Showing posts with label taxes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taxes. Show all posts

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Louisiana Tax Free 2nd Ammendment Weekend 6-8 SEP 2013

It seems once a year Louisiana does a tax free weekend for guns, ammo, hunting stuff, etc once a year. This is pretty cool. Don't think I'll be buying much. Most of my significant needs are in the bulk ammo spectrum; I've been eying a case of 7.62x39 and some 9mm ball but will probably pick up a couple boxes this weekend just because. Anyway for folks who can use a gun or pick up their ammo a few boxes at a time locally this is a cool deal.

Speaking of cool deals remember the huge Mountain House sale at Camping Survival.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

"I may be heartless for saying that it is morally repugnant to require the healthy and fit to pay for the sick, lame or lazy (to be honest I really don't mind paying for the sick and the lame, but the lazy really get my goat)."
-American Mercenary

The rest of the post is as thoughtful and valid as everything else AM writes so check it out.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Personally I don't mind helping out folks with serious medical problems who are no longer able to hold down a job with the understanding that if circumstances put me in that place I will in turn be helped. The way to do this currently via social security disability insurance (vs the retirement side) and whatnot isn't how I would prefer (large coop style disability pools maybe?) but that is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. Also I do not mind folks are trying to work but can't or having a really bad month getting some stop gap help though I do prefer it to come from families, churches, food banks and various other various non government entities. 

On the other hand as with AM being forced to pay for reasonably able bodied (most jobs these days do not require the ability to do 18th century farm labor or be an infantryman) who simply choose not to work really bothers me for a lot of reasons. It is a terrible combination of theft and social engineering. Also more importantly people respond to incentives. Fear of being broke then eventually hungry as well as probably homeless is a heck of a motivator to get and keep a job, run a small business or whatever. It has worked to keep most people generally on the right path for a very long time. By subsidizing laziness and lack of the most basic sort of motivation we make this behavior less painful than it would otherwise be and thus naturally more of it occurs. By (arguably) trying to look out for people we are in fact making their lives worse.

Well those are my thoughts on that. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Night Ramblings and Tab Clearing

I always knew that liberal dudes were weaker and generally less masculine but now there is scientific proof.

Apparantly CNBN did a hit piece of the venerable Remington 870. Hat tip to The Firearms Blog for the find. Maybe they could have been even more unamerican by bashing apple pie and cold beer.
Now for my take. I will even set aside the fact that the so called experts who testify about how pretty much every firearm is unsafe FOR MONEY and are trying to sell some new safety thing they invented.

The thing is that shotgun safeties, to the best of my knowledge are not so much safeties as trigger stoppers. To the best of my knowledge there isn't a shotgun out there that has a safety which blocks the sort of accidental impact based discharge that happened to the unfortunate fellow mentioned in the story. Sort of like many open bolt machine guns if you give them a good whack they will probably go off.

There is a simple and time tested way to handle this mechanical weakness. KEEP THE CHAMBER EMPTY UNLESS YOU ARE ACTIVELY USING THE GUN! For a shotgun this means that when you are done using it take the round out of the cylinder and stick it back into the tube or buttstock carrier.
I own a Remington 870 Express. With both short and long barrels it is a really versatile weapon equally capable of defending ones home or all manner of hunting and sporting. I have trusted it with my life in the past as a primary home defense weapon and would not hesitate to do so again in the future. As to my thoughts on reliability and usefullness the Remington 870 I won't sell the one I have and at some point will get another one.

I was at the store the other day picking up a couple things on my way home from work. The folks in front of me bought some stuff using WIC. Nothing really new about that. Overseas food costs are pretty high so they calculate eligibility differently and a lot more folks get it. I bought my few items and walked out to the parking lot. The folks who bought the stuff with WIC in front of me got into a car that was maybe a year old. Nothing crazy, I think it was a Ford Focus or something like that. I got into my 10 year old SUV with some minor cosmetic damage and drove home. Honestly it sort of made me angry. Why should I be subsidizing them? If they don't make very much money maybe they should be doing things like not buying new cars so they can afford food for their kids. I got to thinking. Given the state of our nation I don't really look down on folks who figure out how to work the system a bit in their favor. A few years back I did look down on them for being moochers. These days I sort of look at it that if you can get a little bit back it isn't a bad thing.
Ironically this year we qualify for welfare Earned Income Credit. A nuance of combat deployments is that since our pay is not taxed. Thus as far as my taxes are concerned it does not count. Since I deployed in February and was gone for a year our taxable income was pretty tiny for last year. Thus we get welfare Earned Income Credit. I wouldn't have thought of it but a pretty sharp contractor (ironically also a contrarian investor and survivalist) said I should look into it. This is something I had some real internal conflict about. It is pretty crazy that we qualify because my income fell into a different column on the stupid little piece of paper that is the W2. I make a decent living and we aren't in any sort of need. However me deciding to be a good guy and turning away free money is not going to fix the national deficit. We are putting the money into our house fund. I kind of look at it as a partial refund of all that money I put into SS and medicare
The man who committed 10 felonies in 9 hours was pretty impressive. Some folks are just bad and if this sort of thing happens when everything is normal toss in a power outage or a hurricane or a riot and well, it ain't pretty.

