Tag Archives: rant

Are our demographics engineered for moral hazard?

For all of the hand wringing about the $700B bailout, the Feds have put our nation’s children on the hook for about $8T (and counting) without a single vote from Congress (who, by the way, is doing everything they can to do as little as they can so that they can avoid political liability that comes with actually doing anything). I have a feeling that if (a) Americans weren’t so constitutionally apathetic and (b) ignorant of what is happening, there would be marches in Washington, Greenwich would be burning, and people in Manhattan would be throwing bricks through every piece of tinted glass on Wall Street. Hell, this country was started by enraged citizens chucking tea in Boston Harbor because they felt they were being unfairly taxed, and now we sit around doing nothing while HALF OUR GDP is spent to bail out the criminally stupid (and sometimes just plain criminal) without due process.

Maybe not enough people care about the debt burden on our nation’s children because the only people who are having kids these days are the bottom half of the income ladder, who pay no federal taxes. The upper half is too busy working dual incomes (about half of which goes to the government) to have kids (I don’t remember the stats, but the birthrate is well below replacement).

So, the people who pay for the government have no interest in the next generation, and people with an interest in the next generation have no stake in the government. Exactly a recipe for bad government and massive public debt.

Text messages cost more than sending postcards!

The going rate for a text message is now $0.20, up from $0.05 a year or so ago, a puzzling increase given that every underlying component of communications technology has become cheaper over that time. Given that a text message is billed both for sending and receiving (which should be criminal) this means that it costs a total of $0.40 to complete a text message between parties. It would be cheaper to buy a postcard, print out that message on the postcard, and then have the USPS physically carry that postcard 3000 miles across the country and deliver it right to somebody’s doorstep.

OMGWTF?!?

Bastiat said it would go down like this…

From the I Think I Just Threw Up in my Mouth a Little Bit Department:

Kerry and Brown buy dumb votes with smart taxes

Kerry and Brown save us from ourselves with our money

The senate just voted to go ahead with the $300B mortgage bailout. As usual, it was accompanied by much self-righteous chest thumping from our ever generous politicians:

“What better gift on independence could we give the American people than a sense that this, their Congress of the United States, can come together, despite political differences, and craft legislation to make a difference for our country,” Dodd said.

The government is using taxpayer money to bail out mostly greedy, dishonest people who lied on mortgage applications to buy houses they couldn’t afford (many of them second investment homes) and this is Dodd’s idea of celebrating the spirit of American independence? It’s all Orwellian DoubleSpeak to me. They’ve even “branded” this as “Protecting the American Dream.” Since when is the American Dream for responsible people to be forced to pay for the mistakes of real estate speculators?

This isn’t about helping the poor, who are an ignorable voting bloc. This is about posturing politicians buying votes with welfare for the middle class. They try to make it sound more respectable than it is by spinning it as a bailout of people who were “swindled” by loan originators, many of whom apparently didn’t fulfill their basic obligation to act both as loan officers and surrogate mothers to their customers.

I say this having narrowly escaped personal destruction at the hands of these evil corporate raiders myself. When I bought a house several years ago, I believe my loan officer not only had the temerity to take me at my word when I told them I had a job, but they never once stopped by the house to see how I was doing. It was almost like the whole thing was just business to them, and I got the distinct impression they weren’t willing to take any responsibility whatsoever for my decisions, even though I’d been in their office for almost a half hour, which pretty much made me family in my book.

If our corporate conglomerates do not take a personal interest in our well-being, then who will? Our friends? Do we expect our parents to teach us things like being responsible with money and eating in moderation? Fortunately, John Kerry is brave enough to fight for us by having lobbyists craft legislation that he will generously have his own staff submit to the Senate which will allocate other people’s money to this pressing problem.

Maybe this bailout is not so much worth getting upset over as a single event, but it is a depressing reminder of how low our culture has sunk, as reflected in the moronic demagoguery we put up with from our elected officials. It’s not so much that they are cynical enough to “solve” our mortgage crisis with such shortsighted foolishness, but that we, as a country, are stupid enough to buy it. The next time we get an asset bubble, how many of us are going to do the responsible thing? What kind of message does this send regarding the need for individual fiscal responsibility? Is this the psychology of a nation of people you’d expect to successfully compete in the world?

The Democrats have nothing to be proud of here. They are a long way from the days of FDR. Before, when the country hit a rough spot, progressive thinking dictated that we’d engage in tax-funded public works. Before, in times of war, we’d pinch pennies and buy savings bonds. Now, when we encounter a rough patch during a war, we send out $600 checks against borrowed money and squander tax money on private bailouts.

I think I’m going to cheer myself up by maxing out my credit card and buying a pet monkey. If bread and circus is how we’re going to play this, then I damn well want a fucking circus.

Tazer Man!

The following is best read in a voice akin to that of Don “The Voice of God” LaFontaine:

IN A WORLD where people have forgotten their manners, made deaf to their fellow citizens by ipods sprouting from their heads, apathetic to those around them: one man stands alone, willing to fight for truth, justice, and the social contract. Impoliteness is his enemy, and his weapon is 24,000 volts of pure blue truth. Mild-mannered electrical engineer by day, by mid to late evenings he roams the streets of Boston, seeking vengeance on those who are unaware of the fact that they are not the only people on the planet. He is… Tazer Man!

A man at the mall stops right at the top of the escalator, deciding that would be a good place to continue his cell phone conversation, clueless to the people piling up behind him. Zap! Man down! He won’t need to charge that cell phone for another week. Thanks, Tazer Man!

It’s rush hour. A group of three teenage girls are gossiping cluelessly in the doorway of the Red Line subway, oblivious to the passengers trying to push by them before the door closes. Zap, zap, zap! No, he does not dial down the voltage for the young! “The younger they are, the more they gotta learn,” is Tazer Man’s motto.

