Tag Archives: State of the Union

State of the Union

30 Jan

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

The #SOTU and Fun With Time Warner Cable

29 Jan

I watched the State of the Union last night but honestly didn’t stick with it all the way to the end. I heard President Obama identify a lot of problems and propose a bunch of solutions, but it’s doubtful that this year will be any better than the previous five, as far as “Washington gets things done” is concerned. Obama threatened to throw his weight around a bit rather than sit back and watch the House Republicans and tea party block, bully, and bullshit, but it doesn’t matter because they still think in their darkest hearts that the President is a “socialist dictator“. (What they really mean is that they have no idea what a “socialist dictator” is.) 

The state of the union is conflicted right now, and it’s because we don’t have a House of Commons anymore, but two Houses of Lords. We’re being led by the noses by a pack of wild millionaires and billionaires, few of whom know or care about real solutions to real problems. Of course, the so-called “tea party” is nothing more than the willing lumpenprole army for monied interests, so we can’t even get “tea party” right. 

What I did at the end of my day yesterday was give myself a raise of $110/month. 

Until yesterday, I had been paying Time Warner Cable almost $200 per month for two DVRs, digital channels, turbo high-speed internet, and HBO. On Facebook, Kevin Purdy wrote about his experience cutting his monthly expenses by, among other things, cutting out cable to its bare minimum. I called Time Warner and discussed with three reps during one call about reducing my monthly bill to under $100. You’d have thought I had called about partitioning Europe or drilling down the details of the Dayton Accords. 

As it was, I yesterday unceremoniously relinquished two DVR units with associated cords and remotes at the Time Warner office downtown. I have retained high-speed internet at about $60/month (it gets cheaper when you add bundles!), and channels 1-22 (which, given the digital signals the TV reads without a cable box, is not precisely accurate). No more 24-hour mind-numbing cable news. No more HBO. No more Travel Channel or Duck Dynasty or Pawn Stars or Storage Wars. I have local channels and a decent internet signal. 

And with that, I pay Hulu Plus about $8.00/month and I pay Netflix another $8.00/month. I have access on Hulu to almost every basic cable show I enjoy (South Park, Daily Show, Colbert), back episodes of Family Guy and the like, and loads of British comedies and series, which I enjoy. 

With the PBS App on my Apple TV, I am well into season 3 of Sherlock, which WNED has put on hold until February. With Vevo the kids and I can watch actual music videos. With iTunes, I can buy or rent movies that the streaming services don’t have. But they have a lot. If I have a hankering for 24-hour news, Apple TV has Sky from the UK. If I need the Weather Channel, it’s on Apple TV. Hulu has Spongebob for the kids, and I’ve been binge-watching Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look on Netflix and Hulu, respectively. 

Channels “1-22” costs about $19/month. If I wanted some of basic cable, (channels 23 – 98) I’d need to rent a box and pay another $56/month. That’s ok. 

$110 in my pocket every month is well worth it.  Now, if only I could bump my unlimited family plan for 3 smartphones and 6 GB of data down from the $220/month it is now. 

The Morning Grumpy – 1/25/2012

25 Jan

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. After listening to Mitch Daniels’s rebuttal to President Obama’s State Of the Union address, I was reminded of an article I read a few weeks back in which Paul Krugman wrote, “Nobody understands debt“.

First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don’t — all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.

Second — and this is the point almost nobody seems to get — an over-borrowed family owes money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe to ourselves.

The first will generate arguments with armchair libertarian economists, but the second point is worthy of discussion. Anecdotal evidence suggest that most Americans have no idea who is responsible for generating our current debt and to whom that debt is owed. Well, that’s why you should subscribe to The New York Times, they’ll help sort it out for you. During the debt limit fiasco of 2011, the New York Times charted our debt using data from the Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service, and the Bureau of the Public Debt; Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Office of Management and Budget.

If that data is not simple enough for you, here it is in an infographic. Click here to embiggen.

