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Michael Hiltzik: Why would the public miss Ed Kleinbard



Michael Hiltzik: Why would the public miss Ed Kleinbard

Some things set Ed Kleinbard apart from an army of taxation experts who spent hours studying the details of tax laws.

For one thing, he is smarter than others. But more importantly, after developing his knowledge store at an elite corporate law firm and then as the highest congressional adviser, he chose to disseminate it for the public benefit – as a law professor at USC, as a widely read commentator on taxes. policy and as an irreplaceable book writer on how to make the function of fiscal policy to improve American life.

We are flooded today by economic noise and haze that are designed to produce superficial rationality because what is basically just a jerk-like instinct.

Edward D. Kleinbard, 2015

Kleinbard died Monday at the age of 68, after a long battle with cancer. He has been my guide through taxation stacks since I first profiled it in 2014 and has been a source of dozens of columns since then. He was always friendly, clear, and funny when I bothered him because of his insight, even during his fight with illness to the end. His death will be greatly felt by his family, colleagues, my readers and a world that is much poorer because of that loss.

Let’s learn the reason.

We can start with the career trajectory. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1976, he moved to law firm, rising to a partnership at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. In 2007, he jumped into the public sector as chief of staff on the Joint Congressional Committee on Taxation, then joined the USC Gould Law School in 2009.

“Only people who practice law at a very high level know exactly how companies do things like move income to minimize taxes and other tax games played by big corporations,” said Kleinbard’s friend, biking friend, and USC Law colleague, Gregory Keating. “And most people who have that kind of knowledge work with companies. Ed has that expertise and is committed to providing solutions as academics and policy makers who are public minded and open minded. “

Coupled with that is the interesting personality that his colleagues remember as “funny, loyal, passionate, and acerbic,” as Daniel N. Shaviro of NYU Law School put it in valedictory speech on the TaxProf blog.

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Kleinbard has a way to clarify difficult concepts so that they can be better understood by policy makers. One that he wants to remember is the term “stateless income,” which he coined to define the foreign income of companies that are held by multinational companies in countries with low taxes.

Kleinbard estimates this amount to be $ 3 trillion by 2018, allowing “many well-known multinational companies (to) enjoy a single-digit effective tax rate on their foreign income.”

His formulation might have encouraged the Republican Congress to include provisions in the 2017 tax cut law aimed at encouraging companies to bring this money back home, even though it might not be as effective as he wants.

In any case, he refused to join the praise choir which was later sought after by companies like Apple for repatriating billions of their foreigners. When Apple boasted paying a “record” of $ 38 billion in taxes to bring home $ 252 billion in exiled foreign profits, he observed:

“Apple paid a record tax because for the past two decades, Apple has become a world champion in global tax avoidance. They … pay taxes that basically have no place to talk about that income. “

Kleinbard’s worldview can be obtained from the title of his 2015 book: “We Are Better Than This: How The Government Should Spend Our Money.”

This book is designed as a balance of learning about the sacredness and hypocrisy that infects fiscal policy making.

“My values ​​are old-fashioned progressive values,” he said in the introduction to the book. These values ​​stem from his awareness that much of what he has achieved in life – and what other special people have achieved – is a product not only of genuine talent but also of luck.

Those who “look at the scorn of people who have not yet achieved comparable success,” he wrote, see fiscal policy through the prism of “narcissism thinly veiled, or embracing the cartoon version of Calvinist predestination. Both are unpleasant and not American.”

That brings it to an important point that Kleinbard might make during our first meeting, namely that the conversation about government fiscal policy always understands the problem from the wrong end by focusing on taxation rather than spending.

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“We asked how much pain we wanted to cause to ourselves, and the answer was always ‘not too much,'” he told me. “Question Should what can we do together through investment and insurance to improve our lives – and how much can we pay? “

A tax-centered perspective, he wrote, was a trick to reduce the size of government in the interests of the rich. “We have arbitrarily set projections of tax revenues to levels that are too low, and are now debating which expenditure program should be cut to fit the income constraints we have imposed on ourselves.”

Among the programs that undervalued a tax-centered perspective, he observed, were public education, social insurance and infrastructure development. All of them produce immediate and long-term benefits, especially in contrast to tax-cutting policies that place more money in the pockets of the rich but erode the ability of the federal government to provide for its citizens.

“Which is better for the wealth and happiness of our nation,” he asked in his book: “A small number of very wealthy Americans are using the lower classes as dog makers and pruners, or a greater commitment to publicly financed infrastructure that results in both improved stronger direct and middle class productivity, through the work created by the projects? “

Kleinbard likes to poke the arguments of academic theorists who bring water to the rich. “We are flooded today by economic noise and haze that are designed to produce superficial rationality because what is basically just an instinct like a jerk” for the preservation of rich people’s resources, as he wrote in the introduction to his book.

