We Should Get to Decide How the Government Spends Our Taxes

David Boaz: “Why shouldn’t taxpayers make direct decisions about how much money they want to spend on other government programs, like paying off the national debt, the war in Iraq or the National Endowment for the Arts? This would force the federal government to focus time and resources on projects citizens actually want, not just efforts that appeal to special interests.”

“To do this, we’d have to expand the concept of the campaign financing checkoff to all government programs. With this reform, the real expression of popular democracy would take place not every four years but every April 15. A new final page of the 1040 form would be created, called 1040-D (for democracy). At the top, the taxpayer would write in his total tax as determined by the 1040 form. Following would be a list of government programs, along with the percentage of the federal budget devoted to each (as proposed by Congress and the president). The taxpayer would then multiply that percentage by his total tax to determine the “amount requested” in order to meet the government’s total spending request. (Computerization of tax returns has made this step simple.) The taxpayer would then consider that request and enter the amount he was willing to pay for that program in the final column–the amount requested by the government, or more, or less, down to zero.”

The Very Interesting Thing That Happened When Obama Raised Rich People’s Taxes

Washington Post: “Just after President Obama won reelection four years ago, he and Congress increased taxes abruptly on the wealthiest Americans. In response, the rich paid up — and then went on with their lives as before, according to a new working paper.”

“Economist Emmanuel Saez estimated that, in the three years since the tax hike took effect, strategies used by the rich to reduce their reported income eliminated about 19 percent of the revenue the government could have collected from the tax increase had the wealthy not changed their behavior. This relatively small figure suggests the 2013 tax hike didn’t significantly affect rich Americans’ drive to make money, and Saez’s analysis of tax data shows the reported incomes of the wealthiest Americans, as a share of all Americans’ incomes, has continued to rise.”

This Proposal Calls for Popular Vote to Determine Presidential Elections

Hari Sreenivasan for PBS Newshour: “It’s called ‘The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact,’ and it would allocate participating state’s electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. For example, if Donald Trump were to win the most votes nationally, New York, and every other state in the compact, would pledge its electors to him, even if he didn’t win those states.”

“So, the pact leaves the Electoral College in place — no constitutional amendment required — but essentially circumvents it and creates a direct national popular vote for the presidency.”

Why CEOs Are Getting Fired More 

James Surowiecki: “The predicament of modern C.E.O.s may seem surprising, given their prominence and lavish compensation. Top executives everywhere are paid more than they used to be, and the U.S. has led the way; American C.E.O.s earn, on average, two to four times as much as European ones and five times as much as Japanese ones. Yet it’s precisely these factors that make C.E.O.s vulnerable, because the expectations for their performance are higher.”

“In that sense, the increasing willingness of boards to fire the C.E.O. is actually the flip side of a fetishization of the position that began in the eighties. In Ralph Cordiner’s day (and in Japan maybe still), belief in a C.E.O.’s power to transform a company was limited. But today’s cult of the C.E.O. is founded on the belief that having the right person at the top is the key to success—from which it follows that a failing company should show its boss the door.”

The Politics of Resentment

On PBS’ The Open Mind, Alexander Heffner interviewed Katherine Cramer, author of The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Click here for the full interview.

Cramer: “Unfortunately, the thing about resentment is that it perpetuates itself, right?… And I think that a lot of the kind of anti-liberal elite resentment that we see is actually a part of that cycle in that people know that there’s a stereotype of people in small-town America, that they’re less-educated, that they’re racist, that they are making choices against their interests. Well that’s not gonna sit very well with people, of course they’re not gonna feel warmly towards the people who are saying those types of things, right? And whoever gets into office, there’s enough of this resentment going around that suddenly we’re all not gonna be kind to one another and think now we understand one another. I think the only way to make it end is for some people to take the high road…”

Something Has Been Going Badly Wrong in the Neighborhoods That Support Trump

Washington Post: “An updated analysis from Gallup this week has revealed another factor that could be behind Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s popularity: expensive mortgage-interest payments.”

“According to the analysis, respondents in hundreds of surveys were more likely to view Trump favorably if they lived in Zip codes with heavy mortgage-interest burdens relative to local incomes, after taking into account a range of socioeconomic factors.”

“Even if Trump’s supporters have not themselves fallen on hard times, they often live in places where economic opportunity is scarce… Whatever the explanation, Rothwell’s previous analysis rebutted a widespread theory that Trump’s supporters live in areas where globalization’s costs have exceeded its benefits. Rothwell found that among voters who were demographically similar, those who lived in areas where the economy was negatively affected by Chinese imports were no more likely to view Trump favorably.”

Want to Understand Trump’s Rise? Head to the Farm.

Siena Chrisman: “Rural America is mad. We’re hearing from people in places like West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania who are fed up with the government, the economy, the ‘establishment,’ and taking out their anger at Trump rallies.”

“But what has too long been overlooked is how much of that economic dysfunction—and the anger it has caused—goes back to the dissolution of the family farm.”

