Tim Fernholz

Tim Fernholz is a former staff writer for the Prospect. His work has been published by Newsweek, The New Republic, The Nation, The Guardian, and The Daily Beast. He is also a Research Fellow at the New America Foundation.

Recent Articles

Bad Excuses From Democrats on the Tax Vote.

Whereas it seemed Democratic House Leadership was prepared to do the right thing and force a single vote on extending the middle-class tax cuts, the Senate's effort to do the same may fail because of a lack of votes. According to The Washington Post , here are their excuses: Democrats acknowledged that such a bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, where Republicans -- and at least half a dozen Democrats -- are arguing that it makes no sense to raise anyone's taxes when the economy is so weak. But there's little evidence that the Bush tax cuts helped the economy -- they produced five years of weak growth . Economists believe that, as far as economic stimulus goes, targeted investment (and the unemployment benefits extension that Republicans blocked yesterday) is a better balm for a wounded economy. Next excuse. Democrats also said they were reluctant to take any permanent action while a presidential commission seeks to identify fiscal reforms aimed at lowering deficits over the long term...

Cut, Lather, Repeat.

It's the GOP strategy: Cut taxes, get into a lather about high tax rates, repeat. (I've left out the part about blowing up the deficit.) Here, influential House Republican Mike Pence puts the strategy into action: Jim DeMint and I are offering legislation on Capitol Hill today to say, look, let's make all the current tax rates permanent, uh, and then let's start to work from there toward putting in place the kind of policies that'll really get this economy moving again. You know, I think it's fair to say, if the current tax rates were enough to create jobs and generate economic growth we'd have a growing economy. It's not working now. Let's at least give some certainty there and then we'll fight for more tax relief. So the suggestion is to make permanent the tax policy that hurts economic growth and then fight for more of the same? Consider me skeptical of the overall thrust of Pence's plan, but at least he's right about the economic effects of the Bush tax cuts . -- Tim Fernholz

Bad Titles for Interesting Graphs.

Ezra Klein shares a graph he says explains the regulatory burden: This graph strikes me as mis-titled. For one, a decade-long shift of about a tenth of a percent relative to private-sector employment doesn't strike me as a massive increase in anything. Secondly, as Ezra notes, a lot of the recent change likely has to do with the plunge in private employment during the recession. Equally undermining the title is that Ezra and Michael Mandel , who originally posted the graph, note that most of these new regulators are Homeland Security- and TSA-related, not dealing with business. Regulators specifically dealing with businesses have increased by one one-hundredth of 1 percent between 2000 and 2009, which is not all that much at all. Numbers aside, the massive assumption underlying all of this is that more regulators equal more burden on business. But what if more regulators mean more productive agencies -- paperwork is done faster and inspections take less time? That would imply that the...

Surprise! Republicans Still Uninterested in Governing.

The Washington Post reports that Republicans, having gotten a taste of that sweet, irresponsible obstruction, don't see why they shouldn't give it a try for another two years : They say they will insist on keeping in place all the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the incoming speaker, and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said that if Obama were serious about curtailing earmarks, he would promise to veto any bill that contains them. And on Tuesday, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, Jon Kyl (Ariz.), said he will not support ratification of the U.S. nuclear treaty with Russia until next year, dealing a potentially fatal blow to one of Obama's top foreign policy priorities. This makes me think that Jon Bernstein's en masse Republican resignation idea is actually plausible; it's an agenda that would accomplish as much for the GOP as refusing to engage with the other 1.5 branches of government controlled by the Democrats. My favorite...

Yes, the Fiscal Commission's Tax Plan Is Regressive.

In my various critiques of the working paper released by the president's Fiscal Commission, I've been careful to note that we really need a better analysis of the distributional effects of the tax-reform plan before pulling out our jump-to-conclusions mats . Well, the widely respected Tax Policy Center has done the numbers , and -- surprise, surprise -- the poor are the hardest hit by the commission's tax plan: Note that this estimate assumes the end of Bush tax policy and the alternate minimum tax, and keeps in place the EITC and the child tax credit. Under a different estimate, where Bush tax policy is extended and the AMT continues to be in effect -- the commission wants to eliminate both -- the tax reform is actually progressive, but that's not the likely context in which we'll see them enacted. I think it's incumbent on the people who have endorsed this plan, like Andrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat , to explain why deficit reduction should also include an increase in after-tax...

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