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Get Rid of the Court? Not So Fast

June 29, 2015 at 10:01 pm

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Governor Jindal's suggestion that we get rid of the Supreme Court is the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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How To Help

June 25, 2015 at 4:37 pm

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Renewal notices went out yesterday to paying subscribers to FutureOfCapitalism whose memberships are up for renewal this quarter. Thank you to those who have already responded by renewing. If you are a reader and appreciate the content here, please consider becoming a paying member. Your support helps keep the site running — we couldn't do it without you.

This site is a for-profit enterprise — an example of capitalism in action. Your editor is not ensconced in some think tank or university. So if you value the content you get from FutureOfCapitalism, the best way to encourage it and make sure it continues is to become a paying subscriber. The link is here. Thank you!

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Uber's Influence

June 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm

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Bloomberg News reports:

Although Uber promotes itself as a great disrupter, it's quickly mastered the old art of political influence. Over the past year, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the country, with a presence in almost every statehouse. It has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation, at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores. That doesn't count municipal lobbyists. In Portland, the 28th-largest city in the U.S., 10 people would ultimately register to lobby on Uber's behalf.

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June 25, 2015 at 2:38 pm

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Justice Scalia's dissent in King v. Burwell strikes me as more persuasive than Chief Justice Roberts' majority opinion. Beyond that, a few additional observations in light of today's health care decision from the Supreme Court:

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Taxing Review Copies

June 24, 2015 at 4:53 pm

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The government's never-ending quest to find new and expanded ways to define taxable income has reached a new frontier: review copies of books. Professors who receive review copies of expensive textbooks from publishers, beware. Amazon wrote today to reviewers who participate in its Vine program that provides free review copies of books and sometimes other products. The reviewers aren't paid by Amazon for their writing: "Starting July 1, 2015 you will be required to provide valid tax information by completing Amazon's tax questionnaire to continue participating in the Vine program.....As of that date, we will be tracking the value of products you order through Amazon Vine. If you exceed the threshold of $600 in aggregated product value within a calendar year, you will be issued a 1099-MISC at the end of that year."

Also from the Amazon tax Q and A for Vine reviewers:

Can I return my Vine item after reviewing so I do not have to pay taxes?


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Comment of the Day

June 24, 2015 at 3:07 pm

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From Harry Binswanger, commenting on the post about the new $10 bill that will feature the image of a woman:

don't you think Ayn Rand's picture on the $10 would bring greater awareness of her uncompromising defense of the gold standard? E.g., this from Atlas Shrugged:
Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: 'Account overdrawn.'

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Big Corn Versus Big Sugar

June 24, 2015 at 2:30 pm

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Lobbyists for corn syrup are going after federal subsidies for sugar, the Washington Post reports. The article concludes:

Not every conservative group celebrated the corn growers jumping into the fray. James Davis from the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce said that his group opposes special breaks for sugar and corn growers.
"We're not real interested in climbing in bed with the corn lobby to accuse the sugar industry of being prostitutes," he said. "We oppose all forms of corporate welfare."

With Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio both from the sugar-producing state of Florida, and with corn a big crop in the early caucus state of Iowa, this should be one to watch through the presidential campaign.

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Supreme Court Raisin Case

June 24, 2015 at 2:04 pm

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The Supreme Court ruled earlier this week in Horne et al. v. Department of Agriculture, the raisin case that we wrote about here a few months back. The opinion, by Chief Justice Roberts, was essentially 8 to 1 (with Justice Sotomayor the dissenter) that forcing farmers to turn over their raisins to the federal government amounted to a "taking" that violated the Fifth Amendment.

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More Perverse Incentives

June 23, 2015 at 10:36 am

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From Nicholas Kristof's New York Times column, reported from Baltimore:

helping people is harder than it looks.

One valuable program is WIC, which provides nutritional support for women, infants and children. Yet because it gives free infant formula to low-income mothers, it unintentionally discourages breast-feeding.

"If I had to buy formula, with no WIC vouchers, I'd breast-feed," Alia Brooks, a teenage single mom in Baltimore, told me.

In short, helping people is complicated.


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Five Percent Growth

June 23, 2015 at 10:30 am

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Some people say Jeb Bush's goal of 4% economic growth is unrealistically high. They might want to check the history of John Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign, where the goal was 5% growth. That's the topic of my column this week, which has some wonderful details, even some that go beyond what was in JFK, Conservative. Please check the column out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Perverse Incentives

June 23, 2015 at 10:16 am

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The CEO of CKE Restaurant Holdings, Andy Puzder, writes in The Hill about the effect that welfare programs have on some of his employees at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's:

some of our crew members are declining promotions to shift leader positions because the increase in income would disqualify them for food, housing, medical or other government benefits.

These promotions are the first step on the ladder to becoming a general manager, potentially making up to $80,000 a year. It's a shame they're unable to take a promotion for fear of losing public assistance. Following local minimum wage increases, other employees have refused additional hours or requested fewer hours to keep their incomes below the cutoff for receiving benefits.

Called the "welfare cliff" by policy wonks, this growing trend is little more than people responding to incentives. Simply, people get trapped into working less and keeping valuable benefits over working more and losing them.

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The New $10

June 17, 2015 at 10:15 pm

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The Internet is abuzz with reaction to the Treasury Department's announcement that the government will redesign the $10 bill, which now features Alexander Hamilton, so that it will include an image of a woman. We're less concerned here with whose image is on the $10 — Harriet Tubman, Janet Yellin, Hillary Clinton, Sojourner Truth...heck, even Barack Obama's heroine Golda Meir would all be fine candidates — than about its value, which is plummeting, as measured by how much of a ticket to Disney World it can buy, or how much of a Picasso painting it can buy. Printing someone else's picture on the thing can't disguise that it's fiat currency.

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Rubio's Tax Mistake

June 17, 2015 at 9:51 pm

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The Wall Street Journal has an editorial making a strong case against Marco Rubio's tax proposal, a point also marked by your editor months ago in the column Rubio's Risks.

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Ford Foundation Tackles Inequality

June 16, 2015 at 9:17 pm

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"Ford Shifts Grant Making To Focus Entirely on Inequality" is the headline on the Chronicle of Philanthropy news article about the Ford Foundation, which has more than $12 billion in assets.

The article reports on a letter from the Ford Foundation's president, Darren Walker. It said in part:

Among these many trends, the one we returned to again and again was the growth of inequality in our world. Not just the economic disparities that have emerged in global debates these past few years but also inequality in politics and participation; in culture and creative expression; in education and economic opportunity; and in the prejudicial ways that institutions and systems marginalize low-income people, women, ethnic minorities, Indigenous peoples, and people of color.

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Hillary's Student Loan Plans

June 16, 2015 at 8:47 pm

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The $1.3 trillion question of the presidential campaign is how Hillary Clinton is going to handle demands for student loan forgiveness. I write in my column this week:

So it will be illuminating to watch for the details of Mrs. Clinton's student loan program. Back in 1992, Bill Clinton was for income-based student loan repayment, or for loan forgiveness in exchange for national service. If Mrs. Clinton comes out in favor of a more generous plan — say, loan forgiveness or modification based onno repayment or without any national service — it says something about how the Democratic Party has moved to the left over the past 23 years, or about the ideological differences between the more centrist Mr. Clinton and his more left-of-center spouse. In Kennedy-esque terms, Bill Clinton was asking what you can do for your country, while Hillary Clinton may be offering what your country can do for you. Bill Clinton was offering a tradeoff, while Hillary Clinton may be offering a handout.

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