The Agenda

Stray Links for Tax Day

These links are not, alas, grouped under a tax theme, mainly because I want to write yet another VAT post.

* Felix Salmon on Blanche Lincoln’s strong derivatives regulation proposal. I’m disappointed that congressional conservatives have been fighting derivatives regulation as hard as they have. My basic view is that the problem with the Dodd bill is that it gives regulators too much discretion and, if anything, the derivatives title is likely to be too weak, not too strong. So I’m inclined to agree with Salmon on this particular issue. I also think, however, that the Dodd bill does very little to prevent another financial crisis in a few years, and that the window for taking effective action is closing fast.

* Gene Healy has written a splendid column for the Washington Examiner on Chris Christie of New Jersey. I wrote a column a few months back touting a Christie presidential campaign in 2016. Still not convinced I’m crazy. I mean, not convinced I’m crazy for that reason.

* Rod Adams, one of my favorite energy bloggers, engages Jerry Taylor of Cato on the question of how we should think about, and how we should price, the regulatory burdens facing the nuclear power industry. If this doesn’t sound riveting to you, you need your head examined. Or I do. And surely the latter can’t be true.

* I tried to defend Rick Hess. But really, he did a vastly better job than yours truly. That’s because he’s awesome. Very seriously, Hess is the indispensable thinker on education, along with brilliant lefty journalist Anya Kamenetz, the author of DIY U, a manifesto that conservatives and libertarians can and should get behind.

* You know what’s great? The website for Kaiser Health News. Believe. They have a broad cross-section of columnists: check out NRO’s own Jim Capretta on what the trajectory of the Massachusetts health reform portends for the new federal health law. You will be shocked to learn that the news isn’t entirely good. And Austin Frakt, an economist who gets points from me for honesty, makes an important point on quiet death of a competitive pricing plan for Medicare Advantage. I know plenty of smart people who disagree with Frakt on the merits, but you should judge for yourself. Here’s a key excerpt (contain your excitement!):

Finally, complying with the Congressional Budget Office’s criteria, in order to receive a favorable score, was paramount. Price competition is complex for CBO to score and more difficult to tweak to wring out the last few billion dollars to make the numbers. Administrative pricing, on the other hand, is relatively easy to score and to adjust to hit a budget target. Adjusting the administrative pricing system may have been a key element of conversations between the Democrats and CBO in the frantic final hours of negotiation.

Again, Frakt is a truth-teller. How many other provisions in the bill were compromised or massaged to wring out a few billion dollars from the CBO process while exacerbating real-world cost problems?

* And that’s a wrap. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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