Tuesday, July 23, 2013

So they haven't released the name yet

So,William and Kate haven't released the name of their first son and (probable) future King of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Realms, so I am going to speculate on the names they have given him. Here are potential (and hopeful) names that could be put together to form his name which will probably be from 4 to 7 names long.
These 9 names are the most likely:
  1. George
  2. Michael
  3. Edward
  4. Charles
  5. Richard
  6. Andrew
  7. William
  8. James
  9. Henry
And then there are the names that some people will want him to be named
  1. Arthur
  2. Lancelot
  3. Percival (King Percival... how elegant)
  4. Merlin
It would be so cool to have a King Arthur again... a big name to live up to. Probably not, but one can always hope!

A good post from a Republican Committee

A good report came out of the Republican Study Committee last week, and I agree with most of the paper, https://www.eff.org/document/rsc-report-three-myths-about-copyright-law

They are absolutely correct, we need to reform copyright law. There is no reason that George Gershwin's classic works should be under copyright, and their mention of Steamboat Willey is very appropriate given Disney's previous policies. Disney was a major supporter of that act which extended Copyright to 95 years after the death of the author/composer of a work of music. This means that Rhapsody in Blue won't be out of copyright until 2056, and the earliest works of Louis Armstrong won't be public until 2031, if it was published at the end of his life they will be made public in 2056. Heebie Jeebies, one of Louis Armstrong's earliest and most well-known works will be 116 years old when it finally goes into the public domain. If the length of time it will take for Heebie Jeebies to be released was used as the benchmark, everything written after 1897 would be under copyright. The Jungle Book, most of HG Wells' books, The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan, Peter Pan, and Pygmalion would almost certainly still be under copyright, despite being over 100 years old. Fortunately, the earliest date for American copyright is 1923 because that was the age when Mickey Mouse Forever was passed.

I agree with the Republican Study Committee that we need to reduce copyright, and I agree with our founding fathers that 14 years is a reasonable amount of time. If you can't make enough money in 14 years off a piece of work it isn't that special, and given that extending copyright for a very long period of time prevents works that build off of others, it will be better for our economy.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The War in Afghanistan is a bad war

As everybody knows, on September 11, 2001 the United States of America was attacked by religious extremists whose leader was Osama bin Laden. Proof quickly came out that bin Laden was behind the attack and the United States declared a war on this non-state actor. It often feels like the Afghanistan government was harboring him, but this is just not true. Upon the attack, the supreme leader of Afghanistan offered to turn him over to an Islamic court if Bush presented evidence of his guilt. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/oct/14/afghanistan.terrorism5 If George Bush had done this then we could have averted a major war and saved millions of lives. Everybody knows with the constant reports of deaths in Afghanistan that this didn't happen.

We could have avoided the entire War in Afghanistan and made it a manhunt for a wanted criminal, instead, George W. Bush chose to turn it into a conflict that destabilized the entire country and attacked the government for "helping bin Laden" even though it was the administration his father served in that put them in power in the first place!

George W. Bush had the opportunity to avoid a war and improve goodwill between nations, saving lives, and he refused. He is the worst president in American history and should be ashamed of his actions. Congress should be ashamed that they didn't pass a resolution to negotiate with the Afghanistan government, and I have no idea how this wasn't talked about by any member of Congress in that time period.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A fully-functional corporate income tax code

Corporations will be taxed at a progressive rate based on their net income calculated as follows:
  1. A=Total Revenue
  2. B=Employee income with varying rates
    1. X: Employees that make 50% of the living hourly wage or less will have their total income taxed at 100%.
    2. Employees that make at least 50% and below 100% of the living hourly wage will have no deduction on their income.
    3. Y: Employees that make at least 100% and below 250% of the living hourly wage will have 100% of their total income deducted from the corporation's taxes.
    4. Z: Employees that make at least 250% and below 5000% of the living hourly wage will have 125% of their total income deducted from the corporation's taxes.
    5. Employees that make at least 5000% of the living hourly wage will have no deduction on their income.
  3. C=Capital Investment in buildings, manufacturing, and other physical assets.
  4. D=Amount of money paid to foreigners at rates below the Federal Minimum Wage.
  5. E=Total State and foreign taxes

