Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hey! Let's game the system!

As the rules become clear, the opportunities to push personal responsibility onto the foolish and gullible taxpayers also come to light.

If you don't have a major or chronic illness, forget buying insurance under the new national health care system. Save your money for when you really need it!

Brilliant, easy-to-understand, and mercifully short explanation of how to save thousands of dollars a year in medical expenses now that the government is here to save us all.

What's the word for this?

Oh, yes! "Moral hazard."

Reality begins to make itself known . . .

Since the passage of the new health care legislation, several major U.S. companies, including AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar, Deere, Valero Energy, AK Steel and 3M, have announced that they expect the law will cost them billions of dollars in higher health care expenses and so they have announced they are taking one-time charges on their first-quarter balance sheets. Democrat leaders accuse them of politicking and have said they would hold hearings in late April to investigate "claims by Caterpillar, Verizon, and Deere that provisions in the new health care reform law could adversely affect their company's ability to provide health insurance to their employees."

I hope they do hold the hearings . . . and that the CEOs will be well-prepared with detailed answers--far more detailed, I expect, than any of their congressional inquisitors might be expected to have!

One corporate lobbyist said the CEO of the firm he represents had attempted to forewarn the president and lawmakers.
My CEO sat with the president over lunch with two other CEOs, and each of them tried to explain to the president what this bill would do to our companies and the economy in general. First the president didn't understand what they were talking about. Then he basically told my boss he was lying.
It will be interesting to see what comes from the hearings!

I expect they will be quite revealing.
Neither Waxman or Stupak . . . had anything more than a cursory understanding of how the many sections of the bill would impact business or even individual citizens before they voted on the bill, says House Energy Democrat staff. "We had memos on these issues, but none of our people, we think, looked at them," says a staffer. "When they saw the stories last week about the charges some of the companies were taking, they were genuinely surprised and assumed that the companies were just doing this to embarrass them. They really believed this bill would immediately lower costs. They just didn't understand what they were voting on."
Do these guys really believe that they and their staff members are able--even in a 3,000-page document--to put together something in a couple of years that is more efficient and effective than what thousands of companies working independently for dozens of years have put together?

These stories are just now beginning to leak.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

For all my friends in the book publishing and educational marketplace.

Watch this video to the end. Something remarkable happens at about 1:06 into it.

What do you believe?

The Supremacy Clause Smackdown

When it comes to the federal government and state governments, who is supreme . . . and over what?

An excellent article about a key battle in constitutional law today.

Throw in a medical story . . . for a bit more than "fun" . . .

As you may recall, I've been using LDN (low-dose naltrexone) for several months as an alternative therapy in hopes of treating my rheumatoid arthritis.

(Report: I'm not sure it's really done all that much good. Actually, I'm not sure how much good anything I'm doing has done. . . . I am quite sure that wheat is bad for me. I'm getting the impression that heavy doses of sugar (as in soda pop) can trigger inflammation. By and large, my inflammation and pain has been kept down to a very dull roar. But is that because I would have experienced a very slow progression of the disease anyway? --I don't know.)


I am continuing on my various therapies, and I continue to read what I can and pursue potential remedies.

So this morning I came across a reference in my Yahoo RheumatoidArthritis-LowDoseNaltrexone group to an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola in The Huffington Post. The article was actually primarily about a Dr. Burt Berkson and Berkson's work with Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA).

I imagine the reason this article was referenced in the LDN group, however, was this statement:
Dr. Berkson uses ALA along with low dose naltrexone (LDN) for the reversal of a number of more serious health conditions such as:
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Dermatomyositis (an inflammatory muscle disease)
  • Autoimmune diseases
Most of his patients normalize in about one month on this combination of ALA and LDN.
Whoa! I've been taking both LDN and ALA for quite some time. --I wonder how much ALA Berkson recommends?

So I did a search on burt berkson alpha lipoic acid rheumatoid arthritis and eventually came to Burt Berkson, MD, PhD, Talks With Honest Medicine About His Work and Our Medical System.

Mercola had summarized a bit of Berkson's story when he said,
Early on in his career, while an internist, he was given several patients who were expected to die from hepatitis C. His job was more or less to simply baby sit them in the ICU and watch them die.

