Thursday, February 27, 2014

Is Gridlock Better Than the Alternative?

Since you know how I prefer gridlock, I definitely like this post.

MinnPost What's Worse, Gridlock or the Alternative?


Tax Plan Proposal

I am starting to comment at MinnPost Dave Camp's Tax Plan.  It is a followup to MinnPost Hats off to Dave Camp.

I keep think tax simplification is never going to happen.  What would all those CPAs, Tax Attourneys, IRS agents, etc do without the complicated tax code to ensure their continued employment?  Thoughts?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Politicians Fight for Defense Pork

Well it looks like both sides of the aisle have found something to agree on again.  As the politicians start angling to keep their district's share of the US Defense subsidies flowing into their communities.

CNN Congress Prepares to Defend Districts from Defense Cuts
Fox News War Fighters Bear Brunt
CS Monitor Why the Warthog

How are we evr going to cut government spending when so many people seem to think they need it?  Thoughts?

Friday, February 21, 2014

MN Legislative Session

Here is an interesting summary compliments of Parents United... I thought the bullet below was interesting, since I had never heard of it until now.
"Governor Dayton has made clear his desire to streamline government and has been direct with his commissioners about making that happen. Whether legislation may be required to accomplish his goal is yet to be determined, but expect debate on repealing the business-to-business tax passed last session."
 Thoughts regarding this bullet or any of the others?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Check Those Sources

Jason in a comment at MinnPost called me on a source I often use.  US Total Gov't Spend History  He said my source...
"Is written by a conservative blogger. You'll forgive me for not giving it any credibility."
and when I asked him to recommend another better source he said...
"A source that doesn't cherry pick their data, actually explains where he got it and the criteria used to compile it? All things which your "source" has refused to do when asked by those commenting on his website. I say this knowing full well that you probably have absolutely no interest in reading anything that doesn't validate your ideology,...hence the comical term "liberal media bias.""
 And I can't disagree that using a source that openly acknowledges that some values are guesstimates does seem questionable.  So I went and found this site called Winning Progressive that linked to this Total Cost chart.  (I am thinking a site named Winning Progressive may be Left leaning enough even for Jason...)

Fortunately the US Spending and the Winning Progressive charts are very similar, so I plan to keep using the US Total charts.  Does anyone have a better source to measure the magnitude of "gov't control" with in our economy?  I was thinking of the "tax free" day history, however that seems "national" centric.

So I finish writing this and decide to read the NY Times Blog Post that Winning Progressives linked to for the image...  And guess who the NY Times is referencing as a source???

No wonder the images looked similar...  Well if US Total Gov't Spend History is good enough for the NY Times.  I am sticking with it until you help me find a better source.  Thoughts?

Monday, February 17, 2014

American Consumer Choices

I brought up one of my favorite theories in some MinnPost comments. "How are we going to fix this if American Consumers are determined to spend any additional income they make on high "foreign content" goods and services"? 

As you know, I believe that American consumers are freely making the choice, and our dropping wages are a natural consequence.  The MinnPost  article was regarding an interview with Marty Seifert where he said Government Costs Too Much.

Well Matt has a different theory regarding why we Americans insist on bargain hunting. 
"You've trotted this out in several threads now, how's about a little context. Yes, American consumers have bought into the "cheap is best" disposable consumerist culture. However, this hasn't happened in a vacuum, it was deliberate policy pushed by both corporate America and its minions in government. 

Its not as if one day the average consumer woke up and said "Gee, these American made products are garbage, but you know this Chinese plastic crap is GREAT!" Decades of carefully crafted marketing, the explosion of discount retail outlets (whose rise has coincidentally aligned with the middle class decline), and the systematic demonization and subsequent destruction of the labor union have put consumers in the position we are in. 

The battle has already been lost, people like me, who value quality over price, are in the minority. You certainly cannot blame consumers for doing exactly what they have been directed and encouraged to do, in some cases now, for the entire lives. You blame the people in who's interest it is that it remain so." Matt

So what do you think, was this a business and government conspiracy? Or do you think Americans are just dedicated Capitalists looking for the best value for the least cost?

See the MinnPost comments for more detail. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

MN Affordable Housing?

Here are 2 interesting articles:
MinnPost Housing Programs Concentrate Poverty
MinnPost What is Affordable Housing

The first one resonates with my belief that the way to close the achievement gap and to overcome generational poverty is to surround the poor with wealthier people.  This ensures that the schools and community have a significant population of volunteers, donations, good peer pressure, good examples, a different belief system, etc...  Now how to do that when the Burbs usually have limited public transportation, are spread out, relatively expensive to live in, etc, that is the question?

In the second, in my comments I questioned:
"No one said the housing was to be cold, wet, dirty, old or in anyway third worldish. Is renting a room, studio, having room mates, etc in anyway third worldish? If you think so I am guessing you haven't been to the third world. So I'll ask again.

