"Don't hurt people and don't take their stuff" - Matt Kibbe


Perfect Should Never be the Enemy of Better

By Grant Davies

The tax debate is back. Well, I guess it never left and it never will. But we can't let that stop us from talking it to death. After all, that's what blogs are for.

I have made three posts in a row about a certain crypto-currency that shall remain nameless because people are tired of me talking it to death. So, DEATH TO TAXES! At least for this post.

Meanwhile, let's make a few points about the recent tax legislation, as long as everyone else is talking it to death.

Obviously those who passed it (Republicans) are saying it's the best thing ever, as usual.

Those who oppose it (Democrats) are claiming the end of the world, as usual. 

Democrats say the stuff they always say. Basically they say that because of it we may be looking at starving babies, starving seniors, no health care, school closings, no fire department, no police, faster global warming, increased alien abductions, more Russian meddling, increased free speech, more student debt, more guns, more deportations, more walls, and general chaos. Did I miss anything?

Okay, I made some of that stuff up. They only hinted at those things this time out. But what they are actually saying again is even more inane. Oh, the old canard of "tax cuts for the rich" is still being used but the most preposterous worry of all is that this will "blow a hole in the deficit." (I've never been sure what the hell that meant since I always thought if you didn't like something and you had a bomb, you should blow a hole in it.)

The complaint might have more credibility if it wasn't being complained about by the very party that advocates more spending in perpetuity with no concern whatsoever for the inevitable consequences.

But let's get to my point/opinion about this new tax law. It sucks. Surprised? Only if you don't know me very well.

It sucks because it is merely toying with the code again and adjusting the numbers. What we really need, and what I have repeatedly asked that fictional old fat man for each Christmas, is a new tax system. Getting rid of the entire tax code, all 73,954 pages. (2014, it's more now) Just like the pony I asked him for as a kid, he never brings it. But, I digress. 

Let's contemplate the worst case scenario. What is better, the same old system, or the same old system with lower tax rates? Yep, the old system with rates not being reduced is the worst case. So should we make the perfect the enemy of the not quite as bad? Not in my mind.

And since I'm an old stock trader, I love graphs. Let's look at this simple one and see if we can figure anything out.

Other than making a good point, there is something wrong with this illustration. It's wrong because perfection would be a new system, and that would be more than barely noticeable. But we all get the idea, I think.

To wrap things up, I would like to make a much bigger point. It has to do with the level of taxation. 

When someone is asked what the level of taxation is, they usually go looking for statistics about how many taxpayers there are and dividing it by the total amount paid. I'm sure there are many more calculations that could be done, but it's something like that.

But as any old economist can tell you, (I'm only one of those things) there is a much simpler way to find the level. However, politicians never bring it up because it lays the whole stinking deception bare.

Simply add up all the government spending and the total amount is the level of taxation. Since the government isn't Santa Claus and there is no Easter bunny either, and since government has no funds of its own, every thing they spend money on must be taxed from the citizens.

Wait, you say....what about what they borrow or print? And what about those pesky subsidies and trade barriers and other gifts to favored businesses or unions?  The answer is, some of the people being taxed haven't even been born yet. And when the FED inflates the money supply by printing dollars, the amount of the decline in your purchasing power is tax as well. Also, any law or regulation that cause you to pay more for a good or service than you otherwise would have is also a tax. A tricky one, but a tax none-the-less.

If you guessed that answer correctly, you get to tell it to a liberal or other pinhead in a smug voice or a snarky meme.

So, the tax cut sucks, but not as much as if they didn't do it. The real answer to lowering taxes is to cut spending.  That would be a perfect way to deal with it. And it would be more than barely noticeable.

So screw this tax cut. It sucks because it's a trick. 


Bitcoin is Safer

Julie nails it.

 But on a more serious note..

As the inevitable and numerous warnings from govt about the dangers of buying bitcoin are becoming a cacophony, try to remember that these are the same people who urge you to buy Powerball lotto tickets from them.

I'm not certain anyone who invested (not traded) in bitcoin has lost money.... yet.

But the odds are a tad better than one in 292 million in the commodity that they ARE urging you to buy.

Taking advice from the government is like,,,,well,,,taking advice from the government.


Skip the Bull

By Grant Davies

I was going to call this post "Skip the Bullshit - Oh Wait, It's All Bullshit" but that was too long and probably a tad over the top. One thing we never do on this site is say stuff that's over the top. Oh wait, that's bullshit too.

So, I had lunch with a good friend recently and he told me about this series on TV called "Adam Ruins Everything" so I decided to look it up on YouTube and I wasn't disappointed.