But Dr. Berkson was a rebel at heart and he simply couldn't do that. Instead he called an associate at the National Institutes of Health and found out how he could treat them. He learned that alpha lipoic acid had some impressive experimental support. Remarkably, although these patients were expected to die within a few weeks, they all completely recovered!

However not all went well for Dr. Berkson. As he made his superiors look foolish, they simply could not tolerate that so rather than embrace his findings, they actively suppressed the results and made his life miserable for showing them up.

This was a pivotal moment in Dr. Berkson's career and caused him to make choices that eventually led to where he is at now. Since then, Dr. Berkson has lectured all over the world on this topic, and published a study on the use of antioxidants for the treatment of hepatitis C.

His first book, The Alpha-Lipoic Acid Breakthrough was published in 1998.
Well, the article I discovered--actually, an interview--told the whole story, in Berkson's words. Very much more interesting!
DR. BERKSON: I was a resident in internal medicine in a teaching hospital in Cleveland Ohio, and one day the chief of medicine came by and said, "I am very upset with you." And I said, "Why?" (I thought he was kidding.) And he said, "You have no deaths on your service. Most people have seen several deaths by now and you haven't seen any." And I told him that I really try to keep people alive. He said, "It’s very unusual. I’m going to give you two people who will surely die. They have acute and fulminant liver disease. They ate poisonous mushrooms, and the expert on liver disease said we cannot get a transplant for them, and nothing can save them. So I want you to go upstairs, watch them die, take notes and present this to grand medical rounds."

And I went upstairs and I looked at these two very sick people. And as a medical doctor, especially in internal medicine, you're supposed to follow the orders of the chief, just like a private would follow the orders of a sergeant. But I had six years of education above my medical training, for a masters and a PhD in microbiology and cell biology, and I was always looking for new things. So I called Washington and spoke to the head of the National Institutes of Health in Internal Medicine, Dr. Fred Bartter, and I asked him, “Is there anything in the world that he knew of that might regenerate a liver?” And he said he was studying alpha lipoic acid because he knew it would reverse diabetic neuropathy and other complications of diabetes. But when he gave it to people, it seemed to regenerate their organs. It seemed to stimulate their stem cells and to start growing and regenerating new organ tissue.

He sent the lipoic acid to me. I picked it up at the Cleveland airport about three hours later. The commercial pilot handed it to me. I ran back to the hospital and injected it into these two people for a period of two weeks. And in two weeks, they regenerated their livers fully. And they’re still alive and well, in their 80s, thirty some years later.

( NOTE: One of the people whom Dr. Berkson saved by "not following orders," Eunice Goostree, wrote a very personal review of The Alpha Lipoic Acid Breakthrough on

I was all excited. Washington was all excited. But the chiefs were not happy with me.

JULIA SCHOPICK: They were actually angry at you?

DR. BERKSON: Well, they seemed to be angry. They said, “We told the families that these people were going to die, that there was no hope. And now they’re alive and well. You know, it makes us look bad. And you did something without asking us for permission.” And I said, “You told me that these people were my responsibility, so I did what I thought was correct.”

I said, “Do you want to know what I did?”


JULIA SCHOPICK: They were not even curious?

DR. BERKSON: They said: “This is not an approved drug. And it’s not on our formulary. And you did not follow orders like a good internal medicine doctor.”

I was sort of depressed by this. You know, it was very different from what I had seen as a professor of biology. You know, when I discovered something new in biology, everybody would pat me on the back and give me awards. In medicine, it seemed to me that if you discovered something new, you were sort of thought of as an outlaw.

JULIA SCHOPICK: If I had not heard this story -- I heard you speak at NOHA so long ago, and of course, I read your book -– it’s too depressing.

DR. BERKSON: Well, anyway, more people came in, and I was told I should not do this again. They'd also eaten poisonous mushrooms, which really destroys the liver, and there’s not much you can do for these folks, except a transplant or, in this case, lipoic acid.

And the National Institutes of Health started supporting my work. I think because of that, the people at the hospital I was at had to go along with what I was doing, and eventually Dr. Bartter and I published a paper on 79 people with so-called terminal liver disease, and 75 of them regenerated their livers, with just intravenous lipoic acid.

There was no interest in the United States; almost nothing.

JULIA SCHOPICK: Where was your article published?

DR. BERKSON: My first short note was in the New England Journal of Medicine.

