Tag: Politics

Tax the Rich

I never really “got” the ideology of screwing over today-me on the off chance future-me started making bank. Forbes counted 735 billionaires in the US in 2023 — over 300 million people in the US. That means there’s a 0.000245% chance of someone being a billionaire.
The probability of any one person becoming the next multi-billionaire is, logically, lower than that (some billionaires start out in the 1%). Low enough that I don’t want to structure all of society around making billionaires’ lives cherry just in case I ever become one.
I mean, me personally, I’d happily fork over a couple hundred mil in taxes if I was netting a billion a year because I know I’d be using a lot of publicly funded resources for this hypothetical business, and funding those resources seems practical. But, yeah, probably not something I’m ever gonna have to worry about.

Finding Benefits Anywhere

At a recent school board meeting, we had a lady suggesting a list of things they should teach about how slaves benefited … evidently this is some recent research? I propose we nab her and all of these researchers out of their houses, throw them in a crowded van, and take them to a prison facility for a year or three. While they are there, they will be fed well, entered into a program to become certified in a trade, and given free access to health care. They’ll be given free range of the facility, not locked in cells; but they’ll have to work and complete their training classes. They’ll be given clothing to wear, a bed in which to sleep. If they’re really lucky, their spouse and kids will be nabbed and get to “benefit” from this great service too.

Obviously, they’d be free to leave at any point they wanted — not an option for actual slaves. If they opt to leave early, they no longer get to claim slavery had benefits for anyone other than those exploiting free labor. They will be admitting that no matter how nicely you treat someone — and these folks are going to be treated far better than most slaves were, so they’re experiencing the best case scenario — doing it against their will is not benefiting them.

Understanding Scale

There’s all sorts of bad advice about how people just aren’t trying hard enough to not be poor — if only you saved more money like there is a surfeit of money around to save. Work more like you can add a couple of extra hours to each day or just jam another day into the week. And this guy … who evidently thinks the whole problem is that people don’t understand … scale?

The funniest part to me? This dude wants to start with “you don’t understand scale, I’m gonna educate you …” and then proceeds to not understand scale. Small scale purchases will yield the highest price per pound — someone who is buying tomatoes by the tonne certainly isn’t paying a buck a tomato or even fifty cents a tomato. What’s the price for a tonne of tomatoes? The tomato price per tonne data I’ve found are a little outdated, but lets say $100 a tonne for easy mental math. Even if these tomatoes weigh a pound each (unlikely), then every 2k tomatoes gets you $100. He has about 4 million tomatoes … so 2,000 tonnes of tomatoes @ $100 a tonne grosses $200,000. In addition to not understanding scale, he is not understanding gross v/s net income. And, well, tomatoes.

Even if we ignore the required land (which wouldn’t be trivial — planting 150k tomato plants with adequate spacing is going to be 10+ acres), equipment, and labor required to produce and harvest all of those tomatoes. Say they ripen over a 90 day period (which is super generous in my part of the world, but again pretending it’s reasonable for the sake of argument), you need to move some 44,000 tomatoes A DAY for 90 days. Where are these things going as they get picked? How to I transport them to these hypothetical customers? And who are these customers? Even if every customer buys ten tomatoes a week, I need over 30,000 unique customers (every single one of whom repeats their ten tomato a week purchase for three months straight). Are there actually 30,000 people willing to buy a $10/week tomato subscription for the entire harvest season?

This guy’s hypothetical tomatoes aren’t an example of scale, they’re an example of generational wealth. If you inherited a few thousand acres of land (probably complete with an irrigation system and greenhouses), equipment, warehouses, and a fleet of trucks to move ’em … then maybe you could employ a lot of people for planting, harvesting, and selling at farm markets where you might hope to get something even approaching a buck a tomato. Even then, you aren’t netting hundreds of millions of dollars — you’ve got electrical, transportation, and labor expenses to pay. That’s not building a tomato empire from fifty bucks and a handful of tomato plants — that’s millions of dollars in inherited assets to net maybe a million bucks a year.

Roe v Performance Art

Since the leaked draft overturning Roe v Wade was released, I’ve encountered a number of forums in which women are advocating we all delete any menstruation tracking apps. This seems, to me, like performance art meant as protest. Not an effective solution to the stated problem.

I get the point — people don’t want their data tracked in a place where the state can readily compel production of records. If they have reasonable suspicion that an abortion took place, they can get a warrant for your data. But deleting the app from your phone — that doesn’t actually delete the data on the cloud hosting provider’s side. Deleting the app has the same impact as ceasing to enter new data. Except you’ve inconvenienced yourself by losing access to your old data. Check if an account can be deleted — and learn what the details of ‘delete’ actually mean. In many cases, ‘delete’ means disable and then purge after some delta time elapses. What about backups? For how long would the company be able to produce data if they really needed to?

