Archive for the 'Economics' Category

Jan 31 2009

President Obama’s Master Plan – Part I

It’s brilliant.  It’s subtle.  It’s happening before people’s eyes, and no one has detected it.

It’s President Obama’s plan to eliminate the United States government’s deficit, and he’s doing it one nominee at a time.

At first I was confused — how could the President think that Timothy Geithner, a man who had “inadvertently” failed to pay taxes ($42,702 including interest) on money he’d been paid by the IMF (even after (1) he’d been warned repeatedly by the IMF that he’d have to pay taxes on it, (2) reimbursed by the IMF for taxes he’d failed to pay, and (3) had already been dinged by the IRS for the exact same “mistake” in other years), be a good person to oversee the Treasury, including the IRS?

And how could the President think that Tom Daschle, who’d failed to pay $128,203 in taxes until he was being vetted by the Administration (including for failing to report more than $83,000 of consulting revenue in 2007), would be a great choice for head of HHS?

And then I saw the real goal.

With just two nominations, the President has added more than $170,000 in tax revenue to the Treasury, without modifying the tax laws, signing an executive order, or implementing new regulations.  If he just keeps up this pattern of nominating tax evaders, he’ll get the government out of its spending hole before you know it.

And that’s change we can believe in.

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Dec 12 2008

Why People Object to Car Maker Bailouts Even Though The Bank Bailouts Went Through

Two simple reasons:

1) Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

2) Everyone understands, at the gut level, how aggravating an overpriced, shoddy car is, especially when coupled with an unpleasant purchasing experience and unscrupulous dealer service.  Few average joes have time to delve into the intricacies of credit default swaps, legislative and regulatory history, and financial modeling.  A bad car, we get.

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Dec 11 2008

Hey – Let’s Borrow from GM!

So you’d like a new car, but you’re in really bad financial shape.  You’ve borrowed way too much money, you’ve made some really bad business deals you can’t get out of, and your old car, which is critical for maintaining what little cash flow you have — even though your ongoing debt payments exceed whatever money you’ve got coming in and whatever you’re likely to make in the next twenty years — is about to permanently break down.

So you run into GM, pick out a shiny new SUV, and ask for 100% financing.  The sales guy runs a credit check, and his computer almost bursts into flames from trying to process a negative number.

“But I need this SUV!” you protest.  “Otherwise I won’t be able to pay off my debts and feed myself and my family!”

“But you won’t be able to pay us back for the SUV,” the sales guy points out.  “Are you expecting to triple your income in the next few years?  Because that’s the only way you’d be able to even think about making your payments to us.”

“Well, no,” you reply.  “In fact, my income has been on a steady downward spiral for the last 25 years.  But I don’t want to change the way I do things!  I think blacksmithing is really going to make a comeback!  I promise I’ll come up with a plan after you’ve lent me the money.”

“I don’t think so,” he says.  “Everything you’ve done and said indicates you’re an incredibly bad risk.  We’re not really responsible for your bad judgment.”

“But if you don’t give me the loan, my creditors will get hurt, and my blacksmith apprentices will lose their jobs, and I’ll bet they’d blame you for it.  You don’t want that, do you?” you cajole.

Think they’d give you the loan?

No way.

So why should we give them one?


Follow-up: Keep an eye on them…

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Nov 17 2008

Don’t Just Do Something – Stand There!

Man, I turn my back for three short months to work on my meson cannon, and look what they’ve done — the world’s hardly worth taking over anymore.  Drives me crazy.

But I must say, the several trillion dollars the world economy has “lost” will all be worth it, if only to prove the prescience of my last post.  Things were nigh-blissful, with a Congress floundering about, passing, at best, absurd non-binding resolutions like commemorating the Kingdom of Bhutan’s participation in the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (seriously).

And then all hell breaks loose.

Did you ever see the movie “Heat”?  If not, then I recommend it, if only for appreciation of Al Pacino’s character’s interrogation technique.  Essentially, he’d burst into a room, maybe even with a search warrant, grab the guy he wanted to question by the lapels and scream at the guy, practically nose-to-nose, “GIVE ME WHAT I WANT!  GIVE ME WHAT I WANT!!!”  The hapless target would basically crumble in the face of this unexpected onslaught and, indeed, give Pacino’s character whatever he wanted.

In case you haven’t noticed, in this metaphor, Hank Paulson is Al Pacino, and our beloved Congress is the hapless target.

In a paroxysm of utter panic and confusion, Congress did, indeed, in the words of an incredibly intelligent Continue Reading »

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Aug 21 2008

Best! Congress! Ever!

Okay, so, the Wall Street Journal reported that “[i]n two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session — 294 so far — than this one.”

To which I can only say, “Excelsior!”

When did it become a benchmark of productivity or success for a legislative body to pile on more laws and regulations? This would be like measuring your doctor’s success by counting the number of times he performed surgery on you. Or your mechanic’s success by the number of times he repaired your car. Except in this case we can’t just pack up and find ourselves another Congress. Well, technically, we could, but that would require actually voting, and tossing out incumbents, which we do less frequently than did the Politburo (in the Senate, at least).

