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Everything posted by Pangloss

  1. Swansont advocating "figurative" speaking? Fascinating! (chuckle) Anyway, I hear people state more definitive versions in the media all the time, e.g. "the US doesn't manufacture anything anymore". IMO it's valid to point out that US manufacturing still exists and still has an impact on the economy.
  2. This sort of thing has come up a couple of times before. Notably a couple of years ago when some Texas legislators fled the state to avoid some redistricting votes that would have cost their party significant representation. They had a valid point of view too -- gerrymandering has gotten out of hand. Both sides seem to have legitimate points in this debate as well. Union labor's power over state employees and thus state governance is a valid concern, and the other side has valid concern as well (representation, pension promises, etc). My concern with the general issue of "let's lay off some teachers and first responders" thing is that it may have become a cover for deeper budget problems. What I suspect is that the payroll cost of teachers and first responders pales in significance with the cost of entitlement spending that was added during more prosperous recent times. Such spending is mandated by law, so may be easier -- but not necessarily cheaper -- to lay off teachers and first responders. But I can't state that factually -- I haven't read up on it yet. Whatever the case turns out to be, state budget cuts is going to be one of the big stories of 2011. I believe I read somewhere that 44 states are in the red now.
  3. Well as I've said before I believe Defense spending can be cut far more significantly than Congress or the President seem willing to consider. President Obama was raising their budget even before Republicans took over the House, and his new budget, while containing some cuts, raises it even further. I was responding to an historical context. I also don't believe that the above statement is true. You may consider most of the $15 trillion economy "useless", but money is money. Most of that economy was built well after the appearance of military spending, massive lawsuits, and gigantic financial institutions. Perhaps there's a connection there, eh? Marat's comment was that the US fails to set high enough taxes for a "normal" society to do what he called its "moral duties". He's talking about social justice, not economic power. I was simply pointing out that in building that economic power that he so loathes, the US did in fact accomplish quite a lot of social justice. That oh-so-evil capitalism is HOW most of the people in this world who have escaped poverty have done so. If that statement is inaccurate, I'd love to know where and why. Marat doesn't seem to want to talk about it. But in response to the above, I think those are interesting and valid points to consider. Manufacturing has declined, and there is a large school of thought that it takes manufacturing to build and maintain a successful economy. But I wonder if perhaps there's more depth there than that view recognizes, especially in a globalized environment.
  4. That's interesting. Reminds me a bit of the FAA's free-flight plan, albeit more extreme.
  5. Makes sense, but I don't know if you could get the labor unions to go along. They might buy in for a little while if you throw them a bone (say, eliminate the need for an employee ballot before an employer is forced to recognize a union). But eventually they would fight for that "unpaid labor force" with gusto.
  6. Gold leaf on statues is hardly comparable to defense, which serves a direct practical purpose whether you agree with that purpose or not. (In fact, I'm not sure gold leaf on statues didn't serve a practical purpose at various points in history either, but I guess that's another discussion.) By the way, military personnel and operations accounts for 64% of the US Defense budget. Buying the hardware only accounts for about 20%. (source) ... while establishing both the most successful economy and the greatest example of uplifting-from-poverty in human history, and at the same time establishing a framework that allows even the humblest of its citizens to participate and blazing a trail for even more massive upliftings since and still to come.
  7. What an interesting juxtaposition of sentences.
  8. Pardon me, I meant inter-city (e.g. British Rail). I completely agree with this point. The airlines need some competition. Who wants to fly anymore? I not quite sure what "between suburbs" means, but if it's something along the lines of medium-distance transit in a large metropolitan region, like "let's go to the zoo this weekend, it's only an hour away, hooray!", I won't argue with that -- I'm sure that's quite possible. Rail-to-the-airport is pretty common in a lot of cities now, and is a nice way to deal with the "where the frack am I going to park the car for the next week" problem.
  9. Guys let's see if we can get back on topic. Maybe we can start with an answer to Mr Skeptic's question above. Thanks.
