Washington, D.C. Tax Rate Cuts Increased Economic Growth AND Tax Revenue

(p. B1) The capital’s financial affairs were in such disarray by the mid-1990s that they were taken over by a federal financial control board that operated until 2001. Yet in 2014 the council cut corporate and business taxes, reduced individual rates for everyone earning less than $1 million and broadened the tax base by eliminating many loopholes.
As a headline on the conservative website The Daily Caller put it, “Hell Freezes Over: DC Passes Tax Reform.”
In the ensuing years, economic growth and tax receipts have surged, enabling the city to accelerate cuts that were being phased in. The legislation was not revenue neutral, in the sense that broadening the tax base offset the reduction in rates. It was a tax cut. But in a development that would surely warm the hearts of pro-growth Republicans, the economic lift was so strong that tax receipts increased, and last (p. B3) year hit a record.

For the full commentary, see:

JAMES B. STEWART. ”For Tax Reform Lessons, Congress Needn’t Look Far Common Sense.” The New York Times (Fri., September 1, 2017): B1 & B3.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date AUG. 31, 2017.)

Audacious Heart Surgery During WW II Was Proof of Concept

(p. C9) The battle to operate meaningfully within the heart was a source of wonder and inspiration. Innovative in the extreme, brave to the point of recklessness, only exceptional characters could succeed. Some people claimed that only psychopaths could thrive in this environment. They were correct. More sensitive souls, like John Gibbon, who launched open-heart surgery in 1953, gave up after a spate of child deaths.
Thomas Morris tells this history well. “The Matter of the Heart” provides a thoroughly researched and detailed account of the major advances in cardiac surgery as derived from surgical literature, media reports and textbooks.
. . .
On Feb. 19, 1945, the courageous U.S. military surgeon Dwight Harken was attempting to remove bullets and shrapnel from in and around wounded soldiers’ hearts as a group of senior British surgeons looked on. His operating theater consisted of a ramshackle hut with corrugated iron roof in the English Cotswolds. “Working as quickly as he could, Harken now made a small incision in the heart wall and inserted a pair of forceps to widen the opening,” Mr. Morris recounts. “Through this aperture he introduced a clamp and fastened it around the elusive piece of metal. For a moment all was quiet. And then . . . ‘suddenly, with a pop as if a champagne cork had been drawn, the fragment jumped out of the ventricle, forced by the pressure within the chamber. Blood poured out in a torrent.’ . . . Harken put a finger over it, and picking up a needle started to sew it shut. . . . He discovered that he had sewn his glove to the wall of the heart. Finally his assistant cut him loose, and the job was done. Opening the heart, removing the shell fragment and repairing the incision had taken three minutes. His distinguished guests were deeply impressed: this was surgery of a sophistication and audacity which none had seen before.” This was the case that persuaded the English and American allies that heart surgery was indeed a possibility.

For the full review, see:
Stephen Westaby. “How the Beat Goes On; A daring attempt to pick shrapnel from a soldier’s heart opened the door to cardiac surgery.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018): C9.
(Note: ellipsis between paragraphs, added; ellipses internal two second quoted paragraph, in original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan. 26, 2018, and has the title “Review: How the Beat Goes On in ‘The Matter of the Heart’; A daring attempt to pick shrapnel from a soldier’s heart opened the door to cardiac surgery.”)

The book under review, is:
Morris, Thomas. The Matter of the Heart: A History of the Heart in Eleven Operations. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2018.

Harlem Parents Want to Enroll Their Children in Charter Schools

(p. A15) In New York City, . . . , a comprehensive study found improved academic performance, safety, and student engagement at district schools with charter schools, particularly high-performing ones, located nearby or in the same building.
. . .
Ultimately, the bare-knuckled attacks by charter-school opponents are a sign of desperation. Parent demand for a better education is undeniable: 14,000 Harlem children were entered into charter-school lotteries this year, vying for a total of only 3,000 spots; across the city, 48,000 students are on charter school waitlists.
Parents now have the freedom to choose and they are choosing charter schools. It is our responsibility as New Yorkers to give them more of what they want: public schools that are engines of opportunity rather than roadblocks to success.

For the full commentary, see:
Eva Moskowitz. ”Test Scores Don’t Lie: Charter Schools Are Transformative; Our black and Hispanic students in Central Harlem outperform the city’s white pupils by double digits.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Aug. 24, 2017): A15.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 23, 2017.)

The “comprehensive study” mentioned above, is:

Cordes, Sarah A. “In Pursuit of the Common Good: The Spillover Effects of Charter Schools on Public School Students in New York City.” Education Finance and Policy (forthcoming).

