Category Archive for: Discussion Questions [Return to Main]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Discussion Question: Is It Important for Taxes to be Progressive? Or is Progressivity in the Net Benefits the Only Important Consideration?

In Europe, the VAT is used extensively. VATs are  regressive, but they're an important source of revenue for the highly progressive tax-and-transfer systems in Europe. That is, although the tax itself is regressive, it is very good at producing revenue and once the distribution of benefits is accounted for (both cash transfers and other benefits), the systems are highly progressive overall.

I have always argued for progressive taxes, in particular for the principle of "equal marginal sacrifice" (the lost dollar paid in taxes should lower utility by the same amount or everyone, and since the marginal utility of a dollar falls with income this implies a progressive structure). But increasingly I'm wondering if a flatter structure that brings in more revenue and ends up more progressive once the benefits are accounted for might not be better.

The political right seems to think there is something valuable about the pain from paying taxes, that's why they complain when people are able to avoid them (unless you are rich and manage this through legal avoidance). When people are forced to feel the pain from taxes, they argue, that helps to keep government small (this seems to argue for equal marginal sacrifice and progressivity so that the marginal pain is the same).

My argument for progressivity is a bit different. It is based upon equity. It seems fair to have those with more pay proportionately more. But why shouldn't the overall outcome be the important consideration?

So the question is:

Is it important for taxes to be progressive? Or is progressivity in the net benefits the only important consideration?

Click on the question to answer.  (The answers to previous questions are in the outermost sidebar.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Discussion Question: What's the Biggest Piece of Disinformation Circulating Right Now? What's the Best Way to Debunk It?

In an attempt to help Brad DeLong and others "for when [we are] surprised, as [we] will be, by an unexpected question from an unexpected direction while talking to reporters, phone callers, passers-by, radio interviewers, cable TV interviewers, etc.":

What's the biggest piece of disinformation circulating right now, and what's the best way to debunk it?

This asks about the biggest piece of disinformation, but identifying potential "surprise" pieces of disinformation that reporters and others might ask about and how to debunk them would also be very helpful.

Click on the question to answer.  (The answers to previous questions are in the outermost sidebar.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Discussion Question: What's the Most Important Problem the US Faces? Can It Be Solved?

I'm wondering how much agreement there will be on this:

What's the Most Important Problem the US Faces? Can It Be Solved?

Click on the question to answer.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Discussion Question: How Can We Reduce the Growth of Health Care Costs?

Curious to hear your answers to this question:

How can we reduce the growth of health care costs?

I'm asking because it seems to me that there is far too much discussion of cutting services, and not enough about how to control costs without affecting services (e.g., using the government's purchasing power to reduce the amount the government pays for drugs, reducing the cost of insurance companies fighting over who pays bills, etc.). Costs that can be cut without reducing services need to come first, then, when those efforts are exhausted, we can think about the services themselves. But that doesn't seem to be how we are proceeding.

[Click on question to answer, and please remember, one comment per person so take your time and be sure you've covered all the points you'd like to make.]

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Discussion Question: Are Republicans Overplaying Their Hand?

I have a question. Given that:

Barack Obama may still be President and Senator Harry Reid may still be Senate Majority Leader, but Republicans across the nation have been treating 2011 like one extended ideological victory lap. For them, the 2010 elections were not the result of a frustrated electorate upset with slow progress on the economy and frustration with the perceived effectiveness of Democratic rule. Instead, heedless of the consecutive wave elections that swept them out of control of the Congress and then the Presidency, Republicans apparently chose instead to believe that their entire ideology had finally prevailed in the minds of the public and now was the time to implement it.

Are Republicans overplaying their hand?

[Click on question to answer, and remember that you are limited to one response.]

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Discussion Question

Who won the budget battle?

[Formatting mistake -- comments have been moved here.]

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Discussion Question

Question (this one is mostly out of frustration):

Why are Democrats so much worse than Republicans at playing the political game? More importantly, how can they do better?

(The questions are on the sidebar. Remember that you are limited to one response, so take some time to be sure you've made all the points you want to make.)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Discussion Questions

I added a section called Discussion Questions to the sidebar. I'll add questions to this section from time to time, particularly when there's breaking news related to economic issues, but in general the questions will be about most anything. I'm hoping to get single thoughtful, reasoned responses instead of the usual back and forth among individuals typical in comments to posts.

The first question, "What Should We Do To Help The Unemployed," is not the most creative question ever constructed, but I'm interested in hearing your ideas on the types of programs and policies that might help.