Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
“Yeah I like nice roads and what not but why I really support it is because it is a start to getting people to realize the true cost of our transit system. Our current transit system is one of the largest perverse subsidies that government provides. Now a perverse subsidy is one that does both environmental and economical harm, therefore not providing a negative net result.I would make the argument that this tax needs to go much further, but I am realistic enough to understand that green taxes will only work on a national level. Our current economic system rewards those who can decrease their personal costs at the expense of increasing societal externality costs. If we are ever going to achieve an economy that enhances our standard of living, provides economic growth, and does so through sustainable means we are going to have to implement taxes that causes people and business to experience the actual costs of their activities. And by doing so we will fuel industrial innovation and creativity, because nothing makes people and companies more creative than when they are trying to figure out ways to save money.”
I think part of the problem with our transportation system and the method of financing it is borne of cultural expectations or maybe an entitlement mentality surrounding our car culture. The D.C. metropolitan area is a good example of this. People constantly discuss the need to widen I-66 (a major highway that goes from the far reaches of the Virginia exurbs to D.C.). Whereas the discussion of rail (whether it be heavy rail, underground, or light rail) is framed within the language of a subsidy, almost as if it were some sort of fashionable amenity like a new ballpark. National budgeting reflects this sentiment as well. The federal gas tax which goes to funding our public infrastructure is apportioned overwhelmingly to highway infrastructure. Amtrak gets a meager $1-2 billion and is expected to recoup the rest of its operating expenses in ticket revenues (nevermind any capital investment and the sheer impracticality of this propositon due to mandated routes that have virtually no ridership and the absurd subsidies of air transportation which compete with rail on short and medium haul routes). Any federal funding that is earmarked for light rail or metro expansion is derided as pork, whereas the highway funding itself is viewed as sacrosanct. This view perpetuates itself as people organize their lives to a considerable degree around their transportation wants and needs.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
"the real crime is that the unions have seduced their employees into believing they have jobs for life as long as they continue to pay their union dues and to eat cheetos on the couch at home.
when they should rather be spending their time educating themselves in productive technologies and skills in the community college system in order to move up the food chain.
and without the expansion of trade (and credit), these people would still be watching the superbowl on a 24-in. CRT TV in a trailor home with a $5 Big Mac rather than feasting on $7 Dominoes pizza, $1 Big Macs, $3 buckets of KFC, or $1 Burrito Supremes while being blinded by a 52-in HD plasma flat screen from the seat of their Lazy-Boy deluxe in the living room of their sub-prime castle."
Minnesota will increase the gas tax by 8.5 cents until current bonds are paid for, then drop back to 5 cents after that. After the bridge collapse last year--Yes, Repubs, it was a "design flaw," but one that could have been caught with better maintenance procedures--and having driven on all the crappy roads in a state that has harsh winters that tend to wreck pavement pretty quickly, I'd be willing to pay 20 bucks a month to make sure that things are safer and better maintained. I don't feel that that would be undue stress.
How much will the increase actually cost me? Well, I get 30 miles to the gallon on my car and I drive about 12000 miles per year. Crunching those numbers, it'll cost me...34 dollars.
If I were getting 20 miles/gallon, it'd cost me 51. Wow. What a huge tax increase. Anyone who complains about this is an idiot. Deciding not to go out to a nice dinner one time per year will relieve you of the undue stress of this massive increase. Or, perhaps, spending one week on vacation out of state, so that you won't have to buy any gas. Don't complain about 51 dollars for safer, better roads.
Apparently the forum is not a fan of dissent (or reality for that matter) because when I went to log in to the forum this morning to check out the response I received this message:
You have been banned for the following reason: No reason was specified.
Date the ban will be lifted: Never
Noam Scheiber has an article on the cotorie of economists advising Obama (an encouraging article to somebody from the right like me).
The NY Times has a story on how remittances to Mexico have leveled off.
