Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Canada Post is stopping home delivery

We should do this in the US:

In an attempt to cut costs, Canada Post has announced plans to scrap all home deliveries, making Canada the first country in the G20 to be without a door-to-door service. Once the cuts are implemented, only some business addresses will get post through the letter box – not even residents of cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal will receive mail at home...

...The company says the reforms, which include a hike in the price of a stamp and the shedding of 8,000 jobs, are necessary because email is taking over from letters as a way to communicate. Yet some aspects of its businesses are on the rise, as online shopping has lead to a dramatic increase in parcel mail delivery. Even before the cuts, Canada Post, a self-funding crown corporation, is still reporting huge profits.

Plus the CEO of Canada Post has a really cool name, if not a very politically correct sensibility:

The boss of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra, defended the move, saying the boxes would give senior citizens some exercise. "Seniors are telling me that 'I want to be healthy, I want to be active in my life,'" Chopra said, brushing off the criticisms.

For more go here

From the "you cannot make this sh*t up" file: Income Inequality Institute Will Pay Paul Krugman $25,000 Per Month


As per Gawker:
In late February, the City University of New York announced that it had tapped Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman for a distinguished professorship at CUNY’s Graduate Center and its Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research arm devoted to studying income patterns and their effect on inequality.

About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman was able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails.

It’s certainly not teaching. “You will not be expected to teach or supervise students,” the letter informs Professor Krugman, who replies: “I admit that I had to read it several times to be clear ... it’s remarkably generous.” (After his first year, Krugman will be required to host a single seminar.)

Another sanctimonious Hollywood type

Barry Levinson centi-millionaire film director recently shared with the world, on Huffington Post,  his views on the minimum wage:

Apparently in many parts of the country, the minimum wage is below the poverty line, so in essence you can be employed, working over 40 hours a week, and still be unable to provide a for a family of three. I found this fact perplexing, so I thought I needed the careful logic of Abbott and Costello.

Here is an excerpt:

Bud: Exactly. Isn't it better to be working and living below the poverty line, than not working and living below the poverty line? That way you have a sense of pride.
Lou: But I need more money to get by.
Bud: Do you want to put people out of work? Do you want to be responsible for them losing their jobs?
Lou: No.
Bud: That's the spirit. You all share in getting less.
Lou: Why can't we all share in getting more?
Bud: That's socialism.
Lou: Then what's sharing and getting less?
Bud: That's capitalism!
Lou: Why is getting a little more socialism?
Bud: Because if you all get a little more, someone is going to get less.
Lou: Who?
Bud: The person who used to get more. The job makers.
Lou: Why can't they make a little less?
Bud: Well, that's un-American! This is the free market... Do you want to destroy
American capitalism? 

 As is so often the case a presumably smart man like Mr Levisonson is totally blind to his hypocritical, sanctimonious, liberal double-talk.

At the same Levinson is demanding that government increase the cost of hiring someone he is also demanding and getting tax credits and subsidies from local governments for shooting movies and TV shows in their constituencies...thereby reducing his cost of hiring people, and of doing business in general, and increasing his already $150M+ net worth. 

If he doesn't get taxpayer money he then simply shoots in another country, such as Canada, to ensure his massive salary is paid, but rest assured this "breaks his heart".

Lets re-work a part of his cute little dialog as Barry explains to Lou why he should get a government subsidy:

Lou : Why is getting a little more socialism?
Barry : Because if you all get a little more, someone is going to get less.
Lou : Who?
Barry : The person who used to get more. Me.
Lou : Why can't you make a little less?
Bud : Well, that's un-American! This is the free market... Do you want to destroy
American capitalism?

Oh, yeah and don't get me started on all the unpaid interns he has used over the years. Talk about working full time and being below the poverty line....


