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Cruz Priorities

October 20, 2014 at 12:03 pm

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Senator Ted Cruz has a USA Today op-ed about "ten critical priorities for the 2015 Congress."

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The Illusion of Health Insurance

October 20, 2014 at 11:26 am

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While the Obama administration is patting itself on the back over the expansion of health insurance coverage owing to ObamaCare, journalism is making clear that "health insurance coverage" is not the same thing as "access to health care."

The New York Times has an article pointing out that many of those who got coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are, after paying premiums, "still on the hook for deductibles that can top $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for families." As a result, some of them are choosing not to go get medical care that they may really need. Some conservatives may like this because it will help to control overall health care costs, but for those with the $10,000 in medical bills after paying $20,000 or so in insurance premiums, it may not exactly feel like the "affordable" care promised by the president.

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Why Dot-Com Works Better Than Dot-Gov

October 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm

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Why do government web sites not work, or work much worse than private sector web sites, while costing more to build? The answer may have something to do with the extensive regulations that apply to government contractors. It's all the subject of my column this week. Please check it out at Reason (here) or Newsmax (here).

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review of How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

October 9, 2014 at 8:07 am

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Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, is best known for his 1776 book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. But it is Adam Smith's "other book," The Theory of Moral Sentiments, that is the subject of How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, a new book by Russ Roberts.

Mr. Roberts, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, has been an economics professor, is a co-creator of the Hayek-Keynes rap video, and is the host of the EconTalk podcast. Yet, like Adam Smith himself, he seems to sense that economics alone, in the absence of some sort of moral keel or system, is an insufficient guide for human behavior or happiness.

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What a GOP Senate Would Do

October 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm

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What would happen if the Republicans take control of the Senate in November's election? That is the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at the New York Sun (here), Newsmax (here), and Reason (here).

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Another Immigrant Nobel

October 7, 2014 at 11:30 am

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Add another name to the list of immigrants to America who are Nobel laureates. The Nobel in physics went to "Japanese-born U.S. citizen Shuji Nakamura," a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Reuters reports.

To those who say that the current political debate about immigration is not about Japanese physicists but about poor Mexicans and Guatemalans, and who emphasize that Mr. Nakamura was a legal immigrant not an illegal alien, I'd reply first that it's quite possible that some children or grandchildren of the poor Mexican immigrants will become Nobel laureate scientists, and second that if the opportunities to enter America legally were easier and greater in number, there'd be much less need for anyone to arrive illegally.

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Obama's False Deficit Victory

October 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm

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The editorial page editor of the Washington Post, Fred Hiatt, has a post detailing what he calls President Obama's "astounding" "flip-flop on entitlement reform." Mr. Hiatt advises: "he should at least return to speaking honestly, which might make it a bit easier for the next round of (hopefully) more responsible leaders to make politically difficult decisions."

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New Yorker on Steven Cohen

October 6, 2014 at 11:40 am

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The New Yorker has a long account of the federal pursuit of money manager Steven Cohen that includes these details about the FBI's treatment of Mr. Cohen's former colleague, Mathew Martoma:

When Martoma regained consciousness, Agent Kang told him that the F.B.I. knew about "the trade in 2008." Both Rosemary and Mathew immediately understood what he meant. The other agent, Matt Callahan, hung back, but Kang was aggressive. "Your whole life is going to be turned upside down," he said. "You're going to lose all your friends, and your children are going to grow up hating you, because you're going to live your years in a jail cell." According to Rosemary, Kang said that the government would "crush" Martoma unless he coöperated. "We want Steve Cohen," Kang said....

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The Latest Insider Trading Stretch

October 1, 2014 at 4:08 pm

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Bronte Capital's John Hempton has a post and another here in defense of the Pershing Square analyst, the analyst's roommate, and the analyst's roommate's friend. The roommate and the friend are in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission for trading in Herbalife options after learning from the analyst that Pershing's Bill Ackman planned to announce a negative view of Herbalife. Mr. Hempton calls it "a bad case of SEC over-reach" and says "it is not a case which should involve the SEC. It is not insider trading." He adds: "Bill Ackman's presentation was as far as I know sourced entirely from public information. ...All the room mate knew is that Bill Ackman was going to publicize public information and his analysis of it. It is a stretch of insider trading rules to deem as insider trading the future publication of already public information."

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Secret Service Budget

October 1, 2014 at 10:50 am

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The series of recent lapses by the Secret Service has put the agency's budget in the news. A New York Times editorial today reports:

The budget and size of the Secret Service, though, has fallen in the last few years. In 2011, the agency had about 6,900 staff positions; it now has about 6,600. Its budget fell from $1.9 billion in 2012 to $1.8 billion in 2013, in part because of automatic cuts demanded by Congress, and it has gone up only slightly since then. Though money cannot be the only reason for these errors, people inside the agency say the cuts have led to staff burnout, low morale and unmonitored posts.

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Republican Optimism

October 1, 2014 at 9:32 am

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One of my favorite political articles of the year was my friend and former colleague Seth Lipsky's New York Post column that appeared under the headline "Optimism: The GOP's Missing Ingredient."

It seems to have resonated not just with me but with some of the Republican Party's possible 2016 presidential contenders. 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 tells 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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Unemployment Benefits and the Job Market

September 30, 2014 at 3:16 pm

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The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has a nifty new piece of research suggesting that the expiration of Emergency Unemployment Compensation — the federal extended unemployment insurance benefits that allowed jobless individuals to collect up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits — contributed to the rapid creation of job openings in early 2014:

increases in UI generosity put upward pressure on wages since it becomes more expensive to lure people into work. As a consequence, firms anticipate lower profits and cut back job creation, which lowers the job finding rate and increases the unemployment rate.

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Living Wage

September 30, 2014 at 2:44 pm

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Mayor de Blasio's executive order raising to $13.13 the minimum wage for workers at sites that receive some city subsidies is the topic of a news article in today's New York Times. Via the American Enterprise Institute's Mark Perry comes a reminder of a 1987 New York Times editorial that appeared under the headline: "The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00." The two articles go well together.

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In Defense of Spontaneous Order

September 30, 2014 at 10:13 am

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The Economist's Will Wilkinson has a nice defense of Hayek and his idea of spontaneous order.

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Inverting to Here

September 30, 2014 at 10:09 am

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USA Today has an op-ed by Andrés Martinez about corporate tax reform:

Instead of attacking companies, the Obama administration should work with Republicans to move to a territorial tax system. That's even more important than fiddling with the actual rates, because it will level the playing field between U.S. companies and their foreign competitors. Both would pay the U.S. rate here, but not elsewhere.

If we modernize our tax system to reflect the realities of the global economy, we won't just stop more U.S. companies from leaving. We'd also be encouraging plenty of foreign companies to pull off inversions of their own, to America.

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