I built a spreadsheet to model the effect of California state income tax rates on after-tax income and compared California with Washington State, which lacks an income tax.
I would have to earn about $12,000 more in California in order to earn the same after-tax income that I make in Washington State, and even if I did earn that income premium in California, I would likely not be able to save as much money each year because housing is more expensive in big cities in California. If I were to account for all of the cost of living increase, I’d probably need to earn $20,000 more each year in California to save the same amount each that I can in Washington State.
This spreadsheet really illustrates the power that income taxes wield over all of us…who knows, maybe this spreadsheet will even cause someone to move to a lower-tax state!
Click here to see the spreadsheet in a new window.
Note: Someone tipped me off soon after publishing this spreadsheet that I did not account for the fact that earning a higher pre-tax income in California would also potentially put you into a higher federal income tax bracket, and this scenario is not reflected in my spreadsheet (maybe in version 2.0?).
Ann Coulter believes that the two issues that matter most in this presidential election cycle are are 1) repealing Obamacare, and 2) halting illegal immigration. It made me wonder.
Republicans have good reason to oppose Obamacare, but illegal immigration? Not to diminish its importance as an issue, but really? Illegal immigration is more important than foreign policy and our pursuit of obscenely expensive foreign wars? More important than our economy and the job market? More important than our tax system? More important than domestic business regulation or international trade?
I don’t see how illegal immigration, which largely benefits the United States due to its influx of cheap labor, could even land itself in the top five issues facing our nation.
So why does Ann Coulter, the wicked witch of shock-conservative talking heads, think it’s so important?
Then it hit me.
Republican leaders want to counter illegal immigration in order to prevent latinos from voting for Democrats.
Latinos make up 9% of the US voting population, and collectively are growing at a much faster rate than the US population as a whole. They’re a coveted voting demographic who tend to favor Democrats by a wide margin: 65% of latino voters are registered Democrats, while only 22% are registered Republicans. There are two reasons for the demographic’s growth. The first is the group’s unusually high fertility rate. The second is that illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico into the US tend to rear children here, and their children become US citizens upon their birth.
Considering that 45% of US population growth after 2030 is projected to come from latino births and that latino voters strongly favor Democratic candidates, the Republican party is in a bit of a bind. If this trend continues, Democrats could be in a position to consolidate control of the house and the senate for a long time; perhaps as long as they did in the 20th century (from 1933 to 1995). For Republicans, then, restricting illegal immigration is not a fight about the party’s values. The party’s position is not a result of a careful assessment of policy options. Rather, restricting illegal immigration is a fight for the continued existence of the Republican Party, period.
In Washington State, there is an important initiative being put to a public vote that will determine if Washington will maintain its backwards and competition-stifling liquor sales monopoly. It’s called I-1183, and it’s being backed by Republicans (including the Attorney General, Rob McKenna), business leaders (including most notably Costco), libertarians, independents, and the state’s largest newspaper, The Seattle Times. Its detractors primarily fall into two groups: rural social conservatives and national liquor distributors. Big money has been spent on both sides, with most of the money in support of 1183 coming from Costco, and most (if not all) of the money in opposition of 1183 coming from national liquor distributors.
Why do big liquor distributors oppose 1183? Because under the current system, the Washington State Liquor Control Board is the sole buyer of liquor available for sale in the state, which locks in oversized profit margins for the big liquor distributors. If 1183 were to pass, liquor retailers could bargain with liquor distributors for the best prices and could choose not to carry certain brands (or liquor from certain distributors) that carry an excessive markup.
The Costco-financed ‘Yes on 1183′ campaign has been met with tens of thousands of vocal supporters, whereas their opposition seems to have either significantly-less supporters, or supporters who are much less vocal than those in the ‘Yes’ camp.
For an objective comparison, here are the numbers from each sides’ respective Facebook fanpages:
Yes on 1183‘s Facebook Page*:
- 35,147 ‘likes’/fans
- Six fanpages (one official page, five unauthorized/duplicate fanpages each with less than 80 ‘likes’)
- Timeline posts with up to 377 ‘likes’
- Timeline posts with up to 77 comments
- Polls with 1000+ responsesNo on 1183‘s Facebook Page*:
- 1,860 ‘likes’/fans
- Ten fanpages (one official page, nine unauthorized/duplicates; one has 647 ‘likes’, the others have less than 200 ‘likes’ each)
- Timeline posts with up to 58 ‘likes’
- Timeline posts with up to 10 comments
- No polls that I can find*As of 11/7/11 at 12:00am
In summary, 1183 supporters are absolutely trouncing their opponents–on the web, at least.
