The Average American Taxpayer pays… WHAT?

If you’re a taxpayer in the United States, you may find it interesting how much you actually pay to businesses and other interests you already pay money to…

Thanks to some compiling by Moyers & Company, and a couple of other sources; I’ve put together a list:

– A policy analysis from the Cato Institute from 2012 shows that the United States Federal Government loses about $100 Billion a year to corporate subsidy, on everything from energy, to the food and housing industries.  With the methodology of 115 million families, that’s over $800 a year.

– The State and Local Governments themselves are different picture.  The New York Times ran an investigation that determined that State and Local (i.e., the County and City/Town level) gave on average $80 Billion.   That adds up to be almost $700 per year.

– Retirement Banking Fees are another hefty loss for taxpayers — on average costing over $350 per year; which assumes a 1% management fee per year of one’s retirement fund, and a middle-range percentile retirement fund amount as cited by the Economic Policy Institute was assumed to be about $35,000.

– A report by the International Monetary Fund reports that over $83 Billion winds up in interest payments on loans and banking.  That accounts to $722 per year.  A further sobering fact: the five wealthiest banks in the world, JPMorganChase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs account for THREE QUARTERS of these subsidies!

– Overpriced Medications were a surprise to me on this list — while the notion itself was not, the amount certainly was.  A study conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that US drug patent monopolies raises the price of prescription medications in the US by over $270 Billion per year!  That translates to over $2000 per year.

– $870 per year goes to corporate tax subsidies, which total about $100 Billion per year, as mentioned by The Tax Foundation.  This includes everything from depreciation, and even experimental tax credits.

– Corporate Tax havens are a very serious problem.  Indeed, the US Public Interest Research Group found that the average taxpayer family paid $1231 per year to offset the losses by those [such as large banks and wealthy individuals] who offshore their monies to avoid taxation.

According to my calculations, that’s $4873 PER YEAR.  Almost five thousand dollars; assuming an average income of about $50,000.

Consider these numbers, when one looks at what they pay out for social programs:

The Examiner released some information in 2012 about what Americans pay in social programs, such things as Education, etc.  A complete list can be found at that link, but leaving out the costs of Defense [as the Military Contract Industry is another racket in and of itself…], the costs turned out to be LESS than $500 PER YEAR.  This accounts for everything including Veterans Benefits spending, Housing, SSI, and even things like our contributions to the Railroad Retirement Fund!

…who should you *really* be mad at when it comes to who can’t afford what?  Where *IS* the “Big Government,” really?  I’ll let you decide.

I freely admit, I’ve abridged *some* information — mostly, related to Defense in Social Spending, but that, to me, doesn’t count…  and even then, admittedly, is only another $250 per year.  I also admit, I rounded *UP* on those figures — so the *actual* costs for Social Programs, are ACTUALLY a little lower.   But I’m a fair guy.

All of a sudden, the political cartoon above isn’t so ridiculous, is it?

I want to especially thank Moyers & Co., and Paul Buchheit for their work on compiling some of this data.

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RadioShack — On the Decline…

One of the places that was special to me as a kid was RadioShack.  As late-20s guy, I saw RadioShack at its height — late 90s/early 2000s, as the corporatization of the stores was taking place.  Back in the day, RadioShack was more a hobby-shop, a place where you could get LEDs, solder for your soldering iron, and was meant to be a “Geeky place, for Geeks, by Geeks.”

Indeed, people actually KNEW what they were selling, and what they did — and how they worked.  You effectively had to have a Ph.D. in “Geek” to work there.  Now, not so much.

Walking into the store, I’m often surprised to find how much Associates do *not* know about the product… more about how to *sell* it.  When asking about products capacity, or the output of another product, etc…  they simply don’t know anymore.  They’re educated now, in “upselling,” and “add-ons,” versus how products themselves actually work.

This is a stark contrast from the RadioShack I grew up with — maybe its because of the restructuring that took place in the early 2000s, where hiring was adjusted from the Store Managers, to now strictly out of its Headquarters in Fort Worth, and Store Managers having little control, past scheduling, to the restructuring of simple education and training — versus being a “hands-on with your project,” they’ve become “hands-on at getting you to spend more.”  While there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself — its changed the culture of the store, dramatically.

Maybe it’s a symptom of my age, maybe it’s a symptom of the brand of the RadioShack label, I’m not sure — but I think if RadioShack went “back to the basics,” and went back to the model that worked, of hobbyists doing what they love — versus a corporatist atmosphere of “We wanna get you what you want, but also sell you this shit too!” I think they could find the glory they once had.

