Irrational for Americans to work unless above-median income can be earned

As we celebrate Tax Day (updated date for coronapanic) and you add up what you’re paying to the Feds and states, it might cheer you up to look back to this 2019 article from a former Senator and a former top executive at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a Wall Street Journal article on income inequality:

Official measures of income inequality, the numbers being debated, are profoundly distorted by what the Census Bureau chooses to count as household income.

The published census data for 2017 portray the top quintile of households as having almost 17 times as much income as the bottom quintile. But this picture is false. The measure fails to account for the one-third of all household income paid in federal, state and local taxes. Since households in the top income quintile pay almost two-thirds of all taxes, ignoring the earned income lost to taxes substantially overstates inequality.

The Census Bureau also fails to count $1.9 trillion in annual public transfer payments to American households. The bureau ignores transfer payments from some 95 federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, which make up more than 40% of federal spending, along with dozens of state and local programs. Government transfers provide 89% of all resources available to the bottom income quintile of households and more than half of the total resources available to the second quintile.

Today government redistributes sufficient resources to elevate the average household in the bottom quintile to a net income, after transfers and taxes, of $50,901—well within the range of American middle-class earnings. The average household in the second quintile is only slightly better off than the average bottom-quintile household. The average second-quintile household receives only 9.4% more, even though it earns more than six times as much income, it has more than twice the proportion of its prime working-age individuals employed, and they work twice as many hours a week on average. The average middle-income household is only 32% better off than the average bottom-quintile households despite earning more than 13 times as much, having 2.5 times as many of prime working-age individuals employed and working more than twice as many hours a week.

Condensed version of the above: Your spending power will be roughly the same if you don’t work at all (and therefore don’t have to file tax returns, extensions, estimated tax, etc.) than if you work full time, unless you are a high-skill worker who can command a wage that is well above the median. The article includes a chart from 2017, before all of the Coronawelfare was ladled on top:

Note the flat shape of the “Net income” (i.e., spending power) curve until one is in the top 20 percent. The old sourpusses who wrote the article conclude with a scolding tone:

America already redistributes enough income to compress the income difference between the top and bottom quintiles from 60 to 1 in earned income down to 3.8 to 1 in income received. If 3.8 to 1 is too large an income differential, those who favor more redistribution need to explain to the bottom 60% of income-earning households why they should keep working when they could get almost as much from riding in the wagon as they get now from pulling it.

But, as Cicero noted more than 2000 years ago, “The cash that comes from selling your labour is vulgar and unacceptable for a gentleman … for wages are effectively the bonds of slavery.” Maybe the fact that we’ve created the world’s largest group of humans who don’t work is a feature, not a bug?

(Separately, I don’t see how the above calculation can be done accurately. Many of our brothers, sisters, and binary resisters who receive free housing and/or reduced rent are in private-sector apartment buildings that have been ordered by local governments to provide free or reduced rent. The rent subsidy is reflected in higher rents paid by market-rate tenants, not in a local government’s budget.)


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Kristi Noem and support for small business

Kristi Noem, famous or notorious (depending on your perspective regarding governor-ordered masks and shutdown) for saying that people who didn’t want to get COVID-19 should stay home and not rely on the government, a bandana, or a 3-cent paper surgical mask to protect them from a respiratory virus, is being talked about as someone who might enter national politics.

A recent CATO analysis of the small business environment in the 50 states has Ms. Noem’s South Dakota at #2 for business freedom:

Note that New Jersey, which if it were its own country would have the world’s highest COVID-19 death rate (ranking), is almost dead last! Also, states that you might expect to be free, e.g., Montana, aren’t. It is interesting to look at correlations with how easy it is to make money via pregnancy and child support. Georgia, where the government wants you to set up a business, has a soft cap on child support profits (so does South Dakota). Connecticut, on the other hand, is the nation’s most difficult state in which to start a business, but is a paradise for alimony plaintiffs and also offers unlimited child support.

Readers: Now that the Republican Party draws its support primarily from those who operate small business (everyone else is on the government gravy train either through welfare at the low end and crony capitalism at the high end), is Kristi Noem a likely future presidential candidate?


  • states ranked by COVID-19-tagged death rate (unfortunately not adjusted for percentage of population over 65), in which we see #Science-following Maskachusetts right near the top and give-the-finger-to-the-virus South Dakota at around #10.
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Why aren’t vaccines available at highway rest stops?

