Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bomblecast #20 — The Minimum Wage

ep20

In this podcast, we talk about the minimum wage and President Obama’s proposal to raise it $9 an hour.

Here’s Episode #20:

Two Very Stupid Trade Proposals

Andy Roth at the Club For Growth kindly sent around a list of trade-related provisions to some of the free trade folks.

I picked out two of the dumbest ones to share, and what would you know, they’re both sponsored by Ohio’s Marcy Kaptur!

H.R.192
Latest Title: Balancing Trade Act of 2013
Sponsor: Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9] (introduced 1/4/2013)      Cosponsors (None)

What it would do:

To require that, in cases in which the annual trade deficit between the United States and another country is $10,000,000,000 or more for 3 consecutive years, the President take the necessary steps to create a more balanced trading relationship with that country.

Why it’s stupid:

Balanced trade is a harmful, arbitrary idea. If you think back to the comparative advantage example you learned in grade school, hopefully your teacher didn’t insinuate that country A needs to trade equally with country B. That would make no sense. The very point of comparative advantage is that countries are able to capitalize on using and trading the goods they make efficiently, and take advantage of the fact that other countries have their own comparative advantages.

Requiring balanced trade basically means you don’t want to benefit from comparative advantage, since you’re just saying we should all trade equally when it comes to the figures that represent the transactions of individuals in our respective countries. Only outliers like Ian Fletcher, labor unions and mercantilist rent seekers push for this idea. Thankfully, mainstream economists aren’t behind this idea, and it won’t go anywhere.

In short, this economically bad idea would restrict the ability of individuals to trade with other people who live elsewhere, all so an arbitrary balance sheet that isn’t a real deficit is made even.

H.R.194
Latest Title: Congressional Made in America Promise Act of 2013
Sponsor: Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9] (introduced 1/4/2013)      Cosponsors (None)

What it would do:

To clarify the applicability of the Buy American Act to products purchased for the use of the legislative branch, to prohibit the application of any of the exceptions to the requirements of such Act to products bearing an official Congressional insignia, and for other purposes.

Why it’s stupid:

Should items bearing the seal of Congress be made in America? This is populist chaw, and I say no. Right now there are a ton of procurement rules that apply to the things Congress buys for itself, and laws that mandate jobs for blind folks making pens that date back to the Great Depression, while well-intentioned, are just unnecessary.

Does Congress really need made-in-America Fischer Space Pens, or Skilcraft pens made by disabled folks?

No, it doesn’t. It’s just a fluffy PR move to distract you from the fact that they’re passing bad laws day in and day out. A ten-cent bic pen works just fine, whether it’s made in the good old USA, Canada, Mexico or France.

 

Some Brief Thoughts on the Redskins Loss

  • This wasn’t a failure of defense so much it was a failure on offense. The Redskins more or less give up about 20 points a game, they gave up 24 last night, all of them unanswered for three consecutive quarters. That is an offensive problem, not a defensive problem.
  • The Redskins need somebody who can snap. RG III’s leg injury was because of a bad snap. Which turned into a fumble. Which meant points. Kirk Cousins didn’t perform terribly given the circumstances, but he, too, was given a terrible snap that cost precious yards.
  • This Dr. Andrews character sounds like he really covered his ass before tonight’s game. And no, I don’t believe the people who claim Dr. Andrews got under RG III’s skin and caused him to perform poorly. His 1Q performance was just fine, it was just the rest of the game where he sucked.
  • Maybe losing to the Browns in the second to last week might have kept RG III’s leg healthy for next year?
  • The “should RG III have played” debate will be annoying and last pretty much all off-season.

Until next year.

Catholic Colleges Contemplate Forming Collegiate CYO

Tonight, friend of the blog Cowboy Diplomacy (CD) shared this link with me. It seems seven Catholic schools in the Big East are contemplating taking their ball and forming a new league. Their own collegiate version of a CYO, if you will.

ESPN reports:

The seven Catholic schools in the Big East have agreed to leave the conference and are debating the process of departing the league, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

How DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova leave the Big East is still undetermined.