A+B-C+D-E equals the taxable income.
Living Hourly Wage is defined as the amount of money needed to be earned per hour to make the cost of living in one year working 1920 hours in one year. (40 hours per week for 48 weeks)

The tax rates are as follows:
  1. 0% on taxable income up to 5000 times the cost of living in the state where the corporation is based.
  2. 5% on taxable income above 5000 times the cost of living for companies that give their employees at least 5 weeks of paid vacation time and unlimited sick leave.
  3. 10% on taxable income above 5000 times the cost of living for companies that give their employees from 4 weeks but less than 5 weeks of paid vacation time and unlimited sick leave.
  4. 15% on taxable income above 5000 times the cost of living for companies that give their employees from 3 weeks but less than 4 weeks of paid vacation time and unlimited sick leave.
  5. 20% on taxable income above 5000 times the cost of living for companies that give their employees from 2 weeks but less than 3 weeks of paid vacation time and unlimited sick leave.
  6. 25% on taxable income above 5000 times the cost of living for companies that give their employees from 1 week but less than 2 weeks of paid vacation time and unlimited sick leave.
  7. 30% on taxable income above 5000 times the cost of living for companies that give their employees less than 1 week of paid vacation time and unlimited sick leave.
  8. 35% on taxable income above 5000 times the cost of living for companies that do not give their employees unlimited sick leave.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

An Addition to the Corporate Income Tax

Our corporate income tax currently is insane. Many large corporations plan their finances to pay little or no taxes, (source 1 and 2) which means the majority of corporate taxes are paid by small businesses, making it by definition a regressive tax on those corporations that can't hire the best tax accountants to cook the books. It clearly must be modified or even replaced.

A corporate tax is however not a bad idea and if done correctly could be an incentive to improve the economy by rewarding activities that are good for the economy and fining companies for activities that are bad for the economy. Robert Reich argues that we need to cap deductions for pay at $1 million and I agree with him, but on top of this the very nature of the corporate income tax deductions should be made somewhat progressive.

Instead of deducting all the pay to employees at 100% like we currently do, I propose that the income tax deduction be made somewhat progressive based off of the state of residence of each employee. With modern software this shouldn't take any longer for a corporation with modern bookkeeping practices to implement. It is not a progressive income tax like the personal income tax in the way that the percentages apply to the entire earnings of that individual. Here is a sample tax structure:

Important definitions
  • I define living hourly wage as the hourly wage needed so that an employee working 40 hours per week 48 weeks per year to make the cost of living used for income tax purposes (like previous tax posts). For salaried full-time employees it will be determined by the total pay and benefits in a year.
  • This will apply to employees domestic and abroad for all corporations with American management. Domestic employees will have their expected wage calculated as their state wage and foreign employees by the cost of living in their country as calculated by the American government.
  • Income is defined as all compensation defined as the sum of stock options, bonuses, salary. Benefits such as education and health care don't count because I consider them to be necessities for a successful society.
Tax brackets:
  • Employees that make 50% of the living hourly wage or less will have their income taxed at 100%.
  • Employees that make at least 50% and below 100% of the living hourly wage will have no deduction on their income.
  • Employees that make at least 100% and below 250% of the living hourly wage will have 100% of their income deducted from the corporation's taxes.
  • Employees that make at least 250% and below 5000% of the living hourly wage will have 125% of their income deducted from the corporation's taxes.
  • Employees that make at least 5000% of the living hourly wage will have no deduction on their income.
At a cost of living around $20,000 the brackets would be $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, and $1,000,000.
I predict this would have a few positive effects on the economy.
  1. First of all, corporations will have a real incentive to pay their employees more money instead of giving all their gain to the top. This will improve the livelihoods of average Americans, and this will make the economy more efficient because the people who will benefit the most from this are likely to spend a larger percent of their income which is needed to grow small businesses that create the majority of new jobs.
  2. Secondly, it will penalize companies for underpaying employees which will make it easier for Americans to get started in life because they will be paid more.
  3. Thirdly, it is better for the businesses in the long-run. By paying employees more it makes it so employees will be more likely to stay with one company for a career. This means companies will retain more cash to grow in the future, which is good for the employee through immediate compensation, the employer through long-term savings, and the customer through better service from experienced employees, which is an excellent way to retain customers, and increase revenue for the business to invest and grow with.
It just makes sense.