  10. Sure, for tightly packed urban areas. Otherwise it's a nightmare of inefficiency. I live less than ten minutes from my workplace in a suburban area -- one exit down the freeway from my destination. I drive less than 5,000 miles per year at a fuel efficiency of about 26 miles per gallon. Show me a rail plan that beats my time and fuel efficiency, door to door, and I'll use it. That's the funny thing about the expressway system -- it is a model of efficiency, when lifestyle choices and time are taken into consideration. That's why it exists. Those who dread and lament and agonize over the freeway system do so mainly for ideological reasons. Intra-city, though, is a different matter: This is my hope for America as well -- intra-city transit currently handled by the increasingly inefficient air transportation system. It's bad and getting worse, and people know it. But it's a shared monopoly, much like cable TV in the '80s and '90s -- it's the only game in town. High speed rail connecting cities would be an absolute godsend. Too bad we can't afford it. Maybe if we fix the budget we can do something about that. Or perhaps something like a public bond offering -- direct money-raising for the explicit purpose of intra-city high-speed rail.
  11. The fact that other countries have a higher taxation level as a percentage of GDP does not equate to a factual basis for determining "normal". There's no objective right and wrong here. So does the Left. President Obama is downplaying the fact that his budget won't be balanced, and talking about new spending at the same time that he's talking about cutting expenses. Seems pretty murky to me. Surely we can at least agree that some Democrats support inappropriate spending programs from time to time.
  12. Volunteers? You mean like "if you want unemployment compensation you can go stand on the platform and take people's tickets"?
  13. http://abcnews.go.com/US/american-religion-national-council-churches-reports-pentacostalism-gains/story?id=12931023 http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2011-02-16-church_growth_15_ST_N.htm?csp=34news The largest denominations continue to decline. Only 17 million Americans remain in organized Protestant churches. Some smaller churches, including more extreme or dramatic groups, have increased their size, but the overall trend continues its downward trend. One article above says that Americans are still "religious", just no longer enamored with organized forms. Sounds about right to me.
  14. The looming budget battle between the White House and the House of Representatives is looking really interesting. The President has attempted to grab some of the moderate mind share by adding huge cuts to his 2012 budget, but Republicans were quick to point out that the proposal doesn't even attempt to balance the budget ten years into the future, at which point the budget would have about the same deficit that it did when Bush left office! Meanwhile another $7.1 trillion would be added to the debt. Of course the real problem is that most of the budget isn't even being looked at. The two sides are arguing over a few hundred billion while the deficit this year will top $1.65 trillion. Until the major players are willing to touch that third rail, it's hard to see how anything can really be resolved. Some background and recent events here: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/obama-defends-2012-budget-addresses-deficit-tax-overhaul/story?id=12921014 What do you all think?
  15. This follows similar recent rejections from Ohio and Wisconsin. The problem is that the plans call for states to pony up most of the money, and state budgets are hurting. The Florida plan would have put the state on the hook for another $3 billion, at a time when it's trying to eliminate $4.5 billion in spending to balance the budget. Couple articles: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/us/17rail.html http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/top/all/7430061.html IMO the time for this sort of thing is when we have a surplus to invest, and even then the benefit is questionable. I think there's a place for some HS rail in the US, and intra-city routes are the right idea (giving air travel some competition), but it'll have to wait until we can afford it.
  16. Makes sense. There's been a lot of talk lately about how too much money and direct relief has been thrown at Africa over the years and it just ends up making them dependent on aid and even easier to rule by simple authoritarianism. But that doesn't mean they need a Starbucks on every street corner to drag their way out of poverty. They may find a more reasoned and self-sustaining path, bypassing our mistakes, especially if we help, and do so in a sincere manner (as opposed to just seeking franchise licensees). The globalized economy and mediasphere may be annoying, but it should also be better at helping people learn from our mistakes.
  17. Or would they just go into debt from buying Playstations? Africa would certainly make a lovely new market for SE Asian electronics. The behavior so commonly identified as "American" isn't really a unique brand, it's just human behavior. There's a Starbucks and Kentucky Fried on every corner in NYC, but only every other corner in Cairo. Give 'em a little time and they'll be the same.
  18. Pangloss


