Monthly Archives: October 2013
Rocktober is in full swing and Halloween draws closer. Night Sky Radio will be broadcasting directly from Hell. \m/
Those with delicate sensibilities are advised to go here instead.*
* Some would say – and i would not argue – that this is more hellish by far.
In the hyperconnected world we live in, nothing is off limits, which is to say that when the phone rang at the Beijing Hilton I picked up and knew it was one of my Arab friends immediately. “If you have something good,” he said to me, mysteriously, “You can always have something better.” I tapped the message into my notepad app. It was only later, playing golf in the fuzzy green indoor 18 hole arena reserved for visiting businessmen from Europe and America, that I realized what the proverb meant. If you have French toast, stuff it with strawberries and vanilla frosting. If you stuff your French toast, put whipped cream and fruit sauce on top. It’s as simple as that and investments work the same way. I call it the Bettering.
Nobody’s gonna get this but me, probably, but so what?
H/T to Kids Prefer Cheese
[Or: “Two Minutes Cape”]
Superman from 1938 to 2013 in a two minute animated video by Bruce Timm (of animated DC Comics works) and Zack Snyder (Man Of Steel director).
They skip over a lot – they have to – but they worked in a lot of cool stuff from over the years.
All my life I’ve been hearing about “soulmates.” Everyone wants to find theirs. Sonnets have been composed, songs performed, how-to books written.
The problem is that most people are searching for their Sole Mate, the one single person somehow magically made and placed on Earth just to meet, fall in love, and marry, who will make life complete. Prefabricated, ready-made and just waiting to be found. They don’t exist.
Soulmates aren’t born. They’re made.
Two people meet, get to know each other, marry. They live life together, tried and tested, becoming closer until they’re practically one person. It happens over time. Some people will get there faster than others – sometimes two people are just more predisposed to get along extremely well. That doesn’t mean this is the One And Only such person like that in the world, or that if it doesn’t happen after a set amount of time it never will. If two people commit to making it happen, it will.
The bad news is if soulmates can be made, they can be broken. The bond must be maintained vigilantly. Complacence, neglect, or a hundred other things can stress or even sever it.
The good news is that more often than not, broken things can be fixed.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the day President Woodrow Wilson signed the income tax into law.
I knew I felt kinda down for some reason.
Prior to the creation in 1913 of the national income tax, about a third of Uncle Sam’s annual revenue came from liquor taxes. (The bulk of Uncle Sam’s revenues came from customs duties.) Not so after 1913. Especially after the income tax surprised politicians during World War I with its incredible ability to rake in tax revenue, the importance of liquor taxation fell precipitously.
By 1920, the income tax supplied two-thirds of Uncle Sam’s revenues and nine times more revenue than was then supplied by liquor taxes and customs duties combined. In research that I did with University of Michigan law professor Adam Pritchard, we found that bulging income-tax revenues made it possible for Congress finally to give in to the decades-old movement for alcohol prohibition.
Before the income tax, Congress effectively ignored such calls because to prohibit alcohol sales then would have hit Congress hard in the place it guards most zealously: its purse. But once a new and much more intoxicating source of revenue was discovered, the cost to politicians of pandering to the puritans and other anti-liquor lobbies dramatically fell.
Prohibition was launched.
Despite pleas throughout the 1920s by journalist H.L. Mencken and a tiny handful of other sensible people to end Prohibition, Congress gave no hint that it would repeal this folly. Prohibition appeared to be here to stay — until income-tax revenues nose-dived in the early 1930s.
From 1930 to 1931, income-tax revenues fell by 15 percent.
In 1932 they fell another 37 percent; 1932 income-tax revenues were 46 percent lower than just two years earlier. And by 1933 they were fully 60 percent lower than in 1930.
With no end of the Depression in sight, Washington got anxious for a substitute source of revenue.
That source was liquor sales.
We now have a top tax rate of 39.6 percent, and it’s actually much higher than that when you include the impact of other taxes, as well as the pervasive double taxation of saving and investment.
And the relatively simply tax law of 1913 has metastasized into 74,000 pages of Byzantine complexity.
Not to mention that the tax code has become one of the main sources of political corruption in Washington, impoverishing us while enriching the politicians, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and interest groups. Or the oppressive and dishonest IRS.
However, even though I take second place to nobody in my disdain for the income tax, the worst thing about that law is not the tax rates, the double taxation, or the complexity. The worst thing is that the income tax enabled the modern welfare state.
Before the income tax, politicians had no way to finance big government. Their only significant pre-1913 sources of revenue were tariffs and excise taxes, and they couldn’t raise those tax rates too high because of Laffer Curve effects (something that modern-day politicians sometimes still discover).
Once the income tax was adopted, though, it became a lot easier to finance subsidies, handouts, and redistribution.