Category Archives: Money

More on sports and what we value…

I think Coach Dale would agree.

My point in this previous post was NOT that teachers should make “$1 million a year,” or to be more relevant in this case, $6.125 million a year.

My point was that a football coach should NOT.

Let’s relate it to the ongoing discussion about the pay of coaches of women’s teams.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Dawn Staley makes $2.9 million. I think that’s the latest figure.

That, I take it, is the result of her supporters advocating strenuously for her to make more money. Well, congratulations to them, and to her — she’s obviously a great coach. Ask my mom, who gets frustrated any time she can’t get a game featuring Coach Staley’s team on her YouTubeTV account.

But folks, that’s way too much money to pay someone for training people how to throw a ball through a hoop. I think even the main character of one of my fave movies, Coach Norman Dale, would have agreed with me on that. (Also, he would want me to remind all of you that you are to pass at least four times before shooting — team, team, TEAM!)

Oh, but wait, you rise up to shout: $2.9 million is way LESS than Beamer makes, which means hers should be raised even MORE. Well, no, it doesn’t mean that. I mean, you’re right that Beamer makes more. You’re wrong that the way to address it is to raise her pay to the same level.

It’s kind of nuts that someone is paid $2.9 million to, as I say, teach people to throw a ball through a hoop. And it’s more than TWICE as crazy to pay a football coach $6.125 million to teach people to run around and smack into each other really hard — or however you want to describe what it is that he does.

Of course, you’d have a point if you want to argue that he has a bigger job than she does — heading up a larger organization with more employees, more other staff, more players, all sorts of avid constituencies to deal with, etc. And you also have a point when you say what he does brings in more money, from tickets and other things.

But MY point is that the fact that football IS such a big frickin’ deal, with so many people SO excited about it and willing to shell out SO much money for tickets and parking spaces and food and beer for tailgating and little flags to go on their garnet-and-black SUVs, and the extra gas to run their SUVs’ engines for an hour creeping along in the traffic to the game, and their wardrobe of special clothing they wear on game days, and the extra-huge TV to watch the games when they can’t be there, yadda-yadda…

All of THAT shows how messed up our values are, not only in term of where our money goes, but in terms of the time and energy spent. This is something we should ponder.

Anyway, that was the topic of my post. I wasn’t arguing that teachers should be paid $6.125 million. I was saying a football coach should not. And I was saying that a society in which the marketplace allows for him to make that much is a society with pretty confused values…

What do we value? And why?

Note the two headlines from The State‘s app yesterday.

Here’s the nut graf of the one that says “It’s official: Massive raise makes Shane Beamer highest-paid coach in USC history:”

The South Carolina board of trustees approved a new deal for the Gamecocks’ head football coach on Friday that will pay him $6.125 million in 2023 with escalators of $250,000 each year through the 2027 season — making him the highest-paid coach in school history. That’s up from his previous salary of $2.75 million annually….

And here’s the essence of the one that says “McMaster calls for $2,500 pay raise for SC teachers, plus a bonus:”

Gov. Henry McMaster wants to increase starting pay for South Carolina teachers by $2,500 to bring the base salary to $42,500….

This past year, the minimum teacher salary was set at $40,000….

Yes, I know there are ways to dismiss such comparison as silly. For instance, you can point out that the teacher pay raise will cost the state $254 million. On account of, you know, there being a bunch more teachers than head football coaches at USC. (Note that I limited that by saying “head” football coach. There are a lot of coaches. I tried to Google it and count them just now, but I got tired.)

I dismiss that by asking why you would value one football coach more than any one of those teachers. Of course, if you’re one of those public-school haters, you’ll single out the weakest teacher in the state and say, “I value him more than this teacher.” So let’s derail that argument by saying, why would you value the football coach over the single best teacher in the state (use your own standards, if you’d like)? For that matter, why would you value him as much as the very best 1,350 teachers in the state — since that’s how many times $2,500 goes into the raise Beamer received?

Of course, you could also say that you can’t compare the two, since one is purely state money, and the other is largely money voluntarily paid by people who are nuts about football. My response is that you’re missing the point. The point isn’t about public expenditures. The point is about what we humans in South Carolina value most — whether we pay for it through taxes or football tickets, or those premium parking spots around the stadium, or however we shell it out.

Of course, the “What do we value?” question is rhetorical. It’s obvious what we value.

Which takes me to my second question: Why?

So, how many bags do I GET for that?

As I mentioned the other day (as if you didn’t already know it), inflation and other money-related matters don’t interest me much, but occasionally some small detail grabs my attention for maybe half a minute.

