So the IRS admits that it has been targeting conservative groups for years. Duh? I was hit way back in 2009.
Instead of griping about the past or hallucinating about impeaching President Obama, let's consider the best possible resolution for our country. The power of the IRS wasn't abused because any of the actors in this scandal are particularly evil; they're just normal people doing what they think is "best". Don't get me wrong -- no one behaved nobly, but their failings were well within the normal range of human behavior.
Unfortunately, and inevitably, vast power wielded for good intentions leads to bad results. The people aren't the problem, not even the President. They're no worse than average. The problem is that the tax system is hopelessly twisted. There's no way for a bureaucracy made of normal human beings to administer our tax system in a fair and just manner. The system has too much complexity, too many purposes, too many rent-seekers, too much discretion, too many rules, too many holes, and too much history for anyone to expect it to function.
The solution is to execute the IRS. Dissolve the entire organization, repeal all the tax laws, and start over with a blank slate. A Flat Tax would be my preference, but it almost doesn't matter. Any new system would be better than what we've got right now.
The current scandal may have enough punch to penetrate the consciousness of the general public, which already has a low opinion of the IRS. President Obama is popular and protected by the media, but more importantly he's impotent and he's leaving office in a few years anyway. However much you dislike President Obama, don't worry, he won't be around much longer. But the tax system will never die on it's own. It will have to be killed. Take this opportunity to strike at the heart of the Beast.
(And yes, this post makes me nervous. If I attract the Beast's attention it could easily crush me.)
This morning I read that the government contract covering the Apollo moon missions was only one page long. I haven't yet been able to confirm or deny this claim. Can anyone find any facts on this matter?
Via John Avlon who uses the neologism to describe the collection of scandals enveloping Barack Obama: scandalabra.
The latest non-Watergate to be labelled its second coming is actually a combination of three separate scandals afflicting the Barack Obama administration.
The collective weight of this scandalabra threatens to derail the president's ambitious legislative agenda, dragging him to premature lame duck status. But it doesn't represent outright criminality emanating from the Oval Office or promise to provoke a constitutional crisis, however fervently Obama's critics might wish it.
The Missouri legislature has tried and failed to pass a right-to-work law for a while, but now they're sending a "paycheck protection" bill to Governor Nixon which would have a similar effect, though more limited. Nixon is likely to veto the bill, and the Republican legislators don't appear to have enough votes to override a veto.
But the legislation, which earned final approval at the Capitol on Monday, would require public employee unions to get consent every year from members before deducting fees from their paychecks. Additionally, the bill also would require such unions to get annual written permission from members before using those fees for political purposes. ...
The measure passed the Republican-controlled House in an 85-69 vote -- well below the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.
As a St. Louis area resident this was a surprise to me: Dice.com has ranked St. Louis as the nation's fastest-growing tech hub!
St. Louis - The Golden Arch - The number of St. Louis-based technology jobs posted on Dice jumped 25 percent year/year. And those new tech jobs are coming at a higher price tag too: average tech salaries are up 13 percent year/year to $81,245. Popular jobs? Developers, programmers and consultants. St. Louis is becoming a start-up town, with support from the St. Louis Information Technology Entrepreneur Network.
Great news, since I plan to stay here for a while.
You probably know how much you earn per hour gross, on paper. Even if you're salaried this is usually easy to calculate: take your annual salary and divide by 2,080 work-hours per year. But is that really what your hard work is bringing home? Not even close. Here are some additional factors you need to put into your formula.
- Taxes. You only pay taxes because you have income, so they're a direct subtraction from your gross.
- Work-related expenses. These are other expenses that you only pay because you're working. Subtract these from your annual salary. This category includes things like:
- Child care
- Gas and depreciation on your car due to commuting
- Eating out at lunch
- Work clothes
- Lawn care or housekeeping that you pay someone else to do
- Now increase the number of hours in your denominator from 2,080 by including the amount of non-paid time you spend on work. This includes things like:
- Getting dressed and prepped for work each morning
- Driving to and from work
- Dropping kids off and picking them up from childcare
- Time spent away from home due to work travel
- Unpaid overtime
Say you earn a great salary: $104,000 per year! By normal calculation that would be $50/hour. Not bad, right? But let's incorporate some of the adjustments above.
- Taxes: 15% for state and federal, since you probably have some deductions. Could be higher. -$15,600
- Work-related expenses:
- Child care: $500/month (only one kid??) -$6,000
- Gas and car: $0.55/mile (national average) for 16 miles one-way is $17.60 per day, for 50 weeks per year. -$4,400
- Lunch: $30/week. -$1,500
- Work clothes: Who knows... -$2,000
- Lawn and housekeeping: You are cheap and do it yourself!
- Work-related time:
- Getting dressed and prepped for work: 30 minutes per day. 125 hours
- Commuting: 25 minutes each way. 208 hours
- Child care driving: Who knows... 10 minutes per day. 42 hours
- Work travel: Zero, right?
- Unpaid overtime: Zero, right?
