Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Bankers' Big Lie

The bankers want us to believe that the American financial consumers were responsible for the Great Recession.  The evidence shows that bankers were the real villians is this.  They inflated valuations and issued bad mortgages by changing their own rules.  And nothing has been done to keep them from doing it again.

Sorry, everybody was not to blame. “We” didn’t all do it. “Main Street” didn’t succumb to a new tulip mania, and cheap credit didn’t expose anything but the corruption and immorality of a financial industry that systematically put huge numbers of even credit-worthy borrowers into defective products. Cultural theorizing—especially the evidence-free kind—should be seen for what it is: an exercise in complacency. It’s easy. And it’s what you lean on when you don’t want to take on structural problems, the kind you actually have to do something about.

Taxing All College Graduates

Josh Freedman makes the case for using an income tax bump on college graduates as a means for funding public higher education.  Then, he tries to find problems with the proposal.  I find his counter-arguments weak so maybe the time has come for this idea.

The arguments for it include: no debt taken on by students, repayment is tied to income, ease of administration, poor people will not be supporting higher education through general taxes, and more poor people could avail themselves of higher education.

In trying to construct some viable argument against the proposal, Freedman gets lost in the weeds about poor people being under-represented at private schools.  But that's irrelevant.  He also argues against an idea that isn't in the proposal.  Again, irrelevant, and a waste of bits.

Here's a link to Oregon's attempt to put such a thing in place.

Texas’ New Abortion Law is Driving Women to Extremes

Texas abortion laws suck and this is why.  Any genuine medical reason for an abortion runs afoul of the small-minded laws written by anti-choice activists who could care less about human medical realities.  Methinks the "God" they worship has something to be desired as well.

Not Biodiesel But 'Biogasoline' From Plant Waste

Chemists at UC Davis have derived a chemical process that can be use to convert cellulose into sustainably-sourced gasoline.  Cellulose is processed into levulinic acid which is then processed into the gasoline-like hydrocarbons.  It has a high yield and doesn't involve fermentation like previous methods.  Provisonal patents have been filed.

Five-second Food Rule Validated

Recent research supports the applicability of the 5-second rule.  So if that food hits the deck, snatch it up quickly and proceed with your meal.

Netflix Link to Pandora's Promise

Pandora's Promise on Netflix.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Obamacare and the Part-Time Economy

Obamacare has not yet turned America into a nation of part-time workers, as many of its strongest critics have long said it would. 
In fact, the opposite seems to be happening, according to new government numbers published Friday: The number of part-time jobs is actually shrinking, and full-time jobs are being created instead.
The critics may not be all that good at business.  Smart employers take a broader view that just saving a few nickel and dimes by engineering ways to not have to pay for their employees' health care.  If they have the demand, they need good, healthy, motivated, and experienced employees. It saves money in the long run because the business itself operates better.  However, when demand is iffy, it just gets harder to do that and the businesses go into survival mode and are forced to cannibalize themselves just like a malnourished body begins to consume it's own muscles.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Better Than A Minimum Wage Hike

Warren Buffet has a better idea.  An appropriate increase in the EITC would put more money into the working poor's hands without the economic impact employers.  That money would come out of tax revenue, so maybe we could not build quite as many warplanes.

Dave Camp has some more ideas on improving the tax code.  These include streamlined educational tax credits, a larger standard deduction, and a larger child tax credit.  He also would eliminate special interest tax advantages and a great many loopholes.  Since he is writing in the WSJ, he has to float the canard that lower taxes would magically create jobs, but we can forgive him for that since many of the things he lists get bipartisan support.

Update: Obama's budget has an expanded EITC and child tax credit in it.

Methanol from Carbon Dioxide

Just below I linked an article that talked about a method using microbes to generate sugars for fuel production from atmospheric CO2.  Today the folks at SLAC have identified a catalyst that can do pretty much the same thing, without the messy biology.  This stuff synthesizes hydrogen and CO2 into methanol.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

USPS and the Economy

Could the Post Office save the economy?  Postal banking is an old idea that may be worth thinking about again. More poor people could get affordable banking services.  It would make the delivery of federal benefits to the poor more cost effective by cutting out the commercial banks that skim those dollars by charging fees for access to food stamps and unemployment benefits.  A protected savings method for the poor could be provided.  More banking could be provided to the immigrant population since many of them already use money order services provided by the Post Office.  Postal banking could lead the way in improving measures against identity fraud by rolling out more secure "chip-and-PIN" debit cards.  It could lead the way in establishing mobile phone banking services.  Established banks have been slow to do this because they see the lead-in costs as too expensive.  Postal banks wouldn't sell your personal information to advertisers like other banks do.  Recessions could be dealt with efficiently by putting stimulus money directly into the hands of consumers with a Federal Reserve ATM system.