And they weren’t really interested in a big study. My own personal opinion was that it was because there was no large pharmaceutical company sponsoring the work. There was no one to take out ads in the magazines (i.e., the medical journals), or to buy reprints from them.

But, Dr. Bartter and I were invited to Europe to be visiting scientists at the Max Planck Institute and we published it in Europe.
I think you will find the rest of the article equally interesting.

Check it out!


Short political commentary.

Since it is only just over a week since our "representatives" in the federal government agreed to take over medicine in our country, I would like to ask you: do you really want people like the uninquisitive (but, I'm sure, truly compassionate--he was very concerned, for Dr. Berkson's benefit, that Berkson would become familiar with death and dying) . . . --Would you want such a man--the chief of medicine at the teaching hospital in which Dr. Berkson was working-- . . . Would you want such a man to be in charge of your medical care?

It's looking more and more as if that is exactly what you and I are in for.

(I spent many hours a couple of months ago writing a lengthy post about the problems associated with acquiring natural thyroxin here in the United States, but never quite finished it, due to the time it was taking me. --That's just one story, perhaps, that I should yet tell about how our medical options are, even now, and even without nationalized health care, being severely curtailed "from the top." . . . And now, with greater and greater centralization, I'm afraid the squeeze is going to become ever tighter.)

Maybe we're still the land of the brave. Maybe. But we are rapidly becoming the land of the very un-free.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply-Side Revolution, Intro

As I noted back on February 19th, I received an e-mail from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute with a sidelink to a brief (36:48) lecture by Dr. Brian Domitrovic, assistant professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. I was so impressed by Dr. Domitrovic’s presentation that I ordered a copy of his book, Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply-Side Revolution and Restored American Prosperity.

The book turned out to be, in many ways, much more than I bargained for, but I finally finished it on Saturday, and I'm glad I took the time!

I read the book because I was hoping to understand what the "supply-side revolution" was really all about: What did the proponents believe? How did they argue their case? and What were the results? I got all those things, for sure, but I also read way more details than I really wanted to take the time for, including lots and lots of names (along with brief biographical sketches), and article titles, and journal paper summaries, and descriptions of cocktail parties, and narratives about the personal feelings of participants at various points. Just "more than I wanted to know."

Still. Domitrovic wrote the book in hopes of filling a void. As he writes in his concluding chapter:
Economic crises caused by loose money and high taxes were cured by [supply-side] policy mix[es] in 1922, 1962, and 1981. Likewise, similarly caused crises that did not call forth the [supply-side] response--the recessions of 1969-70 and 1974-75--festered until the proper cure came.

There is not one word of historical scholarship on any of this. . . . In academic history, the secondary literature on supply-side economics is nil. Many things have been written about supply-side economics, but none of them falls in the category of "literature" as the term is used by historians.

Econoclasts, p. 292

Domitrovic notes that this lack of historical research has some serious (negative) practical implications for those of us alive today. (And I'm talking about today, in 2010.
[A]s the economic crisis deepened in 2008 and 2009, public officials were quick to compare it with the 1930s. It was as if the Great Depression were the only economic crisis, and the New Deal the only solution, they had ever heard of. How could it have been otherwise? What serious books could be read, what courses taken, on the new vehicles of economic stabilization that had been pioneered since JFK's time? Economists tracked this history to some degree, but their specialty is still distance and models. Documenting what policymakers did in the past, and why, is a job for historians.

What might history teach President Obama and the favorably inclined Congress he enjoys? First, it is time to understand what great Democrats achieved in the past. It is difficult to believe that had FDR honored George Washington's precedent and not sought a third term, he would be regarded today as anything short of a grand failure. The recession that started right after FDR's reelection in 1936 canceled all gains made by the New Deal and perpetuated the Great Depression until the clouds of war came. For all the make-work programs of the Works Progress Administration and the crusades against big business, the New Deal in its classic--1933-39--did nothing to restore prosperity.

JFK, in contrast, took all the right advice and knew when and how to defy it. His ambition was such that he was going to have spectacular growth on his watch, no matter whom he had cut deals with--even if that meant the Chamber of Commerce and Ford Motor, as opposed to this orders of the neoclassical synthesis who made up his Council of Economic Advisors. . . .

JFK's is the result Obama should aspire to, not FDR's.

Econoclasts, pp. 292-293

Domitrovic urges five specific policy recommendations. I intend to return to them in a future post after I have summarized some of the content of the book that most impressed me.

