An analysis of the candidate's tax planstaxpolicycenter.org
This link should help anybody who buys into McCain’s caricaturization of Obama as a tax-raising, liberty-squashing liberal. Here are a few things that often confuse people.
Both candidates support a reduced estate tax for very large estates. Obamas would only affect estates over $3.5 million. McCain’s affects states over $5 million. Obama’s rate is significantly higher—so if you are primarily concerned about taxing extremely-rich, dead people you want to go with McCain. Similarly, McCain would cut corporate taxes.
Obama’s tax cuts go to those who are struggling a bit more financially. They help with college costs or child care. There is a credit for those who are working, but bringing in extremely low incomes. Senior citizens making less than $50,000 a year won’t pay any taxes.
Over all, it looks like the post-tax income of 80% of the country would increase significantly more under Obama’s plan. It would have the greatest affect on those with the lowest income.
By 2012, it looks like everybody ends up slightly better under Obama except the top 1%, which will end up down about 2 cents on a dollar. The top .1% is looking at about a 5% decrease in post-tax income.
Under McCain, the biggest benefits go to that top thousandth of the population. It looks like their post-tax income will go up about 11.5%.
Green Fees: goodbye to grocery bags, sayonara styrofoam
The Seattle city council decided yesterday that there will be a twenty cent tax on plastic and paper bags at grocery, drug and convenience stores starting January first. About 360 million disposable bags are used every year in Seattle and the tax is projected to cut that number in half. After paying for the $500,000 program the extra 3 million in revenue from the “green fee” as the tax is being called, will be used to cover the increased cost of solid waste disposal.
Other places are also making the transition. San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007 and China banned plastic bags as of June 1. The state of California is considering banning all disposable bags by 2010 unless they pass a 25-cent bag fee. New York is concerned about plastics as well, but implemented a much less aggressive plan. This year they began requiring stores occupying over 5000 square feet to provide in store recycling for plastic bags. Welcome, New York, we’re all glad you could make it. Seattleites have been recycling plastic bags since way back and we’re looking for company.
The Council also approved a ban on foam containers at food-service businesses. Starting January 1, take out will have to be packaged in products made from sugar cane, beets or corn. These green replacements look like the polystyrene foam, but decompose quickly and can be tossed into the compost bin with other food waste. As an added benefit, we will no longer have to worry about the foam chemicals leaking into the leftovers. Foam used in meat trays will not be banned until 2010, to allow grocers to come up with an alternative. Portland passed a similar ban nearly twenty years ago. Thanks for the leading the charge, Portland! Sorry it took us a couple decades to catch up.
In conclusion, Seattle is behind China San Francisco, and Portland but light years ahead of New York. This is all a little unexpected.
“All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.”
Future reference for those of you who tink chance is a little iffy. This way you can blame math for misleading you should you be less then blissful.
Is he Mr. Right? Is she Miss Right? Don’t leave it to your heart to decide, let the math decide! Here are three mathematical theories with which to determine if your marriage will last (or should happen at all).
1. The Mathematics of Marriage: In their book, The Mathematics of Marriage, mathematician James D. Murray and psychologist John Gottman describe their use of calculus to study interactions between couples. Using a model Gottman developed in 1979, the pair surveyed 700 newly married couples in King County, Washington in 1992. They analyzed the couples’ 15 minute conversations using a scoring system that assigned a number based on each statement, expression, even pulse rates. The model quantified the ratio of positive to negative interactions during the conversation. They found the magic ratio was 5:1; when the ratio of positive to negative interactions falls below this, a relationship may be in trouble.
These numbers were plotted as a function of time and were used to make predictions as to whether the couple would i) divorce, or ii) stay married a) happily, or b) unhappily. They called this the “Dow Jones for Marital Conversation.” Every 1-2 years until 2004 the couples were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing their marriage and these were compared with the predictions. The prediction of which couples would get divorced was 94% accurate, and typically divorce occurred after 4 years.