    Well I have to say you're right about one thing -- the poor often have trouble buying basic necessities. I have a student who has put off purchasing new eyeglasses and has been struggling to see the whiteboard and projector screen from the front row for the last two quarters. During which time he's purchased three video games on release date, a new laptop, and an iPhone. (chuckle) Gotta love the Playstation Poor! Waaay too subtle, man.
  19. Rofl, sure sure, I'm completely wrong. Yes, I remember them (plural, multiple accounts iirc).
  20. Interesting. Also interesting. (cof) (<-- embarassed cough at having nothing substantive to add, but wanting to acknowledge the point anyway) Hm... okay, I think I see what you're getting at here, and the Palin-as-target angle is (cof) interesting.
  21. Pangloss


    What we know, thanks to the Census Bureau and it's "sweet" math skills, is that 75% of those who live below the official poverty line have a car, and 31% of them have two.
  22. Pangloss


    Here's where I retracted my comment about the flat-screen TVs: http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/54666-is-a-fair-flat-tax-possible/page__view__findpost__p__588262 The statistics on cars said exactly what I said they did. According to the Census Bureau: - 43% of all "poor" households own an average 3-bedroom, 1.5-bath house - Almost 75% of "poor" households own a car; 31% own 2 or more - 97% of "poor" households have a color television; over half own 2 or more - 78% have a VCR or DVD player; 62% have cable or satellite TV - 89% have a microwave oven; over half have a stereo, more than a third have a dishwasher - Only 6% of all "poor" households are overcrowded. More than 67% have more than two rooms per person. - Average child dietary consumption of poor children is on par with children of middle and upper income parents - 89% of poor families have "enough to eat"; only 2% report "often" not having enough - 80% of all "poor" households have air conditioning - The average American "poor" person has greater living space than the average person in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and many other European cities. (The average citizen there, not the average "poor" citizen.)
  23. Well, my two bits only, but I wouldn't put too much money on that. She has too much partisan baggage to make an appeal to the middle. A politician who goes out of their way to denigrate and demonize is not able to then go back and say they would like to sit down at the table with the same groups they denigrated and demonized and listen to their concerns. It's just not believable. That's why politicians avoid that sort of thing. They tend to leave it to commentators and pundits. She made her mistake shortly after Fox News Channel installed a studio in her home. Instead of sitting back and firing away at the left and the "mainstream media", she could have taken that opportunity to find common ground and across-the-board appeal. She's full-on attack, 24/7, that one. There's no half-way. Any question about her comments towards the other side is deflected with an excuse about how she's constantly under attack, followed closely by another attack on the other side. In short, it's exactly what people hate about politics. If she were a liberal it would be over already, simply because liberalism isn't as popular as conservatism in this country -- the majority would have already relegated her to the dust heap of history. But because she's conservative and says things the like to hear, they're kinda waiting it out a bit. But they won't elected her president.
  24. Pangloss


    No, the source for the statistics I quoted was the US Census Bureau. I retracted my comment about the flat screen. Regarding the two cars, I quoted a government source that said exactly that. That's not what I said. What I said is that they define a "poverty line" that includes the statistics I mentioned, including: All of those statistics are directly supported by the US Census Bureau in direct study. No, what I said was that I have been given no reason to believe that the Playstation Poor has any difficulty buying food. Prove it. All I know is this data from the United States Census Bureau.
  25. Pangloss


    Yes it was. I quoted analysis from a conservative think-tank, but their analysis was based on data straight from the US Census Bureau. And I noticed that in all that text you didn't refute a single statistic. The Census Bureau doesn't make such a distinction. That's part of the problem. Too many people want the data to suit their ideology. Not enough people want to find out what's really going on. What difference does that make? You started this thread by complaining about the impact of a flat tax on the cost of food. In my opinion the fact that most families below the poverty line own two cars and all that other stuff suggests that the basic cost of food, for most of those people, is not a major concern. Prove me wrong. Until then I'm calling them the "Playstation Poor". I'm not saying there aren't people who struggle with basic needs. I'm saying we don't know how many of those people there are. Which means we have no reason to believe that it's a large number. Which means we have no logical reason to shape major policy direction around that point. Don't yell at me, yell at the Census Bureau. Yeah, the poor people don't have as much of a "cushion" as the middle class. So what? The real problem is that right now most poor don't pay any annual income/payroll tax. This was discussed in several news stories following the last major tax cycle in 2010. Under a flat tax they would have to pay the same as everyone else. So what you should be doing is hootin' and hollerin' about how they'd face a massive tax increase. Mr Skeptic's idea of allowing deductions ahead of a flat tax calculation seems like a reasonable idea. If, for the sake of argument, that allowed the working poor to stay off income tax (after all they still pay sales tax, etc), then that would probably mean a higher flat tax for everyone else. The hard part, of course -- the political struggle -- would be deciding where to draw that line.
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