Renewed Tinkering on the Farm

(p. B1) The green tractor trundling across a Manitoba field with an empty cab looks like it’s on a collision course with Matt Reimer’s combine–until it neatly turns to pull alongside so he can pour freshly harvested wheat into its trailer.
The robot tractor isn’t a prototype or top-of-the-line showpiece. It’s an eight-year-old John Deere that the 30-year-old Mr. Reimer modified with drone parts, open-source software and a Microsoft Corp. tablet. All told, those items cost him around $8,000. He said that’s about how much he saved on wages for drivers helping with last year’s harvest.
Mr. Reimer’s alterations, which he hopes to replicate for other farmers this year, are part of a technology revolution sweeping North America’s breadbasket. Farmers, many of them self-taught, are building their own robotic equipment, satellite-navigation networks and mobile applications, moving their tinkering projects out of machine sheds and behind a computer screen.
This homespun hacking–which sometimes leapfrogs innovations by big equipment companies like Deere & Co. and navigation specialists like Trimble Navigation Ltd. –reflects dwindling farm incomes, the low price of electronic hardware and, sometimes, off-season boredom.

For the full story, see:
Jacob Bunge. “Farmers Harvest Homegrown Tech.”The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 19, 2016): B1-B2.
(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on May 2, 2016, and has the title “Farmers Reap New Tools From Their Own High-Tech Tinkering.”)

Knowledge from Self-Experimentation Should Be Publishable

(p. D4) When Bob Hariri developed a product he thought could be useful as a human-skin replacement for burn victims, he had no trouble finding a subject willing to test it–himself.
An entrepreneur and a neurosurgeon with both a medical degree and a doctorate, Dr. Hariri is one of a number of scientists who have experimented on themselves with new or yet-to-be approved medical products or technologies, and who say such practice can be indispensable in the development of innovative biomedical treatments.
Some scientists are pushing for self-experimentation data to be reported publicly and more systematically to aid scientific progress. Alex Zhavoronkov, chief executive of an aging-research company called InSilico Medicine Inc., and others hope to start a peer-reviewed journal on self-experimentation, where scientists and other qualified individuals would publish high-quality case studies of tests performed on themselves. He plans to launch a crowdfunding operation in the next few months to fund it.
The idea is “to unlock the knowledge [of self-experimentation] that resides there anyway,” says Dr. Zhavrononkov, who takes an old diabetes drug called metformin that is supposed to have antiaging properties, even though it hasn’t been approved for that purpose.
. . .
Advocates say self-experimentation can yield information that is hard to get from a clinical trial. The experimenter feels what it’s like to be the patient and gets insight into how to improve testing procedures. Also, a number of individual reports, when cobbled together, can start to yield a picture of whether a new treatment is likely to work or not, though one wouldn’t rely on those reports alone to conclude safety or effectiveness.

For the full story, see:
Wang, Shirley S. “Why Medical Researchers Experiment on Themselves.”The Wall Street Journal (Tues., January 26, 2016): D4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 25, 2016, and has the title “IN THE LAB; More Medical Researchers Engage In Self-Experimentation.”)

Child Prodigies Seldom Excel as Adults

(p. 15) Child prodigies are exotic creatures, each unique and inexplicable. But they have a couple of things in common, as Ann Hulbert’s meticulous new book, “Off the Charts,” makes clear: First, most wunderkinds eventually experience some kind of schism with a devoted and sometimes domineering parent. “After all, no matter how richly collaborative a bond children forge with grown-up guides, some version of divorce is inevitable,” Hulbert writes. “It’s what modern experts would call developmentally appropriate.” Second, most prodigies grow up to be thoroughly unremarkable on paper. They do not, by and large, sustain their genius into adulthood.
. . .
The very traits that make prodigies so successful in one arena — their obsessiveness, a stubborn refusal to conform, a blistering drive to win — can make them pariahs in the rest of life. Whatever else they may say, most teachers do not in fact appreciate creativity and critical thinking in their own students. “Off the Charts” is jammed with stories of small geniuses being kicked out of places of learning. Matt Savage spent two days in a Boston-area Montessori preschool before being expelled. Thanks to parents who had the financial and emotional resources to help him find his way, he is now, at age 25, a renowned jazz musician.

For the full review, see:
AMANDA RIPLEY. “Gifted and Talented and Complicated.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, January 21, 2018): 15.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date JAN. 17, 2018.)

The book under review, is:
Hulbert, Ann. Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives and Lessons of American Child Prodigies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.

Farmers Buy Inputs Cheaper Online

(p. B4) Brandon Sinclair spent $26,000 on herbicides for his corn and soybean fields last year, roughly half what he says he used to pay at his local co-operative.
The savings came from a source many U.S. farmers have been slow to tap: the internet.
Farmers have long made pilgrimages to farm stores and co-operatives to purchase seeds, fertilizer and weed and pest killers. Now, with a commodity glut pressuring crop prices and pushing farm incomes to an eight-year low, farmers are scouring the web for better deals on the products they use to grow their crops.
The shift could upend a decades-old system built around small-town suppliers that also offer farming advice and sell services such as spraying for weeds. Mr. Sinclair says the math is simple: Using savings found online, the 31-year old Illinois farmer was able to spring for a helicopter to wrangle his herd of cattle. Now he is urging his neighbors to shop online, too.
“I’ve always been kind of a tech guru and a tight-ass,” Mr. Sinclair said.

For the full story, see:
Jesse Newman and Jacob Bunge. “U.S. Farmers Buy in Bulk Online.”The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Feb. 17, 2017): B4.
(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 16, 2017, and has the title “E-Commerce for Farmers: Shopping Online for $26,000 of Herbicides.”)