Now Obamacare will definitely be a success

This is brilliant.  In order to make sure no one can accurately measure the change in the number of people uninsured since the advent of Obamacare all you have to do is change the health insurance related questions, which have been used for over a decade, from the best available source of data, the Census Bureau, thus rendering any comparison of last year to this year meaningless:

For several months now, whenever the topic of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act came up, I’ve been saying that it was too soon to tell its ultimate effects. We don’t know how many people have paid for their new insurance policies, or how many of those who bought policies were previously uninsured. For that, I said, we will have to wait for Census Bureau data, which offer the best assessment of the insurance status of the whole population. Other surveys are available, but the samples are smaller, so they’re not as good; the census is the gold standard. Unfortunately, as I invariably noted, these data won’t be available until 2015.

I stand corrected: These data won’t be available at all. Ever. 

No, I’m not kidding. I wish I was. The New York Times reports that the Barack Obama administration has changed the survey so that we cannot directly compare the numbers on the uninsured over time.
The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.

An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.

“We are expecting much lower numbers just because of the questions and how they are asked,” said Brett J. O’Hara, chief of the health statistics branch at the Census Bureau.
I’m speechless. Shocked. Stunned. Horrified. Befuddled. Aghast, appalled, thunderstruck, perplexed, baffled, bewildered and dumbfounded. It’s not that I am opposed to the changes: Everyone understands that the census reports probably overstate the true number of the uninsured, because the number they report is supposed to be “people who lacked insurance for the entire previous year,” but people tend to answer with their insurance status right now.

But why, dear God, oh, why, would you change it in the one year in the entire history of the republic that it is most important for policy makers, researchers and voters to be able to compare the number of uninsured to those in prior years? The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse....

...If the administration is really serious about transparency and data-driven policy, as I’ve been told for a year now, then it will immediately rectify this appalling mistake and put the old questions back into circulation double-quick. But we’re more likely going to hear the most transparent and data-driven administration in history citing these data -- without an asterisk -- to tout the amazing impact of its policies.

For more go here

DiBlasio: Pay what I tell you not what I paid

 As per the WSJ:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray reported $165,047 in total income last year, according to a copy of their joint tax return released on Tuesday.

 Mr. de Blasio’s effective tax rate was 8.3%.

Apparently he also  made rental income of $52,000 but:

Despite their earnings, they reported taking a $6,493 loss on the home, because they paid $28,758 in mortgage and said the home depreciated by $21,547, according to tax code

  • So he managed to lose money on a Park Slope house on a tax basis? (I guess that's one tax loophole he will not be closing)
  • How do you make $165k and only pay 8.3% taxes? 
  • What was the effective tax rate of his secretary?
The New York  Times were positively giddy about how little he earned compared to Bloomberg, but oddly made no mention of his effective tax rate or the use of the tax code to avoid paying any taxes on his real estate income.
Looks like the "fair share" mayor of New York City thinks 8% is fair for him and 35% is fair for successful hardworking people.... analysis of the merely rich

An interesting piece from Bloomberg on tax day.  While much attention has focused on the super wealthy (Buffet et al) and their ability to minimize taxes most of the much maligned 1% are dual income professional households, typically living in very high cost cities, who pay very high effective tax rates:

Spare a thought for the millionaires this week. The bill from last year's tax increases has come due.

The rich aren't poor, of course, whatever their tax burden. An adjusted gross income of $389,000 puts you in the top 1 percent of earners in 2011, according to the latest IRS data. No telethons have been organized. No TV ads have been narrated by Sarah McLachlan. Even the House Republicans have been silent lately on taxes on top earners, as Bloomberg's Richard Rubin notes.

But put aside the tone-deaf rich and their caricatures in pop culture. Hold the class warfare. High-earning Americans who haven't found the right dodge, or who live in high-tax states, get socked. They contribute more or less like their compatriots in other developed nations, with few of the perks.


