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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kleinbard Presents We Are Better Than This Today at Pepperdine

Kleinbard (2015)Edward Kleinbard (USC) presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money at Pepperdine today as part of our Tax Policy Colloquium Series:

We Are Better Than This fundamentally reframes budget debates in the United States. Author Edward D. Kleinbard explains how the public's preoccupation with tax policy alone has obscured any understanding of government's ability to complement the private sector through investment and insurance programs that enhance the general welfare and prosperity of our society at large.

He argues that when we choose how government should spend and tax, we open a window into our "fiscal soul," because those choices are the means by which we express the values we cherish and the regard in which we hold our fellow citizens. Though these values are being diminished by short-sighted decisions to starve government, strategic government spending can directly make citizens happier, healthier, and even wealthier.

Expertly combining the latest economic research with his insider knowledge of the budget process into a simple yet compelling narrative, he unmasks the tax mythologies and false arguments that too often dominate contemporary discourse about budget policies. Large quantities of comparative data are succinctly distilled to situate the United States among its peer countries, so that readers can judge for themselves whether contemporary budget choices really reflect our aspirational fiscal soul,

Kleinbard's presentation takes a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on economics, finance, law, political science and moral philosophy. He uniquely weaves economic research and moral philosophy together by emphasizing our welfare, not just our national income, and by contrasting the actual beliefs of Adam Smith, a great moral philosopher, with the cartoon version of the man presented by proponents of the most extreme forms of private market triumphalism.

Update:  Post-presentation lunch:

Photo 2

 

February 18, 2015 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Princeton Review: The 200 Best Value Colleges

PrincetonPrinceton Review, Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Best Value Colleges and What It Takes to Get In (2015):

The Princeton Review has released a new book and online resource that addresses two of the major concerns of college applicants and their parents: paying for college and graduating with a good job and paycheck"  ... [A] one-of-a-kind guide to the nation's academically best and most affordable colleges that also have excellent records of alumni employment. The Princeton Review ... developed a unique “Return-on-Education” (ROE) rating to winnow its list of colleges for this book. ROE measures 40 weighted data points. Everything from academics, cost, financial aid, and student debt to statistics on graduation rates, alumni salaries and job satisfaction.

The Princeton Review lists the Top 5o Schools for Return on Education.  Here are the Top 10:

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February 18, 2015 in Book Club, Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

BRICS and the Emergence of International Tax Coordination

BRICSBRICS and the Emergence of International Tax Coordination (IBFD 2015) (Yariv Brauner (Florida) & Pasquale Pistone (WU Vienna), eds.):

The BRICS have been all the rage from the beginning of the millennium. This book focuses on the shift of power in the global economy from the traditionally dominant nations that comprise the OECD, or, even more narrowly, the G7, to emerging economies, perhaps led by the BRICS. The remodeling of the power structure shaping the global economy and global economic governance more generally is possibly being paralleled by a corresponding reformatting of international taxation. The dominance of the richest countries in the world over the international tax regime that had evolved over the second part of the 20th century is being defied as the 21st century progresses. Emerging economies, within and outside the OECD, assert their newly found power to acquire voice and influence on the international tax agenda.

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February 12, 2015 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 9, 2015

NYU Hosts Book Discussion With Eugene Steuerle on How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future

DeadThe NYU Graduate Tax Program hosts a discussion today with C. Eugene Steuerle (Urban Institute) on his book, Dead Men Ruling: How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future (2014):

Eugene Steuerle argues that these seemingly separable economic and political problems are actually symptoms of a common disease, one unique to our time. Unless that disease and the history of how it spread over time is understood, Steuerle says, it is easy for politicians and voters alike to fall prey to believing in simple but ineffective nostrums, hoping that a cure lies merely in switching political parties or reducing the deficit or protecting and expanding our favorite program.

Despite the despairing claims of many, Steuerle points out that we no more live in an age of austerity than did Americans at the turn into the twentieth century with the demise of the frontier. Conditions are ripe to advance opportunity in ways never before possible, including doing for children and the young in this century what the twentieth did for senior citizens, yet without abandoning those earlier gains. Recognizing this extraordinary but checked potential is also the secret to breaking the political logjam that —as Steuerle points out —was created largely by now dead (or retired) men.

February 9, 2015 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Caron: Thomas Piketty and Inequality -- Legal Causes and Tax Solutions

Paul L. Caron (Pepperdine), Thomas Piketty and Inequality: Legal Causes and Tax Solutions, 64 Emory L.J. Online 2073 (2015):

PikettyThomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century has acted as an accelerant fueling the fiery public debate over increasing inequality in America and around the world. Piketty makes the provocative empirical claim that the rate of return to private capital inevitably exceeds the rate of economic growth (r > g) and thus leads to growing concentrations of wealth among the richest members of society. Piketty has spawned heated debates in newspapers, magazines, and blogs, which soon will continue in academic journals and law reviews. Shi-Ling Hsu is one of the first out of the gate with The Rise and Rise of the One Percent: Considering Legal Causes of Wealth Inequality, 64 Emory L.J. Online 2043 (2015).

Hsu focuses on the interesting question of how law and legal institutions foster inflated returns on capital (Piketty's r). He also makes the important point that lawmakers often conflate Piketty's r with g (public economic growth), resulting in laws that boost the former with little discernible impact on the latter. The bulk of Hsu's argument is devoted to explaining how four areas of American law contribute to "the legal enrichment of the one percent": financial regulation, oil and gas subsidies, transition relief, and electric utility regulation. He concludes with a plea for greater federal funding of education to spur greater economic growth and bridge the deepening inequality chasm in America.

Hsu's essay is a significant contribution to what is certain to be an energetic debate over the implications of Piketty's work. The need to examine the impact of legal rules and institutions on both private capital returns and public economic growth will be an enduring contribution to future scholarship on the extent, consequences, and reduction of income and wealth inequality. I offer here two modest reactions to Hsu's essay: (1) recent inequality research has shifted the focus of high-end wealth concentration from the Top 1% to the Top 0.1% (and even the Top 0.01%), with important implications for the work of both Piketty and Hsu, including (2) the inquiry into whether policymakers should intervene before the fact to re-shape the distribution of the benefits and burdens of economic activity (Hsu's approach) or instead redistribute wealth after the fact (Piketty's approach).

