Bits & Pieces (Wednesday Evening Open Mic)

I am on record as predicting Obama wins in 2012, based on historical trends. That is, the last incumbent to lose the Whitehouse without a 3rd party or primary challenger (folks who died or decided not to run don’t count) was Herbert Hoover.

However, the general level of dissatisfaction with government seems to be at an all-time high.

I can’t imagine a time when it’s been more likely that the majority of voters are going to go to the polls with a “throw the bums out” mentality.

41% of North American mobile phone users plant to buy the iPhone5. However, I intend, after the release of the iPhone5, to buy an iPhone4. Does pretty much everything I want, and I’m expecting they will cut the price. I can’t wait, because my iPhoneG3 sucks. The WiFi radio is dead (and since I don’t have the data plan, there’s no internet me, which makes getting any new apps on it a pain), and the battery is getting increasingly weak. I think I’ll have to get the data plan when I upgrade, but at $15 a month, I’ll live with it. I haven’t had a cellular data plan for about two years, and I miss it.

If you played a lot of video games in the 80s and 90s, and you haven’t heard of the Angry Videogame Nerd, you need to. He does a lot of great old video game reviews, most of them negative (about games he hates) and laced with profanity.

However, this is a special announcement (a positive “special message, without pro
fanity) review about an obscure title called Ninja Baseball BatMan.

Warning: there will be some more AVGN embeds from in the future. I love the profanity strewn show, the coverage of so many classic video games and consoles, and apparently he’s moved to a format ( that I can actually see and embed. So . . . I will! The Moonwalker review is a classic.

Ever wondered if there were parochial schools for Scientologist (I can never type that word without thinking of Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage, and L. Ron Hoover and the First Church of Appliantology)? Well, wonder no more. There is one: Delphian! — KW

We’re so damn smart on this blog people should start paying us for what we write! Here’s a guy who’s paid to come to the same conclusion that we did last night about Melissa Harris-Perry’s piece:

It is far too early, of course, to know how race will affect Obama’s performance in the general election in November 2012. It may also be true that liberals do not give Obama
sufficient credit for his legislative accomplishments. But for the moment at least, I don’t think we [can] confidently attribute the differences between Obama’s and Clinton’s support among the general public to race.
He’s got charts and everything to back his point up. Score for ATiM!

Couldn’t resist passing this on. . .

Michi again

Hump Day Open Thread

As today is my husbands 63 and 5 months birthday celebration we’re taking the day off, JK. We’re always looking for an excuse for a holiday.

A few links to keep us going.

I found this headline from the NY Times amusing.

Europe Nears Agreement on Bailout Fund That May Be Inadequate

By the time the entire process is finished, about mid-October if all goes well, Europe’s leaders will have a newly expanded European Financial Stability Facility that most analysts say will be, at $600 billion, grossly inadequate to extinguish the crisis, since it lacks the means to cope with the larger economies of Italy and Spain.
It seems another example of too little, too late on the part of the leaders of the 17-nation euro zone. But it is also another example of sharply differing analyses of the core problem of the euro, making a solution hard to reach.

And from the Left Coast Desk
Gov. Chris Christie was here at the Reagan Library. I guess he’s still not running.

The video, on the Politico website, represented his “answers back to back to back together on the question of running for the presidency,” he told hundreds of Republicans gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley — several of whom asked him to run.

Among the responses on the video: “I’m 100% certain I’m not going to run,” “I don’t want to run” and “I don’t feel ready in my heart to be president.”

And my favorite DFH David Dayen points to this. Apparently the USPS is required to pre-fund future retiree benefits of postal workers who aren’t even born yet.

The USPS economic crisis is the result of a provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that requires the Postal Service to pre-fund the health care benefits of future retirees—a burden no other government agency or private company bears.

The legislation requires the USPS to fund a 75-year liability over a 10-year period, and that requirement costs the USPS more than $5.5 billion per year. Guffey also pointed out that “the federal government is holding billions of dollars in postal overpayments to its pension accounts.” 

All of the USPS losses over the past four years come from this mandate. You cannot find another organization in the world, AFAIK, that pre-funds 75 years of benefits over a 10-year period. And it’s not just the overpayments, it’s the opportunity costs of having to hold that much reserve capital that cannot be used when times are tough, or to invest in more attractive services. This results from a 2006 law that was one of the last time bombs of the Denny Hastert-Bill Frist Congress. That needs to change.

— LM

Apropos of nothing: Using a 3D Printer to print food. That’s cool, but I saw a talk (I think it was a TED talk) where the guy talked about using the same sort of technology in laser printers to print nutritious wafers. Couldn’t find that, but that also sounded exciting. Not quite to the point of having Star Trek food replicators. But close. — KW

Illinois likely to appeal dismissal of charges against man facing 75 years for “eavesdropping” by recording a public official. – NoVA. They want to throw him in jail essentially for life.

She is a disturbed child

Why do doctors make so much? Why is medical care so expensive?

It is the law of supply and demand: The AMA restricts the supply of doctors. 

The best article that I came across is: old.  More recent and an established history of the practice..

But, why? Why on earth would you restrict access to health care, a necessity for all people; young, old, middle-aged, fat, thin, tall, short……..WHY?

I don’t buy that medical practioners are that much smarter than the rest of us.

So, is it to make it more simple to regulate practitioners? Or just up the salary? Or is an ego thing?

Does it disturb you? Why?

Flat tax vs. fair tax

This topic came up in a bit of back and forth recently, so I thought I’d hold forth and dodge a few soft tomatoes. Sauce!

There seem to be two sharp divisions between conservatives and liberals on taxation. The first of these is what kind of taxes people should pay. I have heard the refrain from conservative economists that taxes such as capital gains and estate taxes are the worst and consumption taxes are the best. I’m sure it’s pure coincidence that the wealthy pay the former taxes whereas lower wage earners are hit more heavily by the latter. I see this division as a philosophical one. I support taxing capital gains as ordinary income with indexing for inflation. Or perhaps a rate lowered by the inflation rate.

The flat tax vs. graduated rates is more interesting to me. As it has been proposed, the flat income tax is reasonably progressive due to the large personal exemption that is attached to it. But how do they compare? I took as a proposition to compare the current tax rates with a hypothetical flat tax. I put in a significant exemption for the flat tax and required it to raise roughly the same revenue as the current system. I even went to the census to get the income distribution. It’s a little tricky as 26% of households earn $100k or more and that wasn’t broken out. I assumed a gradually falling fraction from $100K upwards (using a Lorentzian distribution). It misses those earning $1M+, but I’ve heard enough times that this is a small fraction of the total. Anyway, this is a thought experiment, so my theoretical America has an income cap of $1M.

The requirements on my flat tax are that it has a $25K personal exemption and must raise the same amount as the current system. Turns out that you need a 32% rate. Here’s the plot of the two rates compared and the difference.

My flat tax is a little more progressive for incomes under $40K, though neither system generates much income from that portion of the electorate. The real story is that the upper middle class, roughly the 50% to 90% percentile, will see a rise in their effective rates of a few percent and those in the top 10% pay somewhat reduced rates. Now, there’s lots missing. Households have more than one person and there’s plenty of exemptions. So, this should really be a case of the taxation for net income after deductions, but I don’t have the demographics on that one.
Both sides are proposing a progressive system, so what’s the point? The main effect of a flat tax reform will be to redistribute the tax burden more evenly across the top half of the income spectrum. True, a flat tax is simpler to administrate, but so would a graduated system with several brackets. One can look that information up in a table anyway.
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