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Politics: National

There’s been a lot of back and forth between pro-nanny state folks and pro-market folks concerning the impacts of either policy on job growth.  On one hand there is the argument that the uncertainty of regulations causes a pause in investment.  The case being that businesses are unable to predict the return of their investment due to unknown costs in the environment.

I have suggested in the past that this is akin to playing blackjack.  Consider the game as we know it.  A dealt 21 is a winner at 150% of the wager.  Dealer has to hit up to 16 and wins on a tie.

Further consider a table of players.  Upon being told that the rules might change mid “shoe”, that the changes to the rules are not yet finalized and that once you commit to playing, you can’t back out, do you think the players would play more, play less or play the same?

I suggest that the players would “hold onto their capital” until they knew the rules, and then, based on the new value proposition, would play at a level that reflects the advantage to the house; less play if the rules benefit the house, more play if those rules benefit the player.

Why we would expect business to react differently isn’t rational.  And, as it turns out, is exactly what we are seeing:  Hat Tip Carpe Diem

Because we don’t know what our health-care expenses will be in two or three years, we are unable to determine with any certainty how much our investments will have to return for us to be profitable. All of that counsels in favor of holding off on new investments and saving our funds. We want to grow. But we are unable to do so knowing that large and undetermined liabilities will absorb funds we otherwise would invest for expansion.

It is simply not reasonable to suspect that people or organizations will invest at the same level when the risks are unknown.

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Disclaimer:

This is a topic that earns conservatives a bad name.  Or rather, this is a topic that liberals are easily able to use in order to give conservatives a bad name.  This is an unfortunate reality, for IN reality, it is the conservative that gives more to charity than the liberal:

The fact is that self-described “conservatives” in America are more likely to give—and give more money—than self-described “liberals.” In the year 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more dollars to charity than households headed by a liberal. And this discrepancy in monetary donations is not simply an artifact of income differences. On the contrary, liberal families in these data earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families.

So, with that said, let me make it clear that what I describe as policy in no way or manner represents my individual and specific view of the actual person, their plight, human spirit and personal tragedy.

Okay, now, onward.

I caught a Reuters article recently.  Specifically detailing the impact of the recession on our children; our homeless children:

In a report issued earlier this month, the National Center on Family Homelessness, based in Needham, Massachusetts, said 1.6 million children were living on the streets of the United States last year or in shelters, motels and doubled-up with other families.

That marked a 38 percent jump in child homelessness since 2007 and Ellen Bassuk, the center’s president, attributes the increase to fallout from the U.S. recession and a surge in the number of extremely poor households headed by women.

To be sure, we have work to do.  The problems surrounding kids who don’t have hoes is bad.  And getting worse.  I don’t think there’s a soul alive who who disagree that something, anything, has to be done.  But it’s important to acknowledge that the thing, the “anything, is going to come in two forms:

  1. Direct assistance to the displaced families right now.
  2. Actions that will prevent the homeless condition from occurring in the first place.

While noble, I am less interested in the first, as a matter of policy, than I am in the second.  Consider this:

As her mother sat in a homeless shelter in downtown Miami, talking about her economic struggles and loss of faith in the U.S. political system, 3-year-old Aeisha Touray blurted out what sounded like a new slogan for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

“How dare you!” the girl said abruptly as she nudged a toy car across a conference room table at the Chapman Partnership shelter in Miami’s tough and predominantly black Overtown neighborhood.

There was no telling what Aeisha was thinking as her 32-year-old mother, Nairkahe Touray, spoke of how she burned through her savings and wound up living in a car with five of her eight children earlier this year.

Think of that.  This woman is trying to care for a family of 9 on her own.  Ms. Touray is 32 years old and has 8 children.  In comparison, I had yet to be married at 32.  And now, as a professional married to another professional I have two children.  Without making any judgements as to decisions or life circumstances, as a 32 year old professional, I’m certain that I would have struggled caring for 8 kids.  Even making it to work would be difficult if not impossible.

Again, my interest in the conditions of the poor and homeless in America are more focused on preventing single 32 year-old women from having 8 children.  To put this in perspective, if you were to take ALL families in 2011, the percent of them that have 7 or more members is 2.6%.  When you look at only female householder, the percentage of families with 6 members is 2.8%.  In a perverse fact of life, the problem gets worse as women find themselves raising the family alone.