In a recent essay, Joseph Bankman and I argued that tax scholars need to focus more of our work on how policymakers should address the federal government's unprecedented (and growing) fiscal imbalance. California Dreamin’: Tax Scholarship in a Time of Fiscal Crisis, 48 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 405 (2014). In Piketty terms, s (spending) > r (revenues). We proposed that California's recent tax increases on the wealthy should provide a template for the nation to bring r more into alignment with s.

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February 2, 2015 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Going Clear, Scientology, and the IRS

Slate, What Sundance Favorite Going Clear Tells Us About Scientology:

Going Clear [review here] ends by noting that the church has fewer than 50,000 members but still possesses more than $3 billion in assets. Most of this wealth can be attributed to Scientology’s long, tortured, and ultimately triumphant battle with the IRS to be deemed a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. That victory is perhaps Miscavige’s keystone achievement: as the film details, and as the New York Times reported in 1997, Miscavige used a combination of lawsuits, backroom negotiations, and private investigators digging up dirt on IRS officials to secure Scientology’s status as a religion.

January 29, 2015 in Book Club, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cockfield: David Foster Wallace on Tax Policy

Pale KingArthur J. Cockfield (Queen's University), David Foster Wallace on Tax Policy, How to Be an Adult, and Other Mysteries of the Universe, 15 Pitt. Tax Rev. ___ (2015):

As one of the most highly acclaimed fiction writers of his generation, David Foster Wallace had many things to say on a seemingly endless variety of topics. In his last work, the unfinished novel The Pale King, he chose to elaborate on, of all things, tax policy and tax administration. Wallace directed tax topics at one of the novel’s main themes: true adulthood often involves overcoming boredom in the workplace to derive a sense of community and care for others. In a sense, the book serves as a guide on how to become a reasonably happy and fulfilled adult. This Essay integrates archival research from the Collected Works of David Foster Wallace at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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January 28, 2015 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Amazon Offers Self-Publishing For Faculty Books

KindleLast Thursday, Amazon launched KDP EDU for academics to self-publish books through the Kindle Direct Publishing program:

Amazon’s new Kindle Textbook Creator Beta helps you convert PDFs of your textbooks, course notes, study guides and other educational content that includes complex visual information like charts, graphs and equations into Kindle books. Books created through Kindle Textbook Creator take advantage of features that enhance a student’s learning experience such as dictionary look-up, notebook, highlighting and flashcards. Plus, preview your book across all supported devices.

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January 26, 2015 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, January 23, 2015

C-Span: Economic Inequality and the U.S. Tax System

C-Span Washington Journal, Economic Inequality and the U.S. Tax System:

Edward Kleinbard talked about his book, We are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money.  He spoke about why the government should do more, including increasing the size of the tax system, to improve the economy and combat income inequality. (Click on button on bottom right to view video directly on C-Span to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

January 23, 2015 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Piketty's TED Talk on Capital in the 21st Century

Thomas Piketty's TED Talk on his book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century (Harvard University Press, 2014) (click on YouTube button on bottom right to view video directly on YouTube to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate):

January 20, 2015 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mehrotra Reviews Zelenak's Learning to Love Form 1040

Learning to Love 1040Ajay K. Mehrotra (Indiana), Reviving Fiscal Citizenship, 113 Mich. L. Rev. ___ (2015) (reviewing Lawrence Zelenak (Duke), Learning to Love Form 1040: Two Cheers for the Return-Based Mass Income Tax (University of Chicago Press, 2013)): 

In recent years, numerous lawmakers, policy analysts, and scholars have been decrying the many defects of the present U.S. income tax system. Few have attempted to defend our return-based mass income tax. This essay reviews Learning to Love Form 1040, Lawrence Zelenak’s stirring and persuasive defense of a simplified version of our present federal income tax system. In contrast to the conventional economic critiques, Zelenak explores the underappreciated social, cultural, and political benefits of a return-based, mass income tax. Chief among these, he argues, is the existing regime’s potential to raise the tax consciousness of the average citizen and to enhance modern notions of fiscal citizenship.

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January 19, 2015 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Reviews of Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Mark W. Hendrickson (Grove City College), Problems with Piketty: The Flaws and Fallacies in Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014):

HendricksonIf you have read or even heard about Capital in the Twenty-First Century—economist Thomas Piketty’s egalitarian treatise—you owe it to yourself to read Hendrickson’s powerful critique. Hendrickson combines extensive knowledge, mature wisdom, common sense, and a rare ability to render complex subjects clear and easily understood. Problems with Piketty shows us the grim consequences of egalitarian policies; exposes the flaws and explodes the fallacies in Piketty’s book; and presents a stirring defense of free enterprise.

Far more than just a corrective to Capital’s many errors, Problems with Piketty works well as a stand-alone teaching tool. Thanks to a detailed Table of Contents, its multiple lessons are easy to find. You may find yourself referring to this book for years to come.

Michael Potter (Australian National University), Capital in the Twenty-First Century: A Critique of Thomas Piketty’s Political Economy, 21 Agenda 91 (2014):

PikettyThe argument by Piketty and others that there is growing inequality and this is causing damage is not new. But regardless of who is running this argument, it is significantly flawed. The poor have definitely improved their situation, especially if taxes and income support are included, in many countries in the developing world and the US. A focus on inequality to the exclusion of poverty glosses over the large successes over recent decades. It paints a false picture of decline when large improvements have occurred.

To the extent there have been increases in executive wages, this has probably been driven by technology and globalisation, not by poor corporate governance. And the returns to wealth being (relatively) high should be expected given the riskiness of owning wealth, and is actually necessary to ensure that investment occurs. Piketty’s (implied) argument that investment is bad should be dismissed out of hand, as should his argument that high taxes are required on wealth. Instead, the problems generated by ‘unfairly’ acquired wealth should be addressed by removing rents. Policymakers should consider broadening the ownership of capital and assisting those who are in genuine need, and reject proposals that pander to envy.

For my perspective, see Thomas Piketty and Inequality: Legal Causes and Tax Solutions, 64 Emory L.J. Online ___ (2015):

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January 19, 2015 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Discussion of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century

PikettyAllied Social Science Associations Annual Meeing (Boston Jan 3-5, 2015), A Discussion of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century (Harvard University Press, 2014):

New York Times, Talk Turns to Inequality at Annual Meeting of Economists.  For my perspective, see Thomas Piketty and Inequality: Legal Causes and Tax Solutions, 64 Emory L.J. Online ___ (2015):

Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century has acted as an accelerant fueling the fiery public debate over increasing inequality in America and around the world. Piketty makes the provocative empirical claim that the rate of return to private capital inevitably exceeds the rate of economic growth (r > g) and thus leads to growing concentrations of wealth among the richest members of society. Piketty has spawned heated debates in newspapers, magazines, and blogs, which soon will continue in academic journals and law reviews. Shi-Ling Hsu is one of the first out of the gate with The Rise and Rise of the One Percent: Considering Legal Causes of Wealth Inequality, 64 Emory L.J. Online ___ (2015).

