dhBlog: archives

A monthly archive: March 2004

# articles in archive: 16

       12 Mar 2004       

Subject: Politics     More 2000 Election Stuff

In cleaning up the archives, I found several articles that shed some light (or heat?) on the Florida ballot debacles of 2000.

Posted by Daniel H at 21:46:32 Add comment || View 1 comments

Subject: Politics     Equal Protection and the 2000 Election

Rank partisanship by SCOTUS in the 2000 election.
It's old news now, but I haven't seen my main point broached elsewhere. So let's revisit the 2000 Elections.
In the final analysis, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision to effectively stop the Florida hand recount, thereby giving the election to George Bush, can only be seen as motivated by partisan concerns. This stark conclusion is reached by the majority's failure to address the concern at the heart of the decision: the problem of equal protection.

My argument starts with a specific point: that the problems of "equal protection", that the five members of the SCOTUS cite, would probably have been lessened by the Florida Supreme court's plan.

However, there is a bigger general point that the SCOTUS completely ignores, that being the meaning of "equal protection" when the true issue is how to differentiate between defective votes (i.e.; punched chads that don't fall of) versus non-votes (i.e.; chads that come loose in a random fashion). Therefore, the fundamental concerns are of a technical nature, for which issues of equal protection are irrelevant.

First off, the SCOTUS basically agreed that a hand recount was a legitimate exercise, thereby agreeing with the gist of the Florida Supreme Court's two rulings (to override the 7 day deadline, and to order a statewide hand recount). The concern of the SCOTUS was the lack of standards for doing this statewide hand recount, a concern which extended to what ballots to count (undercounts only? undercounts and overcounts?) as well to how to discern votes within a type of ballot (dimples vs. hanging chads). For example, if one county uses a lenient standard, then the voters in this county are more likely to have their votes counted then the voters in counties with more "stringent" standards. Hence there is a lack of equal protection.

The lack of equal protection can be summarized as a case where the probability of having your vote counted depends on where you voted. However, there are many ways that voters may suffer from such an inqequality. In particular, the variation in voting technologies (from pencil on paper ballots to punch card ballots) yields an order of magnitude difference in the probability of uncounted ballots. The SCOTUS acknowledged this, but skirted the issue by claiming that the hand recount was a statewide mandate, hence should be held to more stringent constitutional concerns then the pre-existing problems that occurred on a county by county basis.

The logic is a bit odd, but not necessarily wrong. That's until you consider the other half of the story -- that the Florida Supreme Court's (FL SC) action was an attempt (though perhaps not explicitily stated as such) to correct an existing equal protection problem -- the problem (as recognized by the SCOTUS) posed by the use of different technologies,

At the time of it's decision, it was too late for the FL SC to remedy this large problem in it's entirety, but partial steps could be taken. In particular, a particularly large and readily corrected source of error is the incidence of undercounts. In addition, undercounts are shown to be strongly correlated with the type of balloting technology used. Thus, counting the undercounts

view the entire article

Posted by Daniel H at 01:44:48 Add comment || View 0 comments

       10 Mar 2004       

Subject: Econ_Policy     On Progressive Taxation and the Worthy Rich

Progressive Taxation and the Worthy Rich.

Let's start with the the fundamental rationale for progressive taxation: that it burdens those most able to bear it. Moreover, even from the viewpoint of personal liberty, progressive taxation (even high marginal rates) are justified by the reality that the "rich" are only rich because they have a society to operate in. That without this society (and the economy it maintains), the rich would not be rich. Therefore, the distribution of income is a social choice, and society can choose to reallocate market outcomes without fear of treading on fundamental personal liberties.

Yet there are individuals who's contributions are so valued that society (by which I mean a large number of other indiviuals) are quite happy to see them rewarded materially. For example, many a Los Angeles Laker's fan may be quite willing to see Shaquille ONeil richly compensated, for he brings great pleasure to their lifes.

Combine these facts: that while progressive taxation offends no rights, there are groups within society may want to richly reward some individuals. To solve this contradiction, consider the following tax policy:

a strongly progressive tax structure, with transferable tax credits that citizens can reallocate to high-income individuals.
Here's how it could work:
Part 1 All incomes greater then $300,000 should be taxed at a 50% marginal tax rate (only 1% of tax payers earn more then $300,000/year). That is, once a taxpayer hits $300,000, half of every extra dollar (over this $300,000 figure) goes to the government. In contrast, the current top marginal tax rate is about 35%. Using the income table below, this would yield yield about $100 billion dollars in increased revenue.
Part 2 Every taxpayer is granted a $500 transferable tax credit.
This tax credit can be used to reduce the marginal tax rate from 50% to 35%. In other words, it is of no use to tax payers earning less than $300,000/year.
Part 3 Each taxpayer can dispose of this credit in one of three ways:
  1. Not use the credit. This means that the richest 1% will pay (in aggregate) $500 more in taxes, money that the government can use for social programs, debt reduction, national security, whatever.
  2. Give the credit to the rich as a class. This means that the richest 1% will pay $500 less in taxes (distributed proportional to their income).
  3. Distribute the credit to specific individuals, or to specific groups of individuals
This is the essential notion: give individuals greater choice over the social structure of income. view the entire article

Posted by Daniel H at 23:30:33 Add comment || View 0 comments

Subject: Welcome     Welcome to the dhBlog

Welcome to the dhBlog blog.

I've set this up to capture and retain the various thoughts and mental misfirings that I conjure up on topics of politics, economics... and whatever else may catch my fancy.

Feel free to add comments to each article.

If you find problems with the blog (the software I'm using is a home brew that I'm still beta testing), please let me know

Posted by Daniel H at 23:29:26 Add comment || View 0 comments