We’re not particularly good at enforcing what we’ve got already, so the idea that shoveling more words into the United States Statutes is going to help anything get better is at best, um, “counterintuitive”:”Well, that didn’t work at all — so let’s do it some more!”

Also, there’s a bit of a problem with actually provoking Congress into action — it’s kind of like poking a large, sleeping predator with a cattle prod, hoping that it will rouse itself and shamble into a better spot. Instead what seems to happen is that it wakes up, notices that people “want action!” and in response does something so screamingly random, irrational and counterproductive that we end up wishing that it had just stayed the hell asleep and out of our lives.

The only drawback to this Congress’s laudable inaction is that it’s failing to pass legislation that would repeal its previously-passed bad legislation. Hello! High oil prices! Lots of oil off our shore! Can’t get to it because you’ve prohibited offshore drilling! Throw us a bone, here, Congresscritters!

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Jul 18 2008

Maybe You Should Have Just Kept It On The Radio…

Published by under Economics,WTF?

Insensitivity alert!

So a July 16 “All Things Considered” story was quite sympathetic to an Ohio family who were in such dire financial straits that they couldn’t even afford meat anymore. The NPR story went on for five minutes, essentially indicting the economy and painting a portrait of misery.

This is a case where less would, indeed, have been more, at least from a sympathy-stirring perspective. See, the hand-wringers at NPR just couldn’t stop themselves from mentioning a few key points. First, the family lives in subsidized housing. Next, we find out that the entire family’s unemployed. Then we find out that the central figure in the story — Gloria Nunez — is forty years old and has never held a job.

Finally, we get to the high-cost-of-food quote:

The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it’s more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don’t buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.

Almost there! Leave it alone, NPR! Leave it!

But no. They have to go multimedia, and put it on their web page, where we finally get a glimpse of Ms. Nunez and one of her sisters: Continue Reading »

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May 20 2008

Osama bin Laden: A Cappella Geek

I knew we hadn’t fully plumbed the depths of this evil man’s depravity and hatred of all humankind. In addition to his advocacy of mass murder against innocent civilians, this cave-hiding nutjob, according to Newsweek, was an a cappella aficionado:

According to “Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory,” by author Mickey Rapkin, the teenage bin Laden—who opposed the use of instruments—organized a group with his pals. That discovery “was pretty weird,” says Rapkin. “It just shows that a cappella is everywhere.”

My God. Is there no limit to this fiend’s degeneracy? The sooner we MOAB this squirrel, the better.

As an aside, it makes a lunatic kind of sense — I believe certain fundamentalist Muslims oppose the use of musical instruments, so what’s left is a cappella (which is Latin for “without cappella”). No wonder they’re all flagellating themselves! How are they supposed to rock without guitars? Sheesh. Of course, we could always use loudly-played bad a cappella as a stress tactic at Guantanamo. But then the ACLU would be all over us like ugly on a moose.

Now, before all you a cappella fans start coming at me with your feeble little girl-slaps, be aware that I happen to be a fan as well. As those select few who know me know. Shout out to CASA! And check out Pandaemonium, the winner of this year’s Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards. Bin Laden never got a CARA award, I’ll tell you that!

Come to think of it, that could be what pushed him over the edge….

Update: You can now buy the book that was the original source of Newsweek’s revelation through — choose Amazon or Barnes & Noble, below…

Amazon Barnes & Noble

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May 11 2008

The Chinese Are Gambling? We’re Doomed!

I’ve been relatively confident in the likelihood of the United States maintaining its hegemony in the world, not because of the superiority of our military capabilities, but because of the innate corrosiveness of our culture.

You see, America’s international predominance is not based on nukes or aircraft carrier battle groups, both of which are inherently cool and good for impressing the yokels, but rather on these (click here).

Okay, sorry about that, readers who are at work.

Anyway, our secret weapon — so secret that we can spray it out across the world with satellites and yet still not view it as the weaponization of space that it really is — is our mind-numbing, consumerist, degenerate worldview! And I say that as a compliment.

Continue Reading »

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Apr 22 2008

Setting Them Off

Oh, lordy. Michelle Malkin reminded me that today is Earth Day.

So with the parade of “environmental” celebrities and presidential candidates justifying their ownership and use of multiple-acre mansions and fuel-guzzling, pollution-belching private jets (including – I kid you not – a private 707 owned by John Travolta) by pointing out that they’re purchasing “carbon offsets,” I did a little investigation of that industry, and then a little thinking, which in my case is a dangerous combination.

Continue Reading »

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Mar 28 2008

The Only Thing The Music Industry Is Taxing Is Our Patience

Michelle Malkin relays a Portfolio story on how Warner Music is spearheading a lobbying push for Congress to require a “music tax” be bundled into your monthly internet service provider fee — supposedly for unlimited access to “a database of all known music.”

Apart from the fact that the phrase “new tax” gets most people in a gun-polishin’, survivalist-cabin-buyin’, Libertarian-votin’ mood, the music industry has apparently completely missed the fact that there’s at least one enormous industry firmly in front of it in line: Pornographers!

You heard that right. Do you really think the first thing the geeks who originally developed the Internet thought, when they were done soldering the last wire in place, was “hey, now I can share music with someone”?

Continue Reading »

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