2. A succinct analysis of why Mitt Romney (and people like him) should pay higher taxes.

Most of Romney’s income comes in the form of capital gains and carried interest, which have been taxed at 15 percent ever since the Bush tax cuts went into effect a decade ago. So it’s a good time to get a little wonky and ask why capital gains and carried interest are taxed at only 15 percent, while ordinary labor income is taxed at rates as high as 35 percent.

Capital gains are profits from investments, and a high level of investment is good for the economy. Low tax rates on capital gains encourage investment and therefore benefit the entire economy. But is this true? If it were, you’d expect to see some kind of long-term correlation between capital gains rates and the total amount of capital gains income. The lower the rates, the more the income. Let’s roll the tape.

The data do not support correlation between low capital gains tax rates and increased income.

3. How do private equity firms like Bain Capital make money? Financial gimmicks and manipulation of the tax code.

The real reason that we should be concerned about private equity’s expanding power lies in the way these firms have become increasingly adept at using financial gimmicks to line their pockets, deriving enormous wealth not from management or investing skills but, rather, from the way the U.S. tax system works. Indeed, for an industry that’s often held up as an exemplar of free-market capitalism, private equity is surprisingly dependent on government subsidies for its profits.

The system is broken.

4. Last night during his State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Teachers matter”.  He noted that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. Here’s the study that informs that remark.

The study, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, all economists, examines a larger number of students over a longer period of time with more in-depth data than many earlier studies, allowing for a deeper look at how much the quality of individual teachers matters over the long term.

Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.

“If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income,” said Professor Friedman

Remarkable.

5. Courtesy of ThinkProgress, some facts to go along with the wild spin you’ll be hearing today as pundits and candidates interpret the President’s speech.

  • Since the last SOTU, the economy has created 1.9 million private sector jobs. [Source]
  • The top 1 percent take home 24 percent of the nation’s income, up from about 9 percent in 1976. [Source]
  • Private sector job creation under Obama in 2011 was larger than seven out of the eight years Bush was president. [Source]
  • The top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of our country’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent owns only 7 percent. [Source]
  • Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million young adults gained health insurance. [Source]
  • Last year, China spent 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. The U.S. spent 2.5 percent. [Source]
  • 2.65 million seniors saved an average of $569 on prescriptions last year thanks to the Affordable Care Act. [Source]
  • Union membership is at a 70-year low. [Source]
  • Unemployment benefits have lifted 3.2 million people out of poverty. [Source]
  • The United States used to have the world’s largest percentage of college graduates. We’re now #14. [Source]
  • One quarter of all contributions to federal campaigns come from 0.01 percent of Americans. [Source]
  • 47.8 percent of households that receive food stamps are working, because having a job is not enough to keep them out of poverty. [Source]
  • In the last three years, 30 major corporations spent more on lobbying than they paid in taxes. [Source]
  • 50 percent of U.S. workers make less than $26,364 per year. [Source]
  • Since 1985, the federal tax rate for the 400 wealthiest Americans dropped from 29 percent to 18 percent. [Source]

Fact Of The Day: Thorium could be a replacement for Uranium and coal. Pretty awesome research with potentially profound impacts on society.

Quote Of the Day: “A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Song Of the Day: “Kiss Me On The Bus” – The Replacements

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com

State of the Union Reactions

25 Jan

CONGRESSWOMAN LOUISE SLAUGHTER

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28) today released the following statement following President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress responding specifically to two tenants of his speech that she has worked on for years: rebuilding America’s manufacturing sector through trade enforcement and passing legislation that would end insider trading among Members of Congress.

“I was delighted to hear the President’s enthusiasm to sign legislation that ends insider trading in Congress and finally reigns in the political intelligence industry that’s been lurking in the shadows of the halls of Congress. I’ve been working on the STOCK Act since 2006 and I say that if the President wants to sign the STOCK Act, let’s get it through the House and send it to him!,” said Slaughter. “It is my hope that the bill that we send to the President is the same bill that has received overwhelming support. The STOCK Act is bipartisan, has enough support to pass the House and is what we should make the law of the land.”

