. R. McMaster. Neither was political. Both long ago embraced a realist appraisal of human nature, predicated on two ancient ideas: We all are more likely to behave when we accept that the alternative is far more dangerous to ourselves, and the world is better off when everyone knows the laws in the arena. Just as Obama’s pseudo–red lines in Syria signaled to the Iranians or North Koreans that there were few lines of any sort anywhere; so too the destruction of ISIS suggested to others that there might be far fewer restrictions on an American secretary of defense anywhere

On the cultural side, the Trump team figuratively paused, examined its inheritance from the prior administration, and apparently concluded something like “this is unhinged.” Then it proceeded, to the degree possible, to undo it.

Open borders, illegal immigration, and sanctuary cities are the norms of very few sovereign states. They are aberrations that are unsustainable whether the practitioner is Canada, Mexico, or the United States. Calling a small pond or large puddle on a farm’s low spot an “inland waterway” subject to federal regulation is deranged; undoing that was not radical, but commonsensical.

Trump sought to revive the cultural atmosphere prior to Obama’s assertion that he would fundamentally transform what had already been a great country. In 2008, it would have been inconceivable that NFL multimillionaires would refuse to stand for the National Anthem — much less in suicidal fashion insult their paying fans by insinuating that they deserved such a snub because they were racists and xenophobes. It was Byzantine that a country would enter an iconoclastic frenzy in the dead of night, smashing and defacing statues without legislative or popular democratic sanction.

The Un-Obama agenda was not simply reflexive or easy — given that Obama was the apotheosis of a decades-long progressive dream. After all, in year one, Trump has been demonized in a manner unprecedented in post-war America, given the astonishing statistic that 90 percent of all media coverage of his person and policies has been negative. Obama was a representation of a progressive view of the Constitution that about a quarter of the population holds, but in Obama, that view found a rare megaphone for an otherwise hard sell.

One would have thought that all Republican presidents and presidential candidate would be something like the antitheses to progressivism. In truth, few really were. So given the lateness of the national hour, a President Nobama could prove to be quite a change.

Trump’s (which means Republicans’) biggest triumph might be this list reported by Americans for Tax Reform of the U.S. companies, from A (AAON) to Z (Zions Bancorporation) that have announced “pay raises, bonuses, expansions, 401(k) increases — arising from tax reform.” Giving you back your money (and yes, taxes are your money the government is taking from you) should be the number one priority of any elected official.

And, reports CNBC:

Apple on Wednesday made a slew of announcements about its investment in and contribution to the U.S. economy in part because of the new tax law.

The headline from Apple is that it will make a $350 billion “contribution” to the U.S. economy over the next five years, although it’s unclear exactly how the company came to that number.

The company also promised to create 20,000 new jobs and open a new campus.

It said it expects to pay about $38 billion in taxes for the horde of cash it plans to bring back to the United States. This implies it will repatriate virtually all of its $250 billion in overseas cash.

Apple also said it will spend over $30 billion in capital expenditures over the next five years. About $10 billion in capital expenditures will be investments in U.S. data centers, the company said.

Apple added that it will spend $5 billion as part of an innovation fund, up from the $1 billion CEO Tim Cook announced last year on CNBC’s “Mad Money.”

The job creation will include direct employment and also suppliers and its app business, which it had already planned to grow substantially (app developers earned $26.5 billion in 2017.) The new campus will focus on customer support.

Obama not only didn’t decrease our taxes, he increased our taxes (by allowing the George W. Bush payroll tax cuts to expire). Everyone who considers himself or herself anti-Trump should ask himself or herself whether there is any chance Hillary Clinton would have cut your taxes.

Nor would you be reading this, reported by The Hill:

Who deserves credit for the booming economy? This is not a petty argument. How voters answer the question could well determine whether Democrats retake the House of Representatives come November.

Trump and Obama (and their admirers) are slugging it out, both claiming that it is their policies that have led to the ongoing economic expansion, steady job growth and higher stock prices.

Happily for President Trump, the pros agree with him. A recent survey of economists suggest it is President Trump, and not Obama, who should be taking a bow.

The Wall Street Journal asked 68 business, financial and academic economists who was responsible for the strengthening of the economy, and most “suggested Mr. Trump’s election deserves at least some credit” for the upturn.

A majority said the president had been “somewhat” or “strongly” positive for job creation, gross domestic product growth and the rising stock market.

The pros cite the White House’s push for lighter regulation and the recent tax bill as critical to a pro-growth environment; more than 90 percent of the group thought the tax bill would boost GDP expansion over the next two years.

A year ago in the same survey, economists awarded President Obama mixed grades. Most saw his policies as positive for financial stability, but neutral-to-negative for GDP growth and negative for long-term growth. By contrast, Trump was seen as neutral to positive for long-term gains.

Why would Trump rate higher than Obama with this group? Economists point to the upturn in business confidence that accompanied Trump’s election, and tie that to increasing business investment. Spending on capital goods accelerated sharply over the first three quarters of last year, growing at an annualized rate of 6.2 percent.