Well it is just about a done deal that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican presidential candidate. I am almost entirely ambivalent about this. Got to purchase some more mags between now and November.
Heineken is pretty good and Jimmy Fallon probably has the best late night TV show these days.

That is all.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Quote of the Day

"The difference between the TEA Partiers and OWS isn't the politics, it's about 30 years of work history."
-American Mercenary 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Working In And Around The Underground Economy

There was an interesting ad on the radio today. It was about ratting out reporting to the proper authorities unlicensed businesses in general and contractors specifically. On a random note blogger seems to have eaten my past posts on the underground economy. Anyway moving on. I got to thinking about the underground economy. More specifically the benefits and issues that come with this sort of thing.

Personally there are some areas where I would be concerned about getting involved with the underground economy. One issue that keeps coming to mind is liability. For example one of the big benefits of legitimate and licensed contractors is that they are bonded and insured. Not so much a concern if somebody is doing a couple odd jobs or some general labor but you want the guy cutting down a 60" tree that is right next to your house to have insurance.

I would also be worried if somebody was doing a dangerous job. The odds that somone will get injured mowing a lawn or replacing a few shingles on a roof are slim. However if you start getting people working at heights, around animals and with power tools there is an element of risk. It's all good with Bob the underground carpenter until he slips and gets badly cut, working for you on your land. I don't know how that would play out in court but I am pretty sure it would end up there, which is never good.

As an individual (of course I always pay my taxes and even send a few extra bucks just to be nice) I would have some concerns working underground. It makes collecting unemployment difficult to impossible but if you save it isn't a big issue. More significantly is workmens comp and disability concerns. Again risk is a concern. Working with power tools, at heights, etc are probably risk factors. One mitigating factor in this area is that most people who are part of the underground economy still have one foot in the regular economy. These folks do stuff like sidework off the books, fail to report cash sales, barter or otherwise minimize their tax liability.

Think about the potential implications of doing a certain activity in both economies. Be sure to at least keep an eye on the worst case scenario. Don't be penny wise and dollar foolish.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why Do I Care About The Rich?

I was watching the news yesterday and asked myself a question. "Why do I care about the rich?" After all we have a very average income so taxes or penalties targeting the rich do not affect us one bit. If anything them having a higher share of the tax burden might help keep my taxation reasonable.

I do think it is worth defining rich or more significantly exampling how a politician or law defines what is rich. Particularly when we talk about total assets it is easy for numbers to be deceptive. Now that I have thought it over fully here are some reasons why I care about the rich.

First I care because I have a fairly realistic expectation that in time our income and assets will grow above and beyond inflation.  Fast forward a few years and our income will be above average. Call it a decade and depending on how you define rich or whatever you want to call it, we may well fall into that category. Not that I expect us to have a high 6 figure income or anything crazy. Just that I will get a couple promotions at work and at some point Wifey will go back to school for a masters and then re enter the work force. Fast forward two decades and baring any major personal or national calamity and we will have built up more than modest assets. The kind of dollar amounts of income and assets which are somewhat regularly tossed around as being rich/ well off/ whatever enough to sock it to.

Second I care because as much as it isn't politically correct to say it people with money are the ones who really employ people and buy stuff. It is truly a dirty little secret. I wrote about this more in a past post.If you don't feel like clicking and reading this quote from Dave Duffy sums it up nicely
 
"It was sold to voters as a “make the rich pay their fair share” tax. Unfortunately, those rich folks (if you call someone making $125,000 a year rich) employ everyone else."
-Dave Duffy






A lot of small business owners have things structured such (and I don't know all the fancy legal terms) that their personal income is deceptively high. Guess what if you "made" 140k last year but paid 40 to one employee and 25 to another you aren't rich you are average.