2. The 37% Rule: In 1997, Dr. Peter Todd of the Max Planck Institute in Munich described his 37% rule, also known as the secretary rule. Imagine you have to fill 1 secretarial position and have n # of applicants, ranked from best to worst. Assuming you skip the worst ones (n/e of the applicants where e is the base of the natural logarithm), and you only interview applicants who are better than those you have already interviewed (n/e + 1 is better than all previous n/e interviews), the probability of selecting the best applicant form the pool rounds to 1/e, or around 37%. Hence, you should be able to pick the best secretary after interviewing 37% of the applicants.
If there are about 100 potential “mates” you don’t have to date 37 people to finally meet Mr. Right, #37. Instead, Dr. Todd advises you set your “aspiration level,” what you are looking for in a partner, to a range. Then date only those who are in the top 25% of that range. Your sample size, therefore, is reduced to only 10 dates. One of those should make the cut.
3.The “What are the Chances My Marriage Will Last?” Equation: Garth Sundem, author of GeekLogic created his own equations to determine 1. What are the Chances My Marriage Will Last? 2. Should We Get Married? and 3. How Many Kids Should we Have?
The “What are the Chances my Marriage Will Last? is based on an 11,000 person study by the CDC that explored factors that help and hurt a marriage’s chances of working.
Here’s the equation:
A= Her age at time of marriage
E=Current combined years of post-high-school education
K= Number of kids from this marriage
R= How religious is the couple (1-10 with 10 being “the Pope”)
D= Combined number of divorces of couple’s parents
P= Combined previous marriages
T= Years at which you are computing the chances
H.E.A. = % chance of Happily Ever After
But don’t worry about calculating it out yourself. Over at Political Calculations, you can type in your personal data and it spits out the probability you and your partner will still be married at a given year of anniversary.
“But what we’ve learned over the years is that Mr. McCain is one of those guys who never has to pay much of a price for his missteps and foul-ups and bad behavior. Can you imagine the firestorm of outrage and criticism that would have descended on Senator Obama if he had made the kind of factual mistakes that John McCain has repeatedly made in this campaign? (Or if Senator Obama had had the temerity to even remotely suggest that John McCain would consider being disloyal to his country for political reasons?) We have a monumental double standard here.”—Op-Ed Columnist - Getting to Know You - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com (via robot-heart)
When you are not the safe bet, it means you have to get up earlier, walk straighter and hustle harder just to be taken seriously. All your opponent has to do is make sure someone’s recording if you fumble.
“The Dark Knight made $155M in opening weekend.” What does that mean? Where does the money go? And why am I paying $11 for a movie ticket, and $5 for popcorn and a soda? I did some research and here’s what I got:
In the days of yore, the studio and the theater were one in the same. But in 1948, the Supreme Court forced the studios to divest themselves of the theaters due to antitrust laws. (Paramount dominated the theaters in all but 4 of the existing 92 US cities with a population over 100,000.) However sixty years later, though in a different way, studios still control the theatres. Studios run an exorbitant bill, sparing little on actors, locations, post production etc. When it comes time to get a return on their investment, they turn to ticket sales.
See, studios must find a company to distribute the film to theaters, and then later to DVD or television. The distributor takes on the cost of making the copies of the film and decides how many prints to make, and to which theaters those prints will be distributed. This is often doing through a profit sharing scheme, where the distributor gets between 10 and 50% of revenues. In the case of The Dark Knight, Warner Bros used its own domestic distribution.
How it Works: The distributor leases out the movie to theaters that promise to return a percentage of ticket sales. This percentage of this profit sharing scheme changes over the life of the lease. In the first two weeks, the theaters get between 0 and 25% of ticket prices and fork over the rest to the distributor. The next couple, they get more: about 50%. The last few weeks they get about 75% of the movie ticket sales. But who goes to see a movie four weeks after its release? This leaves the theatres with no option but to raise ticket prices and charge as much as they possibly can get away with at the concession stand.
