The Opinionator, The National Review, and intellectual dishonesty

If you want yet another example of how an intellectually dishonest argument can get mainstreamed, look at today's Opiniionator in the NY Times. It's a quick hit--the whole thing consists of a link to the National Review, two quoted paragraphs, and this sentence: "Tom Nugent, a principal at Victoria Capital Management, writes at National Review Online of his intriguing plan to boost government revenues without raising income or corporate taxes:" That's it. Nothing of any substance--but it's in the NY Times and used the word "intriguing," which gives it a cachet of quality the piece itself doesn't deserve. Why is that?

Because the piece itself is a joke. You can tell it's a joke from the subtitle:

Instead of going after the little guy, Congress should take aim at foundations and endowments.

Who's this little guy Nugent is so concerned about? I'll tell you one thing--it ain't me. He hints around that the little guy is everyone south of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. If you use them as a benchmark, I'm beyond little; I'm a damn subatomic particle.

It's more than that, though. It's his assertion in the second sentence that the Laffer curve always works, even though it never does; it's the argument that the estate tax helps the super-wealthy (because both Gates and Buffett support it, they must be doing so out of self-interest, right?) while hurting the little guy, even though the estate tax only affects about 2% of the estates in the nation.

But then there's the best part of the whole story--and the part that so intrigued Tobin Harshaw in the NY Times. Nugent looks to university endowments as a source for new taxation. Not CEOs. Not corporations. Not capital gains. No--university endowments. And he's suggesting this at a time where public universities are being asked to depend less and less on state funding and more on endowments just to maintain their standards, if not improve. That's right--as if higher education, generally in a state of crisis, but even more so right now isn't bad off enough, he wants to go after their endowments under the pretext of protecting the little guy.

Speaking as a subatomic particle, I'd like to tell Mr. Nugent to go protect someone else, thank you very much.

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