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Miscellany

FOREIGN POLICIESAfter addressing a conservative group recently, I was asked by a member of the audience whether the Clinton Administration’s economic policies were based on the theories of Marxian economics. While the question might seem paranoid at first, in reality it was overly optimistic. Neither Marxian economics, Keynesian economics, supply-side economics, nor any other known …

FOREIGN POLICIES

After addressing a conservative group recently, I was asked by a member of the audience whether the Clinton Administration’s economic policies were based on the theories of Marxian economics. While the question might seem paranoid at first, in reality it was overly optimistic. Neither Marxian economics, Keynesian economics, supply-side economics, nor any other known school of economics can explain the policies originating in Washington.

-Thomas Sowell, Forbes


IN TASSELS WE TRUST

To say “tasseled loafer” in Washington is not just to describe a simple shoe, but to utter a political phrase, often part of an epithet.

When George Bush wanted to hurl a wounding barb during the last presidential campaign, he complained that Bill Clinton was supported by “every lawyer who ever wore a tasseled loafer.”

In France, the tasseled loafer makes its own peculiar political statement. John Vinocur, the executive editor of The International Herald Tribune, said that the shoes were worn, actually flaunted, by young rightists in the mid-1980s who wished to demonstrate their distaste for the Socialist Government.

To them, the preppiness of the shoe represented American prosperity and free-market conservatism. Thus, it became part of the battle uniform of the young soldier of la contre-revolution.

That all became blurred, Mr. Vinocur said, when many French leftists soon followed suit and abandoned their proletarian footwear in favor of the tasseled loafers. “It helped them get tables in the better restaurants,” he said. Apart from the delicious weirdness of having legions of Frenchmen trying to look like the Phillips Academy class of 1964, the French have at least one thing correct. The shoe is certainly a distinctly American creation.

-Neil A. Lewis, The New York Times


CZECH-MATE

No wonder we’re having trade problems-even the White House can’t distinguish one country from another. An official White House schedule recently listed Lech Walesa as president of the Czech Republic. Maybe a certain White House resident didn’t want to hear anything about the Poles.

-International Business


FOB STORY

It somehow caught our eye that Barbra Streisand picked up $20 million for two days’ work at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. We’ve never objected to anyone collecting what the market thinks she or he is worth, but we do recall that Ms. Streisand is a certified Friend of Bill. And we somehow doubt this will provoke a denunciation of “greed” of the sort the president and his wife have leveled at doctors, insurers, and drug manufacturers. Indeed, Ms. Streisand and similarly situated FOBs enjoy a privileged position under the new tax code Mr. Clinton has imposed as penance for the Greed Decade. Certainly $20 million in loot qualifies her as “rich,” and she’ll have to pay her “fair share.” But at least MGM Grand Inc. gets to deduct her compensation as an ordinary business expense, taking her $20 million off its gross receipts before paying taxes on whatever net is left. That’s presumably because in the moral universe of the Clinton tax code, warbling tunes for Vegas high rollers qualifies as work of redeeming social value.

For certain more suspect lines of employment, pay no longer can be deducted as an ordinary cost of business, at least if over a year it adds up to 1/20th of what Ms. Streisand takes for a couple hours of work. MGM Grand can deduct whatever it decides to pay her, but it can’t deduct more than $1 million of whatever it pays its top five executives.

As it happens, these folks don’t make anything like what Ms. Streisand does. President and CEO Bob Maxey has base pay of $525,000 a year, and Chairman Fred Benninger gets $610,000. You could argue that it’s different because they set their own salaries, but they don’t. They report to a board dominated by majority shareholder Kirk Kerkorian, not known as a blushing-violet negotiator.

-The Wall Street Journal


NERVOUS CIVIL SERVICE

Has Trade Minister Richard Needham hit on a solution to the blocking tactics of top civil servants famously portrayed in the “Yes Minister” TV series?

“I can’t fire anyone,” he complained ‘to a fringe meeting during the Tories’ Blackpool conference. But then he added brightly, “I can give them a nervous breakdown and hope they’ll leave.”

-Financial Times

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