A stock broker in a BMW sees the “left lane closed” sign, but does he merge? No, he drives past half a mile of people who don’t think they’re above everybody else, and cuts somebody off right at the last minute. He thought he got away with it. Maybe the last hundred other times, but not this time. Not today. Today he cut off the wrong guy. BMW guy doesn’t know that there is a complete electrical circuit between the metal interior door handle of a 2002 BMW 330Ci coupe and the chassis ground. But you know who does? Tazer Man does! ZZZZZap! Now two people know. Good thing leather cleans up well.

A twentysomething rides by on a skateboard. He stops at the front door of a bank, and quickly slaps a sticker on the side of the building, advertising his band “Shades of Moon.” Tazey has a special setting on his ‘gun’ for people like this. It’s called “Nobody cares about your stupid emo band so quit defacing public property with your infantile self-promotion.” Just kidding. That would never fit. It’s just called “High.”

When a broken social code has seemingly left us with no consequences for asocial behavior, Tazer Man is here to show us that there is a price to pay, and that price is 45 seconds of pain and possibly momentary incontinence. So the next time you are in public, remember your manners. And if you ever forget them, you may hear the faint whining hum of an electrolytic capacitor charging. That’s the sound of justice brewing, and it’s the last thing you’ll remember for about two and a half minutes.

Another reason to keep my degree from the University of Colorado a secret

It’s not so much that people at CU smoked pot, skied and climbed rocks, or that I have a problem with any of these activities in and of themselves, it’s just that from what I could tell, that’s pretty much ALL many of them ever did, professors included. While the grad students were, in some cases, the smartest people I’ve ever met, half-heartedly attending the school seemed to just be a way for people with a modicum of self-respect to legitimize what would otherwise be a lifestyle more commonly experienced by people living out of VW vans in the parking lot of the local tobacco accessories store. So it is with bittersweet nostalgia that I read a recent Daily Camera article about the annual 4/20 celebration on campus. A choice excerpt:

CU freshman Emily Benson, 19, of Kansas City, said she thinks the decriminalization of marijuana will become a hot topic in the upcoming political season and said she felt part of something bigger than just a smoke-out on Sunday.

“We’re at the starting point of a movement,” she said. “This is a big part of the reason I applied here — for the weed atmosphere.”

Although CU junior Max Lichtenstein, 21, isn’t into marijuana or smoking, he also felt Sunday’s event was a chance to do something “bigger” than himself. He passed out 126 Rice Krispies treats with messages attached asking that they act out against the injustices in Darfur…

“I just like being generous and doing nice things,” he said. “I’m like a good Samaritan.”

I should have known public image would be a problem when I found out that the school slogan was “Minds to Match our Mountains.” Publicly comparing their students’ brains to a mass of granite really makes one wonder if the administration knows what they’re doing. So does the fact that the last three major publicity events I’ve read about the school have been this story, hookers for the football team, and campus riots over beer policy. Thanks, CU, for continuing to ensure my degree continues to be so valuable in the market. Maybe your slogan should be “Minds to match the font size you’ll want to use to mention our school in your resume.” After this article, I’m down to 7 pt Helvetica, placed with an asterisk down at the bottom of the page.

Ever wonder why we vote in November but file taxes in April?

The answer is that if we voted in May, an incumbent could never get elected. I’ve been working on our taxes (about two days now) and seeing my wife’s extra work get taxed at the full marginal rate was very depressing. She worked her ass off to teach a class, for which they paid her $7000. After the government was done, she really did all this work for about $4100. And that’s not considering all the taxes involved when she spends it. Why would Americans want to work harder and contribute more productive work when they see so little of the pay for it?

My wife’s attitude was “Well, it is what it is.” I assume my wife is not alone in taking the same passive attitude towards our government, and it goes a long way to explaining how well it functions. But would we be so complacent if every time we negotiated a salary or a contract, the price was negotiated in post-tax dollars? Of course, maybe I’ll forget all this by November…

An unintended consequence of minimum wage hikes: more gang violence?

I’ve been trying to help my Little Brother, Jay, find a job for the summer. While he’s a great kid and doesn’t get into any trouble, we’d like to help him stay out of the way of some of his peers who do. The summer is a prime time for violence in South Boston. Junior gangsters, their schedules freed of the burden of terrorizing the public schools, now have plenty of free time in less structured environments. Which means lots of shootings. As a way to keep “at risk” kids occupied, there are several programs in place to provide summer jobs to kids in Boston. My guess is partly the motivation is to keep kids from getting into trouble, and partly to get them of the ghetto and out of harms way.

Unfortunately, when our state government decided to raise the minimum wage, they made no exception for teenagers. So, the public funding that provides jobs to inner city kids will now serve many fewer kids because the money will not go as far when each kid has to be paid $8 an hour. So, in addition to the higher cost of having to pay teenagers a living wage for an economically meaningless “stay out of trouble” summer job, there is also the added cost to society as a result of leaving more kids out on the streets. (Fewer than half the kids who apply can get jobs.)

A lot of people, including some smart economists, think that minimum wage is a bad idea which ultimately harms more people than it helps. Hard core Libertarians think it should be done away with entirely. I think that may be too simplistic and extreme, and my point here isn’t even to touch on that larger question. What this example does point out, however, is that before we worry too much about the party of the people we’re electing, it would be nice if we could just find politicians who were actually remotely intelligent. A poorly implemented policy is a bad policy, no matter what.

(By the way, if anybody reading this would like to hire a really nice 14 year old boy from Dorchester for the summer, let me know. He is hard-working and willing to do any kind of work, including cleaning. Here is a picture of us working on a project together. Great kid.)