We visited a friend’s 12,000 square foot house the other day in an all-white suburb of Boston (what I learned: don’t buy a 12,000 square foot house unless you want to pay about $75,000 every time it needs paint). After passing all of the Black Lives Matter signs put out by his rich white neighbors (they adore low-income BIPOC but will keep their one-acre zoning minimum, thank you very much!), we got on the state-run highway. During the 40-minute drive, every 5 minutes we passed a state-run sign urging us to get vaccinated. The person reading the sign, quite possibly a driver all by him/her/zir/their self, is told to visit a web site and begin a cumbersome appointment process, We also passed a couple of state-owned state-run rest stops in which health-promoting food, such as donuts, are available.

Wouldn’t it make more sense if the signs said “Get vaccinated right now at the next rest stop”? If the government wants people to do something unpleasant and, in the case of younger folks, quite possibly against their personal interest (since the median age of a COVID-19 death in Massachusetts was 82), why not make it easy? Add an incentive too: “free coffee, donut, and vaccine, next right”.

Given that the government itself owns these highway rest stops, why isn’t there a vaccine tent at every one?

(The Florida Department of Transportation runs similar signs, but the messages that we saw in April were all related to driving, e.g., “check your tire pressure” or “road work scheduled”, rather than coronapanic.)

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Can billionaires marry their children to avoid Joe Biden’s new estate taxes?

“Biden’s Capital-Gains Tax Plan Would Upend Estate Planning by the Wealthy” (Wall Street Journal, April 29):

President Biden’s American Families Plan would raise capital-gains taxes and end a rule that has been a cornerstone of estate planning for generations of wealthy Americans.

The change—increasing the top capital-gains rate to 43.4% from 23.8% and taxing assets as if sold when someone dies—would upend the tax strategies of the very richest households.

Let’s consider Jack and Jill Billionaire. Jill was the first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion manager hired by a successful Silicon Valley startup. Her shares in the company, purchased for $1, are now worth $1 billion. Jack and Jill have two children, Morgan and Parker. Jack and Morgan currently identify as male. Jill and Parker currently identify as female.

If Jack and Jill were to die from triple-mutant coronavirus during President Harris’s reign, their children would inherit only around $430 million ($1 billion minus 43.4 percent federal tax minus 13.3 percent California state tax).

The U.S. offers no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage (by Supreme Court ruling). There shouldn’t be any obstacle to Jack and Jill cooperating on a divorce then Jack marrying Morgan and Jill marrying Parker. South Carolina law, for example (from Wikipedia):

(1) A man with his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, stepmother, sister, grandfather’s wife, son’s wife, grandson’s wife, wife’s mother, wife’s grandmother, wife’s daughter, wife’s granddaughter, brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter, father’s sister or mother’s sister; (2) A woman with her father, grandfather, son, grandson, stepfather, brother, grandmother’s husband, daughter’s husband, granddaughter’s husband, husband’s father, husband’s grandfather, husband’s son, husband’s grandson, brother’s son, sister’s son, father’s brother or mother’s brother.

Jack and Jill might each be able to marry either child if both children identify as some gender that takes them out of the “son” and “daughter” categories.

Now, when the Grim Mutant COVID-19 Reaper comes for Jack and Jill, the kids inherit $1 billion rather than $430 billion.

[What if Jack and Jill have four children rather than two? There is no limit to the number of no-fault divorce lawsuits that an American can file. Jack and Jill can marry and divorce their children in succession, with a tax-free agreed-upon property division after each divorce.]

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CIA Officer: My existence is not a box-checking exercise

“I am perfectly made” and “My existence is not a box-checking exercise”:

(Note that I disagree with this Twitter user’s comment, “I think it’s safe to say the contemporary American left has failed.” First, I don’t think politics in the U.S. is supported by any coherent philosophy and therefore there is no “left” or “right”. Second, to the extent that checking victimhood boxes is associated with “left”, this ad would be evidence that the contemporary American left has succeeded.)

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Why do governments have to steal vaccine rights? Why not print more money to buy them?

“Taking ‘Extraordinary Measures,’ Biden Backs Suspending Patents on Vaccines” (NYT):

The Biden administration, siding with some world leaders over the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, came out in favor of waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines.

The United States had been a major holdout at the World Trade Organization over a proposal to suspend some of the world economic body’s intellectual property protections, which could allow drugmakers across the globe access to the closely guarded trade secrets of how the viable vaccines have been made. But President Biden had come under increasing pressure to throw his support behind the proposal, drafted by India and South Africa and backed by many congressional Democrats.

If we’re comfortable with borrowing and spending $trillions (i.e., printing money) every few months during coronapanic, why not print a little more money and buy, rather than steal, the rights to the vaccines that we think should be free and open-source? Surely there is some price at which at least one of the vaccine makers would sell voluntarily. Pick the one that is easiest to manufacture, buy the formula, put it on a web site, and pay the inventors additional $$ to help anyone who wants to make it.

