‘Death elasticity’ and more scenes from the class war

‘Death elasticity’ and more scenes from the class war December 30, 2012

CNBC’s John Carney discusses “death elasticity” in response to changes in the estate tax.

“Death elasticity,” Carney writes, “does not necessarily mean that greedy relatives are pulling the plug on the dying or forcing the sickly to extend their lives into a lower taxed period.”

“Not necessarily,” but apparently this happens. The rich really are different.

Carney says “death elasticity” in response to estate-tax changes is measurable:

Economists Wojciech Kopczuk of Columbia University and Joel Slemrod of the University of Michigan studied how mortality rates in the United States were changed by falling estate taxes. They note that while the evidence of “death elasticity” is “not overwhelming,” every $10,000 in available tax savings increases the chance of dying in the low-tax period by 1.6 percent. This is true both when taxes are falling, so that people are surviving longer to achieve the tax savings, and when they are rising, so that people are dying earlier, according to Kopczuk and Slemrod.

If I understand that correctly, “every $10,000 in available tax savings increases the chance of dying in the low-tax period by 1.6 percent” and thus every $10,000 in additional tax costs decreases the change of dying in the high-tax period by 1.6 percent.

So all we need to do is raise the estate tax by $625,000, and rich people will never die.

* * * * * * * * *

I only know what I hear on Fox News and what I hear on radio.”

“For Santorum and the conservative media, however, the question was not who would win or lose, but rather, how might they generate the most revenue.”

“I think when you define people who look differently than you as illegal aliens, and use that term over and over again, and talk about self-deporting them, that’s a tolerance issue.”

“Pardon me, madam, but I have been in your country of Australia for ten days and the only Aborigines I’ve seen have been drunk on the street, and at least if we were in my country they would be serving the drinks at this conference!”

“I’d still be leeching resources from a healthy body if I’d behaved myself.”

“The senators of the Mid-Atlantic did not vote against disaster relief for the Gulf Coast or for the people of Joplin, Missouri or for dealing with the Colorado wildfires or for flood victims along the Mississippi River.”

“If there are things we can do with the cheap money the world is flinging at us that would make the U.S. economy more competitive in the longer run, we should take advantage.”

The best plan for reducing the debt is full employment.”

“Come Dec. 31, Washington’s inaction could push the country’s milk prices to as much as $6 to $8 per gallon unless Congress passes a farm bill renewing federal support for agriculture programs.”

“The Senate version of the farm bill passed with relative ease over the summer, but House Republicans haven’t even brought a competing proposal to the floor for a vote.”

“As the defined benefit pension paradigm fades away, the natural and proper thing would be to rely more on Social Security as a vehicle for ensuring adequate living standards for senior citizens.”

“For 200 years the existence of the union movement has been wedded to the rise of democracy.”

“GiveDirectly remains an outlier in the development arena, perhaps the only organization that distributes private donations, made online, directly to the poor with no strings attached.”

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  • Lori

    If anything, blocking Chris Hadrick on Twitter would actually seem to be a move in favor of society. Reducing the level of both stupidity and anger generally a good thing for society.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I am retconning that reasoning into place. My reasoning at the time was it felt stalkery and cross-the-streams-y. (I am perfectly happy to argue with libertrolls here. Twitter is for fannish pursuits. Or it will be whenever I get around to cutting my follow list back to a size that I can keep up with Twitter while employed.)

  • Thank god I don’t have a  twitter account.

  • AnonaMiss

    How can an estate tax be stealing your money? You’re dead, it’s not yours anymore. There’s no logical or ethical reason it should go where you want it to after you’re dead. You’ve had your shot, and if you really wanted it to go wherever you should have put it there while you were alive.

    Estate taxes are the most libertarian tax of all, because they’re not even really a tax. Mr. X has died, here is his money, what should we do with it? His relatives have no claim on it, they didn’t create that wealth*. It’s not even properly a tax! It’s what happens naturally when a person dies – no one owns that wealth anymore, the wealth goes back to the community. Inheritance was an invention of patriarchs and aristocrats who wanted to hold power by right of birth, and as such should be absolutely anathema to Libertarians.

    Libertarians who object to estate taxes more than to other forms of taxation are hypocrites, liars, or stupid. Yes, I’m looking at you, Hadrick. If they object to it because the government gets money, they’re really anarchists. If they object to it because the children should get the money, they’re really feudalists.

