Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cruising the Web

I was feeling a bit sorry for Rex Tillerson having given up his position as CEO at Exxon to serve under Trump and become basically a laughingstock for both the left and right. But it turns out that there are several laws that are working in his financial interest.
One bright spot for him is a law that makes it more financially attractive for people joining the executive branch to sell investments to comply with conflict-of-interest rules. The law allows an individual to sell his or her shares and put them into “permitted property” such as Treasury notes or a diversified mutual fund but to defer the taxes indefinitely on the sale.

This benefits people like Mr. Tillerson who had large, concentrated investments, in this case roughly $52 million in Exxon shares. His appointment proved to be an excellent time to diversify. Exxon shares have lagged behind an S&P 500 index fund by more than 29 percentage points since his confirmation last February. Selling when he did has left Mr. Tillerson $15 million better off than he otherwise would have been.

An even bigger benefit came from Exxon’s decision to place his $180 million in deferred compensation, to be received over a decade, into a diversified trust rather than Exxon shares. If he had been forced to pay tax upfront on the compensation before joining the government, the bill would have been roughly $70 million.
I still am guessing that Tillerson has been regretting accepting the job to work under Trump as Secretary of State. He was a strange choice to begin with no experience as a diplomat or working with Trump. He had to endure tweets from the President undermining him as he traveled around the globe. I can't imagine people wanting to join Trump's cabinet. They have to expect a president who will attack them on Twitter if he doesn't agree with something they did or if they dared to disagree with or criticize the President. They'll be demonized by the left and the media. And they'll have to put up with a president who changes his mind on policies sometimes supporting something the exact opposite of what he said a few months earlier. Trump once tweeted skepticism about Tillerson's efforts to negotiate with "Little Rocket Man." And now Trump is planning to negotiate with the Little Rocket Man. And Tillerson was kept out of the loop on that. Why would anyone sign up for all this?

Jim Geraghty wonders
why Pompeo would take the job.
If you’re Mike Pompeo, why would you want to be secretary of state? You already have a good working relationship with the president. Pompeo reportedly attends the president’s daily intelligence briefing in person almost every day. If you’re the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, any president is almost always eager to see you; you’ve got news and it’s usually something important. You’re the one with the most information and the best answers; you’re in the White House all the time. You’re trusted and valued.

We’ve seen that Trump will decide to have a summit with North Korea and not consult his secretary of state before announcing it. If you’re secretary of state, you’re usually either in Foggy Bottom or overseas. At any given moment, this president can jump on Twitter and announce to the world that you’re wasting your time.

So utter contempt and disregard for a man trying to enact the president’s own policies. Who does the president think Rex Tillerson is, Jeff Sessions?


Given the long list of issues on which Tillerson disagreed with Trump such as the Iran deal, the Paris Climate Accord, the approach to North Korea, Russia, Qatar, and tariffs, one has to wonder what sort of conversation that Trump had with Tillerson before choosing him. For a guy who bragged about how he picks the very best people, Trump certainly didn't do a good job seeing whether he was picking a Secretary of State with whom he agreed on so very many key diplomatic questions.

And the New York Post has tremendous fun with a headline for the news. I bet they've been waiting for months to run this headline.




I'm still struck my Hillary Clinton's misogyny in how she explained why Democrats don't do well with married white women claiming that there is "a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.” Not only is she arguing that women listen to their husbands and bosses, but that they are also influenced by their sons. That sounds remarkably like earlier laws that insisted that men must have legal control over a woman's money with even mothers having to see their sons inherit property and money that women might have brought into their marriages. It seems that Hillary has a similar lack of respect for women to know their own minds. Ben Shapiro reports on some interesting statistics about the differences between how those who are married and those who are single vote.
Or, perhaps, it turns out that married people generally vote differently than single people. That’s true for men as well as women. In 2016, for example, married people voted 52% for Donald Trump, and unmarried people voted 55% for Hillary Clinton. According to Hillary’s theory, nearly all that shift should have come from women, since they’re only voting for Republicans because their toxic men tell them to do so. But that’s not what the statistics show. Here are the stats: married men voted 57% for Trump and 38% for Hillary; unmarried men voted 46% for Hillary and 44% for Trump. So that means that men shifted 11 points in favor of Trump based on marital status. How about women? 49% of married women voted for Hillary, and 63% of unmarried women voted for Hillary. That’s a 14 point shift in favor of Trump from unmarried to married.