Such outlays will spur productivity gains and lead to wage hikes, creating a virtuous circle complete with rising consumer confidence and spending. …

Democrats are terrified that the tax cuts will be a pleasant surprise to those who believed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) when she called the bill Armageddon, and when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared it a “kick in the gut to the middle class.”

They are even more terrified of the bonuses and raises being handed out by employers large and small, who credit the tax bill for those unexpected benefits. Democrats are trying to convince voters that those $1,000 bonuses and pay hikes are “crumbs” as multi-millionaire Nancy Pelosi recently said.

Maybe $1,000 is “pathetic” to Pelosi, but for a great many Americans, it is a big and welcome windfall.

The policy of this blog (in contrast to the opinions of Trump-worshipers and Trump-haters) is to give any politician, including Trump, credit when credit is due, and criticism when criticism is due.

 

How to put more money in people’s pockets

Facebook Friend Devin has compiled a list of companies, several of which have offices in Wisconsin, that have raised wages or otherwise invested in their employees since the announcement of the federal tax cuts late last year:

Wal-Mart – wages increased and bonuses paid

Southwest Airlines – Bonuses paid

CVS – increased hiring

FedEx- increased hiring

Aflac: $250 million boost in U.S. investments and increased 401(k) benefits, including one-time contribution of $500 to every employee’s retirement savings account.

American Savings Bank: $1,000 bonus to 1,150 employees, nearly the entire workforce, and increase of minimum wage from $12.21 an hour to $15.15.

Aquesta Financial Holdings: $1,000 bonus to all employees, increase in minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Associated Bank: $500 bonus to nearly all employees and increased minimum wage to $15 per hour, up from $10.

AT&T: $1,000 bonus to all 200,000 U.S. workers and $1 billion boost in U.S. investments.

Bank of America: $1,000 bonus for about 145,000 U.S. employees.

Bank of Hawaii: $1,000 bonus for 2,074 employees, or 95 percent of its workforce, and increase of minimum wage from $12 to $15.

BB&T Corp.: $1,200 bonus for almost three-fourths of associates, or 27,000 employees, and increase in minimum wage from $12 to $15.

Boeing: $300 million boost in investments to employee gift-match programs, workforce development, and workplace improvements.

Central Pacific Bank: $1,000 bonus to all 850 nonexecutive employees and increase in minimum wage from $12 to $15.25.

Comcast NBCUniversal: $1,000 bonus for more than 100,000 employees.

Deleware Supermarkets Inc.: $150 bonus to 1,000 nonmanagement employees and $150,000 in new investment in employee training and development programs.

Express Employment Prc: $2,000 bonus to all nonexecutive employees at Oklahoma City headquarters.

Fifth Third Bancorp: $1,000 bonus for all 13,500 employees and increase of minimum wage to $15 for nearly 3,000 workers.

First Hawaiian Bank: $1,500 bonus for all 2,264 employees and increase in minimum wage to $15.

First Horizon National Corp.: $1,000 bonus to employees who do not participate in company-sponsored bonus plans.

Kansas City Southern: $1,000 bonus to employees of subsidiaries in the U.S. and Mexico.

Melaleuca: $100 bonus for every year an employee has worked for the company—an average of $800 for each of 2,000 workers.

National Bank Holdings Corp.: $1,000 bonus to all noncommissioned associates who earn a base salary under $50,000.

Nelnet: $1,000 bonus for nearly all of 4,100 employees.

Nephron Parmaceuticals: wage increase of 5 percent for its 640 employees.

Nexus: wage increase of 5 percent and plans to hire 200 workers in 2018.

OceanFirst Bank: increase in minimum wage from $13.60 to $15, affecting at least 166 employees.

PNC Bank: $1,000 bonus to 47,500 employees and $1,500 increase to existing pension accounts.

Pinnacle Bank: $1,000 bonus for all full-time employees in Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.

Pioneer Credit Recovery: $1,000 bonus to employees.

Rush Enterprises Inc.: $1,000 discretionary bonus to 6,600 U.S. employees.

Sinclair Broadcast: $1,000 bonus to nearly 9,000 employees.

SunTrust: increase of minimum wage to $15, $50 million increase in community grants, 1 percent 401(k) contribution for all employees.

Turning Point Brands, Inc.: $1,000 bonus to 107 employees.

Washington Federal, Inc.: wage increase of 5 percent for employees earning less than $100,000 per year and increased investments in technology infrastructure and community projects.

Wells Fargo: increase in minimum wage from $13.50 to $15, and higher charitable giving by about 40 percent, to $400 million.

Western Alliance: wage increase of 7.5 percent for the lowest-paid 50 percent of employees.