Continue reading

January 6, 2015 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Do Colleges (and Law Schools) Need a Business Productivity Audit?

College TuitionWall Street Journal op-ed:  Colleges Need a Business Productivity Audit, by Frank Mussano & Robert Iosue (authors, College Tuition: Four Decades of Financial Deception (2014)):

College tuition rates are ridiculously out of hand. Since the late 1970s, tuition has surged more than 1,000%, while the consumer-price index has risen only 240%. ...

[T]hree quarters of a typical college budget is spent on personnel expenses, including benefits. Yet the average professor spends much less time in the classroom today than two decades ago. In 2010 44% of full-time faculty reported that they spent nine or more hours a week in the classroom, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. In 1989 more than 60% said they did. The traditional 12-15 hours a week teaching load is changing into a six-to-nine-hour workweek, a significant decrease in productivity.

The typical defense of the reduced workload goes something like this: Professors have increased research demands, more extensive classroom preparation and committee work, as well as additional administrative and student-counseling responsibilities. Except for a handful of elite researchers, this argument doesn’t add up. ...

There’s another problem: The number of college administrators has increased 50% faster than the number of instructors since 2001, according to the Education Department. Administrative costs have far outpaced other college expenses during the past two decades. ...

All the while, colleges launched a prestige arms race, dropping millions on extravagant buildings. Higher-education construction spending has doubled since 1994, with a peak of $15 billion in 2006 that has leveled off at $11 billion in recent years. Adding to the frenzy are the various magazine rankings that base much of their quality-assessment formula on the amount of money spent on student services and facilities, even if the funds are wasted. Campuses have everything from lazy rivers to climbing walls to luxury dormitories.

On top of that, student-loan debt has skyrocketed to $1.2 trillion. Easy access to government loan money has given colleges license to boost tuition with no motivation to keep costs down. ...

[C]olleges and universities engaged in a spending spree because they can. But there’s one simple idea that might start to reverse the spending spree: audits of higher education. ...

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December 30, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Faculty Fathers: Toward a New Ideal in the Research University

Faculty FathersMargaret W. Sallee (SUNY-Buffalo), Faculty Fathers: Toward a New Ideal in the Research University (SUNY Press, 2014):

For the past two decades, colleges and universities have focused significant attention on helping female faculty balance work and family by implementing a series of family-friendly policies. Although most policies were targeted at men and women alike, women were intended as the primary targets and recipients. This groundbreaking book makes clear that including faculty fathers in institutional efforts is necessary for campuses to attain gender equity. Based on interviews with seventy faculty fathers at four research universities around the United States, this book explores the challenges faculty fathers—from assistant professors to endowed chairs—face in finding a work/life balance. Margaret W. Sallee shows how universities frequently punish men who want to be involved fathers and suggests that cultural change is necessary—not only to help men who wish to take a greater role with their children, but also to help women and spouses who are expected to do the same.

(Hat Tip: Inside Higher Ed.)

December 16, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Witte: From Critical Legal Studies to Christian Legal Studies

Law Bible 4John Witte Jr. (Emory), Foreword: From Critical Legal Studies to Christian Legal Studies, in Law and the Bible: Justice, Mercy and Legal Institutions (Robert Cochran & David VanDrunen, eds.  2013):

This text reflects briefly on the precocious rise of Christian legal studies in North American and European law schools, and the past, present, and potential role of Scripture and the Christian tradition in shaping modern understandings of public, private, penal, and procedural law.

December 14, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Geier Publishes Free Income Tax Textbook

CALIDeborah H. Geier (Cleveland State) has published a free eLangdell textbook, U.S. Federal Income Taxation of Individuals (CALI 2014):

As one, lone law professor, I have little direct ability to reduce tuition costs for my students. When writing this textbook, however, I decided to decline expressions of interest from the legacy legal publishers in favor of making this textbook available as a free download over the internet (in ePub format for iPads, Mobi format for Kindles, and pdf format for laptops), with an at-cost, print-on-demand alternative for those who like a hard copy. Fortunately, eLangdell (a division of CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) has been an ideal partner in this regard.

In addition to eliminating (or lowering) student cost, this mode of publication will permit me to quickly and fully update the book each December, incorporating expiring provisions, inflation adjustments for the coming calendar year, new Treasury Regulations, etc., in time for use in the spring semester, an approach that avoids cumbersome new editions or annual supplements. This publication method also makes the textbook suitable for use as a free study aid for students whose professors adopt another textbook, as this textbook walks the student through the law with many more fact patterns and examples than do many other textbooks. While this practice adds length, I believe that it also makes the book more helpful to students in confronting what can be daunting material. Finally, having the textbook easily accessible to foreign students enrolled in a course examining the U.S. Federal income taxation of individuals is important to me, and having the textbook available as a free internet download succeeds well in that regard.

A Teacher’s Manual is available for professors who adopt the book (or parts of it) for use in their course.

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December 11, 2014 in Book Club, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Newsweek Names Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This One of the Top Books of 2014

We Are Better Than This (2014)Newsweek,  Our Favorite Books of 2014: Newsweek Staff Picks:

We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money by Edward D. Kleinbard (Oxford University Press)

Americans feel the pain of an income tax system that raises twice as much as it actually does because of hidden spending through tax favors. This masterpiece on how we tax ourselves, and how Congress spends our money, explains why the mostly lightly taxed modern country feels so heavily burdened while offering workable solutions.

Drawing on insights from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, lawyer Edward D. Kleinbard shows how applying ancient financial and moral principles would make America happier, healthier and wealthier. Kleinbard spent two decades designing sophisticated tax avoidance strategies for rich clients before becoming a law school professor on a mission to expose the tax system’s flaws.

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December 5, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Barton: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession

GlassBenjamin H. Barton (Tennessee), Glass Half Full The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession (Oxford University Press, 2014):

The hits keep coming for the American legal profession. Law schools are churning out too many graduates, depressing wages, and constricting the hiring market. Big Law firms are crumbling, as the relentless pursuit of profits corrodes their core business model. Modern technology can now handle routine legal tasks like drafting incorporation papers and wills, reducing the need to hire lawyers; tort reform and other regulations on litigation have had the same effect. As in all areas of today's economy, there are some big winners; the rest struggle to find work, or decide to leave the field altogether, which leaves fewer options for consumers who cannot afford to pay for Big Law.