I mean, maybe this guy is full of bullshit too, but I'm good with that because the more I learn, the more I realize that most of what I always thought was true was bullshit all along. And why should he be any different?

This all arose out of a conversation (ok, that's bullshit, it was more like a bitch session by me about science being mostly bullshit while he listened with a look of dull disinterest on his face, but I digress) concerning bad science that I have been talking about, ad-nauseam, since I started to do research about scientific method.

One big thing I learned in my research is that everything we have been told about what we should eat is bullshit, but that for a future post.

Anyway, you can watch this one and maybe we can bullshit about it next time we have a beer together. I'm buying...and you know what that is.


Bitcoin Revisited - A Simpler Explanation

Just click the picture to see the current price

By Grant Davies

Some of you still seem to be confused about Bitcoin. I'm not sure why because we covered this in an earlier post.

But not to worry, your old trusty blog master has hunted the internet to find this really short and concise explanation. After you see this, the light will go on and you'll probably get on board.

It won't cost many US dollars as you can plainly see by the price above. And the picture is also a handy link to keep track of the price going forward as it has it's small fluctuations. For some reason the short video below can't be embedded so you'll have to watch it by clicking the picture below.

The rude Facebook page that produced the video probably didn't want me stealing their stuff. Stingy bastards.

Click the pic


There Should be a Tax on Disingenuous Analysis

Editors note: This post, by our guest blogger Seth, hits the target. As usual. The title of this post is mine, not his. His title is "Needs More Work". Precisely.
By Seth
This article on QZ.com is disingenuous and not persuasive. It’s headline: The Republican tax bill punishes American families who use public schools.
Under both the GOP Senate’s nearly 500-page bill (pdf) and the House version, the amount that US households pay in state income taxes (which can be as high as 13% in states like California) and local taxes is no longer deductible on federal income tax forms, with the exception of property taxes up to $10,000.
Making state and local taxes no longer deductible from federal income taxes essentially subjects US households to “double taxation,” by taxing them twice on the income they earn, according to a report (pdf) from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), a non-partisan group of state and local finance professionals from the US and Canada.
Why do I think the article is disingenuous? For a few reasons.
First, they don’t tell us how many people will be affected. Only about 30% even claim this deduction.
Second, they don’t mention that what people lose from this deduction, they will gain some, all or more back in the changes in the standard deduction and tax rates.
Third, they don’t mention how many taxpayers will still get to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes.

When you take the above into account, I suspect that the impact of the change is minimal.
The authors also claim that the removal of this deduction will pressure citizens to lower their taxes, which could be devastating to school district budgets.
That made me LOL.
First, because I highly doubt that would happen. By the time you take the factors I mentioned above into account, it wouldn’t be worth enough people’s time to do that.
Second, if they did pressure local school districts to lower taxes, good for them. They should hold their school districts accountable. This is how the world should work.
Finally, the authors don’t even mention that one of the 2nd or 3rd order consequences of this deduction is already offset in higher home prices, which is a pretty well-known and accepted fact in the economics world.
So, if you do pay more taxes because of losing this deduction you will likely gain it back in home affordability.
Overall, I suspect the individual impact of this change in the tax code will have a minimal financial impact on most folks.

I could be convinced otherwise. But, this article falls well short of making that case. This article is a good example of the type of paper my high school composition teacher would have handed back with “Needs More Work” written on it. Unfortunately, the standard teachers used to hold students to, don’t seem to apply in journalism these days.

Seth has a wonderful blog. You can reach it using the link on the right. I suggest you do.


By Grant Davies

Is Bitcoin fools gold? Is Bitcoin a new paradigm? Is it understandable? Are most people disregarding it because they don't understand it? Are many people disregarding it because they don't like change? Are governments terrified of it? If so, why? So many questions. So few answers. I certainly don't have them.

Recently a guy named Stiglitz proved that Nobel Prizes ain't what they used to be when he weighed in on whether the governments who control all the money should outlaw Bitcoin (of course) to avoid losing power. (That's not exactly his stated reason, but in my opinion, it's the actual reason.) If I ruled over everyone else's money to my own great advantage I'd be contemplating that challenge to my power as well. The poor over-educated, but confounded, old guy doesn't even understand that trying to outlaw it is as futile as abolition was.

That introduction aside, let's take a peek at a YouTube presentation that attempts to explain some things about Bitcoin. It's worth the trouble because if we are still very confused after watching it, we won't be worse off. I'm a bit on an expert in confusion myself. Sadly there is no Nobel Prize for that.

