Friday, May 13, 2011

Alternative Sarah Palin

A very good read about Sarah Palin and something to consider. I do think it ignores the fact that her character flaws were pretty much all she had when she got pushed into the national spotlight. She didn't have a cause to pursue for America. She didn't have an axe to grind at the national level that could propel her to take on e.g. Wall Street. So her flaws were what was left and that was who she became in the run up to the 2008 elections.

Monday, May 09, 2011

David Hume's Birthday

Missed it, but here is some snippet reading. Not sure if it is where I got the idea planted but Hume says
I have long entertained a suspicion, with regard to the decisions of philosophers upon all subjects, and found in myself a greater inclination to dispute, than assent to their conclusions. There is one mistake, to which they seem liable, almost without exception; they confine too much their principles, and make no account of that vast variety, which nature has so much affected in all her operations. When a philosopher has once laid hold of a favourite principle, which perhaps accounts for many natural effects, he extends the same principle over the whole creation, and reduces to it every phænomenon, though by the most violent and absurd reasoning.
It should be read for what it is, but to me it is a reminder that all our thought has an emotional bias. Belief in objectivity is in fact an emotional/moral stance.

Also End the Nickel

...Is how I should have ended the "End the Penny" post. I'm quite alright with no more nickles and no more pennies, and I would really like for them to stop printing paper dollars and switch over entirely to dollar coins (really, we could use some $2 coins as well once paper singles are gone, but that's just me getting greedy).

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Our Bad Taxation

I was playing with the US Taxpayer Receipt tool, which I like. You can enter your own tax info, or you can choose an income level. I did both just to see, then I went and figured what my taxes would be at the different income levels. The 25k and 35k levels I can't really compare with what my deductions would be because I wouldn't have my house if my income were at those levels. First thing to note is that Medicare and Social Security are the same (as they should be), so the real comparison is on the income tax...

Example $50k: married 1 child, does not itemize: $260 in taxes
If I made $50k: single, no dependents, $19k deductions: $3,800 in taxes

Example $60k: single, 1 child, does not itemize: $4,200 in taxes
If I made$60k: single, no dependents, $19k deductions: $6,000 in taxes

Example $80k: married, 2 children, does not itemize: $3,800
If I made $80k: single, no dependents, $19k deductions: $11,100

And this is set up to underestimate the taxes I would actually pay at each level with the large deduction. I don't really like dependent deductions (as I've stated here before), but the one that really killed me is the marriage deduction.

If you take a look at two married couples. Both couples bring in $80k, with one couple doing it on a single income and the other doing it on two equal incomes. At the very least, both couples should be paying the same amount in taxes...and if they joint file they do, but in reality the couple with both working and bringing in $40k each should have two workers each paying less in taxes. The other couple gets the luxury of having one of them not out working, which can be very nice even without children but is a huge benefit if they do/were to have children. The couple bringing in $80k on a single income should pay higher taxes.

This is why I think all income taxes should be individual. No married, single, married filing separately, head of household, no dependents, no deductions. Just an income box and then the resulting taxes. Now I think that would require a shifting/re-balancing of the tax levels and brackets (I like a bottom rate of 0% up to ~$25k and a top rate of 50-60% starting at $500k-$1M). Everyone files. The two married couples above would pay very different taxes, and the examples would even out (not entirely as an average $80k couple is doing it on two incomes).

Friday, May 06, 2011

End the Penny

People have a goofy emotional attachment to coinage...particularly the pretty much useless penny. Therefore it is good to read this article from the New Yorker. I just wanted to clarify something. The statement made:
...eliminating pennies would increase our reliance on nickels, which now cost almost ten cents to manufacture and so generate even more negative seigniorage, per coin, than pennies do.

is just flat out wrong. There would be almost zero increase in nickel usage, and what increase there would be would be necessarily less than the increase in dime and less still than any increase in quarter use. Its actually pretty simple statistics.

Completely random coin gathering would yield a ratio of pennies:nickles:dimes:quarters of 5:1:2:3.75 if you remove pennies from the list the ratio would be 1:2:3.75 (n:d:q). In a given handful of change eliminating the 4 pennies may mean you get an extra nickel, but it could mean you get an extra dime, which would mean you lose a nickel, or you could get an extra quarter and lose two could also mean that you end up at an even dollar and lose ALL coins from change. The real kicker is that if all merchants were to round up you wouldn't even see the occasional shifts mentioned above: 96c back would become 95c and 39c back would become 35c...the exact same non-penny change.

It seemed an odd thing to get so very, very wrong.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Wisdom of the Masses

There is a very difficult aspect of politics, and democracy: the understanding of the people. In a world where everyone had perfect knowledge, then their own beliefs would dictate their opinions on any of a number of issues. We don't have perfect knowledge. More, the imperfections vary in size and distribution. So whenever you read a poll that asks opinion but really requires that those being polled have a fairly sound knowledge base, you need to take results with a grain of salt. Since there have been plenty of recent polls that indicate that the general public has no clue what government spends money on, public opinion on how it should reduce deficits is pretty meaningless in terms of whether it should dictate policy.

Unfortunately, politics doesn't care how poorly informed the populace is. It only cares about the opinion of [voters]. So that poll is very important to the politicians and therefore becomes important to policy despite the fact that it could be a monumentally bad idea to have policies derived from the opinions of the uninformed.*

*This is more important with respect to energy and climate issues.