URLs du Jour

2022-08-03

  • Ackshyually… I've been seeing a Forbes article tweeted a lot.

    Some folks are cheering, some are moaning, but… wait a minute, does winning a huge lottery pile really put you in a 66% (1-433.7/1280) tax bracket? Show your work!

    But (sigh) that's a screenshot, not a link back to Forbes, so [Google, Google, Google], ah, here it is.

    Someone in Illinois bought the winning ticket, and if he or she does like most winners, they will take the lump sum, not the annuity. The $1.28 billion prize, which is the second-largest jackpot in Mega Millions lottery history, can be claimed in a lump sum or over time. The 1.28 billion is only if you take it over time, but if you want it all now, you get $747.2 million.

    Ah. So the real hit is taking the lump-sum payment instead of the (thirty-year) annuity. Those numbers aren't strictly comparable, but that comes to a difference of nearly $500 million, about a 40% writeoff.

    That's when the IRS comes for its 37% marginal rate (a mere $276,464,000) and (in the Forbes example) the Illinois taxers come for a further 4.95% (a minuscule $37 million).

    But the more important lesson here is not how much your government claws back from your windfall; it's that According to the New York Daily News, 70 percent of lottery winners end up broke within seven years. Even worse, several winners have died horribly or witnessed those close to them suffer.

    Do you like those odds, Bunkie?


  • A feelgood TechDirt headline! And it's from Mike Masnick (who I think of as the relatively sensible writer at that site): Without The Votes To Pass, Antitrust Bill Gets Delayed.

    For the last few months we’ve been writing a lot about AICOA, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, being pushed for by Senator Amy Klobuchar. It’s an antitrust bill, but not an antitrust bill designed to fix the whole host of problems we have today with industrial consolidation and anticompetitive practices. No, it’s just a bill to target a few specific practices of a narrow slice of the tech industry. And, it only has bipartisan support (barely) for one reason, and one reason only: because Republicans believe that the vaguely worded law will be a tool they can use to batter companies for content moderation decisions they disagree with. This isn’t some conspiracy theory. This is literally what the Republicans themselves are saying. Out loud. Over and over again.

    Klobuchar has had multiple chances to clarify the language in her bill to prevent this abuse. But she chose not to. The only changes she included were to make sure the bill really only targeted tech, by explicitly carving telcos and financial companies out of the bill.

    For the last few months, cringe-inducingly called “hot antitrust summer” by supporters of this bill, we were told the bill needed to get a vote this summer. Chuck Schumer apparently promised a vote this summer. And, even John Oliver was coaxed into an unfortunately confused piece about the law encouraging his fans to urge Schumer to bring the law to a vote.

    It was an odious, awful bill, and only odious, awful Republicans supported it. With all the other dreadful legislation coming down the pike, it's nice to see at least one stopped.


  • Well, in the dictionary… Pierre Lemieux takes on an idiotic slogan: People Before Profits or the Converse?.

    To many people, no current slogan appears more self-obvious than “people before profits.” For the Nth time, I saw it repeated, a few days ago, in a bien pensant attack on social media’s freedom: “How Social Media Platforms Put Profits Before People,” Financial Times, July 28, 2022). I suggest that there are few incantations as simplistic or non-sensical as that one.

    Profits go to people, not to animals or gods. So the slogan can only mean “some people before some people,” and it has to be explained why the redistribution or discrimination envisioned or intuited is better than some other among an infinity of possible ones. A priori, it makes no more sense to say “people before profits” than “profits before people.”

    In contradistinction, classical liberalism and libertarianism aim for no discrimination among individuals. If the idea should be reduced to a slogan, it would be something like “no set of people before any other set of people” or, more properly, “no individual before any other individual,” because a set can contain only one element. The statement must of course be taken as calling for the formal equality (equality of rights, equal liberty) of all individuals because material equality would require constant redistributive meddling and, thus, the violation of the formal equality of those sent to the wrong side of the wicket. This idea can be found in the writings of all modern (classical) liberals, notably perhaps F.A. Hayek and Robert Nozick.

    It should (but doesn't) go without saying that profits only happen after a company pays attention to what customers (i.e., people) want and pay their employees (also people) to provide it.


  • I'd say "Abolished" instead of "Reformed", but whatever. Joe Bishop-Henchman argues against an offensive feature of that nasty bit of legislation misnamed the "Inflation Reduction Act": The IRS Needs to Be Reformed, Not Showered with More Cash.

    Contrary to claims that the agency is half-starved or hollowed out, its budget has stood between $12.5 billion and $14.5 billion a year in current dollars for the past decade. It is true that the IRS is woefully inefficient. Examples of that abound: Dozens of tractor-trailers sat outside the IRS main processing facility in Ogden, Utah, for months last year, containing tens of millions of unprocessed tax returns. Today the IRS is seven months behind on opening mail, only answers 11 percent of the calls it gets, and takes 350 days to respond to taxpayers reporting urgent identify theft.

    However, these shortcomings are due to misallocation of resources, not insufficient money. The IRS has an enforcement-only mindset, viewing all taxpayers as cheats who deserve the full power of the agency used against them. To IRS personnel, there is no such thing as an honest mistake or taxpayers doing their best to navigate a confusing and often ambiguous tax code.

    What else explains why the IRS refuses to adopt tax-return barcode technology already used by state tax agencies, which would cut millions of hours of error-prone keyboard entry by IRS employees? Why else would the IRS ignore the Treasury inspector general’s suggestion that it buy machines to catch paper checks in the mail, spending a million dollars to save $56 million in interest?

    Speaking of misnaming, that last word of "Internal Revenue Service" refers the agency's service to the government. To taxpayers, not so much.


  • What could go wrong? Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center seems to think this is a problem: New Hampshire's chosen commuter rail partner has a dismal safety record.

    If you planned to start a new enterprise and hire someone to run it, you’d probably avoid applicants who racked up disastrous safety records and massive financial deficits on their way to being investigated and placed under remedial safety orders by the feds.

    The New Hampshire Department of Transportation, though, has tapped an operator with all of those problems to run its planned Manchester-Boston commuter rail line.

    Despite steep declines in commuter rail ridership, the rise of remote work and the promise of driverless cars, the state is still moving forward with plans to build a commuter rail line to Boston. (The state in 2020 approved $5.4 million in federal funds to plan the line.) Those plans name the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) as the operator of the service.

    Sure, the MBTA has decades of experience running commuter rail. But then, the U.S. Postal Service has decades of experience delivering mail, too. 

    Cline lists (only) about a dozen safety-impacting incidents the MBTA has experienced over the past year.

    In other news, the MBTA is shutting down the Orange Line for a month. They're replacing it with bus service.

    Hey, here's an idea: just do the bus thing in the first place!