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The Giving Pledge and private foundations

By Edward Zelinsky
The Giving Pledge, founded by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, has announced that eleven more affluent families have taken the Pledge and have thereby committed to donating at least half of their wealth to charity. Among these new Pledgers is Gordon Moore, a legendary founder of Intel and the father of Moore’s Law which postulates that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles roughly every two years.

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Public Offices for Sale: The Emerging Dominance of Multimillionaire Candidates

by Edward Zelinsky
I live in Connecticut. The Nutmeg State’s 2010 election campaign is a prime example of the emerging domination of American politics by self-funding multimillionaires. This troubling trend has been exacerbated by what is euphemistically called campaign finance reform. The law of unintended consequences strikes again. There is, I suggest, a better way.
Former Connecticut congressman Rob Simmons had been the front-runner for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate until Linda McMahon declared her candidacy. Mrs. McMahon has never held public office. She is, however, along with her husband Vince, a founder of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and a multimillionaire.

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Public pensions, private equity, and the mythical 8% return

By Edward Zelinsky
Public pension plans should not invest in private equity deals. These deals lack both transparency and the discipline of market forces. Private equity investments allow elected officials to assume unrealistically high rates of return for public pension plans and to make correspondingly low contributions to such plans. This is a recipe for inadequately funded pensions, an outcome good for neither public employees nor taxpayers.

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Mitt Romney’s IRA

By Edward Zelinsky
On a personal level, I enjoyed the news reports that Governor Romney holds assets worth tens of millions of dollars in his individual retirement account (IRA). These reports confirm a central thesis of The Origins of the Ownership Society, namely, the extent to which defined contribution accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k) accounts, have become central features of American life.

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Albert Pujols, Occupy Wall Street, and the Buffett Rule

By Edward Zelinsky
As every baseball fan knows, Albert Pujols has signed a ten year, $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Pujols, a three-time MVP who has hit 445 home runs so far in his major league career, deserves every penny he is paid. The competition for Pujols demonstrated meritocracy and markets at their best.

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Our Antonia

By Edward Zelinsky
The first time I read My Antonia, I hated it. That was to be expected: It was required reading in my sophomore English course at Omaha Central High. This was during the Sixties. In the Age of Aquarius, no one was supposed to like assigned reading. That’s why it had to be assigned.

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The Buffett Rule President Obama ignores

By Edward Zelinsky
Like many of us, President Obama is a Warren Buffett fan. Most prominently, the president advocates, as a matter of tax policy, the so-called “Buffett Rule.” This rule responds to Mr. Buffett’s observation that his effective federal income tax rate is lower than the tax rate of Mr. Buffett’s secretary. In President Obama’s formulation, the Buffett Rule calls for taxpayers making at least $1,000,000 annually to pay federal income tax at a 30% bracket.

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The growth of the Giving Pledge and the federal estate tax

By Edward Zelinsky
By taking the Giving Pledge, wealthy individuals publicly commit to contribute “the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.” The Pledge was started by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Jr. Recently, twelve more wealthy families signed the Giving Pledge including Elon Musk, a founder of PayPal.

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Paul Ryan and the evolution of the vice presidency

By Edward Zelinsky
By selecting Representative Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee, Governor Romney confirmed the decline of the traditional role of vice presidential candidates as providers of geographic balance. Ryan’s selection reinforces the shift to a more policy-oriented definition of the vice presidency. This shift reflects the nationalization of our culture and politics and the increased importance of the general election debate between vice presidential candidates.

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