Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Government Logic

Looks like the government is finally going to go paperless next year. At last. Of course that doesn't bode well for the Post Office to lose another 120 million letters each year (but then again, I am not sure if the government actually had to pay for mailing those letters). In any case, there will be 120 million less expenses that the Post Office has, so maybe it is a good thing (especially if they are losing money on each letter anyway).

But of course, the policy is too good to be true. In spite of allowing direct deposit or money recharged onto a debit card, there had to be exceptions for those few who A) don't have a bank or B) don't shop at places with a debit card. The government estimates the number at 275,000. I estimate that number at 0 (counting for the fact that if you meet both A and B above, you shouldn't be in charge of your own finances).

Near the end I saw this gem:

"In addition to the automatic waiver from electronic payments for those 90 and over, people living in remote areas who might have trouble getting to a bank can also petition for a waiver from the new rules."

Why give 90+ people an automatic waiver in the first place? Are we saying they are incompetent? Do we give them a waiver for registering to vote as well and just assume they are voting Democratic since the majority of seniors do?

And the waiver for people who have trouble getting to a bank? Sending them a check is suppose to help them get to a bank? At least with direct deposit or the debit card it will save them a trip. With this waiver you are forcing them to continue their unnecessary trips in this modern age. With global warming/cooling/climate change looming large, we should actually be fining these people. This waiver is completely backward. If someone has trouble getting to the bank, they should have no option other than direct deposit or debit card.

Then again, I am not in charge of the government. I would probably be cruel and heartless and just not mail out any checks period.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tax Hike....Punt!

In case you haven't heard, President Obama is willing to make a deal on "tax cuts." Basically, when one looks at it, the deal is nothing more than a punt, for both Republicans and Democrats. To begin, what are some of the major economic negatives in our country right now:

1. Deficits in the trillions of dollars (few countries even have a GDP of 1 trillion, and we have a deficit of 1 trillion).
2. Unemployment of 9%+ (or 17%+ depending on which figure you want to use).
3. Anemic job growth (in spite of the stimulus spending which saved or created 3 million jobs).
4. Social Security in the red (i.e. it pays out more each year than it takes in).

So the Democrats and Republicans are worried about a tax hike, which they both contributed to 10 years ago. Funny how those things come back to bite you. And in an election year no less. At least they managed it in the mid-term election year rather than the presidential election year (then again, I'm not sure they had a choice in the matter). And after much bickering and whining we get this:

1. No increase in the base rates for two years (in other words, the vote will be to increase your taxes in two years). Why President Obama would agree to this (as opposed to a three year moratorium), I have no idea. Unless perhaps he is sick of the whole thing and wants to get back to being a Community Organizer. Two years puts the tax increase right back in an election year, except that this time, the Presidency will be up for grabs and the Senate in a big way (I think the Democrats will be defending 20+ seats in 2012, while the Republicans only have 10 seats to defend). If recent history is any judge, then having a tax fight in 2012 won't go any better than it did in 2010.

On the other hand the economy may turn around. Except that one of the reasons that the economy hasn't turned around is the uncertainty in the tax situation. What does a two year moratorium on the increase do? Not much. Businesses don't usually operate on a one or two year plan. In my current position, I have things planned out for 25 years. Hiring new employees (i.e. creating jobs) is usually a multi year commitment. You have to train them before you can begin to get your investment out of them. If they are not going to make your company more money than what you pay them (salary, benefits, and taxes), then you don't hire them. If you do, you are stupid and will be out of business soon enough.

So not only will the two year moratorium on tax increases just delay the fight until another election year, it is not going to do anything to spur job growth. But that is OK, because we have...

2. Extension of unemployment benefits by 13 months. I'm not sure of the details, but this may just be an extension on top of the 26 weeks that the States provide (at the direction of the federal government), or it may be an extension of the 99 total weeks that the States and Federal government had been providing. If it is the latter, then that means unemployment benefits are going to last for three years. If you know that you will get a check each week for three years, and you are just the slightest bit lazy, what incentive do you have to even bother being serious about looking for work during weeks 1 through 104 (i.e. first two years). As near as I can tell, this unemployment extension is not being offset by any spending cuts, so that means the deficit problem we had above is going to grow.

But Nancy Pelosi says that every $1 in unemployment returns $2 to the economy. Really? Where does that $1 come from in this case? Oh yeah, the economy. So if we get the $1 for $2, why not double the amount in each unemployment check? Oh there are diminishing returns? Why didn't you mention that. Does it work the opposite way? So if we cut unemployment in half do we get $4 returned to the economy for every $1 in unemployment? Why not do that? $4>$2. Do you mind showing me how you come up with the $2 figure anyway, and show how leaving that $1 in the economy in the first place wouldn't have created $2 or more by its own.

3. A decrease in the payroll tax of 2% for 1 year. Why just 1 year? Oh, yeah, so we don't have to have this fight in two years during an election. Also, it appears that the cut will be in place of President Obama's signature making work pay tax credit which applied to most everyone equally, whereas the payroll tax "disproportionately" helps the wealthy. From a personal standpoint, I am all in favor of this. Social Security is a scam (government run mind you, but still a scam) and I don't expect to see any of the money that has been confiscated from me for it.

From an economic issue (particularly in regards to the problems listed above) I am torn. More money in the hands of consumers (all consumers, even the really rich ones) is a good thing. And Social Security is the largest tax payment that most Americans pay (particularly when you consider the "matching contribution" from your employer). On the other hand, Social Security proponents have prided the fact that up until last year, Social Security was a self sustaining program, it covered all of its expenses each year (and lent the excess to the goverment to spend at their leisure). Now we are going to take away 1/6 of the Social Security taxes (approximately $100 billion) in a year when Social Security is already in the red. That is going to decrease the solvency of the "trust fund" further, and add to the deficit. And since it is only for 1 year, it won't help create any jobs. (On the other hand, I may be able to convince my wife that I can use that extra $2000 in 2011 to go towards purchasing a Barrett .50 BMG or we could just put in a new shower in the bathroom. Tough choice!).

