Friday, January 21, 2011

Spectrum auctions---bringing the pain?

Happened to come across this in my fevered wanderings:
Basically, a description of how spectrum auctions work post 1993.
So is there a possibility to use this as an instrument to punish enemies? Even (or perhaps especially) if a group can't win an auction, it can at least drive up the price that the winners (who are pretty much all your enemies in most cases) have to pay. Might be a terrific opportunity for, say, a Christian broadcaster to economically hurt ABC, CBS, and/or NBC, especially if the rules of said auctions are highly gameable. Most of these organizations aren't terribly profitable as it is. And imagine if said organization happened to win...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Charitable contributions and Taxes, a few questions and ideas

In the US, charitable contributions are deductible if and only if you itemize your deductions. Apparently most people in the US don't (only about 35% according to ).
So an awful lot of charitable contributions by US taxpayers don't get deducted.
I have a few questions for my readers. As always, you're perfectly welcome to appropriate any of these ideas if you find them useful.
1) Since a business can basically take off charitable contributions as a cost of doing business, in much the same way as they can take off your salary if you're their employee, why is it that we don't see job benefits of this form offered:

Say you're an 80K/year employee for Acme Enterprises. Acme offers to write an 8K check to your church next year while paying you 72K instead of 80K. In fact, they're willing to instead donate any amount you'd like to your church or favorite charitable organization from the 80K it costs them to employ you. You'd get around the charitable contribution limits (only a certain fraction of your AGI can be deducted, but you can carry it over from year to year), and your deduction would be effectively 'above the line', because it'd never show up as your AGI. This means that any phase outs wouldn't hit you and in many cases you'd just claim the standard deduction instead of itemizing. So why don't we see this on cafeteria benefit plans?

2) People are allowed to give money to other people without tax implications if the gifts are below a certain (fairly large) amount. Could a person in a lower tax bracket not then effectively 'sell' their charitable deduction to another person? Imagine Joe, who is below the threshold of itemization and Bob, who pays nearly 50% between federal, state, and local taxes. Joe gives 1000 each year to the Campus Crusade for Cthulhu. This gift does not lower Joe's taxes a cent. But what if Joe instead gives the money to Bob. Bob then gives 1k to the Campus Crusade, and gets 500 back from Leviathan. Or Bob could give 2k to the work of Cthulhu, receiving 1K back from Leviathan. There are all kinds of 'production possibilities' here. I've heard of companies effectively 'buying losses' for tax purposes. Would something like this be feasible/legal, and if not, why not? Obviously this scheme has the disadvantage of requiring some measure of trust between Joe and Bob.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Short take on Amy Chua, the Tiger Mother

Amy Chua has been memetically useful to me in the past, with her work in 'World on Fire' pushing a lot of concepts I use frequently in my writing into the general discourse.

Now she's written her 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother', regarding high investment, high expectation parenting.
Several of our friends and fellow travellers have written on this
(also an earlier post)