This post is merely to "forewarn" you of subject matter I hope to deal with in the days to come.

I hope you find it interesting and, perhaps, inspirational!

Next post in this series: "Supply-side" economics was a colossal failure, wasn't it?

Good for the goose, good for the gander?

You heard about the business owner who was visited earlier this month by two rather officious IRS agents over a supposed failure to pay four cents in income tax back in 2006. They demanded $202.35 to cover the four cents plus penalties and interest over the intervening years. (Crazy!)

And you've heard about President Obama's concern to ensure that no businesses that are delinquent in tax payments should receive federal contracts. (Good.)

Why is it, then, that Tim Geithner was approved as Secretary of the Treasury (yes, Treasury!) when he messed up on his taxes and permitted a woman to work for him illegally? When caught, he paid the taxes, but "the IRS waived the related penalties." (How nice for him! But how completely two-faced.)

And, though he eventually withdrew his name from the process for consideration, why does it seem that former Senator Tom Daschle was perfectly acceptable to the president as a candidate to become Secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services--despite his failure to pay $146,000 in back taxes? (!!!!)

And why was it only after massive pressure that Charlie Rangel finally--at least temporarily--stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee (the committee responsible for writing tax legislation and bills affecting Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs), despite well-documented problems with his fundraising, major known tax evasion on property he owns in the Dominican Republic, and improper use of four rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan?

But this one seems to take the cake: Earlier this month it comes out that nearly 100,000 federal employees (including 678 congressional staff members) owe just shy of a billion dollars in back taxes--and yet they can't be fired. (Include retirees and military service members, the numbers go from nearly 100,000 up to 276,000 current or former workers who owe $3 billion in taxes.)

So not only do federal employees, on average, make significantly more than their private economy peers (see also here), but, apparently, they are also permitted to steal from their employer, the federal government (and we the people who actually pay our taxes) without repercussions.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beauty and thought

A man I know from Mission India suggested I go to his pastor’s blog. I was stunned by what I found. Photos and words.

After spending some time there, I was reminded of the blog of another acquaintance. Here’s a guy who takes photos that touch me, too.

I wish I had the artistic perspective that these guys obviously have!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Who pays for what?

I caught this in World magazine (March 13 issue, p. 68) concerning the Greek debt crisis:
The most likely scenario is a bailout led by the Germans, but such a move is extremely unpopular in Germany. Greece's early retirement age is a big sticking point for Germans, who recently raised their own retirement age from 65 to 67. "The Greeks go onto the streets to protest against the increase of the pension age from 61 to 63," said the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in an editorial. "Does that mean that the Germans should in the future extend the working age from 67 to 69, so that the Greeks can enjoy their retirement?"
I think a similar question could be asked about U.S. debt.

Are the thrifty and self-denying Chinese and Indians (for example) supposed to permit Americans to renege on their impossible promises to repay--in good, uninflated money--the trillions of dollars of debt they (our government; we!) have already contracted? Are we Americans supposed to enjoy our "free" health care and Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare while the Chinese and Indians continue to labor for wages worth a fraction of what Americans receive?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Effective classroom teaching

Building a Better Teacher, an excellent article in the March 2nd New York Times Magazine, introduces and summarizes some astonishing lessons in effective classroom teaching.

Doug Lemov set out to become a teacher of teachers, good teachers, excellent teachers. The problem: No one seemed to know what makes an excellent teacher.
Among the factors that [have been proven] not [to] predict whether a teacher will succeed: a graduate-school degree, a high score on the SAT, an extroverted personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and having passed the teacher-certification exam on the first try.
So how does one find out what does work?
[Lemov] decided to seek out the best teachers he could find — as defined partly by their students’ test scores — and learn from them. A self-described data geek, he went about this task methodically, collecting test-score results and demographic information from states around the country. He plotted each school’s poverty level on one axis and its performance on state tests on the other. Each chart had a few outliers blinking in the upper-right-hand corner — schools that managed to squeeze high performance out of the poorest students. He broke those schools’ scores down by grade level and subject. If a school scored especially high on, say, sixth-grade English, he would track down the people who taught sixth graders English.