Whether you like this fact or not, that is directly to Trump’s and the Republican Congress’ credit. And …

More broadly, Mark J. Perry observes things for which politicians do not deserve credit:

I posted the charts above on Twitter last Sunday and that Tweet has already had more than 1,000 re-Tweets and hundreds of comments, e.g., here’s a typical one: “This is something to cheer you up, in stark contrast to the daily #media #coverage!” So to help get people even more cheered up, and to counteract the negative news in the media with some positive economic data and facts, here’s a re-post of my 2014 “Carpe Century” post:

Morgan Housel at The Motley Fool lists the 50 reasons we’re living through the greatest period in world history (free registration may be required), and here are 25 of my favorites:

1. U.S. life expectancy at birth was 39 years in 1800, 49 years in 1900, 68 years in 1950, and 79 years today. The average newborn today can expect to live an entire generation longer than his great-grandparents could.

2. In 1949, Popular Mechanics magazine made the bold prediction that someday a computer could weigh less than 1 ton. I wrote this sentence on an iPad that weighs 0.73 pounds.

3. The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51. Enjoy your golden years — your ancestors didn’t get any of them.

4. Despite a surge in airline travel, there were half as many fatal plane accidents in 2012 than there were in 1960, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

5. People worry that the U.S. economy will end up stagnant like Japan’s. Next time you hear that, remember that unemployment in Japan hasn’t been above 5.6% in the past 25 years, its government corruption ranking has consistently improved, incomes per capita adjusted for purchasing power have grown at a decent rate, and life expectancy has risen by nearly five years. I can think of worse scenarios.

6. Two percent of American homes had electricity in 1900. J.P Morgan (the man) was one of the first to install electricity in his home, and it required a private power plant on his property. Even by 1950, close to 30% of American homes didn’t have electricity. It wasn’t until the 1970s that virtually all homes were powered. Adjusted for wage growth, electricity cost more than 10 times as much in 1900 as it does today, according to professor Julian Simon.

7. According to the Federal Reserve, the number of lifetime years spent in leisure — retirement plus time off during your working years — rose from 11 years in 1870 to 35 years by 1990. Given the rise in life expectancy, it’s probably close to 40 years today. Which is amazing: The average American spends nearly half his life in leisure. If you had told this to the average American 100 years ago, that person would have considered you wealthy beyond imagination.

8. Median household income adjusted for inflation was around $25,000 per year during the 1950s. It’s nearly double that amount today. We have false nostalgia about the prosperity of the 1950s because our definition of what counts as “middle class” has been inflated — see the 34% rise in the size of the median American home in just the past 25 years. If you dig into how the average “prosperous” American family lived in the 1950s, I think you’ll find a standard of living we’d call “poverty” today.

9. According to the Census Bureau, only one in 10 American homes had air conditioning in 1960. That rose to 49% in 1973, and 89% today — the 11% that don’t are mostly in cold climates. Simple improvements like this have changed our lives in immeasurable ways.

10. Almost no homes had a refrigerator in 1900, according to Frederick Lewis Allan’s The Big Change, let alone a car. Today they sell cars with refrigerators in them.

11. Adjusted for overall inflation, the cost of an average round-trip airline ticket fell 50% from 1978 to 2011, according to Airlines for America.

12. According to the Census Bureau, the average new home now has more bathrooms than occupants.

13. According to the Census Bureau, in 1900 there was one housing unit for every five Americans. Today, there’s one for every three. In 1910 the average home had 1.13 occupants per room. By 1997 it was down to 0.42 occupants per room.

14. Relative to hourly wages, the cost of an average new car has fallen by a factor of four since 1915, according to professor Julian Simon (5,000 hours of work at the average wage in 1915 vs. about 1,200 today).

15. Google Maps is free. If you think about this for a few moments, it’s really astounding. It’s probably the single most useful piece of software ever invented, and it’s free for anyone to use.

16. The average American work week has declined from 66 hours in 1850, to 51 hours in 1909, to 34.8 today, according to the Federal Reserve. Enjoy your weekend.

17. Incomes have grown so much faster than food prices that the average American household now spends less than half as much of its income on food as it did in the 1950s. Relative to wages, the price of food has declined more than 90% since the 19th century, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

18. As of March 2013, there were 8.99 million millionaire households in the U.S., according to the Spectrum Group. Put them together and they would make the largest city in the country, and the 18th largest city in the world, just behind Tokyo. We talk a lot about wealth concentration in the United States, but it’s not just the very top that has done well.

19. In 1900, 44% of all American jobs were in farming. Today, around 2% are. We’ve become so efficient at the basic need of feeding ourselves that nearly half the population can now work on other stuff.

20. U.S. oil production in September was the highest it’s been since 1989, and growth shows no sign of slowing. We produced 57% more oil in America in September 2013 than we did in September 2007. The International Energy Agency projects that America will be the world’s largest oil producer as soon as 2015.

21. The average American car got 13 miles per gallon in 1975, and more than 26 miles per gallon in 2013, according to the Energy Protection Agency. This has an effect identical to cutting the cost of gasoline in half.

22. Annual inflation in the United States hasn’t been above 10% since 1981 and has been below 5% in 77% of years over the past seven decades. When you consider all the hatred directed toward the Federal Reserve, this is astounding.