Further, recently, RadioShack noted the close of 1100 stores, citing a 19% loss in sales, particularly during the last holiday season.  CFO John Feray says simply “We are overstored.”

I tend to disagree — I think its more a matter of quality of experience, versus simply being overstaffed.  RadioShack isn’t the place it used to be — and people are taking notice, I think.

I miss *this* RadioShack.

radioshack

The one family you’ve probably never heard of… who’ve influenced your life the most

English: The heraldic achievement of the House...

The House of Medici

 

The Medici Family of Italy is probably something you’ve never heard of, unless you’re involved in high finance, politics, or the academic sides of each… but they’ve likely influenced your life more than you’ll ever know.

The Medici family rose to prominence during the 14th century in Florence, getting very wealthy off the textile and later, further gathering power in the Kingdom’s local governments. At the time, their seemingly unstoppable rise continued onward and upward, to the point where they founded the Medici Bank, the largest and most notable bank of the 15th Century of Italy.

Why is this so important? The Medici family not only produced FOUR Catholic popes (Popes Leo X, Clement VII, Pius IV and Leo XI) — but it also made massive contributions to accounting and finance methodology — including the advent of the dual-book accounting system and overall improvements of the general ledger. Many of these improvements are still used by public and management accountants even today!

Coat of Arms of the Medici Family. based on Ar...

Coat of Arms of the Medici Family

 

Arguably, the Medici’s were the most wealthy family in Europe, and among the most powerful — effecting policy, religion and even banking methodology that’s still in use today. Next time you balance your checkbook, take a minute, and think about how the whole system of finance works, and where it came from… and look into it! You’d be surprised how the simple methods we use today to balance our sheets were revolutionary just a few hundred years ago…

Why did I leave Business to become a Theorist…

Socrates-1-

The Death of Socrates

“…an unexamined life is not worth living.”
 — Socrates

It’s question I’ve gotten a lot when I’ve been bouncing it off the minds of my more intellectual friends…

“Why would you not get a graduate degree in business?”
“There’s more money in business.  You want to study philosophy?!”

I’ve asked myself the same questions a lot, particularly the last year or so.  Yeah…  you definitely don’t get a degree in the humanities or social sciences and expect to make a lot of money — but I found myself going “Businessmen and businesswomen are a dime a dozen in the world today.  Indeed, they’re going to be flooding the marketplace by the time I graduate,” which is true.  Not only do I have my past successes in business as armament on a resume, but I started looking to the future…

With my experience in business, I can still teach business if I so want to; however, I think teaching the basics of political philosophy and ethics in politics could be just as important to preventing the next financial or political calamity as any business professional could be, teaching the equivalent courses.  Indeed, studying our past mistakes and failures makes us better able to prevent another Lehman Brothers‘ or Subprime Mortgage crisis or S&L Scandal.  Teaching the values of a balanced approach to policy in business, and business in policy I think is just as important, as well.

My main goal since I was a kid was to teach — even when I went into the private sector for awhile, first in mortgages, then in security as a manager, now working for a Fortune 500’s Health Safety and Environmental Department while I continue schooling…   I realized that studying our political past and the successes and failures in it lend just as much understanding as studying the great economists and financiers of our past and present does.

If maybe one day, one of the students I inspire goes forth to be a little more ethical, and blows the whistle on an unfair banking practice, or other social justice issue, or even something as simple as being a little more ethical in his or her business practices by having a sense of social responsibility and social justice, but still being profitable in his or her business — I think I’ll have done my part.

More and more the past several years, my drive has shifted from a sense of being educated more in business to more a sense of social justice.  I learned I was more interested in learning about business for the sake of my OWN knowledge, than applying it toward something I could use in the future.  When I found myself studying political or social justice issues…  particularly the work I’m doing right now as a Research Analyst and Intern with The SERO Project…  this is the stuff that actually matters.   The fact I retain information from a Business Communication course doesn’t *mean* anything, aside from the fact I can write kickass resumes and letters.  Helping myself and my friends better themselves is an awesome thing to be able to do…  but, when it comes to social science and social justice… this stuff actually MATTERS.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a home in the top 5% of income in the United States.   I’m well taken care of, essentially, the rest of my life, even if I fall flat on my face a dozen times.  I’ve lived in some of the nicest places in the country — I’ve gone to some of the best schools our nation has to offer — including Eastern’s prestigious College of Business.  I have a family who’s always been there, and I have access to many resources and avenues the average person does NOT.  I’ve had everything I’ve ever wanted, essentially…  even if I had to wait awhile for it.  Studying and working on behalf of the social sciences, particularly social justice, I think is not only a calling, but a duty of mine to perform — and it’s something I’m loving more and more, and have more and more a passion for as the days go by.  While I don’t have a wish at this time to be directly “in” politics, I’d love to be a back-office player someday…  maybe a policy analyst, or a Chief of Staff who offers a sounding board to a legislator or other person who’s decisions matter — to be right there, in the thick of it, when the opinions and the research actually count for something OTHER than lining your own pockets.