The ‘Yes’ camp has more than 18 times as many ‘likes’/fans as the ‘No’ camp, 6.5 times more ‘likes’ on its timeline updates/posts, more than 7 times as many peak comments on its timeline posts, and is using polls to great effect.
All this data begs the question…does ‘No on 1183′ have lots of real supporters, or is their campaign using its large budget to falsely create the appearance of grassroots support (also known as astroturfing)? The data on Facebook points to the latter, but we cannot rely on just one far-from-ideal dataset to answer our question. Doing so would be a failure of scientific and statistical rigor because Facebook is likely not representative of the state’s voting population.
There is another problem that complicates the route to finding an answer: public choice theory. The theory illuminates a common problem in democratic politics: minority special interest groups who stand to gain from changes oftentimes make themselves more vocal than those of indifferent majorities with little to lose. This could explain the gap in visible support of 1183–perhaps voters are evenly split on the issue, but the supporters of 1183 just happen to be much more vocal than its opponents.
So, which side is doing the astroturfing?
Neither side of the 1183 issue is totally innocent of astroturfing, but it is ‘No on 1183′ that is certainly guiltier.
Costco’s support for 1183 is largely self-serving, and it just so happens that their call for change has been met with quite a bit of support from individuals and politicians of all types (Democrats excluded). Big liquor distributors are likewise self-serving in their opposition to 1183, but because they’ve found themselves on the wrong side of a wedge issue that has widespread support, they’ve had to resort to a determined campaign of misinformation in an effort to confuse voters about what would happen if 1183 were to pass, and they’ve attempted to create the illusion that all firefighters, first-responders, and law enforcement professionals in the state are on their side, which isn’t true, either.
Oddly enough, my favorite news source (The New York Times) is one that I often find myself at odds with. Usually it’s limited to economist and champion-of-the-left Paul Krugman, what with his defense of big government and socialist policies, but occasionally I find other problems with their reporting.
While reading Binyamin Appelbaum’s piece for NYT’s The Caucus blog, I came upon an egregious error that I must point out:
Subprime Mortgage Lending
Earlier in the [Republican] debate, Michele Bachmann suggested that the federal government caused the boom in subprime mortgage lending by pushing banks to lower “platinum level” lending standards.
The assertion [...] mischaracterizes the historical relationship between the government and banks. Regulators can sometimes prevent banks from acting, but there is almost no evidence that the government can push banks to make loans they don’t want to make. This point has been underscored over the last two years, as the Obama administration has begged and pleaded with banks to start making loans, and banks have largely declined to do so.
Banks did make subprime loans in large numbers, and the reason they did so, according to their own executives, was that they saw a chance to make lots of money.
Has Mr. Appelbaum ever heard of the Community Reinvestment Act? It’s often been pointed to as one of the partial causes of the subprime mortgage/debt meltdown of 2007-2011. The CRA requires banks to lend money to lower-income and less-creditworthy borrowers, which consequently increases future loan losses and imperils the creditworthiness of banks, potentially risking the health of the entire economy.
No, this is not a satirical article drawn from The Onion:
REYKJAVIK, Iceland — A polar-bear display for the zoo. Free towels at public swimming pools. A “drug-free Parliament by 2020.” Iceland’s Best Party, founded in December by a comedian, Jón Gnarr, to satirize his country’s political system, ran a campaign that was one big joke. Or was it? In the depressed aftermath of the country’s financial collapse, the Best Party emerged in May as the biggest winner in Reykjavik’s elections, with 34.7 percent of the vote, and Gnarr — who also promised a classroom of kindergartners he would build a Disneyland at the airport — is the fourth mayor in four years of a city that is home to more than one-third of the island’s 320,000 people.
In his acceptance speech he tried to calm the fears of the other 65.3 percent.
“No one has to be afraid of the Best Party, because it is the best party. If it wasn’t, it would be called the Worst Party or the Bad Party. We would never work with a party like that,” he said.
His party won six of the City Council’s 15 seats, and Gnarr needed a coalition partner, but he ruled out any party whose members had not seen all five seasons of “The Wire.”
The Best Party’s members include a who’s who of Iceland’s punk-rock scene. The new government granted free admission to swimming pools for everyone younger than 18.
“Just because something is funny doesn’t mean it isn’t serious,” said Gnarr, whose foreign-relations experience includes a radio show in which he regularly crank-called the White House, the CIA, the FBI and police stations in the Bronx, N.Y., to see if they had found his wallet.
