if one were predisposed to think that most of the human race is a bunch of selfish asstards, one might predict the current economic situation might make folks donate less. however, donations seem to be up. at least for the salvation army. so maybe the human race isn't a bunch of selfish asstards. or maybe we are. and we're just trying to buy karma. or since we all know that republicans are far more generous with their money than democrats, maybe we have more republicans shopping at walmart instead of neiman marcus. works for me.
everyone welcome caitlan to the list at the right. caitlan keeps her socks in specimen jars. go on. click the link. you know you want to.
herbert hoover presided over the first great depression. the stock market crash wasn't really his fault. but the recovery, or failure to recover is. he focused on keeping businesses in business. he steadfastly refused to help individuals. and things just kept getting worse. they in fact didn't start to get better until that policy was reversed. and the government started helping individuals instead of businesses. what will happen this time? i don't know. my crystal ball is on the fritz. however, if history is any guide, things are only going to get worse as long as we're focused on businesses. fortunately this crash happened at the end of a presidential cycle instead of the beginning. at least i think it's fortunate. if 'change' means 'status quo' we might have to get through an entire presidential cycle before things get better. which would be really bad.
one criteria for a healthy functioning free market is no barrier to entry. everyone knows that. lots (well maybe some) of government policy is geared towards achievement of this goal. however, the other side is equally important. there can be no barrier to exit. which might be a bit of a head scratcher in normal times. that's like so duh it's confusing to even state it. yet here we are bailing out companies left right center. which effectively creates a barrier to exit. and if you have all these inefficient companies hogging up all the business, there's no room for new efficient companies to enter the market. in a misguided attempt to keep from losing, we've guaranteed we're going to lose.
wow and double wow. the sun was shining brightly into our faces as g and i walked to school this morning. above us and behind us the sky was solid with pregnant rain clouds. walking home alone our house was framed in a perfect double rainbow. i've seen double arches before. but i've never before seen the second rainbow go from horizon to heaven to horizon in an unbroken ribbon of crayons. i felt kinda like noah. heh. the inner sharper rainbow had at least one extra pair or green and purple bands. the beautiful and talented alisa got to see it on the way home from dropping b off at school. wow and double wow.
rich poor gap
the rich poor gap is notoriously difficult to measure. actually it's not. there are many many ways to measure it. which i think is the difficulty. ie there's lots of opportunity for argument. which abounds when one tries to discuss the fairness of wealth distribution. so i'm going to pick one. if you don't like this metric use whichever one you do like in your own damn blog. sheehs. anywho, consider the ratio between the average income of the top 10% of wage earners to the average income of the bottom 90%. this number has historically bounced around between 5 and 8. in general, low ratio times have been what we call good. and high ratio times bad. most of the past 100 years have been in the 5-6 range. with two notable exceptions where this wealth inequality measure spiked over a few years: to 7.8 in 1929, and to 7.9 today.
for most people, this year's stack of christmas presents might be a little smaller. the dollar value of said stack might be a little less. which for some people might be a really crushingly devastatingly bad thing. and well, i guess it is. but the rest of us, we're giving and getting the same things as last year. except maybe a little bit more. our love, prayers, thoughts, hopes, and dreams. which is really the only wealth metric.
so is the concept of intelligent design science or religion? i'm sure i've covered this before. probably ad nauseum. i figure if i keep repeating a position in different ways eventually it will slip past whatever barriers are between you and enlightenment. so anywho, to answer my own question, albeit conditionally: it depends on the designer. if the designer is a testable entity such as people then sure intelligent design is science. we choose which pigs sheep plants get to reproduce with the intent of making the species more like some ideal. if the designer is some untestable entity like god or space aliens then intelligent design is religion. kinda by definition.
katz died quietly in her sleep. on her favorite blanket. with a bowl of canned salmon within smelling distance. heh. katz was really old at 16. her sense of smell was more/less gone. so smelling distance meant right next to her. she was a good cat. she'll be missed.
people promote intelligent design as science. we hire scientists where i work. can i ask about id as an interview question? i can't base hiring decisions based on religion. so i suppose if i'm using the question to divine their religion and basing my hiring decision on that then no, i can't. but if we're evaluating the hypothesis using the scientific method then i should certainly be allowed to quiz away. right? heh. seems like a sure fire way to get sued. though that would be for the greater good. we'd settle once and for all whether intelligent design is science or religion. i'll run it past the boss.
bennett's building a wind tunnel to test paper airplanes for his 5th grade science project. the plan was to use drinking straws as the collimators. we sent grandpa to costco to get some 156 square inches of straws. now, the last time i bought bunches of straws they came in boxes about 6" on a side. grandpa came home with two boxes of 3000 straws. *individually wrapped* sigh. so we spent some quality family time together unwrapping straws. it's something to do while watching a movie i guess. wee.