That was the case when I went to buy some Fritos to enjoy with chili — I’m not a big chip-eater, but I consider the Bandito‘s product to be essential to the full enjoyment of chili — and was struck by the sign here that boasted the apparently startlingly-low price of $4.49.

So of course, I immediately wondered, “How many of these little bags do I get for that amount?”

I figured it would have been at least two, and I definitely wouldn’t have felt like I was getting a bargain at the price.

And when I’m really honest about the value of things, and assess what I think it really ought to cost, I set the number at five bags. I’m applying the AMIAVI (that’s the Absolute, Moderately Inflation-Adjusted Value of an Item). No, don’t Google that. That’s my own, made-up standard which, since it’s based in personal experience, makes way more sense to me than such more generally employed acronyms such as CPI or EBITDA.

Only I can apply this standard, because no one else has the sufficiently detailed knowledge of my life experiences. (If I figure out a way to monetize this special skill, I’ll let you know.) In this case, I remember that in the vending machine in the main hall of Garrison-Williams School (nowadays shortened to “Williams School“) in Norfolk, Va., the private school where I attended 1st grade because my birthday was inconveniently timed for the public schools, you could get a small, kids-lunch-sized bag of Fritos for a nickel. Yes, 5 cents. I can’t prove that, but that’s the way I remember it, and that’s what is relevant to the AMIAVI.

Note that I’m allowing generously for inflation here, expecting only five bags for the lordly sum of $4.45. That’s because I’m applying the easygoing AMIAVI. If I were applying my stricter, but seldom-used, ANIAVI (Absolute, NonInflation-Adjusted Value of an Item), five bags would be worth a quarter. That means I could get at least 17, and maybe 18 bags. But that would be the little, kiddy bags, and several (but not many) of those would fit in one of the bags pictured above, so let’s go with the AMIAVI, which involves less math and more gut feeling.

Anyway, enough with the complicated monetary terms. What do you think one of the bags in the picture is really worth? Apply any standard you like, but it would be cool if you’d also explain it…

What did ‘rich’ mean to you as a kid?

I don’t think I’d ever dive into a vault full of coins. Paper, maybe…

Yeah, I think it’s a silly question, too, but I saw it on Twitter, and saw an interesting response or two from folks I know, and decided to respond myself… and thought y’all might want to get in on it.

It came from this feed I had never seen before. I only saw it because people I follow responded:


Here’s what Sen. Katrina Shealy said to that:

I never thought about it. We were not rich but we were comfortable and we had friends and family that had more and those who had less. I never noticed, until I I read all these responses.

A few minutes before that, our friend Lynn Teague had written:


As y’all know, I’m generally not that interested in money. (A sure way to lose me is to steer a thread toward a discussion of the economy.) Unlike someone whose Twitter handle is DelyanneTheMoneyCoach, when the subject comes up I usually run the other way. But I responded this way:


Elaborating on that diving-boards-and-pools theme, I suppose I should throw in the Clampett’s cee-ment pond.

Another model for me was the Howells on Gilligan’s Island. Which reminds me of something else, so I might come back to them in a later post.

In other words, the models were silly, and the things that distinguished them as “rich” were even sillier. Nothing basic, like a washer and dryer. (Maybe that’s what drove her to be “the Money Coach.”)

When I was a kid, I saw us as living sort of outside that whole money universe, since my Dad was in the Navy and therefore outside the private-sector rat race thing. We usually had a washer and dryer in our homes, but I owned my own house before my parents bought one. We were just always moving around too much. My folks bought their house after he retired.

Not that I never think about money, as an adult. I think about it way more than I want to. That’s why my fantasy about being rich is simple: I’d like to have enough money that I would never again have to think about money. I’d hire what in Regency Period terms (all those historical novels I read, you know) would be called a “man of business” to deal with all that. All bills would go to him, and he’d take care of them. I’d also engage the services of someone clever to watch him, and then maybe a third person to watch her. And I’d instruct them all not to bother me with it.

I think that would be way better than a pool full of ginger ale…

I couldn’t find an image with ginger ale. But I’m sure I read a comic that mentioned it…

How about an ‘I ALREADY GAVE’ button?

I don’t mean to pick on Wikipedia here. I find it to be an amazingly useful tool, the handiest reference source to which I or anyone else has ever had access.

This is just something I wonder about sometime.

For instance, when I’m listening to the NPR One app. Not the radio, because the radio version can’t address the problem. But it seems that anything that comes to me over my phone, my iPad, my laptop, or any device to which I am logged in in a way that identifies me, should be able to leave me out of the “please donate” pitch, if I already gave.