In other words, it isn’t about men controlling women. It’s about marriage changing people.
Shapiro posits some reasons why there might be a difference in how the married and unmarried vote.
First, married people tend to be older than unmarried people; second, those who choose to get married are a self-selected group who probably tend to be more conservative politically than those who don’t. But there’s also a basic truth here: marriage usually signifies a decision to take life more seriously, to begin a life together, to build something outside the scope of government and beyond your career. That requires more private space from government in which to raise your children; it requires more money free from the predations of the tax collector. Marriage changes people’s priorities. And that’s a good thing, even if Hillary Clinton can’t appreciate it, or wishes to disparage men as rubes who are bullying their wives into conformity.


Gee, people still do respond to disincentives no matter what our betters think will happen. Guess what happened when Norway jacked up its tax on sugary items?
"It's not for me. It's a present for my boyfriend in the military," a Norwegian teenager says as she fills large plastic bags with pick-and-mix sweets from a vast counter display.

We are in the Gottebiten sweetshop, just a few hundred metres inside Sweden - a shop designed almost exclusively for Norwegians to get their sugar fix for less.

This type of border shopping has taken off, not least because at the beginning of the year Norway's tax on sweets and sugary drinks rose dramatically.

All sweetened drinks, including "diet" drinks with artificial sweetener, are now taxed at about 43p/litre (1.75 pints).

It's about twice the rate of the UK's new higher-rate sugar tax, which at 24p/litre will affect only the most calorific soft drinks on the market when it is introduced in April.

And in Norway, all sweets and chocolate, chewing gum and sweet biscuits are now taxed at £3.34/kg (2lb 3oz).

That means it's surprisingly attractive to drive into Sweden, where there is no sugar tax - and goods are generally cheaper, thanks to the EU's customs arrangements.
And Norwegians get this benefit without even having to be in the EU! Swedes are figuring out that they have an opportunity to profit off of Norway's tax.
Since the sugar tax increase came in, in January, "we are looking at about 10% more sales", says Mats Idbratt, operations manager of 20 Gottebiten border stores.

"But it might be more than that. It's a little early to tell.

"Right now we have two more stores in the pipeline on the border.

"We see that we're getting more customers and we can also see that the existing customers we already have are buying more."
Just imagine this - people will travel out of their way in order to save money, even it's to buy nasty sweetened products.


John Stossel reports on how a similar tax that was enacted in Philadelphia to tax soda has not achieved what the politicians put it in place.



Speaking of Norway, Helen Raleigh reports on a study done by The Economist to examine how Norway's law mandating a 40% quota for women to serve on the boards of public limited companies. Norway instituted the quota in 2008 and other countries in western Europe such as Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands have instituted similar sorts of policies. In some ways, the quotas achieved what they set out to do with sizeable increases in the number of women serving on corporate boards. But, as Raleigh summarizes the study, "the devil is in the details."
Did the higher female representation on corporate boards improve corporate profitability and corporate governance as proponents promised? The data is inconclusive. Some companies saw improvement in both areas but some didn’t. Did the higher female representation on corporate boards improve board’s decision making as supporters claimed? Data shows that although decision making processes might have changed, the substance of the decisions and the quality of decision didn’t improve by simply having more women on boards.

Now corporations in Europe are facing a shortage in finding qualified women to fill the gender quota mandates on their boards. Some reached for less qualified and less experienced women to meet the quota, which doesn’t help improving corporate performance or governance. Since the law in Norway only applies to public companies, some Norwegian companies became private. The number of public limited companies in Norway dropped from 452 in 2008 to only 257 in 2013. The number of board seats dropped from 2,366 in 2008 to 1,423 in 2013. So there are fewer seats for women to fill.
Just as American universities have found with their affirmative action admissions, sometimes there just aren't enough qualified candidates to go around. In Europe, these highly qualified women are called "Golden Skirts." Charming.

