National Review / Digital
The Week

(Roman Genn)


The Business Roundtable, a big-business group, sent a letter to the president noting its openness to increased income-tax rates along with its advocacy of a rate-reducing corporate-tax reform. The combined effect of the two policies would be to raise tax rates on most small businesses (which file under the individual-income-tax code) while cutting them on the Roundtable’s members. Because taxes on investment are generally lower in the individual than in the corporate code, this change could be a step toward a level playing field. Smart politicians will not want to be labeled as favoring big business over small, though, and it is politically self-defeating for large corporations to ask them to do so — which is to say, the big-business lobby is acting as usual.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg’s Jonathan Alter took up his pen to bear solemn witness to the “cruelty, fear, cowardice, xenophobia and disrespect” that have “invaded the inner sanctum of the U.S. government . . . bringing embarrassment and dishonor to what was once the greatest deliberative body in the world: the U.S. Senate.” What new tyranny have these hundred inflicted upon the republic? Have the Alien and Sedition Acts been renewed? No: “The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” fell several votes short of ratification, due to the (perhaps temporary) opposition of some Republicans. Spare us. Yes, the world would be better off if other countries adopted some of our protections for the handicapped. But the treaty would force the U.S. to spend millions to generate quadrennial compliance reports for U.N. “experts,” and contains objectionable language about “achieving progressively the full realization” of “economic, social, and cultural rights.” Besides, in Alter’s own words, the convention is a “weak” and “largely symbolic document.” Oddly, Alter thinks this feebleness is the very thing that makes Republican opposition so cold and cowardly. But what scandal to vote against the banal? What consequence in opposing the inconsequential?

What does it take for Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, and Al Franken to admit that taxes can kill jobs? Levy an onerous tax on companies that provide a great many high-paying jobs in their states: medical-device manufacturers. New York senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer are the latest two legislators to join Democrats Against Paying for Obamacare, having recently penned a letter to Harry Reid asking him to delay implementation of the tax and expressing concern about its effect on the industry. The Affordable Care Act imposes a 2.3 percent excise tax on companies that average a 4 percent profit margin, a tax that will significantly hamper the medical-device industry, one bright spot in the American economy. It appears that, once congressional Democrats found out what’s in the bill, they weren’t so happy they passed it.

On December 31, one long-lasting element of the Troubled Asset Relief Program will cease to exist: the Transaction Account Guarantee, which provides federal insurance for qualified bank deposits above the normal limit of $250,000. Democrats attempted to extend the program, which most obviously subsidizes the bank accounts of the very rich, but were thwarted by Senate Republicans, with Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey playing a prominent role. TAG’s demise, though, is expected to cause billions of dollars in capital to flow from smaller banks and credit unions to mega-banks such as JPMorgan Chase. It was one Treasury bailout that actually helped smaller banks and credit unions at the (minor) expense of the largest financial institutions. With its expiration, capital will flee to banks that the president’s financial-reform law has enshrined as too-big-to-fail, even sans TAG.

Bias against Asian Americans in admissions to elite universities is not a new story, but Ron Unz has marshaled a startling amount of data in a recent piece in The American Conservative making the case that Ivy League institutions have a de facto cap on the number of these students that they will admit. He documents that Asian-American enrollment in these schools has remained constant at about 16 percent for over a decade, even as the number of highly qualified Asian-American applicants has rapidly increased. The typical defense against accusations of discrimination is that schools employ a “holistic” approach that considers more than just test scores. Private schools should be able to admit students according to whatever criteria they wish, but prestigious universities would be more candid if, as Charles Murray urges, they admitted that “they just don’t want too many epicanthic folds in their student bodies.”

December 31, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, No. 24

Books, Arts & Manners
  • William Voegeli reviews A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic, by Nicholas Eberstadt.
  • Rob Long reviews The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage, by Greg Gutfeld.
  • Florence King reviews The End of Men and the Rise of Women, by Hanna Rosin.
  • Bruce Cole reviews Glittering Images: A Journey through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, by Camille Paglia.
  • Robert Dean Lurie reviews Who I Am: A Memoir, by Pete Townshend.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
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