October 19, 2010

"Rich professors doth protest too much."

Says Michael Kinsley. And I might want to read that article, but I'm too annoyed by the use of the verb "dost" with a third-person plural subject. I know it's a Shakespearean reference, but in an effort to go literary, he goes illiterate. He goeth illiterate. See? Doth is does, with a lisp. It's not plural.

ADDED: This post wrongly assumes Kinsley writes his own headlines over at Politico. Some unknown headline writer attempting to be literary, went illiterate.


traditionalguy said...

Touche',Professor. This dunce needs to retake Elizabethan/King James English as his second language. Have you ever thought about taking a Judging gig on American idol?

traditionalguy said...

I re-read my comment, and I apologise for the snark in it. You are my idol, dear Professor.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Kinsley is the elitist pundit who admitted just recently that he was not aware state and city pension funds are broke too.

So Mr, Kinsley, tell us again why we should let our govt overlords take one more penny from us.

Automatic_Wing said...

What a pretentious twat. His smug, moralistic ending ("If people making more than $250,000 a year can’t be asked to dig a little deeper, who can?") completely ignores the descriptive question that Mankiw was attempting to answer, which is: How will people actually behave when they're asked to "dig a little deeper"?

Saying that the rich should be good citizens and pony up without changing their behavior in any way has nothing to do with how the rich actually will behave when they get their tax bill.

Original Mike said...

Mankiw's observations about incentives is simply a fact. Kinsley's dismissal of the facts are liberal's stock in trade.

Big Mike said...

If people making more than $250,000 a year can’t be asked to dig a little deeper, who can?

Good question, but the whole thing is more complex than that.

First of all, everybody should be on the hook to pay something, even if it's just ten bucks. Then maybe there would be more push-back from the citizenry regarding boondoggles.

Second, the better-off (and in a big city and high tax state a$250,000 annual salary merely puts one among the well off, not among the wealthy), have options. Most of these options result in lower revenue (less taxes) and/or lower expenditures (less taxes and less revenue and/or employment for barbers, hairdressers, waiters and waitresses, chefs, taxi drivers, etc.).

Kinsley doesn't just fail to get the declension of "dost." He fails to get macroeconomics at all.

Sprezzatura said...

"How will people actually behave when they're asked to "dig a little deeper"?"

This isn't really all that theoretical. We know how they behaved during the WJC years under precisely the proposed rates.

The Dude said...

Al Gore told us that if you earn $250,000 for four years you are a millionaire. Him smrt!

MayBee said...

If the people who are going to be asked to dig a little deeper can't talk about how it will affect them, who can?

Anonymous said...

If the people who are going to be asked to dig a little deeper can't talk about how it will affect them, who can?

Pretty good question. We learned in 2008 that people who merely aspire to making a lot of money aren't allowed to talk about it either.

AmPowerBlog said...


Chase said...

Rich Professors protesteth too much.

Chase said...

I have no qualms with the wealthy, except when they are more equal.

A street that runs through a nearby area of $2 - 3 million homes has recently placed a permanently closed gate - by the city - to prevent traffic flow because the rich residents requested it so. The city council placed it as a issue but never advertised it as on the agenda, and so did not attract enough response to prevent it's closure.

My daughter lives less than one mile from 3 homes she visits on the other side of the new gate to teach piano. She now has to travel 13 miles to reach the homes, each one on a different day and so has lost 3 other students because of her increased travel window.

It's okay, though, because I have not 1 but 3 attorneys ready to sue the city in class action, the local newspaper preparing a story.

The irony - one of the attorneys went to law school with the city attorney. Delicious.

Rich bastards.

Hari said...

"Kinsley is the elitist pundit who admitted just recently that he was not aware state and city pension funds are broke too."

Interestingly, Kinsley writes,

"Mankiw’s assumption of an 8 percent return for 30 straight years seems optimistic."

Kinsley must also be unaware that this is exactly the assumption made by politicians when they promised these now-broke pensions to government employees.

Unknown said...

Kinsley is the prototypical limousine liberal. That he feels obliged to cast himself as the conscience of his class is hilarious.

How many accountants does he have working on his taxes, I wonder?