What this chart doesn't show is, first, how much Americans end up paying in state and local taxes


(Note:  Top marginal tax rates for new York City residents is 12.7% and non of these calculations take into account FICA, social security, real estate taxes and so on)

Second, and more important, it doesn't demonstrate how little wealthy Americans get for their tax dollars. Sure, the rich benefit from the court system, national defense and everything else that maintains the society that underpinned their success. But when it comes to their personal finances, wealthy Americans must save a huge portion of their earnings before they are fully protected from future risks and costs. Blame the nation's financial safety net. It doesn't meet the needs of the poor, and it largely leaves out the wealthy.

Consider a married couple living in New York with newborn twins and earning $450,000 a year. Here's roughly what they need to save:


Our hypothetical couple has a $2 million savings goal to hit just to meet expenses that would be mostly or entirely covered in other developed countries. For example, while university is cheap or free in many parts of the world, full tuition and expenses at a private college in the U.S. can run $60,000 a year or more. For a newborn matriculating in 18 years, the four-year bill could be almost $500,000, assuming a 4 percent annual rise in costs and no financial aid. Double that for two children if neither can get a merit or athletic scholarship. In addition, many high-earning doctors, lawyers and other professionals may still be paying off their own student loans.

(Note:  This assumes that the hypothetical two children attend public school.  Given the abysmal quality of most of them in "rich" places, like New York City, most parents who can afford to pay for private schooling, so add another $500,000+ per child)

The wealthy do get Medicare insurance at age 65. Unlike universal health care programs abroad, however, Medicare coverage has big gaps. Fidelity Benefits Consulting says retirement health care costs outside Medicare can total $220,000, not including long-term care. And while countries like Germany and Japan have universal long-term care programs, the U.S. covers nursing home care only for Medicaid's low-income population. Genworth Financial's Cost of Care Survey, released this month, found the average cost of three years in a private nursing home room now total $260,000 per person.

So take a moment to recognize the sacrifice of high-paid professionals. They can pay an effective tax rate approaching 50 percent -- far more than an idle heir pays on his investment income -- and still must worry about a job loss or health emergency leaving them strapped. 

For more go here

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Definitely not political bias...traffic is a hot button issue with the media.

Google Search terms                       Results

      Christie bridge                         86,300,000

      Lerner IRS                               53,700,000

     Hilary Benghazi                       30,900,000

Sounds about right

For more on government waste go here

An increase in minimum wage will really help this technology...waiters not so much

In a sit-down restaurant, diners are at the mercy of the server every step of the way, unable to eat or leave without the server's attention.

But national chains like Applebee's and Chili's hope to soon have a server at the ready, perched on every table - a tablet that diners can use to order food, play games (for a fee) and pay or split the bill.

Redwood City startup E La Carte is pushing to have its Presto tablet in front of more diners' hungry faces this year. Its biggest deal, freshly inked, will put 100,000 Presto tablets in Applebee's restaurants nationwide - and they've been at the gargantuan Applebee's on Fisherman's Wharf since September. A rival company, Ziosk, based in Dallas, already has a major deal with Brinker, which operates Chili's and other chains...

For more go here

Monday, April 14, 2014

More from the "you cannot make this sh*t up" file: EEOC style
Following several incidents of employee theft, Kaplan University did what any reasonable employer might do in similar circumstances: it instituted heightened screening procedures for new hires. This process included credit checks to filter out potential employees at greater risk of committing theft. These checks made no mention of any applicant’s race and Kaplan didn’t collect any race information from applicants, thus making the hiring process both race-neutral and race-ignorant. Nevertheless the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Kaplan under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, claiming that the use of credit checks has an unlawfully disparate impact on African American applicants.
Because Kaplan doesn’t keep racial data for applicants, the EEOC had to come up with its own data to prove its case. The agency thus created a team of “race raters,” a group of seemingly random people who sorted Kaplan’s job applicants into racial categories based only on the applicant’s name and DMV photo. (You can’t make this stuff up!)

Because of the unscientific and unreliable nature of this data, the EEOC was soundly rebuffed in the federal district court in Ohio where it brought its case.