He called a wedding videographer he knew through a friend and asked him if he’d like to tag along on some school visits. Their first trip to North Star Academy, a charter school in Newark, turned into a five-year project to record teachers across the country. . . . The odyssey produced a 357-page treatise known among its hundreds of underground fans as Lemov’s Taxonomy. (The official title, attached to a book version being released in April, is Teach Like a Champion: The 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College.)
The results of Lemov's study are not obvious. They deserve study.

At a recent conference,
Lemov played a video of a class taught by one of his teaching virtuosos, a slim man named Bob Zimmerli. Lemov used it to introduce one of the 49 techniques in his taxonomy, one he calls What to Do.

The clip opens at the start of class, which Zimmerli was teaching for the first time, with children — fifth graders, all of them black, mostly boys — looking everywhere but at the board. One is playing with a pair of headphones; another is slowly paging through a giant three-ring binder. Zimmerli stands at the front of the class in a neat tie.

“O.K., guys, before I get started today, here’s what I need from you,” he says. “I need that piece of paper turned over and a pencil out.” Almost no one is following his directions, but he is undeterred. “So if there’s anything else on your desk right now, please put that inside your desk.”

He mimics what he wants the students to do with a neat underhand pitch. A few students in the front put papers away. “Just like you’re doing, thank you very much,” Zimmerli says, pointing to one of them.

Another desk emerges neat; Zimmerli targets it. “Thank you, sir.” “I appreciate it,” he says, pointing to another. By the time he points to one last student — “Nice . . . nice” — the headphones are gone, the binder has clicked shut and everyone is paying attention.

Lemov switched off the video. “Imagine if his first direction had been, ‘Please get your things out for class,’ ” he said.

Zimmerli got the students to pay attention not because of some inborn charisma, Lemov explained, but simply by being direct and specific. Children often fail to follow directions because they really don’t know what they are supposed to do. There were other tricks Zimmerli used too.
I encourage you to read the article. And if you're a teacher, maybe you'd like to get a copy of the book--due out on March 29th.

--For some inspiring 40-some-second videos of excellent teachers in their classrooms, go here.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Muslim humor

You have to know the target for your humor . . .

Good thing grandpa is so good-natured.

Social Cycles

I don't want to do a lot of talking about this subject. But I want to bring something to your attention in case you'd like to follow up on it yourself.

It has to do with the case for major, measurable, perceivable and predictable social cycles.

Some sources you might enjoy pursuing:

1. The Case for Cycles by Edward R. Dewey from the Foundation for the Study of Cycles.

2. Martin Armstrong's economic essays (start at the bottom of the left-hand column and work your way up, if you want to read them chronologically). --You may want to read about Armstrong first on Wikipedia. As the man who introduced me to Armstrong wrote,
Armstrong’s work is widely respected amongst researchers, despite the fact that he is currently incarcerated for matters unrelated to his research work and economic models, which have been widely sought after for use by governments around the world and even the CIA, due to their accuracy.

Armstrong’s work has accurately forecasted — often to the day — many of the major moves and shifts in markets, including . . .
  • The 1980 high in gold
  • The stock market crash of 1987
  • The 1989 peak in Japan’s stock markets
  • Both the Asian financial crisis and the peak in broad U.S. stock markets in 1998
Plus, he’s made several uncannily accurate calls in the currency, commodity, and bond markets.
Some other people you might want to look up:
  • Joseph Schumpeter (who developed a business cycle theory that suggested when capitalist economies advance to a certain point, entrepreneurship ceases and comes to be replaced by socialism). See his Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy for a development of the thesis.
  • Nikolai Kondratieff and his long wave theory.
  • Clement Juglar
  • Simon Kuznets
  • and more.
I'll stop here.

Hope you find this path full of interesting discoveries!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More on taxes and tax avoidance . . . and prosperity

I was working in the yard on Saturday and, as I usually do when working outside, I listened to a few lectures--at high speed.

The series I was listening to came from the November Sovereign Society Offshore Advantage Academy meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico.

One of the speakers, Dan Mitchell, Senior Fellow and Chairman for Freedom and Prosperity at the CATO Institute, got talking about tax policy and tax avoidance.

Remember my post on tax avoidance as a civic good back in December? Miller made much the same point about the value of tax competition. As it has become easier for people to move around the world; as the world has become more "open," tax rates in many countries have actually fallen.