Third I care because those measures which are designed to fund some great program by just taking a little bit from those who have so much have a way of trickling down to average folks like Wifey and I. Remember Federal Income Taxes started off just taking a small percentage from the very rich. Fast forward a bit less than a hundred years and the guy on the fryer and the gal asking what kind of sauce you want with your McNuggets both pay (at least initially, they might get it back later) Federal Income Taxes. These taxes and whatever else you want to call them slip down in dollar amounts or the dollar amounts are kept the same so inflation boosts the amount of people who fall under the rules.

Fourth we fail to realize that the really rich folks (again hard to define but lets say income over 500k annual income or assets over 5 million just to have something to work with) aren't, despite the best efforts of rapper's and professional athletes to convince us otherwise stupid about their money. Particularly when we talk about those who have put away a lot of money and thus have substantial assets they got that way precisely by, in addition to usually having a good income, paying attention to their money and making it work for them. These are the folks who can decide to move for tax benefits or change the way their business is structured. These folks have very valuable skills and or run their own companies. Less so than any other group they are not generally tied to a specific region. That goes double since so many of them these days are involved mostly in technological type stuff which can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.

Going along with this is one of the most significant things I have learned from Thomas Sowell. We think of income groups (poor, middle class, rich, really rich) as static groups based on certain percentages. X percent of the country is in poverty, Y percentage makes over 100k or whatever a year, etc. The issue is that while these total percentages might be static or change slowly one way or another over time these statistics are made up of very large numbers of individuals. These individuals can and do regularly move between different income groups. Aside from a very small group most wealth in America is not inherited.Typically most young adults do not earn a lot of money. Maybe they are working at some kind of a McJob or simple labor and just kinda hanging out being a kid or while going to college or figuring out what they want to do with their life. Sometimes it is a combination of all three.  Anyway assuming a bit of motivation and some good choices most people find a skill or a niche or whatever and start to make more money and they change income groups. A guy who has earned a good living might take a year off or go back to school and have his income drop sharply. People who for whatever reason sell something valuable like a piece of land, real estate or a small business will earn a lot of money, in that year.


Also I am not a classiest. I do not begrudge them the honest (I do have issues with crony capitalism) earnings. If folks make a lot of money I figure they worked hard or smart or occasionally got lucky. I have the right to what I earn the same way they do to their earnings. My ideal situation would be that everybody keeps as much of their own money as possible.

Lastly I kinda figure that if somehow I ever get to the point of being really rich I don't want anybody taking a bunch of my money. So that explains as best I am able why I care when somebody proposes a new tax or fee or regulation on "the rich".

Saturday, October 9, 2010

quote of the day

"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss . . ."
-Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shades of Atlas Shrugged: Third World America

Third World America this article is disturbingly true. On another note Shades of Atlas Shrugged is going to be the series title for this sort of article.

I am not sure what the answer is. I do however think we need to create incentive's to promote desirable behaviors. [For example if we as a nation wanted to promote individual saving we could, say, not tax interest, dividends or capital gains on individuals with an income below $100,000 and a net worth below $750,000.] We aren't doing this. We aren't doing close to this. We are often in fact doing just the opposite. We have taken for granted that things are good and will stay that way. That no matter how much individuals or businesses get hammered they will stay in the same place and keep on doing the same thing. We've gotten cocky and lazy and it is coming back to bite us. Big time.

For example we need to attract manufacturing. America is never going to make sweat pants or t shirts cheaper than some random Asian nation where wages are a dime an hour. However I don't see why we shouldn't make computers, tv's, cars and all kinds of other stuff. Particularly the kind of relatively high tech manufacturing which employs more skilled individuals and pays them decent wages.

[If there is any positive way forward for America's low skilled blue collar workers it is if they can get the skills and we as a nation can attract this sort of higher skilled manufacturing jobs. The golden age for American manufacturing type workers from WWII to around the early 90's which has been dying a lingering death for awhile, set expectations which could not be maintained. Large numbers of people simply can't walk out of high school into a secure job that makes a comfortable wage with good benefits and retirement anymore.

I saw this play out on a smaller scale with the timber industry dying in the PNW. Some individuals were able to find a way forward in another job. Others managed to retrain and be successful. However when it was all said and done a lot of folks went from earning a comfortable middle class living to a couple bucks an hour above minimum wage or chronic unemployment. The restaurants and stores which these people patronized went under. Some towns died and a lot of others are sad shells of their former selves. The bottom line was that the jobs that went away were gone. The other industries were able to absorb some people, given that they received training, but a town that lost 100 timber jobs didn't suddenly have 50 new jobs as carpenters and another 50 for auto mechanics. Without some sort of X factor, such as a boom of high tech American manufacturing this will be the case on a larger scale.]

