Germans and Wealth

November 21, 2018 at 6:06 am

From a New York Times news article about the competition to replace Angela Merkel as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union political party comes this passage about one of the contenders, Friedrich Merz:

in the same interview, he refused to answer a question about the size of the personal fortune he had amassed since leaving politics nine years ago, going on to lead the Germany office of BlackRock, considered the world's largest private fund manager, and to become senior counsel at an international law firm.

Pressed on whether he was a millionaire — many Germans are skeptical of extreme wealth, believing that social equality helps to ensure public peace — he said only that his net worth was "not below that."

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What If?

November 20, 2018 at 3:38 pm

"What if every site...concurrently deployed a paywall? Users couldn't simply go to the competition because everyone would be rolling out the change at the same time," wonders/declares a (non-paywalled) article at Harvard's Nieman Lab.

Two possible answers: there'd be an antitrust investigation. And some new site would pop up with no paywall to reach all the customers who don't want to be forced to pay.

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Jill Lepore on Higher Education

November 20, 2018 at 10:12 am

Harvard historian and New Yorker writer (and Central Massachusetts native) Jill Lepore has an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education that's interesting about, among other topics, how big government hurt higher education:

The academy is largely itself responsible for its own peril. The retreat of humanists from public life has had enormous consequences for the prestige of humanistic ways of knowing and understanding the world.

Universities have also been complicit in letting sources of federal government funding set the intellectual agenda. The size and growth of majors follows the size of budgets, and unsurprisingly so. After World War II, the demands of the national security state greatly influenced the exciting fields of study. Federal-government funding is still crucial, but now there's a lot of corporate money. Whole realms of knowing are being brought to the university through commerce.

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Why Fox News, CNN, and Facebook Were Wrong To Censor the Caravan Ad

November 19, 2018 at 5:24 pm

A kind of bias lurks behind the calls to suppress President Trump's "racism," I write in my column this week. Please check out the full column at Reason (here), Newsmax (here), and the New York Sun (here).

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Ben Brantley's Mind

November 15, 2018 at 3:40 pm

New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley writes, "Donald J. Trump is always on my mind these days."

What a remarkable confession. "Always." I am happy to say that even though I write about politics for a living, President Trump is not "always" on my mind. It would be interesting to poll the question of whether people agree or disagree with the statement "Donald Trump is always on my mind," and then test how it tracks or doesn't track with other measures of happiness and mental health.

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Party of the Rich, Again

November 15, 2018 at 3:20 pm

CNBC's John Harwood has a column based on Brookings Institution analysis:

the two parties now speak for dramatically different segments of the American economy....districts won by Democrats account for 61 percent of America's gross domestic product, districts won by Republicans 38 percent.

Says Brookings researcher Mark Muro: "The Democratic Party and Republican Party, at this point, really do occupy different economic worlds and represent different economic worlds."

Analysis by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program documents the gap between them. Residents of districts won by Democrats generate 22% more output per worker, and have a 15% higher median household income.

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George Will on Harvard Admissions

November 15, 2018 at 3:12 pm

George Will's latest column is about the Harvard admissions lawsuit: "everyone, and especially conservatives, should think twice — or at least once — before hoping that government will minutely supervise how private institutions shape their student bodies."

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Epic Can't Handle A Time Change

November 13, 2018 at 11:14 am

In the New Yorker, Atul Gawande reports that the $1.6 billion Epic electronic medical records system at Harvard Medical School-affiliated Partners Health Care (Mass General, Brigham and Women's, etc.) can't handle a simple change of the clocks:

Last fall, the night before daylight-saving time ended, an all-user e-mail alert went out. The system did not have a way to record information when the hour from 1 A.M. to 1:59 A.M. repeated in the night. This was, for the system, a surprise event. The only solution was to shut down the lab systems during the repeated hour. Data from integrated biomedical devices (such as monitoring equipment for patients' vital signs) would be unavailable and would have to be recorded by hand. Fetal monitors in the obstetrics unit would have to be manually switched off and on at the top of the repeated hour.

