Drum versus dumb: A detailed report!


Intelligent scribe breaks the rules: Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has broken every known rule.

He has written a very intelligent piece about a very serious topic. And Drum’s a professional journalist!

We know—by now, you think we’re kidding. But we mentioned Drum's piece a few weeks ago, before it became available on-line.

Now, Drum’s piece is there for all to see. It bears this pair of headlines:
America's Real Criminal Element: Lead
New research finds Pb is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic. And fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing.
At his own site, Drum has offered a series of posts in which he fleshes out various details and discusses responses to his report. But if you care about children, crime and/or schools, his report is a detailed, serious attempt to examine a series of actual problems.

Presumably, Drum’s searching report won’t turn out to be perfect. But it’s a very serious look at a very serious subject. In that way, it’s very unusual. It’s the type of work the mainstream “press corps” typically strives to avoid!

What do we mean by that shocking statement? Consider this very serious editorial in today’s New York Times.

The editorial takes a serious look at a very serious subject. It makes some basic factual claims we’ve never heard before.

In what ways does the federal government exist to serve the plutocrat class? In the segment we post below, the editors explain a change which was once made in a major part of the federal tax code.

This change was made to the AMT, the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The AMT was invented in 1969 to make sure that the nation’s highest earners didn’t find ways to avoid all federal taxation. But uh-oh! In the 1990s, the editors say, Congress enacted a change in the AMT:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (1/13/13): For many years after the inception of the A.M.T. in 1969, tax breaks for capital gains were included in the A.M.T. and, accordingly, most A.M.T. payers were filers who had large capital gains. But starting in the 1990s, Congress no longer required investors to report such tax breaks under the A.M.T. The omission was not an oversight. It was a deliberate policy to cut taxes for the rich that has endured to this day.
We’ll suggest you read the whole editorial to learn more about the way your world is fixed. But we had a familiar reaction when we read this editorial:

“Why isn’t this a news report?” we found ourselves incomparably asking. Why isn’t this a news report on the front page of the Times?

The answer is obvious. Such a report would be like Drum’s piece! It would be a very intelligent news report about a very serious topic. And as we all know, modern journalism is largely defined by the desire to avoid such presentations.

All week long, we’ll look at the silly topics currently being explored by the mainstream “press corps.” As we do, we’ll think about the serious topics which are strictly off-limits.


You aren’t allowed to know simple facts about the nation's public schools. You aren’t allowed to know about the cost of American health care. For the most part, the workings of the federal tax code are basically off-limits too. That explains why today’s news report appears in the form of an editorial.

In place of such topics, you get handed pap! Weirdly, Drum has broken every rule of the guild in his smart, significant effort.

While others breathed lead, was Drum sniffing glue? Inquiring minds want to know this!


  1. The late Russell Long said "tax reform," simply means "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree!"

    Anyone who doesn't have large capital gains will be in favor of a higher tax rate on capital gains, since it will be paid the "that fellow behind the tree."

    Should capital gains receive a lower tax rate? One reason may be that capital gains on stocks are pretty much due to the accumulation of retained earnings. And, these earnings have already been taxed at 35%. BTW, for rich people, the capital gains rate is 20% + the Obmamacare surcharge of 3.8%. Maybe that's enough.

    Also, if capital gains tax rates are too high, they're easily avoided by not selling the stock. If one dies owning appreciated stock, the heirs basis for the stock is the appreciated value. So, that amount of unrealized capital gain escapes capital gains tax entirely. (Of course, there's estate tax on the appreciated amount.)

    BTW the change recommended by the Times isn't that huge. The top AMT rate is 28%. The top rate on long-term capital gains is 23.8%.

  2. The Times editorial makes the capital gains tax rate seem low by comparing it to a period when it was higher than today. However, one could reach the opposite conclusion by comparing today's capital gains rate to what it just changed from. Last year, the capital gains tax rate for rich people was 15%. Today, it's 23.8%. That's a 59% increase.

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