I've got a few thoughts on this:
1) Clearly the aim here by Chua is to improve the odds that her children will be able to climb the elite social ladder effectively. The particular ladder she's aiming at---let's call it Advanced American Mandarin---usually requires an upper tier Ivy League degree. Look, for instance, at the educational pedigree of pretty much every successful upper level federal or God forbid, Supreme Court justice. On this:
a) The fact that her kids are going to (in my estimation based on my estimates of their parents and grandparents IQ levels) probably average in the 140-150 IQ range does NOT by itself even make it terribly likely to get you into Harvard/Yale/Princeton. A perfect SAT won't get you there, especially after the 1990s recentering which effectively lowered the ceiling of the test and especially not if you're not bringing in any diversity of the sort they're after.
b) Checklisting activities won't normally get you there either (although sometimes it WILL hurt you a lot, if it's say, JROTC, FFA, or similarly red-state organizations). Because it's a game, and people 'game' it, just joining N different organizations won't get you out of the noise. You'll generally need things that are particularly noteworthy. Being a musician won't help much, but having quantifiable awards, virtuoso status, or the like will. Chua's going way over the top here with 3 hours/day, but hey, maybe her kids need the advantage of working 4x as hard as their average competitor to be able to distinguish themselves in their designated secondary activity. In my experience, working 2x as hard (people like this frequently get described as dedicated, avid, ardent, or sometimes just as grinds) will give you the equivalent performance of someone a standard deviation of inherent aptitude higher than you who does the standard due dilligence. Working 4x to 10x as hard will give you 2 standard deviations (this is called, 'being obsessed', driven, or, my favorite...sweating blood). My advice to Chua is this----unless they're terrifically gifted in this secondary area and you're shooting for the equivalent of the Olympics (like, say, 1st violin in a top 10 orchestra), there are a lot of ways to get this gold star on the resume for your kids with vastly lower opportunity costs. Since they're girls, golf comes to mind---fairly easy athletic scholarship for a girl in a lot of cases, good for networking, and it's a high social status sport. By working a mere twice as hard as their average competitor, they can probably get there with no more than average intrinsic aptitude for the sport.
2) Interestingly enough, having done a lot of things and suffered a lot on your behalf tends to make people LIKE YOU MORE. This is counterintuitive but it's the basic perverse nature of Man at work here once again. Neurotypical kids do NOT generally hate you for expecting a lot, even an 'unreasonable' amount. Granted, I think that Chua has gone way beyond unreasonable in this case, but remember that people tend to like you better when they've done you lots of favors---we process what amount to sunk costs horridly. Having high expectations for your kids will frequently cause them to actually like you better, much moreso than taking them every year to Disney Land or buying them Apple's latest toys. If your kids aren't neurotypical, I've got other recommendations. On this, remember that kids, even of the same parents, are different. Some can be, and in fact want to be, pushed pretty hard. Others react better to a more laid-back approach. If a kid has internal motivation, and some, but nowhere near even a majority do, then it may be counterproductive to push at all. Also, it's probably not a good idea to try to force square pegs into round holes. Try to hone their strengths---don't spend endless hours with the end product of a merely passable musician or athlete. Remember that your kids are not means to an end, they are the end.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Iowa Solution

Conservative (and reactionaries as well), have long complained about judges legislating from the bench, being 'politicians in black robes', and engaging in social engineering. This election cycle though, some of them actually got the right idea and actually did something about it.
Normally conservatives have a huge disadvantage in contests---that being, they tend to try to obey a lot of meta-rules (sometimes they call it 'the spirit of the rule') that aren't actually binding or enforced, or enforceable for that matter. For instance, the notion that you shouldn't just remove judges because you don't like their decisions.

That is the BEST reason to remove a judge.
Let's face it, the notion of strict constructionism, and 'words meaning things' in a legal context is pretty much dead. Didn't Roe v Wade convince you guys of this? There's really only one question to ask in such cases and it's Who...Whom.

What's more, an impeachable offense is merely, what the requisite majority (usually 50%+1 or 2/3, depending on the statute) says it is. You can't bind the guys that actually make the decision to any sort of actual objective standard. You'd be foolish to try. Laws or constitutional provisions forbidding something only are meaningful when the set of people who will obey them when they'd rather not plus those who they protect constitute a majority. I implore you to cease being the last group of people that still play by the 'rules'. Existential matters such as demographic hegemony are on the table.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Glad Tidings for Reactionaries

Rejoice, my brethren, for I bring glad tidings. Our comrades are faithfully implementing the reactionary plan for victory.

Apparently the fraction of children who are homeschooled has increased to around 4% (it was estimated at around 2% in 2001

As the article notes, the number of homeschooled students @1980 was no more than perhaps 20k. This is an increase of on the order of 100 times inside 30 years. Given that the homeschooled have approximately twice the level of civic participation of the average members of the population, this would tend to indicate that their political influence should increase substantially as well.