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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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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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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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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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Against a VAT

A federal value-added tax (VAT) is today’s magic bullet for slaying the federal budget deficit. A federal VAT would be a veritable cash cow, obviating the need for painful measures like serious spending reductions and middle class income tax hikes. A VAT would be more regressive and complex than its proponents acknowledge. Like most putative panaceas, a VAT should be rejected.

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Abolish the Minimum Required Distribution Rules

In this article, Professor Zelinsky discusses the controversy surrounding the effects of the minimum required distribution (MRD) rules after the Crash of 2008. He concludes that the MRD rules, suspended by President Bush and Congress for 2009, should be abolished permanently.

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Proud to be AARP. Kinda.

By Edward Zelinsky
Receiving my AARP membership card was one of the truly traumatic events of my life. I had marched for civil rights. I had protested the war in Vietnam. I walked the streets for Gene McCarthy. I was a legitimate Baby Boomer. How could this have happened to me?

My wiser and more self-confident spouse took it in better stride. Doris quickly became adept at pulling out her AARP card and demanding old-age discounts, as I stood sheepishly aside.

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The HSA/HRA response to Hobby Lobby

By Edward Zelinsky
Few recent decisions of the US Supreme Court have engendered as much controversy as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. In that case, the Court decided that a closely-held corporation’s employer-sponsored medical plan need not provide contraception if the shareholders of such corporation object to contraception on religious grounds.

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The federalist argument for the Multi-State Worker Act

By Edward Zelinsky
The Multi-State Worker Act (the current version of the Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act) would, if enacted into law, prevent states from taxing non-resident telecommuters (like me) on the days such telecommuters work at their out-of-state homes. Can someone who values the states and their autonomy (also like me) favor the Act?

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The Oracle of Omaha warns about public pension underfunding

By Edward Zelinsky
As the American public debated the legislation ultimately enacted into law as the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, no person was more influential than the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. Much attention was given to billionaire Buffett’s complaint that his federal income tax bracket was lower than his secretary’s tax rate. President Obama invoked “the Buffett Rule” to bolster the President’s successful effort for the Act to raise income tax brackets for high income taxpayers.

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Three Attorneys General are wrong

By Edward Zelinsky
On 6 May 2013, the US Senate by a bi-partisan vote of 69-27 approved the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013. The Act would require large, out-of-state Internet and mail order sellers to collect sales taxes, just as brick-and mortar stores must collect such taxes.

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Tax “Old” Wealth By Abolishing
the GST Grandfather Exemption

In this article, Zelinsky calls for the President and Congress to repeal the grandfather exemption from the federal generation skipping tax (GST) for irrevocable trusts established on or before September 25, 1985. This exemption, he argues, unfairly immunizes from federal taxation transfers at death of “old” wealth while economically equivalent transfers of new wealth are taxed.

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The continuing irrationality of New York’s “Convenience of the Employer” rule

By Edward Zelinsky
On Friday, 17 May 2013, two Metro-North commuter trains collided near Bridgeport, Connecticut. Through the following Tuesday, the Metro-North accident disrupted normal commuter train service between parts of Connecticut and New York City. To cope, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy asked residents of the Nutmeg State to work from their homes until rail service could be restored.

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