Tuesday, June 28, 2005

More Bad Economics in the NY Times

I noticed this Nicholas Kristof article on Economics Unbound, a blog by economist Michael Mandel of Businessweek, in which Kristof makes the following claim:

President Bush has excoriated the "death tax," as he calls the estate tax. But his profligacy will leave every American child facing a "birth tax" of about $150,000.

Mandel takes issue with the fact that this number is misleading, since Kristof is not taking into account the offsetting large income that this future child may earn, a legitimate argument, but I will leave that discussion to him. The problem I have with this claim is, where is he coming up with the "birth tax" of $150,000? The national debt per capita (he spends most of the article talking about the debt) is only about $25,000, a considerable number, but only 1/6 the amount he mentions (and less than half that of the equivilant Japanese baby).

So what accounts for the other $125,000? Is he just making it up? After an extensive Internet search I finally found a Democratic web site which talked about a $124,000 "birth tax". How did they come up with that number though? By adding in possible projected shortfalls in future programs such as social security and medicare!

Is this really the way he came up with this huge number, by adding in possible future liabilities? What a ridiculous leap of logic. By the same absurd logic you could argue that every child is born with a $400,000 debt, because they probably at some point of their life will purchase a home. Or that Bush has given every child in America a $200,000 birthday present, figuring in the benefits of his tax cuts over their lifespan. I don't know what this is, but it ain't economics.