Monday, July 15, 2013

DOMA isn't completely dead yet...

During the last supreme court decision they only overturned section three of DOMA, but didn't touch the other section which states that states

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

Article IV Section I states:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
This is a blatant violation of the fourth article of the constitution and maybe the most unconstitutional part of the entire US Code. States must represent all legal contracts entered into in every other state, and because of this the rest of the Defense of Marriage Act must be repealed.

Finish the job.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Return of Mercantilism

The Electronic Freedom Foundation posted about the real reason that the United States and European Union are pushing for a Free Trade Agreement, and it has nothing to do with freedom, but about copyright control.

Copyright today is out of control. Copyright was originally supposed to create a gain for the artist or inventor that invented the product for 25 years, to encourage creativity by making it profitable for those with ideas to work on them, making society better. When an artist makes something, he/she needs to eat as well, and that means that he/she needs to get paid. Copyright was the mechanism that made sure this happened, by giving the artist exclusive rights to his/her work.

Unfortunately, since 1976 copyright has lasted the entire length of the artist's (by artist I don't just mean paintings, but all forms of art, music, film, books, paintings etc.) life and then an arbitrary amount of time after that, or a set length of time, whichever is longer (typically). Copyright is not owned by the artist, but instead is owned by the corporation that will live forever owning that piece of art that can be a significant part of a culture (like Mickey Mouse or Rhapsody in Blue). I am in favor of copyright, lasting the life of the artist and no longer, but the way copyright is done today does not encourage art, it discourages it by giving exclusive rights to spin-offs to a faceless corporation that doesn't have any real allegiance to any country or anyone (since it can be sold and last forever).

The current trade agreement with the European Union is not about free trade, it is about unfree trade in that it is to restrict the creativity and ingenuity of people at the expense of marginally higher profits for ancient corporations. It won't have a significant effect anyways because people will continue to pirate and get away with it.

I support true free trade, which would meant the free movement of goods and ideas, with reasonable LIMITED protections on pieces of art and technology that will allow future artists and inventors to expand on such important parts of culture. Unfortunately greed and shortsightedness has taken over the minds of our leaders that does not encourage competition, ingenuity, or any other truly capitalist principal.

Let me say it:
I am a capitalist.

I am in favor of a free market that allows the free exchange of ideas and goods across a large area within a reasonable level of safety where people can get what they want and work freely. I am in favor of people being allowed to organize into unions to bargain with their employers, instead of everyone bargaining on their own because unions are the only way to have close to equal ground, which is to have a position of power, and higher wages increase productivity by raising the demand curve for goods and services which improves the state of the larger economy. Capitalism is when there is a civil right to set up a legal business to improve the founders' lives and offer a better service at a better price, and there is a right to fail as well as succeed regardless of size, because new businesses will fill the void of old unstable companies if they fail. The right to fail is a very important part of long-term and short term efficiency. If there is no risk to fail there is no incentive to stay stable. I am in favor of short-term copyrights so that there are real incentives to people inventing and creating, but limited so that other people can build off of their ideas once their potential fortunes have been built. I am opposed to people using regulations to increase their personal gain at the expense of all others because it hurts all other people, and hurts the overall economy's efficiency. Capitalism is when opportunity to succeed is offered, and people have the opportunity to take it if they choose to.