So no more pitches that I’ve heard a thousand times urging me to give to South Carolina Public Radio. (Especially ones I’m forced to wait through — the app lets me click past a news story if I’m not interested, but that’s not an option during the begging segments.)

And, in the case of Wikipedia, no more having large portions of my screen filled with a fund-raising appeal when I look something up.

For you see, I am one of the 2 percent who give to Wikipedia. Oh, don’t think I’m topping it the nob or anything. It’s a pittance. But they said that’s all they need. Near as I can tell, I’ve been sending them $3.10 a month (although it’s not easy to find that out — I had to infer it from my bank account). I don’t know how I came up with that amount. It’s a money thing, which means five seconds after I did it, my brain had tossed out the information.

And for that wee bit, I don’t even expect thanks, much less a ticker-tape parade. But it would be nice if you would see that it’s me using Wikipedia on this Chrome browser through which I’m logged into my Google account (and all sorts of other things), and spare me the message. I wouldn’t even mind specifically logging into a Wikipedia account, if that would do it — as long as I only had to do it once.

Or, if you MUST show me the appeals, offer another button in addition to the ones that say “MAYBE LATER” and “CLOSE.” The new one would say, “I ALREADY GAVE,” and clicking it would make the box go away.

I mean, this artificial intelligence thing ought to be good for something, right?…

Fund-raisers are really… quite emotional… aren’t they?

At some point, I should probably unsubscribe from all these Democratic Party fund-raising emails that, since I was on James’ campaign, do more to clog up my Inbox than anything. But I continue to be mildly fascinated by the various strategies they employ to try to get me stirred up enough to open up my wallet.

They seldom try to do this with reason. Talking me into a rational decision to invest in their causes isn’t really part of the playbook. They’re more about stirring emotion — elation over good news, sorrow over bad news, outrage over anything done or said by their various stock villains (Mitch McConnell, that insane woman from Georgia, You Know Who)….

And sometimes, they weep. I’m referring to the headline on the email pictured below: “tears in our eyes.”

They’re sort of like what Reisman said about Col. Breed. They’re really — quite emotional, aren’t they?

Come on, people. Your cause is just — what the Republicans are trying to do, in the way of suppressing the vote, is a bad thing. But hold off on the waterworks, please. You don’t want me looking at you like this, do you?

tears

No more anachronistic prices, thanks to Netflix!

updating

It’s not a big deal, but this happy notice from Netflix sort of cracked me up.

They’re “updating” our subscription price!

Finally! I had grown so sick of having to pay them every month in drachmas and Deutschmarks. We’ve all known the frustration of searching under seat cushions in the hope of finding doubloons, or at least pieces of eight, with which to finance our streaming. First, they were hard to find, and second, even having to look for them made me feel so passé, so… anachronistic.

Finally, modern prices, which apparently I can pay with modern money! I feel so up-to-date, so hip, so with it!

And only $13.99! Think of it! That would only have been $1.47 in the month when I was born. Sure, it’s a higher number now, but that’s because it’s updated! Take comfort from that…

Now I’m giving money. Not much, but technically money

filthy lucre

I mention this because to a lot of people, giving money is a big deal.

It’s not so much to me, because I don’t find money very interesting. Which is a big reason why I don’t have much of it. I’m even less interested in lucre than I am in football.

It was a bigger deal to me to actually start choosing and endorsing candidates back in 1994, my first year in the editorial department. That took some serious rewiring of my head. And then getting the point of putting out yard signs for candidates, as I started doing in 2018. And when I went to work for James and Mandy that same year.

To me, saying “I support you” is a bigger thing than “Here’s some money.”

But I know that makes me kind of weird, so I’m telling y’all — so you can make of it what you will — that one night last month, I actually, deliberately made a financial contribution to a candidate, in response to this appeal:

So I went to the ActBlue link and gave.

Yeah, I know. Twenty dollars and twenty cents ain’t much. I wish I could give Mandy a lot more. But still, it was technically money, and therefore kind of a step for me.

And as long as we’re talking technically, I guess it wasn’t my first. Several days earlier, my wife had made a contribution to Jaime Harrison. She mentioned it so I’d know, because my name’s on the account. So I was on the books as a donor. Which I thought was great — I’d been thinking about making a contribution to Jaime, but as I tend to do with money, I had repeatedly forgotten about it. So I was a donor, and I didn’t even have to do anything (like fill out a form or something, which I hate with a passion). Which is awesome.