The biggest reason we have issues attracting or keeping these kinds of manufacturers is a grossly unfriendly business environment. Art Laffer said "Taxes don't redistribute wealth, they redistribute people (or I suppose businesses)" and the same could be said for regulations and all sorts of other little committees and agencies that make it hell to actually produce something. There are all sorts of ways America, or a state could do this. Simply streamlining the process for getting permits and clearances to build would be a good start. For a company that isn't going to dump tons of poison into the water system it should be a snap to open a factory. No taxes for 5 or 10 years would be a good one. Matching funds on select capital development would be another. Cheap or free energy would help too. Creating a work force which suits certain high tech manufacturing needs could work; especially if combined with a business friendly atmosphere and some tax breaks.

Instead of trying to hammer businesses for every dime we need to help them grow and employ more people and buy more machinery or other stuff. If every little bureaucratic despot and city councils could realize factories bring jobs; jobs which they desperately need we would be in such a better place.

As for infrastructure I think this is being blown out of proportion. Not significance but priority and who needs to be involved in addressing it. The answer is not big over reaching stimulus but government at all levels adjusting their priorities. Look at it this way. Most sane people would fix a hole in the kitchen floor before going out for a night on the town. If the family car breaks next week they don't need a stimulus from somebody; we need to shift our budget around and figure out how to fix it. If that doesn't work we can raid our hard earned savings. Governments from town to state have forgotten this. They need to make the important stuff work even if it means letting go of some of the flashy unessential stuff.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happy Cost of Government Day

Aug. 19 marks this year's "Cost of Government Day." The date, calculated by the Americans for Tax Reform, signals when the average American finishes paying off his or her respective share of federal, state and local taxes, and the cost of implementing government regulations. This year, that means a whopping 231 days -- or almost 2/3 of the year -- are spent paying to keep the country going.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Stop Backing Yourself Into a Corner

One of the wonderful things about America is that it is a very free country. Maybe not quite as free as it was at some other point but people living in the good ole USA have more rights, protections and freedom to do what they please than in just about every other country in the world.

So often people back themselves into a corner in terms of lifestyle and the resulting debt/ expenses. They have to live in this kind of house, drive this type of vehicle (or even a vehicle at all), charge stuff they can't afford and whatever. The result is that they are in an uncomfortable situation. These folks often turn around and blame everybody but themselves for their circumstances. It is a big picture version of eating a big mac and extra jumbo fries with a large milkshake for lunch every day and blaming other people for why you are fat.

If you don't like the amount of money you can make then get a degree or some certification or skill to become more valuable to an employer or customer. It is a lot more productive than whining. If you do not want a mortgage then find some kind of alternate housing you can afford to pay cash for. Maybe get a little piece of land paid for free and clear. Hate the idea of an HOA then don't buy a house in one. If zoning restrictions in your current location prevent this kind of action and you really still want to do it then MOVE to somewhere you can do what you want. If you want to home school your kids then move to a home school friendly area. Don't like the tax laws in your state? Move to a different one. Don't like your city/ states gun laws? Vote with your feet. If you want to be able to shoot an AK-47 from the front porch naked at 3 in the morning then start in a state that is cool with the AK-47 and then find a place with no nearby neighbors. If you don't want to deal with car insurance, registration and such then don't have a car. Live within biking/ walking range or public transport routes to the places you need to go. Maybe arrange to go to Costco with a cool neighbor who has a big van every month or two. If you don't want a credit card then don't have one. Don't like debt; too easy simply do not borrow money from anybody. If you hate paying taxes then make conscious (legal of course) choices to limit your tax liability.  This is checkers, not chess. Simply make choices to not be involved in things you don't want to be involved with and to be in the situation you want to be in. 

Of course because this is simple doesn't mean it is easy. Just like dieting or household budgets knowing what you should do and easy implimentation are very different things. Every decision has second and third order effects. You might like some parts of an area (family, work, recreation, etc) and hate the restrictive laws. Not having a vehicle sucks but you don't need insurance or vehicle inspections. Living in a nice house is more spacious and comfortable than a travel trailer or a shack/ tent. Generally places where you can buy a piece of land for the price of a decent pistol and do whatever you want on it kind of suck. They are far from jobs, may not have water or are otherwise undesirable. Hence the name junk land.

The thing is that you have to make a choice as to what is more important. Often nice places to live where there are plenty of good jobs and fun things to do have expensive housing costs. So either move to a place where you can afford to live comfortably or stay where you are and gripe about the rent/ mortgage/ taxes.