23. According to AT&T archives and the Dallas Fed, a three-minute phone call from New York to San Francisco cost $341 in 1915, and $12.66 in 1960, adjusted for inflation. Today, Republic Wireless offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $5 a month.

24. You need an annual income of $34,000 a year to be in the richest 1% of the world, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic’s 2010 book The Haves and the Have-Nots. To be in the top half of the globe you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it’s $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000. America’s poorest are some of the world’s richest.

25. Only 4% of humans get to live in America. Odds are you’re one of them. We’ve got it made. Be thankful.

The tax cut, and it’s about time we had one

For those on the political right bewailing Congress’ inability to get very much accomplished this year, enjoy your bigger take-home pay starting in your first 2017 paycheck. Though this tax cut is not large enough, and isn’t even close to the size of 1980s tax cuts, I’m with Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman:

And yes, most of you reading this will be getting a tax cut, contrary to the demagoguery of the Democrats (none of whom voted for the tax cut) and their leftist apparatchiks. But don’t believe me; check for yourself on this tax cut calculator. Guy Benson notes:

The Democrats’ central attack against the GOP tax reform bill is all too familiar: It’s a giveaway to corporations and “the rich” that hurts the middle class. They’ve falsely called the plan a tax increase on the middle class, and demagogued it as a “massive attack” on middle income taxpayers — not to mention the “end of the world.” Throughout this debate, we’ve shared data-driven analyses from three separate nonpartisan organizations: The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), which is an official Congressional scorekeeper, the Tax Foundation (which leans to the right), and the Tax Policy Center or TPC, (which leans to the left). In spite of the deceptive rhetoric flying around social media and the airwaves, all three outfits agreed that the GOP proposal would, on average, reduce the tax burdens of every income group in America. We’ve showcased the TPC findings because that group is typically home to Democrats’ preferred experts. Well, TPC is out with their fresh analysis of the finalized tax bill, and guess what? As we’ve been saying for weeks, it will slash taxes for the vast, vast majority of American taxpayers. … The average tax cut will be $1,600, according to TPC’s data (Republicans cite a different statistic: A tax cut of more than $2,000 for a median income family of four). Let those numbers marinate for a moment. We’ve been caught in a blizzard of misinformation claiming that this bill hurts the middle class. But even the Republican-hostile Tax Policy Center couldn’t escape the empirical conclusion that 80 percent of all Americans will see their taxes reduced under the bill — and the “losers” are limited to just five percent (largely upper income filers from high-tax blue states). And no, the “one-percenter” rich do not disproportionately benefit from the cuts.

Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute brings out a chart: Riedl points out that the bottom 80 percent of U.S. families income-wise, which pay 30 percent of federal income taxes, will get 35 percent of the tax cuts, and the top 1 percent of families, who pay 27 percent of federal taxes, will get just 21 percent of the tax cuts. Instead of being eliminated as was originally proposed, the state and local tax deduction is being limited to $10,000 in sales, property and income taxes, and the home mortgage interest deduction is being limited to $750,000 in principal. (The average house value in Wisconsin is $166,100 according to Zillow, and according to SmartAsset the average Wisconsin home property tax bill is $4,923.) The Wisconsin Gazette amuses me by reporting:

Perhaps not coincidentally, the top 10 states with the highest average state and local tax deductions all voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in last year’s election. New York led the way with an average state and local tax deduction of more than $22,000, followed by Connecticut, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Well, to quote Charlie Sykes and others, elections have consequences. Maybe constituents of Sen. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (D–New York), Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy (D–Connecticut), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D–California). Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Mendenez (D–New Jersey), and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey (D–Massachusetts) should start voting differently. For that matter, maybe their constituents should start voting differently in state and local elections. David French chronicles other Democratic stupidity:

I’m starting to think that all too many Democrats believe that private citizens and private corporations don’t actually own their private income or their private property. Otherwise, how can we explain the Democratic insistence, repeated endlessly over the last 24 hours, that Republicans somehow are poised to execute a grand “heist” by cutting corporate and individual tax rates, granting an estimated 80.4 percent of taxpayers an average tax break of $2,140.

The rhetoric was remarkable, and the hysterics weren’t confined to fringe figures on the left.

Here’s House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi:

And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:

Democratic presidential frontrunners Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders weighed in:

Note the key words. A tax cut is a “heist.” It’s “looting” the government’s money. You’re “robbing” and “ransacking” the middle class. Schumer is the most measured, and even he acts like the government is “giving” people money by granting a tax break. Yes, part of this is just talking points. They’re words chosen to win a news cycle. But they also betray a deeper problem. Taken at face value they represent a fundamental redefinition of private property. It’s part of the Democratic march towards socialism, and it doesn’t just have implications for tax rates, it has grave consequences for civil liberties as well. The traditional view of private income and private property is clear. You own and control the money you make or the property you possess. By the consent of the governed the state can tax a portion of that money and regulate your use of your property, but the fundamental presumption remains — it’s your property. It’s your money. To put it in legal terms, the government bears the burden of establishing the need for your funds or the necessity for regulation. Indeed, the Constitution establishes the primacy of individual rather than state ownership by noting that the government can take your property only for “public use” — and only after paying “just compensation.” Increasingly, however, the American Left is flipping the proposition. What’s “yours” is the array of government goods and services established by the vast and growing federal bureaucracy. What’s “yours” is the bundle of bureaucratic and regulatory rights created by an increasingly regulatory state. Thus, private property is in reality a public resource. Private businesses are “public accommodations” that can easily be commandeered to become instruments of social policy — just ask the Christian business owners required to furnish free abortifacients to their employees or to use their artistic talents to celebrate immoral events. Read through that lens, and you can easily see why Democrats use the rhetoric of theft. In Barney Frank’s memorable phrase, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” It’s the core expression of American community and the primary expression of American values. It’s the centerpiece of American life. In other words — as with so many other elements of our public debate — we’re back to first principles. We’re back to culture war. Red and Blue America are once again like ships passing in the night. A conservative hears the language of “theft” and laughs. I’m not stealing from anyone if I’m allowed to keep more of my own cash. The progressive hears the same word and nods. After all, the government must fund “our” welfare state, and the more money a person has, the greater the government’s moral and legal claim on his resources.

Business owner and Facebook Friend Michael Smith observes:

I think I finally understand why the people who oppose the GOP reform oppose it. At first, I didn’t get it. I mean, even if you accept their premise that the cuts were for “the rich” and corporations, the complainants were not getting penalized – they weren’t having anything taken away from them and they weren’t being asked to fill the gap. Other than envy, why would you begrudge your neighbor or his employee getting to keep more of what they earned, especially since neither of those circumstances changed your circumstances?
Then I got it. The complainants really do think that money belongs to them. They actually do think they are losing ground and that money that they expected to be theirs is being “given” to someone else at their expense. That’s the progressive mind for you – what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine, too.

The tax cut bill also gets rid of one of the most onerous provisions of ObamaCare — the penalty for not having health insurance, though not until Jan. 1, 2019. Getting rid of the penalty is not the same thing as getting rid of ObamaCare, but it does defang it to some extent, which may be all Republicans can accomplish given that they can’t seem to decide to fix it (which isn’t possible) or get rid of it entirely. Some fiscal conservatives are alarmed at ballooning of the federal deficit. I am completely unimpressed with any bewailing of the deficit and debt on the left, since they said nothing while their president was generating more debt than every previous president combined, and they’re only interested in deficit and debt reduction when they’re not in power. Increasing taxes will do nothing to reduce the deficit. The only thing that will reduce the deficit, now at about 16.7 percent of spending and 20.2 percent of revenues, is to cut 16.7 percent of the budget. There are, in fact, all kinds of proposals on how to cut the deficit without raising taxes. And everyone who believes this tax cut will balloon the deficit needs to put up his or her deficit-reduction proposals that do not include tax increases, or shut up. (Even Comrade Sanders has a deficit reduction proposal, though it is predictably stupid and socialist. The tax cut bill cuts taxes on business, though not enough, since the correct business tax rate is zero. However, the tax cut already is producing dividends, as CNBC reports:

Telecom giant AT&T was quick to respond to news of U.S. tax reform, announcing it would give some employees bonuses once the legislation is signed into law. AT&T said in a press release Wednesday that it would give more than 200,000 of its U.S. workers who are union members a special bonus of $1,000. The company also increased its capital expenditures budget by $1 billion in the U.S. “Congress, working closely with the President, took a monumental step to bring taxes paid by U.S. businesses in line with the rest of the industrialized world,” CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement. “This tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs. In fact, we will increase our U.S. investment and pay a special bonus to our U.S. employees.” AT&T had previously said that it would invest $1 billion in the U.S. if “competitive” tax reform legislation was passed, and has said that the tax reform framework could increase demand for AT&T’s services.

CNBC also reports:

Fifth Third Bancorp will pay more than 13,500 employees a bonus and raise the minimum wage of its workforce to $15 an hour after the passage of the Republican tax plan that will cut the bank’s corporate tax rate. … Wells Fargo, meanwhile, also said it would be boosting its minimum wage for employees to $15 an hour, which was prompted by the tax plan. The San Francisco-based bank also said it would target $400 million in donations to community and nonprofit organizations next year.

The Daily Caller adds:

Boeing announced an “immediate commitment” to investing an additional $300 million in three areas that will directly benefit their employees:

  • $100 million for corporate giving, with funds used to support demand for employee gift-match programs and for investments in Boeing’s focus areas for charitable giving: in education, in our communities, and for veterans and military personnel.
  • $100 million for workforce development in the form of training, education, and other capabilities development to meet the scale needed for rapidly evolving technologies and expanding markets.
  • $100 million for “workplace of the future” facilities and infrastructure enhancements for Boeing employees.