PS Leave it to Ann to actually look up the old conjugation.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Good catch. You have to wonder if Kinsley, and other pundits, truly understands what he writes or perhaps he just cribs his talking points from a liberal think tank fax or press release.

Ann Althouse said...

"PS Leave it to Ann to actually look up the old conjugation."

It hit my ear wrong, and I didn't want to assert it was wrong without authority. Google book search was really cool to find that old usage book.

Unknown said...

Ann Althouse said...

"PS Leave it to Ann to actually look up the old conjugation."

It hit my ear wrong, and I didn't want to assert it was wrong without authority. Google book search was really cool to find that old usage book.

I thought I remembered "doth" in some connection with a Biblical (King James) or possibly Shakespearean quote. That you caught it makes you a better person that I, Gunga Din.

jamboree said...

I just want to know on what planet the Harvard Econ professor can still get a secure 8% for 30 years on his $1000. That was always the number bandied about when I was in school, but it's so outdated for so long especially for bonds or CDs - they may as well be talking about wax cylinders and daguerrreotypes.

Michael said...

Chase: I would expect that the now gated community will have to pave their own streets, repair their own sidewalks and otherwise undertake the duties the city had before the gating. I would think you would be better off with one lawyer than three. It is generally not a good idea to have dueling attorneys on the payroll.

rhhardin said...

Such things sound wrong to me without any special training, just from hearing the King James Bible as a kid, I guess.

People today have a different childhood.

rhhardin said...


I'm Full of Soup said...

Kinsley questions an individual's reluctance to pay more taxes but Kinsley does not question the state's need for more of the individual's money.

Trochilus said...

Ann, that may well qualify you for a Distinguished International Takedown Badge . . . one emblazoned with both a Sharp Retort Cluster, and a "V" Device for Verbal Alacrity.

$9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

This would be a great place for the reappearance of that old ghost who used to visit these parts. He'd have thoughts on his day's grotesque custom of forcing butchered ancient Latin & Greek into normal conversation to steal an unwarranted sophistication.

$9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

1jbpWe know how they behaved during the WJC years under precisely the proposed rates.

That's wrong for two reasons, explained below. But first, if everyone was so happy under the old marginal rates, why are Democrats retaining 3/5 of Bush's rates at a cost of 3/4 trillion dollars? Don't we need that money and people behaved nicely under those 3 rates?

First, the marginal rates might be the same, but the Democrats (1) have (x) increased medicare taxes and (y) applied them to a wider range of income, (2) have increased excise taxes,(3) have reduced valuable cafeteria plan limits e.g., FLEX, HSA), (4) have made health insurance more expensive (by increasing mandated coverage, effectively prohibiting high-deductible catastrophic insurance), and have reduced the deductibility of common itemized deductions. (A few arrive in 2013, but are already altering behavior)

Second, inflation since 2000 has inflicted the two highest marginal rates (and punitive phase-outs of deductions, credits) on households whose purchasing power has not increased.

dbp said...

Kinsley: "If Mankiw’s marginal tax rate has actually been 80 percent for all these years, it doesn’t seem to have affected his incentives very much, and 90 percent won’t, either."

His reduction is 50%, going from keeping 20% to keeping only 10%. It seems like it could have some effect. How about going from 90% to 100%? This is the same amount of change. I wonder if Kinsley thinks this would have no effect either?

Sprezzatura said...

Medicare increases aren't until 2014, and they're only for folks above 200/250 thousand. Please list the federal excise taxes that have been raised, and how much they've gone up. HSAs are only altered slightly, e.g. only over the counter drugs can be purchased w/ these funds (just like normal health care plans) and it's more costly to take this money out for non-med stuff. The FSA limit is still a grand more (about 60% above) than the average limit currently allowed by employers, and this is set to increase w/ inflation.

The new restraints on insurers/providers are (in many cases) supported by Rs and Ds. And, they are the result of insurers/providers constantly finding ways to cherry pick the population while they're dumping expensive folks in the publicly funded system. Health care isn't like auto insurance: you can't just sideline the folks who are running up repair bills, they end up on the gov's balance sheet, or they die, in potentially excruciating ways.

High deductible plans are still allowed. One of the low cost options (e.g. for young folks) under the new rules will be to combine an HSA w/ a catastrophic type plan.

