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Old 08-12-2004, 11:30 AM   #1
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racial demographics of the U.S. tax system

from the national post. these excerpts are from a larger article which bizarrely juxtaposes canadian and u.s. tax rates with racial issues.

link to the article (paid registration), the text i have posted here is from my corporate intranet (which hosts the text of numerous papers), so if someone wants to read the rest...let me know i guess.

The political book of the season in the United States is What's the Matter with Kansas?, in which journalist Thomas Frank argues that Republicans have been stealing elections lately by persuading poor Americans to vote on social questions such as abortion rather than on pure economic self-interest. Roemer and Lee argue, in effect that, Frank has it wrong. In their view, the crucial change in the last 50 years isn't social policy. It's that racist whites have switched from the high-taxing Democrats to the low-taxing Republicans.
Some of the raw data are suggestive. Not all Southerners are racists, and not all racists are Southerners. But in 1952, 83% of white Southerners were Democrats, while in 1993 only 43% were. By contrast, non-Southern whites are only 2 or 3 points less Democratic than 50 years ago. Blacks, meanwhile, are 20% more Democratic -- at 81% support.

What defines a person as racist? That's the tricky part of the analysis. Hardly anyone flat-out confesses. Instead, Roemer and Lee infer racism from white voters' "thermometer ratings" of blacks -- i.e., on a scale of one to 10, how warmly do you feel toward blacks? -- and their views on whether blacks are pushing too hard for special favours or should work harder. (Note that in such a test, Bill Cosby might be classified as racist.)
Racism seems to have two effects: First, it has an "anti-solidarity" effect, so people vote against government transfers that would go at least in part to minorities they regard as undeserving. That effect causes both U.S. parties to propose lower taxes than they otherwise would.

But racism also has a "policy bundle" effect. In a two-party system, if you want to vote against affirmative action, you have to vote Republican, even if you'd prefer the Democrats' redistributive tax polices.

None of this means the Republicans or their president are racist. George W. Bush has the most diverse Cabinet in U.S. history and his party's policies are scrupulously colour-blind -- which is precisely why many minorities don't like them. That bad people may vote for you isn't always your fault: If the non-racist John F. Kennedy hadn't swept the South in 1960, he never would have been president.

Still, Roemer and Lee calculate that but for racism, U.S. income tax rates would be 11 to 18 points higher
bearing in mind that it appears a lot of assumptions were made (perhaps more than we should be comfortable with), i wonder if the same conclusions can be drawn about a host of other socio-economic indicators.
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