« September 2008 | Main | November 2008 »

October 31, 2008

we thought it was just unpatriotic

Barack Obama pointed out this morning that opposition to his plan to raise taxes on higher income Americans amounted to “selfishness.”

This is clear to anyone familiar with the tax code.  It’s amazing to think that the federal government still allows upper-income Americans to keep two thirds of what they earn. That’s still more than half!

Well, it’s time to pay up.  Hey, you shouldn’t have brought in all that income if you weren’t prepared to share it with the rest of the country (sort of like Obama’s kindergarten toys, although it’s not clear whether the other kids all voted to make him "spread the LEGOs around").

The selfishness of this refusal to pay more is made all the worse when you consider that the bottom third of income tax filers must somehow bear up under the crushing burden of paying as much as $0 in federal taxes.  That barely leaves 100% of their income for essentials.

The problem with allowing wealthier people to keep their money is they rarely spend it on the important things that the government would spend it on.  For example, when was the last time you and the family decided to head on out on a Saturday afternoon and pay for research to further the development of lobster dog biscuits?  Yeah, that’s what we thought. But for the federal government, not only would we not have lobster dog biscuits, we wouldn’t have the home-gown expertise to produce lobster dog biscuits.  This would leave us at the mercy of foreign suppliers of lobster dog biscuits.  (If there actually were any.)

No, you probably take your money and go blow it buying a nice meal for you and your family at a local restaurant or maybe get some plants for your yard or furniture for your house. 

Sure, that might help provide employment for other hard-working Americans, but wouldn’t they be much better off in a government make-work program where they would at least know that their job had been approved by a dozen layers of highly qualified government bureaucrats who are expert at job making?  (Let's just say that National Mule and Packers Museum isn’t going to build itself, okay?)

So, we implore our higher income readers, yes, those of you who make more than $250,000 $200,000 $150,000 $120,000 a year to stop being so selfish, and give a little.  Okay, a little more.  Okay, a lot more.

And give it where you know it will do the most good.

Washington DC.

J.

October 31, 2008 at 04:52 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 30, 2008

the obamamatic! it both taxes, and spends, all at the same time! wow!

For those of you whose cable line was severed (possibly by yourself) and so were therefore somehow able to avoid Barack Obama’s half hour infomercial cross-network extravaganza last night, we provide a slightly abridged version below:


Are you tired of having to deal with life’s challenges? 
  Budgeting carefully?  Having to bother to live within your means?

You bet I am!


What if I told you, you could get a tax cut?

That sounds great!

And not have to make your mortgage payments?

Not make my mortgage payments? That would be a real help, for sure! I hate making those, ha ha!

Everyone does! But with the Obamamatic, you’ll not only get that tax cut, you won’t have to make mortgage payments either!

Wow, where do I sign up?

Hold on, now.  I’m not done just yet!

You mean there’s more?


You bet there is.  How about billions of dollars for the auto companies?  And then billions more to pay you to buy the cars they make!

I sure wouldn’t turn it down, ha ha!


And that’s not all. How many times have you found yourself having to work hard for the things you want?

Too many times, that’s for sure!


Exactly!  How does free money for college sound?  How about free money for healthcare?  

Now wait a second.  If the Obamamatic can do all that, it must cost a fortune!


Not for you!

What do you mean?

Well, if you make less than $250,000 a year, it’s absolutely free!

Wow, really?

Well, maybe $200,000…

That’s still…

Or $150,000.

Well, as long as it’s free to me.  Because I can afford free, ha ha.


Ha ha, that’s right.  Plus, if you vote within the next six days, you will get, for no additional charge, the Biden Buddy.

What’s that?

The Biden Buddy is the latest in the Pocket Politician line.

So let me get this straight, if I act today, I get the tax cuts, I get the free mortgage payments, I get the free money for cars, college, healthcare AND the Biden Buddy for zero easy payments of zero?


That’s right!

That almost sounds too good to be true!


Yes, it does!

J.

October 30, 2008 at 12:40 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 29, 2008

CONSENSUS WATCH – 10/29/2008

An ongoing series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed immediately. After all, without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data.

One of the nagging problems currently facing The Consensus on global warming is that it’s not. 

Warming, that is.