Certainly I can’t know the journey that Ms. Touray has taken to get to where she is.  Her life could be one of immeasurable bad luck and unbelievable twists of fate that have led her to where she is.  However, I suggest that another theme exists.  One that we can change.

That is, there is a significant portion of our population that makes misinformed and bad decisions that ted to put them in cohort groupings that lead to poor outcomes.  Is it perfectly allowable that a single woman would want to make it on her own and raise a family of 8 children?  Sure, without a doubt.  However, if a trusted friend or sister were to seek your advice on her decision to embark on this path, what might your counsel look like?  Would you caution her?  Might you recommend that she obtain an education?  Perhaps secure income?

Something.

What would you counsel your own daughter to do?

And if THAT answer is different than, “I’d do nothing.  However, I would continue to lavish untold amounts of mine and my neighbor’s money in order to support her.”, then I ask you:

Why aren’t we making YOUR answer policy?  Why aren’t we telling our Ms. Tourays of the world that it’s generally not accepted wisdom to create a condition where you are single with 8 kids?  In fact, why is it so “insulting and disparaging” even to merely suggest such advice?

Some time ago airlines would price their tickets in whatever manner they priced their tickets.  We would buy them through travel agents or, if we were daring, but them from the airline directly.  Over time, and with emerging technology, we became good at finding deals.  I still remember my dad calling from Minnesota on a Tuesday, telling me he was coming to Seattle that Thursday.  See, Northwest would blowout sale their empty planes to certain destinations.

Downside?  No lead time.  Upside?  Retired teachers with nothing to do get to see family often and cheap.

Then we discovered “aggregaters”.  These were the engines on line that would allow you to shop all the airlines at once.  You know, trevlocity, orbitz, expedia, whatever.  And the airlines, and is, LOVED it.  It not only made it easier to shop, but by posting price, airlines were forced to compete ’cause whenever people have a choice to fly from Dallas to Fargo with all things being equal, they choose, wait for it, the lowest price.

So, right after WE figured that out so did the airlines.  In response to the demand for cheaper and cheaper seats, they had to find ways to bring the TICKET price down but still make the profit margin they were used to.  See, it turns out that orphans and grandmothers don’t invest their trust funds in mutual funds that buy companies that don’t turn a profit.  I know I know, the greed surrounding orphans and grandmothers is gross, immense and very ugly, but alas, that is the nature of orphans and grandmothers.  Anyway, so the airline decoupled the price of a person and the price of a piece of luggage.  Now the ticket prices for their seats would be lower and we would buy those cheaper tickets.

Nothing else changed.

The total cost, over time, of flying remained the same, only now it was two line items, not one.  Wanna fly from St. Louis to Bangor?  $375.00 please.  Or, if you want, I can split that up and charge you $340.00 for the ticket and $35.00 for the two bags.  No change, just accounting.

Annoying?  Perhaps, if you’re less enlightened.  Or, if you’re like me you try not to pack things that you can buy at your destination.  Diapers, formula, flip flops…whatever.  Or, you learn to pack better.  Or, you ship your luggage, it might actually be cheaper.  Or, just maybe, you accept the fact that the price of luggage is really the price of admission and just deal with it.  Where I really hate this is when I’m behind the guy that wastes 40 minutes trying to shuffle items from one bag to another to get under the 50 lb limit.  Anyway, enough.

The point?

The point is that lawmakers actually think they can make things better.  Baggage fees a pain in the neck?  Make ’em illegal:

WASHINGTON One of the most loathed aspects of holiday air travel – paying to check bags – is at the center of a growing debate that does not look to be resolved soon. Travelers who could otherwise be spending $50 on an extra gift must instead use it to buy their Samsonite a round-trip ticket in the bowels of an airplane. The anger over increasing fees has gained the attention of Washington, pitting some members of Congress against the airline industry.
U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell joined other federal lawmakers last week to press airlines to scale back their baggage fees. Kissell, a Democrat who represents Charlotte and Concord, proposed legislation that would allow travelers to check one free bag on each flight. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., introduced a similar bill in the Senate. To date, no Republicans support either bill.
All fine and dandy, I guess.  But I wonder if these lawmakers are aware that flying people from Kissimmii to Detroit [why ANYone would fly from Florida to De’troilet is beyond me] costs real money and that by making it illegal to charge real money for one thing means that it raise the price of the other legal thing.

If congress wants to choose higher airline tickets over free baggage, that’s fine.  I guess.  I just wonder why congress feels that decision is up to them?

