Archive for category: Economics

Friday Quote- Russ Roberts

14 Jun
June 14, 2018

“Capitalism involves struggle, but it has an invisible heart beating at its core that transforms people’s lives.”

Social Security Going Broke Faster

07 Jun
June 7, 2018

People, particularly Boomers, hate when I inform them that Social Security is not a pension – it’s welfare that’s paid with its own special tax. I get all sorts of vitriol like “we paid into the system” or “Congress stole our money” or that it’s somehow solvent because all of the IOUs in the Social Security fund are backed by the US government. Yeah, no. A government program that takes money from taxpayers and gives it to other taxpayers is welfare. The moment it leaves your paycheck it’s no longer your money. There is no lock box. It’s just a government slush fund.

That slush fund is projected to be insolvent in 2034, or just sixteen years from now. Which considering Social Security is one of the four biggest expenditures of the fed, is kind of scary. Worse, Medicare, another of the big four, will go broke in 2026, just eight years from now. What this means is that instead of money coming out of those funds to supplement the federal budget, the programs will need additional money to maintain services. Since Congress is loathe to either cut spending or significantly raise taxes, they will go to the tried and true method of borrowing more money.

That will work – for a while. Maybe even a long while. At some point, the federal government will be forced to make some very unpalatable choices. Because there will come a point when tax revenues and the credit of the American government will be outstripped by entitlements, interest, and the defense budget.

Personally, I’d like to see a phase out of Social Security and Medicare to private accounts. While I’m not a fan of government welfare, I could at least semi-support targeted welfare for those in need instead of the blanket welfare approach of the current programs.

For my Gen X and Millienial readers, the big takeaway is do not include Social Security in your retirement planning. Of you’re like me and don’t pay into Social Security because you pay into a pension plan, don’t count on that for retirement. Only count on what you can expect to receive from investments. There’s a damn good chance that there won’t be anything for us.

Tab Clearing

17 May
May 17, 2018

I’m borrowing Tam’s title and clearing out articles that I meant to do full posts on.

Teaching Situational Awareness to Kids – Because I have two in my life, and I’d kinda like to keep them out of danger.

The Economist saying how wonderful universal health care is for all nations. This was one I wanted to fisk, but I’d recommend reading it to understand how the proponents think.

Syrian Metal Is War – Yeah, like I could scroll past that article.

[Finland ends its universal basic income experiment.(https://fee.org/articles/finland-ends-its-experiment-with-universal-basic-income/?utm_source=zapier&utm) I like the concept of a basic income that replaces all other welfare programs. It just doesn’t seem viable in the real world.

Start-ups make an alternative for braces, and the dental groups rent seek. – I hate when businesses use the violence of government to keep others out of the market.

The Volokh Conspiracy has an excellent column on not supporting laws you wouldn’t kill someone to enforce. Honestly, that would be an interesting bit of mandatory language in any law that assesses a criminal or civil penalty. Make the legislators affirm that this is important enough to possibly kill someone over.

A surprising column from The Atlantic on cultural appropriation. I swear to FSM that I would laugh in the face of any person foolish enough to accuse me of that. Or denigrate.

That’s all for now. I’ll probably need to do this again.

Income Inequality- Bogus Statistic, Real Issue

14 May
May 14, 2018

I was listening to the Reason podcast with Jonathan Rauch was being interviewed about his new book. Of course, I’m going to recommend that you listen to the whole thing. I found it very enlightening about the nature of happiness, particularly for those hitting middle age.

One item that came up during the interview dealt with how most people view income inequality. In my opinion, I’ve always considered income inequality a bullshit metric. Something used to gin up the masses and sell papers and clicks. IMHO, the far more important metric is how are the people doing year over year or over time. It’s not like the economy is a closed system. As long as people’s lives are consistently getting better, then why should it matter if some segments are increasing more than others?

This is not normal human psychology. People tend to base their happiness on how they are doing compared to others. It really is important to keep up with the Jonses. When people don’t think they are improving as fast as the rest of the world, unhappiness abounds. This becomes intensified with all the media streams blaring out conspicuous consumption of the various media whores – I mean, celebrities.

This unhappiness is what unrest is made of. Or at least, one thing that can contribute to a restless population. It also appears to contribute to the rise of populists – on both sides of the traditional political spectrum. Note the rise of Trunp and Sanders. Both of them tapped into the unhappiness of the population by promising the people to make their lives better. To either bring the people’s livelihoods up – or bring down those the people think are doing too much better.

I’m not going to pretend that there’s an easy solution. It’s a psychological issue, and nothing about psychology is easy. People are just too fucked up. IMHO, there are some things that should be done. We need to look at economic policies that help increase people’s standards of living. My personal hobby horses are free trade, low taxes, and limited regulations. I don’t see how trying to redistribute wealth by taxing the top earners would help grow the economy and increase standards of living.

Although I still think it’s a bullshit metric, I’m going to take a more careful look into income inequality – but more as a gauge of the populace. This may be one of the leading indicators of a real civil problem. One that might require me to make sure I’ve got enough ammo and storm shutters on my windows.