This is what I’m going to do.  Let’s get it done.

$11 Minimum Wage? Hmmm… YES, but…

English: Exterior of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in...

English: Exterior of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Madison Heights, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the labor-rights movements right now is calling for an $11/hour minimum wage in the United States — bringing the per-hour cost of labor much closer to a living wage figure.  While I completely agree that a double digit minimum or a living-wage should be a goal, I see several problems with this.

The first I see is the small business.  Small business owners often don’t make a lot of money, particularly when they first start out — often taking what’s left after all the bills are paid, and that’s NOT assuming the company has some sort of “rainy day fund.”  Small business owners may find such a surge in output to employees that they may find little money left in the till after the bills and payroll are made.  This would be unfortunate.

The second, I see being much more sinister and calculated.  We already know “Big Box” companies like Wal-Mart and Meijer have a reputation for dolling out hours “just below” full-time to avoid having to pay their employees’ health care, or other benefits, but get almost the same benefits of having a full-time labor force.  Often very underpaid, they wind up having to go on forms of assistance to get medical care.  While it’s arguable and readily easy to assume that a company like Wal-Mart could fairly easily absorb such a rise in wages, my fear is that they will cut hours.  All of a sudden, the 38-hour employee finds himself at 27 hours.  Or worse, the full-time 40+ hour a week person finds himself at 30 hours, and now, his or her benefits cut as a result.

However, COSTCO, the Big-Box retailer that’s known for paying it’s employees very handsomely, enjoys a successful and relatively happy workforce, with a CEO who, while underpaid compared to his CEO-brethren, still lives a very comfortable life.  I feel he deserves recognition as such in any such a debate.

Is this pure conjecture — surely.  But is it out of the realm of possibility?  I don’t think so.  Big-Box retailers in general are known for looking for ways to cut costs while keeping productivity high.  My fear is a wage increase could make an already lame situation much worse.

Signs of a failing infrastructure?

Livonia Water Tank Explosion

One of the things I’ve started to notice is the failure or sheer disasters associated with infrastructure or other related items lately.  A ten million gallon water tank in my neighborhood explodes, dousing the neighborhood in massive amounts of water — which, due to the pressure blew water mains all around, the Texas fertilizer plant explodes, a refinery in Detroit on Fort Street catastrophically fails and blew its top off last evening, causing evacuations around the neighboring city.

Fort Street Refinery Fire in Detroit

The sudden apparent-surge in explosions in things that one would think are regulated makes me wonder if we have a serious two-fold problem: a lack of oversight, and a failing infrastructure.

Infrastructure isn’t just roads, highways and avenues…  It’s pipes.  It’s tanks.  All of these things, particularly when they’re related to anything hazardous.  All of this stuff requires oversight and inspection.  Is it just a freak occurrence in quick succession, or is it a symbol of things to come?

Property Zoning… Past Residential, does it matter?

Proposed_LU_ranges_July 7 2007I’ve been working on a small research project for a couple of months on Zoning ordinances and people’s trust in the government.  While I’ve noticed no major correlation, it has raised an interesting point I thought I’d share.

While I’ve always understood the need for Zoning residential property — as it ensures the ground is not contaminated, or otherwise unsafe for residences, why are there oodles upon oodles of commercial or industrial zoning regulations, aside from the fact that, say, a nuclear power plant can’t sit next to a farm?  That much I get…

But for instance, say an adult store, or a strip club (which I’m using as an example in my paper, actually) wants to open its doors in a particular city.  I can understand people’s desire not to have one in their town…  but — instead of having a government board tell an otherwise-legal [assuming it is in that area] business owner, who is conducting business that s/he can’t open the business there… why can’t people just *not* patronize it?

Further, again, leaving out safety issues such as a nuclear waste facility next to a cattle farm — is this just an example of local government trying to just appropriate things JUST for the sake of appropriating them?  Is telling a car-wash that it can’t open next to a library when the land has been bought and paid for and the business owner follows rules like the reasonable person should — that “Your business can’t be there”?

Again, just food for thought…  discuss amongst yourselves… or here.  😀