“I was also encouraged that the President shares my desire to strengthen the American economy by rebuilding the American manufacturing sector. For too long American manufacturers have had to compete against illegal trade practices from international competitors and now is the time for bold trade enforcement policies.” Continue reading

The Not Necessarily State of the Union

25 Feb

Energy, Health Care, and Education.

Budgeting that includes the true cost of the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan.

Line by line review of the federal budget with enough cuts to pay for the programs that have been proposed, and reduce the deficit, to boot.

Last night, the President addressed the Congress and the people. In addition to the hope being back, one other theme stuck out at me:

While George W. Bush liked to remind us constantly during the early days of his administration that federal money was “the people’s money”, Barack Obama reminded us repeatedly last night that the people sent these people to Washington to get work done. Frankly, it’s a self-evident fact that they don’t get reminded of quite enough down there.

The speech returned the hope and inspiration that became synonymous with Obama during the campaign – if his speech was an over-the-counter cold remedy, it would be called Malaiseaway.

I thought he well explained why the mortgage plan was needed, and rebutted the notion that it would help the irresponsible. He promised to make sure that banks started extending credit to people and small business again to get the economy going again.

On the issue of energy, Obama laid out a challenge to reach clean, renewable energy independence through wind, solar, and biofuels. On healthcare, he promised to fundamentally reform Medicare, eliminate waste and fraud in the system, and put a “significant down payment” towards universal health care.

On education, Obama reminded us that our schools are failing too many kids, and admonished parents to become more engaged with their kids and their educations. Our kids will need to stay in school and actually learn stuff in order for them to compete in a future global market. It is the key to innovation in health care and energy, when you get down to it. Today’s elementary school student is tomorrow’s inventor.

Obama’s Apollo program is going to be a cure for cancer “in our time”. That’s a cause everyone can get behind.

I got the sense, watching the speech, that there was a more bipartisan reaction to Obama’s proposals than I had seen in a long time. Obviously, this isn’t an indication that all of a sudden the Republicans are going to go along with everything, but I could count on one hand the number of times it appeared that the Republican side of the aisle remained seated while the Democrats applauded. If nothing else, regardless of the outcome of the stimulus bill vote, I think the new president has done a good job of reaching out to the Republicans in a meaningful and substantive way. They might not agree with him, but they seem to like him and are willing to listen to each other.

It was a speech that, for the first time in decades, reminded Americans that we’re all in this together. Shared sacrifice – like the banker who shared his bonus with his employees – is what’s needed in tough times. This isn’t socialism or an abrogation of individual rights and liberties. This is underscoring the fact that raising the tax rate on the top 2% of taxpayers back to Clinton-era levels is appropriate, (they did pretty well back in the ’90s). Everyone making less than $250k will get a tax cut as soon as April – a follow-through on a campaign promise. This in conjunction with the stimulus bill, which is essentially the largest net tax cut in history.

When people and businesses aren’t buying stuff, the federal government steps in as the last resort. When people are abandoning their homes because of neighborhood foreclosures that have suddenly left them upside-down in their loans – when it makes more financial sense to walk away from the house than to keep paying the note – it makes sense for government to change the rules to enable them to refinance and stay in their homes.

Obama finally strongly indicated that he would submit a responsible plan to get out of Iraq, make sure Afghanistan is made safer, and work to ensure that al Qaeda cannot launch attacks on America from safe havens in Pakistan or Afghanistan. He also unequivocally stated that the United States does not torture.

I thought it was a hopeful speech that looks forward to American revival, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Energy independence, health care reform, and educational improvement have been on the radars of many past presidents, yet big decisions that look to the long-term have constantly been put off. President Obama indicates that now is the time they were put off to.

Full text, as prepared, after the jump. Continue reading