Since Reagan (was it 85?) the tax code, including deductions, and the amount of income required to be in each tax bracket have been set to adjust annually to keep in front of inflation. Of course, the AMT is a problem. But, the pols will never stop adjusting for the AMT, so it isn't affecting folks.

The sky is not falling.

lucid said...

oh, c'mon, Ann. It's like using the word "ain't" or "force majeure" as a rhetorical grace note--it is dropped into the sentence from another world as an entity whole. It doesn't have to be grammatically accurate because in its nature its not.

$9,000,000,000 Write Off said...


(1) Obama's very first signature imposed new excise taxes on tobacco (primarily paid for by sub $200,000 citizens) (or did he break his promise adopt a shelter dog first?), (2) 40 percent on medical coverage in excess of certain amounts (unless you belong to a politically favored special interest group), (3) the Tanning Tax, (4) doubled the excise tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA, (5) excise tax on name brand drugs and, I recall,(6) an excise tax on compensation of specific individuals who benefited from the enacters stupidity?

Medicare goes up and covers more income in 2013, but, as I said, a tax increase changes behavior in anticipation.

(Before I go on, could you answer why should go back to those wonderful tax rates for a tiny sliver of the people, but not for the overwhelming majority of people? Especially in these trying times when the government desperately needs more money to throw at constituents before the election?)

They imposed a $2,500 limit on FSA, where none existed before. Plus FSA, HSA and MRP now cover fewer taxpayer expenses.

They graciously permitted one narrowly defined high-deductible plan to survive, but killed off most species in the marketplace. A large employer about to break bad news on the eve of an election may be granted a temporary waiver (or harangued).

Incidentally, its not really medical insurance if you must cover a present condition, is it? Insurance insures against a risk, not a present condition. Forcing a company to pay for a present condition is just a tax, isn't it? Like forcing you to provide your compensable services and pay for incidentals without reimbursement for free, to whomever asks?

Good point on bracket creep.

The lower rates actually made AMT a problem for folks who couldn't enjoy keeping more of their money.

former law student said...

My daughter lives less than one mile from 3 homes she visits on the other side of the new gate to teach piano. She now has to travel 13 miles to reach the homes, each one on a different day and so has lost 3 other students because of her increased travel window.

I was going to suggest buying your daughter a bicycle (no need to strap a piano to one's back) but it dawned on me -- the gate prohibits pedestrians as well?

Unknown said...

I also HATE it when people use "wherefore" as a fancy substitute for "where."

Wherefore means why, people!

Sprezzatura said...

I get that poor folks get hit w/ taxes on smokes and tanning. But, these are sin taxes related to health--as the cons tell us 'if you want less of something, tax it.'

In the final version the tax on so-called cadillac plans ended up being a Ferrari plan tax. Not many folks will be hit by that, which means that the intended downward pressure on premiums will be limited.

Moving the penalty for taking non-taxed HSA dollars to twenty percent only makes sense, otherwise it'd be great tax dodge for a lot of folks. I already noted that the HSA limit is still a grand higher than the average amount allowed by employers (1500), and this new limit is adjusted upward w/ inflation. Pharma was on board because they're getting everything (and about ten billion more) back thanks to Part D being filled in.

My preference would be to let all of the cuts continue for one year. I don't want to allow the rates for the top bracket to go up. I'm not against this because I don't think that these folks should/can pay the higher amount, as they did during the WJC years. But, I think the move up should be considered as part of an overall deficit reduction strategy that includes a lot of cuts, and, most importantly, entitlement reform.

It may make sense to move up the rates a little for the lower brackets. But, it may be better to actually shave a bit off of these rates, and then initiate a (gradually implemented) VAT of three to five percent. This should be done in coordination w/ the budget cutting required to deal w/ the deficit. Obviously a VAT isn't progressive, and if it's less than five percent it doesn't generate a huge amount, but it does reward savings. And, our country's lower/middle folks need to save more, or else the gov is going to be stuck paying for them, so that they aren't in the streets. Of course, it's crazy talk to think that a VAT would ever pass. Maybe in five years, if the budget is still a mess.