The polar-bear idea, for example, was not totally facetious. As a result of climate change, a few polar bears have swum to Iceland in recent years and been shot. Better, Gnarr said, to capture them and put them in the zoo.
The free towels? That evolved from an idea to attract more tourists by attaining spa status for the city’s public pools, which have seawater and sulfur baths. For accreditation under certain European Union rules, however, a spa has to offer free towels, so that became a campaign slogan.
Gnarr, born in Reykjavik as Jón Gunnar Kristinsson to a policeman and a kitchen worker, was not a model child. At 11, he decided school was useless to his future as a circus clown or pirate and refused to learn anymore. At 14, he was sent to a boarding school for troubled teenagers and stayed until he was 16, when he left school for good.
Last winter, he opened a Best Party website and started writing surreal “political” articles.
The campaign released a popular video set to Tina Turner’s “The Best,” in which Gnarr posed with a stuffed polar bear and petted a rock, while joining his supporters in singing about the Best Party.
“A lot of us are singers,” said Óttarr Proppé, the third-ranking member of the Best Party, who was with the cult rock band HAM and the punk band Rass.
Proppé now sits on the city’s executive board, where he will be deciding matters such as how much money to allocate for roads.
My thoughts on this infographic, posted up by Jenny:
“Interesting graphic; however, the President (or the party he/she is a member of) has little to do with any job gains or losses during his/her term. The economy is a beast much larger and more complex than the federal government, and consequently cannot be lorded over by the chief of the Executive Branch.
A good example is the economy under President Bill Clinton, which soared (but some or much of it was a bubble). There is no way that such a massive rise in wealth could be attributed to one man (such as President Clinton). His influence is relatively small; a drop in the bucket.
Actions that affect the economy are so numerous (the Fed’s interest rate policy, the behavior of private-sector banks, changes in regulatory policy/legislation, consumer behavior, currency fluctuations, behavior of other central banks/treasuries, the business cycle, et cetera) that it would be overly simplistic to isolate a single action (the election of one President, or another) as the root cause of an economic malaise (or an economic boom), as this graphic clearly attempts to do. But considering the source of the infograph (it was created by Obama’s own administration, right?), I’m not surprised that it’s so self-congratulatory…it’s really downright propagandist and sort of (intellectually) disgusting.”
Prolific blogger Om Malik posted this provocative, loaded question for his readers to answer:
Does anyone else feel that World Economic Forum in Davos is elitist, all talk, no action, and a perfect representation of crony capitalism? The off the record nature of conversations only bolsters my argument. Talk away folks.
The older I get, the more I realize the value of conversations conducted in secret. One doesn’t have to worry about the oversensitive media creating an overblown polemic over some logical, agreeable, yet also out-of-context and outwardly controversial statement (Ex. Harry Reid’s observant remark that Barack Obama became the country’s first black president because he had “no Negro dialect.”)
Likewise, Obama’s meeting with House Republicans this week in Baltimore should’ve been (and indeed was initially planned to be) conducted in secret in order to foster dialogue, but was opened to the media as a result of secret meetings’ perceived incompatibility with Obama’s pledge to be the most transparent administration ever.
It just goes to show that even seemingly universally-positive values like transparency can become negative as you approach their extremes (liberalism, socialism, libertarianism, and conservatism are also examples of ideologies that become dysfunctional, regressive, and destructive as you approach implementations of their extremes).
Anyways, getting back to Davos, you are exactly right to call them elitists. Davos is where elitists feel comfortable amongst their brethren. And you’re also correct in your characterization of Davos as “all talk … no action.” Davos is basically a week-long press conference for elitists to trumpet their ideas and pat themselves on the back, coupled with receptions and parties, networking, and a little skiing. Little is actually accomplished AT Davos. However, the value of Davos can be seen in two key ways:
1) its benefit of expanded dialogue between business/political/cultural leaders,
and 2) the inception of many relationships between the elitist attendees that flower into real-life business relationships, which “greases the wheels of capitalism,” by the creation of useful partnerships.
I write this on a BlackBerry engineered in Canada and built in China, inside a centi-million dollar condominium building financed by major transnational banks. The existence of these two simple things (a cellphone and a condo building) are shining examples of the benefit to society that comes from cross-border business relationships–some of them made at places like Davos. So complain all you like, but the truth is that you likely benefit greatly from the World Economic Forum in Davos, whether you recognize it or not.
(I should note that I am not advocating corrupt crony capitalism between business and government. Rather, I’ve tried to illustrate my belief that elitists hosting a meeting like this and fostering incestuous business relationships is not in any way negative, nor should pejorative words like crony capitalism be used to describe the WEF.)