i haven't written many blogs recently. i've been sorta blocked on this one. i was really feeling kinda depressed. the implication is that those of the stereotype to which i am not lumped are better than those of the stereotype to which i am lumped because the former donate more than the latter. so in the first incarnation of this post i listed all the cash, all the things, and all the time that we've spent for the benefit of others. which made me feel better. briefly. i very quickly got mad. really mad. the second incarnation of this post was me flaming you fucking asstards for blah blah blah. which also made me feel better. briefly. then i thought about standing in front of the almighty with everything i've ever done laid out like some sort of giant salad bar complete with sneeze guards. and like magic, the opinions of a few mortals just didn't matter any more.
one can wish. can't one? go ed go. link
so we're gonna bail out the old big three eh? to preserve the jobs. making a product people can't afford. yep, sounds like a great plan.
you should really try to avoid bankruptcy. especially if you own a home. credit cards are no big deal. most of what you owe them is interest charges and fees and add on crap. the debt is unsecured. they really have no hope of collecting anything if you go under. you can usually offer them 30% and they'll take it. and still make a profit. your house however is a different story. once you file bankruptcy it is illegal to renegotiate your home loan. even if both sides want to. the bank has to take a lump sum of whatever it can get for dumping your house in a depressed market. wee. and you of course lose your home. so before you screw yourself, close your credit card accounts. be sure to get letters from them saying so. then go to your bank and renegotiate your loan. the bank really does want you to keep your home. more precisely, they want you to keep making payments on your loan.
i've been blessed with good health. i haven't had anything worse than a cold in a long long time. this last cold was remarkable. on one hand the progression was pretty ordinary. a tickle. a drippy sniffy nose. post nasal drip. a sore throat. a dry cough. a wet cough. usually start to finish takes some 2 weeks. this one compressed everything into two days. there was the same total amount of unhappiness-hours. usually the discomfort is low but the duration is long. this one was reversed. wee! yeah. wee. in addtion, the normal gamut of over the counter drugs had no effect. the only things that had any effect were tylenol for the pain. and of course, chicken soup with lots of fresh ground pepper.
ronald reagan added his own personal twist to supply side economics. everyone knows he cut taxes. specifically he cut income taxes. he simultaneously raised social security taxes. but no one remembers that. most didn't even notice. my mother did. her paychecks were $8 smaller. nice. thanks ronnie. course most folks got a larger income tax cut than my mother did. so they really did get a net tax cut. i suppose most folks smart enough to check their paychecks weren't in the loser bracket. and most folks in the loser bracket weren't smart enough to check their paychecks. nice. there should be a very special hell for child molesters and swindler presidents.
so what's wrong with the laffer curve? let's start with a fundamental premise. the government is not a corporation whose purpose is to make a profit. its purpose is to take care of things that are in our collective best interest but not necessarily in our individual best interest. its purpose is build stuff that can be shared by all. like roads, power lines, schools, research, tanks, etc. obviously we have to pay for this stuff. the trick is to figure out how to do it fairly. which is quite subjective. but generally i think we'd agree it makes sense to ask more from those that have more. and less from those who have less.
if the tax rate was 0% the government would have to operate solely on donations. i know i'd donate quite a bit to education and research. the government's revenues would be more than 0%. laffer's wrong.
if the tax rate was 100% no one would work. heh. russians in the former soviet union worked even though the tax rate was 100% i might remind you the ussr had enough revenue to compete with us in a very expensive arms race. again laffer's wrong.
even if everything else about the laffer rainbow was right, you'd still have to show that the current tax rate is too high.
revenues are one side of the ledger. the government's revenues go up at the expense of the individual's. though not necessarily one-to-one. in a fair world the government has to replace the services the individual used to be able to afford on their own. ie the government's "profit" goes down. ie the government can afford less of the stuff that grows the economy. ignoring government expenditures is a huge flaw in the laffer curve.
taxes are complex. there is no single tax rate. to calculate revenue you have to convolve the tax rate curve with the income distribution curve. simplification is generally a good thing. but can obscure the details. which in this case are critical to the conclusion. when you do more of the math details than simply rate times income the benefits of the laffer curve vanish like a swindler into the night.