Dennis Muilenburg, President, and CEO of Boeing praised the new tax reform bill, saying that it is critical for Boeing sustained long-term growth. … Comcast announced that they will give $1,000 bonuses to over 100,000 “eligible frontline and non-executive employees” & invest $50 billion over the next five years in infrastructure “based on the passage of tax reform.”

It turns out that employee pay and benefits are affected by how the business is doing. It also turns out that corporate charitable contributions are also affected by how the business is doing. More profits are better. The Tax Foundation claims:

  • According to the Tax Foundation’s Taxes and Growth Model, the plan would significantly lower marginal tax rates and the cost of capital, which would lead to a 1.7 percent increase in GDP over the long term, 1.5 percent higher wages, and an additional 339,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a pro-growth tax plan, which would spur an additional $1 trillion in federal revenues from economic growth, with approximately $600 billion coming from the bill’s permanent provisions and approximately $400 billion from the bill’s temporary provisions over the budget window. These new revenues would reduce the cost of the plan substantially. Depending on the baseline used to score the plan, current policy or current law, the new revenues could bring the plan closer to revenue neutral.
  • Over the next decade, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would increase GDP by an average of 0.29 percent per year; GDP growth would be, on average, 2.13 percent, compared to 1.84 percent. In 2018, GDP growth would be 0.44 percent over the baseline forecast.

Even if all the benefits of this tax cut were not happening, there is one overriding reason to support this tax cut: It’s your money. Whether you spend it or put it away for future use, what you do with your tax cut will work for you far better than government ever will. There is, in fact, no unit of government in this nation that works even at a mediocre level of competence. There is no problem in this nation that more government and more government spending will fix.

The tribe of journalists

Jonah Goldberg:

When the allegations about Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes came out, the mainstream media had a field day. But there was no larger feeding frenzy. Last year it was a “Fox News” story, not a “societal problem” story. It took the Harvey Weinstein allegations to get the mainstream press to start asking uncomfortable questions about its own institutions. I can think of several reasons for this, but one that stands out is the tribalism of media itself.

The Fox stories confirmed, to one extent or another, what a lot of mainstream liberals think about Fox or about conservatives generally: They’re retrograde. They’re bad. That’s the kind of thing that goes on over there.

It’s related to what some reporters I know at Fox call the “Fox News effect” (not to be confused with some blather from David Brock using the same term). If Fox goes hard at an important story, a lot of other outlets will reflexively go soft on it. I’m sure the folks at the Media Research Center can produce the total minutes Fox dedicated to Fast and Furious, Benghazi, Lois Lerner’s IRS, the VA, etc., compared with the other cable news networks or the broadcast newscasts. This isn’t to say that Fox doesn’t occasionally over-cover or under-cover some stories too. There’s no scientific formula for how much airtime or resources any particular story should get, and from the outset Fox has prided itself on not reflexively following the lead of the New York Times on every news event.

But it just seems obvious to me — and many other people in and out of Fox World — that there’s a kind of seesaw dynamic. If Fox puts a lot of weight on a story, other outlets go the opposite direction. That’s why so many conservative pundits played the “If this was Bush” game during the Obama presidency.

But back to the sexual-harassment thing. One of my longstanding gripes is how when conservatives do something bad, it’s proof of the inherent badness of conservatives and conservatism. But when liberals do something bad, it is immediately turned into an indictment of America itself. Joe McCarthy’s excesses were a window into the nature of conservatism, according to historians, intellectuals, and journalists. But when liberals — Attorney General Palmer, Woodrow Wilson, et al. — did far worse, the villain was America itself. When conservatives are racist, it is because they are conservatives. When liberals are racist it is because racism is an “American sin.” In other words, liberalism is never wrong. I could go on at length about this.

Similarly, the sexual-harassment story is now being covered — largely correctly by my lights — as an American story, not a story about liberals. Again, that’s fine. But three points come to mind.

First, is it crazy to think that there’s a problem specific to liberalism at work here? I mean this all started with Harvey Weinstein, and he first thought he could survive the scandal by promising to go after the NRA. Where did he get that idea? Maybe because he had good reason to think it would work?

Perhaps there are a lot of liberal men who think they can buy indulgences by toeing the party line on equal pay and Title IX, and emptying their bladders over things like Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women.” To be fair, in recent weeks, quite a few liberals have been coming to grips with the fact that Bill Clinton survived the exposure of his predations precisely because he bought such indulgences. It’s worth remembering that he even admitted that sexual misbehavior should take a backseat to winning when he chastised Donna Shalala, his HHS secretary, for criticizing his behavior — at a cabinet meeting set up to let Clinton apologize for his behavior:

The participants said Shalala rejected what she took as Clinton’s implication that policies and programs were more important than whether he provided moral leadership.

“And then she said something like, ‘I can’t believe that is what you’re telling us, that is what you believe, that you don’t have an obligation to provide moral leadership,’” one participant recalled.

“She said something like ‘I don’t care about the lying, but I’m appalled at the behavior.’ And frankly, he [Clinton] whacked her, let her have it,” this source said. The president told Shalala that if her logic had prevailed in 1960, Richard M. Nixon would have been elected president instead of John F. Kennedy, the source said. After that, no other Cabinet member had anything critical to say, the participant added.

