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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Inside the Mind of Mankiw: A Dialogue

Over the weekend Greg Mankiw was moved once again to speak out against increases in the top marginal income tax rate.  Rather than threatening a massive withdrawal of human capital, Mankiw took a different approach.  Instead he created an imaginary internal dialogue between a "moderate" Obama and a "liberal" Obama.  I've always enjoyed this type of dramatic device, so I thought it'd be fun to imagine the dialogue between "libertarian advocate" Greg Mankiw and "rational actor" Greg Mankiw.  Here we go!

 

 LIBERTARIAN MANKIW: Oh boy -- it looks like the top tax brackets are about to get jacked up!  This is terrible!

RATIONAL ACTOR MANKIW: Just like in 2008 and 2010, when we predicted that the John Galts of the world would deprive the world of their talents?  Wake me in another two years.

LIB: But this time it might actually happen!  Obama is talking tough, Boehner is showing signs of weakness, and most people actually think it's not a bad idea!

RAT:  Sorry, but I can't get too worked up over this.  Maybe we can just run that 2010 column again.

LIB: For a third time?  I'm not sure it was so persuasive the first two times.  I think we need a new strategy.

RAT: The Times doesn't pay us nearly enough for these columns.  I don't get out of bed for less than $10,000.

LIB: But this is our chance to shape the minds of America!

RAT: You mean the minds of Times readers. These are folks who advocate for higher taxes while reading about "reasonably priced" Massimo Dutti fashions.

LIB: Yes, precisely! They're torn between an ideological desire for higher tax rates and a personal desire to have more money.

RAT: Everyone wants more money.

LIB: Exactly!  So we have to come up with some excuse to get them off this line in the sand about raising the marginal rates for incomes over $250,000.  Obama doesn't really want to raise taxes, either -- he wants some sort of Grand Bargain that shows compromise and bipartisanship.  How do we do this?

RAT: This sounds too hard.  Are you sure we can't three-peat?

LIB: Hmmm.  We just need some literary device . . . .

RAT: How about a column set in the future, designed as a warning about the present?  Those always have the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

LIB: We did that already.

RAT: I know -- but when has that stopped us?

LIB: Hmmm. . . . If I could only get inside Obama's mind, and know what would be most convincing . . . .  That's it!

RAT: What?

LIB: I'll write a column as if I'm inside Obama's mind!

RAT: But what do you know about Obama?  You were an advisor to Romney.

LIB: It's a dramatic device!  I can put words in his mouth, and they'll sound like he's saying them.

RAT: So we're going to have the President parrot our economic policies?  Sounds convincing.

LIB: Don't be sarcastic.  We'll have a "moderate" Obama who parrots our positions.  But then we'll have a "liberal" Obama who represents the left.

RAT: You mean a caricature to which we can attribute extreme positions? Like a desire to raise taxes to 73%?  To create a European-style safety net?  To push the country into recession?  To make the country more like California and . . . France?!?

LIB: You betcha!  The "moderate" positions will look positively benign in comparison.

RAT: But the moderate policies will just be a warmed-over version on Romnomics, no?

LIB: Sure.  What's your point?

RAT: I'm sure that'll be convincing.  I better go make some real money before the tax rates go up.  I'm extremely sensitive to those, you know.  Oh, one last thing -- are you sure this won't sound like a stilted version of a sixth-grade play?

LIB: Well, these imagined dialogues are tough to pull off.  I'll do my best.  Let's see --"It’s fun to make the plutocrats squirm."  That's great -- liberal Obama would totally say something like that.

RAT: Hey, if this thing actually does take off, make sure we own the rights to these characters.  I can see "liberal and moderate Obama" T-shirts, mugs, salt and pepper shakers . . . .  Can we start a couple Twitter feeds?

LIB: "Are you nuts? I don’t want to become France."  You get 'em, moderate Obama!

Posted by Matt Bodie on November 28, 2012 at 04:27 PM in Current Affairs, Tax | Permalink

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Herman's Head! No way! Kudos on the reference.

And where do I get one of those t-shirts?

Posted by: SparkleMotion | Nov 28, 2012 7:21:30 PM

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