But technically… I had made a contribution earlier in the year, to Joe Biden. I had reached out to folks I knew on his campaign, back before the primary, to ask if they’d like a free ad on the blog. They said yes, so I filled out an in-kind form (see how much I love you, Joe?), and put up the ad. I liked seeing it there so much that I left it up for awhile after the primary was over, but finally made myself remove it.

So I guess that was my first “financial contribution.”

I did it again a week or so ago. And reached out to Jaime Harrison’s campaign and did the same for him.  You can see both ads in the rail at right. (And I’d put one up for free for Mandy if I thought it would help her up in her district — I don’t know how many actual readers I have there.)

So I’ve just been giving like crazy to these campaigns. Sort of. And now you know…

 

Yes they DO, by their very nature!

warning money

Just got this email from the nice folks at Columbia Regional Business Report.

I know they mean well. They see this as their way of being helpful. But I must disagree, and most vehemently.

But how can they bring themselves to say something so absurd as “Money Matters don’t have to be frightening?”

By its very nature, the phrase “Money Matters” is a grim and urgent warning. It tells us that we are about to be subjected to at least several seconds, if not excruciating minutes, of words having to do with the most painfully soporific subject on the planet… money.

It’s a dead giveaway. There is no way that anything pleasant can follow a headline with “Money Matters” in it. It says, Here I come! You’d better run!

If you’re not quick enough, the initial words (ugly and mysterious words, like “accrual” and “debentures”) will give way to spreadsheets, if you’ll forgive me for mentioning something so unpleasant.

There are people, I am told, who enjoy talking about money. But they are from another planet, one with characteristics in common with the Bizarro World.

In any case, I appreciate the warning. Let’s skedaddle…

Phil Noble reaches out to his base… in Alabama, of course

noble ad

I’ve wondered here a number of times: Who, in South Carolina, is supporting Phil Noble for the Democratic nomination for governor?

I asked it each time he brought forth another prominent out-of-state Democrat to endorse his campaign. I kept perusing his website for lists of supporters. I looked at his donor list, and found one South Carolinian I’d heard of — an impressive one — and I was going to reach out and interview her about it… and then realized she had given to James Smith, too. She was just promoting democracy in general.

Anyway, a friend in Alabama shared with me the above full-page ad from The Anniston Star, saying “Have no idea who he is, but it does seem like something out of the ordinary.”

Not if you’re Phil. If you’re Phil, of course this is where you look for support…

Something off-putting about those ‘patriotic’ uniforms

unis 1

I thought about posting this on Memorial Day itself, but decided to wait.

For me — a guy who’s all about some patriotism and support for the military (and if there’s a spectator sport I love, it’s baseball) — there’s something off-putting about those special uniforms MLB players donned over the holiday weekend.

It’s not just that it’s so contrived, such a cheesy, sterile form of tribute to men who died in the blood and noise and fury and filth and noise of battle. They did not wear clean, white uniforms with camouflage numbers. They did not wear caps that look as much like what a deer hunter would wear as anything you’d see on a soldier.

But there’s also something… decadent, something last-days-of-Rome about it.

Of course, I’m guilty of romanticizing baseball. I think of it in very anachronistic terms as a humble, pastoral game played by plain men who did it for the love of the sport, guys who maybe had one uniform to their names, and that uniform made of wool that caused them to roast in the summer sun. (And they liked it, as Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man would say.)

I just can’t help thinking of all the money spent on these uniforms that these players will probably wear only once. Which makes me think about how much — way too much — money there is in professional sports today, so much that vast sums can be thrown away on PR gestures that, as I said above, seem inadequate to the kind of tribute our war dead deserve.

I’m not blaming MLB here. This occurs in a context in which the fans, the entire society, seem to have lost all sense of materialistic restraint.

You, too, can have a genuine copy of the jersey your hero wore for one game for only $119.99. Or, if you’ve really lost your marbles and have more money than anyone needs, you can have the actual jersey that a player wore, for $2,125! Unless someone with priorities even further out of whack outbids you!

It just all seems kind of nuts to me. And vaguely offensive. Does this make any sense to anyone?

distasteful

Stop trying to lower my non-expectations!

Of course, there are some jobs I wouldn't take no matter how well they paid.

Of course, there are some jobs I wouldn’t take no matter how well they paid.

As you know, back when I first got laid off, I signed up for all kinds of job-tip services — and I still get emails from most of them, all these years later. Sometimes, they are a great source of amusement, considering some of the jobs for which they think I’m just perfect.