Seems to make sense, but the best part was that as Circuit judge Kethledge averred:

The EEOC sued the defendants for using the same type of background check that the EEOC itself uses. The EEOC’s personnel handbook recites that “overdue just debts increase temptation to commit illegal or unethical acts as a means of gaining funds to meet financial obligations.” Because of that concern, the EEOC runs credit checks on applicants for 84 of the agency’s 97 positions.

For more go here

British logic

So how big is it? (the gender wage gap that is)

After the embarrassing 23% gender wage gap retreat Obama had to make last week when it became clear that either the White House itself discriminates against women or the gross numbers need to be massaged before a meaningful statistic is produced liberal commentators, such as Matt Yglesias, have admitted that the wage gap is probably closer to 4.5% on an apples to apples basis.

However, to Matt et al this is still a big deal:

Conservative pundits often seem more upset by the fact that 4.5 percent is less than 23 percent than by the fact that 4.5 percent is more than zero percent. But I’d be pretty pissed if someone cut my pay 4.5 percent. And I’d be really pissed if they did it because I’m a man rather than because of something related to my job performance.

Mark Perry responds by asking if we can account for most of the wage differential by factoring in variables such as education, position, number of hours worked and so on what could account for the residual +-5% and comes up with three possible contributors:

1. Risk Tolerance: Men have a much, much higher tolerance/attraction towards high risk behavior than women, and that means that there will always be more men than women in high-risk, high-paying jobs/industries like coal mining, roofing, farming, construction, commercial fishing, oil and natural gas extraction, firefighting, correctional officers, logging, etc.  As my AEI colleague Andrew Biggs pointed out recently:
As far as I know, most statistical analyses of the gender pay gap don’t account for the physical risk of jobs. So, if you include the physical riskiness of an occupation into a wage regression, the unexplained pay difference between men and women — which we’re so eager to attribute to gender discrimination — will shrink further.

 2. Professional sports are male-dominated, and professional athletes earn a lot of money.  Of the 100 world’s highest-paid athletes, there are only three women on the most current Forbes list. Average salaries for America’s most popular professional sports are $5.15 million for the NBA, $3.2 million for MLB and $2.4 million for the NHL, and $1.4 million for the NFL. In contrast, the average salary for women in the WNBA is about $72,000 (and “Equal Pay Year” would occur in the year 2086 – that’s how long the average player in the WNBA would have to continue to play to earn the same as the average NBA player earned this year).  As long as male sports have disproportionately greater fan interest, higher attendance and ticket prices, there will be a huge gender pay gap in professional sports, which will continue to contribute to an overall gender pay gap for the US that has nothing to do with labor market discrimination

3. Men outnumber women among the highest paid musicians. Of the world’s 26 highest paid musicians in 2013 according to Forbes, men outnumbered women by more than two-to-one, or 18 men or male bands to 8 female artists (whose bands are probably predominantly men). Of the top 25 highest grossing musical acts in 2013 according to Billboard, male artists and bands outnumbered female artists by a factor of 3:1, or 18 male artists/bands to 6 female artists (whose bands may be predominately men). As long as highly paid male artists and bands outnumber highly paid female artists in the music industry, there will be a gender pay gaps in both the music industry for the labor market as a whole, neither of which is the result of employer discrimination against women.

Bottom Line: Even with perfect pay parity by gender in most occupations in the labor market, wouldn’t the three factors above (among many possible other ones) contribute to persistent gender pay gaps when comparing salaries nationwide by gender that have nothing to do with employer-based discrimination against women?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

From the " you cannot make this s@*t up" file


Yes.  Nancy Pelosi wants to get money out of politics, but she needs to raise money so the Democrats can win in the next election so she can then reduce the role of money in politics.....

Apparently "ironic" is not the right word for this according to Pelosi.

I would agree.  There are actually several better words for this and her, but none of which are printable.