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Krauthammer on Inversions

August 28, 2014 at 10:05 pm

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Charles Krauthammer has a pretty good column about President Obama, Warren Buffett, and corporate taxes.

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House Majority Leader Warns of Inflation

August 27, 2014 at 10:04 pm

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Raising inflation as an issue is newly controversial on the right, so it is interesting to see the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, weigh in with a blog post headlined, "Higher Food Prices Set To Hit All Families." The post says, "it's not just food. The costs of clothing, child care, and education are all going up as well."

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Taxing Frequent Flier Miles

August 27, 2014 at 4:58 pm

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Via Tax Prof Paul Caron comes the news of a decision by the federal tax court requiring a taxpayer to report as income the value of Citibank "Thank You" points — a bonus for opening a new account — that were converted into a free airline ticket.

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For This We Need House Republicans?

August 27, 2014 at 4:54 pm

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Toward the end of a news article about Warren Buffett's hypocrisy for investing in the Burger King - Tim Hortons tax inversion, Bloomberg News reports:

On July 10, Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, won a House roll-call vote on an amendment that would ban some inverted companies from securing U.S. government contracts. Thirty-four Republicans, including Michigan Representative Dave Camp, the pro-business chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, voted with her...

The roll call for the amendment, which passed 221-200, is here; the other Republican "ayes" included Barton, Issa, Mica,and Ros-Lehtinen. The text of the amendment is not so easy to find online but similar text is here.

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Dollar Store Merger Antitrust

August 26, 2014 at 8:37 am

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The role of antitrust regulators in preventing Family Dollar from accepting a higher priced takeover offer from Dollar General instead of a lower offer from Dollar Tree 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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Terrorism Ransom Insurance

August 22, 2014 at 8:53 am

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From a Los Angeles Times account of how the family and employer of slain reporter James Foley had been trying to raise cash to meet a ransom demand by the terrorists who were holding him captive:

U.S. officials discourage families or private companies from paying ransom, but the government doesn't block them. Many corporations are insured against ransom demands and pay them without public notice, former officials said.

The market for this insurance seems like a fine topic for further journalistic exploration. Can an American company get around American laws against transferring money to terrorist organizations simply by contracting with an insurance company to do it for them?

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Buffett's Noncompliance

August 22, 2014 at 8:42 am

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Bloomberg News has an article critical of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway for failing to meet federal filing requirements:

The world's greatest investor could use some help with record keeping.

In the past two weeks, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said it missed filing deadlines for investments in Dow Chemical Co. and wallboard maker USG Corp. The latter resulted in an $896,000 penalty.

Buffett, 83, has boasted for years about running Berkshire with a shoestring staff and delegating responsibilities to the heads of operating units like Geico and railroad BNSF. Yet the mistakes raise questions about whether his management approach is suited to an era of increased reporting requirements....

There have been other slip-ups. Since 2012, Buffett's company has had to file overdue reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about holdings in DirecTV, Liberty Media Corp. and Wabco Holdings Inc. Another document concerning an investment in M&T Bank Corp. came three years behind schedule.

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Health Care and ObamaCare

August 20, 2014 at 2:11 pm

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A series of recent articles highlight problems with health care. NPR has a story and the New York Times has a review of the new book Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician, by Sandeep Jauhar, which discusses "unnecessary testing" and "uncoordinated care." Reuters has an article about how "a growing number of doctors simply are not taking contracts with insurance companies," including "45 percent of psychiatrists."

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Icahn on the Dollar Stores

August 19, 2014 at 1:49 pm

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Carl Icahn has a statement out about Dollar General's bid for Family Dollar: "At too many companies in America the hubris of the CEO, supported by a crony Board, costs shareholders billions of dollars, and worse, it costs our economy even more."

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Richard Epstein on Paul Krugman and Milton Friedman

August 19, 2014 at 1:37 pm

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Libertarian (or classical liberal) law professor Richard Epstein has a good answer to Paul Krugman's criticism of libertarianism in regard to pollution, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Motor Vehicles:

One reason why the debate between hard-line libertarians and their fevered opponents like Krugman has taken such a know-nothing turn is that neither side bothers to take seriously the nitty-gritty institutional details on the uses and limits of regulation in a variety of complex areas. Milton Friedman tended to miss these points because his main targets were minimum wage, rent control, and agricultural price supports, where the hard line libertarian solutions make a good deal of sense.

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Federal Aid Compliance Costs

August 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm

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Via Arnold Kling comes a link to an Atlantic article about a for-profit higher-education startup called Minerva:

the school will eschew all federal funding, to which he attributes much of the runaway cost of universities. The compliance cost of taking federal financial aid is about $1,000 per student—a tenth of Minerva's tuition—and the aid wouldn't be of any use to the majority of Minerva's students, who will likely come from overseas.

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Medicare Wheelchairs

August 19, 2014 at 1:15 pm

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The Washington Post takes a look at Medicare fraud involving electric wheelchairs and scooters:

"Let me put it to you this way: An $840 power wheelchair, Medicare pays close to $5,000 for. So there's a huge profit margin there. Huge," said one California man who participated in a recent fraud scheme involving wheelchairs.

Medicare used to set its payments for most power wheelchairs based on manufacturers' suggested retail prices. It did not lower those prices significantly for years, even when it was obvious that wholesale prices were far, far lower. So for scammers, each wheelchair brought a hefty profit.

The story concludes:

Today, even while the wheelchair scam is in decline, that same "pay and chase" system is allowing other variants of the Medicare equipment scam to thrive.

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Avik Roy Health Plan

August 19, 2014 at 1:02 pm

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The health plan advanced by the Manhattan Institute's Avik Roy, which stops short of a full repeal of ObamaCare, is the subject of my column this week. Please check it out at Reason (here) and at Newsmax (here).

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August 13, 2014 at 2:29 pm

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Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who was a health care policy adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012, is out with a new health reform plan that stops short of a full repeal of ObamaCare. A Manhattan Institute summary is here; the full report is here; and National Review articles about it are here and here. I'll have more to say about it later; for now, suffice it to say there are some elements of it that I like and other elements of it that I don't like.

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Too Much Regulation Spoils A Good Haircut

August 12, 2014 at 1:18 pm

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Charles Lipson's column in the Chicago Tribune concludes:

Instead of loading up the public with a Christmas tree of regulations, bureaucracies and costs, let's impose only essential regulations to protect Chicagoans. Instead of preventing competition, let's encourage it. It would work for Uber. It would work for haircuts, too.

There will be an argument over what qualifies as "essential," but the rest of the column is some help with that. Professor Lipson teaches political science at the University of Chicago.

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