Miller noted that, on average, top income tax rates have dropped 26 percent over the last 20 years or so. Corporate tax rates have dropped by more than 20 percent on average. Moreover, there have been significant reductions in double taxation. As Miller put it, "Globalization is making it easier for the geese that lay golden eggs to escape oppression."

And, said Miller, all of these are good things.

He showed a number of graphs that demonstrate the differences that an average annual shift of just one percent in growth can produce over a few years' time.

As I've also been reading in the last couple of days in Phil Town's book Payback Time, you can calculate how quickly a certain percentage rate will double the underlying value by dividing 72 by the average rate of growth (or inflation or interest . . .). It's called the Rule of 72.

For example: Suppose you are making $35,000 a year today. At 3% inflation, how long will it take before you need to be making $70,000 a year . . . just to remain even with your current income?

Divide 72 by 3: there's your answer. In other words, at 3% average inflation, it will take 24 years before you need to be making $70,000.

But suppose inflation ratchets up just a couple of percent. Let's make it a 5% rate of inflation. Divide 72 by 5 and you're looking at a salary of $70,000 to break even within about 14 years.

Seven percent inflation? 10 years. Ten percent inflation, 7 years.

Pretend you're facing no inflation but the economy grows at 3% per year? --Participants in your economy will, on average, be twice as wealthy 24 years from now as they are today.

Push your economic growth two percent higher? --You're twice as wealthy in 14 years.

Two percent lower (as America's government is threatening to do with its confiscatory tax policies): at 1% average growth rate per year (discounting inflation!), America will take 70 years to become twice as wealthy as it is today.

Miller noted that it is these (apparently) small percentage differences that have made dramatic differences in economic prosperity on the world's stage--just in the space of our own lifetimes (or a little longer).

Argentina, which was the 10th most prosperous country in the world on a GDP per capita basis as late as 1949, had fallen to 50th by 1992 . . . while Hong Kong, in the same time, rose from about 53rd to 10th!

Or take Ireland and France. In 1975, the per capita income (as calculated by dividing Gross National Product by population) in Ireland was about $8,000; in France, it was just over $15,000--almost twice as high. The two countries maintained a nearly equivalent nominal disparity in income till about 1990 . . . and then Ireland started catching up. Between 1990 and 1995, Ireland's rate of growth remained consistent with where it had been in the previous five years; France, meanwhile, slowed down a bit. And then, right about 1995, Ireland took off. In five years, the average income in Ireland rocketed from approximately $18,500 to a bit over $30,000 . . . while France's average income plodded along, growing from about $23,000 to not quite $26,000. In 2004, France sat at an average of about $27,000, while Ireland was a bit over $35,000--a huge disparity brought about by a small percentage difference in growth rates over a few years' time.

And what can make these kinds of differences?

Often: tax policies of the government. As Miller noted, "A smaller burden of government translates into more opportunity and higher living standards."

Consider: Based on a Rule of 72 calculation, the U.S. economy has been growing at an average of between 2% and 3% per year for the last 50 years . . . during a time when the government, on average, consumed about 20% of everything our economy produced.

"Today, the burden of the federal government is more than 27 percent of GDP," Miller said, "up from 18.5 percent when Clinton left office.

"Because of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, federal spending is projected to jump from 22 percent-plus of GDP today to 45 percent to 67 percent of GDP after the baby boom generation is fully retired." Meanwhile, "State and local governments will consume – at a minimum – another 15 percent of GDP."

Socialism, anyone? Poverty, anyone?

Miller noted that politicians understand how taxes work as incentives (or disincentives) in other areas of life: "We want to decrease the number of people who smoke. Let's raise taxes on cigarettes." Why don't they understand that the same thinking applies to income?

If you want people to be motivated to produce, you don't raise taxes on income!

"High tax rates reduce incentives to engage in productive behavior, meaning less work, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship. This means less taxable income."

Miller illustrated the reverse of this "equation" with the real-world example of Reagan's policies.

  • In 1980, there were 116,800 rich people.
  • Those rich people reported $36.2 billion of income to the IRS.
  • They paid $19.0 billion of income tax to the federal government.
Under Reagan, tax rates were dropped and . . . by 1988 . . .

  • There were 723,700 rich people.
  • Those rich people reported $353.0 billion of income to the IRS.
  • They paid $99.7 billion of income tax to the federal government.
Want to see the principle operating in reverse?

