Smart Ideas: Amazon Has Another River in Mind

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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Jan. 22, 2018, 8 p.m.

Amazon looking across the Potomac

Justin Fox, writing for Bloomberg View

The D.C. area appears to be the “prohibitive favorite” for Amazon’s second headquarters, and not just because Jeff Bezos owns the largest home and newspaper in the nation’s capital. “Amazon Web Services, the company’s fast-growing (and consistently profitable, unlike the rest of the business) cloud-computing division, went public last summer with plans to open its East Coast corporate campus in Northern Virginia,” home to the country’s most densely-concentrated cloud-computing infrastructure, “where it has major data center operations and is reportedly in the market for 2 million square feet more.” And now that it seems to have narrowed down to the D.C. area, it must decide between Northern Virginia, D.C proper, and Montgomery County, Maryland. Northern Virginia, of all three, has the land and relatively affordable homes to accommodate 50,000 or more new employees and would likely choose to build along the Metro’s Silver Line towards Sterling. NoVa may not land Bezos’s office though: “Maybe the HQ proper will be closer in, perhaps in Washington itself, with a string of larger campuses strewn outward.”

Term limits inhibit congressional cooperation

Casey Burgat, writing for Brookings Institution

Congressional term limits would have a number of ill effects. Besides the obvious—reducing voter power and removing effective lawmakers from office—it would severely limit members of Congress from learning how to do their jobs. “Crafting legislative proposals is a learned skill; as in other professions, experience matters. … Being on the job allows members an opportunity to learn and navigate the labyrinth of rules, precedents, and procedures unique to each chamber.” Member-to-member interactions often “solidify a measure’s final details, build coalitions, and ultimately get legislation passed,” leading to odd combinations like Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham agreeing on immigration. But it isn’t that odd upon examination; they have served for 21 years together. “Strangers in a new environment are in a far worse position to readily trust and rely on their colleagues, particularly from across the aisle,” and Congress as a whole would likely defer even more to the executive branch and agencies due to lack of policy expertise.

College endowment tax a bad idea

Phillip Levine, writing for Inside Higher Ed

The college-endowment tax, a provision of the new Republican tax law, is a poor approach to promoting quality education “with an affordable price tag.” The tax was designed to increase the number of Americans who could attend college by taxing endowments, thereby causing schools to spend more. Supporters of this approach fundamentally misunderstand the financial-aid system, because it does not address the foundational barrier to recruiting low-income students: communicating the true cost of tuition. Lower income students often view the high sticker costs of university as fixed, rather than as an adjustable price after student loans were factored in. Universities need more programs like Posse or QuestBridge, that help recruit students and act as intermediaries. Instead of taxing endowments, the government should be promoting more “innovative strategies” to address the “information problem” confounding educational equity in the U.S.

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