Mercantilism is a wholly different system. Mercanitislim is a restricted market where the transfer of ideas and goods are regulated past the point of reason that increases prices and creates inefficient monopolies. Mercantilism is when people cannot move normal goods across borders, creating radically different prices in different nations before taxes, a hallmark of Mercantilist inefficiency (compare the cost of living in Austria and Germany despite free movement of people and goods between those countries, free trade in Europe clearly isn't so free). Mercantilism is where people cannot organize and people cannot get a living wage which decreases the demand curve in the interest of short term profits which makes the economy inefficient and makes an imbalanced society, and any physicist will tell you that when there is imbalance in a system (density, pressure, etc.) it will balance itself eventually or at least try to. Economics is the same, and this system hurts long-term profits for everyone (see the modern Tsar of Russia... oh wait). Mercantilism is when setting up a business to compete is difficult to impossible for the average person which pushes prices up, wages down, and creativity down. Mercantilism is when established companies that bribe politicians will have the government bail them out. Mercantilism is when a corporation owns aspects of culture that are close to or over 100 years old, meaning those corporations make billions and don't need to create anything for decades. (which at the current rate American copyright will be 100 years in 2023 when the next extension bill comes up) Mercantilism is when there are regulations that benefit the minority at the expense of the majority.

Too make it clear, Communism is simply where everything is owned by the government and the people have no direct way to change the government. Freedom is non-existant, and it is one of the worst systems.

Out of these three major schools of thought, the economy of the United States today is not and has not been truly capitalist since 1976 at the latest, and one can see it in our efficiency and distribution of wealth.

Assange, Manning, Snowden, and the privacy state

I was today reading about the details of Manning's leak to Wikileaks and caught on to the section 1.4f which includes information on the passwords of the United States Nuclear Arsenal. I haven't read the details of the leak before, but have heard parts of it that are the most disturbing, like the times when warcrimes were created in Iraq and Afghanistan and similar instances, which I feel are perfectly legal and safe to disclose. But when it comes to releasing passwords to nuclear weapons I draw the line. I need to continue to analyze where I get my information from news sources and be quicker to read the details of what happens in these types of instances when information is released because I was wrong to defend Manning to my friends. There is no doubt he is a traitor and there is no doubt he put everybody in danger by releasing those passwords.

When it comes to Assange and Wikileaks' role in releasing the cables they were instrumental at being so destructive and should have prevented them being leaked. The other cables that Manning released were not as destructive but that Wikileaks was willing to publish the one on the nuclear passwords makes Assange equally guilty because he participated.

When it comes to Snowden, he was doing a very different leak. It is limited to the unwarranted surveillance of Americans and foreigners by the United States National Security Agency. This is not going to give anyone access to nuclear weapons passwords, or anything else that could literally destroy people, it is a report on a major violation against the 4th Amendment that is despicable. No one is going to get access to weapons, and the only way someone could get killed is if the American government executes someone. (probably Snowden, which would be amazingly reminiscient of Third Reich whistleblowers)

We need to revise the PATRIOT ACT and Espionage Act to make certain the people have their privacy and security, and that whistleblowers can do their job. If we don't protect our freedom America stops being special.

Information wants to be free.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Nanny states

I was in Germany for the first two weeks in June. It was amazing, I was able to get everywhere I needed by mass transit in the cities, they were efficient, hospitable and fast (in Germany). You could do pretty much anything you wanted, no limits on pictures, get anywhere by bus, u-bahn, s-bahn or if you are going outside the greater area for the city, the train goes everywhere. Buses are starting, but they aren't as fast or comfortable as deutsche bahn. Most people use mass transit because it goes where you need to go. As long as you aren't being dangerous (eg leaving your guns where a burglar can get them, or in the business world bribing or committing fraud) freedom reins supreme. Customs in the Netherlands and Germany was efficient and quick, with one check point and one scanner for your bags. I didn't observe anything like what conservatives deem out of bounds, living beyond your means, or the big bad gubment.