The old saying about construction comes to mind; a job can be done fast, cheap and right but you only get to pick two of them. Inevitably there are difficult choices and compromises to be made on all fronts (housing, location, work, vehicles, debt, tax and gun laws, zoning, etc).

The important word in that last paragraph is CHOICES. I'm not telling you that you must do anything (though it would be nice if you clicked on one of our ads and suggested the blog to a friend;) but am telling you that you can choose. The real interesting part is that this stuff can snowball big time. If you don't need to make a big rent/ mortgage payment then maybe you can quit that horrible job. You could then try a business idea that has been in your head for awhile. If you don't need to impress people at that fancy job then maybe an older paid off vehicle (or no vehicle at all) will work just fine. With all that time you aren't at work all kinds of things could be done.

Take some responsibility and ownership over your life. Figure out what is really important to you. Think outside the box and focus on what is important to you and your family, not the Johnson's, or anybody else. Make the inevitable hard choices and create the kind of life that you really want to have.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

quote of the day

"I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle". --Winston Churchill--

Sunday, May 2, 2010

quote of the day

"The way to crush the bourgeois is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation." – V.I. Lenin

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

quote of the day

"It was sold to voters as a “make the rich pay their fair share” tax. Unfortunately, those rich folks (if you call someone making $125,000 a year rich) employ everyone else."
-Dave Duffy 

He was speaking about Oregon's Ballot Measures 66 and 67 but it applies for every tax that targets the 'rich'.  People who make incomes that put them in politicians sights for being 'rich' are the ones who can afford to hire out jobs instead of buying a home depot book and getting friends to help. They are also the ones who can afford the kind of luxuries that employ people be it having a housekeeper or a fairly nice boat (which they pay to dock and get maintained and pick up last minute supplies at the store by the dock, etc) or the other stuff which EMPLOYS people.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

quote of the day

"Elections should be held on April 16th- the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders."
-Thomas Sowell

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Late Night Conversation and Random Thoughts Theiron

I couple days ago I ended up pulling an all niter. Had a bunch of work that needed to get done so I was working until about 1 o'clock. I had to wake up at 4 the following morning. Since I would have the opportunity to take a nap the next day I just stayed up. Ended up having an interesting conversation with the night shift folks.

Personally I am not so sure about the security and stability of China. Their ability to keep totalitarian rule going is something I doubt. Buying people off with letting them own property, make money and such works OK as long as the economy is good. However if it gets too good they have problems. Right now their system works to a large part because the rural poor from the inland area are forcibly held in place. Also sooner or later rich people will want the same sort of social and political freedom as they have for the economy.

While there is was some debate on how bad things could get in the US the picture is bleak. At best I see a rather painful decade coming up. When people eventually get back to work and businesses grow and borrow and invest we are going to see inflation. I just can't see a way that when the massive amount of new money gets moving through the economy it will not decrease the value of currency. It might be catastrophic hyperinflation which could lead to war or a full on default. It could just be late 70's to early 80's style high inflation and interest rates. One fellow saw the Fed getting shut down and replaced with a true government currency. Avoiding adjustable rate interest debt like the plague and generally being financially fit is good advice. If you can afford it putting a few spare bucks into silver and gold isn't a bad idea either.

We were generally not enthusiastic or optimistic about this new health care bill. That it started by being billed as stopping big, evil insurance companies from hurting people and ended with people being forced to buy health insurance from big, evil insurance companies is sad, ironic and not at all surprising. Personally I think we the people are getting taken for a ride but soon enough government may well stick it to insurance companies. In general our government likes to start a program (special education is a great example) and then gradually remove funding but still under threat of something bad, force the program to continue.

There was significant concern voiced by one fellow that since the government is now in the health care business they can and probably will stick their nose further into people lives. Even aside from trying to centrally manage (or at least shot call) 1/6th of our economy it is a great excuse to get all up into peoples business. Think of it like the Commerce Clause but for personal behavior.  Since you doing X might arguably cost the government money via health care it is now taxed/ restricted/ banned could become a common summary of upcoming legislation and decree's.