So what's the net? Actual annual pay: $74,500. Actual work-related time cost: 2,455. Actual pay per hour: $30.34.
If you make $52,000 salary per year and have similar expenses and time-sinks you might only be taking home $14/hour or less.
Please note that these calculations assume no unpaid overtime, no work travel, only one child in paid care, no reduction in income due to Social Security or Medicare, etc.
So, how much do you enjoy your job now?
Mr. Money Mustache has an article about how to prosper in booms and busts that is interesting. I'll note a couple disagreements.
In booms he suggests:
- Ratchet up your job.
- Earn more and save everything you can. Crap is overpriced now, so don't buy much. Downsize your house or move to a rental.
- Reduce exposure to equities and buy more bonds. I don't agree with this, at least with regards to our current "boom". Interest rates are far too low to buy bonds now.
And in busts:
- Basically hunker down in your job and be glad that you didn't overspend during the boom times.
- Upsize your house, if desired. Buy rental property.
- Buy all the equities you can.
Overall these are good tips, at least if you're planning to make it to the next end of the cycle. One of the main components that MMM neglects is the effect of inflation. Inflation and interest rates are often not cyclical with booms and busts, and they can complicate all your rules-of-thumb.
The ongoing sequestration has reduced federal spending by only about 3%, but since "mandatory" spending is exempt those cuts all come from "discretionary" spending. The cut to "discretionary" spending is somewhat less than 6%. Anyone who has managed a family budget knows that cutting expenses by 6% is a walk in the park that should barely be noticed, and yet we're being flooded by doom and gloom from federal bureaucrats. I don't believe the complaints.
Jenny Brown is in her 27th year as an examiner for the Internal Revenue Service, where she answers peoples' tax questions. The IRS is a major employer in Ogden, Utah, where Brown works, but her co-workers are getting fed up and leaving -- and they aren't being replaced.
"We keep being told things like, 'Work smarter, not harder.' Or, 'Well, you're just going to have to do more with less,' " Brown says. "And there's only so much you can do."
As a result of understaffing, Brown says, wait times on the IRS hotline have quadrupled. And after more than an hour waiting on the phone, taxpayers get downright ornery.
These effects sound like they're caused by a cut of more than 6%, so what's going on? Presumably Jenny Brown's office has been cut by more than 6% so that other spending could be protected. I can see why that would frustrate her (and the taxpayers who require her services). Perhaps her office's funding shouldn't have been cut so heavily, but from the outside it's hard to know.
However, as a taxpayer it's reassuring to me that the bureaucrats are being forced to make trade-offs. If every bureaucrat was heavily funded and content then we'd know that waste was running rampant.
No matter how much or how little money you make each year, the date you'll be able to retire depends on only one number: the percentage of your take-home pay that you save. It's obvious, but the more you save now the less you're spending. Lower lifestyle expenses means that the amount you save will last you longer in your retirement. Mr. Money Mustache has a handy chart to help you calculate how many years you'll have to work based on your savings rate.
The key insight is worth repeating: frugality now gets you double benefits. If you spend less now you will save more now, and your cost of living will be lower when you retire because you'll be used to frugal living. Here's the chart:
MMM saved 65% of his take-home pay and retired in around 10 years. I'm not doing that well, but looking at this chart sure inspires me to save more.
Is psychiatry really medicine? Are the diseases in the DSM really scientific, or just fancy ways to describe self-evident symptoms? The American Psychiatric Association will release the fifth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, on May 22nd and Gary Greenberg is an ardent critic who believes that most of psychiatry is just hand-waving nonsense. One day we may understand the brain well enough to map some of these disorders onto observable biochemical conditions, but I bet that mapping won't look much like the DSM.
You're a practicing psychotherapist. Can you define "mental illness"?
No. Nobody can.
The DSM lists "disorders." How are disorders different from diseases or illnesses?
The difference between disease and disorder is an attempt on the part of psychiatry to evade the problem they're presented with. Disease is a kind of suffering that's caused by a bio-chemical pathology. Something that can be discovered and targeted with magic bullets. But in many cases our suffering can't be diagnosed that way. Psychiatry was in a crisis in the 1970s over questions like "what is a mental illness?" and "what mental illnesses exist?" One of the first things they did was try to finesse the problem that no mental illness met that definition of a disease. They had yet to identify what the pathogen was, what the disease process consisted of, and how to cure it. So they created a category called "disorder." It's a rhetorical device. It's saying "it's sort of like a disease," but not calling it a disease because all the other doctors will jump down their throats asking, "where's your blood test?" The reason there haven't been any sensible findings tying genetics or any kind of molecular biology to DSM categories is not only that our instruments are crude, but also that the DSM categories aren't real. It's like using a map of the moon to find your way around Russia. ...
It's circular -- thinking that anybody who commits suicide is depressed; anybody who goes into a school with a loaded gun and shoots people must have a mental illness.
A brilliant generosity experiment conducted by a homeless man who asks "which religion cares most about the homeless"? A collection of labeled bowls reveals the results! A smart way to exert social pressure to collect money.