Now, we wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “cooling.”  That seems unnecessarily alarmist. Let’s just say it’s anti-warming.  And is expected to anti-warm for at least another decade or so.

Of course, we already know that The Consensus is true, so this is not so much a problem for The Consensus as it just makes it more difficult to build a consensus around The Consensus. 

This is particularly problematical when dealing with a lay populace that just doesn’t understand that the issue has already been settled and so remains stubbornly open to new ideas.

How to explain this attitude? Part of the problem has been that global warming failed to produce catastrophes through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow global warming would bring on calamity and it hasn’t. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to their anti-Consensus views, books by Roy Spencer, or antipathy to the IPCC, or Al Gore, or Bono as a way to explain their frustrations.

You can help, however.  Whenever confronted by someone who begins citing the latest research regarding current anti-warming, try some of these counter arguments. 

“But, there’s already a consensus.”

“I guess what you’re really saying is that you want to murder polar bears.”

“Are you sure you haven’t confused Fahrenheit with Celsius? You can’t mix the two, you know.”

“The Pacific Decadal Oscilla-what-a-thon?  You just made that up, didn’t you?”

“And how many Nobel Peace prizes have you won?”

“I’m sorry, I meant to say “Oscars.”  Oh, zero of those too, huh?”

“That’s just the exception that proves the rule.  Yes and that one.  Also that oneAnd that, too! Geez, how proven-by-exceptions does a rule have to be before you’ll accept it?”

“You, know, I could have you arrested for that…”

“I think you’ve got something between your teeth.”

“Did you hear about the Lindsay Lohan sex tape?”

Don’t be surprised if you meet some resistance in defending The Consensus. Some people just refuse to accept the fact that everybody already agrees on this.

J.

October 29, 2008 at 05:25 PM in Global Warming with CONSENSUS WATCH | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 28, 2008

the hirsute need not apply

These are the gentleman in charge of administering the government’s financial bailout program.

Composite


On the left is Neel Kashkari, in the middle, James H. Lambright, and on the right, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. Wait, maybe that’s the other way around.  On the left is Paulson, on the right… no, hold on,… Okay, on the left is Lambright, in the middle is Paulson, and… no, that’s not it either.  Actually, we may have had it right the first time…

Anyway, this did get us to thinking about what other people the Treasury Department might be considering hiring to help out with the bailout:


Lenin Vladimir Lenin

Pros: Bald. White. Extensive experience with collective state ownership of the means of production.

Cons: Dead (although believed to be registered to vote by ACORN in several counties in Ohio).


Edwards Anthony Edwards

Pros: Bald. White. Could probably use the work.

Con:  Unclear if he is bald enough






Michael_chiklis Michael Chiklis

Pros: Bald. White. Brings some star power.

Cons: Might be too bald, even for the Treasury Department.




PaulShaffer Paul Shaffer

Pros: Bald. White. Can engage in witty banter with Paulson between cabinet meetings.

Con: Is Paul Shaffer.



Steveballmer Steve Ballmer

Pros: Bald. White. Can help switch everyone back to XP from Vista.

Con: Sweaty AND insane. Not a good combination.


Mr-freeze Mr. Freeze

Pros: Bald. White at normal temperatures. Can deal with recalcitrant bankers with freeze ray.

Con: Not technically real.  






Michael Jordan Michael Jordan

Pro: Bald. Has the competitive will to win.

Con: Not white, but it’s Michael Jordan, so it’s okay.






No doubt we have missed many qualified bald middle-aged white guys who could surely bring a wide diversity of ideas and experiences to a Treasury Department clearly in need of some fresh and new bald middle-aged white perspectives.

In the meantime, we're reminded of an old song:


J.

October 28, 2008 at 05:09 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2008

keeping your savings safe. from you.

The current 401(k) retirement savings program has one fatal flaw:

It’s voluntary.

The problem with voluntary programs is that individual citizens, left to their own devices, will often make decisions that are different from the ones Teresa Ghilarducci of the New School for Social Research would make. 

As luck would have it, Teresa Ghilarducci of the New School for Social Research has a solution for that:

Make people save: a mandatory, universal savings plan on top of Social Security.”