But before going to extremes to actually delete data, consider if the alternatives are actually any “safer” by your definition. If I were tracking my period on a little paper calendar in my purse or one pinned to the cork board in the rec room? They may get a warrant and seize my paper calendar too. And, really, you could continue to enter “periods” even if they’re not happening. There’s usually a field for ‘notes’ and you could put something in like ‘really painful cramping’ or ‘so many hot flashes’ whenever you actually mean “yeah, this one didn’t happen” — which would make the data the government is able to gather rather meaningless.

On The Coup

We have reached a point where Dick Cheney is making an appearance on the House floor to support his daughter in her belief that attempting a coup is, well, not the pinnacle of American democracy?!?

For a long time, I absolutely believed both parties in the United States thought they were trying to do the right thing for the country. I remember going to a rally against privatizing social security — one of Bush 2’s early initiatives. The local NPR station had a reporter meandering around looking for younger people to interview — looking, specifically, for people who were worried that their retirement wouldn’t include social security. I, on the other hand, knew the history of the social security system. It was started after people lost huge sums of money — some more money than they had (thanks, leveraged buying) in a stock market downturn. The basis of social security is, essentially, that you can realize greater returns in riskier investments. But you can also lose everything in riskier investments, and this program is the backstop against “losing everything”. In that context, how is it reasonable to consider allowing individuals to direct social security funds into riskier investments because they might be able to outperform government bonds?!? But … I got it. We were decades away from the great depression, and years before the crash of 2008/2009. Most people had only experienced upward movement in the market. And the question at hand was really “is this form of insurance against stock market crashes still worth it?”. I could look at pretty much any political debate and understand how both sides had a coherent argument and viewed their position as The Right Thing To Do.

Maybe that’s still true today — but it seems like conservatives have become more adamant about forcing their will on the nation to retain power. To make money. We watched a dude on MSNBC basically admit to participating in a coup attempt not because he was ashamed of his actions. Not because he wanted to make sure everyone understood what exactly happened. But because he wanted to sell his new book. Well, mission accomplished (I guess). He’s managed to get his name out there & we all know he’s got a book. Liberals can buy it to prove there was a coup and conservatives can buy it to see “the receipts” on stealing an election. (Receipts which have been promised on multiple occasions but which have never been produced).

I’m still hopeful that the end result of this mess is a viable third (fourth, or even fifth) party. Maybe some actual fiscal conservatives (not deficit spending dumped into the military industrial complex v/s tax for domestic spending). Some democratic socialist party that makes Bernie seem pretty middle-of-the-road.

Inverse of Citizens United

Representation in the federal government is not equitable — I’ve talked before about how some Senators and Reps represent a lot more people than others. Citizens United farther eroded the influence individual citizens have on the government. But, this past week, I’m beginning to wonder if corporate influence might not force policies supported by a statistical majority that cannot gain enough of a majority in Congress or the Electoral College to have impact.

Businesses don’t care what a thousand acres of land thing. Generally speaking, a company doesn’t consider 280k people in Wyoming as important as 18.6 million in Cali. So, while both groups of people have one Senator … a company looking at losing 18 million customers is a lot more apt to act than one looking at losing 280k customers. Now, obviously, a company would rather avoid conflict and keep both sets of customers. But … if the majority begins to consider inaction offensive? Corporate influence might force a more equitable position for the national majority.

GA SB 202

This particular component of GA SB 202 seems to beg for civil disobedience — first of all, are they really going to throw five hundred people into county jail for handing out water?! What if it’s medical professionals handing out water to prevent dehydration? It wasn’t a gift, it was a prescription for 250cc of water administered orally. Can you bring drinks for friends? The first time Obama ran, I stood on a long queue with friends. One friend ran over to Starbucks and picked up coffees and ice teas for us all. Would that be illegal under this law?

But, more importantly, the law precludes giving of gifts that include food and drink. Can you sell food and water for a penny? Can you barter with food and water? Trade that paperclip/pen/coupon (whatever detritus you’ve got in your pocket or purse/wallet) for a bottle of water?

John Thune’s Six Bucks an Hour

It looks like he’s eliding details for effect. Per NYT:

“In Mr. Thune’s first job, as a busboy, he was paid the legal minimum of $1 an hour. Mr. Thune has said he worked at Star for seven summers, ending up as a cook earning $6 an hour. He used the money he saved to attend Biola College in California.”

He’s got a neat sounding sound bite — I made 6/hr work for me *and* paid for Uni. And, I guess, the point is that you need to move up and get pay increases so you’re making 5x or 6x minimum wage. Republicans tend to be big on the ‘your own bootstraps’ thing without considering the bigger picture.

As a kid, he quite possibly wasn’t paying for housing, electricity, food, heat, clothing, home repairs, medical bills. Maybe he was, I don’t know the guy. But, if he was living at home as a kid … with parents footing all of the ‘adult’ bills? That 6$ an hour went a LOT farther. When I worked in high school, the 60% (or whatever) of my cheque that didn’t go to taxes was for gas (to get to work, so not needed if I wasn’t working) and fun money. Seemed like a lot of money at the time.