One of the many is a service called “Ladders.” It’s one of the least realistic in terms of jobs to which I’d be suited. But I signed up for it anyway, because it supposedly specialized in jobs paying six figures and more. Why lower my standard of living, I thought, right after losing what may have been the last journalism job in South Carolina that paid well?

Of course, the universe of jobs that pay that well is limited, so the jobs the service lists tend to be from a wide variety of fields, including many very far from my experience and qualifications. Some are really interesting: For instance, I frequently see positions for “executive assistant,” which makes me think, Really? Being a secretary pays that well now? What do their bosses make?

But today, I saw something disturbing — an email from Ladders headlined, “Jobs that pay More Than $80K.”

What?!? No-no-no-no-no. If you’re going to show me jobs that I’ll never get anyway, then make them super high-paying ones. In fact, since the whole enterprise is so unrealistic, from now on I only want to see jobs paying at least a million a year.

Stop trying to lower my non-expectations. You might discourage me…

A better use for $450 million

800px-Leonardo_da_Vinci_(attributed),_c.1490–1519,_Salvator_Mundi,_oil_on_walnut,_45.4_×_65.6_cm_(framed)

I just thought I’d share here what I had to say last night when I got the news….

I mean, seriously: You know how I got the above image for this post? I right-clicked on it and saved it. It’s in the public domain. Look at it all you want, for free.

I mean, that’s OK, right — you attorneys out there? Or does the new owner own the rights to the public domain photo on Wikipedia, too?

Cashing in on Joe Arpaio, from all directions

Arpaio

As you probably realize, one of the reasons we are so politically divided in this country is that there’s a whole industry that exists to keep us that way.

There are the parties, of course, but there are loads of other entitities out there that exist to make you angry and keep you angry at those other people, and to keep you giving money so that the destructive process continues forever, in a self-perpetuating, self-financing loop.

About a month ago, I got on a mailing list from another universe — one in which Donald Trump and his fellow travelers are the most wonderful things ever. I get message after message begging me for money to fight “liberals,” which are defined as everything from Democrats to mainstream Republicans — Mitch McConnell is a favorite target.

Two or three times a day, these appeals came behalf of ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for his defense.

Of course, it’s not only the right that tries to cash in on that barbarian. After his pardon, I got this from a usual suspect on the left:

Brad —

We’re sick to our stomach. Donald Trump just pardoned Joe Arpaio — a fellow birther, convicted for illegally targeting and abusing communities of color.

This makes a mockery of the rule of law. It’s disgusting. And Republicans continue to REFUSE to hold Trump accountable for this latest in a string of racist acts.

We need to kick Republicans out of office and take back the House for Democrats. Please contribute right away so we can have the resources to do it.

$10 $25 $50
$100 $250 Other

Thanks,

Team Pelosi

Well, of course. When there’s a demon at hand, get the begging cup out.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, at least the right has no excuse to ask for help on this matter any more.” Oh, how foolish you are! The excuses why you as a partisan should give never end:

 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Legal Defense Fund

 

BREAKING: Sheriff Joe Pardoned
by President Trump

Friend,
I just received some incredibly good news! President Trump has just issued a pardon on my behalf.Honestly, I could not be more thankful to President Trump for seeing my bogus conviction for what it was: a political witch hunt by hold overs from the Obama justice department. 

I am certain that President Trump was able to see the TRUTH so clearly because he too has been the victim of a character assassination by the liberal media and Democrat establishment on many occasions.

HELP SHERIFF JOE! Contribute $150 >>

While I am humbled and incredibly grateful for this very good news, I can’t help but be concerned about a bit of bad news I received recently.
I am still facing tens of thousands in legal bills from my fight to clear my name. Going up against the full force of the federal government was not only personally taxing, it was incredibly expensive.

Remember Friend, I am just a retired local law enforcement officer. 

The only reason you now my name is because the liberal media decided to launch a national campaign to paint me as a monster for my hard belief in upholding the Constitution and against illegal immigration . . .

HELP SHERIFF JOE! Contribute $75 >>

Frankly, the DOJ thought that I would back down and take a plea bargain to avoid the enormous expense of a legal battle on this scale. I was not going to let them intimidate me into to admitting to a crime that I did not commit, so I had to fight to clear my name.
Now, my wife Ava and I are still facing significant legal bills. . .

