I am Shocked, Shocked

Recall Amazon.com’s playing off of several cities against each other in order to maximize the tax breaks and other returns that company might get for building its second headquarters in the “winning” city.  Now we discover this in the offing:

US cities vying for Amazon.com Inc’s second headquarters risk facing an unexpected consequence to victory: other companies will demand the same hefty tax breaks conferred on the online retail giant.

How amazing is that?  Other companies want in on the goodies.

I’m not shocked at that; I’m shocked that those cities’ managers didn’t see this coming.  Their lack of anticipation speaks poorly of their ability to respond to those demands.

Energy “Subsidies”

The Federal government is continuing its ethanol mandates in its misguided effort to clean up the fuel our cars burn as we get about our business.  In an op-ed earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal rightly decried the artificial, government-created and -propped up market in RINs, which oil refineries can trade around in order to get credit for ethanol that they’re unable to obtain and blend into the fuel they produce.  As the WSJ noted, one of several outcomes of this artificial market is this.

The core problem is that the federal government has distorted the energy market by using subsidies and mandates to support biofuels.

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.

Federal Student Loans and State Regulators

The Trump administration has told States to stop regulating companies that service Federal student loans; that’s the Federal government’s job.  The States have demurred.

The whole thing could—and should—be made moot by the Federal government getting out of the student loan business altogether.  The Feds have no business here; it’s a private enterprise arena, and the States should be free to regulate, or not, to their hearts’ contents on intrastate student lending.  The Feds’ only role here should be to regulate Commerce…among the several States and not to compete in that commerce.

An Interesting Move

Work for welfare is a tried and true means of helping folks who need a hand up and further for helping them get out of the government-dependency cage.  Wisconsin is applying an interesting twist to the thing.

Wisconsin is relying on an unusual argument to tie new work requirements to food stamps: it says it needs the workers.


[Wisconsin’s] labor force grew 1.2% in 2017, and the state’s jobs listings website shows nearly 100,000 positions unfilled. Mr Walker believes some of the 925,000 people on the state’s FoodShare program could help.

Governor Scott Walker (R):

You Didn’t Earn That

The European Commission has criticized seven member states for “aggressive” tax practices, whereby governments try to undercut others to attract multinational companies.

Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation, and Customs doesn’t like competition; he actually thinks it interferes with the “integrity of the European single market.”

[T]hese practices have “the potential to undermine the fairness and the level playing field in our internal market and they increase the burden on EU taxpayers.”

Because, Tax

In a further demonstration that the Progressive-Democratic Party knows only how to tax and to raise taxes, there’s this.

Senate Democrats on Wednesday proposed repealing major pieces of the just-passed tax law, in a plan that would raise taxes on corporations, estates, and high-income households to pay for $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending.

And the Progressive-Democrats actually are touting this for the mid-term elections this fall.  It’s not your money, after all, it’s Big Governments, and Progressive-Democrats Know Better how your money should be spent.

Can’t possibly pay for the infrastructure by cutting spending somewhere else.  Mm, mm.

Online Retailers and Taxes

The Trump administration is looking at forcing online retailers to pay the same taxes that their brick-and-mortar competitors must pay.

The Trump administration on Monday urged the Supreme Court to expand states’ authority to collect sales tax on internet transactions, joining a chorus of state officials seeking to overrule a 1992 precedent exempting many online retailers from having to add taxes to a consumer’s final price.

This is a mistake.

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,