Keith Hernandez on Florida

October 4, 2015 at 9:58 pm

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Mets baseball player turned broadcaster Keith Hernandez grants the New York Times an interview from his house at Sag Harbor, N.Y.:

Mr. Hernandez spends winters in Juno Beach, Fla. It's a little boring, he says. So why does he go there? He waggles his eyebrows. "Taxes, obviously."

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Bush At Bedford

October 1, 2015 at 2:32 pm

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Bedford, N.H. — Jeb Bush had a town-hall-meeting style campaign event here last night. I was there and have some observations:

Don't write him off yet. After Scott Walker dropped out, and following Governor Bush's poor debate performances and declines in the polls, some have suggested that Mr. Bush should be the next Republican presidential candidate to end his campaign. The politician I saw last night didn't look like he was running on fumes, or about to quit. He looked relaxed, confident, and poised. He was solid on substance and strong in his presentation. If he could only be as good in the televised debates as he is in that town hall format, he'd be doing better in the polls. Asked about those polls by someone at the town hall, he replied that a majority of New Hampshire voters make up their minds only in the last week before the primary. "This is a long haul race," he said.

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Justice Breyer on Airline Deregulation

September 30, 2015 at 11:47 pm

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The Edward Kennedy Institute has just released a batch of oral history interviews about Senator Kennedy. I'm working my way through them slowly, but one that caught my eye was with Stephen Breyer, who was later nominated to the Supreme Court (where he still sits) by President Clinton. Justice Breyer tells about a dinner that he had with Kennedy in 1975 where the two discussed airline deregulation:

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Why No Signs in Costco

September 30, 2015 at 10:59 pm

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NPR's "Planet Money" show has an interview with a founder of the Price Club, which merged into Costco, Robert Price. He explains why at Costco, there are no signs telling customers what is in each aisle. From the transcript:

SMITH: So yeah, making you pay to shop is this one big thing that Costco does that's the opposite of how normal stores work. But once they've locked you into this system, they can do all of these weird, secret things that wouldn't fly in any other store, but in Costco can get you to buy more.

GOLDSTEIN: I need Ziploc bags. In a normal store you would look at the sign at the end of the aisle that says Ziploc bags.


GOLDSTEIN: There are no signs in Costco.

SMITH: There are no signs, but why wouldn't you put a sign? Like, it makes no sense, right?

GOLDSTEIN: I asked Robert Price.

PRICE: I was adamant that we would not have signs telling people where things were because that would make it likely that they would wander through all the aisles and find other things to buy.

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Trump's Tax Plan

September 28, 2015 at 11:18 pm

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The Tax Foundation has a useful interactive page that compares the tax reform proposals of the 2016 presidential contenders. Donald Trump's release of his plan this week — on his web site and with a Wall Street Journal op-ed — allows the following comparison to be made:

Top Proposed Individual Ordinary Income Tax Rates
Marco Rubio35%
Jeb Bush28%
Donald Trump25%
Rand Paul14.5%

And this one:

Top Proposed Corporate Income Tax Rates
Marco Rubio25%
Jeb Bush20%
Donald Trump15%

And this one:

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The Politics of Crowds

September 28, 2015 at 10:26 pm

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The big crowds being drawn by Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Pope Francis are the topic of my column this week, which begins by remarking that I miss the voice of Fouad Ajami. Please check the column out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Rubio's Family Leave Tax Credit

September 25, 2015 at 1:52 pm

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Senator Marco Rubio today rolled out a plan to provide "a 25% non-refundable tax credit for businesses that voluntarily offer at least four weeks of paid family leave, limited to twelve weeks of leave and $4,000 per employee each year."

From Mr. Rubio's prepared remarks:

I believe we can fix this problem by creatively applying our free enterprise principles in a way that encourages businesses to choose to offer more paid family leave.

To do this, I will provide a limited 25% non-refundable tax credit to any business that offers between four and twelve weeks of paid leave. For instance, if you are offered $1,600 in paid leave for four weeks while you take care of your newborn, which would be the equivalent of about $10 an hour, your employer could claim a tax credit for $400.

This won't solve every scheduling conflict between work and family life. No policy can. But it will help ensure that our people don't have to sit behind a desk while the most profound moments of their lives pass them by. And it will help our businesses expand and create new jobs by allowing them to keep more of their money rather than send it to Washington.

