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Taxes More Than Food, Clothes, Housing

April 9, 2014 at 10:41 am

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Americans will pay more in taxes — $4.5 trillion in 2014 — than they do for food, clothing, and housing combined, the Tax Foundation reports.

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Lipton Blames Activist Hedge Funds for Unemployment, Low Growth

April 9, 2014 at 10:25 am

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Martin Lipton of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz has a revised post at the Harvard Law School's corporate governance blog that faults activist hedge funds for contributing to slow growth and unemployment by favoring short-term steps over long-term investment: "We believe that attacks, and the threat of attacks, by activist hedge funds and pervasive activism are major causes of underinvestment, unemployment and slow growth of GDP."

Mr. Lipton says the SEC should change its rules to require hedge funds and other institutional investors to report their positions on forms 13F two days after the quarter ends, rather than the current 45 days, and also to require disclosure of a five percent stake in a company within one day rather than ten days.

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SEC Retirement Speech

April 9, 2014 at 10:04 am

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Securities and Exchange Commission official Jim Kidney's retirement speech contains the following passage warning about the negative effects of the revolving door between the agency and private practice:

The revolving door is a very serious problem. I have had bosses, and bosses of my bosses, whose names we all know, who made little secret that they were here to punch their ticket. They mouthed serious regard for the mission of the Commission, but their actions were tentative and fearful in many instances. You can get back to Wall Street by acting tough, by using the SEC publicity apparatus to promote yourself as tough, and maybe even on a few occasions being tough, if you pick your targets carefully. But don't appear to fail. Don't take risks where risk would count.

That is not the intended message from the ticket punchers, of course, but it is the one I got on the occasions when I was involved in a high profile case or two. The revolving door doesn't push the agency's enforcement envelope very often or very far.

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Washington's War on Youth

April 8, 2014 at 8:00 pm

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Washington's spending programs redistribute from less wealthy young people to more wealthy older people in what amounts to a "war on youth," Bonnie Kristian writes. The younger people either haven't thought about it, don't care, or think it will keep going until they get old, because they tend to vote more for the big-spending redistributionists, at least according to the exit polls.

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Globe Editor Brags About Dead Paying Subscribers

April 8, 2014 at 2:56 pm

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The editor of the Boston Globe, Brian McGrory, may have finally figured out the solution to the business troubles of newspapers — keep billing dead customers.

"We get people's credit card," Mr. McGrory said today in an appearance at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "We keep billing them every month until six months after they are dead."

Mr. McGrory didn't get into the question of whether his paper's paying advertisers would be interested in reaching dead newspaper subscribers, or whether such customers are less likely to complain about late or missed deliveries. It wasn't clear whether he was exaggerating for humorous effect or whether he was serious. The Massachusetts attorney general's office did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking comment on whether such a business practice was something that it would investigate or approve of.

Mr. McGrory's comment came in the course of a wide-ranging discussion on the future of the Globe, which Mr. McGrory freely conceded is a shadow of its former self.

"Required reading? It's not," he conceded.

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Ortiz, Obama Samsung Selfie

April 8, 2014 at 10:57 am

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A Boston Herald column by Jennifer Braceras nails the hypocrisy of the White House criticizing Red Sox slugger David Ortiz's Samsung phone "selfie" with President Obama.

The White House Press Secretary said in respect of the Red Sox Samsung selfie that "the White House objects to attempts to use the president's likeness for commercial purposes."

As Ms. Braceras points out (kindly mentioning me), what about Mr. Obama's own visits to the Gap and Costco, rewards for the wage policies of those companies and the political support of their leaders?

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Richard Epstein on Property Rights and Campaign Finance

April 8, 2014 at 10:43 am

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Libertarian (or classical liberal) law professor Richard Epstein's column this week is about the intersection of property rights and campaign finance:

In a society that has strong protections for property rights, supposed oligarchs have no reason to enter big-time into political activity because their liberties and property would already be amply protected against confiscation by collective action. ...it is highly doubtful that so-called oligarchs would make political investments if they knew that they were immune from the risk of confiscation through thinly disguised schemes of regulation and taxation, especially since these same rules would prevent them from seeking subsidies of their own. But right now, with these protections shattered, the dynamic changes on both sides of the great political divide.

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Flat Tax or Fair Tax

April 8, 2014 at 10:01 am

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House Republicans are quietly moving ahead with plans to dramatically reform the tax code through either a flat-rate income tax or a national tax on consumption. Those efforts are the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at Reason (here), the New York Sun (here), or Newsmax (here).

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CFPB Adventures

April 4, 2014 at 10:14 am

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The latest news from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, last seen here paying $22.3 million to lease temporary office space for two years while its future headquarters undergoes a $145 million renovation:

•A senior attorney at the agency testified to Congress that the bureau has a "pervasive culture of retaliation and intimidation that silences employees and chills the workforce from exposing wrongdoing," the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. An investigator brought in to look into the complaints found "exclusion, retaliation, discrimination, nepotism, demoralization, devaluation and other offensive working conditions."

•The 1988 vice presidential candidate of the Socialist Party USA, Ron Ehrenreich, has fetched up as a member of the CFPB's credit union advisory council, the Washington Times reports.

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WSJ on Auto Bailout

April 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm

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The Wall Street Journal comes in with an excellent editorial about GM's fatal quality control issues and the auto bailout:

if Congressional investigators continue this inquiry they should also question federal traffic-safety employees and members of the White House automobile task force to see what they knew while running GM.

By the way, if the feds knew about this, why wasn't it disclosed to investors when the reborn GM sold shares to the public in 2010 or when the government sold the last of its shares in 2013? This would seem to be an issue for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which never tires of sanctioning companies that fail to disclose material facts. Does GM get a pass because it was Government Motors?...One of the reasons it's good to let companies fail is that consumers benefit as well-run companies replace poorly run firms. Consumers do not benefit when companies are kept alive to serve political goals.

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Billing Codes Delayed

April 3, 2014 at 10:38 am

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The "doc fix" passed by the Senate earlier this week delays until October 2015 the implementation of the new, more complex government medical billing codes that were the topic of a post here back on March 26.

This is becoming a pattern for Washington, as seen with some of the ObamaCare mandates. First design a huge, burdensome, change in the rules, then appear reasonable and claim political credit for granting a temporary reprieve of same.

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George Will on Jeb Bush

April 3, 2014 at 10:26 am

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George Will has a column assessing Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential prospects. Worth a look, especially in the context of my own column from a few weeks ago on the same topic.

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Texas Jobs

April 2, 2014 at 12:55 pm

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A paper from the Dallas Federal Reserve demolishes the myth that Texas's job-creation success has been dominated by low-wage burger-flipper type jobs. "Household survey data indicate Texas creates more high-wage than low-wage jobs," the paper says.

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Ryan Budget Q and A

April 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm

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The House Budget Committee has posted a useful question and answer document about Paul Ryan's budget.

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Victory for Campaign Speech

April 2, 2014 at 11:58 am

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In a five to four decision, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the aggregate limits on individual contributions that were part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

Amid all the commentary on the decision, one point that I think isn't made enough is that it reflects poorly on President George W. Bush that he signed this unconstitutional bill into law, and that it reflects poorly on Senator McCain that he championed this unconstitutional legislation (which was also known as McCain-Feingold.) They all swear an oath to defend the Constitution.

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