Amazon Second Headquarters Finalists

January 18, 2018 at 11:37 am

When Amazon first announced back in September that it was searching for a site for a second headquarters, I mentioned Boston and Canada as possibilities, but wrote, "if I had to predict or bet, I'd suspect that the company winds up choosing Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland."

Amazon this morning announced its 20-site list of finalists. It includes Boston and Toronto. But three of the 20 sites — Montgomery County, Md.; Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia — are Washington or Washington suburbs.

I could wind up being wrong in the end. But so far, that original post is holding up pretty well. It said, in part:

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Apple's $38 Billion

January 17, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Apple says it will pay $38 billion in U.S. taxes to bring home cash that it had stashed abroad.

It's an astonishing number, even by the vast standards of Washington spending.

To understand just how much money this is, consider that in 2014 the entire bottom 50% of individual income tax filers paid a total of $37,740,000,000 in federal income taxes, according to the Tax Foundation.

Or consider that as recently as 1947 the entire federal budget outlays were $34.5 billion (in 1947 dollars, but still).

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Israel's Answer To Trump on Immigration

January 16, 2018 at 11:04 am

Vice President Pence might want to add an immigrant absorption center to the itinerary for his upcoming trip to Israel, I suggest in my column this week. Please check the column out in full at the New Boston Post (here), Newsmax (here), and the New York Sun (here).

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NPR Leers at Gisele Bundchen

January 14, 2018 at 1:31 pm

From a transcript of a National Public Radio "Weekend Edition" program in which NPR's Scott Simon interviewed NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman:

GOLDMAN: Yes. Much different fan base, of course, in New England. There's an expectation of all things great, even though the Patriots have been going through a controversy of late with tales of a rift between head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. New England should be fine against the Titans, who have nothing to lose and probably will. Tom Brady is out to prove that 40-year-old quarterbacks can win Super Bowls.

SIMON: But, you know, I read something this week. He and Gisele Bundchen - am I pronouncing that correctly?

GOLDMAN: Very well.

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Postmodern Patriot

January 12, 2018 at 2:04 pm

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, as quoted by the New York Times:

"Everyone has different truths," he said. "When you talk about the way I see things, the way you guys see things, the way the writer may see things, the way Coach Belichick may see things, everyone has different truths based on their perspectives."

If I disagree with Brady and try to argue that there's just one truth, and he insists he's right, does it prove his point, or prove mine?

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State Taxes and Charitable Gift Deductions

January 11, 2018 at 11:22 am

The academic tax law world is abuzz with discussion about how states (or individual taxpayers) may be able to restructure their tax systems in a way that effectively restores the full federal deduction for state and local taxes. For examples, see these two blog posts posts by Daniel Shaviro of NYU law school and this paper by eight tax law professors — Joe Bankman, David Gamage, Jacob Goldin, Daniel Hemel, Darien Shanske, Kirk Stark, Dennis Ventry, and Manoj Viswanathan. As the paper puts it, "it may be possible for states to provide their residents a means of preserving the effects of a state/local tax deduction, at least in part, by granting a charitable tax credit for federally deductible gifts, including gifts to the state or one of its political subdivisions."

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Less Unequal Than Claimed

January 9, 2018 at 4:22 pm

A draft paper by Gene Auten of the Treasury Department and David Splinter of the Joint Committee on Taxation finds that income inequality isn't worsening as much as some other economists claim. They conclude:

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Richard Epstein on Good News

January 9, 2018 at 11:39 am

Law professor Richard Epstein writes in his Hoover Institution column about what he describes as "good news":

Right now, ironically, race relations are, if anything, better than a year ago because we do not have the constant acrimony over the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown that defined the final period of the Obama administration. It is not too far-fetched to assume that the relative calm in race relations (to which Charlottesville was the dreadful exception) stems in part because of increasing economic opportunities. As the the Wall Street Journal reports, "the unemployment rate for black Americans fell to its lowest rate ever at 6.8%."...Remember, the strongest protection for any worker is not some balky legal regime, but a growing economy that makes the threat to quit credible.

