Archive for category: Economics

Tech Giants and Public Accomodations

08 Aug
August 8, 2018

So, I have a question. In light of Apple, Facebook, and just about all the other tech giants scourging InfoWars from their sites, I’m seeing two things: shameless celebrating by the left who are triumphing in private businesses choosing who they should deal with and the right pointing out that businesses should be allowed to do business with whomever they want whether in cyberspace or meatspace (e.g., businesses who don’t want to serve “teh gayz”.) To which, the left responds with “public accommodations.”

There’s strong arguments for public accommodations, particularly when the supply of services is limited. It’s easy to claim that businesses should have the right to choose what customers they’ll serve when there are twelve other bakers in the city. It’s a bit harder when there’s only one baker in town.

So, considering that currently the tech giants are acting more like, say the only baker in a town, should they be forced to provide platforms under public accommodations laws?

Personally, considering how each side has been flip-flopping on their normal core issues with each new twist of the culture/chattering war, I’d kind of like to see the debate.

Friday Quote- Dave Ramsey

02 Aug
August 2, 2018

A budget is not about restricting what you can spend. It gives you permission to spend without guilt or regret.

Another Blow to Federal Public Sector Unions

30 Jul
July 30, 2018

This executive order was signed before the recent Janus decision, but it just recently came to my attention. One of my issues with the public sector unit are union people doing union business while on the clock. For some employees, they may officially be filling a role, but they do union duties full time. Not anymore.

“…agencies should ensure that taxpayer-funded union time is used efficiently and authorized in amounts that are reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest. Federal employees should spend the clear majority of their duty hours working for the public. No agency should pay for Federal labor organizations’ expenses, except where required by law. Agencies should eliminate unrestricted grants of taxpayer-funded union time and instead require employees to obtain specific authorization before using such time. Agencies should also monitor use of taxpayer-funded union time, ensure it is used only for authorized purposes, and make information regarding its use readily available to the public.”

Agencies also are required to charge the unions rent for any space used for union duties.

Between this and SCOTUS, the unions are having a rough time. I can’t say I’m particularly upset about that.

Why Aren’t You Rubes Taking Risks?

12 Jul
July 12, 2018

Via Peter Grant, I stumbled across this little gem from CNBC about how those poor/foolish homeowners aren’t taking out HELOCs. Don’t they know that home equity is supposed to be used to fuel consumerism.

For those unaware, Home Equity Lines of Credit are loans made against the portion of the home the owners have already paid off. They were advertised heavily in the early aughts for doing all sorts of things such as bill consolidating (taking out new debt to pay off old debt), doing remodeling on the house, sending kids to college, etc. Pretty much any big ticket item could be financed through a HELOC. After all, the housing market just kept going up.

Until it didn’t. And people were now underwater in their homes. With a variable interest rate HELOC. Many lost their homes. Some still haven’t recovered after a decade.

Now the housing market is heating up again, and the same damn fools are telling consumers that they should tap into their equity again. All that value tied up in real estate and houses instead of being used to take out loans. People just don’t understand how they could make their new home value work for them.

Or maybe the people are being smarter than the “experts”.

Reason Article Barrage!

11 Jul
July 11, 2018

Cleaning up some open tabs. As my readers should know, Reason magazine is where I get a lot of my news and analysis.

California Supreme Court Rules Impossible Laws Are Constitutional Basically, the court says impossibility can be a defense, but does not invalidate the law. Okay, I can understand that concept in theory, but it has real world costs for people forced to defend themselves from overzealous prosecutors enforcing this bullshit law. This is the kind of legal wonky ruling that reduces confidence in legal thinkers.

Illinois Court Rules That Police Can’t Arrest A Person For Carrying a Gun Without Checking For Valid Permit. This kind of balances out the previous article. I’d say I was surprised it came out of Illinois, but their courts have been much better on RKBA than the legislature.

