URLs du Jour

2020-03-05

[Amazon Link]
Observation: you get an incredible amount of crap by searching for "billionaire" on Amazon. Unfortunately, I can't get the image for Fell For a Billionaire Vampire 2 to work here. So you get this instead.

  • I don't know if Bernie Sanders has specifically spoken out about the Billionaire Vampire Menace, but I assume they would be subsumed under his general aversion to billionaires.

    At AEI, James Pethokoukis dares to stand up for the disrespected: Here’s one way ‘abolishing billionaires’ would undermine Silicon Valley and America’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. RTWT, but I especially like the quote James digs out from a debate between Steven Kaplan and billionaire-bashing Gabriel Zucman:

    Jeff Bezos was worth $4.7 billion or $5 billion in 2000, at the peak of the dot.com bubble. Amazon hadn’t really succeeded then.… So if you would put a 5 percent wealth tax on him when it was $5 billion, that’s a $250 million tax. By the time he would probably get around to paying it, which would be June, his shares were worth 2.5 billion. So now to get the $250 million, he would have to sell 10% of his shares. But then oops! But we have a 50% capital gains tax. Got to sell 20 percent of my shares. So in six months, under this plan, he would have to sell 20 percent of Amazon in that situation. Which would probably — what would that do to the stock price? Probably drive it down further. So maybe 25 percent of Amazon. Do you want Jeff Bezos to be selling 25 percent of Amazon? In 2000? Then you wouldn’t have Amazon, there wouldn’t be ton of innovation.

    Kaplan also recounts the likely effect of a wealth tax on Elon Musk's and Steve Jobs' ventures.


  • When he's not excoriating rich people, Bernie's mooning over the "democratic socialist" states in Scandinavia. In the WaPo, Fareed Zakaria has some reality-based observations about Bernie Sanders’s Scandinavian fantasy.

    Take billionaires. Sanders has been clear on the topic: “Billionaires should not exist.” But Sweden and Norway both have more billionaires per capita than the United States — Sweden almost twice as many. Not only that, these billionaires are able to pass on their wealth to their children tax-free. Inheritance taxes in Sweden and Norway are zero, and in Denmark 15 percent. The United States, by contrast, has the fourth-highest estate taxes in the industrialized world at 40 percent.

    Fareed has other valuable insights, so if you know how to evade the Post's democracy-dying-in-darkness paywall, go for it.


  • Hey, kids, what time is it? At NR, Congresscritter Dan Crenshaw says It’s Time for Conservatives to Own the Climate-Change Issue.

    There is an interesting political tactic often employed by the Left, and it follows a predictable pattern. First, identify a problem most of us can agree on. Second, elevate the problem to a crisis. Third, propose an extreme solution to said crisis that inevitably results in a massive transfer of power to government authorities. Fourth, watch as conservatives take the bait and vociferously reject the extreme solutions proposed. Fifth and finally, accuse those same conservatives of being too heartless or too stupid to solve the original problem on which we all thought we agreed.

    This is the pattern we have seen play out with respect to climate change. With ever-more-extreme “solutions” such as the Green New Deal being proposed, conservatives have quickly taken the bait, falling into the tired political trap set by leftists. But I believe we no longer have to do this. We can fight back against the alarmism with tangible solutions based on reason, science, and the free market.

    Dan focuses on carbon capture technologies. We've previously linked to this skeptical article by Steve Milloy. I'm more persuaded by Team Milloy, but make your own call.


  • Is there anything more mealymouthed than the overused "moderate" label? At Reason, Peter Suderman is even more put out than I when it gets used inappropriately: Joe Biden Is No Moderate.

    Consider Biden's health care plan. Although he has criticized Medicare for All, the fully government-run system favored by Sanders, Biden has proposed a significant expansion of the Affordable Care Act that his campaign estimates would cost $750 billion over a decade, nearly as much as the original bill signed by President Barack Obama. Although it would not nationalize the financing of health insurance, as the Sanders plan would, Biden's proposal would nevertheless set up a new, government-run insurance plan, expand eligibility for insurance subsidies well into the middle class, and make benefits available to people who can access coverage through their employer. If enacted, it would represent a major increase in government spending on health care and a substantial increase in the government's involvement in the health care system. 