It would be easy to look at these enormous challenges and see only a bleak future, but Ben Barton instead sees cause for optimism. Taking the long view, from the legal Wild West of the mid-nineteenth century to the post-lawyer bubble society of the future, he offers a close analysis of the legal market to predict how lawyerly creativity and entrepreneurialism can save the profession.

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December 5, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Wheels Are Falling Off the Wagon at the IRS

WheelsMichael Gregory, The Wheels Are Falling Off the Wagon at the IRS: An Open Letter to Patriotic Americans Concerned with the Federal Tax System (2014) (free download):

The IRS is falling apart. If the IRS falls apart the funding arm of the U.S. Government falls apart. If the U.S. Government falls apart what is next for the U.S.?

As a former IRS insider Mike Gregory shares insights from more than 30 years working with IRS employees as well as with taxpayers and practitioners.

This book describes how honest law-abiding taxpayers are now being seriously harmed while cyber-thieves steal from taxpayers and criminals promote illegal schemes that are not being prosecuted.

Mike argues that unless this situation is reversed immediately, the trust of the American people could be permanently broken. Once trust is broken our country could go the way of Greece with harsh economic consequences. This book is a candid tell-all and a call to action for the Congress to fully fund the IRS.

(Hat Tip: Mike Talbert.)

December 4, 2014 in Book Club, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Casting Call: Love, Sex and the IRS

Love 2Backstage, Casting Notice:  Love, Sex and the IRS:

Company
The Norris Theatre

Production Description
Palos Verdes Performing Arts is casting Love, Sex and The IRS.

Rehearsal and Production Dates & Locations
Rehearsal for Love, Sex and The IRS begins Jan. 5, 2015; runs Jan. 23-Feb. 8, 2015 at the Norris Theatre in Rolling Hills Estate, CA.

Compensation & Union Contract Details
Pays $510/wk. min. Equity Guest Artist Tier 3 Contract.

Seeking Talent
Select a role below for more information and submission instructions.

December 2, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Moneyball for Government

MoneyballMoneyball for Government (Jim Nussle & Peter Orszag, eds.) (Nov. 10, 2014) (website):

Data and evidence don’t lie—but for too long, our policy makers haven’t paid them nearly enough attention. In this refreshing collaboration, an all-star team of leaders and thinkers from across the political spectrum lays out an exciting and achievable vision for the country — one where policy makers base decisions not on politics or expedience, but on the hard evidence of what really works. For anyone who believes that government must do better for America’s children and their families, Moneyball for Government is a home run.

The Atlantic:  Can Government Play Moneyball, by John Bridgeland & Peter Orszag:

Based on our rough calculations, less than $1 out of every $100 of government spending is backed by even the most basic evidence that the money is being spent wisely. As former officials in the administrations of Barack Obama (Peter Orszag) and George W. Bush (John Bridgeland), we were flabbergasted by how blindly the federal government spends. In other types of American enterprise, spending decisions are usually quite sophisticated, and are rapidly becoming more so: baseball’s transformation into “moneyball” is one example. But the federal government—where spending decisions are largely based on good intentions, inertia, hunches, partisan politics, and personal relationships—has missed this wave. ...

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November 29, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (10)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

USC Book Panel Discussion on Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This

Kleinbard Flyer

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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November 22, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dietsch Presents Catching Capital: The Ethics of Tax Competition Today at McGill

DietschPeter Dietsch (Université de Montréal) presents Catching Capital: The Ethics of Tax Competition (Oxford University Press) at McGill today as part of its Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Allison Christians and Daniel Weinstock:

When individuals stash away their wealth in offshore bank accounts and multinational corporations shift their profits or their actual production to low-tax jurisdictions, this undermines the fiscal autonomy of political communities and contributes to rising inequalities in income and wealth. These practices are fuelled by tax competition, with countries strategically designing fiscal policy to attract capital from abroad.

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November 17, 2014 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kleinbard Presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money at Loyola Marymount

We Are Better Than This (2014)Edward Kleinbard (USC) presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014) at Loyola Marymount tomorrow as part of its Center for Accounting Ethics, Governance, and the Public Interest Speaker Series:

We Are Better Than This fundamentally reframes budget debates in the United States. Author Edward D. Kleinbard explains how the public's preoccupation with tax policy alone has obscured any understanding of government's ability to complement the private sector through investment and insurance programs that enhance the general welfare and prosperity of our society at large.

He argues that when we choose how government should spend and tax, we open a window into our "fiscal soul," because those choices are the means by which we express the values we cherish and the regard in which we hold our fellow citizens. Though these values are being diminished by short-sighted decisions to starve government, strategic government spending can directly make citizens happier, healthier, and even wealthier.

Continue reading

November 17, 2014 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Steuerle Presents How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future Today at Columbia

DeadC. Eugene Steuerle (Urban Institute) presents Dead Men Ruling: How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future at Columbia today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex RaskolnikovDavid Schizer, and Wojciech Kopczuk:

Eugene Steuerle argues that these seemingly separable economic and political problems are actually symptoms of a common disease, one unique to our time. Unless that disease and the history of how it spread over time is understood, Steuerle says, it is easy for politicians and voters alike to fall prey to believing in simple but ineffective nostrums, hoping that a cure lies merely in switching political parties or reducing the deficit or protecting and expanding our favorite program.

Despite the despairing claims of many, Steuerle points out that we no more live in an age of austerity than did Americans at the turn into the twentieth century with the demise of the frontier. Conditions are ripe to advance opportunity in ways never before possible, including doing for children and the young in this century what the twentieth did for senior citizens, yet without abandoning those earlier gains. Recognizing this extraordinary but checked potential is also the secret to breaking the political logjam that —as Steuerle points out —was created largely by now dead (or retired) men.

November 11, 2014 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The IRS and The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

CaseDavid M. Brown, The Case of the Cockamamie Killer (2011):

You can't avoid death and taxes. Or is that murder and taxes? That would depend on who is doing the collecting.

When a colleague is slain in cold blood, tough-guy word processor and private detective Chak Charon investigates—and soon finds himself out of a job, abducted from his apartment, and audited within an inch of his life. He takes refuge in a lower-Manhattan boarding house and proceeds to discover a dirty little secret: that the Internal Revenue Service is developing a computer virus designed to scavenge the private financial data of unsuspecting citizens. (Scratch that. Let's say that a "rogue IRS agent" is developing the virus. As we keep hearing in the news, it is extremely difficult for the IRS to know anything about what is happening inside the IRS.)

