Monday, October 29, 2007

Pushing the river

A group of law students at Stanford Law School has begun rating prominent law firms on their diversity. The group is called “Building a Better Legal Profession,” and they have an official faculty adviser, Michele Landis Dauber.

The article explains how the process works:

“Law firms in the top fifth received A’s, in the second fifth B’s, and so on. Overall grades were arrived at by averaging grades for partners and associates in five categories: women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and gay people.”

Now, you wouldn’t think that an absence of minorities by itself, without any evidence of discrimination, indicated anything definitively, would you? I mean, that would indict Iowa.

“This is 2007,” Professor Dauber said. “If you can’t find a single black or Hispanic partner, that’s not an accident.”

There you have it--any prominent law firm without a black or Hispanic partner did it on purpose.

The first sentence of the article tells you what this is really about: the market.

“A bunch of law students at Stanford have started assigning letter grades to their prospective employers, which pretty much tells you who holds the power in the market for new associates. It’s not easy to persuade new lawyers from the top schools to accept starting salaries of only $160,000.”

I mean, you need to pay back those loans somehow.

Supposedly, “a second-year student at Stanford recently turned down an offer from one firm as soon as he saw that it got an F on the diversity report card.”

Probably because he had a better offer somewhere else irrespective of the report card.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More of Stanley Fish's Post Modern Rules About Everything

Stanley Fish, literary theorist and Intellectual Decider for the New York Times, comes down hard on Lee Bollinger for getting too political as a university administrator in this column. Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with Fish--I am no expert on what university administrators should and should not do or say. But I would like to point out that Fish’s rules are quite narrow:

“Columbia does not, or at least should not, stand anywhere on the vexed issues of the day, and neither should its chief executive, at least publicly.”

Ever? On anything? Can Columbia as such ever condemn or support anything? Could they have condemned Nazism as a university? (Godwin’s Law strikes again!)

“Remember always what a university is for – the transmission of knowledge and the conferring of analytical skills – and resist the temptation to inflate the importance of what goes on its precincts.”

The conferring of analytical skills? People pay $200,000 just to have analytical skills conferred?!

And finally:

“A university president doesn’t have the luxury of choosing whether to speak as a citizen or as a faculty member or as an administrator.”

anglicancalvinist, please have at Mr. Fish for me.

Taxes and snake oil!

The House Democrats have unveiled an ambitious tax overhaul package. It’s not clear to me how or when it would be passed, or how many bills it would take, but I like most of what I’ve seen so far. It phases out the AMT, reduces the top corporate tax rate, eliminates off-shore deductions, taxes investment management income at income tax rates instead of capital gains rates, and slightly increases the standard deduction for a married couple. Those seem to me like sensible and fair measures, because it’s always seemed to me that we could cut taxes for both the middle class and the affluent if we simply enforced existing tax rules. Of course, what hedge fund manager would RATHER pay 35% than 15%? And which corporation taking a massive deduction for being located in the United Arab Emirates WANTS its breaks eliminated?

Republicans reacted predictably.

"This is the largest individual income tax increase in history," Rep. Jim McCrery of Louisiana, Rangel's low-key GOP counterpart on the committee, wrote fellow Republicans. Rangel, he said, "is selling pure snake oil."

Mmm, snake oil! I’ll take two!


-The plan phases out the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was originally designed to prevent wealthy people from taking too many tax breaks but was never indexed for inflation, by applying a replacement tax of 4 percent of married couple income above a certain level, not to be less than $200,000. The tax would be 4.6 percent on income in excess of $500,000, or $250,000 in the case of a single taxpayer. High-income individuals would see a limitation on itemized deductions and a phase-out of deductions for personal exemptions, raising $29 billion over 10 years.

-The plan reduces the top corporate marginal tax rate from 35 percent to 30.5 percent, at a cost of $364 billion over 10 years. This would be paid for in part through such measures as repealing the domestic production activities deduction and requiring that U.S. corporations that defer income through controlled foreign corporations also defer the deductions that are associated with this income. The last-in-first-out accounting method would also be eliminated, saving $106 billion over 10 years.

-Married couples filing jointly would be entitled to take an additional $850 as a standard deduction, at a cost of $48 billion.

-The number of lower-income taxpayers qualifying for earned income credit would grow, at a cost of $29 billion.

-The refundable child credit would be increased, at a cost of $9 billion.

-Investment fund managers would be prevented from paying taxes at capital gains rates, raising $26 billion.

-Hedge fund managers would be prevented from using offshore tax haven corporations to defer taxes on compensation received for providing investment services, raising $23 billion.

-There would be mandatory cost basis reporting by brokers for transactions involving publicly traded securities, raising $4 billion.