In some ways the recent problems with the Euro were surprising to us. Then again if you really stop and think they shouldn't be. First of all the relatively recent times where the Euro has pwned the dollar have not been about the Euro's getting stronger but about the dollar getting weaker. Secondly lets look at Europe. In general northern Europe and particularly Germany have solid economies though now and then their socialist programs (they are expensive) cause issues. Southern Europe is a big financial mess. They have relatively similar socialist programs as the rest of Europe but without the economies to support them if things go less than perfectly. Europe is an expensive place to do business and especially the kind of business that employs lots of people. Those whose industry can be anywhere often avoid Europe's high wages and crazy powerful unions. The last couple years chaos has hurt them albeit slower and to a smaller degree than the US but I am not convinced these issues haven't been building for awhile.

There was some talk of the world reserve currency shifting away from the dollar. Personally I think that baring a complete economic melt down of the US, that is unlikely. I think this because there isn't any better option. The Euro certainly isn't as solid as it seemed not too long ago and in terms of managing it the Europeans have too hard of a time getting anything agreed on. I don't think anyone is stupid enough to go with the Chinese Yuan because of a lack of long term history and well, China is not the kind of government one would want to trust with something that big. The Japanese Yen is all over the place and their whole weird pseudo fascist system plus people still vividly remember their Lost Decade. The Pound Sterling is probably in some ways worse off than the Dollar. Russia is a totally unstable Gangsterocracy and heavily dependent on energy prices staying high. That whole "basket" idea seems unreliable and outright nutty. I have a hard time seeing enough nations being willing to buy into it. Then again it is so nutty and prone to manipulation that governments might love it. I see the dollar staying as the world reserve currency for the foreseeable future, if just because better options are not currently available.

 Also, at least for relatively short periods of time coffee helps you stay awake.

Lastly I have been enjoying The Drudge Report as of late. If I have just a 15 minute coffee break to get the news a glance there and one at the BBC News front page gets me up to date.

Since it is late I am going to bed now.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Atlas Shrugged IPR#1

So I am about halfway through Atlas Shrugged. The review portion is going to be a bit shorter than normal because I do not want to spoil anything for those who haven't read it. Basically it follows a series of people. The people fall into 3 groups: producers, moochers and looters. About as simple as it sounds with producers producing stuff (they are big industrial types), moochers thinking they deserve something for just being themselves and looters taking by force. It is interesting. Onto the review.

The good: It has made me think a lot about all sorts of stuff. There have been (without ruining it for you) 2 points that really stuck out to me. First is that even a theoretically well intentioned highly centralized planning committee can not manage an economy in a decent fashion for very long. Not a big surprise there, Russia pretty much proved that one. Also the reminder of how well things are going in North Korea helps. Even if Thomas Sowell ran things along with Milton Friedman and Adam Smith who were brought back to life for the occasion it wouldn't work. Markets work because of dozens of decisions made daily by every person involved. They produce and thus earn and consume by turning the fruits of their labor (or ill gotten gains) into things they desire. A particular product like a new type of soda doesn't succeed or fail because of a report by experts that report to a committee. It does because people choose to try it or not and then whether to drink it in the future.

The problem I see with centralized planning is that markets are complex and unpredictable and thus impossible to plan. It is nice to think of them like making a sandwich, want some more lettuce so you just add a bit more, ditto for tomato, cheese, etc. However markets are a lot more like baking with yeast. They are their own weird creature and when you start tweaking things (heck even if they stay the same) then who knows what will come out of the oven. One discrete (and lets just say, well intentioned) move made by a central committee can have all sorts of crazy and entirely unanticipated effects. Think of the movie Butterfly Effect but with the economy.

Secondly I think it is important to remember that in an environment where the granting of favors to preferential groups is customary, even if it works out well for you once, it will probably not always go that way. For example Middle class home owners deserve the massive tax breaks they get but corporate tax cuts are unacceptable and earned income credit is welfare. Just about everyone would like to keep whatever breaks fit their situation and get rid of ones that benefit other groups as those are wrong.

Taking it to a corporate level General Motors has been helped in incalculable ways by the federal government. Without pet legislation (buy American, tariffs, bail outs, etc) they would likely not exist. However a big part of why GM is stuck with its very powerful union labor force. If tomorrow the president of GM (whoever he is) was able to fire his entire workforce and go non union it could be a very different ball game.

In a climate where preferential treatment is given in order to garner influence just don't be surprised if sooner or later politicians want to buy some other groups vote. Also revisiting our first theme central planning, which includes pet legislation often has unintended consequences.

The bad: Ayn Rand is long winded. The book is good but it could easily be 25% shorter.

The ugly; Ayn Rand is really long winded. The ideas which are part of the actual plot of the book are good. However frequent random paragraphs about the way a characters clothes fit their certain type of body and the expression of their face when they sat with their leg sprawled onto a table smoking a cigarette in a certain way is a bit much. It is really lame when those paragraphs don't matter at all or relate to anything. Saying that the character sat in a chair and smoked a cigarette would suffice and skipping it all together might even have been better.