The presidents are expected to issue a statement on their schools’ future in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Interesting. At first glance, I suggested to CD that I am not sure this is the world’s greatest idea. After all, who would want to watch an all-Catholic conference? Doesn’t it sort of limit the exposure of Catholic colleges to the tournament if a lot of them join this conference? CD disagreed:

It makes sense. College basketball is a great product. And, it’s TV money. Bring those basketball schools in to a conference together and give a grant of rights

Admittedly, I could care less about the Big East. It’s just not my conference. I tend to follow Big 10 football and A10 basketball & soccer, and that’s pretty much it. I asked if SLU and other non-Big East Catholic schools might join. CD didn’t know SLU was Catholic, which I found amusing.

ESPN answered:

[Notre Dame coach Mike] Brey also said the discussion among the Catholic schools was to make it a national Catholic conference with Xavier, Saint Louis, Dayton, Creighton, Gonzaga and possibly Saint Mary’s, as well.

Ah, would there be a Catholic Sports Network? What would play in the off hours? EWTN? Top 10 Mass moments? St. Vincent de Paul infomercials?

The question on everyone’s mind is — would Pope Benedict XVI be the commish? He is Pope after all.

catholic 10

I hear there is big money in TV networks & rights these days — but who would subscribe if it wasn’t part of a comprehensive sports package?CD suggested maybe a network would pick it up. Who? To be sure, these are some decent sized markets.

I’m not sure. I guess we’ll see in the next 24-48 hours what happens. Should be interesting.bsig

Don’t like McDonald’s? Don’t shop there.

A friend of mine shared a petition from a gal in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood — where I went to high school.

I broke out the bomble.com telestrator to share my thoughts and some questions.

Oh, and finally, if you want a well-reasoned argument from one of the petition signers, there is this:

Just another reason why Cleveland doesn’t deserve nice things. I hope they get their wish and end up with another “artisan” Rent A Center instead.

Here’s a novel idea: If you don’t like something, don’t patronize it.

Before I forget, I’ve long agreed that the West Side Market should be privatized. Read reason’s take “Why Cities Like Cleveland Die: They Refuse to Emulate Success While Persisting in Failure” here.

It’s petitions like these that make me happy my parents are moving away from communities that act like this — and why I have no plans to move back to Cleveland.

 

Bomblecast #13 — Lame Ducks

Friends, after an eight-year hiatus, my podcasts are back. Why eight years? Why not. Anyways, hipsters have brought back mix tapes, skinny jeans, 1980’s glasses and podcasts. So, I figured I’d rejoin the fray and bring you back my podcast.

Because you didn’t ask. Anyways, if it takes off, I’ll do this more often and get a feed on iTunes and such. In the mean time, I’ll just give you this mp3.

EPISODE 13 (right click and save as to download)

Links from this week’s episode

http://www.theuselessweb.com/ (Or, how to waste your time)

POLITICO: Bill sustains fight against human-rights abuses

CBS Saint Louis: Mark Twain Coin In The Works

Who are these lunatics?

Check out my piece over at the Richmond Times-Dispatch today.

 

Presidents Don’t Get a Pension Equal to their Salary. Neither Does Congress.

For months now, I have seen graphics on facebook and via email saying that the President and/or Congress gets their salary for life. This is wrong.

Members of Congress (House & Senate) and the leadership do not receive their salaries for life.

According to the Congressional Research Service:

“Under both CSRS and FERS, Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at the age of 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.

As of October 1, 2009, 455 retired Members of Congress were receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service. Of this number, 275 had retired under CSRS and were receiving an average annual pension of $69,012. A total of 180 Members had retired with service under both CSRS and FERS or with service under FERS only. Their average annual pension was $40,140 in 2009.

Members who had retired under CSRS had completed, on average, 18.8 years of civilian federal service. Their average annual CSRS annuity in 2009 was $69,012. Those who had retired under FERS had completed, on average, 15.6 years of civilian federal service. Their average retirement annuity in 2009 (not including Social Security) was $40,140″

Secondly, Presidents — while they receive an obscene pension of $191,300 — do not get $450,000 a year for life. They get about $200,000 and benefits like travel funds and mailing privileges. Since 1997, Presidents receive Secret Service protection for a decade after leaving office. Beforehand, they got it for life.

Some back of the napkin math for you:

If all current living former Presidents lived to the ripe age of 93, and we took away all current appropriations (at current levels) —  that would fund the salaries of 2,315 soldiers at this graphic’s average salary or the average income of 7,333 seniors on social security, assuming their figures are correct.

