Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Two Reactions to the SOTU

1. Last night President Obama continued his misleading claims about Warren Buffett's tax rate.  David Leonhardt recalls that I rebutted those claims several years ago. 

David usefully asks for a response to my rebuttal from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group in Washington. Chuck Marr, the center’s director of federal tax policy, emailed David back.  Click through the link above, and read carefully what Mr Marr has to say.  Does it respond to my arguments?  No, not at all.  Mr Marr just changes the subject.  He follows the age-old advice for politicians: Don't answer the question they asked, answer the question you wish they had asked.  This might work for some voters, but I am sure it won't for the careful analysts who read this blog.  One might reasonably take Mr Marr's non-response as an admission that President Obama's claims about the taxes of Mr Buffett and his secretary don't hold up under closer examination.

2. I was disappointed, and even a bit surprised, that the President adopted the xenophobic approach to outsourcing and international trade.  Usually, on issues of international trade, the President plays the role of grown-up and leaves it up to Congress to gin up populist ire.  That is true of both parties.  Recall that President Clinton pushed NAFTA through.

When President Obama bragged that his administration had substantially increased trade cases against China compared with his predecessor, it made me proud to be one of President Bush's advisers.  (Not that the Bush administration was perfect on trade issues.  It is just good to know we were better.)  These trade cases include such things as anti-dumping claims, which in many cases are just the modern face of protectionism.  Phill Swagel and I wrote about anti-dumping laws here.