So why aren’t ticket prices higher? This is the age old question of whether to charge more for the primary product, or the secondary product. Keeping ticket prices (the primary product) at a reasonable rate (the average ticket price in the US in 2007 was $6.88) enables theaters to capture both the price sensitive and price insensitive customers. The price-insensitive customers can then shell out cash for overpriced popcorn and candy (the secondary product), the profit of which goes fully to the theater. Imagine ticket prices at $20. Many price-sensitive consumers would avoid the movies, and theaters may lose revenue. Plus, the theater wouldn’t even get much of the $20, since it must share ticket sales with the studio.
However, it’s not all about the popcorn. Theatres also make money by selling ads. The local advertising that shows before the movie begins generates a good percentage of revenue for the theater. And as for the previews - the studios give trailers to theaters, and pay for each showing based on the number of people who saw them. Per a theater owner in Long Island, “we have to call in our numbers every night to the film companies, and they give you ‘x-amount’ per person.”
So that’s why I had to pay $11 this weekend to see The Dark Knight. And that’s why we’re gouged at the concession stand. And that’s why we have to endure “The 20” and the numerous previews.
“The industry pressured the Bush administration years ago to limit the paperwork companies would have to keep to help U.S. health investigators quickly trace produce that sickens consumers, according to interviews and government reports reviewed by The Associated Press.”—
Food Industry Bitten by Lobbying Success (AP)
I was wondering why it took so long to figure out where a few bad tomatoes came from. I guess I can blame this one too on the Bush administration.
Yesterday, a flyer came in the mail suggesting that we cut down on water usage to save the planet. It detailed the gallons saved in only washing full loads of dishes, taking shorter showers etc.
My roommate posted the notice next to further information about the water used in meat production. Shaving five minutes off of your shower saves 4500 gallons a year. To produce one pound of beef it takes 5000 gallons of water and chicken takes only 660. A person can save more water by not eating a pound of beef than he or she does by not showering for an entire year, assuming one takes five minute showers. The same is true for having chicken instead of beef, make this choice seven times and you have saved more water than the dirty kid who decided not to shower for the sake of the planet.
It comes down to choices rather than extremes. Personally, would rather curb the meat tendencies on occasion and enjoy a good shower all year.
Who (or rather what) They Are: No, they’re not real people. They are nicknames for companies:
Fannie Mae = Federal National Mortgage Association
Freddie Mac = Federal Home Loan and Mortgage Corporation
They have some friends:
Ginnie Mae = Government National Mortgage Association
Farmer Mac = Federal Agriculture Mortgage Corporation
Sallie Mae = Student Loan Marketing Association (with whom I am great friends).
Fannie and Freddie are government sponsored enterprises (GSE’s). That means they were chartered by Congress, backed by the US government, and are authorized to make loans to home-owners. But they’re owned by shareholders, not the government.
Their Origins & What They Do: Fannie, founded in 1938 as a government agency but taken private in 1968, was part of Roosevelt’s New Deal to promote home ownership in the US. It purchases the debt from mortgages that banks make to home-owners. This gives the banks more money to make more loans to more people who want to buy more homes.
(Don’t understand mortgages? A mortgage is basically a loan that lender gives to you to buy a house or piece of real estate. Your collateral, in return, is your house. The bank has a claim on your house if you cannot make payments on the loan. That’s when foreclosure happens – if you can’t repay your loan, you property is seized & you’re kicked out.)
Freddie was founded in 1970 to expand the secondary market for mortgages. The “secondary market” is where Freddie buys up loans made by banks, bundles those loans into megaloans (Mortgage-Backed-Securities), and sells those to investors all over the world. The money that the banks receive, again, gives them more money to make more loans to more people who want to buy more homes.
Though Fannie and Freddie are not funded by the US government, they are able to borrow more cheaply than other public mortgage lenders. Together, F&F provide the bulk of funding for US home mortgages, about $5 trillion of home mortgages outstanding.
Fannie & Freddie Facing Trouble: They’ve had much face-time in the press lately, with rumors of default and the need of a bailout. That’s because so many home-owners have defaulted (all part of that sub-prime mess). See, when F&F buy the mortgages from the banks & sell them to the investors, they take on the responsibility of making sure the homeowners repay their loans. If they don’t, F&F has to foot the bill; thus F&F have losses of about $11 billion combined.
