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Flashback Moment

Stumbled on this N.Y. Times video this evening brought a bit of a flashback.  I visited that ski lodge on Chacaltaya at least three times while assigned to Bolivia from 1991-1993.  The world’s highest ski resort was a tourist attraction, and it was cool to take visitors on an easy trip up to the 17,ooo+ foot peak for bragging rights.  My little Ford Escort could easily drive from La Paz to the lodge, and the hike to the peak could be made in tennis shoes as long as you had the lung capacity to survive the walk.  Have admit that beer was a particularly cost-effective buzz at that altitude as well, as I learned on a hash with the local Hash House Harriers, at least as long as it didn’t completely foam away.

Sad to see the glacier’s gone.  I know there was also an astronomy site nearby.  Hopefully people can still get up to the lodge for a good time and a drinkee even without the glacier to ski on.

Chuck posted this on Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at  9:02 pm.   Comments Off on Flashback Moment 

Business Taxes?

I can almost appreciate the rationale behind Randall Stross’ piece in today’s New York Times that more sales tax revenue would help states like California in the current economy.  Everyone could use more money right now.  But the article just seems to assume the money comes from some great pot of money, as though the California state legislature were to stumble across a pot of gold while on a romp through the field.

Even if Amazon (and other online retailers) were to collect a tax that they aren’t obligated to collect, and even if they were to do this collection without significantly adding to their own overhead (reducing profits or increasing prices), why should consumers sit by and let 8.75% be added to each and every purchase for a tax that that retailer has no obligation to collect?  I wouldn’t, and I’d certainly be taking my business elsewhere or reducing my spending.

I also object to the implication in the article that online retailers are abusing states like California by not collecting sales taxes even though they may have employees in those states.  Those employees are paying income taxes, and sales taxes on their purchases.  Many probably pay property taxes on their homes too, and countless other fees and taxes here and there.  The state and localities are getting their pound of flesh.  If a company chooses to structure it’s operations to avoid passing additional taxes (or other costs that add no value) onto their customers, more power too them – they just became more competitive.  That’s supposed to be good in capitalism.

The article reads like the Professor is simply asking for the retailers to do what the legislature has decided not do do; to raise taxes directly on consumers during the middle of a massive economic downturn.  Corporate interests may run amock in Sacramento, but they can’t directly amend laws yet, and I doubt any well run company’s leadership is actually so short-sighted as to follow the professor’s suggestions.

Even if retailers were inclined to add a surcharge on purchases to help fund local services such as police, fire and schools, I would hope that rather disguise it as a non-existent tax they would be honest about their intentions and give the funds directly to worthy groups rather than letting the moral defectives* in Sacramento get their grubby little fingers in the pot.

(more…)

Chuck posted this on Sunday, December 27, 2009 at  8:35 am.   Make the second comment. 

The Cost of Being Gay

Fascinating article in the New York Times on the financial aspects of the legal discrimination against being gay.  I wish this information had been available during the debate on Proposition 8, and certainly hope it will be used to inspire some rational debate on real, legal issues during the upcoming campaigns in Maine, Washington and elsewhere.

I thought the discussion on tax consequences was particularly illuminating.  Income taxes were the one area where straight couples were financially disadvantaged, but only if you looked at the raw amount of taxes paid.  But if you look at why they pay more taxes, the reason is quite clearly the extra taxable benefits provided by government programs that prefer their marital status.

Though the gay and heterosexual married couple had identical salaries, the married couple collected more income in retirement — a direct result of their marriage status — and thus owed more in taxes (though they still benefited from the marriage bonus). For instance, the married couple collected higher Social Security spousal benefits and survivor benefits, pension income and income derived from a spousal I.R.A. The gay couples weren’t entitled to any of these benefits.

One issue the authors didn’t directly address that I would have liked to see covered in one of the hypothetical families are the dependents of military and other federal personnel who can’t disclose their true relationships.  Extra housing costs, extra healthcare costs, added relocation costs (if relocation is even an option) and drastically reduced pension and employment opportunities are the issues that easily come to mind.

I do wonder though if the opponents of marriage equality are going to come back with a study of their own showing the financial impact of having no decorating skills, no fashion sense, and the inability to recognize bad music and theatrical flops.  I’m sure some economist will be happy to quantify the lifetime costs of having bought avocado-colored appliances and shag carpeting.

Chuck posted this on Friday, October 2, 2009 at  3:52 pm.   Make the second comment. 

Cranky

It’s barely eight in the morning, and while the day looks fine on the surface, it’s certainly not starting off well.  The photo gallery here is inexplicably dead and the N.Y.Times bot has informed me that my Sunday paper will not be delivered until Monday.  This comes on top of the tendonitis that’s been bothering me for a week or so, and a bout of pinkeye that screwed up my Friday.  Spinner’s out foraging for breakfast stuff, and hopefully a bit of grease and protein will improve things a bit, but the day is quite simply not looking good.  Sure, the coffee helps, but today coffee alone is just not enough.

Chuck posted this on Sunday, January 25, 2009 at  9:22 am.   2 comments have been made. Join them. 

Meandering Sunday Swim

Got in a nice swim this morning.  OK, it was short and mostly an excuse for me to find myself in front of my preferred garden supply store, but the laps were plural and it did feel good to stretch things out.

Two good swimming articles in print edition of this morning’s Times though:

No breaking news, just good write-ups of interesting things.  Good writing and good editorial choices just reinforce the decision that the only print newspaper we get here is the Sunday New York Times.  OK, the crossword puzzle helps in that decision.

On a semi-related note, I crossed the statistical five-year line last Monday.  I’m now a five-year survivor of prostate cancer.  Going through treatment was probably when I really started to appreciate the meditative aspects of swimming.  Sometimes tuning everything out except for the little black line you’re following works, and everything else just seems to go away.  That can be a very good thing. 

Chuck posted this on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at  4:34 pm.   Make the second comment. 

I am unworthy

I’m all about the Sunday brunch.  Big meal with no time constraint and few, if any, pretensions to balanced nutrition.  In its ideal state it includes nice weather for the outdoor coffee and spreading of the Times.  But I am an amateur.  I am unworthy.  This is how it should be done.

Chuck posted this on Sunday, March 2, 2008 at  9:32 am.   Comments Off on I am unworthy 

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