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More Hennessey on Gruber

November 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm

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Keith Hennessy writes about MIT professor Jonathan Gruber:

If American voters are stupid because they think academic credentials do not perfectly equate with intelligence…

If they are stupid because they think policy decisions should be informed both by sound science and values…

If they are stupid because they would rather let people make their own mistakes than allow government to make different mistakes for them…

If they are stupid because they support less redistribution than certain progressive policymakers and their allies in academia…

If they are stupid because they don't spend all their time trying to sift through policies intentionally designed to deceive them…

If they are stupid because they trust that elected and especially appointed American officials will not abuse the power temporarily granted to them…

… then I'm with stupid.

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Party of the Rich

November 19, 2014 at 12:24 pm

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President Clinton's labor secretary, Robert Reich, writes:

In the 2012 election cycle, the top .01 percent's donations to Democrats were more than four times larger than all labor union donations to Democrats put together.

And the independent self-described socialist Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats and is publicly considering a 2016 presidential campaign, tells NPR:

In the last election, in state after state, you had an abysmally low vote for the Democrats among white, working-class people. And I think the reason for that is that the Democrats have not made it clear that they are prepared to stand with the working-class people of this country, take on the big money interests. I think the key issue that we have to focus on, and I know people are uncomfortable about talking about it, is the role of the billionaire class in American society.

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Taxes, Income, and the One Percent

November 19, 2014 at 12:05 pm

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The Congressional Budget Office has crunched the numbers on income and federal taxes for 2011 and found: "In 2011, households in the highest quintile received an estimated 51.9 percent of before-tax income and paid 68.7 percent of federal taxes; households in the top 1 percent received 14.6 percent of before-tax income and paid 24.0 percent of federal taxes." The analysis included corporate income taxes (attributed to shareholders) and payroll taxes, but not estate or gift taxes.

As the Tax Foundation puts it, "federal taxes in the United States are progressive." By which they mean, the higher-income people pay higher rates.

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Richard Epstein on Net Neutrality

November 19, 2014 at 11:53 am

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Libertarian (or classical liberal) law professor Richard Epstein's column this week is about President Obama's proposal to tighten federal regulation of the Internet: "Government regulation of the Internet can, and should, wait until some specific abuse materializes down the road, as might well be the case. Right now, the President and the FCC could do the public great service by sitting quietly on the sidelines."

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Jon Stewart on Jonathan Gruber

November 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

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The usually left-leaning Daily Show anchor Jon Stewart has a mostly deft summing up of the Jonathan Gruber ObamaCare situation.

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Green Sermons Earn Churches Tax Breaks

November 19, 2014 at 11:33 am

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Churches will earn discounts on their Maryland taxes — particularly a "stormwater remediation fee" applies even to non-profit property-owners — by agreeing to "preach environmentally focused sermons to educate their congregations," the Washington Post reports.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to the Washington Post reporter, Arelis Hernandez, that there might be anything wrong with the government influencing the content of sermons, though the Post headline-writer seems to have understood the issue: "Churches receive stormwater fee discounts by starting 'green' ministries, sermons."

From the article:

Churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship are an "untapped resource" to help inspire the larger community to "do what is right," Jon Capacasa of the Environmental Protection Agency said.

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How To Help FAQ

November 18, 2014 at 3:13 pm

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Thanks to those who have already subscribed or renewed in response to the post earlier this week. For the rest of you, here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Is my subscription due for renewal?

A. If it is, you will get an email reminder this week. If you didn't get the email, your subscription still has some time on it. Of course, if you like what's happening here, one way to say so and to support the site's growth would be to renew early or to purchase a second or third subscription.

Q. I want to join at more than the $49 a year entry-level subscription, but I don't want to spring for a $1,000 sustaining subscriber membership. What can I do?

A. We are considering adding something in between those. In the meantime, you can go ahead and renew your $49 subscription every quarter, or buy two or three at a time.