if the tax rate is 0% (draw a dot on a piece of paper) tax revenues are $0. if the tax rate is 100% (draw another dot to the right of the first) tax revenues are again $0. nobody goes to work if the government takes their whole paycheck. now draw a rainbow from one dot to the other. point to the top of the rainbow. that's where tax revenue is maximized. point to the right side of the rainbow. if the tax rate is too high tax revenues go down. ergo we should lower taxes to raise revenue. qed. makes sense right? which is what makes it such a beautiful con. it's not obvious what's wrong with it. in fact so many things are in error a critic suffers paralysis trying to figure out where to start. and that moment of silence is misinterpreted as having no objections. sigh.
i had some time on my hands recently. so i read a bit about the history of supply side economics. economics is a fun thing. or would be if we could strip away the human psychology part and strip it to bare mathematics. however that seems to be impossible. anywho, before sse there was keynesianism. which worked pretty well. but you don't get your picture on the cover of the economist for regurgitating what everyone already knows. or even for incrementally refining the status quo. you get the klieg lights when you turn the world on its head. many people were trying to do this. they were called cranks crackpots and worse. most of them deserved it. and worse. anywho, some interesting nuggets were found. like separating tax rates and tax revenue. that led to the observation that under some (very limited) circumstances you can lower taxes and increase revenue. that's sort of on a par with quantum tunneling. it can happen. but not for baseballs and glass windows. anywho, consider the perpetual predicament of the politician. always under pressure to lower taxes. and simultaneously raise revenues. pre-sse that was thought to be impossible. but lo! a miracle! and one of the first people to get the message was none other than dick cheney. now i can only imagine that conversation. a nice economist trying to make his mark on the world and a young ambitious future shadow leader of the formerly free world. cheney's smart. he knew sse was bunk. but at some point during the meeting a light went on inside his head. he realized this was snake oil he could sell. he took it to kemp and reagan. among others. kemp-roth if you're old enough to remember or are a student of history, lowered the top tier tax rate from 70% to 50%. biographies of people behind it describe it as a trojan horse to get lower taxes for the rich. and boom. cutting taxes is a panacea. the solution to a slow down is to cut taxes. the response to a boom is to cut taxes more. both can't be right.
i built a pie box. a pie box is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. a box for pies. the beautiful and talented alisa had made one apple pie, two pumpkin pies, and a lenser tort for thanksgiving. all delicacies needed to be moved from here to sacramento intact. we needed something to transport them in where they wouldn't shift around. and nothing would fall into them. a pie box. the largest pie was 10 apples and 12". we had a nice mostly cubical box 13.5" on a side. and i had some leftover pegboard 12" wide and 8' long. so i made three stands out of the pegboard that fit snugly into the box. pies got there no worries. astute readers will have noticed that a rectangular stand 12" x 13.5" won't exactly fit snugly in the box. ho ho! i didn't make square stands. i made rhombus shaped stands. there's a nice math puzzle for you. figure out the lengths of the sides of the the rhombus. bonus points for finding a closed form. muhahahahahahahah! enjoy.
we had a great extended thanksgiving day. thanks joe and mary! i'd tell you all about it. but what happens at joe and mary's stays at joe and mary's. i will say that their house is a very organic thing. it's rarely stays the same between visits. the double shower with instant on hot water was finished. it's really nice. the beautiful and talented alisa would agree. i can recommend trying it. though choose a time other than when someone's washing dishes. the house is much much warmer with insulation and double pane windows. yay! it was downright chilly before. the master bedroom moved. the old master bedroom became the game room. the old game room became a walk in closet. it's the perfect place for mary's collection of prom dresses and wedding gowns. which is the perfect thing if you wanted to have a few friends over to play dress up. and twister.
are you really truly participating in a democracy if you always vote but always vote for the candidates of one particular party? i don't think so. the democratic process is supposed to give us the best leader. if everyone votes for whoever their party picks then we're selecting whoever can best manage a herd. moo. well, half a herd. cause there's no real benefit to catering to 90% of the herd when 60% is just as good. and there's a real cost. moo. and well maybe shepherds really do make good presidents. moo. but i doubt it.
i work in a typical office building in palo alto. across the street is a bank. it's name is the private bank of the peninsula. it looks like kind of a snobbery place. each word is in a different font. and the last word is in all caps. there's also a lovely tree in front of the bank. which obscures most of the last part of the name. so every day when i leave work i'm greeted by the private bank of the PENIS.
when does human life begin? ah, what a wonderful can of worms this leads to. the more important question is, when does personhood begin? ie when does a lump of human cells get what rights? clearly it doesn't get the privilege of driving until it's 16 years old or so. the right to legally get pissed until 21. etc. really the most important issue is at what point does its druggie slut of a host lose the right to kill it? this arguing about when life begins is a distraction. it begins at conception. sheehs. a much more productive discussion would be about the right to take that life. clearly we believe there are circumstances when it's right to take a life: war, defense of self, defense of others, capital crimes, etc. does elective pregnancy termination fall into this category? let's look at pets. you can kill an animal and eat it. but you can't kill a pet. what's the difference? well, in some law books the difference is a name. pets have a name. so i propose a fetus has a right to life when it gets a name. after you name it you can't kill it and eat it. course that leaves open a few things. like who gets to name it. and can i kill a 10 year old if i've never named him? hmm... that leads to some interesting possibilities for modifying the behavior of say teenagers.