Meet the sullen fast-food clerk who has trouble filling special orders...the department supervisor whose every gesture is by-the-book...the socially-conscious housemates of Grubgeous Street...the sulky, seductive hustler...the other sulky, seductive hustler...the power-lusting bureaucrat...the software-slinging private eye who won't take "Get lost!" for an answer.

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November 5, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student

CompanionAndrew McClurg (Memphis), The ‘Companion Text’ to Law School: Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student (West 2011):

This book equips the loved ones of law students ; parents, partners, friends, and relatives ; with all the information they need to understand and survive their student's journey through the world of legal education. Written by an award-winning professor with experience teaching thousands of law students, The "Companion Text" explains the essentials of legal education, including the first-year curriculum, the Socratic Method of teaching, and the single-exam format. It also explores the psyches of law students, including things you should never say to them, their sources of stress, and how law school can change personalities. The book addresses the impact of law school on outside relationships and gives tips for navigating relationships with law students. Filled with comments, anecdotes, and insights from real law students and their loved ones.

Al Sturgeon (Pepperdine), Things to Never Say to a Law Student:

Professor Andrew McClurg has written an excellent book for the family and friends of law students and granted me permission to share excerpts with you from time to time.

  1. “Don’t Worry, You’ll Do Fine”
  2. “Maybe You Weren’t Meant to Be in Law School”
  3. “Remember, It’s Only a Test”
  4. “Is That the Best You Could Do?”
  5. “Do You Really Have to Work on That Tonight?”
  6. “What Kind of Lawyer Do You Want to Be?”
  7. “Do You Have a Job Yet?”
  8. “Have You Heard the One About the Lawyer, the Shark, and the Pornographer?”

November 5, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bankman & Shaviro: Piketty in America: A Tale of Two Literatures

PikettyJoseph Bankman (Stanford) & Daniel N. Shaviro (NYU), Piketty in America: A Tale of Two Literatures, 68 Tax L. Rev. ___ (2014):

Thomas Piketty’s widely-noted and bestselling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, does much to advance our empirical understanding of rising high-end wealth concentration, which is one of the central issues of our time. But its theoretical approach and policy recommendations differ sharply from those that have been prevalent in recent decades in the Anglo-American academic tax policy literature. We adjudicate this “confrontation” (insofar as it is one), and find that each approach in some respects both undermines and enriches the other. We find that the optimal tax response to wealth concentration is significantly more complicated than Piketty’s analysis recognizes. This is particularly true in the United States, where rising high-end wealth concentration has been driven by heterogeneous human capital, and where Piketty’s proposed wealth tax would face a substantial risk of being held unconstitutional.

November 3, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kleinbard Presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money Today at Columbia

We Are Better Than This (2014)Edward Kleinbard (USC) presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014) at Columbia today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex RaskolnikovDavid Schizer, and Wojciech Kopczuk:

We Are Better Than This fundamentally reframes budget debates in the United States. Author Edward D. Kleinbard explains how the public's preoccupation with tax policy alone has obscured any understanding of government's ability to complement the private sector through investment and insurance programs that enhance the general welfare and prosperity of our society at large.

He argues that when we choose how government should spend and tax, we open a window into our "fiscal soul," because those choices are the means by which we express the values we cherish and the regard in which we hold our fellow citizens. Though these values are being diminished by short-sighted decisions to starve government, strategic government spending can directly make citizens happier, healthier, and even wealthier.

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October 28, 2014 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Avi-Yonah Reviews Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This

We Are Better Than ThisReuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Why Not Tax the Rich? (reviewing Edward D. Kleinbard (USC), We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014)):

Ed Kleinbard’s new book, We Are Better Than This: How Government SHould Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014), is a well-balanced and important contribution to the tax literature. Kleinbard convincingly sets out the case for addressing inequality not through taxation but rather through spending. While the emphasis on treating both sides of the federal budget ledger with equal respect is not new (Michael Graetz, for one, said it in the 1980s), Kleinbard updates the analysis and addresses it to a wider audience. Kleinbard’s book is also well positioned as an antidote to Thomas Piketty’s obsession with taxing the rich [Capital in the Twenty-First Century].

The problem with the book, however, is that its proposed solutions [restore the pre-2001 tax rates on the middle class and lift the cap on social security] are much too narrow. These have the virtue of being (perhaps) sellable on Capitol Hill, despite the bipartisan promise not to increase taxes on the middle class. But as a solution to our inequality problem they are woefully inadequate.

Update:  Dan Shaviro (NYU), Avi-Yonah Reviews Kleinbard

October 27, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Call for Book Reviews: Journal of Legal Education

Journal of Legal Education (2014)The Journal of Legal Education has issued a call for book review essays and book review essay proposals:

The Journal of Legal Education, the official scholarly publication of the Association of American Law Schools, solicits submission of book review essays and book review essay proposals. The JLE believes that review essays constitute an important means of communicating scholarly ideas and are particularly well-suited to facilitating dialogue and engagement within and among the legal scholarly community. Accordingly, the JLE has adopted a policy of dedicating space in all of its print issues to the publication of timely reviews of books related to the law (broadly defined). 

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October 20, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

L.A. Times: Ed Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This Is 'Moral and Farsighted'

Los Angeles Times:  On Fiscal Policy, USC Professor's Viewpoint is Moral and Farsighted, by Michael Hiltzik:

We Are Better Than This (2014)The left sees me as a Wall Street Journal Satanist, and the right as a stealth Marxian bent on destroying free enterprise," Edward D. Kleinbard was saying.

The USC law professor was referring to the reactions elicited by his recent op-ed in the New York Times, in which he asserted that the solution to economic inequality in the U.S. was not to make the tax system more progressive — it's already "the most progressive in the developed world," he wrote — but to make it bigger.

As he explained when we met last week at USC's Gould School of Law, where he has taught tax law since 2009, that would render the entire fiscal system more progressive, because it would fund more spending. Government spending is always progressive, benefiting middle- and lower-income people more than the wealthy. So: If you want to reduce inequality, expanding government is more effective than merely increasing the relative burden on the rich.

One can see why left and right alike felt that their shibboleths were being skewered.

But Kleinbard's viewpoint is both moral and farsighted. It's also an important theme of his newly published book, We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money.

