Hooray for Hillary's Ties to Wal-Mart

April 19, 2016 at 9:14 am

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Bernie Sanders is attacking Hillary Clinton for the fact that Alice Walton is supporting Mrs. Clinton's campaign. But if you aren't a socialist, that news may be encouraging rather than terrifying. The situation is the topic of my column this week; please check it out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

In response to the column, a community member sent this note:

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The Regulation Causes the Corruption

April 18, 2016 at 9:30 pm

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The news that a New York man has been arrested and charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with obtaining handgun permits from the New York Police Department is yet another reminder that unreasonably strict regulation is an invitation to corruption. If it didn't take months of waiting, hundreds of dollars in fees, and an extensive application to exercise one's Second Amendment right to bear arms in New York City, there'd be no need to bribe anyone. The more complex the regulation, the more likely it is that the market will find a way to circumvent it through illegality. That doesn't excuse lawbreaking, but it is an argument — not the only argument, but one argument — for keeping regulations simple and minimal.

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Uber for MBAs

April 18, 2016 at 9:21 am

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"Uber for MBAs is a worrying sign for knowledge workers," is the headline the Boston Globe hangs over an article about Hourly Nerd, a young and growing Boston-based company that is a platform on which businesses and consultants can connect. It's a classic newspaper frame to make the headline about anxiety — "worrying" — rather than about the opportunity. It's only "worrying" for those who value the status quo more than the flexibility and independence offered by this new entrant, which may even expand the market by making high-quality consulting available to small and medium-sized business rather than just large corporations.

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Flier on Drug Prices

April 17, 2016 at 11:59 pm

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The dean of Harvard Medical School, Jeffrey Flier, has an interesting piece in the Boston Globe about drug prices. He writes:

Procedures required by the FDA for development and approval of new products need to be thoroughly redesigned, including new approaches to adaptive design of clinical trials and use of biomarkers to provide earlier evidence of efficacy than available through mortality-based metrics. Thresholds to clear a drug through the FDA process should more readily consider both medical need and the severity of the disease being treated. Though many regulatory hurdles were established to guarantee safety, patients with otherwise untreatable diseases may be willing to accept an uncertain risk for the chance of benefit, and should be permitted to do so.

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Joe Rosenberg Writes About Bernie Sanders

April 15, 2016 at 9:25 am

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Joe Rosenberg has a gem of a short piece in the Wall Street Journal speaking out against Bernie Sanders and making some important points, among them: "We elders, immigrants and native-born alike, have failed to teach our children and grandchildren about the economic history and false promises of the myriad forms of socialism that infest our world."

He writes: "My Wall Street is the real Wall Street—not the imaginary one that Bernie Sanders demonizes daily. My Wall Street is a place filled with opportunities to succeed, even for an immigrant like me without any connections or relatives in the business."

It's great to see a capitalist publicly defend capitalism.

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The Heroine Who Changed the Course of Taxachusetts

April 14, 2016 at 11:59 am

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Barbara Anderson, who may have been the most consequential woman in the history of Massachusetts, is the topic of my column this week. Please check the column out at the New Boston Post (here), the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here). It's a pretty inspiring tale.

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On Global Warming, a Classic Times Frame

April 8, 2016 at 4:54 pm

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Toward the end of a front-page New York Times news article about Republican donors "learning to love" presidential candidate Ted Cruz, this passage appears:

Andy Sabin, a former Bush supporter who runs a Long Island precious metals company, said that when a fund-raiser from Mr. Cruz's campaign reached out recently, he insisted on one condition.

"I told him, 'For me to have any interest in Ted, I need him to accept that the earth has warmed, and that we can solve the problem and create plenty of jobs,' " Mr. Sabin recalled. Mr. Sabin said that he was offered a spot on one of Mr. Cruz's policy advisory committees, but that when he still asked that Mr. Cruz publicly voice a belief in climate change, he never heard back. Even a signal in the right direction would have been enough for him, Mr. Sabin said.

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The War on Cash, IRS Style

April 6, 2016 at 4:04 pm

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Not even the U.S. Government's own Internal Revenue Service is accepting the proposition that Federal Reserve notes are legal tender for the payment of all debts. If you want to pay your federal tax bill in cash, you can't pay more than $1,000 a day, and the government charges taxpayers an extra $3.99 for each cash payment. The IRS recently issued a reminder on this front. At a gas station, sometimes you get a discount for paying with cash. Leave it to the IRS to find a way to charge extra to taxpayers for doing something that earns a discount in the private sector.