And then there is some other froo froo stuff. The funniest thing of all, if this passes. It will be in a House, Senate, and Presidency that is all controlled by the Democratic party. Since it has no provisions that will create jobs (it encourages stagnation), cut the deficit (actually it will increase the deficit), or shore up Social Security (it does the opposite) and it puts these same issues off to be fought over again in 2012, barring any major change in the world (which always seems to happen anyway), the Democrats will have voted on their own demise from the Senate and probably the presidency and solidify the gains that the Republicans made in 2010 in the House (although redistricting will accomplish most of that anyway).

Never let a crisis go to waste. But if your going to, make sure you waste it in spectacularly stupid ways.

BTW, I have no love lost on the Republicans punt of this issue. They have no power other than the filibuster, yet are still getting basically what they want.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Social Media Actually Affects People's Lives

So someone saw that people were constantly glued to facebook or twitter and they needed an experiment to see that they were "addicted"? I could have told you that for a lot less money and pain on the part of the participants. Why anyone would surmise that an activity you spend hours on each day does not affect you is a mystery to me.

Facebook, yes, I have an account. I check it about once a week. I block all Mafia Wars, Farmville, Turdville, and any other stupid game or poll on it. If I am going to waste my time for hours with computer games it will be Halo or Civilization.

Twitter. Never even gone to the homepage. From what I surmise it is facebook for your smartphone. Since I don't have a smartphone, I have no need for twitter. I have never texted either.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How to Get Rich Quick!

So, all you have to do is register a bunch of dead/nonexistent people for Social Security (which has never happened before) and the money starts rolling in? And their excuse is that their deaths weren't reported to the Social Security Administration? Except for the 17,000 where it was the fault of the Social Security Administration for not properly processing the payments in the first place.

I have a more brilliant idea. Why not we just not have Social Security in the first place, then we won't have the screw-ups of sending payments to dead people? (Isn't it amazing how many of our government's problems/inefficiencies/waste/screw-ups are a direct result of the policies/regulations/laws of the same government).

But then all of the old people will starve to death?

Oh, yeah, just like they were starving to death for the first 160 years of our country before Social Security.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Glenn Beck's Rally and the NY Mosque

We shouldn't build a mosque at Ground Zero and Glenn Beck shouldn't have a rally on the day that Martin Luther King gave a speech. Both ideas bring up the same question? Why not?

If the guy wants to build a mosque is not involved in terrorism, why oppose him? Because it is sacred ground? Don't we allow Japanese technology at the USS Arizona site? Isn't that sacred ground. And just where does Ground Zero begin and end? Is it just the footprint of World Trade Center 1 and 2, or are all of the World Trade Center buildings a part of it? Does it extend out from the epicenter 200 feet? 1000 feet? 2000 feet? So at what distance would building a mosque not be offensive?

Glenn Beck held his rally on a weekend (probably so more people could attend). Since he is religious himself and probably the majority of the crowd was, it makes sense to have it on a Saturday so folks can go to church on Sunday (or just travel back home). Plus it was going to be in the summer (better chance of good weather), after school got out, but before Labor Day (don't want to appear as if he is intruding on the Unions holiday). The weekend of July 4 is out since that would obviously be pandering to people's patriotic senses. That only leaves about 10 days that it could be. Based on his scheduled commitments, I imagine that probably half of those were not feasible when he was planning it. So after consulting the schedulers who "rent" out the National Mall, there was probably 3 feasible days to choose from. He chose one. So do momentous speeches make dates sacred such that other events can't happen on them? And who gets to be the arbiter of whether YOUR event is appropriate? (BTW, maybe we should tell the terrorists that so that they don't attack us on 9/11, then we can have a day that we can go to the airport without worrying about whether we have a 4 oz tube of toothpaste or a pair of nail clippers in our pocket).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homeschool Help

My Oldest Son is doing a graph for school and needs your input. Please answer the following question in the comments so he can gather some data:

What is your favorite movie?
A. Star Wars
B. Indiana Jones
C. Shrek
D. High School Musical

(Please choose your favorite from the four options given. Remember, this is from the mind of an early elementary kid, so please keep it clean. Thanks!)

Going on Mecca Time!

Some day we all may be looking to Mecca for the time. Or not. There are delusionals in every culture. The Arab world is no exception. Once they get over the fact that they long ago ceded their scientific knowledge to western Europe, then they will realize that the rest of the world isn't changing to Mecca time any time soon.

To begin, official time isn't kept by a giant clocktower. The giant clock tower in Greenwich is a mechanical device which isn't as accurate as the atomic clocks that are around today. Coordinated Universal Time is based on these atomic clocks and clock towers (or computers) are synced to those.

If Mecca wanted to become the "official" time keeper, they should have come up with time zones and the idea of standardization more than a century and a half ago. As it is, the British did largely due to maritime requirements for navigation, and railway requirements for standarized timetables. Even if the Greenwich Observatory vanished overnight tonight, the location of the Prime Meridian wouldn't change. And my clocks would still read 6:00AM when I roll out of bed (depending on how many times I hit the snooze button).

So, perhaps the Arab world should focus on an accomplishment that is easier to change than the entire time keeping system of the world. The US has been on the verge of going metric for 40 years now. There is a lot of sand over in Arabia, perhaps the semiconductor field might be easier to break into. (Of course to compete with Taiwan, Japan, and Korea you would have to admit that women are just as capable as men in the sciences.)