Yesterday afternoon, after listening to Miller's presentation in the morning, I bumped into this article about "Maryland's Mobile Millionaires" from the Wall Street Journal:
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is the latest Democrat to demand a tax increase, this week proposing to raise the state's top marginal individual income tax rate to 4% from 3%. He'd better hope this works out better than it has for Maryland.

We reported in May that after passing a millionaire surtax nearly one-third of Maryland's millionaires had gone missing, thus contributing to a decline in state revenues. The politicians in Annapolis had said they'd collect $106 million by raising its income tax rate on millionaire households to 6.25% from 4.75%. In cities like Baltimore and Bethesda, which apply add-on income taxes, the top tax rate with the surcharge now reaches as high as 9.3%—fifth highest in the nation. Liberals said this was based on incomplete data and that rich Marylanders hadn't fled the state.

Well, the state comptroller's office now has the final tax return data for 2008, the first year that the higher tax rates applied. The number of millionaire tax returns fell sharply to 5,529 from 7,898 in 2007, a 30% tumble. The taxes paid by rich filers fell by 22%, and instead of their payments increasing by $106 million, they fell by some $257 million.
What's going on? Is it just the lousy economy? No. No way.

People cheating on their taxes? Not likely.

Read the article for an analysis.

The same thing can happen--as it has--on the international stage.

Chevy Volt electric car revealed

Nice! Some new competition in the electric car category.

See photos of (and brief commentary about) one of the first 60 hand-built prototypes of the Chevy Volt--shot just yesterday at SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) in Austin, TX.

Photos include highlights of interesting/unusual graphic design features in/on the vehicle; control panel and efficiency data displays which--as the author points out, could be very "cool" and yield interesting social results if and as "it posts your scores to Twitter or ranks you against your fellow Volt-owning friends."

Hmmmmmm. . . .

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


"Bunnies for Bibles." Two sisters raise rabbits to earn money for Bible translation.

Entrepreneurialism at its finest.

Be careful what you ask for!

I became deeply interested in the American Constitution--and the history of Constitutional interpretation--about a dozen years ago when I began work on what is now known as Sonlight Curriculum Core 400: Civics/American Government program.

In general, I took a textualist/classic liberal perspective on things.

Ever since that original study, however, I find myself caught up short and taken by surprise by issues and arguments related to the Constitution. Like this one I bumped into this morning: The Trouble with 'Incorporating' the Second Amendment by Jack Hunter:
When the City of Chicago banned all handguns recently, countless Americans . . . cried foul. When it looked like the Supreme Court might overturn the ban, gun-rights advocates cheered the decision. But while their heart is in the right place, their enthusiasm is not, as what gun-rights advocates are really cheering is the federal government assuming even more power.
Got that?

I had to do a double-take.

What's the problem with the Supreme Court coming to a decision on a matter of Second Amendment rights?

Pay attention:
Constitutional historian Kevin Gutzman [notes]: "[E]ssentially what [the Second Amendment] means is that the federal government is to have nothing to do with your ownership and use of weapons. But that doesn't mean that nobody is able to regulate your ownership and use of weapons. . . . Clearly some level of government has to be able to regulate the use and possession of firearms."
So who should have that authority? According to the Constitution, such regulation is a prerogative of local--perhaps city, perhaps state, perhaps both--governments. It is "simply" not supposed to be the prerogative of the federal government.

And what happens if and when the feds acquire power in this area? As the Washington Times commented, then "federal law trumps state law anytime the court sees fit, completely ignoring the Bill of Rights' intended purpose of limiting federal authority. What some consider a small victory for gun rights is actually a grand defeat for limited government."

See Hunter's article for more.

Thought-provoking. And too bad both Democrats and Republicans, so-called liberals and so-called conservatives are completely oblivious to their lack of a solidly-grounded political philosophy!

For some additional perspective on the issue, see States must protect gun rights as they ensure public safety and a distressing article about the everywhere-else-"originalist" Antonin Scalia becoming a judicial activist on this particular question.

Monday, March 08, 2010

"Coming out" . . . in reverse

While I was flying home from Kenya back in January, I saw an article in The Times that, I thought, deserved a bit of attention. Title: Straight talking: The day I decided to stop being gay. It was accompanied by another column titled Can you flip a switch? The experts' view.

Interesting articles written from fully secular positions.

I'll say no more.