Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Taxing the Poor to End Poverty

Legislation to control our behavior often comes in the form of government tax schemes. Taxes will be raised on certain items to discourage their use (cigarettes, alcohol, etc) and lowered to encourage other activities (education, small business, etc). Most people would agree that these schemes should work, at least in principle.

So let's say they do work -- higher taxes discourage behavior, lower taxes encourage behavior. How then do we reconcile this with progressive taxation (taxing the rich more than the poor)? If we apply the same logic, then we are discouraging people from earning more money, and encouraging them to earn less.

I know the argument: We are placing the highest burden on those best able to bear it. But is this really the best long-term strategy? Those best able to bear the burden are also usually the ones employing those who are least able to bear said burden. As the employer is taxed more, he/she will hire fewer people and pay them less. Those taxes go to the government, and some of that money is "redistributed" in the form of inefficient social programs for those in need. So instead of allowing employers to create more jobs, we instead just take the money and give it to poor people.

I am now leaning towards a regressive tax. I think everyone should pay the same amount of money each year, no matter how much income they earn. Sure, this would be a higher percentage of annual income for poor people, but wouldn't that just discourage them from being poor? And if you did eventually get a raise, you would be able to take a higher percentage of your income home with you (double reward), instead of the current system where you are penalized and put in a higher tax bracket. I would even settle for a flat tax rate, where at least you weren't penalized for earning more.

Now don't get me wrong, I love poor people and I empathize with their plight. Hell, I used to be a liberal. But I think it is much better for a poor person to work for their income rather than have their poverty subsidized by wealthier individuals. These people will not just drop dead in the street if we stop giving them assistance. Survival is a strong motivator, and it might be just the thing these folks need.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh the ChIrony

The BBC reported a factory in China has been producing this flag. Known as the Snow Lion flag, it represents Tibetan independence, but this was unknown by factory workers until it was seen on a broadcast of the Olympic torch relay. The flag is banned on mainland China.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Barrels of Oil

Oil hit another record high today, $119.10, and it shows no sign of dropping. People are seeing what an awesome investment oil futures are, and despite the skyrocketing price, demand remains steady. Our world economy runs on oil, and investors are starting to realize that, for now at least, no matter how high the price goes, it will still sell. I still need to drive to work, to the store, etc., and I cannot stop because gas is $3.60 a gallon.

But for anyone who has fear of Global Warming, this should be the best news possible. As oil prices climb, people will have no choice but to switch to more efficient technologies (i.e. smaller cars, hybrids). The rising price of oil is doing what no amount of global warming alarmism could possibly do.

This process will take some time though. With the economy slowing, the dollar weakening, and gas taking an ever growing chunk out of your paycheck, it will take a while for people to adapt their lifestyles to this new energy landscape. Of course, once they do, the price of oil will come back down as demand slackens.

The market works efficiently when there is competition. Up until now, oil was the cheapest game in town, and thus had no competition. As it becomes increasingly unaffordable, alternative technologies are being developed to finally give oil a run for its money. This is good, people.

Oh, and if you want to help reduce greenhouse gases AND make money, buy oil futures. You're welcome.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008


So I spent one day last week applying at restaurants at Southpoint Mall, and today I was hired as a server at Champp's! I'm pretty stoked, I will have more money, which is awesome, and I will have less free time to sit and feel miserable and lonely. Woohoo! I hope to be so exhausted when I get home that I only have the energy to walk upstairs and flop on my bed.

As a side note, I love this country. I seriously spent like 2 hours looking for a job, and found one. A pretty decent one. I've definitely had worse.

I used to be annoyed by how crowded it was everywhere at Southpoint, but now that will be working in my favor. Sweetness.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Breeding Better Leeches

This will probably be the first in a series of posts detailing my frustrations with our federal government.

The 2008 budget (from the Washington Post):

Seriously, our forefathers would be vomiting into their tricorne hats if they saw how bloated our federal government had become, what a burden the federal tax was. Hell, they were completely against a federal income tax from the beginning!

Nearly fifty percent of our budget is now spent on social programs. That comes to $1.5 trillion, money that is sucked from those who work hard, and given to those who don't.

It's unbelievable how much some people rely on the federal government to provide them with life. This might sound cold, but if you can't hack it without a heap of government help, maybe you weren't meant to make it. Social programs stifle favorable human adaptation, allowing those who can't really make it to leech off those who can. And so we breed better and better leeches.

The funny thing is, I used to be a liberal. Then I grew up.

Where's My Free Money?

Brian sent me a link to a local Lumberton story. Titled "Lumbees air complaints about housing program," it describes a protest by Lumbee indians outside of their tribal headquarters. They were demanding repairs to their crappy old houses.

I wish when something broke on my house I could go protest and demand someone fix it. Unfortunately no one wants to do that for me. But for some reason these Lumbee indian tribe members feel that someone else should pay to fix their houses.

