Category Archives: Money and risk

Fingers, toes, and Bernie Madoff

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The record-breaking Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, which collapsed in 2008, is in news again. The trustee trying to recover assets has clawed back $76.5 million from a Bermuda/Austrian investment fund that had profited from the scheme. [1] Most people don’t know that this fraud could have been taken down eight years earlier. An analyst named Harry Markopolos had tried to… Read more »

Private equity and tax welfare

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With Mitt Romney back in politics, running for senator from Utah, as well as the recent death of his business mentor, Bill Bain, [1] I thought I should revisit the legacy of the “private equity” (PE) model of corporate governance. Romney’s Bain & Co. spin-off, Bain Capital, was one of the first, and has long been one of the most… Read more »

Ambulances, drugs and the fixed-cost dilemma

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Vox.com’s Sarah Kliff has been mounting an excellent campaign to make hospital emergency room charges more transparent. One example making the rounds is several accounts of short ambulance rides being billed in the vicinity of $2000. I have yet to see a good discussion of this rate level presented as the very basic math problem that is the “Fixed-cost Dilemma.”… Read more »

Free trade #2 – It’s personal

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In Part One of this series, I discussed the best, largely-unspoken argument in favor of free trade, where the increasing fungibility of goods and services will largely circumvent any attempts to make effective one-on-one trade deals. In this second part, I want to address what is, in my view, the best populist argument against free trade too often ignored by… Read more »

Free trade #1 – Assume everything is fungible

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With free trade hitting the news in conjunction with the President’s recent visit to the Davos conference, I was looking again to see if either side could identify the best arguments for the other side of the debate. Advocates don’t like to give press to strong ideas from the other side, so too often the ideas get passed by. In… Read more »

Income inequality and the Rule of 72 – part 3

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“If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality.” Entrepreneur and investor Nick Hanauer. [1] Part One of this series looked at how some basic compounded income growth projections with fairly-low rate differentials could alone result in fast-widening income inequality, and then Part… Read more »

Income inequality and the Rule of 72 – part 2

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The first part of this series of posts showed how small differences in average pay increases over time can explain much, if not most, most of the wide spread of income growth cited as evidence of income inequality. The question addressed in this part is whether the historical record supports this assertion. Part Three, in the queue, will look at… Read more »

Income inequality and the Rule of 72 – part 1

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Income inequality is an issue fraught with political stake-in-the-ground positioning, but there is some very basic math that, if understood, deflates a lot of the political grandstanding from either side. If we get the math out of the way then perhaps the policy implications and choices become clearer. The first principle applied here is that nature itself does not usually… Read more »

Progressive or conservative? No, “payday lender.”

I have been working on a three-part post about the math of “income inequality” which goes online tomorrow and over the next week. I think it takes an important and different tack from other viewpoints. Hint: the newest tax law will only make income inequality worse. I am still banging my head trying to pin the “Tax Cuts and Jobs… Read more »

Here is how you really simplify taxes

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In an earlier post from January 9, I noted how the most recent change to the U. S. tax code makes compliance more complex, not less, for many taxpayers, and certainly for businesses. In this post, I will lay out some opportunities for truly reducing tax complexity. For the vast majority of ordinary taxpayers, the “quick-hit” route to simplification is obvious…. Read more »