    There’s little more depressing to me as a left-Libertarian than some feudalist idiot claiming to be on my side.

  • Münchner Kindl

    And BTW, the above-mentioned farmers and ranchers… they also didn’t pay money for their land, nor for the Army that made their farms and ranches possible. Government handouts to the citizenry, of territory acquired by government action.
    This is how we came to be a rich and powerful nation. It didn’t happen by the unregulated magic of the free market or by God’s divine decree. It happened because lots and lots of people combined efforts and resources to create a central government that meddled pretty regularly in combining those efforts and resources.

    You forgot to say it explictly: STEALING the land from the original owners – the Native Americans. That’s why the Army was needed to “protect” the farmers. Calling it “acquired by government action” is a rather mild euphemism for stealing land and then killing the people who fought back.

  • It’s perfectly acceptable to block someone on Twitter simply because they mildly annoy you. Or because you don’t like their picture or handle or… anything. No one has the right to be listened to on the internet.

  • Münchner Kindl

    That article on the Atlantic about how wonderful the “GiveDirectly” charity approach is is written by somebody very biased. The author mainly makes GiveDirectly look good by bashing all other NGOs and aid charities. This shows very bad research, by lumping govt. aid with NGOs, and given the wide scope of approaches existing NGOs use.

    For example, talking about red tape and bureaucratic problems in programs for the poor might be the experience that rich Americans have with (govt) programs for poors in the US, but it’s absolutely not true for many NGOs in Africa.

    Second, slurring micro-credits and claiming that receipents in Africa will not buy vice goods, ignores the teaching that responsible micro-credits do. Of course somebody in rural Africa will not buy drugs since there are none available. But the people are not simply poor because they have the bad luck to be born in Africa. They are also poor because of a lack of jobs with living wage (connected to education – which Give Directly claims is the work of govt., but many NGOs tackle education as very important long-term goal on small-scale). They are poor because they lack knowledge about sustainable farming – so Brot für die Welt and others teach them how to grow diverse food to eat* instead of ill-suited cash crops. But that requires enough land – and ownership is not only a monetary problem, but also lack of documentation with govt. (and there corruption comes in again) – as well as the global problem that speculators are buying up land (since the western govt. failed to make laws forbidding that).

    And so on. Besides, it strongly reminds me of the study of the homeless western people – they were given 10 000 dollars, the equivalent of 1 mill. in their situation. In less than one year, they had blown it and were living back on the street. This correlates with studies of people in the West who do win the lottery – the majority wastes the money. Why? Because they never learned the skills to handle sums like these responsible. They are not able from their previous experience to adequatly judge these sums, so they spend like it’s a billion instead of investing.

    That’s why responsible NGOs are interested in “income creation” – either a business or farming or education – so that when the money is gone, the person doesn’t fall back to the previous poverty level. (The old Chinese proverb about teaching fishing). Yet the GiveDirectly approach is lauded because it doesn’t require anything.

    It also continues the slur that people in the aid business – experts who evaluate approaches – are condescending by telling people how to improve their lives by changing things, which ignores how many of these people are local, native experts (like Yunus, founder of Grameen). The push-pull Agriculture method was developed in Africa by a research institute there (founded originally by EU money, but run with local experts) because it depends on local grass and beetles to work.

    * They use organic method instead of agritechnic business because in Africa, the change from conventional to organic means an increase of up 80%, not a decrease of 50% like in the highly industrialized west. Several reasons, but most important that it saves a lot of money to not buy fertilizer and seeds every year.

  • rich people don’t want to buy national parks. What they like to do is buy land near national parks. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    And if there was nothing forbidding them from buying land that is currently protected by a national park, they would buy that land too. THAT IS WHY WE MADE THE NATIONAL PARKS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    In related news: look up Idle No More. Canada recently redid its regulations pertaining to waterways. There used to be a great many Canadian waterways protected by Canadian law. Now there’s not. Most of the ones no longer protected are on First Nations land, and some of the ones no longer protected are now no longer a barrier to things such as a bigass oil pipeline.

    Do you honestly think that people, particularly those who stand to financially benefit from that pipeline, are going to keep those waterways pristine out of the goodness of their hearts?

  • Speaking of pipelines, there’s been ongoing protests and complaints to the provincial government over the fact that Enbridge really really wants a pipeline through northern B.C. and local Aboriginal groups are not happy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, that’s the one mentioned on the Idle No More Wikipedia page.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Which is exactly what the whole debt-ceiling fiscal-cliff crisis is:
    certain players aren’t winning (for given values of ‘winning’), so they
    don’t want anyone to be able to play.

