Atul Gawande to Amazon Berkshire JPMorgan Chase Health Venture

June 20, 2018 at 10:13 am

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase announce a big deal update on their previously announced health care venture:

SEATTLE & OMAHA, Neb. & NEW YORK--()--Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A, BRK.B) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) announced today the next step in their partnership on U.S. employee healthcare with the appointment of Dr. Atul Gawande as its Chief Executive Officer, effective July 9. The new company will be headquartered in Boston and will operate as an independent entity that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.

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New Prosecutors, Sealed Update in the Other FBI Leak Case

June 20, 2018 at 9:30 am

The Justice Department has assigned two new prosecutors to investigate an FBI agent's leaks of grand jury information to journalists. The Department also filed a sealed 3-page update on the case with a federal judge after the judge threatened to replace the government lawyers with a private prosecutor.

The Justice Department's most recent filing in the case, dated June 15, is signed by James I. Pearce and Edward P. Sullivan, trial attorneys in the public integrity section of the Justice Department's Criminal Division. The entire second page and two-thirds of the first page is redacted. The letter, submitted to Judge P. Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York, promises a further update "on or before September 14, 2018."

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Three on Trade

June 19, 2018 at 11:21 am

A few links may provide some useful context for President Trump's actions on trade.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has a table that provides (at the far right column) the "ratio of values" — that is, the duties collected by the U.S. as a percentage of the total value of imports. From 2000 to 2017, that number has been somewhere between 1.7 and 1.4. The low was 1.2 in 2008 and the high was 1.7 in 2002. Compare that to the period from 1947 to 1979, which the left often idealizes (incorrectly, in my view) as the postwar boom of stable factory jobs before Reagan ruined everything with his income tax cuts and increased income inequality. From 1947 to 1979, that number was somewhere between 7.9 and 3.5. What it suggests is that tariffs levels now are so historically low that even if Trump winds up raising them as more than a temporary negotiating ploy, there's some room to maneuver.

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Echoes of Reagan in Trump's Clashes With Allies

June 19, 2018 at 10:27 am

"Deep Trade Rift With Allies Seen" is how the New York Times covered Ronald Reagan back in 1982. Sound familiar? My column this week is about the similarities. Please check it out at Reason (here), Newsmax (here), and the New York Sun (here).

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Humanities In Crisis

June 15, 2018 at 4:06 pm

A post here back in November picked up on a Harvard Crimson report about a steep decline in the number of humanities concentrators at Harvard from 2008 to 2016. Now new information disclosed in connection with a Harvard admissions lawsuit charts an even further decline, with the percentage of Harvard applicants intending to major in humanities plunging to a mere 12% or so in the Class of 2019 compared to about 20% in the class of 2014. Computer Science and engineering gained.

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Washington Post Labor Strife

June 15, 2018 at 3:32 pm

A union representing employees at the Washington Post is stepping up a public pressure campaign against the newspaper's owner, Jeff Bezos. There's also a petition the union says was signed by more than 400 employees that says in part:

All we are asking for is fairness for each and every employee who contributed to this company's success: fair wages; fair benefits for retirement, family leave and health care; and a fair amount of job security.

• Offering $10 a week in pay increases – or about 0.6 percent of the median salary and less than half the current rate of inflation – is unfair and even shocking from someone who believes democracy dies in darkness.

• Refusing to improve retirement benefits is unfair, particularly since you froze the traditional pension. The current retirement plans, including a 1 percent match on our 401(k), suggest that you place little value in your employees' future financial security.

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McDonald's Kiosks

June 12, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Buzzfeed has an article about McDonald's rolling out more and more of those computerized kiosks where customers can order food without dealing with an employee getting paid a minimum wage that was raised by some well meaning but economically clueless politician.

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Elizabeth Warren, Meet Clarence Thomas

June 11, 2018 at 3:19 pm

The Constitution's Commerce Clause, marijuana laws, and the possibility of a meeting of the minds between Senator Elizabeth Warren and Justice Clarence Thomas are the topics of my column this week. Please check the full column out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Eizenstat on Carter

June 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

Under the headline, "Was Jimmy Carter the Most Underrated President in History?" the New York Times has Peter Baker review Stuart Eizenstat's new book President Carter: The White House Years.

Carter's achievements have been something of a theme around here for years. Please see our earlier posts including: The Underestimated Jimmy Carter, Cato on Carter, Is Trump Another Carter?, and Justice Breyer on Airline Deregulation.

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Bharara Registers To Vote

June 8, 2018 at 8:11 am

From a New York Times news article about Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the possibility that he will run for attorney general of New York:

Mr. Bharara was not a registered voter during his roughly eight years as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, a period in which he aggressively prosecuted political corruption, indicting the top two lawmakers in Albany, one Democrat and one Republican, and a top aide to Mr. Cuomo.

If remaining unregistered kept him at arm's length from electoral politics, it also means he did not cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential campaign, an issue opponents could raise in a Democratic primary.

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Massachusetts Winning Against New York

June 5, 2018 at 5:38 am

The rivalry between Massachusetts and New York is the topic of my column this week. Please check out the full column at Newsmax (here), Reason (here), and the New York Sun (here).

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John Delaney 2020

June 4, 2018 at 8:41 am

The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt has a column about a Democratic congressman from Maryland, John Delaney, who is running for president: "a moderate, wealthy, self-described 'pragmatic idealist' committed to bipartisanship and compromise...In his first 100 days in office, Delaney says he would champion only measures with bipartisan support, such as criminal-justice reform, infrastructure development and dealing with the opioid crisis. He would go to Congress once a quarter and take questions, unscripted, from members on both sides of the aisle."

Whether there is an appetite for that sort of thing among the Democratic primary electorate or superdelegates who choose the nominee is a question to which the answer may be "no." But politics is full of surprises.

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Matlock on Russia and the Election

June 3, 2018 at 9:46 pm

One of President Reagan's ambassadors to the Soviet Union, Jack F. Matlock Jr., has an article in the Nation: "I did not personally vote for Trump, but I consider the charges that Russian actions interfered in the election, or—for that matter—damaged the quality of our democracy ludicrous, pathetic, and shameful." Defenses of Russia that appear in the pages of the Nation meet with a pretty high level of skepticism from me, but Matlock's piece seems to me well argued overall and worth considering as a kind of antidote to the breathless hype that the Russia allegations are getting in other outlets.

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Trump's Tariffs

June 3, 2018 at 9:38 pm

It's hard to get a handle on whether Trump's tariffs are going to be a long-term feature of his economic policy or whether they are primarily a negotiating ploy that will be dropped in return for reciprocal concessions from foreign countries. I tend to take Trump at his word when he says he's for free trade but he wants reciprocity, but it's not clear to me that everyone in his administration has the same view of it. An explanation from Trump — I don't really want these tariffs in place for a long time, they are just a negotiating ploy — would undermine their value as a negotiating ploy, which may be why he hasn't provided such an explanation.

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Constitution Under 'Grave Threat'

June 1, 2018 at 3:40 pm

A full-page ad in the New York Times from the American Academy of Arts and Letters declares, in headline-sized type: "This is not the time to be silent. The American Academy of Arts and Letters believes that for the arts to flourish we must protect freedom of expression and the U.S. Constitution. Both are under grave threat and we are committed to their defense. — Board of Directors."

My first reaction to the claim that the U.S. Constitution is "under grave threat" was that it was an exaggeration unwarranted by reality.

Then I thought about it a bit more and realized:

•The First Amendment to the Constitution is under attack from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, two leading lights in the Democratic Party, who want to amend the Constitution to destroy the free speech protections that the document, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Citizens United, currently grants to corporations.

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