Social Security being the existing mandatory universal savings plan. This would be different in that it would not be called “Social Security” as that would just cause confusion. 

The new plan, called a “guaranteed retirement account,” would eliminate the traditional tax-advantaged 401(k) plan that currently empowers you to take charge of your own future, and replace it with one which empowers Teresa Ghilarducci to take charge of your future.

Specifically, it would mandate that you turn over 5% of your income to the government.  Those funds would then earn 4% less than the average annual inflation-adjusted return you would normally receive on a diversified portfolio of equities in a 401(k).  That may not sound great at first, but the government would make up for the paltry returns by contributing an extra $600 per year.

That’s right.  That’s a six, followed by TWO zeros. In case you’re not accustomed to dealing with such large numbers, that’s what we call a “hundred.” Why, it’s like winning the lotto every year. Assuming you live in a really really small state.

At a hearing exploring the issue, Rep. Jim McDermott observed that, "the savings rate isn't going up for the investment of $80 billion [in 401(k) tax breaks], we have to start to think about whether or not we want to continue to invest that $80 billion for a policy that's not generating what we now say it should." Hey, it’s your own fault. If only you had behaved the way Jim McDermott thinks you should, then maybe he’d consider letting you keep that $80 billion that was yours in the first place. 

According to Ghilarducci, the guaranteed retirement account would also eliminate "a source of financial anxiety and...fruitless discussions with brokers and financial sales agents, who are also desperate for more fees and are often wrong about markets,” by creating a second government program that, like the first, will provide the comfort and certainty of knowing that you’ll probably never see a dime from that one either.

But, what if, for whatever reasons unique to your own personal circumstances, you decide you don’t want to put away 5% of your income for some period of time? That’s the beauty of the plan. "You can't," says Ghilarducci. 

Now that’s putting the “da” back in Mandatory!

What about other policy approaches to ensure ample retirement income? Ghilarducci rejects the popular suggestion that we just extend retirement ages, saying, “No. Just because we are living longer doesn't mean we're living healthier. There's no definitive evidence on that.”

Aside from the whole not-being-true part, that’s an excellent argument. 

And even if seniors were capable of working a few years past the current retirement age, Ghilarducci sees a grim future for them in which “we will be bowing our heads in shame when an older person shuffles off to make our cappuccino.”

As you can see, certain kinds of work are completely without dignity as compared to others.  An example:

Making coffee: No dignity.

MakingCoffee

Being the Irene and Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of Economic Policy Analysis at the New School for Social Research: Lots of dignity.

BeingProfessor


(Although we have to admit we do feel a slight twinge of shame thinking of Teresa Ghilarducci shuffling off to teach her course on “The Economics of Gender and Racial Discrimination.” Really, a grown woman…)

What is it about the state of senior citizens that Professor Ghilarducci feels the government must take complete control over your retirement planning?

They have the lowest poverty rate of any age demographic.

Also, all the really good economic research subjects were already taken.

J.

October 27, 2008 at 09:07 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2008

tax money: it’s just not for running the government anymore!

Finally, some of the money authorized to help deal with our current financial crisis is being put to work, helping to address the single biggest problem facing us all:

There are not nearly enough bank mergers.

With an upcoming infusion of $7.7 billion of your money, PNC Financial will acquire National City Corp to become the nation’s fifth largest bank.  

That feeling you have right now?  That’s called “pride.”

And with any luck, it won’t end there.  It is believed that the infusion of your money could lead to a wave of bank mergers, as the powerful nationalized banks take over weaker private ones. 

 “Hold on,” you are no doubt saying to yourself, “I sure hope that in addition to using my money to create banking empires that enrich their owners, they are going to raise the fees that I pay.”

Well, it wouldn’t be much of a bailout if it didn’t, now would it?

This does raise a question of fundamental fairness.  If we can give your money to banks to finance market-consolidating mergers shouldn’t other companies get a chance to use your money to do the same in the hope that they, too, may one day dominate their industries?

Don’t be silly, of course they should.

In fact, General Motors is going to be looking for some of your money to help it merge with Chrysler Corp.  This would help transform GM from what is today the nation’s largest automobile producer into what would be the nation’s more largest automobile producer.

And, as long as we’re already using your money to fund mergers and also fund investments in equipment, we might as well use it to fund auto loans as well.

