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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Capital Is Mobile

September 16, 2015 at 11:48 am

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From the New York Times obituary of Fred DeLuca, a co-founder of the Subway sandwich chain: "He had a home in Orange, Conn., but after Connecticut adopted a state income tax in 1991, he moved his official residence to Fort Lauderdale, Fla."

Rich people turn out to be mobile, and when states like Connecticut act as if taxpayers will just stand there and be soaked, the taxpayers have a way of proving the states wrong.

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Massachusetts Health Insurance Premiums Increase

September 11, 2015 at 8:55 am

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Maryland's most popular "Affordable Care Act" health insurance plans will see premiums increase by an average of 26 percent next year, and Florida's will rise 9.5 percent, a post here the other day reported. Now the Springfield, Mass., Republican newspaper (which, despite its name, is a nonpartisan news operation), reports that in Massachusetts, "individuals buying insurance through the Connector who earn more than 300 percent of the poverty level ($72,750 for a family of four), will see their premiums rise by an average of 7.8 percent for most plans." Less comprehensive "Bronze" plans will have a smaller premium increase, but their already significant deductibles will increase by $1,000.

The newspaper reports that the price increase "reflects the increased cost of prescription drugs, higher usage of expensive health care, and additional taxes that are part of the federal Affordable Care Act."

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Jeb Bush Tax Plan

September 9, 2015 at 3:23 pm

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Jeb Bush has laid out his tax plan in a speech and fact sheet. Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform has offered an initial reaction.

Two quick thoughts from here:

The 28% top individual rate Jeb Bush is proposing is significant in the context of his family. It was the top Reagan rate before President George H.W. Bush broke his "read my lips" pledge. And it's lower than the 35% top rate achieved under George W. Bush. The way I see it, Jeb is tacitly acknowledging his father's error, while also endeavoring to outdo his brother George W. as a tax-cutter. It's a clear and encouraging signal that he means business as a tax cutter.

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The Heiress Speaker

September 9, 2015 at 10:03 am

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The Manhattan Institute's City Journal, amid a piece about 1199 SEIU headlined "The Union That Rules New York," offers this passage:

City council speaker and leader of the Progressive Caucus Melissa Mark-Viverito is a former organizer for 1199, which has played an active role in her career from the beginning. The union suggested that the Puerto Rican–born and Columbia University–educated heiress move from Greenwich Village to East Harlem to establish a political base.

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Small Government Is More Honest Government

September 9, 2015 at 9:52 am

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Re the news that the CEO of United Airlines resigned amid a federal investigation of whether the airline "agreed to reinstate money-losing flights to the airport nearest the weekend home of the [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]'s chairman, David Samson, in return for improvements the airline wanted at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it is the biggest carrier":

What a reminder that small government is more honest government! If the airport wasn't government controlled, there'd be no opportunity for government officials to provide favors in exchange for favors. Better than vigorous law enforcement policing corruption after the fact is a small government approach that minimizes the chances for corruption to happen in the first place.


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The Federal Marriage Penalty

September 8, 2015 at 1:38 pm

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Think tax reform fixed the "marriage penalty"? Think again, especially when it comes to the phase-out of means-tested welfare benefits or tax credits. The research group R Street has a well done and fascinating new paper detailing the problem:

For example, in Arkansas (one of the states with the highest marriage penalties) if a nonparent marries a parent with two children, and they have a 50/50 split of $40,000 in combined earnings (counting benefits, a total income of $41,892), they would lose approximately $13,248 in annual means-tested benefits, or 32 percent of total household income....

By size, major means-tested programs include Medicaid; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); child-care subsidies through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF); school meals; and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

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The Two Words That Explain Trump's Appeal

September 8, 2015 at 1:20 pm

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Figuring out what's attracting people to Donald Trump is the topic of my column this week. I come up with an explanation other than anti-immigrant racism or support for higher taxes and more government control of health care. Please check the column out at the New York Sun (here) and Newsmax (here).

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The Millionaire Teacher Entrepreneurs

September 8, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Send Comment Share: Facebook Twitter, a for-profit online marketplace where teachers pay other teachers for lesson plans, homework, and handouts for use with classes, is the subject of a fascinating dispatch in Sunday's New York Times:

To date, Teacher Synergy, the company behind the site, has paid about $175 million to its teacher-authors, says Adam Freed, the company's chief executive. The site takes a 15 percent commission on most sales.

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Health Insurance Premium Increases

September 7, 2015 at 11:06 pm

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An increase in health insurance premiums for plans sold on Maryland's ObamaCare exchange is the subject of a Washington Post dispatch that does a fine job of illustrating some of the problems of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Post reports:

The price of the most popular health plans sold through Maryland's insurance exchange will jump, on average, by about one quarter next year, fueling questions about whether coverage under the Affordable Care Act will remain affordable in the state and elsewhere.

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Slavery and the Welfare State

September 6, 2015 at 9:43 pm

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Thomas Sowell has an interview with the Wall Street Journal's Kyle Peterson in connection with the release of Mr. Sowell's latest book, Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective:

"One of the things I try to do in the book is to distinguish between what might be the legacy of slavery, and what's the legacy of the welfare state. If you look at the first 100 years after slavery, black communities were a lot safer. People were a lot more decent. But then you look 30 years after the 1960s revolution, and you see this palpable retrogression—of which I think the key one is the growth of the single-parent family."

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Bloomberg on Immigration

September 4, 2015 at 11:13 am

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Bloomberg View, majority owned by Michael Bloomberg, has an editorial that essentially takes Jeb Bush's position on changing immigration law to de-emphasize family reunification and instead prioritize skills:

U.S. immigration law puts family reunification ahead of attracting workers with skills in short supply. This no longer makes sense. More than half of the immigrant visa backlog is for siblings of U.S. citizens. The case for granting residency or citizenship to them, or to the adult offspring of newly minted U.S. citizens, was more compelling before cheap, speedy air travel, not to mention the Internet and Skype, made staying in touch easier.

Meanwhile, restrictions on skills-based immigration increasingly put the U.S. at a disadvantage in today's competition for global talent. In 2012, skilled immigrants accounted for only 6 percent of all new U.S. immigrant visas. Compare that with 26 percent in Canada and 33 percent in Australia.

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Roger Goodell and the Agency Risk

September 4, 2015 at 10:48 am

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A guest post by David Phillips, a professor of law at Northeastern University:

Most institutions face an agency risk, that is, the risk that top leadership will exercise its power in its own interest rather than the interest of the owners or membership. To take perhaps the most common example, corporate officers, whose compensation might in large part depend upon current earnings, might accelerate certain transactions to elevate earnings in a particular quarter at the expense of the long term prospects of the corporation. How does this analysis apply to the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, in the case of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady?

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Taxing NY Real Estate

September 4, 2015 at 10:43 am

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Conversions of small New York co-op apartment buildings into condos are the topic of a New York Times news article by my former New York Sun colleague Julie Satow. Deep in the lengthy story is a discussion of the taxes involved:

From the buyer's perspective, the best approach is to buy the physical building from the co-op. In that scenario, Mr. Saft said, the investor would pay $100 million, for example, for the property, and the co-op would pay taxes on the sale, which would be around $40 million, leaving $60 million to be split among the shareholders. But then each shareholder would have to pay capital gains taxes as well — meaning shareholders would be taxed twice, reducing the final profit.

In the alternative scenario, Mr. Saft said, the buyer would purchase shares from each shareholder individually, so the shareholders would pay only capital gains taxes, not the corporate tax. But that could create big problems for the developer once the building is converted and the condos are sold.

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