The second point is the reverse. The stories of sexual harassment at Fox were entirely newsworthy and legitimate on the merits. But not because Fox is “right wing.” Yet it seems fairly obvious to me that the press enjoyed the Ailes and O’Reilly stories precisely because they involved toppling someone else’s icons. Where there was barely constrained glee in the voices of many pundits and reporters when it came to exposing the sins of Ailes and O’Reilly, there’s equally obvious remorse when it comes to Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin, NPR’s David Sweeney, and, obviously, Bill Clinton. It speaks well of the media that it’s reporting these things anyway. But it would be a good thing for the press to meditate on what that remorse (and glee) says about its own tribalism.

Last, it’s simply worth pointing out that many conservatives have now embraced the Clinton position. Substitute John F. Kennedy for Donald Trump and you have precisely the argument that Clinton made to Donna Shalala, only now many conservatives are making it. Likewise, with Roy Moore. Winning is more important than literally anything Roy Moore has said or has allegedly done. It seems that, just like sexual harassment, no party has a monopoly on cynical expediency. The problem lies not in ideology but in human nature.

On the other hand, more media jobs are now available

James Freeman:

Two more media stars were fired on Wednesday due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor are the latest celebrities to lose their jobs in a cascade of accusations and revelations that began with the October exposure of the many misdeeds of film producer Harvey Weinstein. If recent history is any guide, some will say that other industries are just as bad as the ones that produce information and entertainment. But the hopeful news is that this may not be true, based on the results of a new public opinion survey.

As for Mr. Lauer, co-anchor of NBC’s “Today” show, the speed of his exit from his longtime perch atop the world of morning broadcast television was striking. According to the Journal:

NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said in a memo to staff Wednesday that the network received a detailed complaint from a colleague about misconduct by Mr. Lauer that represented “a clear violation of our company’s standards.”

The alleged incident between Mr. Lauer and the staffer took place during the network’s coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, a person briefed on the matter said.

“While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident,” Mr. Lack added.

Ari Wilkenfeld, a lawyer for the accuser, said his client “detailed egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct by Mr. Lauer” in a meeting Monday night with members of NBC’s human resources and legal departments. Mr. Wilkenfeld said NBC “acted quickly and responsibly” in investigating the claims and firing Mr. Lauer.

As far as this column can tell, Mr. Lauer has not commented publicly on the allegations. In the matter of Mr. Keillor, this doesn’t appear to be a case of unwanted prairie home companionship, but rather a workplace issue. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Citing “inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him,” Minnesota Public Radio said Wednesday it has terminated its relationship with Garrison Keillor, the former host of “A Prairie Home Companion” who helped build MPR into a national powerhouse.

In an email to the Star Tribune Wednesday, Keillor said, “I put my hand on a woman’s bare back. I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it. We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

Ironically or perhaps not, Mr. Keillor had just this week published a defense of fellow Minnesota liberal Sen. Al Franken, who has also been accused of sexual misconduct. The accused naturally deserve the presumption of innocence.

Today’s news follows the firing of numerous other alleged malefactors who held leading positions in the information and entertainment media. Just last week another staple of broadcast television, Charlie Rose, was fired by CBS, PBS and Bloomberg amid numerous accusations of appalling conduct.

There will likely be commentary in the coming days about how this problem exists in every industry, and it surely does. But there’s reason to believe that workplaces may be relatively safer outside of Hollywood and journalism. A new Economist/YouGov survey out this week finds Americans understandably and deeply concerned about the issue, but also finds that Americans are generally not working in places like the Weinstein Company.

While a large majority see sexual harassment as a serious problem for the country in general, they see less of a problem in their own workplaces. Specifically, a full 80% see sexual harassment as either a somewhat serious or very serious problem in the United States. Large majorities of both men and women hold this view.

But when asked about sexual harassment in the places they have worked, just 36% call it a somewhat serious or very serious problem. Of course one would hope for the complete absence of harassment, but the difference is striking. According to this survey, most American women do not regard sexual harassment as a serious problem in the places they have worked.

Traditional media have faced formidable challenges created by new technologies. This column’s most celebrated alumnus has described how unchecked bias has also undermined media authority. Now beyond questions of opinion and judgment, the industry faces a new test of its moral authority. How much cultural power can a movie or a television program exert if the audience decides its creators are repulsive?

We’ve got ours; you can go to hell

Jonathan Rothwell writes about the 1 percent, starting with reasons people think the 1 percent get so much money (about which they are wrong), and concluding with the actual reason:

Almost all of the growth in top American earners has come from just three economic sectors: professional services, finance and insurance, and health care, groups that tend to benefit from regulatory barriers that shelter them from competition.

The groups that have contributed the most people to the 1 percent since 1980 are: physicians; executives, managers, sales supervisors, and analysts working in the financial sectors; and professional and legal service industry executives, managers, lawyers, consultants and sales representatives.