And, don't forget that the tax cuts for the lower brackets are also tax cuts for the sub 200/250M dollars of income for the upper bracket folks.

Michael K said...

1jpb, since you like the Clinton tax rates so much, why don't we go back to the same number of federal employees, excluding military ? Sounds like a compromise.

Anonymous said...

In a pretense of learnedness, Kinsley presumes to speak Elizabethan English, the linguistic template of the King James Bible; but instead he appears a vacuous, pompous ass.

WV: "undermug". Totally appropriate.

Gil said...


"Wherefore means why, people!"

So when Juliet says "Wherefore art thou, Romeo?", she's really saying "Why are you, Romeo?" which would mean instead of longing for his presence, she's wondering why he exists?

Man, I'll never get the subtleties of Shakespeare...

(I'm being serious about missing the difference in perception caused by not getting that wherefore = why)

Anonymous said...

@Marcia, almost. "Wherefore" may mean "why" as a question, or "because" as a declarative. You may observe it regularly in legislative resolutions. E.g.:

"WHEREFORE John Miller is such a great guy and upstanding member of our community,

"We hereby proclaim this day 'John Miller Day.'"

@Gil: There is no comma in, "Wherefore art thou Romeo?". Juliet is asking why must he be Romeo, the scion of her family's enemies.

(I study this stuff entirely too much.)

James Jones said...

"Doth" is third person singular; he, she, it doth. "Dost" is second person singular; thou dost.

What's New said...

Most of these options result in lower revenue (less taxes) and/or lower expenditures (less taxes and less revenue and/or employment

Robert said...

I get annoyed when people use the accusative form "thee" when the context demands the nomenative "thou".

A childhood singing services based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer can do that to you.

Vicki said...

Ann - I read you blog on my cell phone where not much fits on the screen. I got as far as the quote, which I assumed was the title of your post, and stopped. It made no sense. I actually re-read it thinking I'd read it wrong the first time. Giving up on making sense of the title, I scrolled down to discover your post was not about protesting professors but illiterate pundits. My apologies for having doubted you.

Blob said...

So, you success and productivity invalidate any argument you make on how punishing success and productivity will affect the behavior of successful and productive people?

Seems like they'd be exactly the people you'd want to hear from on the issue. Unless of course your primary goal was not economic optimization.

Blob said...


Juliet wishes that Romeo were not a member of a rival family, so that their love would not be forbidden.

Regarding archaic English forms, I hate mis-conjugation as well. The worst is the inappropriate addition of "-eth", especially to imperative forms. People try to riff on Shakespeare or the Bible and end up sounding both pretentious and dumb at the same time.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that my big problem with raising taxes, as is scheduled to happen at the end of the year, is that it is exactly the wrong thing to do in the midst of a recession.

The assumption is that we need to raise taxes to cover the massively increased federal expenditures. But why are they not the question here? If we were to just cut federal spending back to the levels we had before the Democrats retook Congress in 2006, this would be almost a non-issue. Instead, they are about 5% of GNP higher, and that is the problem.

This is the problem with giving the "elite" and the MSM control of the debate. They are, in essence, arguing that Keynesian economics works, and is required at this point in a recession. And, as we have all seen, that is mere wishful thinking, to justify the massive increase we have seen in federal spending, with, as expected by those who lost our belief in this sort of wishful thinking economics in the 1970s and 1980s, a significant increase in the unemployment rate as a result.

Bruce Hayden said...

People try to riff on Shakespeare or the Bible and end up sounding both pretentious and dumb at the same time.

Hopefully, with me, it is just pretentious, since it is done for humorous effect. But if it makes me look dumb too, so be it. My[th] attempts at word play already drive my[th] child crazy, and this just makes it worse.

KG2V said...

You REALLY expect him to understand the 2nd and 3rd person informal tense of English? Heck, most people don't know that it once existed, other than Thou

Unknown said...

Others have observed that staring at 90% tax on someone's efforts of today (irrespective of what they did yesterday) makes the question one of morality. As in next-to-slavery. Either my work is worth what it was day one or not. And for others to gain, say, more than those I trade with or am employed by seems right strange. This is where tax policy breaks and falls under its own immorality - and exposes the worst of non-local democratic government (when 50M+1 decide for 50M-1 what could be, should be, local issues). Unsaid is how much more stable and resilient local governance is (for all things domestic). Hard to behead a hydra. Easy to derail DC (foreign, special, and esp. 50M+1 interests).