“Iran on Wednesday test-fired [the Sajjil-2,] an upgraded version of its most advanced missile, which is capable of hitting Israel and parts of Europe, in a new show of strength aimed at preventing any military strike against it amid the nuclear standoff with the West.
The name “Sajjil” means “baked clay,” a reference to a story in the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in which birds sent by God drive off an enemy army attacking the holy city of Mecca by pelting them with stones of baked clay,” and this religious reference is a clear sign that Iran shouldn’t be trusted with missiles or nuclear technology. Iran is a theocracy, and hence they have different motivations than secular democracies. Instead of attempting to maintain order and advance their society, their goals may be dictated by an outdated and silly text (the Koran), hence they cannot be trusted with weapons.
It’s frightening that ideologues have taken a country hostage by appealing to their people’s devotion to an ancient text.
One of the reasons that the United States has been relatively stable since its founding (relied on but a single constitution, et cetera) is that we have a completely secular government that eschews fundamentalism. Thomas Jefferson, in a treaty with Tripoli (Barbary pirates), illustrated it best:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of [Muslims]; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Perhaps a lack of fundamentalist ideals means peace, in a sense.
Iraq was a war that America should have never fought. But it was a war that was winnable. Afghanistan, on the other hand, is untamed, vast, and unconquerable.
Afghanistan has successfully resisted being conquered by Alexander the Great, imperial Great Britain, the USSR, and the United States is poised to add its name to the list. The country’s resilience has nothing to do with its technology or infrastructure, but rather its geography: the population is so spread out that it cannot be easily secured by troops. Taming Afghanistan is sort of like providing security for ships through the Gulf of Aden; when you’re dealing with an area that large and security forces cannot be everywhere at once, security measures are easily thwarted.
In Iraq, the country had a valuable asset that can be used to pay for infrastructure and security: its massive oil deposits. Afghanistan also has a profitable export industry, but it’s an industry that cannot be controlled and taxed by the government. That industry is opium. The earnings from Afghanistan’s opium production flow to warlords, corrupt politicians, and militant insurgents–all of them enemies of development and progress.
The third difficulty in securing Afghanistan lies across the border with Pakistan. Pakistan’s Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and Northwest Frontier Province are largely rural and are under the de facto control of Pashtun Pakistani Taliban. This means that, if the international community were able to secure and stabilize Afghanistan, there would still be militant Taliban fighters spilling over the border from Pakistan making trouble. A more ideal solution would be for the international community to occupy both Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, root out the Taliban in both places, and train locals and build infrastructure so that the areas could thrive without the Taliban. Proud Pakistani voters wouldn’t approve of that kind of operation, and their pragmatic President kowtows to his voters wishes.
All in all, the US occupation of Afghanistan looks to be a risky gamble.
Bir Tawil, which lies between Egypt and Sudan, is a curiousity. It is claimed by neither Egypt nor Sudar, and in fact, each nation insists that the land belongs to the other. With nobody claiming the land, a sovereign nation could be formed there. You know, if you were thinking of creating your own principality or kingdom.
Due to an apparently fraudulent election in Iran, an interesting situation has presented itself. One in which the world would be much better off if the man controlling the White House was former-President George W. Bush.
One of the most hated Presidents in recent memory (if not the entirety of American history), George W. Bush managed to divide the nation into hostile camps of partisanship. He led a war into a foreign country that did not attack America, going against the traditional anti-war stance the Republican party had held for much of U.S. history (including Vietnam). He changed tax policy to increase the amount of earnings that the rich could keep, which both inductively and effectively led to increasing wealth inequality and disparity, fanning the flames of class warfare . And he was a foreign policy hawk, largely due to the construction of his cabinet which included prominent gung-ho warriors like Elliott Abrams, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz.
Barack Obama, in contrast, is a foreign policy diplomat. His message as well as his actions indicate a desire to show a new face to the world: an America that engages other nations constructively as an observer, but neither infringes on nations’ sovereignty nor involves itself in their internal affairs.
Enter the 2009 Presidential Elections of Iran. It’s come to light that Mr. Ahmedinejad, the victor, may have actually come in 3rd in votes. The vote was certified within three hours of being counted, whereas Iranian election law dictates that they be certified no earlier than three days after an election, so as to allow for appeals on grounds of corruption or voting-tally errors. The security services have green-lighted a provision to allow police to fire upon demonstrators and protesters who dare question the results, and have already begun shooting protesters in exactly this fashion.