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October 19, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress: Avoiding the Mistakes That Create Unhappy and Unprofessional Lawyers

HiddenLawrence Krieger (Florida State), The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress: Avoiding the Mistakes That Create Unhappy and Unprofessional Lawyers (Kindle 2014):

This brief book has been purchased for students by more than half the law schools in the United States, Canada, and Australia. It tells you why law school can be so stressful (p.s. -- it's not what you think!), and why it doesn’t have to be that way. The content combines the experience of generations of law students and lawyers, many law teachers, and 40 years of scientific research on what determines whether you will be happy, anxious, or depressed.

The author is a recognized expert in attorney and law student well-being. He recently completed the largest in-depth study of lawyer mental health to date, involving several thousand lawyers in four states.

October 7, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rubin: Are Law Schools Failing?

FailingEdward Rubin (Vanderbilt), The Future and Legal Education: Are Law Schools Failing and, If So, How?, 39 Law & Soc. Inquiry 499 (2014):

In Failing Law Schools (2010), Brian Tamanaha recommends that law schools respond to the current economic crisis in the legal profession by reducing support for faculty research and developing two-year degree programs. But these ideas respond only to a short-term problem that will probably be solved by the closure of marginal institutions. The real challenge lies in the powerful long-term trends that animate social change, particularly the shift to a knowledge-based economy and the demand for social justice through expanded public services. These trends demand that law schools transform their educational programs to reflect the regulatory, transactional, and interdisciplinary nature of modern legal practice.

October 7, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (12)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Larson: The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789

My friend and colleague Ed Larson has published his latest book, The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789 (2014):

ReturnPulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson [Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (2006)] recovers a crucially important—yet almost always overlooked—chapter of George Washington’s life, revealing how Washington saved the United States by coming out of retirement to lead the Constitutional Convention and serve as our first president.

After leading the Continental Army to victory in the Revolutionary War, George Washington shocked the world: he retired. In December 1783, General Washington, the most powerful man in the country, stepped down as Commander in Chief and returned to private life at Mount Vernon. Yet as Washington contentedly grew his estate, the fledgling American experiment floundered. Under the Articles of Confederation, the weak central government was unable to raise revenue to pay its debts or reach a consensus on national policy. The states bickered and grew apart. When a Constitutional Convention was established to address these problems, its chances of success were slim. Jefferson, Madison, and the other Founding Fathers realized that only one man could unite the fractious states: George Washington. Reluctant, but duty-bound, Washington rode to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to preside over the Convention.

Although Washington is often overlooked in most accounts of the period, this masterful new history from Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward J. Larson brilliantly uncovers Washington’s vital role in shaping the Convention—and shows how it was only with Washington’s support and his willingness to serve as President that the states were brought together and ratified the Constitution, thereby saving the country.

Wall Street Journal, George Washington’s Years of Retirement Shaped the Republic as Much as the Victories He Won on the Battlefield, by Richard Snow:

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October 5, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 3, 2014

4th Annual NYU/UCLA Tax Policy Symposium: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century

NYU UCLAThe Fourth Annual NYU/UCLA Tax Policy Symposium on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century takes place today at UCLA:

The day-long event will consist of five panels featuring leading scholars who will analyze the book from economic, legal, historical, political science and philosophical perspectives. Thomas Piketty will participate in the discussion and deliver responses to each of the papers presented.

  • Joseph Bankman (Stanford) & Daniel Shaviro (NYU), moderated by Eric Zolt (UCLA)
  • Gregory Clark (UC-Davis), moderated by Joshua Blank (NYU)
  • Wojciech Kopczuk (Columbia), moderated by David Kamin (NYU)
  • Suzanne Mettler (Cornell), moderated by Jason Oh (UCLA)
  • Liam Murphy (NYU), moderated by Kirk Stark (UCLA)

All papers will be published in the Tax Law Review in 2015.

October 3, 2014 in Book Club, Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Build a Better Law Professor

National Law Journal Special Report, How to Build a Better Law Professor:

Book 2A good legal education offers more than an understanding of case law — it provides students with the real-world skills they need to succeed, an appreciation for the role of attorneys in society and the confidence to pursue their career goals. In this special report, we look at a new book [What the Best Law Professors Do (Harvard University Press, 2013)] that identifies the top law teachers in the country and spotlight how some of those honorees approach teaching.

Patti Alleva (North Dakota)
Rory Bahadur (Washburn)
Cary Bricker (McGeorge)
Roberto Corrada (Denver)
Bridget Crawford (Pace)

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September 29, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-Page Book a Bestseller?

PikettyThe Guardian, Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-Page Book a Bestseller?:

Thomas Piketty is a French economist whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century has swept American discourse. Four experts – Brad DeLong, Tyler Cowen, Stephanie Kelton and Emanuel Derman – take on why that is.

There’s been a bizarre phenomenon this year: a young, little-known French economist has written a 700-page tome about economic inequality – dense with data, historical examples from France, and a few literary references to Jane Austen.

That’s not the strange part. This is: it’s a bestseller.

Somehow, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty has become a conversation piece among well-read people. Its graphic red-and-ivory cover is inescapable. Early in its launch, it hit No 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list and the paper version – a doorstop in punishing, heavy hardcover – sold out in major bookstores.

Piketty’s main argument is this: that invested capital – in the stock market, in real estate – will grow faster than income.

The implications of that are deep: to have invested capital, you must have money already. If you rely on income, as most people do, you will likely never catch up to the wealth of people who are already rich. The 1% and the 99% enshrined by Occupy are not an anomaly of our time, Piketty’s research suggests. It’s a structural feature of capitalism. Piketty’s work – which has been in progress for over a decade – is a natural pairing with the Occupy movement, which also questions the premises of capitalism.

You can see the appeal of such an argument, which has driven the book to become a cultural touchpoint. Seattle quoted Piketty in its minimum-wage law. The book has had so many reviews and articles that it’s possible for someone to feel as if they have read it even without cracking the cover.

Which raises the question: why this book? The themes that Piketty brings up have been enshrined in discussion about progressive economists for decades. No fewer than three Nobel Prize winners – Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Robert Solow – have all devoted much of their careers to studying inequality. On Friday, 19 September, I moderated a panel at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth that included Solow as well as economists Brad DeLong, Tyler Cowen and Russ Roberts. For 90 minutes, they hammered out the implications of Piketty’s work -- and the discussion ended with much more to say.