If the TP folks want an agenda, they should demand a date certain for disestablishing D.C. from all roles domestic, and return governance (responsibility and obligation) to political jurisdictions no larger than, say, 300K citizens - which is a power plant, a couple of water and sewage plants, 5,000+ classrooms, 1,000 hospital rooms, a small airport, etc.. What they can't do for themselves directly, a voluntary collaboration of nearby communities (deal with the next 90%), and with successive refinement everything that's embodied in current federal agencies that dictate, rather than collaborate. And then these jurisdictions will be disciplined not only at their ballot box but by competing for the favor of the citizen and their enterprise, and in the competition deliver better governance than anything we’ve seen from what now must appear to be a foreign power to most in that place called “D.C.” George Washington gave the crown back, it’s time for D.C. to do the same.

Call it an act of faith in the American People. Let go of the controls and the ship of state will right itself.

Milhouse said...

No, gus3, "wherefore" can not mean "because". I have never ever seen a proclamation such as the one in your example, and if I were to see one I would immediately comment on the illiteracy of those who drafted and passed it. The word you're looking for is "whereas".

The Ghost said...

ijpb ...

HSA are slightly affected ? Really, do you have an HSA ? Becasue if you did you would know that statement is false.

They are not just reduced but what is considered an acceptable expense is being dramatically changed.

Stop reading spin and read real world examples of ObamaCare in action before spouting off your DNC talking points ...

Delayna said...

HSA are being gutted and left for dead.

I received a letter from the provider of my HSA informing me that starting January 1, all pharmaceuticals will require a prescription for reimbursement. This includes all over the counter medicines.

FYI: I have asthma and allergies. Most of what I take--every day--is over the counter. I spend $20 per month on prescription medication, because I have an HMO. But I spend $20 every three weeks on Mucinex alone. Now I have to calculate how much to reduce my election for next year. All thanks to Health Care Reform.

Heckuva job, Barry! (I can't wait until your commie ass is out of the White House, and hopefully America.)

Jamie said...

"Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? / Deny thy father and refuse thy name, / or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love / and I'll no longer be a Capulet." (My first Shakespeare memorization - still with me after thirty years. Whoo-hoo!) Modernized and with all beauty removed, it's like, "Romeo, Romeo, why do you have to be Romeo instead of someone I'm allowed to love? Give up your family affiliation - or if YOU won't, then swear you love me and I WILL."

As for marginal effects: I make roughly 1/10 what my husband makes. (Sad, huh?) A couple of years ago, I basically offered to cut my salary by at least 50% and possibly all the way to $0, if need be, in order to keep my little preschool going in a bad year. While you wouldn't think the loss of my pittance would make a significant difference in our life, we cut out weekly housecleaning and drastically curtailed my babysitting budget (making things difficult for our youngest, who had to go to work with me even on days when he wasn't actually IN preschool) because those were budget items we felt to be "discretionary," and it was precisely our discretionary income that was reduced. So that 5-10% potential reduction in our household income resulted in less convenience and more work for us as well as a concomitant reduction in four other people's incomes (the owner of cleaning service, the two cleaners, and my babysitter).

It's possibly relevant to point out that in the end, I was able to take my full salary because of some really aggressive fundraising, yet we had lived the entire school year under the assumption that we would indeed be short 5-10% of our household income. So the reductions happened regardless of the reality that almost every month I managed to pay myself (making up for a couple of early short months over the last couple of good months).

Jamie said...

Yes, I am aware that not cleaning my house enabled the cleaners and the owner of the cleaning service to take on another client. But what if all the clients are economizing because they feel the pinch?

Anonymous said...

@Milhouse, I stand... er, sit corrected. For a final authority, I looked up "wherefore" at the Merriam-Webster, and this is what it has to say:

"1: for what reason or purpose : why
"2: therefore"

Simply put:

If A is true, then B is true.
A is true, therefore B is true.
A is true, wherefore B is true (archaic).
Whereas A is true, B is true.