Category Archives: In the News

Ethics, legality and Iowa’s governor

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Note: This is a cross-post from the excellent Bleeding Heartland blog. A recent AP news story parsed through the repeated practice of Kim Reynolds, current governor of Iowa, of taking trips using planes owned by businessmen who do substantial business with the state. The most recent incident, involving a vendor handling state workers’ compensation claims, was approved by the executive director of… Read more »

Politics informed by math #1 – Voter fraud

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This is a first in a series of posts looking at issues in the current political landscape where a better understanding of some basic math principles would likely change the direction of the discussion. We are an innumerate nation (the mathematical equivalent of illiterate). When we make political decisions based on bad math we are harming our fellow citizens, and… Read more »

Stock buybacks and income inequality

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In an earlier post I began a discussion on the recent upsurge in corporate stock buybacks, looking at this financial strategy from a basic probabilistic perspective of “good move/bad move.” In this follow-up, I want to explore the impact of stock buybacks as an exacerbation of the continuing problem of income equality in the United States. In that earlier post… Read more »

Rolling the dice on stock buybacks

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A recent opinion piece in the New York Times suggested that we need restrict stock buybacks in order to “save the economy.” [1] While the authors make some good points about long-term effects, I want to lay out a more basic position here. The fundamental problem with stock buybacks is that they are wise financial moves at most 50% of… Read more »

Why taxing churches is harder than you think – part 2

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In Part One of this series of posts, I described how, except for a few notorious churches, enforcing a corporate income tax levy on these organizations would not likely have much impact, nor raise substantial money. In this second part, I will look at the issue of property taxes and tax-free housing allowances granted to many ministers, as well as… Read more »

Why taxing churches is harder than you think – part 1

On Monday, August 27, President Trump met with Christian Evangelical leaders and openly urged them to get more political in this fall’s mid-term election, basically encouraging them to break the law. Indeed, he bragged (inaccurately) that he had “gotten rid of” the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 tax law provision of tax law allows the stripping of a church’s or not-for-profit… Read more »

The “values voter” – Whose values?

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In a post a while back I wrote about the concept of “Big Picture” ethics, or meta-ethics, where making moral decisions determined by either by “the rules” or “the goals” become secondary behind a larger, generalized conception of principles or virtues that attempt to reconcile conflicting ideas and filter out the worst choices. One of the primary vectors of meta-ethics… Read more »

Why “pension plan socialism” never happened

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In 1976, management guru Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005) published a thought-provoking “vision for the future” entitled The Unseen Revolution: How Pension Fund Socialism Came to America. [1] In that book he looked at the implications of the then-growing trend for “defined benefit” pension plans owning a greater and greater share of corporate capital, and the social implications for that shift…. Read more »

Corporate governance reform – By what right?

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This past week Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, clearly the most persistent and articulate advocate in this generation for the reform of corporate governance and social responsibility, has outlined in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion (behind a paywall) a series of proposals that both need to be taken seriously and will undoubtedly raise fierce opposition from the business community. Matthew Yglesias… Read more »

Rain events, the sand pile effect and climate change

I spent a lot of grandmother-visiting time in my youth, and went to university for a time, in the far-northern Michigan town of Houghton, located on the Keweenaw Peninsula protruding like a thumb into Lake Superior. This place regularly gets over 200 inches of “lake effect” snowfall each winter, but it has rarely been hit with up to seven inches… Read more »