A friend, Bill Ulivieri, who does understand a thing or two about Bitcoin, posted the video on his Facebook page and I thank him for being able to present it here for your contemplation.

No matter what you conclude about Bitcoin, I bet you never imagined a future that looks like the one described in the presentation. Mankind never seems to see the big changes coming.

If you win the bet, I might pay you in block-chain..er..Bitcoin..or something.......


The Donner Party

By Grant Davies

The Pelosi/Conyers affair (as I have just named it) is the equivalent of a Political Donner party.

As long as your fellow travelers are dead anyway you may as well eat them to save your own skin.

This is what just happened as Pelosi threw her old buddy John Conyers under the pictured bus because the people paying her fare on the bus might stop doing so if she didn't solve the conundrum of being loyal to her cabal or staying politically viable.

She chose to eat Conyers. Wise move.

PS  I couldn't resist delighting in some snarky fun when I came across the picture below even though it's in bad taste. I guess I ain't very PC.


Three Card Monty

By Grant Davies

Very few would be surprised to learn that I'm not a Trump admirer. Having said that, maybe I don't give him enough credit for political savvy.

His incessant tweets and adolescent behavior may indeed be a grand strategy of perpetual distraction from actual important topics and events. The media sure falls for it like a bunch of rubes watching a three card Monty game. 

All politicians try to do this. Some are better at it than others. Trump may be making it into an art form.

I'm not saying it's so, merely that it might be.


Take a Knee

Possibly the last thing anyone needs is another know-it-all to pontificate about the recent controversy regarding professional athletes taking a knee during the national anthem.

I'll leave the debate about the merits or "demerits" to others because my opinion on those things is superfluous at this point. Battle lines have been drawn and the war rages on.

Of course I have feelings about the issue, it's just that I feel differently about different aspects of it. That may seem like the safe route, but it actually guarantees that I will piss off everyone at least a little bit. It's familiar territory for me. Anyway, someone else has already said whatever I might say and who the hell needs an echo of emotional outcries?

So when deciding to put in my two cents (one dollar after inflation) I thought I would share what might be the possible positive results of the controversy.

First, it's the controversy itself that is positive. That's right, the controversy has brought the issue of free speech back into the conversation for those willing to listen past the noise to hear the sounds of an honest debate concerning free speech.

One part of that debate is the one about football players. (Yes I understand that some do and some don't think it's a free speech issue) Another is so called "safe zones" on college campuses. One more is the shouting down of opposing opinions on any range of issues so that others are unable to hear differing viewpoints. That also includes the attempts to prevent invited speakers from communicating with interested parties on campus and elsewhere. Finally, so called "Whistle blowing" is a contentious issue. You can probably think of others.

The debate needs to be refreshed regularly lest future generations forget why we have a first amendment and why we should constantly examine what it means.

One other possible positive that came to mind was my own debate with myself about whether or not I wanted to continue to watch sports on TV when I am not getting what I expected from the experience.

For me, sports are a distraction from unpleasant reports about politicians and other nonsense. When I turn on Fox or MSNBC (almost never for either) I don't expect to see a football game. When I turn on sports I don't expect to see politics. Either one of those things causes me to lose interest. I'm losing interest lately.

So I decided to think about un-watching sports again until the whole thing gets sorted out. Oh wait! I just remembered that tonight is the Bears / Packers game. I guess I'll just tune in after the kickoff. (Someone just lost the debate between me and myself, but I'm not sure who.)

I think I'll take a knee when the Bears commit their first turnover.


Discussion Question, Part Two

A few people weighed in on the first question in the previous post.

The answer we were looking for (not necessarily the correct answer, since the question was general in nature) was; "NO, people should not be punished if they have done nothing wrong."

The question it beggared was; Should people who have done nothing to deserve reward be rewarded? Unlike the first question I think the answer to that question is somewhat blurred in many minds.

As a society we reward many who aren't deserving. It always leads to unintended consequences for society even if the consequences for those doing the rewarding are clear once we ask ourselves why they are handing out the rewards. On this point the answer is; government trades our money as a reward for political power via votes.

This rather circuitous path to my point, not to mention the garbled and awkward process, has probably bored you to a blank stare by now. So let's get to the conclusion.

When politicians give undeserved rewards to companies after suckering us into believing it's for our own good they achieve their intended purposes, not ours.

The answer to the second question is, NO.

Subsidies as payments for power are an abuse of power and wrong. No matter who is being subsidized. Whether it's corporations, small businesses or individuals, the results always have consequences. Usually bad consequences. So politicians are being rewarded for bad behavior.