    More like the other way around:  They ARE winning,  so they’ll burn the game before they let anyone else change that.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     He went on to explain that if, as he believed, it was normal and
    proper for a child to inherit the benefits of their parents’ hard work,
    it was also fitting and proper for them to inherit the disadvantages of
    their parents’ laziness.

    “Is there anything more American than punishing children for an unwise choice of parents?  I don’t think so.”

    (Can’t remember who said this, but it’s worth repeating.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    They’re not winning. We know this because there’s some money that’s not in their pockets and they don’t own everything on the board.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     They don’t believe that there’s a 90% chance of “anyone” being a serf –they believe that 90% of people are fit only to be serfs, and that they are in the remaining 10%

    So how come most of them ain’t rich NOW?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    They’re not winning. We know this because there’s some money that’s not
    in their pockets and they don’t own everything on the board.


    I’ve often likened RL Economics to Monopoly – the difference is, a game of Monopoly ENDS when one person has all the properties and money.  In the real world, the ‘winner’ just opens a company store and keeps right on grinding wealth out of the proles.

  •  Because of taxes and regulations. Duh.

  • Ellie- super rich people like to own land near national parks because they like having no one as a neighbor.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m watching my point fly in circles above your head.

  • Chris Hadrick unintentionally struck a good point. In Edge of Apocalypse, the main character Joshua Jordan owns properties and travels in a way that secludes him from the outside world at large except for a close cabal of friends and acquaintances.

    Wealthy people would probably parcel themselves out a huge estate all along the walls of the Grand Canyon and then complain bitterly about the fact that a highway connects across it when the occasional car accident happens that means sirens actually get heard ‘n stuff.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Okay, fair.

    People with household income somewhere around mine or Chris Hadrick’s would still be shit outta luck when it comes to getting a decent canyon view.

  • Lori


    So how come most of them ain’t rich NOW?   

    Government interference in the market.

    Just trying saying that with a straight face. I know I can’t.

  • Lori

    super rich people like to own land near national parks because they like having no one as a neighbor. 

    So Chris, what exactly do you get out of having everyone here think that you’re a complete simpleton? You must be getting something out of it. Are you just that desperate for attention, or what?

  • Turcano

    The point of the Federal Reserve, like any other central bank, is to exercise control over your own currency.  If you don’t, economic cycles are much more volatile and much nastier, liquidity falls through the floor in times of crisis, and interest rates, exchange rates, prices and wages all fluctuate rapidly.  There is a reason every country, or at least every country open to the rest of the world, has a central bank.  We’ve been over this several times, but it apparently went in one ear and out the other, just like it probably will this time around as well.

  • EdinburghEye

     That is a very romantic and unrealistic view of monarchy and aristocracy. …  but I guess that’s what you have in a country where you have an aristocracy without a monarch.

  • Turcano- that is the point in the same way the point of my time machine I made with Roti Naan at Masala Art the other night (Indian restaurant) was to go back in time. Similarly it doesn’t work. 

    WHy does every conversation about liberty turn to ridiculous hypotheticals like rich people buying the grand canyon and destorying it/ keeping every body out? I want to stop war and end banksters control of the money supply so we can go back to being normal America. Is that so wrong?

  • Beroli


    WHy does every conversation about liberty turn to ridiculous
    hypotheticals like rich people buying the grand canyon and destroying
    it/ keeping every body out?

    Fellow, are you genuinely so utterly stupid that you’re unable to grasp what the common denominator is in all the arguments you’re in?

  • Lori


    WHy does every conversation about liberty turn to ridiculous
    hypotheticals like rich people buying the grand canyon and destroying
    it/ keeping every body out? 

    Because history demonstrates that when people have the kind of ‘freedom” you advocate it results in rich people buying up everything and either destroying it or keeping it for their  exclusive use while the poor suffering and die in horrible ways.

    The problem with these conversations is that you either flunked every history class you ever took or you had very poor teachers and you refuse to learn anything that will correct your knowledge deficiencies.


    I want to stop war and end banksters control
    of the money supply so we can go back to being normal America. Is that
    so wrong?   

    Yes. Yes it is so wrong.

    Your idea of “normal America” is an appalling fantasy.

    As we’ve discussed several times, your reasons for wanting to end the war are less than admirable, so none of use are going to give you a cookie for that.

