Bigotry is expensive

❝ It seems like every day there’s a new battle being fought over discrimination in the U.S. There was the Ellen Pao trial and its claims of sexual bias at Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm, the continuing revelations of endemic racial discrimination in Ferguson, Missouri, and the so-called religious freedom law in Indiana that many believe is a thinly veiled cover for anti-gay discrimination.

If racial and gender discrimination were purely matters of fairness, ending them would still be a worthy cause. But there is another reason to combat discrimination — it boosts the economy.

❝ The basic reason is misallocation of resources. In an economy functioning at tip-top efficiency, people do the job that they’re most efficient at doing, relative to other jobs they could be doing, and relative to other people in the economy. That’s called the principle of comparative advantage, and it dates back at least to the famous 19th century economist David Ricardo. Notice that nowhere does the principle of comparative advantage leave room for race or gender. These things, in and of themselves, are simply not important for economic efficiency — the only thing that matters is how well people can perform their jobs.

❝ So if a society bases its decisions of who gets which job on race and gender, it’s going to be sacrificing efficiency. If women aren’t allowed to be doctors, the talent pool for doctors will be diluted, and wages will be pushed up too high, choking off output. This would be true even in a bizarro world where every man was a better doctor than every woman! Of course that’s not even remotely true, but the point is, the theory of comparative advantage doesn’t care about average differences in absolute ability. If you’re making rules about which type of people are allowed to do which type of job, you’re hurting the economy.

❝ Just how big of a difference does this make? A team of top economists has recently studied the question, and their results are pretty startling. In “The Allocation of Talent and Economic Growth,” economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Erik Hurst of the University of Chicago Booth Business School and Charles Jones and Peter Klenow of Stanford estimate that one fifth of total growth in U.S. output per worker between 1960 and 2008 was due to a decline in discrimination…

The authors’ approach is clever. They treat discrimination as a tax. If you think about it, this makes sense — just as taxes discourage business activity, discrimination in employment or education discourages its victims from taking certain jobs or getting training for certain skills. The authors explicitly allow for the possibility that different groups might have different average ability levels with respect to different occupations. They also count home production — child care and housework — as a real contribution to gross domestic product. They put these assumptions into a Roy model, which is a very flexible general equilibrium model that economists typically use when evaluating people’s occupational choices…

❝ Simply reducing individual prejudice would be a wonderful way of attacking discrimination at the source. That’s why the continuing social movements for greater racial and gender equality are valuable — not just for reasons of fairness but for our economic future.

RTFA for more about the study’s methodology. Should be required reading for all the politicians who waste thousands of hours, million of dollar$, defending the indefensible bigotry they install to please their favorite idjit voters.

The God business is worth more than Apple, Amazon and Google combined

Did they count the gold?

❝ Religion in the United States is worth $1.2 trillion a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world…

The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon and Google, says the analysis from Georgetown University…

❝ The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis calculated the $1.2tn figure by estimating the value of religious institutions, including healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.

Co-author Brian Grim said it was a conservative estimate. More than 344,000 congregations across the US collectively employ hundreds of thousands of staff and buy billions of dollars worth of goods and services.
More than 150 million Americans, almost half the population, are members of faith congregations, according to the report. Although numbers are declining, the sums spent by religious organisations on social programmes have tripled in the past 15 years, to $9bn.

❝ The analysis did not take account of the value of financial or physical assets held by religious groups. Neither did it account for “the negative impacts that occur in some religious communities, including … such things as the abuse of children by some clergy, cases of fraud, and the possibility of being recruitment sites for violent extremism”.

Didn’t notice any mention [in the article] of the dollar value of tax avoidance of religion in America. A nice addition to any profitable business.

Soda tax passes in Philadelphia — Who’s next in line?

sugary drinks

Forty times, city or state governments had proposed taxes on sugary soft drinks, failing each time. Then, in 2014, liberal Berkeley, Calif., passed such a tax, but most people saw it as an aberration. Several measures, including one in New York, never won much support.

But…a measure to tax sweetened drinks passed in Philadelphia, one of the country’s largest cities — and also one of its poorest. Indeed, raising revenue was the winning argument in Philadelphia.

Jim Kenney, the mayor, took a different tack from that of politicians who have tried and failed to pass sugary-drink taxes. He didn’t talk about the tax as a nanny-state measure designed to discourage sugar-saturated soft drinks. And he didn’t promise to earmark the proceeds for health programs. Instead, he cast the soft drink industry as a tantalizing revenue source that could be tapped to fund popular city programs, including universal prekindergarten…

The advocates who have pushed for the policy say the victory is a sign of growing public acceptance of soft drink taxes and presages more such measures around the country. Though city officials didn’t talk much about the health consequences of soda, experts said that sugary drinks’ increasingly bad reputation made it an appropriate political target.

Perish the thought Americans should support measures for better health. Mexico City succeeded recently using exactly that approach. Over a year later, purchases of sugary drinks are down 12% – and the tax wasn’t especially high.

Whatever. Good news is good news even when it’s subtle.