What do you think is adequate housing low income housing?

The goal of low cost housing in my view is to keep people warm, safe, etc. How many square feet and amenities does that take?"
 And got no answer.  Thoughts?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

There's No Free Lunch?

Times short so I'll leave it that I stuck my foot in it again by questioning where parental accountability fits into this discussion.  It seemed to be totally absent...
MinnPost Tray Pulling Gets Political

Here is the earlier post.
MinnPost Tray Pulling

On a lighter note....  Seinfeld No Soup For You...

One more thought...  It is kind of strange that the MinnPost folks are attacking the Public School folks on this.  Most Teachers, Lunch Ladies and School Admins I know are really into the kids.  I am guessing if there is a food problem, there is a much bigger issue on going with the child's parents or the child.  I thought these MinnPost people are the ones who say they trust the Public Ed system implicitly.  Amazing how fast they turned on them.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Raise Debt Ceiling Equals Responsible?

Based on Hiram's recent comments, he should be happy that the House passed a "clean" debt ceiling increase bill.  MinnPost House Passes Clean Debt Ceiling Increase  Which of course means that our government is continuing to spend more than it is raising in revenue.

Hiram apparently considers this the responsible thing to do. (ie "pay our commitments") I see this as the irresponsible thing to do. (ie "spending our children's money") Here were 3 actions that can be taken when one is running deficits:
  1. Do nothing and keep raising the debt limit, it seems to be very popular politically.  I mean many of the citizens that will need to clean up the mess and bear the increased cost can not even vote yet.  And a lot of the voting citizens that will benefit from this course of action may be dead when the consequences arrive.  No wonder the politicians and self centered citizens like this one.
  2. Proactively cut "mandatory" and discretionary spending so that we are living within our means.  As has been pointed out here, "mandatory" does not mean that it must be paid out.  It just means that "current law" requires that it be paid out.  The politicians are free to pass laws at any time to reduce the "mandatory" spend.  It just isn't very popular with people that are going to get more out of a system than they paid in.  Most folks like it when the "insurance benefits" pay us more than the premiums we paid.
  3. Raise taxes, fees, etc so revenues meet the current spend.  The Democrats pressured the Republicans to let the Bush tax cuts lapse on the well to do citizens.  Maybe we will need to reverse them for the rest of us.  I mean if we want this high level of spend, shouldn't we all be paying for it?
To me 2, 3 or some combination of them would be the "responsible" thing to do.  This would mean that the current voting and tax paying citizens would be paying their bill.  They wouldn't be buzzing through the drive thru telling the cashier that someone behind them will pay for their food.  The idea that many people support doing that (ie #1) still puzzles and frustrates me. 

Especially when it is my daughters generation that will need to pay for our generations selfishness.  Thoughts?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Conservatives or Liberals: Who Cares More?

The Liberal / Conservative Identifier comment string is still going strong at MinnPost.  Here is a topic I found interesting.
"True, but what's instructive is how people "self-identify", which is what this poll is all about. It doesn't attempt to gauge whether or not people are really liberal or conservative based on some universal definition but on how people perceive themselves.

And that's an interesting measure of the culture and the various portrayals of ideologies that people are exposed to and whether or not those memes are working in society.

For example, conservatives are portrayed in the popular culture as cold-hearted, old, white, anti-minority, anti-women, etc., and yet with all that negative stereotyping bombarding the culture, twice as many people self-identify as "conservatives" than as "liberals." I find that fascinating." Dennis

"Like when I threw out "Selfish" as a label... (instead of Conservative) I think that the reality is that most of us know the truth. Most Conservatives are very concerned about fairness and their fellow citizens, maybe more so than the Liberals. It is core to our religious teachings and we are taught its importance from our first day in Sunday school.

We just don't think that government can do welfare effectively or efficiently. And we believe that entitlement rewards and encourages the wrong behaviors and habits, therefore robbing humans of some very important self fulfillment and joy." G2A

"Or your proselytizing is just an attempt to rationalize the lack of empathy for others that you and other conservatives deem unworthy. Judging from the actions of conservative lawmakers and the vast majority of comments I read, I'm inclined to believe the latter. " Jason

"Not sure about all Conservatives, however I did some interesting math. It seems that ~10% of my gross income flows through the tax code to fund the "welfare" bureaucracy and support the needy. Now I could easily rationalize that I meet my religion's tithing recommendation.

Instead I strive to give above and beyond. (about another 6%, working toward 10...) My favorite charities are the United Way, my public school district, my Church, PRISM, Memorial Blood bank, Cancer research, etc. I have no shortage of empathy, I just believe government does "charity" very poorly with some pretty bad side effects." G2A

So what do you think, which of the groups is more empathetic and caring?  The Liberal folks who want to have the government forcefully redistribute money from Peter to Paul, while asking little to nothing from Peter.  Or those Conservative folks who give while expecting some action from Peter.