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September 26, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Johnston Reviews Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This

David Cay Johnston (Syracuse), Book Review: Edward D. Kleinbard, We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014), 144 Tax Notes 1465 (Sept. 22, 2014):

KleinbardWe Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014) by Edward D. Kleinbard is a comprehensive, thoughtful, and informed volume on taxation and government spending.

This masterpiece of tax, fiscal, and economic policy is richly endowed with philosophical insights from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments and holds the potential to change our often dogmatic and sometimes toxic public debate over how we tax ourselves and spend our tax dollars into a conversation about how to raise more money with less pain and spend in ways that will produce a happier America.

Kleinbard's book is especially useful in proposing a new way to measure capital incomes and a much smarter way to tax corporate profits. ...

The book challenges bedrock tax policy assumptions -- the marginal utility of income theory; the value of progressive taxation; the idea that regressive taxes are bad and should not be used to fund universal services like healthcare, education and infrastructure; the way we tax capital incomes, especially now that most businesses are pass-through entities, which he calls incoherent.

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September 24, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Public Finance Textbooks and the Excess Burdens of Taxation

Public FinanceCecil Bohanon, John Borowitz & James McClure (all of Ball State), Saying Too Little, Too Late: Public Finance Textbooks and the Excess Burdens of Taxation, 11 J. Econ. Watch 277 (2014):

Taxation has several significant excess burdens, including enforcement costs, compliance costs, and deadweight losses. Most estimates find that raising a dollar of tax revenue costs much more than a dollar. Unfortunately, commonly used public finance textbooks do not integrate these costs into discussions of public goods or cost-benefit analyses. Not including these costs means that the optimal levels of public goods will be overestimated. Textbooks say too little, too late about the excess burdens of taxation. They could easily introduce excess burdens early, represent them in public goods diagrams, and integrate them throughout public finance instruction.

September 18, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Red Letter Day at Pepperdine

Red LetterAs I have blogged before, one of my favorite things about Pepperdine is the opportunity to meet some of the interesting people drawn to this place.  I had the privlege last night of hearing Tony Campolo deliver a public lecture, followed by a breakfast meeting this morning with Tony and fifty students, faculty, and staff to discuss his provocative book, Red Letter Revolution, co-authored with Shane Claiborne (whom I blogged about here):

For all the Christians facing conflict between Jesus’ words and their own lives, for all the non-Christians who feel they rarely see Jesus’ commands reflected in the choices of his followers, Red Letter Revolution is a blueprint for a new kind of Christianity, one consciously centered on the words of Jesus, the Bible’s “red letters.”

Framed as a captivating dialogue between Shane Claiborne, a progressive young evangelical, and Tony Campolo, a seasoned pastor and professor of sociology, Red Letter Revolution is a life-altering manifesto for skeptics and Christians alike. It is a call to a lifestyle that considers first and foremost Jesus’ explicit, liberating message of sacrificial love.

Shane and Tony candidly bring the words of Jesus to bear on contemporary issues of violence, community, Islam, hell, sexuality, civil disobedience, and twenty other critical topics for people of faith and conscience today. The resulting conversations reveal the striking truth that Christians guided unequivocally by the words of Jesus will frequently reach conclusions utterly contrary to those of mainstream evangelical Christianity.

September 17, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Understanding Thomas Piketty and His Critics

PikettyThe Heritage Foundation: Understanding Thomas Piketty and His Critics, by Curtis S. Dubay & Salim Furth:

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a treatise on how wealth inequality evolves in capitalistic economies. Piketty uses data stretching back to the 18th century to describe the historical evolution of wealth and inequality, proposes a model that matches the data, and uses that model to predict rising wealth inequality in the 21st century. He recommends punitive taxes on high incomes and wealth to prevent the scenario that he predicts. However, the best critiques of Piketty have shown that most of the links in his argument are broken. Piketty’s model does not match his data as well as he claims. His prediction of permanently rising wealth inequality rests on two implausible modeling assumptions. And his recommendation of punitive taxes is based on the glib assumption that capital accumulation is unimportant for wage growth, an assumption at odds with the data and even with his own model. As a result, almost nothing in Capital in the Twenty-First Century can be applied usefully to policymaking.

Heritage

September 15, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remus Reviews Rostain & Regan's Confidence Games

ConfidenceDana A. Renus (North Carolina), Confidence Breach: A Breakdown in Professional Self-Regulation, 92 Tex. L. 1599 (2014) (reviewing Tanina Rostain (Georgetown) & Milton C. Regan, Jr. (Georgetown), Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Crisis (MIT Press, 2014)):

At the turn of the twenty-first century, lawyers at several of the country’s most prestigious law and accounting firms participated in a fraudulent tax shelter scandal that cost the U.S. Treasury billions of dollars. It was not the first time lawyers had participated in a high-profile corporate scandal, nor would it be the last. What was unique was the extent and nature of the lawyers’ involvement. As Mitt Regan and Tanina Rostain explain in their new book, Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Industry, “[lawyers’] fingerprints were everywhere: on the shelters they designed, the promotional materials they prepared, the client pitches they made, and the opinion letters they drafted and signed.” The resulting scandal, the authors argue, “likely represents the most serious episode of lawyer wrongdoing in the history of the American bar.”

In Confidence Games, Regan and Rostain set out to explain how and why such widespread and pervasive wrongdoing occurred. They challenge the narratives that laid blame on a finite number of bad actors and seek to offer a more comprehensive account of the actors and events that gave rise to the scandal. One of their core insights is that a complete understanding must account for institutional factors and not just individual actors. The authors focus on three factors in particular—a lax regulatory environment, a competitive global economy, and intense organizational pressures within law and accounting firms. In exploring these related causes, Regan and Rostain offer valuable insights on how the structures and cultures of the implicated law and accounting firms undermined and distorted lawyers’ professional judgment. They conclude Confidence Games with promising proposals for improving the regulation of tax practice.

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September 11, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Time to End the 'Philanthropic Gamesmanship' of Donor-Advised Funds

Following up on my previous posts (links below):  New York Review of Books, Stop the Misuse of Philanthropy!, by Lewis B. Cullman (Author, Can’t Take It With You—The Art of Making and Giving Money (2014)):

Can'tAt ninety-five, as a businessman and philanthropist, I want to call attention to little-known ploys in US philanthropy that rob our society of hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for important charitable causes—leaving money stashed away in financial institutions and doing no good for anyone except money managers and other financial intermediaries.

In the past twenty years, I’ve given away close to $500 million of my own money. ... I saw how private foundations were able to take unfair advantages of the charitable deduction. ... But now I want to complain about a newer wrinkle that makes me even more indignant, one I deem “philanthropic gamesmanship.”