It’s just the capitalist free market at work.  Well, except for the capital. And the market.

But, hey, at least it’s free!

Just not for you.

J.

October 24, 2008 at 08:54 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 22, 2008

taxes? what taxes?

It has long been a scandal in this country that two-thirds of everyone who works has to pay federal income tax.  “Why can’t someone else pay the taxes?” you justifiably ask yourself.

Well, your voice has been heard.  Under Barack Obama’s economic plan the percentage of workers who pay any federal income tax at all will drop from a totally unfair 67% today to a much more equitable 56%. 

This is in stark contrast to John McCain’s economic plan, which, while it would reduce the percentage paying, stops woefully short at 57%.  What’s he going to say to that 1% that he is heartlessly leaving on the tax rolls?  Tough luck? You’re going to have to pay income taxes just like everyon… well, half of everyone else?”

Tax Graph

Something to think about when you hear people saying, “elections don’t matter.” Oh, they matter all right, particularly to that tax-burdened 1% that a McCain presidency would leave out in the cold.

Even better, some analyses of the Obama plan put the percentage of people paying taxes (paying in the traditional, “pay” sense of the word) closer to 52%.

Reducing the percentage of people who actually pay for government to as little as 52% of the working population could have a number of positive impacts:

  1. Half the people will have absolutely no incentive to control government spending.  That means more free stuff!
  2. It will cut down on the number of people whining about high taxes by about fifteen percentage points.
  3. Since the less money you make, the more money you get from the government, you will finally be relieved from all that pressure to do “better.”  You don’t have to do better. Someone else is already doing better for you.
  4. When people say that new government programs will have to be paid for by "the taxpayer," there’s a 50-50 chance they aren’t talking about you.
  5. April 15 will start being referred to as “National Pay Day,” with news crews covering local post offices interviewing excited filers looking forward to their Earned Income Tax Credit checks from the government.

Naturally, there are trade-offs to be considered, as there will be some negative impacts as well:

  1. Tax jokes, long a staple of late-night comics, will just cause confusion and blank stares from large segments of the audience.    (“What does he mean, “IRS?”  “Don’t worry, honey, it’s Jay Leno, just laugh politely like we always do, it’s probably funny.”)
  2. For many people, “Tax Freedom Day” will more commonly fall on New Year's Day, blunting its intended impact.
  3. Old expressions may be misunderstood.  “I’m taxing your patience?  That’s good, right?”
  4. Be careful about accepting that promotion or doing too well in your business as you might accidentally place yourself in danger of paying taxes.  DON’T BE A VICTIM! Make sure you go easy on the personal success thing.
  5. Those of you unfortunate enough to find yourself in the tax-paying bracket, you’re probably going to be paying more.  A lot more.

Just a warning: There is a possibility that those still paying taxes will realize what’s going on while they are still in the majority. That is why it’s important that we get that percentage down below 50% as soon as possible. 

If you know what we mean and we think that you do.

J.

October 22, 2008 at 05:14 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2008

CONSENSUS WATCH – 10/20/2008

An ongoing series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed immediately. After all, without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data.

The bad news: Recent reports suggest that opportunities for dramatic photos of polar bears struggling to make their way across vast swaths of open water are going to be greatly diminished. 

Not particularly threatened polar bears

The good news:
Barack Obama is planning to declare “air” a pollutant!

According to Senator Obama’s energy advisor, Jason Grumet, upon taking office, Barack Obama will classify carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant.  Given that the exhalation of carbon dioxide is a normal byproduct of such common human activities as talking this could have wide-ranging ramifications, not the least of which is that longtime Consensus supporter Joe Biden would in all likelihood be declared a Superfund Site.

Such a move also suggests that human existence is gravely threatened by the existence of humans, which could further complicate efforts to build consensus toward policy solutions (particularly among the humans).

Pollutant-Spewing Humans

It is also unclear how this action might affect the growing plants rights movement, which represents a constituency that is naturally pro carbon dioxide.  Fortunately, they are not all that vocal at the moment.

This holly tree had no immediate comment. We think.

Holly not talking

However the positive effect this action would have on elevating levels of “green guilt” felt by Americans cannot be overemphasized since with every single breath, they will essentially be raping the planet. 