Then I get on the plane going home and my welcome is "don't take out your cameras on the beautiful German countryside, sit tight, arms at your sides and be scared." (I'm paraphrasing, the meaning was clear) as if I am a child and need the government to tell me not to use my arms. I knew I was home with those types regulations. As I read on the news evidence has proven the American government is spying on the British government and everyone in the world. I land in Atlanta and go through three different checkpoints, and have to carry my bag from one carousel to another, different from both Amsterdam schippol and Istanbul where they did it for me. Customs was harder and took more time with more questions for this American who has committed no crimes than the Netherlands, Germany, Georgia, Canada, and Australia.

I notice differences in our culture, while Germans and Georgians all use cell phone while driving at higher speeds with no large difference in accidents, we drive at lower speeds and can't communicate with our destination (big gov?). As I ride my bike there are fewer places I can ride here than in Europe where if you aren't clearly being reckless they will be ok with you. The only ways I can think of Germany being more restrictive than America is privacy laws, which I have already blogged about, and it is more difficult to commit fraud in Europe without going to prison. I saw friends in Germany who are going to college and like most if not every German they will be debt free when they graduate, which gives more economic freedom than the USA. I could think of different cultural differences where Europeans are able to do more, but these come to mind. In general I feel the US is the most restrictive country in the day to day lives of the average citizen than other countries I have been to (with an exception of gay rights in Georgia, though I haven't been to and won't go to Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, or North Korea). We can do better. We must do better. We deserve it.

Which leads me to the question, who really is the largest nanny state?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The next 2 years,

Independence Day is a good day to look backwards at our accomplishments (emancipation, universal suffrage, civil rights, etc.) and look at what our country must do in the future. So that is my theme for today.

The United States currently has a large number of daunting problems/challenges, and a number of great opportunities:

  1. Partisan gridlock and yellow journalism (the largest of whom are MSNBC and FOX) is tearing our nation apart. With such polarization it puts a lot of pressure on our leaders to lead extremely well to make it impossible for these pundits make them look bad or good depending on their point of view. Obamacare is a perfect example of how such biased reporting can skew people's opinions, as Kaiser points out where the majority of Americans don't know what Obamacare actually does. That the majority of Americans don't know what a major law does shows a clear failure in our country's media. Obama clearly needs to work on his PR.
  2. Our two parties are at once closer than they should be and more distant than they have been in a long time. Everything the Democrats propose, even if it is taken practically word for word from a previous Republican proposal (like Obamacare and the Republican counterproposal in 1993) will be blocked from the Republicans. Most Americans when they turn on cable news get very biased and incomplete information about what is actually being proposed on the hill, and this furthers the partisan split as the Fox News watchers go one direction and the NBC folks go another. Very few people find the balanced center where you get the facts without the spin. This helps move our parties further and further apart in social issues with very little center in the middle, but on some issues like our constitutional freedoms (like the right to an attorney) neither the left nor right wing media is willing to tell the full truth and the parties further split on some core issues (like health care, whether there actually were weapons in Iraq, distribution of wealth and income, access to education, among others) and the coverage on some issues the media is so completely monotonous and frequently incorrect that there is little knowledge or debate about some pressing issues (like what should be done in Europe with the economy, Israel, North Korea, China, mass transit, among other issues). This force drives our two parties further to one side as they continue to get money from a select group of people that drive our policy. American policy is so much more diverse and there is so much more information about these issues than the media tells us, which eventually will be so clearly incorrect that a lot of Americans are going to be very disillusioned as the media grows further from reality.
  3. We will need more parties and a new election system to represent the splitting of Democrats ("Old Democrats" and "New Democrats") and Republicans (Libertarians and Christian fundamentalists) which have such large differences between them that will make the parties unstable. If we don't I fear we will eventually have a situation like Canada in 2011 which will be devastating to the victors once the parties split. Changing our voting system will also help bridge the partisan divide because everyone can agree with the Libertarians on something, creating a bridge in congress between the two sides. It will allow more views to be represented in Congress that will be a more accurate picture of Americans' beliefs.
  4. Our health care costs will continue to rise (though not as quickly as they have been) with Obamacare in place because it doesn't go far enough and it will need to be expanded upon and reevaluated.
  5. Many students coming out of our education system today will be so unprepared to be in the world compared to their international peers because of the way the government finances and runs education which means it will need to be reevaluated. If we don't we will be beaten economically and our economy will suffer from the lack of knowledge our students will have.
  6. We will need to reform our tax code so tax capital gains as regular income (like Australia) which will balance the budget and encourage investors to invest for the long-term so companies can use the money they give them, and give tax breaks to struggling American families to raise the demand curve. We will need to increase the incentives of businesses to hire people through taxes. If we don't our economy will remain unstable. This will also balance the budget. If we changed it we could become a very stable economy and surpass all other nations in economic growth.
  7. Immigration reform will finish going through which will probably be more work visas for farm workers.
Happy Independence Day, let's make this country greater!