HELP SHERIFF JOE! Contribute $50>>

Friend, I know that you work hard for your paycheck which makes this very difficult to ask of you, but if you are financially able will you please make a contribution to my legal defense fund today? Every dollar you donate will go directly toward paying off my legal bills and putting this awful chapter behind me.
I cannot thank you enough for supporting me through this incredibly trying time,

Sincerely,


– Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Maricopa County, Arizona

 

Is Mulvaney ‘The most dangerous man in Washington?’

Mulvaney

That’s what Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post claims.

(Well, to be clear, what she means is the second most dangerous man in Washington, which she acknowledges.)

Here’s why:

It’s Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

In terms of both immensity and immediacy, the threat Mulvaney presents is far greater than any of the slow-motion train wrecks happening elsewhere in the administration. That’s because he seems hell-bent on wreaking a global crisis within the next two months.

Not a century from now. Not a decade from now. In two months.

That’s when the government will run out of money needed to pay bills Congress has already incurredaccording to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, if Congress does not act to raise the debt limit.

What would follow? Just a constitutional, political and global financial crisis….

OK. That would be bad. Important safety tip. Although I may not think about financial matters more than I’m forced to, even I understand — apparently better than the administration’s budget guy — why protecting the full faith and credit of the United States is important. But most dangerous? Maybe. But as much as I might be inclined to root for a fellow South Carolinian, I think some of the other people she names have pretty good claims to the title:

It’s not the guy in charge of our nuclear arsenal, who may or may not have realized that was the core of his job description before accepting the post (Rick Perry).

Nor is it the woman meeting with men’s rights advocates (Betsy DeVos).

And it’s not the guy who keeps adding financial assets and meetings with Russian officials to his federal disclosure forms (Jared Kushner).

It’s neither of the guys rolling back climate change regulations and sidelining scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department (Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke, respectively)….

But yeah, what Mulvaney wants to do is bad, almost in the Egon sense, financially speaking…

The bad news: Our $206 Trillion Fiscal Gap

Laurence Kotlikoff, Joseph Von Nessen and Doug Woodward.

Laurence Kotlikoff, Joseph Von Nessen and Doug Woodward.

There was good news and bad news today at USC’s 36th Annual Economic Conference.

To be more specific, there was mildly, moderately good news, and really Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad news.

I’ll start with the good, which is on the local level. USC economists Doug Woodward and Joseph Von Nessen said that while growth has sort of leveled off in South Carolina, we’re in for a fairly good 2017. Advanced manufacturing remains strong, and things are going really well in construction — particularly along the coast — and retail. Merchants should have a good Christmas. If there’s a concern, it’s that employers are now having trouble finding qualified employees, particularly ones who are up to the challenges of automation — humans who can work with robots, basically.

On the other hand, we’re basically doomed.

That’s the message I got from the conference’s keynote speaker, Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University, who started out noting that few Americans seem to have a clue what a fiscal hole we’re really in. Political leaders don’t speak of it, he said, pausing to complain about the “content-free election season” we just experienced. (Of course, you’d expect him to be dissatisfied with that, since he actually ran for president — unsuccessfully, he added dryly.) Oh, sure, they might speak of the $20 trillion national debt — which he noted isn’t really that, since the Fed has bought back $5 or 6 trillion of it — but they ignore the bigger problem.

That’s the true Fiscal Gap, as he calls it, which includes the liabilities that have been kept off the books. You know, Social Security, Medicare and the like — liabilities that aren’t acknowledged in the federal budget, but which are obligations every bit as binding as if the future recipients held Treasury bonds.

That adds up to $206 trillion.

There’s more bad news.

If we think in terms of what it would take for the nation to deal with that liability, our government is currently 53 percent underfinanced. That means that to meet these obligations, we’d have to have 53 percent across-the-board tax increases.

It gets worse.

If we don’t raise taxes by 53 percent now (or make drastic cuts to current and future spending that might somewhat reduce that need), then they’ll have to be raised a lot more on our children and grandchildren.

Dr. Kotlikoff has been raising the alarm about this for years. Here’s an oped piece he wrote for The New York Times in 2014. As he concluded that piece:

What we confront is not just an economics problem. It’s a moral issue. Will we continue to hide most of the bills we are bequeathing our children? Or will we, at long last, systematically measure all the bills and set about reducing them?

For now, we blithely sail on. But prospects aren’t good. None of the three economists, who spoke at a press conference before the event, had anything good to say about incoming political leadership on the national level. In fact, quite a bit of concern was expressed about 3 a.m. Tweets, any one of which could trigger a trade war with China before the day is out.

