State Taxation of Internet Businesses

The Supreme Court is hearing a case, South Dakota v Wayfair Inc, that seeks to overturn an older precedent that prevents States from taxing businesses doing business in the State that don’t have a physical presence there.  South Dakota is claiming that

…the 1992 precedent harms state treasuries and disadvantages taxpaying home-grown businesses.

That argument might hold water if the States were powerless. They’re not. There’s nothing at all preventing them from lowering the tax rates they impose on the brick-and-mortar and home-grown businesses resident in those States so they can compete. There’s nothing at all preventing the States from lowering their spending rates and thereby protecting their treasuries.

Union Threat

The American Federation of Teachers doesn’t like guns, gun owners, gun manufacturer, or those who support them.  That’s fine; this is America.

The union’s President, Randi Weingarten, has taken a typically union follow-on step: threatening a union boycott of Wells Fargo if the bank doesn’t end its relationship with the National Rifle Association and with those manufacturers.

We’re issuing Wells Fargo an ultimatum.  They can have a mortgage market that includes America’s teachers, or they can continue to do business with the NRA and gun manufacturers. They can’t do both.

Government Surveillance by Regulation

Loosely related to a nearby post, now it seems the government is getting worried about the size of the “private” capital market, where folks can place investments in enterprises, particularly startups, without having to go through the public—stock—markets and government regulations that are broadly extensive and deeply intrusive.

The boom is transforming how companies grow, concentrating investing in fewer hands and raising concerns about oversight

The linked-to article’s subhead lays out the whole misunderstanding. Government doesn’t need to be in the business of regulating every little thing we do.  We can manage our investments just fine without Government’s “help.”  And we can suffer our own outcomes if we choose badly or fortune moves against us despite our otherwise correct decisions.

Standards and Markets

The EPA has decided to revisit, revise, and lower fuel efficiency standards for cars sold in the US for the model years 2022-2025.  The Obama administration EPA had mandated that overall fleet fuel efficiency—averaged across all models of cars built by a manufacturer—be raised to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 from 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016.  This would have represented a greater than 50% increase in fuel efficiency in just 10 short years.

Environmentalists are up in arms over the move.  Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund President:

A Fiduciary Rule

The Obama Labor Department, under the suzerainty of Tom Perez who is now the Progressive-Democratic National Committee Chairman, enacted a rule that allowed individuals to hale into court principals of employer or union retirement plans for the crime of charging commissions for their actions.  The rule also redefined “investment advice fiduciaries” to include broker-dealers and financial-insurance agents whose activities are limited to selling financial products.

The 5th Circuit struck the rule as illegal.  That’s good news for all of us.

However.

The Trump Labor Department has said it won’t enforce the rule and is working with the SEC on a new one….

The PRC and Intellectual Property Theft

In the absence of any serious legal protections against intellectual property theft in the People’s Republic of China, businesses operating there are engaging more and more in sweeping conference rooms there for bugs and equipping personnel with sanitary burner phones for use while in the PRC.

That’s a start for those willing to put their proprietary information at risk through a business venture inside the PRC or with a PRC-based business anywhere, but it’s inadequate by itself, as illustrated by this bit of naivete by the linked-to piece’s author:

An Unintended Consequence

The health coverage plan providers, companies like Humana, Aetna, Anthem, et al., are gaming the Medicare system to keep their Medicare bonuses coming in.  Surprise.

It seems that when Obamacare was passed, it included a system of paying bonuses from Medicare to those plan providers that got sufficiently high ratings on the quality of their plans.

But wait….

Medicare ranks privately managed plans…on a five-star quality scale and provides financial bonuses to providers of top-ranked plans. [A plan-holder’s] plan was set to be downgraded, which would have cost Humana its bonus. So the company merged plans covering [the plan-holder] and more than a million others into different contracts with higher scores. That preserved the bonuses.

Biofuel Mandates

The Wall Street Journal had a piece titled Biofuel Mandates Are a Bad Idea Whose Time May Be Up that centered on the possibility that these might get watered down, or even eliminated, sometime “soon.”

The Renewable Fuel Standard, which forces oil refiners to mix corn-based fuel into gasoline, is one of history’s great policy boondoggles.

Well, NSS.  The only things it’s done of practical consequence have been to serve as a backdoor subsidy for farmers and to drive up the cost of corn, corn substitutes, and food that eats corn.  And to drive up the cost of gasoline and to create ethanol fuel-related automobile engine maintenance costs.

The Russian Attitude Toward Rule of Law

And the value of any contract with Russia.  These are demonstrated by Russian behavior regarding Russian natural gas flowing through Ukraine to western Europe.

Having won an arbitration dispute with Russian-controlled Gazprom over natural gas shipments to Ukraine, Gazprom and the Kremlin decided not to honor the ruling or the commitment:

Russia is tearing up its contracts to supply Ukraine with natural gas, sparking another stand-off between Moscow and Kiev and raising fears of new gas supply shortages across Europe during the winter.

In response,

Tariffs and National Security

In response to President Donald Trump’s of tariffs to be applied to imports of steel and aluminum at some unspecified in the (presumably relatively near) future and coming from as yet unnamed nations, Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said

I believe there is absolutely no impact on America’s national security from imports of steel and aluminum from Japan, which is an allied nation.

I agree in principle with the generally negative attitude toward tariffs.

However, Seko has misunderstood the national security question. Stipulate that Japan (and the Republic of Korea, another staunch ally and key exporter of steel to us) is a strong and reliable ally.