Ride Sharing Scams

11 May
May 11, 2018

I found this Reader’s Digest article via Active Response Training. I’ve only recently started using ride sharing services, so I took a look.

Most of the scams are drivers asking for cash to double dip the fare. The biggest takeaway from this was if you’re paying through the app, and the driver demands cash, report him/her to the company. I would also recommend that you listen to your intuition. If something seems off, end the ride or don’t get into the car.

Florida Baseball Sucks, So Let’s Keep Propping It Up

26 Apr
April 26, 2018

The local fish wrapper decided it needed to reply to a recent WSJ article on how professional baseball sucks in Florida. Full disclosure: I’ve been to exactly one Rays game, and I’m not a huge fan of baseball to begin with. So, why am I writing about this?

Because the same Tampa Bay Rays that is being sued by the players union for not spending enough on the team is busily trying to get the local governments to pony up for a new stadium down in Ybor.(That’s pronounced EE-Bore for those of you not familiar with Tampa.)

That’s my tax dollars going to prop up a team that has trouble selling seats already. That’s my tax dollars going to yet another public stadium with false promises of it being a boon to the area economy.

Bread and circuses.

Diversity Is A Good Thing, As Long As You Know What To Diversify

19 Apr
April 19, 2018

Reason put out this article earlier this week on the dangers of Silicon Valley’s burgeoning ideological conformity. Let’s look at the first couple of paragraphs:

quote When it comes to software, Silicon Valley understands the threat of monocultures. If 100 percent of computers run the same code and malware authors discover an exploit, 100 percent of computers will be vulnerable to the same attack. Fortunately, the way to reduce such risks is straightforward: Increase diversity.

quote Alas, this insight seems limited to software. Technology executives have yet to fully recognize the risks posed by the potent political monocultures forming inside their own companies.

The problem is that so many who push “diversity” fail to understand what they need to diversify. For these tech companies – and other places pushing diversity for diversity (cough, universities, cough, literary circles) – they are mistaking the biological for the mental. In essence, they are saying because they have both golden labradors and chocolate labradors, they are diverse – and they don’t see the problem when large numbers of their dogs die off. For tech companies, the biggest threat from this failure to recognize they are not really diverse is going out of business because they’ve alienated enough customers.

However, the same issue is impacting the RKBA. I keep hearing how we do we get more women, POCs, young people, etc. involved in the gun rights battle. Too many times, I see the RKBA making the same mistake of substituting outward diversity with inward diversity. You can’t invite people with one breath, and with the next demand they immediately conform to every thing you believe outside of RKBA – such as God, abortion, economics, and/or the current issues of the day.

We’re not breeding stronger livestock, so we shouldn’t be looking for biological diversity. We’re trying to breed stronger ideas, so we need ideological diversity.

Ignoble End to an Upstart?

09 Apr
April 9, 2018

At the grocery store this week, The Brother and I saw a Tesla 3 in the wild for the first time. The Brother wants a Tesla for his next car, and to be honest, they tempt me as well. I wish there was a version of the Chevy Volt’s electric with gasoline backup system that was built into an SUV. Both The Brother and I believe that electric vehicles will phase out the internal combustion vehicles, but that’s going to require time for the infrastructure to be built up.

I’ve also been a fan of Tesla in its history of disrupting the market. Tesla has done a lot to “mainstream” the electric vehicle – much in the same way Apple mainstreamed the smartphone. For me, I’ve enjoyed them working to fight back against the franchise car dealership system.

Which makes this analysis of Tesla’s cash crisis from the Economist disappointing. My read is Tesla is burning through cash because there is a corporate culture of chaos and letting the better get in the way of the good.

Tesla received four hundred thousand $1,000 deposits for the Tesla 3’s. That’s an initial investment of $400 million. I can’t see any of the big car firms not being able to set up a new line for that sort of initial capital.

I’m really hoping Tesla manages to push through, but I have a suspicion that it will revert to a boutique manufacturer of innovative EVs while the big firms bring the electric car revolution to the masses.

Early Days for Self-Driving Cars

22 Mar
March 22, 2018

Borepatch helpfully linked to this article regarding to the pedestrian killed by an autonomous Uber vehicle in Arizona. According to the cops, who reviewed the Uber car’s dash cam, it’s unlikely a human driver would have been able to avoid the pedestrian.

I understand why Borepatch distrusts them, but I still believe that the self-driving car will be as revolutionary as the car itself was. Yes, it will destroy some industries. If history is any teacher, the technology will also lead to the rise of brand new industries.

And maybe finally kill the stupid passenger/commuter rail proponents.

Another One Bites the Dust – Toys R Us

16 Mar
March 16, 2018

So, Toys R Us announced it’s shuttering or selling off all of its 700 stores. Well, that’s a damned shame. I have lots of great memories of going there to get the new Transformer or GI Joe toy when I was growing up.

According to this article, Toys R Us was already in trouble before Amazon started dominating the retail sector.

Wow, lots of debt is a bad thing – whether for a business, or a family, or a nation.