March 3, 2014 at 6:38 am
This weekend, Warren Buffett released his annual letter as chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. There are some points worth mentioning about it beyond the ones I made last week in my column about an advance excerpt from the letter. They support the idea of Mr. Buffett as an impressive capitalist but one who is also not without his flaws.
Mr. Buffett writes, "We completed two large acquisitions, spending almost $18 billion to purchase all of NV Energy and a major interest in H.J. Heinz. Both companies fit us well and will be prospering a century from now." He also writes, "A century hence, BNSF and MidAmerican Energy will still be playing major roles in our economy."
February 28, 2014 at 10:21 am
Furniture company Ikea and supermarket company ICA are getting into the banking business in Sweden and taking market share away from the largest banks there, Bloomberg News reports.
The Bloomberg article suggests that may be because the biggest banks are hampered by "some of the world's strictest capital rules." But competition is itself a kind of regulation. If customers are fed up by the complexity or high fees or bad service of large banks, it creates a market opportunity for other firms to deliver banking services that customers will like better.
February 27, 2014 at 8:13 pm
A professor at George Washington University School of Law, Jonathan Turley, who says he voted for President Obama and agrees with him on a lot of issues, is faulting Mr. Obama for taking the law into his own hands. From an interview Professor Turley gave to NPR's Here & Now:
February 27, 2014 at 10:14 am
New York is looking to join Texas as a state where auto dealers get the legislature to prevent automaker Tesla from selling cars directly to consumers. Matthew Yglesias at Slate has a short item poking fun at this, a classic example of business joining with politicians to make regulations that hurt consumers.
February 26, 2014 at 10:02 pm
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp, is trying to cut taxes and simplify the tax code, so I hesitate to be too dismissive of the tax reform plan he unveiled this week. But that said, I can't really help the feeling that what it amounts to is pretty disappointing — especially coming from the House Republicans, who are supposed to be the Tea Party, pro-growth representatives in Washington.
Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist's group, said, "the Camp draft would severely hamstring capital investment, unnecessarily damaging potential economic growth over the long run." ATR said, "Today, the top marginal income tax rate on capital gains and dividends is 23.8 percent. Under the Camp draft, this rises to 24.8 percent." For this, we need Republicans? To raise the already high tax rates on savings and investment?
February 26, 2014 at 11:21 am
Steven Cohen's SAC Capital will hire a "chief surveillance officer to monitor trading," the New York Times reports: "A person briefed on the matter said the firm intended to hire either a former federal prosecutor or a securities regulator for the new surveillance monitoring position."
February 25, 2014 at 4:22 pm
Libertarian (or classical liberal) law professor Richard Epstein's column this week is about the minimum wage:
February 25, 2014 at 10:30 am
President Obama is pushing for an increase in the minimum wage, and some states are also considering increases. My guess is House Republicans will block it, but if they cave it will be good for the companies that make robots and also touch-screen self-checkout computers. Raise the minimum wage high enough, and you'll be the one punching in that order yourself at the Dunkin' Donuts or McDonald's drive-through or counter.
There's more to say about this, and I plan to come back to it again soon at greater length, but in the meantime here is Daniel Mitchell's column, complete with cartoons.
And here is Bryan Caplan debunking Peter Thiel's suggestion that a higher minimum wage might make sense to counter the incentives of excessively generous welfare benefits. Mr. Caplan writes:
February 25, 2014 at 9:48 am
Warren Buffett's boasting about his real estate investments is the topic of my latest column. The properties were bought from the government, which sold them at prices so low that Mr. Buffett is in ecstasy. Please check the column out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), or Newsmax (here).
February 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm
WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum reportedly signed the $19 billion deal in which his company was acquired by Facebook in a place that had some symbolic significance to him — where he once stood on line for food stamps.
Perhaps the supposed decline in social mobility in America has been overstated?
Thanks to reader-participant-community member-watchdog-content co-creator N. for sending the tip.
February 20, 2014 at 9:38 am
Men's Journal has a profile of hedge-fund-manager-turned-climate-change-activist Tom Steyer, who reportedly plans to spend "as much as $100 million" during the 2014 election cycle on political activities focused on countering climate change:
February 19, 2014 at 4:00 pm
At the Tax Foundation's blog, William McBride has the tax angle on the $25 billion acquisition of Forest Labs by Actavis, which last year moved to Ireland from New Jersey: "The new company will be based in Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is 12.5 percent – much lower than the combined U.S. federal and state corporate tax rate of 40 percent or more in New York and New Jersey."
From the New York Times: "In this case, Forest's earnings, which had been getting taxed at a higher United States rate, will eventually be taxed at the lower Irish rate currently paid by Actavis, which executives estimated to be 16 percent. Tax savings will amount to at least $100 million, the companies said."
February 18, 2014 at 9:31 pm
The New York Times has a pretty good account of how the Jones Act is delaying the arrival of road salt to New Jersey for use on the state's icy roads:
February 18, 2014 at 10:09 am
Jeb Bush's strengths and weaknesses as a presidential candidate in 2016 are the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at the New York Sun here.
February 18, 2014 at 10:05 am
Libertarian (or classical liberal) law professor Richard Epstein's column this week is about public-sector unions and their pensions:
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