The Dullness Of James Pethokoukis

Everyone gets that mass media aims for the lowest common denominator, which means it is aimed at the dullest people in society. That means having some not-so-smart person reading their parts, pretending to be something other than a bubble-head. Having a blond airhead do the weather is fine as everyone including the woman knows the score. Having an ex-beer league jock do sports is OK, because he is a fan talking to fans. The point of the performance is to be fun and pass on a few bits of useful information.

Where things go wrong is when these actors and actresses start pretending to be actual experts in the field. In sports, there is a flood of fake nerds jabbering about statistics, despite not being able to do basic math. They watched the movie Money Ball and started reading fangraphs. Pablo Torre is a good example. He has a degree in sociology from Harvard (Yeah Affirmative Action!) which means he maybe took statistics for liberal arts majors and probably has no aptitude for mathematics.

Another example of this type is James Pethokoukis. His job is to cover economics as a reporter. That’s a perfectly useful role, until he starts opining about economics as if he knows something about subject. He also carries on like the “E” in STEM fields stands for “Economics.” The guy has never run a lemonade stand and has no training in math, statistics, finance or economics. He went to school for journalism, which is right up there with majoring in gym, and has worked exclusively as a reporter.

What in the world is he doing offering opinion on tax policy? It’s fine if he is asking people who know something about tax policy for their opinions. That’s perfectly reasonable and something expected from modern reporters. He could opine on the fact that there are many experts with different opinions on tax policy. Again, that’s a useful hing for which he is qualified. He is not a tax expert. To make it more ridiculous,  he quotes another fake nerd, Ramesh Ponnuru, who has been wrong about everything for two decades.

So, what about his opinion?

Declining fertility rates in the West are a major problem. There’s not been a lot of research into the subject as our elites have been obsessed with ending child birth for as long as anyone has been alive. Going back to the early part of the last century, Western elites have been predicting a Malthusian moment when population numbers exceeded earth’s ability to support us. The Population Bomb was a famous book that predicted doom for mankind unless population was controlled. The prediction was all wrong, of course.

One thing we know is that tax policy has nothing to do with declining fertility rates in the West. Fertility rates plummeted in Poland after the end of the Soviet Empire. Fertility rates plummeted in Quebec after taxes were lowered. In America, white fertility declined, while black fertility remained constant. There’s simply no evidence to claim a causal relationship between taxes and baby making. Yet, Pethokoukis. sees a pretty graph and thinks the answer is a return to Bush Era social engineering through the tax code.

That’s always been the problem with libertarian conservatives. An article of faith among libertarians is that taxes need to be efficient. That means tax policy should not reward one activity over another. Ideally, taxes effect all goods and service equally. Imposing special taxes on the childless is pretty much the opposite of libertarian dogma. So-called conservatives have ingested this argument and now embrace the materialist assumptions of libertarians and Marxist. They’re all eating at the same trough.

That last bit gets at the heart of what vexes the West. Progressives wage a culture war, while the so-called Right responds with economic arguments. The Left starts from the assumption that people are infinitely malleable. They can get the culture they want, by use of the right incentives. The so-called Right starts from the same assumption as argues that they can get the corresponding results with the right economic incentives. It’s the two faces of the Janus that rules over us. It’s two heads with one body of thought.