In Oklahoma’s tornado alley, some better prepared than others

shelters save lives

The mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, a municipality twice devastated by tornados in the past 15 years, is fixated on garage doors, knowing they are a key to protecting the city from even more damage during this year’s tornado season.

Moore, in the heart of “Tornado Alley,” where twisters frequently hit, will be operating this year under new building codes, arguably some of the most stringent in the nation, to protect people and structures from deadly winds…

“Garage doors are the first to come off during a tornado. Once the garage door comes off, the roof comes off,” Mayor Glenn Lewis said in an interview last week…

In May 2013, twenty-four people were killed and 240 injured when a top-rated tornado devastated Moore, a city of about 55,000 south of Oklahoma City. Some 2,400 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children were killed.

It was even worse in 1999 when one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded, with wind speeds of 300 mph, struck Moore, killing 44 and leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

“The new building codes are great, but I wish they were approved sooner,” said Lewis, who was mayor when both tornadoes hit.

Moore, Oklahoma City and other cities began operating this year under building codes offering more protection, but inadequate structures and a dearth of shelters persist in large parts of the state.

One hold-up appears to be in the state legislature, where lawmakers have been bickering over funding tornado protection.

One Democratic lawmaker proposed using funds from the state’s franchise tax, a levy suspended in 2011, to pay for tornado and storm shelters for the majority of schools in the state without them. Republican lawmakers, who dominate the legislature, have balked at the proposal, saying they want to eliminate the tax altogether.

There’s the point of it all. Republicans, Tea Party Brown Shirts and Blue Dog Democrats care more about tax cuts and money in their wallets than the lives of school children.

I have nothing but contempt for corrupt human beings who value greed over need. They do not advance society. They care little or nothing for those who stand beside them on this planet. Self-centered, egregious, nothing counts more in their mean little lives than money and personal power.

Swaziland government urged to increase witch-doctor tax


A Swazi Member of Parliament has urged the government to hike taxes on traditional healers and soothsayers to help solve a funding crisis in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

The mediums, known as sangomas in the landlocked southern African nation, pay an annual $1.15 license fee, but MP Majahodvwa Khumalo said they had jacked up their fees fourfold in the last few years and should pay more…

Swaziland’s budget deficit ballooned to 15 percent of its annual economic output in 2010 but the government managed to keep itself afloat by running through central bank reserves and delaying payment of wages to civil servants.

The International Monetary Fund declined to launch a bailout because of reluctance by King Mswati III, who has at least a dozen wives and a personal fortune estimated at $200 million, to cut royal or military spending.

Well, they asked him to do twice as much as would satisfy most Americans. We don’t have any royals to get rid of.

Excepting the ones in Congress, that is.

Op-Ed: Supporting a minimum tax for the wealthy

Orange Creamsicles rule!

Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.”

Would your reply possibly be this? “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.” Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist…

…Let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.

And, wow, do we have plenty to invest. The Forbes 400, the wealthiest individuals in America, hit a new group record for wealth this year: $1.7 trillion. That’s more than five times the $300 billion total in 1992. In recent years, my gang has been leaving the middle class in the dust.

A huge tail wind from tax cuts has pushed us along. In 1992, the tax paid by the 400 highest incomes in the United States (a different universe from the Forbes list) averaged 26.4 percent of adjusted gross income. In 2009, the most recent year reported, the rate was 19.9 percent. It’s nice to have friends in high places…

Even if they’re bought-and-paid-for.

This outrage points to the necessity for more than a simple revision in upper-end tax rates, though that’s the place to start. I support President Obama’s proposal to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for high-income taxpayers. However, I prefer a cutoff point somewhat above $250,000 — maybe $500,000 or so.

Additionally, we need Congress, right now, to enact a minimum tax on high incomes. I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.

Above all, we should not postpone these changes in the name of “reforming” the tax code…All of America is waiting for Congress to offer a realistic and concrete plan for getting back to this fiscally sound path. Nothing less is acceptable.

It doesn’t really offend Congressional Republicans when one of the wealthiest investors in the United States tells the truth about taxes and investing. After all, they already ignore science, history and ethics. No surprise about the addition of sound economics to the body of knowledge ignored by demagogues.

No reforms? U.S. retirees to face dwindling funds — in 21 years!

Yeah, I know. “Jolting news” that would cause Congressional hacks to jump into action in 20½ years!

These creeps want to shut down Social Security – after all, they don’t need it

Aging baby boomers got some jolting news on Monday when the U.S. government said the Social Security retirement program is on track to go bankrupt three years earlier than expected if reforms are not made.

Unless Washington politicians, who have been at war with each other over government spending priorities and federal budget deficits, can decide how to put Social Security on a sound footing, retirees’ pension checks would start running out in 2033, according to an annual report…

“Never since the 1983 reforms have we come as close to the point of trust-fund depletion as we are right now,” trustee Charles Blahous told reporters. “Our window for dealing with it without substantially disruptive consequences is closing very rapidly,” he said…


Blahous and fellow trustee Robert Reischauer said lawmakers should be aware that it will become increasingly difficult to “avoid adverse effects” on retirees or those close to retirement if legislative changes are delayed much longer…

Members of Congress also have mulled raising the retirement age or cutting some benefits to the wealthy. But no action is expected before the November elections.