I am enjoying it and hopefully will finish it in the next month or so. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

quote of the day

"By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. "
John Maynard Keynes

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Review: The Modern Survival Retreat by Ragnar Benson

First of all I would like to thank the VP of Awesomeness for giving me the opportunity to read and review The Modern Survival Retreat by Ragnar Benson now, instead of at some future date when I got around to buying it.

I am going to start with the bottom line up front. I would not suggest paying full price for this book. Not that I think it is a waste of time to read it. Just that for the money you could get a more useful book or some gear or scrape around your couch cushions until you find about three more bucks in change and get a pint of Crown Royal. If you can borrow a friends or swap for one or something then it could be worthwhile but you could do better for the $12 or so it costs to get this book delivered. It had some interesting ideas but also some redundant fluff and utterly ludicrous advice. It is worth pointing out that this book was written in 1998. It is almost entirely focused on preparing to be attacked by some sort of an alphabet agency. I suppose given its time frame and audience that was good marketing.

Might as well use the good, bad and ugly format for the rest.

The Good: I really like that this book emphasized planning for whatever situation you are concerned about in your retreat plans. An ideal location for someone who is concerned about a nuclear strike is different from that of one who really wants a low tax profile which is probably different from someone who wants to home school their kids in peace. Also I like that it doesn't entirely ignore the possibilities of living in a city. A lot of goals that people 'retreat' to can be accomplished by moving to a city in the right part of the right state.

Also I liked that it was (for a Paladin Press book focused on retreating and defending yourself from the government) relatively non tin foil hat oriented. Ragnar Benson astutely points out that you probably need to worry far more about (my example not his) what is going on at say, the county planning commission than about some obscure UN resolutions. Worry about people and agencies that can really effect your life, not obscure stuff that can't. Figuring out what agencies or groups you feel impede on something important to you then take steps to create the best situation possible is mentioned as a big point of the book.

It was somewhat unique and cool that this book went through the fairly standard advice (have multiple sources of food, water, fuel, etc) in a way that wasn't just, buy all this stuff (from companies the author works with) and you will be prepared for anything. If anything it was surprisingly light in this subject and I didn't really feel like I got Ragnar's take on it. No worries though.

The Bad:

I am coming to see that in addition to the rule that you can't publish a Paladin Press book that is more than about 150 pages long; their books must at some point mention the author doing obscure, vaguely covert/ paramilitary work on at least two continents other than North America. Not sure what is up with that but it seems sort of Soldier of Fortune style ploy to armchair commandos.

Also (and maybe this is just me writing 12 years later) the book talks a lot about how to hide your retreat from various groups including the government. My limited observation is that it is basically impossible to own and develop real property anonymously without insane resources. However since Mel Gibson could not pull off having a secret island  I question if it is possible at all. One guy living like a hybrid mountain man/ hobo in a cave deep inside a remote inaccessible region could likely be unnoticed for a long time. However the idea that you could build anything approaching a modern home that is accessible by vehicle with a well, propane heating, etc and keep it totally secret is almost laughable to me.

I would furthermore wager that a lot of the standard and illegal (so this is for academic study only blah, blah, blah) stuff about getting a new identity to be totally hidden and thus live secretly in plain sight stuff is probably dated and dangerously inaccurate. There are too many computers and too much inner connectivity these days for that to work. If modern computers didn't do it then 9/11 probably did. Maybe getting ones hands on a a drivers license that would pass the most basic scrutiny (traffic stops, buying a bus ticket, etc) could be possible but I have doubts about banking, buying real property, paying taxes, etc. Anyway.....

Also the book had a bit too much fluff for my tastes. Maybe the intent was for it to be reinforcing key points but they just didn't quite pull it off.Then again maybe they were stuck at 112 pages and wanted to get to 120.

The Ugly:

It is suggested that a person could use a bulldozer to take out a tank by flipping it over. It may be possible that some bulldozers could move something of the size of a modern main battle tank. That however misses the incredibly obvious point that tanks have lots of guns. Even using the very convenient train of thought that said guy in bulldozer could get so close the main gun is useless (a dangerous assumption as research says that the M1 Abrams can engage targets with the main gun at under 50 meters, close to point blank range) the M2 .50cal and pair of M240 7.62x51 machine guns would cut a bulldozer to shreds. Even a guy on top with a rifle would be able to stop that by shooting dozer guy in the head. 