He found their work morally blunt and economically bad. Among his targets was Milton Friedman, a god among conservatives for his statement that “capitalism and freedom of association,” as Kleinbard said, adding, “This world view leaves little for governments to articulate shared values ​​beyond what is needed for masters home of the laissez-faire economic tournament. “

Kleinbard withered about Milton Friedman who was so “confused by the existence of a national park” that he could write: “If the public wants this kind of activity to pay for it, private companies will have every incentive to provide such a park.” Because Friedman himself does not feel the excitement in depth from public parks or their contribution to shared national pride, he concluded that no such values ​​could exist.

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For this and other similar crab visions from a market-dominated world, Kleinbard rightly calls Friedman a “politically and socially stupid person.”

It would be very interesting to have Kleinbard’s view of conservatives who just couldn’t be contacted for the purpose of eliminating or cutting unemployment benefits provided for victims of business closures related to the corona virus. The argument is that the added benefit makes people not want to go out and get a job.

It may be that Kleinbard’s disease prevented him from discussing this argument directly, but fortunately we have his comments about the same argument in general: He thinks it is nonsense.

Kleinbard’s discussion of the argument in his book uses conservative economist Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago as a whip. Mulligan argues, basically, that programs such as unemployment insurance and food stamps should be cut to the end because they encourage laziness at the expense of responsible taxpayers.

As Kleinbard digested Mulligan’s message, “Hardworking Americans who work well now find their income ‘redistributed’ to others who choose not working, because the federal government has made laziness so comfortable that they have no reason to find work. “Mulligan’s recipe is to cut programs to give ordinary people an incentive to get out of their clothes.

This is a variation on the “poor unworthy” image that conservatives love. As Kleinbard explained, it is full of flaws. The truth that long-term income earned from work far exceeds the short-term income from unemployment benefits, which most Americans are not burdened with the work of concocting the theory from behind the desk at a large university is well understood.

Ed Kleinbard left us with a standard of public spirit that all those who have learned to make policies and laws from within should aspire to do so. His contribution to my understanding of public policy will not just stop, because his book stays close to my bookshelf. But he will be missed.

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Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.



Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.

Method Media Bermuda will present the documentary FABRIC: Portuguese History in Bermuda on Thursday, December 29 at the Underwater Research Institute of Bermuda.

A spokesperson said: “Method Media is proud to bring Bermuda Fabric: Portugal History to Bermuda for its 5th and 6th showing at the Bermuda Underwater Observatory. In November and December 2019, Cloth: A Portuguese Story in Bermuda had four sold-out screenings. Now that Bermuda has reopened after the pandemic, it’s time to bring the film back for at least two screenings.

“There are tickets For $ 20 – sessions at 15:30 and 18:00. Both screenings will be followed by a short Q&A session.

Director and producer Milton Raboso says, “FABRIC is a definitive account of the Portuguese community in Bermuda and its 151 years of history, but it also places Bermuda, Acors and Portugal in the world history and the events that have fueled those 151 years.

“It took more than 10 years to implement FABRIC. The film was supported by the Minister of Culture, the Government of the Azores and private donors.

Bermuda Media Method [MMB] Created in 2011 by producer Milton Raposo. MMB has created content for a wide range of clients: Bermuda’s new hospital renovation, reinsurance, travel campaigns, international sports and more. MMB pays special attention to artistic, cultural and historical content.

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Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.



Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

Maestro Filipe Cunha, Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Braga, has been invited to conduct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, as announced today.

According to a statement sent by O MINHO, “he will be the first Portuguese conductor to conduct this orchestra in its entire history.”

In addition to this orchestra, the maestro will also work with the Lyceo Mozarteum de la Habana Symphony Orchestra.

The concerts will take place on 4 and 12 March 2023 at the National Theater of Cuba in Havana.

In the words of the maestro, quoted in the statement, “these will be very beautiful concerts with difficult but very complex pieces” and therefore he feels “very motivated”.

From the very beginning, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will be performed by an Italian pianist (Luigi Borzillo), whom the maestro wants to bring to Portugal later this year. In the same concert, Mendelshon’s First Symphony will be performed.

Then, at the second concert, in the company of the Mexican clarinetist Angel Zedillo, he will perform the Louis Sfora Concerto No. 2. In this concert, the maestro also conducts Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

“This is an international recognition of my work. An invitation that I accept with humility and great responsibility. I was surprised to learn that I would be the first Portuguese member of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. This is a very great honor,” the maestro said in a statement.

“I take with me the name of the city of Braga and Portugal with all the responsibility that goes with it, and I hope to do a good job there, leaving a good image and putting on great concerts. These will be very special concerts because, in addition to performing pieces that I love, especially Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, I will be directing two wonderful soloists who are also my friends. It will be very beautiful,” concludes Filipe Cunha.

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