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Harvard's Latest

May 6, 2015 at 2:10 pm

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As if the taxpayer-funded University of Pennsylvania professor calling for tax rates higher than 90% on the top 1% of earners weren't enough, now Harvard University Press, building on its "success" with Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, "the fastest-selling book in the press's nearly 102-year history" is out with a new book calling for a 65% top marginal tax rate at the national level. The New York Times is doing its best to hype the book, having published not one but two columns in the past week touting the book and the 65% rate proposal.

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Tax Referenda Meet Mixed Results

May 6, 2015 at 1:46 pm

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Michigan voters Tuesday, by a resounding margin, rejected a sales and gas tax increase backed by a Republican governor, Rick Snyder, who said it would fund road and bridge improvements. Americans for Tax Reform has the details.

On the other hand, in Brookline, Mass., the tax rebellion I wrote about in my column failed to win enough votes; a property tax increase aimed at funding schools passed by a 61% to 39% margin. That's substantial, but it also probably means that some significant portion of voters who backed President Obama and Elizabeth Warren (who ran at 79% and 74% in Brookline) opposed the tax increase. More details here.

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The Crime at the Fed

May 5, 2015 at 1:16 pm

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The Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation into leaks of information from a September 2012 meeting of the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee, the group that guides America's monetary policy, according to a report in the New York Times.

In a May 4, 2015 letter to Jeb Hensarling, the chairman of the House financial services committee, and to Sean Duffy, the chairman of its subcommittee on oversight and investigations, the chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, advised that she and her colleagues "take seriously our commitment to maintain the confidentiality of our deliberations and planning. We recognize, in particular, the importance of safeguarding confidential information that could advantage individuals who obtain access to it."

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Diversity on Campus

May 5, 2015 at 12:17 pm

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Between 2011 and 2014, 96% of the political contributions made by Harvard's faculty of arts and sciences went to Democrats, according to a Crimson report picked up by KC Johnson at the Manhattan Institute's Minding the Campus blog. At Harvard's graduate school of education, 100% of the faculty who made political contributions gave to Democrats.

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Feds Tackle Times Square Billboards

May 5, 2015 at 11:59 am

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Capital New York reports:

A 2012 federal transportation bill had the inadvertent effect of placing some New York City streets under the jurisdiction of the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, legislation that restricts signage on the National Highway System. Times Square's massive billboards exceed the Beautification Act's size requirements, which limit signs to 1,200 square feet. Now the city Department of Transportation is under federal pressure to remove the billboards or pay up, D.O.T. commissioner Polly Trottenberg says...

as part of the National Highway System, these Manhattan streets must now comply with federal requirements, including the Highway Beautification Act, a Johnson-era regulation intended to reduce the presence of billboards on highways. ...Failure to comply with the Beautification Act is penalized by a 10 percent reduction in a state's federal highway funds.

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Why Warren Buffett Is Wrong About Whole Foods

May 4, 2015 at 8:57 pm

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Warren Buffett's annual meeting comments criticizing Whole Foods and businesses that employ economists are the topic of my column this week. Please check the column out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Walmart Fixes Health Care

May 4, 2015 at 3:42 pm

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Atul Gawande has an article in the New Yorker reporting on the lesson from Walmart's experiment with channeling spine, heart, or transplant procedures for employees to six "centers of excellence" — the Cleveland Clinic; the Mayo Clinic; Virginia Mason Medical Center, in Washington; Scott and White Memorial Hospital, in Texas; Geisinger Medical Center, in Pennsylvania; and Mercy Hospital Springfield, in Missouri:

Two years into the program, an unexpected pattern is emerging: the biggest savings and improvements in care are coming from avoiding procedures that shouldn't be done in the first place. Before the participating hospitals operate, their doctors conduct their own evaluation. And, according to Sally Welborn, the senior vice-president for benefits at Walmart, those doctors are finding that around thirty per cent of the spinal procedures that employees were told they needed are inappropriate.

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Wright Brothers Versus Government

May 4, 2015 at 10:09 am

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Summing up the story of the Wright Brothers as told by David McCullough in his new book The Wright Brothers, New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin writes: "Relying on their imaginations, inexpensive materials, bicycle-related ideas about steering and modest sums they earned at the shop, they would ultimately embarrass the Smithsonian and its grandiose, government-funded flying experiments that were conducted on (and generally flopped right back into) the Potomac."

What a fascinating angle on the story of the invention of the airplane — that it shows a triumph of private ingenuity over big government.

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Donald Graham on For-Profit Education

May 4, 2015 at 9:59 am

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Graham Holdings chairman and CEO Donald Graham, in an op-ed, does a really nice job of pushing back against a Miami Herald series attacking for-profit education. From the op-ed:

reporting on a story that has more than one side, the Herald's reporter wanted to know only one. Every word of his series reeks of this. Every charge — from plaintiffs' attorneys, former employees who were fired (though the Herald's readers were not permitted to know they were discharged) and lifelong critics of the industry — is treated reverently. The few scraps of evidence of another side are treated contemptuously. If a politician doesn't agree with the critics of the industry, it must be because he or she has received a microscopic percentage of his or her campaign contributions from those connected to us...

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Who Put Spitzer on the AIG Case?

May 1, 2015 at 2:42 pm

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Toward the bottom of a fine James Stewart column in the New York Times about Maurice "Hank" Greenberg's 90th birthday and his legal battles comes this:

Mr. Spitzer told me this week the claim that the lawsuit was retaliation against Mr. Greenberg "is the most ridiculous assertion I've ever seen." He added, "The case is well documented and was brought to our office by established members of the business establishment."

Now that's interesting. The natural follow-up to Spitzer would be, who were those "established members of the business establishment"? Were they rival insurance companies or AIG's business competitors? Were they money managers who were shorting AIG stock? Mr. Spitzer makes the claim to defend himself from the charge of retaliation, but it's not entirely clear that the scenario he describes is much better than a retaliation scenario.

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Exit to Malta

May 1, 2015 at 2:19 pm

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A New York Times dispatch from Malta reports on the high demand for citizenship there:

The tax system, in particular, has been a boon. Some foreign companies can be structured to pay 5 percent in corporate taxes. Malta also has double taxation treaties with 65 countries, allowing individuals and businesses to avoid being taxed in two places.

Significant tax advantages and a pro-business regulator have created a booming financial services industry. It now represents 12 to 15 percent of the country's G.D.P., up from 6.3 percent in 2004. Online gambling companies have flocked to the island, as have hedge funds.

With a strong corporate base, Malta sailed through the economic crisis relatively unscathed. The economy grew 3.5 percent in 2014. Unemployment is 5.8 percent, the fourth-lowest in Europe.

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Business Threatened With Violence

April 29, 2015 at 4:43 pm

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A Twitter campaign urged "direct action" against a company, Protein World, whose advertisements were deemed offensive, Breitbart reports. As in Baltimore, the protesters don't help their cause with their own tactics.

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The Floating Kilogram

April 29, 2015 at 4:25 pm

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Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel interviews the editor of the New York Sun, Seth Lipsky, about his new book of monetary policy editorials, The Floating Kilogram, in the video embedded below

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Spend Less Time on the Internet

April 29, 2015 at 3:50 pm

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Life advice from Sam Altman, who just turned 30.

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The GOP in Baltimore

April 29, 2015 at 3:38 pm

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After President Obama failed to show up at the Paris "Je Suis Charlie" solidarity march, I suggested that a Republican presidential candidate might take advantage of the opportunity and get on a plane to France. It might risk appearing like ambulance chasing, but it would have made an important point.

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