Gregory Mankiw, Keynesian?

Looking back at the person who wrote my textbook, Gregory Mankiw I found he linked to a blogger who read part of one of his papers and wrote a praising article. Let's start with the problem...

  1. The blogger who Mankiw links to (so I assume he likes) says that the best type of economist "wears his assumptions on his sleeve". What a strange and unconventional saying. Does this mean that he knows clearly what his assumptions are and tries to work around them (which I"m pretty sure is wrong given the next point)? Or does it mean that we should base our world-view on our assumptions which we should base our world on and let the evidence be damned? I think it is the second.
  2. He sources Mankiw in a paper where he says "Economists can turn to empirical methods to estimate key parameters, but no amount of applied econometrics can bridge this philosophical divide."  which is just sloppy. The way I read this is that statistics have no use in a debate and that people will believe what they want to believe. I was in debate for four years to know this is not true and if we aren't going to use proven statistics to find out the truth, than what use is the entire field of economics? This is a terrible claim and is fitting for Mankiw.
I also used Mankiw's Microeconomics text in college my first year (as a seventeen year old) and there was a statistical problem I found (which I forgot to record and have forgotten at this point) that made me thoroughly distrust him. I might find the book in the library and find the error again and blog about it so people can know not to trust him, but seventeen year olds should be not be able to find any problems with the writing of a PhD! If there is another reason that we should distrust Mankiw, he recently cited the people at Carmen M. Reinhart for defending their baseless claim that a large amount of debt correlates to low economic growth, which unfortunately for them contained a statistical error. That should be enough to not trust Mankiw.

If Mankiw is defending people who claim that high debt is correlated with low economic growth, how can he be Keynesian? The Keynesian solution to a recession is go into temporary debt to get the economy jump-started (like when you start any business) and then pay the debt off when the economy is moving again. When Mankiw was an adviser to President Bush we saw record deficits during a period of (personal debt-financed) economic growth. That is as far as we can possibly get from the Keynesian school of thought. We should stop pretending Mankiw is a Keynesian and be honest that when we look at his writings he is clearly a Monetarist between claiming that assumptions are important (at least it might mean that), econometrics don't matter (a central corner stone to defending austerity, a centerpiece of laissez-faire economics), he was part of one of the most laissez-faire administrations in American history, and defending people who make faulty economic studies that claim high debt is a large problem when it is based off not reviewing their paper before they publish (which is unprofessional, sloppy, and a cornerstone to laissez-faire economics.). In every way, Mankiw is part of the laissez-faire religion.