The more aggressive game in philanthropy I have in mind, one with a soothing but misleading name, is called Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs). Back in 1991, the Boston-based Fidelity Investments applied to the Brooklyn IRS and got a ruling that drastically changed the tax landscape governing charitable donations. Donors get the same tax benefits when they give to a DAF that they would get by contributing to a museum, soup kitchen, university, or any other federally accepted charity. But rather than having the gift made directly to a charity, the funds can simply sit in the account awaiting instructions from the donor. If the donor never gets around to making distributions, they stay in the account earning substantial fees for investment managers. Recently, mutual fund management companies such as Fidelity, Vanguard, and Charles Schwab have set up separate charity accounts to compete for funds.

These funds can provide such tax benefits because the donor must give up all legal control over his or her money when the transfer is made to a DAF. The control is transferred to the administrators of the DAF. ...

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September 10, 2014 in Book Club, Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Love Does

Love DoesOne of my favorite things about Pepperdine is the opportunity to meet some of the interesting people drawn to this place.  At last Wendesday's inaugural law school bible study, I met Bob Goff, an adjunct professor who is a legend on campus.  After meeting Bob, I bought and devoured his wonderful book, Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World:

As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren't good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean’s office for seven days until they finally let him enroll. 

Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world's best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world’s most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it's not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob's love takes action. Bob believes Love Does.

When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don't want to miss.

Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob's life and attitude just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too.

I now have the title picked out for my first non-tax book:  Love Blogs.

August 31, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mehrotra: The Intellectual Roots of An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution

Ajay K. Mehrotra (Indiana), Charles A. Beard & The Columbia School of Political Economy: Revisiting the Intellectual Roots of the Beardian Thesis, 29 Const. Comment. 475 (2014):

BeardA century after it was first published, Charles A. Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution remains a significant and controversial part of constitutional scholarship and history. Just as Beard sought to historicize the Founders as they drafted and adopted the Constitution, this article attempts to historicize Beard as he researched and wrote his classic text on the Constitution. Because Beard was both a graduate student and professor at Columbia University before and while he researched and wrote his book, this article explores the particular influence that Columbia University’s institutional and intellectual climate may have had on Beard and the writing of An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution.

This article contends that Charles Beard was the product of a unique Columbia tradition of inductive, proto-institutionalist research in political economy – a tradition that at its core sought to meld serious political and historical scholarship with progressive social activism. Yet, in many ways, Columbia’s influence on Beard was more reinforcing than it was revolutionary. Columbia, in other words, facilitated an evolution rather than a dramatic transformation in Beard’s thinking. His time at Columbia provided him with new scholarly perspectives and research methods, but ultimately these new views heightened his innate tension between scholarly objectivity and political advocacy, between his belief in social scientific research and his desires for social democratic reform. In short, Beard’s time at Columbia, as both a student and junior scholar, refined his personal predilections and his early upbringing and education, rather than radically converting him into a new thinker and writer.

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August 29, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dear Committee Members: A Novel

Slate Book Review:  Strongest Possible Endorsement: A Funny and Lacerating Novel of Academia Written in the Form of Letters of Recommendation:

Dear CommitteeI have been tasked with assessing Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members, an epistolary novel consisting entirely of fictionalized letters of recommendation penned by professor Jason Fitger (failed novelist, failed husband, successful misanthrope). Although professor Fitger is—despite his correct opinions on the current state of the academic professions, and rare mitzvahs for his few remaining friends—an abhorrent human being, I cannot help but give this year in his life—which is narrated solely through his self-centered, off-topic, usually-counterproductive “endorsements” of colleagues, students, and friends—my strongest possible recommendation. 

Indeed, like his innumerable crotchety-white-male-academic protagonist predecessors (some of my favorites: Nabokov’s Humbert, Goethe’s Faust, Chabon’s Grady, Franzen’s Chip), Jason Fitger makes up in self-importance what he lacks in human contact with anyone who can stand him. “I’ll get around to my evaluation of Professor Ali,” Fitger explains in an alleged letter of support for a colleague’s tenure case. “But I have a few other things on my mind also, and it would be foolish of me, I think—it would be remiss—if I didn’t take this opportunity to address a few of them. After all, how often does a lowly professor of creative writing and English have the ear” of the associate vice provost? He then unleashes a tirade of grievances about the decrepit facilities and lackluster funding of his department, touching only briefly on his colleague’s many accomplishments. ...

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August 21, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ajay Mehrotra's Making the Modern American Fiscal State Wins 2014 U.S. Intellectual History Book Award

Ajay2014 Society for U.S. Intellectual History Book Award Winner:

We are pleased to announce our selection of Ajay K. Mehrotra’s Making the Modern American Fiscal State: Law, Politics, and the Rise of Progressive Taxation, 1877-1929 (Cambridge University Press, 2013) as this year’s winner of the S-USIH annual book award for 2014.

Mehrotra’s important and ambitious book chronicles the early 20th-century transformation in American tax policy and public finance. It analyzes the shift from the nineteenth-century “regime of indirect, hidden, partisan, and regressive taxes” to the “direct, transparent, professionally administered, and progressive tax system” we know today. A book on taxation may well seem a curious choice for an intellectual history prize, but we were struck by how successfully Mehrotra weaves together the intellectual, legal, administrative threads of his argument. Mehrotra takes ideas seriously. He traces legal and administrative change to a prior “conceptual revolution,” wrought primarily by a cohort of professionally trained intellectuals, including Henry Carter Adams, Richard Ely, and Edwin R.A. Seligman. And he shows how notions of economic justice, political obligation, ethical duty, and democratic reciprocity underwrote the new progressive conception of what Mehrotra aptly labels “fiscal citizenship.” He also shows what happened to those ideas as they traveled through a contested political process and were embodied in a complex administrative apparatus with paradoxical and often unintended consequences. Mehrotra’s book is thus a history of ideas in action. It makes a signal contribution to the field by demonstrating how even the most seemingly mundane features of our world have strikingly rich intellectual histories.

August 18, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

New York Times Sunday Review:  Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain, by Daniel J. Levitin (McGill) (author, The Organized Mind (2014)):

Organized MindThis month, many Americans will take time off from work to go on vacation, catch up on household projects and simply be with family and friends. And many of us will feel guilty for doing so. We will worry about all of the emails piling up at work, and in many cases continue to compulsively check email during our precious time off.

But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains. ...

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not. ...

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

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August 17, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)