In summary, is it better to freely give out fish indefinitely at someone else's/ society's expense. Or is it better to promote fishing as a way of life, while helping those that truly are unable to cast a rod.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Majority Wants Government to Reduce Income Gap

Do you think the majority of Americans really want the government to reduce the income gap?

How do you think those Americans envisioning this happening?

What do you think their rationale is for wanting the government to do it, versus taking responsibility by simply "Buying American"?

CNN Majority of Americans Want Government to Reduce Income Gap

Methods that I can envision, do you have other ideas:
  1. Government: Tax long term dividends and capital gains over some annual amount as regular income, redistribute resulting revenues. Consequences?
  2. Government: Raise income tax rates on "wealthy", redistribute resulting revenues. Consequences?
  3. Government: Deport all illegal aliens ASAP, create labor shortage, drive up lower end incomes. Consequences?
  4. Government: Raise minimum wage, transferring the higher cost to consumers. (ie hidden tax) Consequences?
  5. Consumers: Work to spend their money with companies who employee the most Americans. Consequences.
G2A Why Do Liberals Buy Foreign Cars
Rush "Trees" Lyrics

Monday, February 3, 2014

Moderate Minnesota

I thought this was interesting and left a comment.
MinnPost Gallup Finds MN not as "Liberal" as Its Reputation

I thought it has a lot to do with our continuum and my belief that people don't like the label "Liberal", my guess the results would change if they used "Progressive" instead.  Thoughts?

G2A Continuum
G2A Right, Left, Up, Down
Nolan 1
Nolan 2
Nolan 3
Nolan 5
Nolan 6 (sort of)
Nolan 7
Nolan 8
Nolan 9
Nolan 10

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Food Program "Cuts"?

Devin Henry wrote an interesting piece.   MinnPost MN Farmers Benefit  The following paragraphs caught my interest.
"Experts say the bill’s agriculture sections won’t have much of an impact on average consumers — only about 20 percent of the $500 billion bill goes to farming, as opposed to federal nutrition programs — but farmers themselves say they’re getting a good deal."

"Even though farmers are happy with the new bill, Olson said the changes are small enough that consumers won’t really feel the effects (at least not on the agriculture side: lawmakers did cut food stamp funding for some beneficiaries, but none in Minnesota)."
He did a good job of noting that even though it is called a 5 year "Farm Bill", $80 billion/year goes to food programs and only $20 billion/year goes to "farming".  Probably a $20 billion too much, but the point is that only 20% goes to farmers, and 80% goes to buy or subsidize food for people. (ie wealth transfer)  And since it now emphasizes insurance more than direct payments, maybe the farm portion will be lower if commodity prices and the weather cooperate...

What really caught my attention was that he noted that the food stamp cuts did not impact any Minnesotans....   And that he called them "cuts"...  I posted a comment asking why our citizens were not impacted, however no one has replied yet.  So I did a little research of my own.

Mother Jones GOP Just Won Food Stamp War explains that:

"The cuts to the food stamp program come from closing a loophole that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed needed to be addressed. A household's level of monthly food stamps benefits is determined by how much disposable income a family has after rent, utilities, and other expenses are deducted. Some states allow beneficiaries to deduct a standard utility charge from their income if they qualify for a federal heating aid program called the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, even if they only receive a few dollars per year in heating aid. The arrangement results in about 850,000 households getting a utility deduction that is much larger than their actual utility bill. Because the deduction makes these families' disposable income appear to be lower than it actually is, they get more food stamp money each month. The farm bill that passed the House on Wednesday saves $9 billion by closing that loophole.

The savings from closing the heating aid loophole could have been returned to the food stamp program. Instead, Republicans succeeded in prodding Dems to accept $9 billion in new cuts on top of the $11 billion in expiring stimulus funds. That extra $9 billion in cuts means that close to a million households will see their benefits slashed by about $90 a month—enough to pay for a week's worth of cheap groceries for a family of four."
 So apparently Minnesota did not use this loop hole?

Now as for this being a draconian cut...  
Wiki SNAP Benefits Paid by Year

The above graph is from the CBO SNAP link.  Now Liberals, Keynesians, etc always say that a government should spend more when the economy is struggling.  With the view that government spending can then be reduced as the private sector improves.  The challenge is that they seem to have a very very hard time remembering that the extra spending was always supposed temporary.  So when responsible members of government start to return things to normal, the Keynesians and Liberals rant that the uncaring monsters are "cutting" and starving people.

See the comments of Dan Burns from MPP for an example.

So is MJ correct about why MN citizens were not impacted by the draconian cuts?  Were they really "cuts" or just a reduction in the "temporary" stimulus / support funding?  Thoughts?

Ps. I just finished my 3rd glass of wine. ( ie my 13 yr old daughters sleepover Bday party w/ ~9 friends...)  Sorry for any grammatical or spelling issues...