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Showing posts from June, 2011

When 'Rich' Isn't

Today, June 29, 2011, President Obama had a press conference to address the U.S. budget mess. During his opening statements and throughout the questioning, the president kept saying that "millionaires and billionaires" needed to pay their fair share. It's a favorite phrase of the president and one Andrew Ross Sorkin addressed earlier this year.

Pres. Obama might talk about the "wealthy" but he really means those with annual incomes over $250,000. Problem one with "wealthy" is that many wealthy, especially billionaires, don't have incomes. They earn capital gains and have investments, but they don't get weekly paychecks like the rest of us. Since we have an income tax, those can't be the men and women the president wants to tax. Problem two? The wealthy, at $250,000 a year, aren't all that wealthy in the cities where they are most likely to live.

Rich and Sort of RichMay 14, 2011By ANDREW ROSS SORKINHow did $250,000 become the magic numbe…

Congressional Budget Office - Data on the Distribution of Federal Taxes and Household Income

For those convinced the "rich" don't pay their "fair share" there are graphs that prove otherwise. What is fair, anyway?
Congressional Budget Office - Data on the Distribution of Federal Taxes and Household Income

My Alternatives to High-Speed Rail

After a great deal of research on the matter, I have been an outspoken critic of high-speed rail. The binary simplicity of the major political parties and our media outlets soon reduce this debate to a different, larger debate: public vs. private spending. Any nuance? That doesn't make for good two-minute "debates" on cable news. When people read that I cannot support high-speed rail, one side of the issue assumes I'm against all public projects. In fact, I agree with the American Society of Civil Engineers that we need at least $2.2 trillion (yes, that's with a "T") in short-term investment simply to maintain our existing infrastructure. Building a cool train while bridges are collapsing seems wasteful to me. And the notion we can spend on huge new projects without taking the money from other projects is idealistic. As a nation, we have limited funds. We must spend money in ways that have the greatest return on investment. A colleague said I was wanti…

Kids Own Up To Ownership - Science News

I appreciate the implications of this research. Though I believe humans are naturally, evolutionarily, predisposed to be competitive and self-interested (for better and worse), this research helps demonstrate how we adjust our views with age and experience. We might be naturally selfish (watch children at play), but we also mature and learn to apply ethical systems to control our impulses.

Kids Own Up To Ownership - Science News:
Kids own up to ownership: Concept of property rights may come naturally to preschoolers
By Bruce Bower June 18th, 2011; Vol.179 #13 (p. 17)

WASHINGTON — Young children are possessed by possessions. Preschoolers argue about what belongs to whom with annoying regularity, a habit that might suggest limited appreciation of what it means to own something.

But it’s actually just the opposite, psychologist Ori Friedman of the University of Waterloo in Canada reported on May 28 at the Association for Psychological Science annual meeting. At ages 4 and 5, youngsters value…

David Stockman: Bailouts Did not Prevent Depression

Yesterday (June 22, 2011) on MSNBC's "Dylan Ratigan Show" David Stockman stood up to the nonsense of the left, in the person of Jonathan Alter. Read beyond my discussion of yesterday's debate for additional perspective on the debate participants. Alter's biases, in particular, were on fine display on MSNBC as he completely ignored facts and instead embraced the mythology of an Obama Miracle. (see http://vodpod.com/watch/11561241-david-stockman-on-the-dylan-ratigan-show)My favorite moment was when Alter asked Stockman if he knew GE's business better than Jeffrey R. Immelt, friend and advisor to President Obama. "Yes," Stockman replied and proceeded to explain precisely how GE Capital was a financial mess, bailed out by the administration. Alter quoted Immelt as saying GE was near collapse. Well, duh? It was. But it was near collapse because of stupid choices made by Immelt and others within the company. GE was invested heavily in credit default swaps…

Obama Donors and Special Access = More, Bigger, Faster

One of the many aspects of our government that I dislike is the "pay to play" nature of influencing elected leaders. If you were idealistic enough to imagine President Obama would somehow be different, I could have proven you were wrong before election day. He received more donations from the top 1% of Americans than any other president. He also received more money from Wall Street than his opponent.

By June of 2008, the Obama advantage on Wall Street was clear.
(AP - June 2008) For both candidates, Wall Street's investment and banking sectors have become among their portliest cash cows, contributing $9.5 million to Obama and $5.3 million to McCain so far.There is a commenter on DailyKos using the ID "Goldman Owned Party" as a dig at the Republicans. But, that's also far from accurate. Goldman Sachs has a history of connections to the Democrats in congress, especially the Senate. This makes sense, because the financial industry is in New York City, not a GOP …

Obama versus ATMs and Kiosks

Beatable, And He Knows It - Investors.com: "'The other thing that happened,' the president claimed in an NBC 'Today Show' interview Tuesday, 'is there are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers.

'You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM. You don't go to a bank teller. Or you go to the airport and you're using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.'"I've written about automation and job changes in several blog posts. We gain from technology, particularly in terms of human safety and life expectancy. Automation in factories has made factories safer. Cars replacing horses made cities less prone to disease outbreaks. Factory medications are more controlled than the old "apothecary" mixtures. Generally, automation is a net positive.
Also, there will always be a market for those things that are handcrafted by true artisans.…

I Am Not a Winner (or Loser)

I was watching CNN's "Your Money" Saturday at noon when one of the panelists referred to graduates with various degrees as the "winners" in the economy, while others were "losers." This notion that because I worked on a graduate degree, assuming substantial debt and working part-time, I am now a "winner" is absurd. It is offensive to me that hard work is being equated to mere luck.

The source of the discussion was the following report:
Georgetown University Center on Education and the WorkforceWhat is it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majorshttp://cew.georgetown.edu/whatsitworth/Anthony P. Carnevale - Jeff Strohl - Michelle MeltonWe've always been able to say how much a Bachelor's degree is worth in general. Now, we show what each Bachelor's degree major is worth.The report finds that different undergraduate majors result in very different earnings. At the low end, median earnings for Counseling Psychology majors are $29,000…

The Problem with Public Works

I support spending, wisely, to both maintain and upgrade the infrastructure of the United States. There is little room for debate that our infrastructure is dated, crumbling, and often inadequate for the current century. Yet we should be skeptical of politicians suggesting "public works" to rebuild our transportation, power, and facilities will somehow reduce unemployment and lead to a nearly immediate economic boom.

The reality is improving our infrastructure would, at best, keep us even with other nations and would merely prevent further economic decline. Any improvement to our economy would be slight, if quantifiable at all. The reason for this is simple: The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that as of 2011, deferred maintenance of U.S. infrastructure would cost at least $2.2 trillion to perform.

In other words, for $2.2 trillion we would only maintain current service levels. A few extra cars or trucks might be able to use a road or bridge, but overall the effe…

Uncertainty and economic recovery: Partisan animal spirits | The Economist

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Something to consider: the entrepreneurs essential to the United States are increasingly concentrated in one political party. This plays into the narratives of both left and right. The left can argue that this trend proves the evil GOP is merely a tool of the business class. The right can argue that business is being vilified by the left, even though businesses and business owners pay the taxes necessary for our government to exist.

W.W. writing "Democracy in America" at The Economist's website has the following entry, discussing the steady shift of both management and business owners towards the Republican party, while "routine" white-collar workers have shifted to the Democratic party:
Uncertainty and economic recovery: Partisan animal spirits | The Economist

Of course, whether entrepreneurs and small-business types see Washington as an adversary or partner is not entirely a matter of in-the-trenches business experience. It is at least partly a matter of polit…