Abolish the Corporate Income Tax

A recent online debate involving Nathaniel (and me to a much, much lesser extent) brought up corporate income tax. It reminded me of this recent article in the Wall Street Journal. The author lists ten reasons to abolish it altogether:

  1. The “engine of tax complexity disappears. And with it disappears an army of lobbyists in Washington working to get favorable tax treatment for corporations.”
  2. “With no corporate income tax, management would concentrate on what is now pretax profits, an artifact of actual wealth creation.”
  3. “[T]here would be no reason to tax dividends at lower rates to compensate for the fact that they now are paid out of after-tax profits.”
  4. Due to increased profits, “corporations would increase both dividends and investment in plant and equipment, with very positive effects for the economy as a whole and increased revenue to the government through the personal income tax.”
  5. The “stock prices…would rise substantially, inducing a wealth effect as people see their 401(k)s and mutual funds rising in value.”
  6. “[T]he distinction between for-profit and nonprofit corporations would disappear.”
  7. “[M]uch of the $2 trillion of foreign earnings, now kept abroad to avoid being taxed when repatriated, would flow into this country.”
  8. With no corporate income tax, “foreign corporations would flock to invest here…”
  9. In order to compete, foreign countries “would be forced to lower or eliminate their own corporate income taxes, increasing domestic corporate profits and thus domestic investment and personal income…”
  10. Finally, “eliminating the corporate income tax would deal a blow to crony capitalism.”

Check out the full article.

Maybe North Korea Didn’t Hack Sony

999 - 2015 01 01 hackedbygop-1024x511

According to the White House, the FBI, and lots of other folks who really should be pretty sure of these things before making statements or taking action, North Korea was behind the infamous Sony hacks that have been in the news for most of the end of 2014. Apparently, the US was confident enough to retaliate by shutting down Internet to the entire country:

North Korea called U.S. President Barack Obama a “monkey” and blamed Washington on Saturday for Internet outages it has experienced during a confrontation with the United States over the hacking of the film studio Sony Pictures. The National Defense Commission, the North’s ruling body chaired by state leader Kim Jong Un, said Obama was responsible for Sony’s belated decision to release the action comedy “The Interview,” which depicts a plot to assassinate Kim.

And yet, as I’ve been paying attention to the story I am not convinced that we’ve got the write villain. It’s articles like this one that, as far as I can tell, make the strong case that the hack was actually an inside job pulled off primarily by disgruntled ex-employees of Sony itself. One of the first things to point out, for example, is that the hackers showed absolutely zero interest in “The Interview” until after media reports arose alleging a possible North Korean connection. Only at that point did the hackers make an issue out of it, as though taking a convenient opportunity to throw researchers on the wrong track.

Other reasons to think that North Korea might not have been to blame? Logs indicate that files were transferred at a rate that you would only get by physically plugging a device into the server to download files, not by moving them over the Internet. Specific IP addresses and user credentials were known to the hackers ahead of time, not discovered during preliminary hacks. Linguistic examination of online communication by the hackers (Guardians of Peace or GOP) suggests they are native Russian speakers, not native Korean or English speakers.

The leading theory, from where I’m standing, is that an angry, laid-off worker with tech skills (security researchers believe they have identified her individually) teamed up with the kind of hackers who resent Sony for attacking the Pirate Bay and other anti-piracy measures and maybe some friends left inside the company to pull off the hack. Why would the government get it wrong? Well, it’s not like it’s the kind of thing that North Korea wouldn’t or couldn’t do, so I don’t think it was a stupid mistake or a conspiracy theory or anything. But I don’t have a lot of confidence in the federal government’s ability to do this kind of analysis correctly and even less confidence in their ability to correct a mistaken impression once it takes hold at a senior level. Would you want to be the one who told the President he’d gone public with bad intel?

On the other hand, I can’t really think of a worse possible reason to start World War III than mistaken accusations about hacking a movie studio, so I really do hope they figure this one out.


Damon Linker: What I Got Wrong in 2014

Damien Linker
Note: My beard is *way* bigger than Linker’s.


The only time I got into a discussion with Damon Linker was a rather heated exchange a month or two back about an article he’d written about ISIS. I still think that was a bad article of his  (and, since it didn’t make his list of bad pieces from 2014, I gather he still thinks it was a good article), but I was disappointed that it was our only contact since he’s written several articles that I thought were quite good. In fact, I wrote about one of them earlier this month.

In some ways, though, this is his best one: What I got wrong in 2014

I say “in some ways” because what Damon Linker thinks he got wrong is not the same as what I think Damon Linker got wrong. But that’s not that point. The point is that anyone writing an article about their missteps from the prior year is setting a healthy example of the rest of us. It’s a little late in the year for me to do a review of my own 2014 writings, but, in exactly one year, you can expect to read an article about what Nathaniel Givens got wrong in 2015.

In the meantime? Ironically, perhaps, the fact that I’ve got a plan to review my own mistakes makes me less worried about making them. I mean look: trying not to make mistakes is kind of a dumb goal. You can try to be careful. You can try to work hard. You can try to be honest. Those things are in your control. But, once you’ve done those things, whether or not you’re right or wrong is up to luck and fate. By planning on writing a piece about my own mistakes, I’m reminding myself that it’s just another one of those things that I can write about and analyze, not some deeply personal assessment of my value as a human being. So yeah: pressure’s off. Time to go to work for 2015.