A federal judge has blocked Tennessee’s practice of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid court fees without first determining if the debtors are too poor to pay. This is a good step to remedying the vicious cycle of fines, suspension, jail that plagued the lower income communities.

Reason Is Concerned That the Recent Loss by the Southern Poverty Law Center Could be a Threat to Free Speech. I understand the concern that defamation suits can have a chilling effect on speech, which is why I support strong Anti-SLAPP laws. I will also admit to my own schadenfreude against the SPLC.

DC Taxes the Hell Out of Ride Sharing to Prop Up Broken Metro System. In my trips to DC, I’ve never had to deal with the numerous issues plaguing the Metro. That being said, with the coming changes in vehicles (automation and electric), I can’t support additional taxes to rail that is on its way out, much less an agency as troubled as the Metro.

Union Dues

05 Jul
July 5, 2018

So, we now have the US Supreme Court telling public sector unions that they can’t force employees to pay dues because those dues are used for speech that the employee has no say in or actively opposes. Some are calling this the death of unions, which I don’t think is necessarily a good thing. I’m hoping it will force a change in how unions operate.

I think public sector unions need to be abolished or substantially overhauled. There’s a governor on private sector unions in as much that if they have to balance the firm’s survival with their demands. Management has to balance the unions’ demands with the survival of the firm. Neither can force a third party with violence to support both the survival of the firm and the unions’ demands.

However, I can also understand wanting to band together to prevent management from forcing bad pay and working conditions. I also understand how the government, in its role as an employer, may want to have one negotiation covering as many employees as possible instead of hundreds or thousands of individual employment contracts. So, how to address all of these competing concerns?

My solution would be forcing a wall between the union’s bargaining activities and its political activities. I’m thinking how the NRA must separate out its political activities (by way of the NRA-ILA) and its educational activities. The bargaining fund could only be used for bargaining activities with management, and not be used for political donations or speech. A fee per employee could be assessed because each employee is using the union services for that bargaining. Any other service that the union would provide (health care, pension, grievances) should be through non-compelled membership. If union leadership wants to ask for political donations to support candidates, then those donations should be in a specific political fund for those activities.

There is a union at the day job. I don’t want to join it both because I dislike how they handle employee-management relations as well as just disliking public sector unions in concept. I’d be more willing to pay a fee for bargaining if I knew that it wasn’t going to be used to pay for speech that I strongly oppose or advocate for employees that really need to leave government service.

Maybe this ruling will force the changes I want to see.

I Thought Gentrification Was Bad

02 Jul
July 2, 2018

The “common wisdom” is that gentrification is bad because it pushes out the poor original residents by raisining prices and taxes beyond what they can afford. That may be less common wisdom and more urban myth according to this article from the Economist.

Gentrification is actually a boon to original residents as it brings in better stores with more goods, and increases the quality of local services.

Well, That Was A Hell of Week

25 Jun
June 25, 2018

A flurry of important Supreme Court decisions that will probably take a few years for the full import to become clear.

The big one was the ruling that states could force companies who have no physical presence to collect sales tax for the states. This will definitely have a chilling effect on internet sales, which has thrived on relying on the customer to pay the appropriate sales tax to the state instead of being the revenue agent. One thing that was brought up but not adequately discussed is that the law the Supreme Court upheld had an exemption for businesses under a specified threshold ($100,000 in sales or 200 separate deliveries). Would a law without that threshold still be valid under this ruling?

The next big one was the ruling that cops need a warrant before obtaining cell phone records. According to this analysis, Gorusch’s dissent is more of a concurrence with the result but dissent on the logic made to reach the decision.

Another important decision that will probably fly under the radar, the court decided that Administrative Law Judges needed to be appointed by the president or delegate and not simply by the bureaucracy. Considering the width and breadth of department regulations taking the place of actual laws, this at least makes those who decide in adversarial proceedings more accountable to the political will instead of the bureaucracy.

This has been a most interesting session.

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.