You can RTFA for all the gory details. All the pissing and moaning about coming up with solutions are hogwash. Want to see me solve the question for another hundred years or so? With one sentence?


That’s it. All that is needed is to remove the cap which stops collecting the tax once you’ve earned $104,000. That carries through well into the next century. The NY TIMES surveyed readership on that solution and got a 76% “Yes” vote. So, what’s the problem with Congress getting off their rusty dusties and following through?

Brits will tax food depending on whether it’s hot – or not!

George Osborne has been mocked by MPs over his “pasty tax” after it emerged people could avoid paying VAT on hot baked goods if they wait for them to cool in the shop.

The tax status of Cornish pasties has caused an unexpected backlash against the Chancellor, after he imposed VAT on hot baked goods bought from supermarkets and bakers in the Budget.

Greggs, the high street chain, has warned extra VAT on the hot snacks will cause a decline in sales, while businesses in the south-west are claiming there could be job losses in the Cornish pasty industry…

MPs on the Treasury Select Committee also made fun of the fact the Chancellor “can’t remember” when he last bought a pasty from Greggs. “That sums it up,” said Mr Mann, implying the Chancellor’s experience of hot snack consumption on the high street may be limited.

Raising one potential problem, John Mann, a Labour MP, said a lukewarm pastry would be taxable in warm weather, but not in cold weather, because of different “ambient temperatures”.

Mr Osborne insisted the tax made sense, but said the Government would not check the temperature of every pasty sold…

“The way we operate with companies and large retail chains and the like is that we don’t do a check on every product sold. We come to an agreement with companies over what proportion of their products are sold hot.”

The clown prince is appearing before elected representatives in Parliament – not only trying to defend this silly regulation; but, I presume he’ll detail each differentiation according to weather, demographics, seasoning, fat content and – no doubt – who’s winning the football match where it’s being consumed.

Folks in Colorado will vote on legalizing recreational marijuana

Colorado voters will decide whether to legalize possession of limited amounts of recreational marijuana…

The initiative, known as Amendment 64, makes Colorado the second state to put a measure to allow recreational marijuana on the Nov. 6 ballot. Washington state put similar measure on the ballot last month…

Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, one of the measure’s chief proponents, said the campaign would use the next eight months to build a “broad base of support” across the state. “Coloradans have a chance to make history this November, and we believe they are ready to do just that…”

The measure would legalize possession of as much as 1 ounce of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. It would also let people grow as many as six marijuana plants in their home.

Specially regulated stores would be permitted to sell marijuana, but communities would have a right to ban such businesses.

State lawmakers would create a special marijuana tax, with the money going to education.

Decriminalizing marijuana is overdue. I expect similar measures to pass in any sensible state or nation – sooner or later. That doesn’t mean I think rational thought and reflection has suddenly affected every American. Or that our politicians have ceased to base their perpetual re-election campaigns on anything more than the lowest common denominator of education and perception.

It’s just that damned near everyone in this neck of the prairie smokes a little weed, considers it roughly akin to having a beer with supper. And rightly so. Most of the hypocrite fundamentalists who get their rave on over the topic are just as likely to watch their Saturday NASCAR fix on television – roach clip in hand or bong on the living room table next to their bible. Enough people realize the agitprop agin ganja is nothing more than garden variety crap for Sunday morning at church – and the real world needs to get on with living in the present.

Scott’s Miracle-Gro turns from weed killer to growing killer weed

The people at Miracle-Gro are going to start marketing to marijuana farmers, reasoning that they need fertilizer, too.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting:

In an unlikely move for the head of a major company, Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. Chief Executive Jim Hagedorn said he is exploring targeting medical marijuana as well as other niches to help boost sales at his lawn and garden company.

“I want to target the pot market,” Mr. Hagedorn said in an interview. “There’s no good reason we haven’t.”

Sales at Scotts rose 5% last year to $2.9 billion. But the Marysville, Ohio, company relies on sales at three key retailers—Home Depot Inc., Lowe’s Cos. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—for nearly two-thirds of its revenue. With consumers still cautious about spending, the retailers aren’t building new stores as quickly as they used to, making growth for suppliers like Scotts harder to come by. Against that backdrop, Mr. Hagedorn has pushed his regional sales presidents to look for smaller pockets of growth, such as the marijuana market, that together could produce a noticeable bump in sales.

NPR is reporting:

The medical marijuana market will reach $1.7 billion in sales this year, the story says. Scotts-Miracle Gro’s annual sales are $2.9 billion.

So on the face of it, marijuana growers can’t add much to the company’s revenues. Of course, there’s clearly a very large non-medical-marijuana industry in this country that the company could also sell into.

Overdue. Get the fracking politicians out of the simplest of homegrown relaxation therapies. Tax it. Regulate it – as little as possible. Let’s get on with the real world, please.