(HT: Boing Boing.)
I just installed the Disqus comment system on my blog. I think it's far superior to the basic Movable Type system that was in place. Please leave a comment and test it out!
What emotions do men and women find sexually attractive? Of pride, shame, and happiness women find male emotion most attractive in this order:
And men prefer women who display:
The advice is for men to smile less (at least until dominance is established) and women to smile more.
As usual the banks are saved while the young and poor suffer. Capitalism? No, crony capitalism and socialism. The ongoing "debt crisis" is really just a fancy name for the financial rape of the young by their parents and grandparents.
Hope and Change economies are crony capitalist systems which pick winners and losers. They maintain the status quo at all costs -- and reward those who have captured government over those who innovate. Thus the Reuters headline "Banks saved, but Europe risks 'losing a generation'" is perfectly comprehensible.
What else would happen but that?
Naturally this plight is explained to the desperate voters as the consequence of the remaining vestiges of capitalism. The growing impoverishment, we are told, is occurring because socialism hasn't gone far enough. Only give the government more power and all will be well. And so the low information voters turn out in the streets offering to exchange what little freedom they have left for some low paying jobs and a little welfare. The poorer they are the more eager they become to trade their last liberties for one more benefits check.
I wish I could remember who sent this to me!
Even if you support at-will abortion you must be horrified by the casual attitude of abortionists towards infanticide, right? Details of what goes on in abortion clinics continues to emerge from hidden camera sting operations.
In an exchange laden with euphemisms on both sides to conceal the gruesome nature of the discussion, the pregnant woman wondered aloud what would happen if "it" (her fetus) emerged from her intact and alive.
The employee assigned to take note of medical history reassured the woman, "We never had that for ages" (a seeming admission that a baby did survive abortion at the clinic at least once) but that should "it" "survive this," "They would still have to put it in like a jar, a container, with solution, and send it to the lab. . . . We don't just throw it out in the garbage."
Oh, and this innocuous-sounding "solution" was, of course, a toxic substance suitable for killing an infant.
"Like, what if it was twitching?" asked the pregnant woman.
"The solution will make it stop," said the clinic employee. "That's the whole purpose of the solution . . . It will automatically stop. It won't be able to breathe anymore."
As for any qualms a woman might have about seeing her newborn child being poisoned and drowned in a jar, the employee advised her "patient" not to worry: She'd be under sedation, and the murder would take place in another room anyway.
It's outrageous that the Marathon Bombers received over $100,000 in taxpayer-funded benefits, but doesn't it amaze you that anyone can get that much "help" over a 10-year span? It's no wonder that our country is practically bankrupt.
The Tsarnaev family, including the suspected terrorists and their parents, benefited from more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded assistance -- a bonanza ranging from cash and food stamps to Section 8 housing from 2002 to 2012, the Herald has learned.
"The breadth of the benefits the family was receiving was stunning," said a person with knowledge of documents handed over to a legislative committee today.
Being of Croatian descent myself it's cool to read that the Qarth scenes from Game of Thrones are filmed in Dubrovnik! I'd love to visit Croatia sometime.
If you've watched the show and wondered where all the exotic, arid, desert footage was shot for the 'Qarth' kingdom scenes, HBO said they are mostly filmed in Croatia.
The premium cable channel works with a production company called Embassy Films, based in Croatia, for the scenes shot there. About 170 local crew were employed for shooting in Dubrovnik, according to the production company.
"This was very good for Croatian, Dubrovnik economy, starting from crew and people directly involved, to hotels, transportation, etc.," said Erika Milutin, executive producer working on the show with Embassy Films.
But... but... Obamacare is such a great law! Why would Congressmen and their aides want to be exempt?
There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn't revised, could lead to a "brain drain" on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it.
The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer -- in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers -- especially low-paid junior aides -- could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.
Plus, lawmakers -- especially those with long careers in public service and smaller bank accounts -- are also concerned about the hit to their own wallets.
Uh, "regular" Americans who don't work in/for Congress are concerned about these same problems. Can we all be exempted please?
It's completely absurd and disgusting that Congress is considering exempting themselves and their henchmen from the effects of their idiotic lawmaking. Are we a Republic or an aristocracy?
Most parents I know use some form of "time-out" as a part of their discipline repertoire. However, many parents don't use time-outs the correct and most effective way. (The article starts on page 8 of that PDF.)
So just what are the key behavioral factors of time-out that help it succeed as a discipline strategy with children and, when absent, doom it to fail? The discussion below highlights the main components that influence the effectiveness of time-out for behavior change in children. These components are based on the initial behavioral underpinnings of Ferster,the behavioral literature in general, as well as on the clinical experience of the present authors.
Two things I learned:
- Warnings are very counter-productive. I need to stop warning my kids and simply put them in time-out as soon as they begin misbehaving.
- Don't lecture. The point of the time-out is to withhold attention, not deliver a lecture. The punishment should be as close in proximity as possible to the misbehavior.