the success of the airline industry is very sensitive to the cost of fuel. which in case you've been living in a cave for the past few years, has recently dropped back to something close to normal after an extended time in ouch! territory. not a single airline is making headlines with bankruptcy talk. huh. interesting. that hasn't always been true. i remember times when it seemed like the airlines were going in and out of chapter 11 like it was a frikken revolving door. maybe they've done that enough that they've finally figured out how to survive the bad times without sucking on the american tax payer's giant tits. i'm thinking the auto makers need some hard love too. they've got a whole lot of baggage they need to shed in order to compete. yeah, it'll be bad for some companies. but in the not-so-long run it'll be better for everyone. we'll have better products. and an entire industry that can contribute to the gdp instead of draining from it.
i read a startling factoid on the internet. so i know it must be true. there is more american labor in a honda than in a ford. if that's true for gm then who cares if they go under? seems like honda would be able to replace the jobs that vanish with gm. one hears horror stories coming from detroit about how nothing can be done because of ill advised union contracts. though perhaps that's too slanted against unions. i'm thinking the problem is with the gm execs. they haven't got what it takes to negotiate a sensible contract. with anyone. not just unions. course if it's really the unions. and they move in on honda. heh. that'd be an interesting experiment.
the conventional thinking is that inflation outpaced real wages. so the average schmoe's pay didn't go as far as it did last month. this /forced/ the wage earner to borrow more and more money. this was /okay/ cause everyone thought it was temporary. mouse nuts. the wage earner /chose/ to borrow more and more money to maintain their lifestyle. they could have chosen a less expensive lifestyle. some did. those that did aren't straddled with loans they can't repay today. kinda like aesop's ant and grasshopper. aesop doesn't explicitly say if the grasshopper starved to death during the winter. but it's implied the ant didn't bail him out of his predicament.
the question, is where do i think venture capital comes from? easy. it comes from three places: rich individuals (sugar daddies), successful corporations, and investment funds. i confess i don't really know how much comes from each group. the real question is, does it matter? i mean. would society benefit if more of the economic grease came from sugar daddies or if it came from investment funds? all money is the same color green. ah but the distinction is subtle. let me just categorically assert there will always be rich people. well, in the real world anyways. so let's go to the other extreme. suppose there are no investment funds, no pension plans, no 401k's, etc. the only reason this would happen is cause people don't have disposable income to invest. and if they don't have disposable income to invest they don't have disposable income for leisure time and luxuries. or unexpected expenses, like an illness. heh. excuse me mr sugar daddy. my wife is sick and needs an operation. i'd pay for it myself. but you have all the money. and we can't afford it. hrm. at some point the power shifts. the masses can force society to pay for universal health care. or the masses can raise their effective income (tax cuts) and reduce the income of the sugar daddies (tax hikes). pretty sure the former is socialism. if the latter has a name i don't know what it is. but in my mind it's far superior to the former. it needs a nice catchy sound bite. you know, for when i run for president. any suggestions?
consider government expenses. many are fairly fixed. infrastructure, defense, research, education, etc. social programs get less expensive during boom times and more expensive during bust times. ie more people are carrying their own weight during the booms. more people need help during the busts. now consider government income. it's not fixed. the government takes in more during booms than during busts. which seems kind of unfortunate. cause it's pretty much impossible to balance the budget every year. we have choices. a healthy company would build up its cash reserves during the booms. consume them during the busts. borrow money if it has to. pay it back during the next boom. and the cycle starts all over again. however, our government hasn't been following that model. it's been spending and borrowing during the booms. companies that follow this model go bankrupt. and out of business unless they can convince the government to bail them out. who's going to bail out our government?
the obvious rebuttal to yesterday's post is something like... and what does the rich guy do with that money? he goes out and starts companies that create jobs and the pie really does get bigger so the players really can bring more money to the table yada yada. hrm. okay. this is a thought experiment. remove the game. what would the other players have done with the money if they hadn't lost it to rich guy? they'd have put it in a mutual fund of their choice. and from there where does the money go? well it gets invested in companies that create jobs and the pie gets bigger. the distribution of the money really makes no difference to the pie. but it makes a huge difference to the pie eaters.