    Beyond health care, Biden has proposed a $1.7 trillion climate plan that is similar in scope to many candidates on his left and a $750 billion education plan that would be used, among other things, to increase teacher salaries and provide expanded access to pre-kindergarten. He favors an assault weapons ban and other gun control measures, a national $15 minimum wage, and a raft of subsidies, loans, and other government-granted nudges designed to promote rural economies. Has proposed $3.4 trillion worth of tax hikes—more than double what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proposed when she ran in 2016. 

    It would be nice if we had a presidential candidate who could point this out effectively to the voters. Unfortunately, we got Trump.


  • Hey, remember when Kirsten Gillibrand was running for president. Good times, huh? Unfortunately, she didn't go away. The intrepid Veronique de Rugy considers a scheme she's pushing: Paid Family Leave Act Will Have You Paying $10 for a $4 Cup of Coffee.

    Under the FAMILY Act, the federal government would offer 12 weeks of paid time off to enable workers to care for infants, recover from major illnesses and care for severely ill relatives. During that time, employees would receive benefits administered by the Social Security Administration equal to 66% of their regular earnings, with a minimum monthly benefit of $580 and a maximum monthly benefit of $4,000. To pay for this new handout, the federal government would impose a 0.4% payroll tax to be divided evenly between employers and employees.

    Gillibrand argues that the act would provide greatly needed benefits to employees at a minimal cost to them. One of her favorite talking points about the proposal is that it would cost employees only $4 a week, or the equivalent of a cup of coffee.

    Unfortunately, the senator's assertion is quite misleading. For starters, a 0.4% hike in the payroll tax would not be enough to pay for the federal spending under the plan. The Congressional Budget Office, or the CBO, released a score of the bill as introduced and found that the FAMILY Act would increase spending by $547 billion in benefits and administrative costs over 10 years, but it would only increase net federal revenues by $319 billion during that time. That means that $228 billion in spending wouldn't be paid for by the FAMILY Act's new tax.

    Free stuff from the government can be very, very expensive.

Jojo Rabbit

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Like probably everyone else in the movie-watching world, I had my doubts about this. But I admit I was surprised at how well this worked for me.

Jojo is a 10-year-old boy. Unfortunately, he lives in 1944-5 Germany, and he's fully invested in the whole Nazi thing. To the extent that his imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. He's off to Hitler Youth camp, but to the despair of the camp counselor and most of his fellow young Nazis, he still retains a few shreds of decency (being unable to strangle a bunny on command) and is extraordinarily inept at soldiering. That last bit leads to a near-fatal unfortunate grenade incident. Which (in turn) sends him, limping and scarred, back home to Mom (Scarlett Johansson).

Where he discovers that Mom is hiding a young Jewish girl.

None of this sounds remotely as if it could be funny. But it is ("at least for me") because imaginary-friend Hitler is a boob, and everyone else realizes the absurdity in all the mayhem.

The movie was nominated for six Oscars (including Best Picture) and won one ("Best Adapted Screenplay"). Scarlett Johansson was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and I think Sam Rockwell was robbed by not being nominated for his role as Captain Klenzendorf, a cynical German soldier relegated to teaching Hitler Youth.

Dark Sacred Night

[Amazon Link]

Another page-turner from Michael Connelly. I'm trying to figure out why I like his books so much. His style is pedestrian, dialogue is pretty wooden. In his favor, his stories firmly hold my interest, and the police-procedural details are hyper-realistic. At least as far as I know.

This is billed as a "Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch" novel. We met Renée a couple books back (The Late Show). Here, she's working the night shift, doing her usual brilliant detective thing at the LAPD's Hollywood Division. When she notices a stranger pawing through some old case files. Meet Harry, Renée.

Bosch is not supposed to be doing that. But he's working a plot thread from the previous book (Two Kinds Of Truth) where he met a painkiller-addicted woman despondent over the murder of her daughter years ago. Harry pledged to investigate.

Renée wants in. And so they both set out to investigate this very cold case. Do they succeed in bringing the perpetrator to justice? Spoiler: yes, eventually.