Q. Why do you ask for my email address or mailing address or phone number?

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Sharpton's Taxes

November 18, 2014 at 2:37 pm

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Rev. Al Sharpton, a pal of both President Obama and Mayor de Blasio, "faces personal federal tax liens of more than $3 million, and state tax liens of $777,657," the New York Times reports. It adds that his non-profit, the National Action Network, has experienced a revenue boom recently in contributions "from large corporate sponsors." The Times doesn't name them or get into what they want or get for the sponsorship money, but it would be an interesting topic for additional journalism. It's something to consider in terms of President Obama and de Blasio, both of whom support higher taxes. When it comes to actually paying the taxes, it turns out to be, at least for people like Mr. Sharpton, essentially optional. The whole story is worth a look.

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Hydrogen Cars

November 18, 2014 at 10:53 am

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The New York Times has an illuminating update on cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells:

A decade ago, President George W. Bush espoused the environmental promise of cars running on hydrogen, the universe's most abundant element. "The first car driven by a child born today," he said in his 2003 State of the Union speech, "could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free."

That changed under Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who was President Obama's first Secretary of Energy. "We asked ourselves, 'Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen-car economy?'" Dr. Chu said then. "The answer, we felt, was 'no.' " The administration slashed funding for hydrogen fuel cell research.

Attention shifted to battery electric vehicles, particularly those made by the headline-grabbing Tesla Motors.

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Polling a Child Tax Credit

November 18, 2014 at 10:31 am

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The YG Network is polling its tax reform plan with the following question and result (via the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis)

a) Congressman A says that middle-class parents need tax relief. Raising the next generation is an investment in our nation's future, so we should let parents keep more of their own money to do it. We should give parents a tax credit of $2500 per year for each child under 18, and pay for it by eliminating tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. The tax code should be pro-growth, pro-family, and pro-children.

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Rattner on Inequality

November 18, 2014 at 10:01 am

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Steven Rattner's campaign against income inequality is the topic of my latest column, Please check it out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here) and Newsmax (here). Scott Winship, the Wriston Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, also responds to Mr. Rattner here.

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How To Help

November 17, 2014 at 3:01 pm

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We'll be combining our usual third and fourth-quarter subscription drives into one big push this week, so if you appreciate the content and community here at FutureOfCapitalism, please consider becoming a paying customer. You'll be sending a powerful signal of support that helps to sustain the site's operation. If you are already a member and you are due for renewal, we'll let you know by email this week, so please keep an eye out. Thanks!

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CNBC ObamaCare Melissa Francis

November 17, 2014 at 10:54 am

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A Fox Business journalist who used to work at CNBC, Melissa Francis, says that when she was at CNBC while President Obama was trying to get his health care bill passed, when she pointed out on air that ObamaCare's numbers didn't add up, management told her to cut it out and accused her of disrespecting the office of the presidency. CNBC called the claim "laughable" but has not denied it.

Ms. Francis left CNBC for Fox Business at the end of 2011.

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Gruberism at USA Today

November 17, 2014 at 10:30 am

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From a USA Today editorial: "With the next election two years off and more than 60 departing lawmakers not having to face voters again, this is the perfect time to increase the tax from the current 18.4-cents-a-gallon to an inflation-adjusted 30.3 cents. And with gas prices plummeting, chances are motorists would barely notice."

If this tax increase is as great a policy idea as the USA Today editorial writers apparently think it is, then what's the need to hide it from the voters and hope they don't notice, or to rely on lawmakers who don't "have to face voters again" to get it passed? It reminds me of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber and his boasts about the lack of transparency in getting ObamaCare passed in the face of "the stupidity of the American voter." It's a kind of elitist contempt for democracy.

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Krauthammer on Gruber

November 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm

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Charles Krauthammer writes:

now we know what lay behind Obama's smooth reassurances — the arrogance of an academic liberalism, so perfectly embodied in the Gruber Confession, that rules in the name of a citizenry it mocks, disdains and deliberately, contemptuously deceives.

President Obama got his law degree from Harvard in 1991. Jonathan Gruber got his economics Ph.D. from Harvard in 1992 (his undergraduate degree is from MIT, where he was Phi Beta Kappa). One is tempted to ask how people so smart (or at least highly credentialed) can be so stupid, but as someone who spent the years 1990 to 1994 at Harvard myself, I totally remember and understand the arrogance and am grateful for the knowledge gained then that having a degree from a fancy university is no indication of either wisdom or character.

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