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Scot Lehigh answers your questions about the upcoming elections

Posted by Rob Anderson  October 20, 2010 12:53 PM

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With election day just around the corner, The Angle asked Globe readers to submit questions for columnist Scot Lehigh. We picked a few and passed them on. Below are the questions and Scot's responses.

EVNFLOW wrote: Despite an anti-incumbent and Republican wave that is sweeping the country, it appears that Deval Patrick is going to be able to grind out a win on election day. Baker and his staff have run a terrible campaign and as a result the last Rasmussen poll points to his unfavorables being higher than his favorables. Do you think it is too late for Baker to make up ground when his unfavorable views exceed his favorables? Do you think this race would have been winnable with a better team? What kind of turnout do you think benefits the Baker campaign on election day &mdash high or low?

I wouldn't say Baker has run a terrible campaign, but I have talked to a number of people I'd have thought were natural Baker voters who have been disappointed with it and who are leaning toward Patrick as a result. That said, I think this race is very, very close and that it will likely be won or lost in the time between now and election day. I think the final debate &mdash rescheduled for this Monday night (so as not to conflict with the Celtics) &mdash will be very important. One mistake we political junkies often make is to assume that everyone has been paying close attention as long as we have. Some voters don't tune in until late, and others deliberately wait until the end to make up their minds, the better to have heard and weighed all the evidence and plans. As to turn out, I'd say the anti-Patrick forces are probably more motivated this time around, so a low-to-medium turnout probably helps Baker, while a larger turnout likely means that Patrick has been able to motivate the voters who helped put him in in 2006 to make a return trip to the polls.

(More questions after the jump.)

gold279 wrote: Do you believe that the Boston Globe should cross its usual party line to endorse Mary Connaughton for auditor? Given Connaughton's superior qualifications (imagine having a professional auditor as our state auditor), as well as questions regarding Suzanne Bump's ethics and competency, it's hard for me to imagine how anyone could make a case for Bump.

I'm not going to comment on whom the paper should endorse, but I do think Mary Connaughton is a very good candidate for auditor. I've never exactly understood the logic of Suzanne Bump's campaign for the job, and I have to say, I think the recent news that she and her husband were getting property tax breaks meant for primary residences in both Great Barrington and Boston have raised some real doubts about her candidacy.

GBV wrote: I agree with your repeated statements that reducing the tax rate does not increase revenue collections as some people religiously believe. Do you have any links to studies that clarify this so that we can refer people to them?

Thanks for the question on this issue. As I have written many times, when income tax rates are at or near our current levels, tax cuts do not pay for themselves. By that, I mean that they don't result in more revenue than the treasury would have had without the tax cuts. That really isn't a matter of dispute among economists. (Even Arthur Laffer, he of the famous curve, doesn't argue that the Reagan tax cuts paid for themselves.) Yet some supply-siders continue to insist that tax cuts do pay for themselves, as it lets them sidestep the obvious question that tax-cutters face: What spending would you reduce to offset the revenue lost do to the tax cuts you propose?

As for your specific question: One book that examines the question in detail is "Supply-Side Follies," by Robert Atkinson. Chapter Seven, 'Do Lower Taxes Lead to Higher Tax Revenues?', offers a devastating dissection of those claims. Although less detailed, "The Big Con," by Jonathan Chait, is also good.

Bruce Bartlett, a former treasury official under Reagan-Bush, is very good on this subject. Here's a link to one of his informative blog posts.

Meanwhile, Doug Holtz-Eakin, the well-regarded conservative economist, had the Congressional Budget Office study the matter when he was director there [pdf]. That study showed that, under the most favorable assumptions, income tax cuts replace about one-third of the lost revenue. Under less favorably assumptions, the loss was much larger.

Here are a couple easy-to-read examinations from Factcheck.org.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington think tank whose research is well-regarded, has looked at this question several times. Here are two good reports.

amicus57 wrote: On January 20, Scott Brown's campaign team had a winning field, finance, communications, digital media, etc. organization in place statewide. Yet not one of Brown's team was pulled into join the Baker effort. Instead, Baker signed on with the team that drove Kerry Healey's campaign into the ground. Brown supports Baker so I doubt that the Brown Brigade wasn't willing to help. What gives?

I don't really know what degree of cooperation there has been between the two teams. But in general, there has long been a split in the Republicans ranks. It started back in the Weld-Cellucci-Malone days and continues today, renewed by a Romney-Brown-Baker overlay. The divisions aren't ironclad, but in general they run this way: The Weld/Cellucci advisers tended to be one camp, the Malone guys and gals another. The old Malone people like Eric Fehrnstrom and Beth Myers became tight with the Mittster and played key roles in his administration and his national campaign. (They are now somewhat estranged from Malone himself, who endorsed Rudy Giuliani in the presidential race and described him as a better leader than Romney). Some of them, along with Romney aides like Peter Flaherty, then formed their own firm. They were the ones who did such good work for Scott Brown. Baker, of course, comes from the Weld wing of the party. Rob Gray and his team are the nucleus of that effort. I think it would be fair to say that the two camps don't mix all that well.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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