And, great, he saved up to pay for Uni. He graduated in 1983 — average tuition, room, and board that year was 4,167. Which was a significant increase from the previous years he’d have been attending. Four years of Uni from 1980-1984, using national average tuition costs, would have been 14,634$. Maybe add in some in books/fees. What that? 20k to get his degree. I was forking over 20k a YEAR tuition, books, housing, and food. And that was only a decade later. 4500$ in 1993 dollars would have been just over 7k in 1996. Because Uni cost has seriously outpaced inflation.

When I left Uni and had to pay for adult things? I was making minimum wage — 4.75$/hr which was increased to 5.15$/hr not too long after I started. I clearly recall *not* being able to make rent on minimum wage. Eating the cheapest (and completely unhealthy) stuff from the cheapest grocery store — which had expensive health ramifications. Taking a second job because, on top of all of the just-to-survive things I needed to buy, I also needed to start repaying my student loans. Without the benefit of a degree because I couldn’t afford to finish Uni. Yeah, I had some lucky breaks that let me take jobs that paid better. I’m not conceited enough to think it was only my brilliance and fortitude that got me out barely-scraping-by jobs. I happened to have gained IT experience in Uni before *everyone* had computer experience. I happened to live in a small enough town that a lot of people in IT knew each other, and I had a friend call me up when he was leaving a job and basically offer me the position. Not to be nice — we weren’t that good of friends — but he had gotten a great job offer within the company. The internal transfer wouldn’t go through, though, unless his boss OK’d it. And his boss was going to be a LOT more willing to sign off on the xfer if there was a replacement employee right there. My phone could have been cut off for non-payment when dude tried to call me. If I didn’t have a credit card, I wouldn’t have been able to buy one nice outfit to wear to the interview. Hell, dude could have called someone else before me.

Your Own Facts: TX Power Edition

I’m not sure how political discourse has any point if everyone maintains their own facts to support their preconceived conclusion. How can you fix a problem when you cannot even agree what the problem is? The power outage in Texas is a prime example. Someone got on Hannity and spouted off about how it’s all the windmill’s fault. Because, evidently, windmills are awful? Froze up and just stopped producing power.

But wind turbines absolutely work in freezing temperatures. See, for instance, Alaska — https://windexchange.energy.gov/states/ak — where it does occasionally get cold. The difference is that they spend more on the installation and winterize the windmills. It’s not *wind turbines* that have a problem, it’s *unwinterized* wind turbines that end up in freezing weather. Same is true of cars (you may need what amounts to an electric blanket for the engine to get a diesel vehicle running in cold weather, and the fuel can still jell at very low temperatures). And people — going outside in a coat, scarf, hat, boots, and women’s gloves seemed like being appropriately dressed for the weather, but I was invariably super cold and hated going outside in winter. Found out that normal women’s gloves don’t have insulation in the fingers (because it is, evidently, more important that my fingers look svelte than that my fingers aren’t nearing frostbite stage) and bought ski gloves. Traded the hat and scarf for a balaclava. Traded the coat for insulated overalls with a coat. Traded cute winter boots for waterproof Mucks. Winter is an awesome time to head outside now. It’s bulky attire, but I’m warm. Sometimes, when we’re shoveling snow in just-below-freezing temps, I’m too warm.

Other production sources shut down because they were inadequately winterized too — natural gas pipelines were blocked with ice, frozen coal piles made it difficult to keep coal plants online, solar installations were covered in snow, frozen pumps limited water to nuclear cooling towers … basically every form of electrical generation experienced limited production in the cold weather.

The benefit of spending more money on a precaution you use once a decade is certainly a valid debate — but the consequence of that decision need to be anticipated, to be accepted … and the problem needs to be communicated accurately. If it would have cost a billion dollars over the past decade (essentially the span since the “last time this happened”) to maintain winterized generation and delivery facilities … we opted to save a billion dollars with the current situation as the trade-off. Voters don’t like that? They can vote for someone who will demand winterization. Voters prefer saving the money, vote for the current people. Sucks for the 49% who vote the other way … but that’s democracy.

But that doesn’t work when individuals have “facts” to support what they want to believe. The reader poll in my county paper today asked who deserves the most blame for the power failure in Texas. 23% say windmills and green energy. Wind facility shutdowns accounted for less than 13% of the outages. I haven’t seen numbers for reduction in solar generation … but wind production is the one being scapegoated.

It took a few days for reporting to include the fact Texas has its own power grid with smaller interconnects to other grids that aren’t sized to pull enough power to cover this outage. Even now, does much reporting include the fact Texas maintains its own grid to avoid federal regulations that would have required some winterization? That’s not lack of regulation, that’s intentionally designing a system to avoid existing regulations. Poor leadership is too vague to be meaningful — poor leadership at ERCOT failing to take some action in the past week or two that would have magically prevented problems? Poor leadership in intentionally maintaining a loosely connected grid that avoided federal regulations to reduce cost? Those are whole different types of “poor leadership” which may or may not be viable paths to prevent this from happening again in 2031.