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When Congress raises the hood on the tax code, they're usually working to raise money to pay for government. But sometimes they're more interested in nudging us to behave in ways they can't legislate directly. Take the mortgage interest deduction, for example, which "cost" the Treasury $69.7 billion in 2013. That deduction encourages millions of Americans to spend billions of dollars buying homes, building homes, renovating money pits, and keeping their homes looking spiffy — all of which returns billions more through our overall economy.
Americans love a champion, and every year, sports fans get to see new champions crowned. We've got a World Series, a Super Bowl, and NBA finals that drag on for months. We've got the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, and the Nathan's Famous National Hot Dog Eating Contest. And every even-numbered year, the Olympics bring us more exotic champions in curling, synchronized swimming, and dancing horses.
A generation ago, "serious" filmmakers flocking to Hollywood set their sights on movies, not television. Visionary directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola redefined their craft with a new generation of challenging, personal films. By contrast, television was a vast wasteland dominated by lightweight comedies like Happy Days and sappy, feel-good dramas like The Waltons.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Bitcash, and Ethereum rest on a foundation of "blockchain": a continuously growing public transaction ledger consisting of records called "blocks" that are linked together and secured using cryptography. Blockchain bulls see the new technology revolutionizing all sorts of transactions, like real estate sales and medical records. Skeptics dismiss the whole effort as fool's gold, suitable for speculation but nothing more. (Hedge fund tycoon T. Boone Pickens recently tweeted that, "at [age] 89, anything with the word 'crypt' in it is a real turnoff for me.")
Last month, we wrote that New York money manager AllianceBernstein is moving its headquarters and 1,100 employees from a slick black Manhattan skyscraper to the steaming concrete jungles of Nashville, TN. It's going to be culture shock for the firm's employees, who have to trade their harsh winters and corned beef sandwiches for milder weather and hot fried chicken. But AllianceBernstein promises employees they'll love the financial climate most of all: lower housing costs and no personal income tax. Of course taxes played a big part in that move!
Back in the early 80s, a group of Democratic legislators decided to room together to cut the cost of staying in Washington for the three nights or so per week that Congress is in session. The motley crew included Representative George Miller of California (owner of the blue-gray house in Southeast DC), Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer, future Defense Secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta, and others. We can only imagine whose phone numbers they posted on the refrigerator in a house like that. Pizza delivery? Of course! Liquor guy? Oh yeah. Exterminator? Maybe not a bad idea . . . .
It's 1715 in the Caribbean and the Golden Age of Piracy is at its peak. The War of Spanish Succession is over, and thousands of privateers are left without gainful employment. From bases hidden away in the Bahamas, buccaneers like "Calico" Jack Rackham, "Black Sam" Bellamy, and "Black Bart" Roberts gather those sailors under new commands to terrorize the seas. (Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, ties burning fuses into his hair to look more fearsome.) While there are never more than a few thousand pirates active at any given time, their legend will live on for centuries.
On May 14, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act that had made Las Vegas the only state where bettors could gamble on college and professional sports. (Sorry, wrestling fans, no betting for you. Spoiler alert — the matches are fixed.) Imagine how much louder your neighborhood sports pub will get when the obnoxious drunk at the end of the bar who won't stop jabbering about his fantasy team is actually putting his money where his mouth is!
The lights of Broadway have long shone bright as the show business capital of the United States. (Hollywood may have the movies, but it's just not the same. And Vegas? Puh-leaze.) New York theatres attract millions of visitors and billions of dollars every year. Naturally, sharp New Yorkers have co-opted show business tactics to promote all sorts of unrelated businesses. So now, we have fashion-as-theatre, restaurants-as-theatre, and even real-estate-as-theatre.
Cinco de Mayo is almost here! Read on to learn all about the 5th of May and why we find it to be such a cause for celebration.