And it seems that mandating that women serve on boards doesn't do much to help women lower down on the corporate totem poll.
Proponents of such a policy have long promised that more women in leadership positions would translate to more career opportunities and promotions for women in the lower levels, which in turn will lead to better paying jobs and a shrinking gender pay gap. But that promise turned out to be wishful thinking.

Data shows that in France, Germany and the Netherlands, which all mandate women taking 30 to 40 percent of corporate board seats, only 10 to 20 percent of senior management jobs (one level below the board of director position) are held by women and that number has been consistent for the last 10 years. The Norwegians own study shows eight years after Norway introduced the law on gender equality in boardrooms, there are zero female CEOs in the country’s 60 largest companies. There is no data to demonstrate any higher pay or more career advancing opportunities for the vast majority of women in the workforce. Thus, having more women on the board has done little to benefit 99 percent of women in the workforce. Rather, it failed to lure more women to climb the corporate ladder and it failed to open up more mid-career opportunities and better pay.


For all those in the media who are disgusted about how Trump attacks the media, Jack Cashill takes a trip down memory lane to how Harry Truman talked about the press.
In his fine 1998 book, Harry S. Truman and the News Media: Contentious Relations, Belated Respect, Franklin Mitchell traces the media's evolving response to what at the time many considered the "ill chosen words and threats by the president."

Truman was not at all shy about insulting journalists in private and in public. He referred to columnist Westbrook Pegler as "a guttersnipe." He called Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson "gutter columnists" as well. The Alsop brothers, Stewart and Joseph, he called the "All Slops." In private, he called columnist Frank Kent a "prostitute of the mind." In public, he called him "intellectually dishonest."

As with Trump, Truman's war with the press led many in the media to accuse him of suppressing press freedom, an argument he had no use for. In an unpublished missive, he wrote, "The old Moslem assinsins [sic] of Mesopotamia have a much better chance of a considered judgment in the end than have these paid mental whores of the controlers [sic] of our so-called 'free press.'"

Truman continued, "This so-called 'free press' is about as free as Stalin's press. The only difference is that the Stalin frankly controlled his and the owners and publishers of our press are always yapping about the Constitution and suppressing a free press."

Like Trump, too, he accused the press of conflating news and editorial. "News should be reported as it happened," he wrote, and editorials should be stated exclusively as "the opinions of the owners & publishers." During his presidency, Truman thought the New York Times the only nationally circulated paper that confined editorial opinion to the editorial page.

The press protected Truman, however, in ways that it would never protect Trump. Washington Post journalist Marquis Childs was once dispatched to the White House to ask Truman if he would present an award at a gathering of black journalists. Said Truman to Childs, "I get along pretty well with the burr heads ... until sooner or later I say nigger." Childs, who was white, reported this only years after Truman had left the White House.


Since the schools are so perfect in every way in Baltimore, the city has decided that they have a spare $100,000 to throw into helping kids lobby against guns. Walter Olson reports,
At a cost of $100,000, the city of Baltimore plans to provide 60 free buses to take students from its schools to planned anti-gun demonstrations in Washington, D.C. later this month.

Many things could be said against this decision. For instance, it openly breaks with the notional political neutrality of public schools so as to side with some parents’ beliefs against others’. It takes money away from a Baltimore City school system that, though lavishly funded, struggles with unmet basic needs “from malfunctioning furnaces to undrinkable water.” It siphons classroom time from students in desperately underperforming schools.

But there is one more thing to say against it as well: a protest outing that is ardently enabled or even meticulously organized by the authority figures in your life can be like the ninth-grade English course that ruins Macbeth or Moby Dick for you. Writes Lynda C. Lambert in the Baltimore Sun:
Marches are normally “bottom up.” They are formed by people who are not government, usually to protest something that government is doing [or not doing].

Governments do not sponsor marches, unless that government is, say, the government of China or Russia or North Korea, where governments sponsor marches all the time that show how much the people support their governments……

Part of protesting is finding your own way, for your own reasons.

Baltimore government sponsorship of this ride to D.C. demeans our kids and demeans the point of the march. And, even more than that, it demeans the concept that a march is an uprising, a beginning, a statement made by we the people to our government.