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Saturday, December 31, 2011

TARP bailout -- good or bad?

Erin Burnett's statement to an occupy Wall Street Protester that taxpayers had profited from the bank bailout caused me to look up the matter.  I found this article in Fortune (July 8, 2011), which goes through some numbers that seem to show that the Fed did make tens of billions of dollars of profit on the bailout, which was in any event necessary.  Gotta go now; stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

25 Richest Members of Congress in WashingtonPost

These are all people who have more than $30 million.  Darrell Issa is the richest, with over $400 million.  It's an interesting "natural" distribution (not random of course, since they all ran for and won Congressional seats) of how 25 people in the 1% got rich.  Most of them seem to have gotten that rich by being somewhat rich to begin with, and then making a lot of good investments, usually in real estate.  Not much job creation there.

A few of them were CEOS (skimmers), and a very few of them seem to have started companies, and thus might even have been job creators.  But that's a distinct minority of this particular slice of the 1%. And there's very little information given about the created companies; sometimes they are listed alongside other sources of weath.

Of course, investment income is a different tax issue than earned income.  Right now, I'm just reporting these results.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Romney and Gingrich -- Two skimmers calling each other out

From Eugene Robinson's Dec. 15, 2011 column:

"Mitt Romney, his chief opponent for the GOP nomination, had called on Gingrich to return the $1.6 million in consulting fees he received from housing giant Freddie Mac. Gingrich replied that he would “be glad to listen” if Romney would first “give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees” during his time as head of the investment firm Bain Capital."

Take a good look at both of them -- this is how many of the 1% make their money.  It's not job creation, it's skimming.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Larry Lessig on the Daily Show

Larry Lessig on the Daily Show last night -- watch this and read the book (Republic Lost -- How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop It).  As I understand it, the plan is to give everyone a rebate for their first $50 of taxes in the form of a "Democracy Voucher" to disconnect the relationship between big money and results. 

You can give your fifty bucks it to any candidate you want, plus you can give up to $100 of your own money.  Candidates would need to opt in to this system -- i.e. pledge that they would only accept democracy bucks for campaign financing.   He says that will give us $7 billion (from the $50 bucks alone), which is more than double was spent on all the elections the last time around (or something like that).

Once the right Congess is elected, perhaps they could amend the Constitution to overrule some of the crazy campaign finance Supreme Court decisions.

Sounds good to me.  As he says, right now, politicians spend 30-70% of their time raising money.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saved a $120 HVAC call

Always check the internet before calling a repairperson.   I simply turn my furnace -- a Trane XL80 -- off at night, let the temperature slip down to about 60, and then turn it on again in the morning, unless I'm going to work, in which case I might leave it off all day.  The dog can handle it.

On Thursday, however, I was staying home and I could not get the furnace to heat the house.  It would turn on, hot air would come out for 10-20 minutes, and then it would turn off, and blow out only cold air.  I opened the furnace and tried to clean it out a bit although it didn't seem all that dirty.  I tried putting the heat all the way up to 95, but it didn't help.

I was stymied, but a little googling got me to Terry Love's site, and this question.  Some named Chang had a similar problem, but he is a lot smarter than me, and he figured out that if he set the thermostat two degrees higher than room temperature, the furnace would work until it reached that mark, and then you just have to set the themostat two degrees higher, and so on until you are at the temperature you want.  Chang saw this as a problem (and concluded, with help, that he needed a new circuit board), whereas I see it as a solution.  I can simply adjust the furnace that way, until it breaks down for real, at which point maybe I'll get a new furnace, or maybe a new circuit board.  $120 saved.  Yeah, it's tough for the economy, but it's good for me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Good Idea from Gary Gutting in NYT -- "Intellectuals and Politics"

Today's NYT has a nice piece by Gary Gutting called "Intellectuals and Politics."  Although intellectuals themselves might not be effective leaders, a bevy of them will likely bring to light all of the issues concerning a particular proposed course of action.  So why not, for each issue, put a bunch of them in a room with a political candidate, and help the candidate -- and the voters -- figure out what the right course of action on a given political issue is?  Here's the suggestion:

"The best evidence of how capable candidates are of fruitfully interacting with intellectuals would be to see them doing just this.  Concretely, I make the follow[ing] suggestion for the coming presidential election:  Gather small but diverse panels of eminent, politically uncommitted experts on, say, unemployment, the history of the Middle East, and climate science, and have each candidate lead an hour-long televised discussion with each panel.  The candidates would not be mere moderators but would be expected to ask questions, probe disagreements, express their own ideas or concerns, and periodically summarize the state of discussion.  Such engagements would provide some of the best information possible for judging candidates, while also enormously improving the quality of our political discourse."

I personally would like to see a candidate lead a discussion on some issue where domestic policy has already been corrupted by corporate influence.  Maybe the proper scope of domestic and international intellectual property rights. . . .