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Research Desk at rest

By Dylan Matthews

All good things must come to an end, and Research Desk is no exception. My last day working full time at The Post is tomorrow, and that means this will be the last Research Desk solicitation thread, at least for the time being. But the work goes on, the charts endure, the time series still live, and the data shall never die, so post your last requests below.

By Dylan Matthews  |  August 26, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
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Why are you leaving?

Posted by: wvng | August 26, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Why do certain people eg, Heritage say the Bush 08 budget deficit was $400B, when according to wikipedia, the debt increased by $800B?

I understand that the prospective estimate was $400B, but once it's history, shouldn't the actual deficit be the net increase in debt?

Thanks for your excellent articles.

Posted by: tom83 | August 26, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse


I am sorry to read that you are leaving. I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your articles. One of my favorites was your polling of different economists and politicians on where current marginal tax rates are now in relation to the Laffer curve.

Best of luck to you and I hope to read your "stuff" someplace in the future.

Posted by: msollot | August 26, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Hi Dylan,

How do we reconcile the editorial of John Podesta in the FT yesterday (here:, where he mentions that

"Proponents of high-income cuts also claim that their expiry would hurt small businesses and cause them to stop hiring. That’s a red herring. Only 3 per cent of businesses would be affected, and many of these are corporate law firms, financial partnerships, and the like – not what most people think of as small businesses."

and Mark Zandi's op-ed in the NYT last week, who mentioned that "Successful small-business owners, who power the nation’s job-creation machinery, make up one-third of these high-income taxpayers. " (the op-ed is here

Basically, my question would be: what is the distribution of consumers vs. small businesses in the income bracket where the Obama Administration wants to extend the tax cuts, and how does it compare to the overall distribution of businesses(especially, small businesses) in the overall economy?

Posted by: PtitSeb | August 26, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

You have been one of the few voices of reason at the Post. Sad to see you leave.

Never posted a research question before but if this is my last chance, here we go:

The Petroleum Institute is up with a new commercial talking about "no new taxes on oil and gas". ( They are really talking about climate change legislation but it got me thinking about oil companies and taxes.

I know that exxon paid 0$ in US corporate income taxes last year despite making TONS of profit, but AS AN INDUSTRY, how does the profit to Federal Tax ratio come out on a daily/yearly basis? Is there any sectors of the energy industry that come out to a widely different ratios than others (b/c of tax credits for doing X, Y or Z)?

Posted by: srgbriggs | August 26, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Back to school? Enjoy it while it lasts. College is truly, truly rad. It's been a pleasure to read your stuff here on Ezra's blog. I'd wish you luck in your future endeavors, but you hardly need it.

Posted by: MosBen | August 26, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Sorry to hear that, Dylan! Thankyou for your many posts, they've been appreciated and informative. Good luck on your next ventures :)

Posted by: wisny | August 26, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I wish every reporter had a Dylan Matthews.

Here's my final question:

How much has web traffic increased on Ezra's blog since Dylan Matthews started working for him?

Posted by: jpeg | August 26, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Will miss those great research desk Q&A sessions, Dylan. With a few exceptions, yours and Ezra's articles are the best on The Post.

Posted by: fakedude1 | August 26, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Good luck, Dylan! Thanks for your great work--I've really enjoyed your analysis.

Posted by: KevHall | August 26, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Thanks -- you've provided Ezra with some very informative back up support. best of luck. How about a final graph of something to do with Ezra's food related content at this site?

Posted by: bdballard | August 26, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Dylan, sorry to see you go, and good luck in your future endeavors.

Liberals like to point out that we shouldn't raise the retirement age for social security because the increases in life expectancy are much higher for the rich and lower for the poor. This makes me wonder if social security is becoming progressive in terms of benefits, actually benefiting the rich more than the poor. So, could you do a comparison of how much the different quintiles are expected to put into social security as opposed to how much they're expected to take out of it?

Posted by: DKOSullivan | August 26, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Good luck, dude. Have a great year.

Posted by: StokeyWan | August 26, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I've enjoyed your posts. Have a great life!

The Deficit Peacocks love to scare folks with US government debt per person, as if we'll each have to come up with $40,000 to $50,000 one of these days. I wonder what the numbers would be if we distribute it by wealth or income. Would the top .1% share be in the millions per plutocrat and the average working stiff's share drop to a week's take home pay?

Posted by: kellgo | August 26, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

To what extent is income distributed by a power law, and to what extent is it distributed normally? What would 6 income tax brackets look like, if the policy objective was to provide the least deviation from a normal distribution of after-tax income?

Posted by: sullivanmatthewr | August 26, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

You're an excellent analyst, Dylan, and you'll be missed. Good luck!

Posted by: pjro | August 26, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Before you head back to your liberal cocoon at Harvard, I would like to see you research something that does not just reinforce your progressive viewpoint. Since the CBO makes 10 year projections, I would like to see how much more spending over what was projected in 2000 happened, and how much less revenue under what was projected in 2000 happened. I suspect that the revenues were close in spite of the tax cuts, but the government spending was out of control higher, resulting in today's huge deficit.

Posted by: cummije5 | August 26, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Can the level of outsourcing be tracked year by year on a graph? Say, from 1970 on?

If oursourcing today was at the 1970 level (per capita), what would the trade deficit be today? The unemployment rate? The GDP?

Good luck Dylan

Posted by: lauren2010 | August 26, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Research Desk at Tinagra. Research Desk on the ocean.

Posted by: MosBen | August 26, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Good luck in school!

My question is somewhat of a follow-up on a question from a few weeks ago about the peak of the Laffer curve. Another major component of the tax cuts due to expire in 2010 is the estate tax. Is there any economic consensus on the ideal marginal rate (from either a growth- or revenue-maximizing perspective) of the estate tax?

My suspicion is that a near-100% rate is optimal for both growth and overall tax revenue optimization. That is, a strong incentive to spend money in one's lifetime rather than pass it onto one's heirs would have a strong effect on maximizing current economic growth (and therefore revenue). However, I don't pretend to be an economist.


Posted by: blackwagonwrxsti | August 26, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

blackwagonwrxsti, I'm not an economist either, but I have a pretty strong feeling in my gut that opposition to the estate tax has almost nothing to do with economics.

Posted by: MosBen | August 26, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

In light of Alan Simpson's comment that social security recipients are just sucking on the Federal tit, I would like to know how much his Federal Pension is for his 28 years in Congress. Would also be interesting to know how much he gets from Social Security, but that's probably harder to find out.

Posted by: guesswhosue | August 26, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

best of luck, dylan.
we'll all miss you.

Posted by: jkaren | August 26, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Ah, I had been thinking of a question to post, but thought too long. Perhaps this is a last chance.

I have been curious for a while (since we were actually running surpluses), but too lazy to look it up: what is the structure of our federal debt payments? Are they self-amortizing? That is, if we ran no deficit, *and* no surplus, would the debt be retired in 30 years (I assume the majority of the debt is in 30 year bonds)?

Or would we simply have paid the interest, and not touched the principal?

Anyway, thanks for the service these months, and good luck back in school!

Posted by: kptrease | August 27, 2010 1:32 AM | Report abuse

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