Though the Fed & US Treasury appear to be coming to the rescue, announcing today that they will firmly back Fannie & Freddie. If they didn’t and F&F went under, “it would be as close to a disaster as I can think of” says Bill Seidman, former chairman of the FDIC.
Here’s a good explanation about the current situation if you’re interested.
This is a great laymen’s breakdown of the situation. The Economist discusses the federal bailout of Fannie and Freddie.
“Capitalism rests on a clear principle: those who get the profits should take the pain. For the system to work, bankers sometimes need to lose their jobs and investors their shirts.”
Should we have let them fail? The article discusses why we might have nationalized these mortgage giants. Financial ruin for the companies and many others has far reaching consequences and the temptation of the federal government to intervene is understandable. However, if the US government is going to come to the rescue, why shouldn’t it also share in its success?
“The Bush administration’s replacement of ‘timeline’ with ‘time horizon’ is interesting when you consider the difference between a line and the horizon. A line is right where it is; the horizon moves away endlessly as you approach it. Sound familiar?”—Steve Henry Herman in a letter to the editor of the New York Times. (via mattlehrer) (via asprettyasasong) (via wayne-remy)
Rumor has long had it that Seattle is oversaturated with coffee shops and espresso bars. I grew up in a town with seven caffeine pit stops in a three block radius, four of them Starbucks. I was the first to admit that this coffee thing has gone too far. That was until today.
Why today? I quit my job last week (go ahead and mazoltov me, it’s been a while in the making) and my supervisor is coming back today to find my resignation on her keyboard. I needed to be early and awake. There was no margin for error this morning.
I tried to make coffee at home but I only had whole beans, left over from a holiday gift basket. I don’t own a grinder. “No problem, “I thought, “I will just pick some up on the way to the office.” Except, no, I wouldn’t.
I crossed an extra street to go to the good coffee place and was rewarded with a line going out the door. So much for my secret café; I guess the secret is out. I crossed back across the street to hit up the Starbucks and to be greeted by yet another line out the door. I didn’t have time for either so I went to work decaffeinated.
The point, I suppose, is two fold. I should get up early so I have time to wait in long lines or buy a grinder. Also, Seattle is not oversaturated at all, at least not on my block.
“We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion — a lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria. Opinions can be picked up cheap in the market place while such commodities as courage and fortitude and faith are in alarmingly short supply.”—Edward R. Murrow (via emilyposts)
“if you’re standing, aim. If you can’t aim, sit. If you won’t sit, clean”—me (C'mon, let’s get this under control. Someone even hit the magazines. I am putting up this sign in the bathroom until this ceases to be an issue. )
Exactly where did everybody think this gathering was going to take place? Left field? [LINK]nytimes.com
Barack is trying to bring us together. By us I don’t me, you and your protesting buddies. We may all be forced to acknowledge that there are real flesh and blood republicans and they don’t actually live in a separate universe. We are going to have to sit down and work some stuff out. There may be no red or blue states, but instead a country purple with compromise. Okay, purple is a push.
Barack has stuck to his story and we need to stick with Barack. Both candidates have to move to the middle to win the election and it is better to be reddish-blue than bluish-red.
“Ugh, Album Only, iTunes Music Store? I want neither the entire ‘Wall-E’ soundtrack nor the entire ‘Hello Dolly’ soundtrack!”
-Whine by Whitney
Album only is a constant irritation. I am always looking for rare cuts and covers and finding they are linked to twelve other songs I no desire to purchase. I might as well give in to the fascists and go by the CD at Wal-Mart*. The entire point of itunes is that you can create a great music collection without having to buy CD’s that include songs you would skip over anyway. I don’t want to pay $10.99 for tracks 1-11. I want tracks three, six and seven and I’ll give you $3.97. Deal?
*This is an exaggeration as I would never shop at Wal-Mart, or anywhere else with “mart” in the name for that matter, even if there were the last shop in town and all online music was album only.