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OpenMarket: John Berlau

  • Whole Foods merger: Using Antitrust to Protect Wal-Mart

    August 17, 2007
    Ivan, those are good points that Oliva makes at the Mises blog. But there is another interesting aspect that makes this an especially embarrassing case for antitrust supporters. If the Whole Foods-Wild Oats merger is stopped, the main beneficiary would be not small organic stores, but a certain company called Wal-Mart.

    Yes, that Wal-Mart! The one that everyone complains is so big and powerful. But it would benefit from anti-trust laws in this case and probably in others involving retail mergers. It is one of the biggest sellers now of organic food, as it is of many things, and if it didn't have a powerful Whole Foods competing against it, it would likely have even more of this market.

    But amazingly,...
  • Elvis on the IRS

    August 16, 2007
    As we remember Elvis Presley today, on the 30th anniversary of his death, free-marketeers may find of interest a particular overlooked song Elvis sang about the woes of taxpayers subject to the heavy hand of the Internal Revenue Service.

    Elvis singing about the IRS? Not only that, but at the IRS. At least the fictional version of the agency in his 1968 movie, Speedway.

    Playing a race car driver who's just been audited, Elvis gets up and starts singing at the IRS office while waiting for the examiner. The song, "He's Your Uncle, Not Your Dad," is no "Don't Be Cruel" or "Heartbreak Hotel" but it does contain some funny zingers at the IRS's excesses and abuses. As does the movie.

    The "uncle" in the song's title refers to Uncle Sam, or the U.S. government. "So just pay, pay, pay to your Unlce Sam," Elvis sings. Then...
  • Bush echoes Open Market on private equity partnership taxes

    August 9, 2007
    I don't know if George Bush, or anyone in his administration for that matter, is an avid reader of Open Market. They sure haven't been reading our entries on ethanol subsidies.

    But today at his surprise press conference that largely dealt with the economy, the president showed that he "gets it" on one issue very important to freedom and prosperity. Today, in response to a reporter's question, he rejected an increase in taxes on private equity general partners. Proposals in Congress would more than double taxes on these partners by treating their gains from "carried interest" of partnerships' capital gains as "ordinary income" subject to maximum of 35 percent tax rates. Using reasoning similar to mine...
  • The Not-Just-Private-Equity Tax hits shareholders of REITs

    July 31, 2007
    An Associated Press story today on proposed "carried interest" tax hike legislation aimed at soaking private equity had this interesting description of what the proposals would do:
    Congress is debating whether to force companies set up as limited partnerships -- and their managers -- to pay taxes at the same rate as income earned by ordinary Americans.

    But reading the fine print of the press release of main sponsor Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) shows that the House bill would also hike the taxes of plenty of "ordinary Americans" as well -- specifically, the numerous American shareholders in real estate investment trusts, or REITs.

    The question-and-answer section at the end of Levin's release asks, "Would...
  • Two Cheers for House Small Business Committee

    July 20, 2007
    As the 110th Congress has passed its six-month mark, there is one committee that has significantly improved. This is the House Small Business Committee, which has expanded its scope to look at not just the traditional issues of Small Business Administration loans and grants, but the crushing regulatory burden facing small business in particular. New Chairman Nydia Velazquez and Ranking Member Steve Chabot deserve credit for pursuing investigations of and exploring bipartisan solutions for problematic rules.

    At first glance, as well as a glance at voting records, Chabot and Velazquez appear to have little in common policy-wise. Chabot is a conservative from Ohio, and Velazquez is a liberal from the Bronx. Yet both recognize that sometimes well-intentioned regulations can hurt the "little guy," and have used the committee as a bully pulpit to help rein in burdensome red tape.

  • Live Earth: Global warming has "jumped the shark"

    July 5, 2007
    This weekend, rock stars will jet around the world, cars and buses will clog traffic, and elaborate sound stages will be set up to burn massive amounts of fuel to send the message to fans at home that they better conserve their energy or face the allegedly dire threat of global warming.

    The Live Earth concerts, which start this Saturday, July 7, are also one last chance for Baby Boomers to relive the "flower power" activism of the '60s. In a recent interview in Rolling Stone, former Vice President Al Gore invoked music icon Bob Dylan to promote the importance of these concerts. Citing Dylan's '60 anthem "The Times They Are A-Changin'". Gore rambled: "What's the...
  • Entrepreneurs' victory as House passes Sarbox relief

    June 30, 2007
    Entrepreneurs savored a small but significant victory last night in a surprise House vote that extended for one year an exemption for small public companies from burdensome requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley act. The measure's success and support from a significant number of Democrats once again illustrates that Sarbanes-Oxley relief is has become a populist issue. Much of the public now correctly associates Sarbox with the burdens it places on honest entrepreneurial firms such as the Max & Erma's regional hamburger chain, rather than its intended effort rein in companies like Enron.

  • Teachers' "compelled speech" victory could spill over to farmers

    June 16, 2007
    Hans, you're right that the Supreme Court's ruling yesterday in Davenport v. Washington Education Association was a victory for the First Amendment.

    After the Washington state Supreme Court turned the First Amendment, as you said, upside down, by ruling that the state initiative requiring consent of teachers for union political advocacy violates the union's free speech rights, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the First Amendment gives the greater protection to individual teachers from being forced to fund speech they disagree with. In the press release CEI sent out yesterday hailing the teachers' victory that we had argued for when...
  • Coburn's House friends also said no to Rachel

    May 30, 2007
    Angela, nice post and op-ed.

    But I've got some good news for you. Coburn isn't all alone in his crusade to stop Congress from honoring Rachel Carson. He has some good friends in the U.S. House of Representatives. There, in April, 53 representatives voted against naming the post office after Carson. Another 3 voted "present," which also often signals symbolic opposition to a bill.

    The bill passed the House anyway. Unlike the Senate, where a minority of Senators or even one Senator has tremendous power to block a bill, the House is pretty much run by majority rule.

    Still the fact that there were a good number of dissenters in the House may embolden some more Senators to join Coburn and just...
  • Bush and Dem leaders disappoint on SOX reform -- but mavericks make inroads

    May 16, 2007
    My friend Phil Kerpen rightly takes to task the Congression Democratic leadership in his column on National Review Online for what seems to be their forgetfullness on their pre-election promises to scale back Sarbanes-Oxley.

    Kindly citing a post of mine in Open Market that appeared in October, Kerpen notes many Democratic statements in support of Sarbox relief, including Pelosi's statement on CNBC two weeks before the election: "I don't think you need the whole package."

    Chuck Schumer also criticized the excesses of the law in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-wrote a few days before Election 2006. Schumer and New York City's liberal...


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