Active duty service members in combat zones are eligible for the military pay exclusion on their income.

Point being?

Yes, a yearly pension of $191,300 is absurd. But, reducing it to zero and committing the money elsewhere wouldn’t make a big dent in entitlements or military funding. Not much of a dent at all.

Perspective is important.

Despite working an average of over 15 years, taking away the pensions of retired Congressman, similarly, won’t make much of a difference in ensuring military pensions or social security are funded.

That’s the simple truth.

To be sure, there are ways we can and should significantly reduce federal spending. During my five years of service in the federal government, I paid into a pension plan, a thrift savings plan (sort of a government-run 401(k)), and social security. I also saved on my own.

That’s four separate retirement mechanisms. Good enough for government work, huh? If we want to get serious about retirement spending for government employees, dinging the pensions of elected officials is probably a publicly popular way, albeit insufficient, to get started. We should, however, find a way to end federal pensions — which are outdated and costly.

Especially when there’s social security, the TSP, and private savings. However, if this last campaign taught us anything, getting rid of costly pensions and moving to less-dated retirement plans for employees is difficult and unpopular.

Ask Mitt Romney and the folks at Bain Capital.

Letter to the Editor: Eminent Domain

Below is a letter to the editor of the Washington Post. This is a response to their recent editorial urging Virginians to vote no on Question 1.

To the Editor:

I was somewhat surprised to see the Post weigh in so negatively on Question 1.

Of course, if enacted, Question 1 could be abused — just like eminent domain was before and after Kelo. Few deny this.

Suppose lawmakers decided there was some greater public utility to a large swath of land in Springfield, Virginia, where the Washington Post produces its newspapers.

I would guess that this location was carefully chosen both for cost and ease of distribution. Losing it would be costly.

Would the Washington Post be alright with “fair market value” for this land? Would 150% do? 200%?

I know profits are kind of an awkward topic year to year at the Post, but three years of profits (or something comparable) should make legislators think twice before taking land through government decree.

Opponents say this Question, if passed, would “severely limit the use and increase the expense of eminent domain.”

Good.

Jim Swift
Alexandria, Virginia

 

UPDATED: I Thought the Durbin Amdt. was supposed to help consumers?

Via email:

Dear Valued Member,

Beginning October 29th, transaction fees in DC will increase from $0.32 to $0.45 due to increased costs triggered by recent federal legislative reform enacted by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s Durbin Amendment.

To help offset this increase Parkmobile has developed the Parkmobile Wallet which will provide a more cost-effective parking experience in DC – Wallet transactions will carry a $.30 transaction fee. You can update your payment method to the Parkmobile Wallet via your Personal Pages at www.parkmobile.com or from your mobile app (if using iPhone or Android). If you have forgotten your username/password you can retrieve it using your registered mobile phone number and the last four digits of the credit card on file. The Parkmobile Wallet is FDIC insured.

For more information please visit our website at www.parkmobile.com and click on the Parkmobile Wallet link. If you have further questions click on the orange ‘Help’ tab or email helpdesk@parkmobileglobal.com.

Sincerely,

Tina Dyer
Marketing & Sales Support Manager
Parkmobile USA, Inc.

And from a Press Release:

They can continue to use existing payment methods, but due to increased cost related to the Durbin Amendment the transaction fee will be changed from $0.32 to $0.45.

I guess the Durbin Amendment isn’t as beneficial for consumers as we were told…

UPDATE: HOH reports:

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) fired back by penning Mayor Vincent Gray a sternly worded letter.

“Mayor Gray, in order to avoid any potential confusion,” Durbin began. “I request that you and DDOT make clear that the District of Columbia Government does not agree with Parkmobile’s analysis of the cause of these fee increases or endorse Parkmobile’s disingenuous assignment of blame.”

This Wednesday, “plus 13 cent Durbin tax” stickers have started popping up on parking meters.

UPDATE 2: ParkMobile has backpedalled. I wonder what Mayor Gray threatened them with.

Dear Valued Member,

Last week in a press release and email announcement introducing the Parkmobile Wallet, a simpler, lower cost way to pay for parking in the District of Columbia, the company made an overly simplistic statement about the underlying cause of increasing card transaction fees. In an attempt to explain why costs have increased the company left the potentially confusing impression that Federal legislation is to blame. The company apologizes for any confusion caused by this statement.