That ought to be good for a Prius purchase or two.

You might be saying to yourself, “Say, declaring that a naturally occurring substance abundant in nature and essential to all life on the planet is a pollutant is an important decision that will affect every American citizen in profound and lasting ways.  How do they plan on securing approval for this?”

The only way that could possibly legitimize the policy and forge a true consensus:

Executive fiat.

Consensus: It’s so much easier when there’s only one!

J.

October 20, 2008 at 01:14 PM in Global Warming with CONSENSUS WATCH | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 16, 2008

possible career paths for joe the plumber

Having quickly emerged as a media phenomenon following last night’s presidential debate, Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher, has a potentially bright future in front of him. 

Some possible opportunities:

Replace Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” 
Upside: No need to change the stationary.
Downside: Mika’s unfamiliarity with the distinctions between straight and offset pipe wrenches could create awkward silences during casual banter segments.

Begin unlikely, but highly profitable, Internet empire called “LOLplumber.”

Lolplumber  
Upside:
So stupid, it just might work.
Downside: No, really, just stupid.

Go into performance art and hit the road with a one-man show called “Pipes” where you unstop a sink and replace the pivot nut on the stopper.
Upside: Art community will heap praise on the show noting that its “raw emotion creates an ironic interplay between existential impulses and the unavoidable corporeal nature of social interaction.”
Downside: You will never have a clue what the art community is talking about.  Also, they have a huge backlog of stopped up sinks.

Win a seat in Congress
Upside: Daily interaction with toilets greatly decreased.
Downside:
Daily interaction with Barney Frank greatly increased.
 
Get a job as a CEO of a large financial institution.

Upside: Indoor work.
Downside: You’d probably have to take a pay cut.

Host a reality TV show, “So, You Think You Can Properly Install a Gate Valve!”
Upside: You’d be on TV!
Downside: Your panel of  judges would never show up on time, and when they did, they’d insist they had to run out to “get a part.”

Become a talk radio host.
Upside: You’d be getting paid to express your opinions.
Downside: Listeners, having never before been exposed to honest, straightforward plain-spoken opinions absent clear personal agendas may become disoriented and confused.

On second thought, being a plumber isn't a bad gig!

J.

October 16, 2008 at 03:27 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 15, 2008

viva la revolución! part 2

As details have emerged about the process by which the nine largest banks in the United States were nationalized, it has become clear that the federal government and the banks entered into one of those totally 100% equal partnerships where one partner gets to tell the other partner what to do.

Kind of like your marriage only without the sex.

Okay, exactly like your marriage.

And that is just the beginning.  The plan is to extend the nationalization program to smaller banks as well, not that the smaller banks are particularly interested.

What will happen to banks that just don’t want to be nationalized?

According to John C. Dugan, comptroller of the currency, “We will encourage institutions to apply.”  How they will encourage them is not clear.  Maybe they’ll point out that it will be good for the economy, or that it will help them attract capital, or how it would be a real shame if anything were to happen to their families, but sometimes accidents happen, right? And all of a sudden, badda bing badda boom, things get unnecessarily unpleasant ifyouknowwhatimean.

There is also the matter of how the bailout of the larger banks essentially penalizes smaller banks that were better run. Peter Fitzgerald, chairman of Chain Bridge Bank just outside Washington DC, said he was "much chagrined that we will be punished for behaving prudently by now having to face reckless competitors who all of a sudden are subsidized by the federal government."

Clearly, Peter Fitzgerald is a dirty communi… Wait, that isn’t really going to work anymore.

Peter Fitzgerald is a dirty capitalist trying to derive personal benefit based on nothing more than his own hard work. This is simply unacceptable. We must require that successful, well-run banks help out the banks that were run badly.

Or, in the new collectivist reordering:

“From each, according to their ability, to each according to their incompetency.”

Some people find all this government intervention troublesome, however, there is a silver lining: The Prime Minister of the UK is using the crisis to press for the creation of a new world financial order!

Think of it.  Our financial system managed with all the efficiency and integrity of the United Nations.

Sure, it won’t work, but at least it will be expensive!

Comrade J.

October 15, 2008 at 06:58 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack