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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 case against pension-financed infrastructure

By Edward Zelinsky
Media reports have indicated that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been considering the use of public pension funds to finance the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge and to underwrite other infrastructure investments in the Empire State. This is a bad idea, harmful both to the governmental employees of the Empire State and to New York’s taxpayers. Using public pension monies in this fashion trades the immediate benefits of public construction for the long-term cost of underfunded public retirement plans.

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The Buffett Rule debate: A guide for the perplexed

By Edward Zelinsky
Although he had said it before, Warren Buffett struck a nerve with his most recent observation that his effective federal tax rate is lower than or equal to the effective federal tax rates of the other employees who work at Berkshire Hathaway’s Omaha office. Mr. Buffett’s observations have provoked extensive comments both from those supporting his position (e.g., President Obama) and those critical (e.g., the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal). In response to Mr. Buffett’s remarks, President Obama has promulgated what he calls “the Buffett Rule,” namely, that those making

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As Maine goes, so goes Pennsylvania?

By Edward Zelinsky
In presidential elections, Nebraska and Maine today allocate one elector to the candidate who prevails in each congressional district in the state and award the remaining two electors (corresponding to the states’ U.S. Senators) to the statewide popular vote winner. All other states bestow their electoral votes as a bloc on a winner-take-all basis. In Pennsylvania, the Republican governor, senate majority leader, and speaker of the state house of representatives propose that, starting in 2012, the Keystone State emulate Nebraska and Maine and apportion one electoral vote to each of

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Warren Buffett, Taxes, FICA and Social Security

By Edward Zelinsky
Warren Buffett has again called on Congress to raise federal taxes on affluent taxpayers. In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Mr. Buffett urged Congress to increase federal taxes on taxpayers with annual incomes greater than $1,000,000. As he has in the past, Mr. Buffett contrasted his effective tax rate with

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Arab Spring, Israeli reality

By Edward Zelinsky
The world watches events in Libya, Egypt, Syria and other parts of the Arab world with a mixture of hope and trepidation. Slogans promising the quick and easy reform of an Arab Spring have given way to the harsh reality that violent autocracies are not easily overthrown. A fundamental, but politically incorrect, truth of this combustible situation is that only one Middle Eastern nation has created a functioning democratic society: Israel. Arab reformers, if they wish to create free, modern states, must terminate the Arab boycott of Israel and must instead emulate Israel.

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The belated revenge of the health care Grinches

By Edward Zelinsky
It hasn’t been fun being a health care Grinch. Until recently, we health care Grinches have been the objects of bi-partisan scorn.

We have been warning that health care cost control will be painful and will entail reduced medical services and lower payments to health care providers. “Nonsense,” retorted President Obama. Taking a page from the Republican book of bromides as he plugged his health care reforms, Mr. Obama assured the nation that health care costs can be controlled painlessly, by purging “waste” and “fraud.”

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The Westboro Church and Justice Alito: the other side of the story

By Edward Zelinsky

It is noteworthy when eight ideologically diverse justices of the U.S. Supreme Court all decide a First Amendment case the same way. Thus, Snyder v. Phelps is a noteworthy decision. The Westboro Baptist Church is well-known for its demonstrations at military funerals. Indeed, the Westboro Church, led by (and, some say, principally consisting of) the Phelps family, has the rare distinction of having been denounced by both Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee.

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The Legal and Practical Futility of State “Amazon” Laws

By Edward Zelinsky

As they scramble for tax revenue in a challenging environment, the states increasingly turn to so-called “Amazon” laws to force out-of-state internet and mail order retailers to collect tax on their sales. The Illinois General Assembly is the most recent state legislature to pass an Amazon statute. New York, Colorado, Rhode Island, North Carolina and Oklahoma have already enacted such laws while Amazon acts are pending in other state legislatures.

While they differ in important respects, all of these proposed and enacted laws share the premise that goods which are taxed when purchased in a conventional, bricks-and-mortar store should also be taxed when bought from an online or mail order retailer. This premise is compelling.

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Legislators’ Pension Spikes as Broken Windows: The Connecticut Example

By Edward Zelinsky

Connecticut’s new governor, Dannel P. Malloy, has appointed six sitting members of the Nutmeg State’s General Assembly to positions in the executive branch. These gubernatorial appointments have engendered a fair amount of discussion since special elections will be required to fill the legislative vacancies resulting from these appointments.

There has, however, been no public discussion of the pension implications of these appointments. Under Connecticut’s retirement plans for government employees, relatively brief service in executive positions results in significant spikes in legislators’ state pensions.

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Amend the “Giving Pledge” to Include the Federal Treasury

By Edward Zelinsky

Sixteen more billionaires have signed the “Giving Pledge” sponsored by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Signers of the Pledge commit to donating to philanthropy a majority of their wealth. New signers of the Pledge include the founders of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz.

Critics of the Giving Pledge denounce it as a public relations gimmick. Even if each Pledge signer donates a majority of his fortune to charity, his heirs will still inherent substantial wealth from what remains.

I am not one of these critics. I take Mr. Buffett, Mr. Gates and the other signers at face value and applaud their charitable intentions. I do find it interesting that certain names are absent from the Pledge. For example, despite their

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4 Lessons from the Legacies of Washington & Lincoln

Tweet As the year draws to a close, we’ve been reflecting on all the wonderful books published in 2010, and in doing so, we’ve also realized there are some classics worth revisiting. The authors and friends of Oxford University Press are proud to present this series of essays, which will appear regularly until the New […]

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The Death Penalty: My Personal Journey

By Edward Zelinsky

Like most Connecticut residents, I watched with a mixture of fascination and horror the trial of Steven J. Hayes. Hayes is one of two defendants accused of the particularly gruesome home invasion murders in July, 2007 in suburban Cheshire, Connecticut. Hayes has been found guilty; the jury has sentenced Hayes to receive the death penalty.

Like everyone who followed this trial, I have both admired and sympathized with Dr. William Petit, Jr. whose wife and two daughters were brutalized and killed by Hayes. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Petit wanted the death penalty in this case as would I had I been in Dr. Petit‘s position. So compelling have been the facts exposed at Hayes’ trial that many normally outspoken opponents of the death penalty have remained silent as the jury assigned that penalty to Hayes for his truly evil crimes.

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An Open Letter on Taxes to Bill Gates, Sr.

Dear Mr. Gates:

You have, by dint of your intelligence and sincerity, become a major spokesman for wealthy Americans calling for higher taxes. Since the nation’s budgetary problems will only be solved by combining spending reductions with tax increases, this is a compelling claim.

However, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Allow me to call three details to your attention:

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