I came away feeling a bit like Damocles — or rather, like the nation is Damocles, since the sword fell on my head sometime back. And we just elected a guy who thinks he’s a national hero because he interfered with one business that was going to send some jobs out of the country (an interference in the market that none of the economists think was a good idea).

I’m not holding my breath for any leadership on closing the Fiscal Gap. (Nor would I be had the Democrats swept the elections.) Are you?

"What's THAT hanging up there?" "Oh, that? I call it the Fiscal Gap..."

“What’s THAT hanging up there?” “Oh, that? I call it the Fiscal Gap…”

An invitation to sign a petition for safer roads

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There’s this petition website I receive frequent invitations from called change.org. You may have encountered it. I think I may have signed one of their petitions for something one of my daughters was pressing for, so I keep getting the pleas to throw in with this or that cause, most of which I delete.

I thought I’d share this one since it has such a strong South Carolina angle.

The petition, by Emily Rabon, is addressed to Robby Robbins, Mike Wooten, Mark Sanford, Jenny Horne, Christopher Murphy, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott.

But in any case, here’s her plea:

South Carolina roads are literally killing people. No more meetings, audits, reports, or studies—it’s time to take action. No matter where you live, will you please join us in our fight for justice and safety for all?

A quick visit to the official South Carolina Tourism website paints a picture perfect image of South Carolina. The simple slogan, “South Carolina—Just Right” is displayed prominently in the upper left hand corner of the website for all visitors to clearly see. What isn’t “Just Right” about South Carolina, however, is the condition of many  roads across the state.

On December 23, 2015, Glenn Forrest Rabon, Jr., better known as Tripp, was killed suddenly in a car accident ultimately caused by a flooded roadway on Highway 64 (SR 64) in Colleton County. The condition of the road was known and reported on multiple occasions, yet neglected countless times by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). Tripp was a senior in high school. He was an honor student and athlete with plans to attend Clemson University in the fall of 2016; but above all, he was a beloved son, brother, and a friend to all he encountered. His time on Earth was cut short due to no fault of his own—only the hazardous conditions of the South Carolina roads were to blame.

Sadly, South Carolina is among the top 5 states in the nation for car crash fatalities due to unsafe conditions on the road. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a report (July 2016) illustrating that traffic deaths in 2015 were at an all-time high—a shocking 7.7 percent nationwide. Furthermore, there were 154 more fatal car crashes in 2015 than there were in 2014; that’s 977 fatalities total. Let that sink in for a moment—977 car crash fatalities in 2015. That’s an increase of 16 percent, or in other words, a fact that shows driving has proved to be almost twice as deadly for South Carolina drivers as opposed to drivers throughout the rest of the country.

Interestingly, SCDOT is currently advertising and advocating for “a vision to zero traffic fatalities”, echoing the idea that “the road to zero starts with you [the driver]”. While safe driving is a responsibility that should be respected and practiced by all participants, the “Target Zero” safety initiative fails to address what the driver cannot control—the physical condition of the road itself. But together, as one voice, we can change this unsettling fact.

Fatal traffic accidents, like the one that took Tripp’s precious life, can realistically be avoided. The goal of this movement is to enact legislation to implement a way to prioritize projects that promote transportation safety across the state. It is notable that only months ago (September 2016), the SCDOT Commissioners approved $23,000,000 to be used for beautification projects across the state instead of allotting the money to roadways in dire need of repair. It is the hope of Tripp’s family and friends that passing TRIPP’s Law will ultimately make South Carolina safer, and thus, save the lives of others before it is too late. TRIPP’s Law will require SCDOT to make use of advanced technology to create an online, up-to-the-minute-report, which will utilize both public and government input of reported, unsafe road conditions. The law will require a prioritized repair report called, TRIPP’s Report, which similarly will use past and present road conditions. It will likewise include recent repairs (completed or pending) and show statistics (such as accidents, fatalities, 911 calls, public repair requests, etc.) in real time.

Anyone that knew Tripp would say, without a shadow of a doubt, Tripp was put on this Earth to make the lives of others better. Please help us continue to promote Tripp’s legacy of kindness and his willingness to help others by both signing and sharing this petition to protect and inform drivers who travel in South Carolina about crash and repair reports for SC roadways. Together, we can come together to advocate for safer South Carolina roadways so we can save lives!

Anyone who is willing and feels he or she would be of substantial help to the cause, TRIPP’s Law, is encouraged to contact Tripp’s sister, Emily, at [email protected]

I certainly feel for Ms. Rabon’s loss, and Lord knows our roads are underfunded, but I would need to know more before signing the petition. I’m not entirely clear on how the law would help, since it seems focused on new reporting requirements, rather than changing priorities or finding new funding sources. She says “No more meetings, audits, reports, or studies,” but this does seem to be about reports.