Jakob Hacker has a column in the LA Times pleading with Clinton and Obama to stop their pissing match over whether there should be a mandate. He also makes the case that Universal Health Care along the lines of either plan will amount to a free lunch. Color me skeptical. I am in favor of Universal Health Care but there is very little in either plan that does anything about cost control. Both plans are essentially expanding the current system to people who are uncovered. Obama's main health advisor, Jonathon Cutler- probably the preeminent health economist, basically thinks we should be willing to spend 20% GDP on health care. What I didn't realize about Obama's plan is that it features federal re-insurance which I think is a very productive idea. If you coupled that with a phase out of the tax exemption of health care I think you could really do something about enhancing the portability of health care, increasing access, while decreasing unit prices.
Where Life almost imitates Art. Boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, IBF tilte holder, moves one step closer to a unified title by beating Sultan Ibragimov, WBO title holder. Sort of like Rocky IV except if Ivan Drago had fought his twin brother.
Random, there is an entire site dedicated to tips on waking up early. I may actually peruse this as my work day starts between 6:30-7:00.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Eugene Robinson also has a great op-ed piece where he looks at how preposterous it would be if the situation was reversed and Obama lost 10 states in a row and still maintained that he was a viable candidate and vowed to stay in the race.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
"If the New York Times has evidence that John McCain conducted an affair with a lobbyist, then they should come out and say so. To try and imply it primarily by reporting the concerns of members of McCain's staff and halfhearted denials from his allies is confusing for the reader and bad for the paper. They don't get to create plausible deniability by hiding the charges in a much longer exploration of McCain's reputation for honesty and his history with lobbyists and special interests -- the substance of the story is whether McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, and whether he then advocated for her clients improperly. Those two things either happened or they didn't, and the paper should just tell us which it is."
It wouldn't suprise me in the least if McCain had an affair but the Times has not documented that. The NY Times has trotted out a piece more becoming of the Enquirer than of the Paper of Record.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Note: My usual caveat- my predictions are utterly worthless. If I were a pollster I would rank right there with Zogby and the Strib in terms of worthlessness.
Update: Pet peeve, Clinton and Obama are getting into a great back and forth on health care mandates. They are working the crap out of this issue and I think it is fabulous. The moderators keep breaking in and try move on to the next topic. They should just shut up and get out of the way.
"The hideously depressing thing is that Cuba under Battista--Cuba in 1957--was a developed country. Cuba in 1957 had lower infant mortality than France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had doctors and nurses: as many doctors and nurses per capita as the Netherlands, and more than Britain or Finland. Cuba in 1957 had as many vehicles per capita as Uruguay, Italy, or Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had 45 TVs per 1000 people--fifth highest in the world. Cuba today has fewer telephones per capita than it had TVs in 1957.
You take a look at the standard Human Development Indicator variables--GDP per capita, infant mortality, education--and you try to throw together an HDI for Cuba in the late 1950s, and you come out in the range of Japan, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Israel. Today? Today the UN puts Cuba's HDI in the range of Lithuania, Trinidad, and Mexico. (And Carmelo Mesa-Lago thinks the UN's calculations are seriously flawed: that Cuba's right HDI peers today are places like China, Tunisia, Iran, and South Africa.)
Thus I don't understand lefties who talk about the achievements of the Cuban Revolution: "...to have better health care, housing, education, and general social relations than virtually all other comparably developed countries." Yes, Cuba today has a GDP per capita level roughly that of--is "comparably developed"--Bolivia or Honduras or Zimbabwe, but given where Cuba was in 1957 we ought to be talking about how it is as developed as Italy or Spain."
I don’t think this is going to help Hillary Clinton, but it is being reported that a group of 100 wealthy Clinton supporters have come together to each donate $100,000 to fund advertisements in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that basically mimic Clinton’s campaign rhetoric towards Obama.
This first ad that is going to begin airing in a day or two has already been released on YouTube.