Oh, did I mention that they got these houses for free? The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sends the tribe over $10 million dollars annually for housing projects. Your tax dollars built these houses, and now these protesters want new developments to be put on hold so that the money can be used to repair older houses.

If this isn't the perfect argument against redistribution then I don't know what is. These people got FREE homes, didn't take care of them, didn't improve them, and now want the government to fix them for FREE. It makes me sick. Instead of wasting time protesting, why don't these jerks, uh, you know, get jobs?

Now I know some people take government help and use it efficiently. They work hard and get out of poverty. But honestly, these people would be fine without help, because they know how to work. Unfortunately, the government allows others to become lazy and dependent on the dole. This is a cancer on our society as a whole and should be stopped immediately.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

China Wants Your Money

And they'll do what it takes to get it. That's right, I'm talking about Energy Subsidies.

In the last few years, China has gone from being a net importer of steel to the world's largest exporter of steel. "How?" you might ask. I'm sure large subsidies from the government didn't hurt, nor did the cheap labor and few (if any) environmental restrictions.

The report describes how the Chinese government is paying a large chunk of the energy required to produce steel, which distorts the market greatly in China's favor.

Am I saying this is a bad thing? Well, it sucks for American production, but you can't blame a country for doing what it's gotta do to make it. I am wondering, however, what will happen when the people of China want to start living (and spending $) like us westerners.

Right now China is artificially keeping down the living standards of their people, in part by pegging the yuan (their currency) to the dollar at a low low rate. This does wonders for their manufacturing economy, but it means the workers work harder for less real spending power.

What will happen when they finally throw off the shackles of their oppressive government? I'm very interested, as right now the government is intimately interwoven with the economy, and I don't know if the system can survive in it's present state without the government. At the least it will be a painful transition, at worst, a nightmare. Only time will tell.

Money, money, money

So, I took a look at my monthly expenses a few weeks ago and realized this: I need to spend less and make more. So I have a roommate moving in soon to cover nearly half of the monthly bills (awesome). And that would be fine, except I still am not making that much money (you know, enough to buy fun things like a TV, or an XBox). So I have decided to seek more employment.

I am aiming for a server position at one of the Triangle’s many busy restaurants, because it looks like a great way to make some good money. I must have filled out 5 or 6 applications (whew) before I actually found a place that was hiring. Champp’s at Southpoint needs servers, so I talked to a manager yesterday, and am going back next week for a second interview with a guy named Prince. As a server I could make some decent money working a few nights a week, plus with some server experience I will try to get a job at a nicer and busier place (e.g. Maggiano’s, which requires 2 years experience (jerks)). Then I could wait tables and make some decent money while I figure out what the hell I want to do with my life (win lottery).

My plan right now is to earn enough to be comfortable, have money to invest (after the market bottoms out), and attend real estate school (the market is still good here in the Triangle). Waiting tables will give me the practice I need in talking to strangers (hey buddy) who will potentially give me money, which is a fine skill to have in real estate. I feel my interest in economics and business will help me, and I hope to eventually make some good real estate investments myself (slumlord). Is it what I want to do for my whole life? Probably not, but I don't think I can do science forever (boring).

So I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reducing Crime Through...Vegetarianism?

According to some interesting research, working in a slaughterhouse may make you more violent. Amy Fitzgerald of the American Sociological Association found that US counties that have slaughterhouses consistently have higher rates of violent crime than demographically similar counties that don't.

Relatedly, Jennifer Dillard of Georgetown Law found that workers in industrial slaughterhouses are at risk to psychological damage, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Apparently killing and butchering animals all day can fuck with your head and maybe desensitize you to violence. I could have guessed that, but now we have some empirical data supporting it. So what can we do about it?

I could make an argument against industrial farming of livestock, but that is a post for another day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Asian Kids

Is there anything they can't do?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Thoughts on a Healthy Relationship

One of my favorite and most respected professors once said something that has stuck with me to this day. He said a healthy marriage should be like two trees, standing tall next to each other. I wasn't sure exactly what he meant by this, but having experienced love's ups and downs, I now understand.

Nena and I relied on each other very much in many ways; emotionally, physically, and in almost everything we did. We used to joke that individually we were fairly incompetent, but together we made one whole person. We leaned on each other for a lot, but when the person who you depend on to make up half of your being is not totally there, it is very painful.

But what I have come to realize is that no one can be there 100%, all of the time. Not even if they love you with all of their heart. They are human beings and must have a life outside of the relationship. And so you too must also have a life outside of the relationship. If you do not, you will just end up disappointed and hurt. Like most of life's important lessons, I have had to learn this the hard way.

And so, if you love someone, do not give yourself completely and utterly. Do not lean on them, and do not let them lean on you. Be there for them when they are in need, but do not be a crutch, and do not let them be a crutch for you. It can only end in pain. You both need to build yourselves up, so that you may stand tall next to each other, looking more majestic together than you ever would alone.