Got a bunch of baseball cards in the attic?  Beanie Babies maybe?  How about some old CD’s?

Now, say ya wanna sell ’em.  Everyone knows that if you start the bidding to high you won’t get any takers.  Bring the price down and you can sell almost anything.

Simple:  More expensive, fewer people buy.  Less expensive, more people buy.

Which makes this so mind boggling:

Eight states will ring in the New Year with a higher minimum wage, under state laws that require wage floors to keep apace with inflation. San Francisco, one of the few cities that sets its own minimum wage above the federal level, is also raising wages for the lowest-paid workers in the new year. It will become the first big city in the country to require companies to pay their workers more than $10 an hour.

The minimum wage increases in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington will be 28 cents to 37 cents an hour, according to the National Employment Law Project. That is an extra $582 to $770 a year for a full-time minimum wage worker, and resets these states’ minimum wages to $7.64 to $9.04 an hour.

At that higher end is Washington State, which will become the first state in the nation to set its minimum wage above $9 an hour. For reference, the federal wage floor for most workers is $7.25 an hour.

I get it, I do.  No one’s time should be worth so little.  However, by forcing businesses to pay more for labor than they otherwise should, they will buy less labor.  And lastly, should an individual be free to bargain for the value of his time?

 

The desire to protect the citizens drives crazy results.  People, intending to “do the right thing” and “protect” the people, get so caught up in that role they never stop and consider the absurdity of what it is they are doing.  The never ending desire to prevent harm is a constricting burden when placed within the hands of those who fail to understand that man is largely able to craft positive outcomes for himself.

And so it is that government has created a condition such that we are unable to hand our free hot dogs to free people:

Tin Cup’s bar and restaurant in St. Paul’s North End will pay a $500 fine to the city for grilling hot dogs outside on Oct. 2 without an event permit.

Co-owner Gidget Bailey appeared before the city council Wednesday to explain that she inquired with a state agency before cooking the hot dogs, which were given away inside the bar at 1220 Rice St. and not sold or consumed outside.

“I did call the Minnesota Department of Health asking if there was anything I needed to do,” Bailey said. “They told me no.”

The city’s Department of Safety and Inspections cited them for not obtaining a “temporary extension of service area” license for the outdoor event, which led to several calls to the District 6 Planning Council. The planning council then informed DSI of the event.

Council Member Lee Helgen reminded the bar owners that they should have known to check with the city.

The council vote to impose the fine was unanimous.

Note one member of the government body felt that the regulations describing the proper offering of hot dogs was so onerous as to prevent the levying of the fine.

 

In the last few days and weeks we’ve been hearing a lot about the payroll tax hike/cut.  Lately the pitch has ramped up for two reasons.  One, the Senate was ale to negotiate a bipartisan agreement to extend the tax cuts.

For 2 months.

Now, most recently, the House Republicans have declined to accept that compromise.  They voted Tuesday to reject the Senate deal and are asking for the two bodies to meet in committee.  We’ll see who blinks.

However, for me, what has been lost in all of this is why the Democrats are fighting for a tax cut to begin with?  I certainly understand the whole “We-They” thing, after all, the whole payroll tax cut idea was the Democrats brain child.  But why, at all, do the tax more, big state liberals want ANY tax cut?  Especially one that funds their most precious social program, Social Security?

Why?  Because Social Security is SO broken, so in debt and so “no chance of survival” that the Democrats feel they have little to lose.  In fact, they KNOW the government will “bail out” Social Security.  So, in some perverse way, the payroll tax cut can be seen to be a stimulus program.  Albeit not a perfect one.  For starters the more you make the more it benefits you.  And, you have to actually be working to benefit.  But other than that, any money not sent to Social Security is just added to the bill that Congress will eventually pay.

Rascally Rabbits!

So, I get the hinge.  The Democrats in the Senate won a vote to extend the payroll tax cut for 2 months.  The House GOP doesn’t like that bill and wants to vote on one of their own.  They want the tax cut to be longer than 2 months, more like a year:

The fourth-ranking House Republican argued Tuesday that a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut “would do more harm than good.”

Now, in so far as we can reduce the tax burden for a s long as we can, I resonate with the good Mr. Hensarling, Rep from Texas.  What I don’t understand however, is why even such a relatively short extension of a year is thought to be THAT much better.  If you’re gonna end the tax, end the tax.  A temporary reduction is just as random and unpredictable if it’s 2 months or 12.

I’m a little disappointed in both parties over this one.