Without changes in these largely domestic services industries — finance, health care, the law — the United States would look like Canada or Germany in terms of its top income shares.

The United States also stands out in terms of how much money its elite professionals earn relative to the median worker. Workers at the 90th percentile of the income distribution for professionals make 3.5 times the earnings of the typical (median) worker in all occupations in the United States. Only Mexico and Israel, which have very high inequality, compensate professionals so disproportionately. In Switzerland, the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark, the ratio is about 2 to 1.

This ratio, the elite professions premium, is very highly correlated with income inequality across countries.

Others are noticing these trends. A new book, “The Captured Economy” by Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles, argues that regressive regulations — laws that benefit the rich — are a primary cause of the extraordinary income gains among elite professionals and financial managers in the United States and of a reduction in growth.

This year, the Brookings Institution’s Richard Reeves wrote a book about how people in the upper middle class have shaped both legal and cultural norms to their advantage. From different perspectives, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Reich and Luigi Zingales have also written extensively about how the political power of elites has undermined markets.

Problems cited by these analysts include subsidies for the financial sector’s risk-taking; overprotection of software and pharmaceutical patents; the escalation of land-use controls that drive up rents in desirable metropolitan areas; favoritism toward market incumbents via state occupational licensing regulations (for example, associations representing lawyers, doctors and dentists that block efforts allowing paraprofessionals to provide routine services at a lower price without their supervision).

These are just some of the causes contributing to the 1 percent’s high and rising income share. Reforming relevant laws can make markets more efficient and egalitarian, and in contrast with trade, immigration and technology, the political causes of the 1 percent’s rise are directly under the control of citizens.

Big government benefits the entrenched. More government is never the answer.

The international view on federal taxes

James Freeman:

“We’re going to give the American people a huge tax cut for Christmas. Hopefully that will be a great, big, beautiful Christmas present,” said Mr. Trump. “Corporate rate will be reduced from 35 percent all the way down to 20 percent, which will make us competitive again, and companies won’t be leaving our country.” He added that “our tax plan will return trillions of dollars in wealth to our shores so that companies can invest in America again.”

Overseas, there seems to be some concern that Mr. Trump and tax reformers in Congress are about to do exactly that. The long-running Cantillon column in the Irish Times noted over the weekend that Thursday’s U.S. House vote to cut taxes “is highly significant” and that most Republicans in America “are united behind reforming the corporate-tax system.” The column in the Dublin-based newspaper added:

This is unsettling for Ireland. Addressing the House this week, Paul Ryan – a proud Irish-American – cited the example of Johnson Controls, a company that has had roots in his home state of Wisconsin since the 1880s but is now based in Ireland. The new tax system will help make the United States “the most competitive place in the world”, he said. Worrying words for Ireland.

This is the corporate taxation equivalent of the New England Patriots suddenly becoming concerned about the competitive threat posed by the Cleveland Browns. With its 12.5% tax rate on business income, Ireland has for years been pulling corporate headquarters away from the United States and attracting investment from all over the planet. Ireland routinely has the fastest-growing economy in the euro zone, so we can only imagine how Europe’s also-rans feel about the prospect of the U.S. economy suddenly becoming much more competitive.

Some Europeans have been urging us for years to get our house in order. An official with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based association of industrialized economies, co-authored a 2016 diagnosis of the U.S. problem:

The United States’ 39 percent combined statutory corporate tax rate is the highest among the largest 50 economies. The American tax and accounting system has trapped over $2 trillion of deferred taxable income as “permanently reinvested” offshore. It encourages the acquisition of U.S. headquartered companies by foreign companies, and then allows foreign companies to strip taxable income from the US activities. This system is bad for domestic job creation, penalizes the entire U.S. economy, and needs to be fixed urgently.

Although the Obama Administration never acted on this advice, they acknowledged the benefits for U.S. workers that would result from lower marginal tax rates on corporate income:

When effective marginal rates are higher, potential projects need to generate more income if the business is to pay the tax and still provide investors with the required return. Businesses will therefore limit their activities to higher-return projects. Thus, all else equal, a higher effective marginal rate for businesses will tend to reduce the level of investment, and a lower effective marginal rate will tend to encourage additional projects and a larger capital stock. Increases in the capital available for each worker’s use, also referred to as capital deepening, boost productivity, wages, and output.

That’s a passage from the 2015 Economic Report of the President, and Team Obama even recognized in a footnote the research on this topic conducted by Kevin Hassett, who now chairs President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Yet now that Mr. Hassett and his boss are promoting a reform of corporate taxation to achieve the goals sketched out by Team Obama, former Obama advisers like Larry Summers and Jason Furman are railing against it. Are they nervous that the resulting Trump economy will compare too favorably with the Obama economy?

Mr. Summers for his part has lately been warning that countries might get into a race to lower corporate tax rates. In a world threatened by North Korean missiles and Islamic terror, he now asks us to be concerned at the possibility that the whole world might decide to encourage economic growth and job creation. That’s a world we want to live in.