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Swiss Banker Acquitted

January 9, 2018 at 11:04 am

Sunday's New York Times business section took an in-depth look at the case of Stefan Buck, a Swiss banker who in November was found not guilty by a New York jury in a criminal case related to tax avoidance by his U.S.-based clients. The Times reported: "The Justice Department had now lost the three cases it had tried against foreign bankers who helped Americans avoid taxes. Dozens more cases are pending."

You'd think that maybe having lost the first three cases, the government would consider dropping the "dozens more." The Times article is long and seems thorough, but it leaves mostly unexplored the question of whether there are any career consequences for prosecutors who bring and lose these cases, or who approve bringing them.

In December, in another federal case, a Brooklyn jury acquitted the former top soccer official of Peru, Manuel Burga.

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Dumbo and Zoning

January 9, 2018 at 10:42 am

My former Forward colleague Jonathan Mahler's New York Times magazine article about the subway includes this brief account of the boom created by the rezoning of the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood known as Dumbo, which is between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges:

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President Winfrey Meets The Resistance

January 9, 2018 at 10:24 am

An Oprah Winfrey presidency — and the prospect that it would encounter an anti-Trump style "resistance" — is the topic of my column this week. Please check the column out at the New York Daily News (here), the New Boston Post (here), Newsmax (here), and the New York Sun (here).

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Fire, Fury and Citizens United

January 5, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Some of the finest minds on the left are at battle stations over the news that a lawyer for President Trump is trying to halt the publication of Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

"Now Trump is threatening the publisher of the book, not just Bannon. We have freedom of the press, he can't stop the book just because he doesn't like what it says," was the way the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, put it on Twitter.

Two lawyers at Gibson Dunn, Ted Boutrous and Teddy Kidder, took to Politico magazine to claim:

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Weather Forecasting

January 5, 2018 at 2:33 pm

For a reminder that complex systems are hard to predict with much precision, it's hard to beat a good winter snowstorm.

Here's a tweet from the National Weather Service's Boston issued at 9:07 p.m. on January 2, 2018.

It shows the "snow amount potential" for the storm that wound up hitting on January 4. For Boston, it listed a "low end snowfall" of 4 inches, an "expected snowfall" of 11 inches, and a "high end snowfall" of 14 inches.

For Worcester, it listed a "low end snowfall" of 2 inches, an "expected snowfall" of 7 inches, and a "high end snowfall" of 11 inches. It gave Worcester only a 6% chance of snowfall in the 12 to 18 inch range.

A map of predicted snowfall the weather service issued at 4:55 a.m. on January 4 included a range of eight to twelve inches for Boston.

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Grassley's Tweet

January 4, 2018 at 11:59 am

An hour and a half after my FutureOfCapitalism post taking issue with James Comey's tweet about the supposed importance to liberty of an "independent Department of Justice and FBI," the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, made a similar point. Senator Grassley's tweet:

Law enforcement shld NOT be independent of constitutional oversight. Like the military, FBI/DOJ accountability to ELECTED leaders is essential for liberty. We are ACCOUNTABLE to the PEOPLE in our representative govt. Hoover FBI was unaccountable/did great harm w abuses of power

Good for Grassley.

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Comey's Tweet

January 3, 2018 at 2:27 pm

The former FBI director, James Comey, tweeted today:

Where are the voices of all the leaders who know an independent Department of Justice and FBI are essential to our liberty? "You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say." — Martin Luther

This seems to me to misunderstand, pretty fundamentally, our constitutional set-up. Whatever "an independent Department of Justice and FBI" may be, "essential to our liberty" is not it. The FBI did not even exist until 1908; liberty existed beforehand. The Justice Department didn't exist as a separate agency until 1870; again, liberty existed beforehand.

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