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Tepper to Florida

April 5, 2016 at 1:12 pm

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Somehow I missed this last month, but it's worth passing along even a couple of weeks late. From Bloomberg News:

New Jersey lost its richest resident late last year when billionaire David Tepper decamped to the tax friendly climes of Florida.

Tepper registered to vote in Florida last October, listing his residence as a Miami Beach condominium, and followed up in December by filing a court document declaring that he is now a resident of the state. He also carried out a business reorganization on Jan. 1 that relocated his Appaloosa Management from New Jersey to Florida, which is free of personal income and estate taxes....New Jersey is one of two states that levy both an estate tax on the deceased and an inheritance tax on their heirs. The state income tax rate for top earners is 8.97 percent, and the state's Democratic legislators have repeatedly pushed for a so-called millionaire's tax that would increase the levy to 10.75 percent.

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The Times Finally Finds a Public Sector Union It Dislikes

April 5, 2016 at 12:08 pm

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(And public sector unions finally find a Republican they like, and Republicans finally find some government employees they want more of). The New York Times has a pretty amusing editorial about the decision by the union representing 16,500 federal border patrol agents to endorse presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Not to belittle the issues involved, just to notice some of the ironies.

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Where's the Campaign for War Authorization?

April 5, 2016 at 11:59 am

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President Obama is promising a full-court press to get Congress to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. There's no parallel presidential public relations effort to get Congress to authorize the use of force against the genocidal terrorists of the Islamic State. The situation is the topic of my column this week. Please check the column out at the New York Sun (here) and Newsmax (here).

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Krugman Makes a Good Point

April 4, 2016 at 10:23 am

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Paul Krugman, in his current incarnation as New York Times op-ed page columnist, isn't someone I often agree with. But he makes a good point in today's column about how regulation hurts the poor:

Upper-income Americans are moving into high-density areas, where they can benefit from city amenities; lower-income families are moving out of such areas, presumably because they can't afford the real estate.

You may be tempted to say, so what else is new? Urban life has become desirable again, urban dwellings are in limited supply, so wouldn't you expect the affluent to outbid the rest and move in? Why aren't urban apartments like beachfront lots, which also tend to be occupied by the rich?

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GM in China

March 31, 2016 at 1:30 pm

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A dispatch from Shanghai in the New York Times gives an amazing glimpse into the workings of General Motors, the automaker that received a multi-billion-dollar bailout from taxpayers. The Times reports from a billion-dollar GM factory in China that appears to be staffed mainly by robots:

Hundreds of robots bend, arch and twist to assemble the body of Cadillac's new flagship CT6. Lasers seal the car's lightweight aluminum exterior using techniques that the carmaker, General Motors, has only just introduced in the United States. Yardlong, bright yellow robots like mechanical Alaskan huskies tow five-foot-tall carts of auto parts to the assembly line.

The cars made by robots in China will be shipped to America for sale to American customers, the Times reports.

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IRS Passport Rule

March 31, 2016 at 1:22 pm

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The Republican Congress and President Obama teamed up on a new law that allows the U.S. government to revoke the passports of people who owe back taxes, Bloomberg News reports:

In an effort to fight tax evasion, the IRS recently began forcing expatriates to report not just their income, but additional information on savings and investments—rules that have made it harder to open bank and brokerage accounts overseas. More ominously, the IRS and the State Department are also implementing a provision approved by Congress in December that could revoke the passports of Americans who owe too much–raising the prospect of being stranded abroad on account of poor arithmetic....

The new passport-revocation rule, slipped into a transportation funding bill signed by President Barack Obama, raises the stakes. It allows the U.S. to revoke the passport of any American whose tax debt exceeds $50,000.

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Socialism on Campus

March 31, 2016 at 1:06 pm

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The Harvard Crimson has published, as a "special report," an admiring profile of Soviet dupe John Reed. The article concludes with a discussion of how the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders has made socialism fashionable on campus:

One of the long-lasting impacts of Bernie Sanders' campaign is the way that... he's been able to change the conversation around "the s-word," Tyrik LaCruise '17, an avid Sanders supporter, said. "Running as a democratic socialist, people are like 'Whoa, wait a second. It's not as dirty as I thought. The post office is socialism. Public schools? Socialism. We have roads. That's socialism.'"

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