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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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What Is Obama Thinking?

November 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm

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So the Republicans win the Senate, the House, and a bunch of contested gubernatorial elections, and President Obama responds by 1) signing a deal with China promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and 2) letting it be known that he will take executive action to give work permits and shield from deportation 5 million illegal immigrants. Am I missing something here? Or is Obama? It's almost as if he's pretending the election did not happen. It's certainly not signaling a willingness to work together with Republicans on Republican priorities. It's almost as if Mr. Obama agrees with Professor Gruber about "the stupidity of the American voter" and the ends justifying the means.

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Another Tax-Efficient Buffett Deal

November 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm

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Forbes spells out the tax benefits to Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway of his deal to trade Berkshire's appreciated Procter & Gamble stock for Procter's Duracell battery brand:

Berkshire, according to public documents, is sitting on billions of dollars in capital gains on its Procter & Gamble holding, which stretches many years. By paying for Duracell with Berkshire's 1.9% holding of Procter & Gamble's stock, Buffett is likely to minimize his capital gains bill significantly.

According to Berkshire's most recent annual letter, Berkshire acquired its current 1.9% stake in P&G at a price of $336 million. As of November, Berkshire's 52.5 million share stake is worth around $4.7 billion, meaning Buffett's investing portfolio is sitting on billions in capital gains, which are taxed at a 38% rate when accounting for federal and state taxes.

However, by transferring $4.7 billion in stock back to P&G, Berkshire will likely avoid those capital gains taxes.

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Hennessey on Gruber

November 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

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Keith Hennessey has a post — headlined Honesty About Lying" — deconstructing the comments of Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist who helped design ObamaCare and was recently caught talking about "the stupidity of the American voter." Mr. Hennessey writes that the tactic described by Gruber of deliberately obscuring the costs of ObamaCare as a way of getting it passed "is repulsive and unethical in a representative democracy."

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My Wish List for the New Congress

November 12, 2014 at 9:44 am

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Call me a contrarian, or accuse me of low expectations, but my idea of a successful Republican Congress isn't one that passes ten new laws. It isn't one that passes six new laws, or five. In fact, we'd probably be lucky to get away with a Republican Congress that abstained from law-passing altogether.

— From my column this week. Please check the complete column out at the New York Sun (here) and at Reason (here).

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Insider Trading at the Supreme Court

November 11, 2014 at 12:50 pm

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Justice Scalia's statement, joined by Justice Thomas, announcing that he "will be receptive to granting" a petition from someone challenging the idea that a court should defer to the Securities and Exchange Commission's definition of insider trading law has triggered a laudatory editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal editorial expresses the wish that Justice Scalia will live (and, presumably, continue serving on the high court) "forever." The Journal concludes:

The insider-trading laws need clarifying by the courts, much as the Justices limited the much-abused "honest services" statute in 2010 in Skilling v. U.S. Let's hope Justice Scalia gets his chance.

Kudos to the Journal for noticing Justice Scalia's statement, and for agreeing that the insider-trading laws "need clarifying."

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Lieberman on Obama and Clinton

November 10, 2014 at 11:02 am

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The "Conversations With Bill Kristol" interview this week is with Joseph Lieberman, who tells this anecdote about the difference between President Obama and President Clinton:

the last year when I was in the Senate, I was sitting at a table in the Senate. We happened to be at the Senate Democratic Caucus and one of the colleagues said, "When's the last time any of you talked to President Obama?" So I said, he turned to me and I said, "Well, about six weeks ago, I got a call about something that was in my committee." "Wow, six weeks ago." So this guy who was the chairman of one of the major committees – "I haven't seen him or talked to him in six months." And then we started talking about Clinton and I remember saying, "Clinton, he'd call you and the problem was how do I get him off the phone," he was just, you know, until he got your agreement to do what he wanted you to do.

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More Optimism From Republicans

November 9, 2014 at 10:55 pm

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Seth Lipsky's August 20 New York Post column headlined "Optimism: The GOP's Missing Ingredient" is resonating again, months after it originally appeared.

We had mentioned here back on October 1 that at least two of the Republican Party's 2016 presidential contenders seemed to have taken the column's message on board. Senator Ted Cruz, in his remarks to the 2014 Values Voter Summit that won him the straw poll there (and that are worth a look for other reasons, too), said, "I'm optimistic because of you. I'm optimistic because I believe in the American people." And Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin told Robert Draper of GQ (link via Politico Playbook): "One of the problems I see with Republicans nationally — well, three. … They're always against Obama, so they're not optimistic. I try to be optimistic and visionary."

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