    Your ideas about ending bankster control of the money are as ill-informed as all your other ideas. The things you propose would make things worse, not better.

  • Vermic

    And the great thing about it is, I don’t have to. I won’t starve if I don’t join a raiding guild in-game. No one will be hurt. I can just keep bopping along, making money my own way, roleplaying with my husband (I also will not join another roleplaying guild as the way 95% of people in these games roleplay makes my teeth hurt), doing quests, having fun with the story, writing my own headcanon fanfic, working for stuff that looks neat rather than worrying about its stats, etc. No drudgery necessary. Such wonderful escapism.

    I wish I could like this twice.

  • Carstonio

    I seem to remember Chris blaming the war on the “Israeli lobby.” Together with his comment about bankers, I wonder if the libertarian writers he’s been reading had subscribed to the myths about Jews, or had been influenced by those myths. Fred has pointed out that LB depicts “international bankers” as having far more power than they have in real life. Not surprising since Bircher ideology is deeply anti-Semitic.

  • Incidentally, it’s apparently a dead letter now, but if you read Fletcher Knebel’s Dark Horse book, which was printed in the 1970s, the Presidential candidate of the book slams wealthy people for buying up choice land along the coasts of the USA, effectively fencing off access that by rights should belong to the entire nation.

    I suspect if you were to dig into some newspaper archives you’d find articles relating to this.

    So that is a IRL counterpoint to Chris’s dismissal of all this as a hypothetical.

  • To be fair to Chris, AIPAC has a sizable influence on the US Congress, and being seen as being pro-Israeli is one of the few bipartisan litmus tests that can cause a kerfluffle if a Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate or officeholder is seen as insufficiently pro-. Even Congresscritters are not necessarily immune.

    However the root causes of war and military spending go beyond the Middle East conflicts and indeed a great deal of the blame for driving the weapons factories of the world can be laid at the feet of the USA; as Obama pointed out (which is probably the first time any US Government official has ever done in public) the USA spends as much as the next nine countries down the line combined.

  • Carstonio

    No disagreement there. Pointing out the influence of AIPAC is not anti-Semitic if one’s language doesn’t implicitly equate such groups with the sinister cabals so common in the hateful myths. It’s the difference between saying that Jews predominate in the movie industry and bringing this up when bashing Hollywood as anti-Christian. (That’s one of my beefs with Michael Medved, who is Jewish but allies himself with culture warriors who subscribe to the myths.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I liked Medved better back when he was writing the Golden Turkey Awards.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I would like to strongly recommend Chris Hadrick read David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

    Everyone else too, it’s very much worth the time, but Chris is in particular need of the education.

  • Turcano

    that is the point in the same way the point of my time machine I made with Roti Naan at Masala Art the other night (Indian restaurant) was to go back in time. Similarly it doesn’t work.

    Um, was there a point in here?  Anybody?

  • Ross Thompson

    Um, was there a point in here?  Anybody?

    From the context, his point seems to be that he doesn’t believe that the Federal Reserve (or perhaps central banks in general) really do exert a stabilising effect on the economy.

    It would be an ad hominem for me to point out that someone who thinks that you could build a time machine out of bread might not have the best grasp on reality, so I’ll limit myself to wondering what he thinks did cause the US economy to stop suffering regular depressions at about the same time the Federal Reserve was set up…

  • In point of fact, The Fed alone didn’t actually halt Depressions; it was a combination of The Fed and the seminal work of John Maynard Keynes that fleshed out the basis of countercyclical economic policy.

  • Ross Thompson

    Well, true. But as I understand it (and I don’t, really), having a central bank is a major plank of Keynsian theory, and Libertarians hate Keynes as much as they hate the Fed, so I conflated the two.

  • Turcano

    The thing is that the Federal Reserve isn’t the first central bank we’ve had.  The First Bank of the United States ran things without a hitch, and while the Second Bank of the United States did do more harm than good in the first seven years of its existence, that was due entirely to incompetent management and once Nicholas Biddle took the helm, it ran wonderfully until Jackson was elected.

  • True. Also, there were often ad hoc public works projects that would be enacted during the depths of economic troubles in the 18th and 19th centuries as politicians of the time recognized that even paying people a pittance and putting them to work was better than getting riots all over the place.

    That said, they were nowhere as comprehensive or as far-reaching as the modern unemployment insurance system or things like the New Deal, so they didn’t do very much by comparison.