"If we were to incrementally replace over a twenty-year period all government revenues ($1.25 trillion), including the deficit amount of the budget that is not collected ($264 billion), through the use of fees on products and processes, we would be adding 5 percent of the total, or $76 billion a year (thereafter adjusted annually for inflation and budget increases). The annual fees and taxes on virgin resources, emissions, fuels, products, wastes, rights, and services would equal about 1.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. At the same time, the same $76 billion per year, also adjusted annually for inflation, would be lopped off present income and payroll taxes, both individual and corporate. At the end of the period, most government revenues would be derived from green taxes, virtually none from income, payroll, or corporate taxes. Of course, people may still wish to levy a surcharge on high income individuals and companies. But we would nonetheless have consistently and steadily shifted the tax burden from income and entrepreneurial activity to those activities we wish to discourage, thereby transforming the economy. The resulting changes in the marketplace this would cause would be dramatic. Every purchase would become more constructive and less destructive. Equally important, the innate instinct to save money would reward both the customer and the environment.
The whole key to redesigning the economy is to shift incrementally most if not all the taxes presently derived from “goods” to “bads,” from income and payroll taxes to taxes on pollution, environmental degradation, and nonrenewable energy consumption. Because green taxes are incorporated into the price a company or customer pays for a resource, product, or service, they create powerful incentives to revise and constantly improve methods of production, distribution, and consumption, as well as a means to reconsider our wants and needs. The purpose of a green tax is to give people and companies positive incentives to avoid them."
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
“McCain, in contrast, has been a divisive figure within the Republican party because of his opposition to torture at Guantánamo, his advocacy for new immigration laws and campaign finance reform, and his wavering stand on tax cuts. He has had trouble winning over social conservatives.”Does anyone else find it completely disgusting and downright pathetic that due to McCain’s “opposition to torture at Guantánamo” he is considered to be “a divisive figure within the Republican party”?
How the hell in 2008 is the idea that the U.S. should be torturing people even a conceivable thought?
Which arose first, the regulations or the violation of societal standards that called them forth?
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Well there is a similar video about John McCain that I thought was hilarious.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Friday, February 08, 2008
"But it’ll still be tied after all that. The superdelegates will pick the nominee — the party honchos, the deal-makers, the donors, the machine. Swinging those people takes a level of cynicism even Dr. Retail can’t pretend to understand. That’s Tammany Hall. That’s the court at Versailles under Louis XIV."
This newly transplanted southern belle has just dropped his first hip hop album entitled Straight Outta Winston under the name of “Strata G”.
I think the album is hilarious and rather well done, but to quote Strata G, “the internets are annnngrrrrry,” as a gawker.com post reflects.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
As it stands now (as of 10am today) Obama is leading Clinton in popularly selected pledged delegates 603 to 590, but Clinton is leading in super delegates 193 to Obama’s 106, giving Clinton a total delegate lead of 783 to 709.
If this trend continues and Obama ends up receiving a majority of the popularly selected delegates but Clinton ends up receiving the nomination due to her courting of super delegates I could see a number of people in the Democratic Party screaming afoul, and for good reason.
Related Link: Random Prediction
Andrew Samwick of VoxBaby has a wrapup of the budget commentary. Also here.
Brad DeLong has a typically insightful post, notice this portion:
"The headline deficit number ought to be $738 billion--we have a $331 billion Social Security surplus for 2009, and an honest and honorable administration would be using that surplus to pay down the government debt in order to get ready for the challenges that our aging population will pose for the federal budget over the next two generations. The headline number shouldn't be 2.7% of GDP; it should be 4.8% of GDP."
This unfortunately has always been the case and the press is none the wiser. Every year the press reports the General Fund Deficit number instead of the Unified Deficit, and every year politicians raid the Social Security trust fund, put bonds in its place that will have to be redeemed by an increase in income taxes or payroll taxes, thus you will be paying twice for the same benefits. But wait, social security doesn't need to be fixed.
Stan Collender's blog is seemingly dedicated to the budget these days so just go over there.