It might help if I could see the bill.

Changing the subject slightly, my greatest hope for safer roads is that Gov. Henry McMaster will show some actual leadership on the issue, abandoning Nikki Haley’s opposition to raising the gas tax without cutting another tax by a larger amount, which frankly is one of the craziest ideas to emerge on the state scene in the last several years.

The State wrote on that subject today, by the way. There’s still no indication which way Henry will go. But putting forward a rational road-funding plan would be a great start toward being a better governor than his predecessor…

Do you have questions about the penny tax?

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I know some of you do, to say the least.

Maybe you’d like to go to this:

For Immediate Release

September 8, 2016

**MEDIA ALERT**

     WHERE DOES YOUR MONEY GO?  

Educational Forum Planned for Richland County Penny Tax

WHAT:    “Pennies Impacting People” Educational Forum

WHEN:    6:30 – 7:30 p.m., Thursday, September 15

WHERE:   Richland Library Main, Third Level Programming Space
1431 Assembly St.
Columbia, SC 29201

WHO:      Free & open to the public

Are you curious about how the Richland County Penny Tax works? Members of the community will have an opportunity to learn about specific projects that impact local transportation – including roads, sidewalks and greenway infrastructure. WIS News 10 Anchor Judi Gatson will lead a discussion with representatives from:

  • Richland County Council
  • Richland County Transportation
  • Richland Penny Program Development Team
  • The Comet transit system
  • Citizens for a Greater Midlands

A question-and-answer session will follow.

For questions, please contact Emily Stoll at 803-587-3637 or email [email protected].

If I go, I might ask them to please stop using “impact” as a verb. We all have our priorities…

Samuelson tries to inject some reason into ‘gender pay gap’

From Robert Samuelson at The Washington Post:

Samuelson

Robert Samuelson

The gender pay gap is back in the news — and it may become a major issue in the presidential campaign. It seems an open-and-shut case of job discrimination. Women earn only 79 percent of men’s average hourly wages. Who could favor that? Actually, the comparison is bogus. A more accurate ratio, after adjusting for differences in gender employment patterns, is closer to 92 percent. Even the remaining gap of 8 percentage points may not stem fully from discrimination….

… if women were paid a fifth less for doing the same work as men, there would be pervasive discrimination. That’s how the pay gap is interpreted by many. They demand “equal pay for equal work.” But that’s not what the pay gap shows. It’s simply the ratio of women’s average hourly pay to men’s average hourly pay. The jobs in the comparison are not the same, and when these differences are taken into account, the ratio of women’s pay to men’s rises to almost 92 percent from 79 percent, say Blau and Kahn….

After all the adjustments, the remaining 8-percentage-point unexplained gender gap could reflect discrimination….

But the persisting gap could have other causes….

Go read the whole thing. I’ve given you about as much as I can under Fair Use rules. (I think. Fair Use is open to interpretation.)

In any case, don’t expect the study Samuelson is writing about or anything else to modify the way Democrats speak about this. That 79 percent, and the assumption that it’s all about discrimination, is far too important to their whole “War on Women” meme to allow it to be sullied by considerations of reality.

Both parties like to trump up issues to generate outrage among their respective bases. This is a favorite among the Democrats.

Tubman to replace Old Hickory; Hamilton to stay on sawbuck (Yay!)

Here’s some mighty fine news:

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will announce on Wednesday afternoon that Harriet Tubman, an African­American who ferried hundreds of slaves to freedom, will replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 note, according to a Treasury official, while newly popular Alexander Hamilton will remain on the face of the $10 bill….

And the best part to me — with all due respect to Ms. Tubman and the noble role she plays in our history — is that Alexander Hamilton will stay on the sawbuck. As I’ve said before, if anyone needed to go, it was Old Hickory.

I celebrated that part of the news on Twitter the other day:

But I neglected to mention it on the blog, so I’m glad to have this opportunity to make up for that.Tubman mug

Jackson is one of my less favorite major American historical figures, despite his triumph at New Orleans. I consider his defeat of John Quincy Adams — possibly the best-qualified president in our history — in their second contest to be one of our nation’s low points.

And I feel something of a personal connection to Ms. Tubman — when my wife and youngest daughter moved up to Pennsylvania for a year so my daughter could study ballet there, they lived in part of a house that had been part of the Underground Railroad. Or, at least, its cellar had been.

So I’m quite pleased…