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Party of the Rich

November 13, 2018 at 9:07 am

Democrats emerging as the political party of the rich is the topic of my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun (here) and Reason (here).

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Republicans and the Suburbs

November 9, 2018 at 8:12 am

David Brooks writes:

The suburbs happen to be where this election is being fought — around Philadelphia, New York, Denver, Minneapolis and Columbus. The general rule is that Democrats win in the more densely populated suburbs close to the cities and the Republicans win the more sparsely populated ones farther out. The central fight in American politics now is over where the line is demarking the two zones, and the central Republican problem is that every time the party mobilizes its exurban base it further alienates the marginal voters in traditional suburbs where Congressional elections are won or lost...

They are looking for orderly places to raise their children. They are what you might call antiparty empiricists. They distrust partisans and can't imagine why anyone would be sick enough to base an identity on a political organization. They don't expect much from government but a few competently delivered services, and they don't like public officials who unnerve them.

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New York's Low Bar

November 8, 2018 at 2:18 pm

What passes for good news in New York State, after the Democrats took over control of the state Senate, via the New York Daily News:

even though his party controls the entire state Legislature and the governor's mansion, the mayor is not likely to get what has been one of his top priorities since taking office—an increase on taxes for the wealthy to help fund needed subway repairs.

The Senate Democrats, knowing that tax hikes don't go over well in the suburbs and upstate, where they won seats to claim the majority, have said they are not looking to raise taxes.

"We understand how sensitive the tax environment is in New York State, especially after this devastating tax bill that the Trump administration passed," Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told the Daily News Wednesday. "I'm a suburban legislator who is quite aware of the tax burden people already have. We're not trying to find new ways to increase the burden."

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Jared Polis NPR Interview

November 8, 2018 at 11:07 am

The governor-elect of Colorado. Jared Polis, is a Democrat who founded two charter schools. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly interviewed him after the election and focused her questioning in part on his being the first gay, Jewish governor of Colorado. The response from Polis was pretty interesting and constructive, I thought:

when you're elected governor, you're everybody's governor. I'm governor for people in Colorado who are conservative who didn't vote for me, as well as, of course, being able to honor the aspirations of those who did vote for me. And I look forward to doing a good job for our state. I mean, when it comes to fixing our roads and reducing traffic, it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight. When it comes to expanding health care coverage and saving people money, which is one of our big goals, it doesn't have anything to do with who you love or what gender you are....

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November 8, 2018 at 10:57 am

Back in September 2017, when Amazon first announced its "HQ2" site selection contest, I predicted it would end up selecting the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area: "if I had to predict or bet, I'd suspect that the company winds up choosing Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland.," I wrote then.

The official announcement hasn't yet been made, at least as of this writing, but there sure seems to be a lot of press around the idea that Amazon has indeed chosen Washington's Northern Virginia suburb of Crystal City as one of its HQ2 sites, with Long Island City, Queens, New York, also getting some jobs.

We certainly don't always get these calls right around here, and in general we are less in the predicting business than in the explaining business (please go back to the original post for our explanation of our reasoning). But when we do get one right, or at least it looks like we do, it is satisfying.

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Takeaways From the 2018 Midterm Elections

November 7, 2018 at 11:26 am

What to make of yesterday's election? Some observations:

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Paulson To Puerto Rico

November 6, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Hedge fund manager John Paulson "is considering becoming a resident of Puerto Rico," reports Bloomberg News, which quotes him as saying, "It's the only place a U.S. citizen can go and literally avoid, legally, all their taxes."

Something politicians may want to remember when they try to raise tax rates on very rich individuals is that those individuals are mobile and can afford multiple residences along with planes to ferry them from one residence to another.

If the U.S. went the route President Reagan preferred and made Puerto Rico a state, this particular tax break would probably have to go away. But rich people could and would still move to states that impose no state income tax.

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