By reading this you have been punished without guilt, or rewarded without merit. Only you can judge that.

I always urge people to reject the practice of government subsidies and punishments. I suggest starting from the most expensive, corporate subsidies. Only then should we be working down to buying people off with others' money. Both are horrible. One costs more than the other and is easier to stop.

As always, your comments are solicited.


Discussion Question

It may seem like a silly question to which virtually everyone knows the answer, but it's not. It's a question that begs another question.

Question: Should a person who has done nothing wrong be punished?

PS...Just because the question might be answered differently by different people does not mean that they don't know the correct answer.

Disclaimer...I didn't make up this question.

PPS...There is a comment section below.


Sugar is Addictive and We Are All Addicted

I don't agree with 100% of what Lustwig says, but I agree with the vast majority of it.

I wouldn't have been able to agree or disagree if I had not watched it and a lot of other opinions on the topic as well. What a ridiculous thing to say! So obvious it need not be said.

Except that most humans are resistant to change, particularly in regard to their own comfortable habits. Therefore, they do not read or watch things that threaten to force them to make uncomfortable choices.

It wouldn't matter unless the consequences for our own health and that of our children were not so profound. I think it matters.


This Blog is a Failure

By Grant Davies

When I first started this blog back in 2008 (yes, it has been that long) it looked different than it does now. A lot has changed over the years.

I don't write as much anymore but I don't think that caused the failure. My writing was never very good (in some cases dreadful) but people didn't seem to mind too much if the message I was sending got through.

I will opine that the writing has gotten less dreadful over the years. So the writing itself probably didn't cause the failure. The failure was in the concept, not necessarily the execution.

The current description at the top of the page explains "This is not a political site. This is an anti-political site. Our purpose is to advance civil society and the freedom philosophy and perhaps have a little fun while we're at it." And that is true now. I can't even remember what it was before I changed it to that. But the title of the blog tells what I really wanted the blog to become.

"What we Think and Why" referred to my desire that people could read what I wrote and then comment. What "we" think referred to everyone who read the blog, not just my opinion. The "why" part was my hope that people would not just spout off, agreeing or disagreeing, but explaining why they thought what they thought. Perhaps they would even include links to the articles or studies that explained why.

I was hoping for thoughtful discussion. It didn't happen to any acceptable degree. A few people (not too many) commented on the posts a bit in the beginning. They mostly do not anymore. Those who did were mostly agreeing with me. Affirmation was not my goal.

So, the site has become what I think and why. Question is, who cares? I try to make the topics compelling, but my opinions don't pass the "compelling" test. I post things that I suspect many people haven't spent much time thinking about, much less reading about. The idea wasn't to educate people. After all, who the heck am I to do that? It was an effort to expose people to articles, authors, and concepts they didn't usually address. That part was mostly a success I think.

But the failure was in the communication part. What we've got here, is failure to communicate. And I'm not sure exactly why it works better on some social media, like FaceBook, than it does on this blog.

Anyone who has a thoughtful opinion about what they think about that and why, is invited to comment below. I don't expect a flood of replies because, in that regard, this blog is a failure.


Shame on Me

"Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?" --- Martin Luther King, Jr. 

By Grant Davies

In April 1963, only a few days after my thirteenth birthday, Martin Luther King was sitting in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, writing a letter to some clergymen. The letter he wrote was not on my radar screen. I was preparing to graduate from elementary school.

Looking back now I only vaguely recall hearing his name. I certainly didn't know anything about him. I remember later hearing that he was a "negro agitator." It didn't sound like a good thing to be.

But I had other things on my mind. I was alternately terrified and anxious to attend high school in a few months. I cared about girls and my paper route. As the next few years went by I became more aware of who he was but my focus was still on girls and my various jobs.

I wonder now if my outlook on life would have been somewhat different if I had read that letter and had the maturity to understand its contents back then. I'll never know.

Today, I saw a post on Facebook from a freedom advocate with whom I am acquainted. His name is Ken Prazak. He confessed: "I am a bit ashamed to say that I had never read this all the way through. I regard it as one of the greatest arguments for freedom and justice ever written. I look at it as a universal argument, not only for the "negro" but for all mankind." He was, of course, referring to that same letter written in that Birmingham jail cell.

Now I'm sixty-six years old and I guess it's never too late. I decided to follow his lead and read it in its entirety.

I agree with his comment about the letter. I read it. Shame on me for not reading it sooner.

Letter from a Birmingham jail.