Look At It This Way (#LAITW)

Archive for September, 2014

? Million Americans Not Working

by on Sep.30, 2014, under Do the Math, Words Have Meanings

How do you define unemployed?

The official unemployment rate is down to 6.1%. That’s what they say. They also say that there are but 9.6 million people out of work. They use a very specific (and I’d say misleading) unemployment calculation, and it doesn’t reflect what us regular folk would think of as unemployed.

Try, instead, what they call the U-6 number. That gets closer as it includes not just the unemployed searching for jobs, but also the underemployed and those who have flat out quit looking for work (but would work if they could). The U-6 number is over 12% these days. That’s closer, at 20 million plus unemployed.

Add in students who should be working, immigration effects, and such and the unemployment rate starts pushing 20%. Now we’re getting closer to 30 million out of work.

There are actually 90+ million adults (>16), out of about 250 million, who are not working, including retirees, stay at home parents, etc. To the extent that any of these is on social security, medicare, welfare, or the like, that’s a current taxpayer burden.

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The immorality of overspending on environmental protection

by on Sep.25, 2014, under Do the Math, Ethics / Morality

There’s a right size for everything. Both too much and too little can be too bad.

Money spent over protecting is money spent immorally. It’s money that would have been far better spent on real problems.

Let’s say that we can show that 2 ppm SO2 in the air is harmful. And, there is no evidence that 0.2 ppm SO2 in the air has any harmful effects. Requiring plants to scrub emissions to 0.02 ppm as opposed to 0.2 ppm is wasting money. And the amounts of money spent to get that “last little bit” can be outrageous compared to getting to a reasonable emission. The difference between the money spent getting to reasonable and getting to unreasonable is money immorally spent. It’s wrong to force the emitter to cough that much extra up, and it’s wrong to mandate that it be spent on “just in case”.

So, yes, the details matter. You do have to do the math. If the evidence changes regarding what’s harmful and what isn’t, then fine; reevaluate. Otherwise, find better fish to fry.

But then, I’m conservative.

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Budgets and deficits and debts… Oh my!

by on Sep.24, 2014, under Analogies

This might prove a fun beginning. Dave Ramsey made this analogy of a home budget situation that reflects the federal state of affairs in 2011:

Income: $55,000

Expenses: $96,500

Overspending by: $41,500

Debt: $366,000

The rhetorical question that usually follows is something like: “Who’d run their household budget like that?”

The problem is not so much the debt (many people have mortgages on their homes of that magnitude), but the amount of overspending – not living within the means.

If you multiply the numbers above by about 39 million (!), that’s what was happening within the federal government in 2011. To be fair, there are problems with comparing the federal budget to a household budget. Here are two discussions along those lines: The Federal Budget is NOT like a Household Budget: Here’s Why and Why the federal budget can’t be managed like a household budget. My feeling? Just because the federal government can borrow more readily than a family can, and just because it has more assets than a family does, doesn’t mean it should overspend.

And I think we should be careful about assessing the government’s assets. For instance, I don’t think private enterprise should be counted as an asset of the government (i.e. in GDP) just because it can tax it to death or grab it outright. Actual government assets, like oil fields on federally owned property, should likewise be counted carefully. If the government makes it impractical or impossible to develop that oil, that asset isn’t worth much?

As for me, I stay within my means (generally). And I don’t let my debts ever outweigh my assets. And I say this applies as a principle equally well to organizations large and small.But then, I’m conservative.

But then, I’m conservative.

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