Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why Bother With a Monitor?

Ok, sure, I know there are some people who require the much better resolution for work (graphical design, programming...), and for workplaces you can probably fill an office 17" monitors for a song, but for most [home] users, a dedicated computer monitor is a pretty dumb purchase.  For generally less money you can get a television, that can do the same things as a monitor, but also has built in speakers and doesn't require any extra hardware to play television/cable.  Since most computers/laptops now days have HDMI output, it's even a better proposition.

TV plus computer is a much better entertainment option than TV in one place, computer and monitor and speakers in another.  It's also a much better web entertainment option than web-enabled TVs or even Xbox/PSx--apparently these are better, but I can put a keyboard in my lap and a mouse on the sofa and use a computer online much easier. My only real complaint is Netflix: on the computer is seems more laggy and lower res, on the PS3 the interface is shit.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Minimum Wage and Jobs

It's one of those things that seems to be taken more on faith than evidence: higher minimum wage means fewer jobs.  But the evidence just doesn't seem to be there.  It seems like it should so people assume it does, but cities, states, and countries with higher minimum wages than the US just don't generally show higher unemployment (there are other social welfare issues that change and probably do lead to fewer jobs).

This article discusses states and cities in the US, referencing side by side county comparisons.  I wish I could find the link, but Austrailia has a much higher minimum wage than us, and pretty damned low unemployment.

Pure economics wouldn't get you here, but maybe a bit more thought does.  Higher minimum wage means more impetus to work, plus more income for those who do.  More workers making more money will then spend more money meaning an increase in the demand for goods and services, which must be provided by employing more people.  Moreover, if you have a business you want to succeed, you can't just fire everyone because their wages must go up.  You can't succeed with zero employees.  Maybe you can pass on some of the cost to customers, but only in a colluding society can that be guaranteed to work.  Most likely the people on top (owners, executives) will end up with less profits, which, I suspect, is the real reason that business leaders oppose raising the minimum wage.

[Note: I would actually guess* the lower profit thing to be an immediate effect in terms of total $ and long term in terms of % profit.]

*Not an economist, and not doing the maths...which in this case are hard even for economists--too many variables--which I further suspect to be one of the reasons why they all "know" that higher min wage reduces jobs: that's what their maths tell them.

Arizona GOP: Anti-Math...I'll Assume Pro-Barbie

A state senator that doesn't know algebra isn't as surprising as I'd like it to be, but that he would state his ignorance so directly...

It's Not the Brackets, It's the Breaks

First, what Atrios said:
Getting rid of tax brackets does not make the system "dramatically simpler."
Taxes are actually pretty simple for lots of people: anyone who files the 1040 EZ or just takes the standard deduction, and don't have dependents or mortgage or other deductions and credits to put in there.  Even for people with common deductions, tax filing isn't all that complex.

The main reason that taxes get complex is that we spend hours trying not to pay them, and politicians have put in hundreds of breaks that are available to different people and businesses in different cases.  Anyone who wants to simplify the tax code actually has a pretty simple job: eliminate all deductions and credits.  You would probably want to adjust rates (and brackets) along with that, but that's really it.  You made $85k?  go to table, pull up your tax number, that's what you owe.

Right now someone who makes $85k likely pays taxes as though they made $70k, and may get credit for non-tax activity toward that.  That's why taxes are complex.  Between tables and computers, no one actually calculates their taxes.  The calculations are all done on deductions and credits.  We could have 100 brackets, or even a continuum and it would not make anything more complex.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Yes, Student Loan Debt is a Problem [Part the Infinity]

Another article, and another day that nothing is going to be done about this.  I still think that a student loan forgiveness by the Fed buying up all the debt and torching it and free college going forward would be the best fix.  One quick note that was in there was about mortgage requirements:
especially under new mortgage rules that limit total debt for a would-be borrower to 43 percent of their annual income.
I did not know that.  I'll be getting married this year, and apparently we wouldn't qualify for a mortgage after that due primarily to student loans (boo debt!).  Good thing I've already got one (hooray debt!?!).

Monday, February 17, 2014

Another Must Read

Really, just about everything Matt Taibbi writes, but this one is the latest.  Depressing, but stuff that everyone needs to know if we're to have any hope of stopping the next global financial meltdown.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Actually, You Kind of Do...

In David Atkins' post "Serfdom Either Way" he references the report discussed here about the wage gap between college grads and high school grads.  He doesn't say much about it, in fact most of what he does say is:
Do I really need to comment here? The insanity speaks for itself.
I think I know what he is talking about: either go into massive debt or get a shitty job.  But you really do need to comment about it, because the implication of the price premium for college grads is that it is, in fact, worth it to go to college, even when it means incurring debt.  Now I certainly think that college should be much more affordable--in fact free to everyone--but so long as we have this capitalist fantasy about everything, it not only makes sense that college tuition has gotten high, this report clearly implies that the high cost is entirely justified.  Because the gap has been spreading it also implies that the value (and the cost) should grow faster than GDP.

If a college degree means an extra $17k/year (for life!) then it sure as hell is worth paying $30k/year for 4 years to get one.  Now this isn't the math that most students (or their parents) do, and the nature of student loans is borderline predatory, but it isn't "insanity" it's perfectly rational capitalism.

(Note: I hope this isn't a trend of him becoming increasingly irrational, because this follows a post of his from yesterday, that was mostly fine but that very oddly stated "Bill Gates isn't exactly an innovator"...I'm not sure what he would call Bill Gates, but innovator, at the least, is pretty damned appropriate.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

No More Brand Loyalty

I think the article should have made clearer that this is really only true of consumer goods, and maybe small businesses--large corporations/businesses have lots of brand loyalty on the items they buy (sometimes for good reason, other times not so much).  Still, broadly, this is a good thing for society.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What Atrios Said

I think may be scariest when it comes to gun nuts (for whom it undoubtedly holds true).

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

USPS Banking - I Like It

This is a great idea (it actually sounds familiar, but not so much that I'll admit to having heard it before).  Also, while payday lenders and the like would be the biggest losers, and while [big] banks mostly don't seem to want small depositors, I am most curious to know what the effect would be on banks.  There's a lot of inertia in banking, but the USPS has some serious advantages over the big banks even for people not in banking deserts.

People who currently have banks, but only a couple thousand $ in savings, at most, are mostly being screwed over if that money is in a bank.  Switching to credit unions broadly makes sense, but not all credit unions are equal, and many people who won't switch offer as reason credit unions' (and small banks') shortage of locations/ATMs.  USPS clearly doesn't have that issue.