“46 million Americans still live in the countryside, with many hollowed out towns, few job prospects, and the near impossibility of making a living off the land for all but the biggest farm operators. They’re not reaping the benefits of so-called efficiency, and they still feel abandoned. Joel Dyer writes, ‘The government’s lack of concern about rural America’s future made it possible for anyone to walk in and set up shop.’ In the 1990s, it was anti-government and militia groups; today it’s Donald Trump.”

Why Are US Presidential Elections So Close?

Nautilus: “There is another candidate explanation, and it is one that nearly every expert that I talked to zeroed in on: the median voter theorem.”

“The model dates to the work of the mathematician Harold Hotelling, later formalized by the economist Duncan Black and popularized by the economist Anthony Downs. Hotelling’s brief aside in 1929 was the paragraph that launched a thousand political science careers:”

The competition for votes between the Republican and Democratic parties does not lead to a clear drawing of issues, an adoption of two strongly contrasted positions between which the voter may choose. Instead, each party strives to make its platform as much like the other’s as possible. Any radical departure would lose many votes, even though it might lead to stronger commendation of the party by some who would vote for it anyhow.

Three Charts Make Painfully Simple How American Politics Became So Messed Up

Washington Post: “With less than a week to go until the election, the country seems to have descended into full partisan battle mode. It’s not just your imagination. The United States is more divided politically than it has been in years, and the gulf between the parties has surged since 2004, as seen in fascinating graphics created by Robert Rouse, an analytics consultant at data consulting company InterWorks.”

“Rouse has become increasingly turned off by the intense partisan divisions of the presidential campaign this year, and wondered how it compared to the past. So he used more than two decades’ worth of data on political polarization by the Pew Research Center to create graphics that were recently nominated for Kantar’s Information is Beautiful awards.”

Widespread Credit Blemishes May Be Holding Back Our Economic Recovery

Urban Institute: “It is commonly understood that the seven million foreclosures that occurred between 2004 and 2015 fueled the Great Recession and have held back a robust economic recovery. But the role of adverse public records during that same period is just as significant yet rarely discussed.”

“Nearly 35 million consumers had adverse public records between 2004 and 2015, including bankruptcies, civil judgments, and federal tax liens. Combined with the seven million foreclosures, this means more than one in six Americans with a credit record suffered an adverse event during this period.”

“These extensive credit problems are partly responsible for consumers’ slow recovery from the financial crisis. The lingering effects of foreclosures and adverse public records prevent consumers from obtaining mortgages and pursuing homeownership, hinder housing market recovery, limit consumers’ ability to obtain other credit (e.g., auto loans), and reduce consumers’ ability and willingness to spend, all of which weakens the economic recovery.”

Is Brexit Over After Today’s British High Court Ruling?

Quartz: “A huge obstacle just landed in the way of Brexit.”

“The UK’s High Court has ruled that the government cannot trigger Article 50—the official notification to leave the European Union—without a vote in Parliament.”

“Could this stop Brexit from happening?”

“Theoretically, yes. That’s because—assuming the government doesn’t win its appeal—a bill to trigger Article 50 will now have to pass through both houses of Parliament; there is a small chance that it might not.”

“That said, lawyer Joylon Maugham thinks there is little or no enthusiasm’ in Parliament for rejecting a bill that goes against the wishes of people as expressed by the result of the referendum. There is, however, enthusiasm to scrutinize whether the May’s negotiations with the EU are satisfactory enough before Article 50 is triggered.”

The Future of American Transportation Is Driverless 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx spoke with The Verge about the future of autonomous vehicles.

Foxx: “Early indications are that the first few minutes of a ride in an autonomous car can be pretty scary to people who haven’t been in one before. But people get used to it quickly. People having real-life experiences with the technology will help in the long run. I’m sure that when the horse-and-buggy gave way to the automobile, there was probably an acceptance factor there as well. This is part of the progression of technology and transportation. I believe strongly that in the future, people will trust [autonomous cars]. Self-driving is coming to everything. It’s just a question of what the sequencing is. You’re going to see trucks that are driverless, and ships and trains that have self-driving features.”

Report: The Next President Will Face a Cybercrisis Within 100 Days

CNBC: “The next president will face a cybercrisis in the first 100 days of their presidency, research firm Forrester predicts in a new report.”

“The crisis could come as a result of hostile actions from another country or internal conflict over privacy and security legislation, said Forrester analyst Amy DeMartine, lead author of the firm’s top cybersecurity risks for 2017 report, due to be made public Tuesday.”

Tesla’s Stunning New Solar Roof Tiles for Homes

Tech Crunch: “Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wasn’t kidding when he said that the new Tesla solar roof product was better looking than an ordinary roof: the roofing replacement with solar energy gathering powers does indeed look great. It’s a far cry from the obvious and somewhat weird aftermarket panels you see applied to roofs after the fact today.”

“Of course, there’s the matter of price: Tesla’s roof cost less than the full cost of a roof and electricity will be competitive or better than the cost of a traditional roof combined with the cost of electricity from the grid, Musk said. Tesla declined to provide specific pricing at the moment, since it will depend on a number of factor including installation specifics on a per home basis.”