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OpenMarket: April 2014

  • Is the Stock Market Really Rigged?

    April 2, 2014
    Everyone seems to be jumping into the debate about high-frequency trading, now that Michael Lewis is peddling his new book, Flash Boys. Lewis contends that the stock market is rigged, and that the culprit is high-frequency traders. But not everyone agrees that they are to blame, or that the stock market is even rigged to begin with. Cliff Asness, founder of AQR capital, suggests that high-frequency traders have in fact made trading cheaper for hedge funds. And this, in turn, benefits clients, such as pension funds or university endowments:
    What is good for us is lower trading costs because it translates into better investment performance and happier clients, which makes...
  • Consumer's Guide to Chemical Risk

    April 2, 2014
    Will these chemicals make me fat? That sounds like a weird question, but some consumers may actually have such worries, thanks to a constant barrage of news headlines suggesting that synthetic chemicals—an even some naturally occurring ones—are responsible for nearly every public health problem imaginable. My website and CEI's recently released booklet, A Consumer's Guide to Chemical Risk: Deciphering the 'Science' Behind Chemical Scares,” are tools designed reduce both the confusion and fear about chemicals. These tools provide consumers with some insights on the science and the politics behind the headlines. For example, when confronted with a new claim, consumers can evaluate the underlying science by asking the following...
  • Taxable Bitcoins: Property or Money?

    April 1, 2014
    Is Bitcoin currency or property? It depends on which parts of the federal government you ask. Last week the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that bitcoins are taxable and how it would implement such taxation. While the rule could have been much worse, the manner in which the IRS went about doing so brings up many more legal questions. In context, the fluctuating exchange rate between bitcoins and dollars does cause the cryptocurrency to behave more like property in terms of valuation. The IRS merely took its explanation on "virtual currencies" from the current definition of taxable bartering:
    Bartering is an exchange of property or...
  • Why Is Obama's Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulation Delayed?

    April 1, 2014
    In April 2013, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its Draft 2013 Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations, which covered rules and regs issued in fiscal year 2012. The final 2013 edition never appeared; now, the Draft 2014 edition is due. I'm not holding my breath. President Obama claimed again as recently as February 2013 that "this is the most transparent administration in history." But getting this important document, as well as the oft-delayed Unified Agenda of Federal...
  • Ryan FY 2015 Budget Calls for Transportation Funding Rationalization

    April 1, 2014
    House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., released his FY 2015 budget today. In just three pages, he calls for surprisingly sensible reforms to federal transportation programs. Unlike the Obama and Camp budgets -- which I earlier criticized for continuing trust fund bailouts and merely kicking the can down the road -- Ryan makes an attempt to fix the Highway Trust Fund's revenue/outlay imbalance by refocusing transportation funding on core programs, while allowing states more flexibility to experiment with self-funding and -financing mechanisms. As Ryan notes:
    The budget recommends sensible reforms to avert the bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund by aligning spending from the Trust Fund with incoming...

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