It is time for a change of the political system in Iran, the first major change since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. A young and resurgent Iran demands Democracy and modernity, and now needs to rip the power away from the entrenched theocracy, the Mullahs, and the (Grand) Ayatollah (Al-Sistani).
Equally important to the Iranian people’s revolutionary actions would be American intervention. The United States’ CIA is widely-known as being responsible for the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq in August 1953, and is just as able to foment a revolution in Tehran now as they were then.
The best outcome of these election irregularities would be a peaceful popular uprising and a revolution. The mullahs, however, have other ideas, and would be a strong adversary during a revolution. The mullahs would call up the military to institute martial law in order to keep the revolutionary hordes down. Because of the mullahs and their power, the most likely endeavour to bring about revolution in Iran would require outside (U.S.) intervention in addition to a popular uprising.
With Barack Obama sitting in the White House being the calculated and ‘safe’ President that he has shown himself to be time after time, it is not likely that we will see strong support from him for an aggressive U.S. response/intervention. Doing that would go against not only the principles that he ran on and his outspoken stance against the war in Iraq, but against his subconscious self that has been shaped by his experiences in politics and law for decades.
Barack Obama is not the President who will help Iran over the pass and into the Valley of Liberty and Prosperity.
But who is?
The first man who comes to mind is none other than George W. Bush. Bush’s father, George Herbert Walker Bush served for a time as Director of Central Intelligence under Gerald Ford, and knows of the CIA’s capabilities regarding illegal and unauthorized activities and intervention on foreign soil (he was actually called in by Ford to investigate and clean-up the agency of this kind of activity). Bush 41 also led the charge of Desert Storm into Kuwait and Iraq in 1990 and is likewise quite willing to use the military and the CIA in defense of America’s interests abroad. Bush 41′s son, George W. Bush, was likewise a war-hawk, willing to intervene for global interests and to ensure that authoritarian hegemony has no safe harbor in our modern world. He and his cabinet led the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 in addition to the occupation of Afghanistan, and managed the occupations until his two-term presidency ended in January 2009.
If George W. Bush were the President of the United States, he and his cabinet would likely support and execute a covert intervention in Iran and supply the Iranian revolutionaries with intelligence, supplies, and money. Such a development would be best for Iran and the world, but because Barack Obama is such a measured and calculating anti-war President, American intervention is unlikely. Iran and the world will doubtlessly suffer because of this cruel joke of history.
It’s now up to the Iranian people to rise up, as Ukraine did in 2004, and do what must be done–with or without the help of a passive and unassertive America.
Cameron Newland is a mobile phone expert and technology writer from Seattle, Washington. You can subscribe to his blog’s RSS feed by clicking here, and follow his Tweets here. He can be reached at cameron at cameronnewland dot com.
I propose curbing gun violence not by further restricting the availability of guns but by expanding and reorienting it. Men would still be forbidden to walk the streets armed, in accordance with current laws, but women would be required to carry pistols in plain sight whenever they are out and about.
Were I to board the subway late at night, around Lincoln Center perhaps, and find it filled with women openly carrying Metropolitan Opera programs and Glock automatics, I’d feel snug and secure. A train packed with armed men would not produce the same comforting sensation. Maybe that’s because men have a disconcerting tendency to shoot people, while women display admirable restraint. Department of Justice figures show that between 1976 and 2005, 91.3 percent of gun homicides were committed by men, 8.7 percent by women.
Excerpted from Give Women Guns by Randy Cohen, in the NYT Sunday Magazine.
Link courtesy Justin Ricaurte.
A woman in a hot-air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”
The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above a ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.
“She rolled her eyes and said, “You must be a Republican.”
“I am,” replied the man. “How did you know?”
“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help to me.”
The man smiled and responded, “You must be an Obama Democrat.”
“I am,” replied the balloonist. “How did you know?”
“Well,” said the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going.. You’ve risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You’re in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it’s my fault.”
Via Calling John Galt.
Hello. Welcome to Washington State. Do you print outdated news on dead trees while fleecing the advertising industry? If you answered “Yes”, we’ll give you a 40% tax break. That’s now the law in Washington.
In the last 3 years, US ad spending shrank from $230 billion to $222 billion. The two most volatile categories was the Internet and newspapers. (Everyone else pretty much stayed the same.) Internet ad revenues grew from $17B to $26B, while newspaper ad revenues shrank from $47B to $34B. In essence, the Internet started eating newspapers’ lunch in the order of $9 billion. Make no mistake. This is an epic battle to the bankruptcy filing.
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