Guess in conclusion this is the sort of book I would suggest reading if you can get your hands on a copy for little to no cost and have some free time. I am curious about what others who read this book thought.

The End

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tax Fun

Well it is getting to be that season. The season where we see if our withholding's add up to what we actually owe. Some people claim like 12 and pay nothing then owe a bunch. Others claim 0 and get a whole lot back. I personally go for a middle path of sorts. I pay enough to confidently know I will not owe at the end of the year, plus a little bit more.

One of the benefits of the family I married into is that it includes a CPA who is nice enough to do our taxes for free. Last year said CPA was able to get us some more money back through various (legal) little rules. We were warned however that without said little one time (we graduated college and got married) credits our withholdings were close to the point where we might have to pay. Said CPA is on the cautious side when it comes to finances but then again so am I. Early last year I fiddled around with a tax calculator some and realized that claiming the 2 I am entitled to and withholding an additional $75 would get us to the confident place I described above.

Yeah the perfect answer is that you should pay in as little as possible monthly, put it somewhere and then bank the interest. That might work for some folks. I am less sure it would work for me. More realistically if we had that extra $75 every month we would just spend it on something.

When I was a bit younger and single I would always claim 0. This ensured I would never need to worry about coming up with money to pay taxes later. Also for me it was a nice little savings program, albeit at no interest. Usually I would buy a gun or go on a trip or something. Last year we banked it.

This year we are getting about a grand back. It is going to start the second and reliable car fund in earnest.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Some More Thoughts On The Plan

My recent post got some interesting discussion going. A couple things jumped out and I laid in bed unable to sleep for a couple hours thinking about them. First as Sgt. Jarhead noted one benefit of the region I am talking about is that the borders of Washington, Idaho, and Montana are close together. Also I would add that NE Oregon isn't too far away either. A group of people could choose to live throughout this region, having their choice of the unique characteristics of each state and still be pretty darn close to each other.

Pearls, our bestie gal pal from Oklahoma mentioned taxes, specifically states with no income tax. This got me thinking. As a longtime PNW resident I am familiar with driving from Vancouver, WA to Portland, OR to avoid paying sales tax and such. As a brief catchup for those not familiar with the PNW Washington does not have any income tax but does have sales tax. Oregon and Idaho do not have sales tax but do have income tax. All have property taxes to varying degrees.

Before I get started here is a disclaimer. I am not certified as a tax adviser or anything like that. If you are looking at taxes as a serious factor in a potential move it is probably worth it to consult a licensed professional like a CPA or something. Anyway here we go.

The folks at Retirement Living said what I was thinking in a more intelligent manner: Many people planning to retire use the presence or absence of a state income tax as a litmus test for a retirement (TOR adds: or retreat) destination.  This is a serious miscalculation since higher sales and property taxes can more than offset the lack of a state income tax. The lack of a state income tax doesn’t necessarily ensure a low total tax burden.
States raise revenue in many ways including sales taxes, excise taxes, license taxes, income taxes, intangible taxes, property taxes, estate taxes and inheritance taxes.  Depending on where you live, you may end up paying all of them or just a few.


I did some looking and found a few resources that might help. The good folks at the Communist News Network reported an estimate of the total state and local tax burden for each state, probably not a bad place to start.

Going a step further and far more into depth Retirement Living did a very comprehensive job of laying out the total tax situation for each state. This site shows things like property tax rates, fuel surcharges, cigarette taxes and of course a lot of specific stuff about retirement benefits. This sort of nitty gritty look goes a long way toward telling the whole story.

Those two resources give a pretty decent view of the generic tax situation state by state. For how this all affects your decision making it gets more complicated. Property and sales taxes can vary county by county or even between two cities in the same county. A small rancher or farmer who will own a good amount of land but not make a ton of money is going to be worried more about property and estate/ inheritance taxes than income tax.. Someone who makes a lot of money and lives a modest lifestyle (thus minimal property and sales tax exposure) will want to avoid income taxes. Some states tax dividends which could be an issue for you.

One word of caution here. I would not move to one state over another because of a specific tax rule that benefits you. As times get bad old rules like say, a homestead exemption can change leaving you high and dry. Look more at the whole tax situation of the state than any one little rule, even if it will greatly benefit you. 

Again if tax implications of different areas are an important factor for you it is probably worthwhile to consult a licensed professional like a CPA or something. If you are going to spend tens or more likely hundreds of thousands of dollars and relocate to a different state it is worth an hour or two and a couple hundred bucks to make an informed decision.

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