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The Geriatrician Shortage

September 22, 2015 at 10:56 am

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A New York Times op-ed warns about a shortage of geriatricians and blames the problem on low reimbursement rates by Medicare and Medicaid:

Currently there are fewer than 8,000 geriatricians in practice nationwide — and that number is shrinking. "We are an endangered species," said Dr. Rosanne Leipzig, a geriatrician at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York.

At the same time, the nation's fastest-growing age group is over 65. Government projections hold that in 2050 there will be 90 million Americans 65 and older, and 19 million people over age 85. The American Geriatrics Society argues that, ideally, the United States should have one geriatrician for every 300 aging people. But with the looming shortage of geriatricians, the society projects that by 2030 there will be only one geriatrician for every 3,798 older adults.

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Jeb Bush on Regulatory Reform

September 22, 2015 at 9:59 am

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Jeb Bush today rolled out a detailed plan to roll back — or at least reduce the growth of — government regulations. It's worth a look. One of my favorite passages was this:

The CFPB, created by Dodd-Frank, is controlled by a single individual who is effectively free of oversight from either the White House or Congress. Given the lack of accountability, it is not surprising that the agency aims build itself lavish headquarters, featuring a two-story waterfall and a four-story glass staircase and a budget that ballooned from $55 million to $216 million.

Another was this:

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What a Way To Make Money

September 21, 2015 at 9:24 pm

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Amid a New York Times article about a drug company raising the price of a non-patented drug came this passage:

This is not the first time the 32-year-old Mr. Shkreli, who has a reputation for both brilliance and brashness, has been the center of controversy. He started MSMB Capital, a hedge fund company, in his 20s and drew attention for urging the Food and Drug Administration not to approve certain drugs made by companies whose stock he was shorting.

It reminds me of Bill Ackman's lobbying of regulators to act against Herbalife or MBIA while shorting those companies.

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Sense and Socialism from Sanders

September 21, 2015 at 9:13 pm

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Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is the subject of my column this week. It begins:

Socialist presidential candidates aren't usually people I have a lot of admiration for, but I received an email the other day from Bernie Sanders that moved him up a notch in my estimation. The subject line was "Why on earth would Bernie go there?" It explained Senator Sanders' decision to speak recently at Liberty University, the very Christian, very conservative college founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell at Lynchburg, Va.

Please check out the rest of the column at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Further on Last Night's Debate

September 17, 2015 at 10:20 am

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It's hard to know exactly whose responsibility it is — CNN or the candidates themselves — but listening to the Republican presidential candidates last night for five hours, one might come away thinking that the biggest problem facing America today is that too many people want to come here. The number two threat is an organization called Planned Parenthood. And the number three threat, according to Donald Trump, is that vaccines cause autism. (On the autism issue, on which, in my view, neither doctors Ben Carson or Rand Paul adequately rebutted Mr. Trump, please see the official response from the advocacy group Autism Speaks.)

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CNN Republican Debate

September 17, 2015 at 12:31 am

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On an overall level, the second Republican debate, sponsored by CNN, suffered from some of the same problems as the first one, sponsored by Fox News — lots of talk from the candidates about keeping immigrants out and defunding Planned Parenthood, not much talk about igniting economic growth or lowering the burden of government regulations. Here are my impressions, candidate by candidate, after watching the whole thing. What a crew!:

Donald Trump: He said some weird things that if he were a normal candidate might hurt him. For example, he said vaccines cause autism. That has been thoroughly studied and debunked (see Seth Mnookin's book The Panic Virus). He promised to "get along" with Vladimir Putin. And he described Carly Fiorina by saying, "I think she's got a beautiful face and I think she's a beautiful woman." So far, saying these sorts of things haven't hurt him in the polls, so it's not clear that these comments will hurt him.

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Syrian Refugees and the IPhone 6s

September 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm

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As the world and America debates what to do about the Syrian refugees and the conflict in Syria, Apple was introducing its latest series of new products. What does one have to do with the other? As I've pointed out here earlier, the biological father of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was none other than one Abdulfattah Jandali, a Syrian professor of political science who came to America and gave Jobs up for adoption.

I understand the concern that some Syrian refugees might be terrorists. But some of those Syrian migrants might also be the father of the next Steve Jobs.

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Sanders and Citizens United

September 16, 2015 at 12:10 pm

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If Bernie Sanders follows through with his plan to amend the Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, he may wind up gagging his own supporters. My column this week is about constitutionally protected corporate political speech that sides with Sanders against free trade, for gay marriage, and for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Please check out the column at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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