From earlier today, “Federal judge vacates CDC’s eviction moratorium” (The Hill): A federal judge on Wednesday vacated a nationwide freeze on evictions that was put in place by federal health officials to help cash-strapped renters remain in their homes during the pandemic. … “The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not,” Friedrich wrote [full text].

Same question for that one. Why did the government, which can print as much money as it wants to (and where such printing has no cost, according to an MIT economist), need to steal from individual landlords? If the CDC wanted everyone to have a rent holiday, why didn’t the CDC pay the rent with borrowed/printed money?


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How will the government and media convince parents to give children a non-FDA-approved Covid vaccine?

Now that nearly all U.S. adults are on their way to vaccination (see Fact-checking Donald Trump’s predictions regarding COVID vaccine availability), it is time to get Americans to accept the injection of an “investigational” (non-FDA-approved; see We love our children so much we will give them an investigational vaccine and Facebook fact check) vaccine for their children.

I know a remarkable number of young people who are major Mask and Shutdown Karens and who are generally afraid to leave their apartments due to expressed personal fears of contracting coronavirus. I always ask these folks “Do you personally know anyone who has been hospitalized for COVID-19?” and the answer is almost always “no.” Nor do they know anyone who claims to be suffering from “Long COVID”. In other words, if they weren’t exposed to government and media stories about COVID they wouldn’t know that it existed or was hazardous to anyone their age.

Before people here in Maskachusetts were going to hear the news that public schools would remain shut, the state removed fatality-by-age-group data from the Covid dashboard. Thus, the general public was unable to learn that nobody under age 20 in MA had ever died from COVID-19. I’m wondering if there will now be a ramp-up of stories about children testing positive, being harmed, etc. Here’s a recent Boston Globe story:

Most people wouldn’t read beyond the headline to see a hint as to what might be behind the increase in “cases” (positive PCR tests), i.e., that many Massachusetts schools recently initiated a pooled testing program (test a pool every week, wait for result, then start testing individuals if the result for the pool is positive; due to the days of lag time, “useless” was the rating from a friend who is an expert in public health informatics).

From government-funded media, “Michigan Sees Surge In COVID-19 Among Children” (NPR):

There’s an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases among children in Michigan.

Dr. Bishara Freij is chief of pediatric infectious disease at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., which is just north of Detroit, and he joins us now.

FREIJ: Children do much better than adults in terms of infection. So their infections are much less severe, and far fewer of them get hospitalized. And certainly, death is pretty uncommon.

FREIJ: … The problem is it’s not predictable who’s going to do OK and who won’t. So I can tell you that most of the kids that have been really sick that we’ve taken care of had been previously well children. You know, they were not the chronically ill patients who happened to get COVID on top of their other problems. And so when we look at them, there’s no way to predict which child is going to have a bad disease. The odds are low, but you cannot say, my child is going to escape because that child is healthy.

Only the vaccinated will be spared!

Can the scientists help? “Vaccinating Children against Covid-19 — The Lessons of Measles” (New England Journal of Medicine, February 18, 2021):

Protecting children against SARS-CoV-2 infection is both an ethical obligation and a practical necessity. We need data from pediatric trials to reassure parents about the safety and wisdom of this approach. We must prepare for disinformation campaigns that prey on parental fears and target communities made vulnerable through histories of medical neglect, health disparities, and racism. … Dare we imagine a campaign that would actually thank children and parents for helping to protect others, as the rubella campaign did, perhaps suggesting that they proudly display their SARS Stars or Corona Diplomas?

(From the same journal: an editorial saying to stop classifying babies as boys/girls on birth certificates.)

I would love to see the “SARS Star” to be affixed to the clothing of a vaccinated person. As a starting point, here’s an idea from a museum:

What word should go in the center, though?

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More corruption from bigger government?

Americans often think that the U.S. is relatively free from corruption because cash payoffs, they suppose, are less common here than in some poorer countries. A friend in the money world, though, points out that we just don’t see the special deals obtained by the connected. “Look at all of the Goldman guys,” he said. “They rotate into government and are ‘forced’ to sell all of their shares to avoid a conflict of interest, so they skip out on paying capital gains tax for 20 years of appreciation. Then they rotate out and give their job to another Goldman executive so that he can cash in.”

Buried toward the end of Fly the Quota Skies is an interesting article on what it takes to do business in New York/New Jersey. “United Settles Charges in Case of Flight Route to Benefit Public Official”. From the Federales:

According to the SEC’s order instituted today, United reinstated a nonstop flight between Newark, N.J., and Columbia, S.C., at the behest of David Samson, the then-chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who sought a more direct route to his home in South Carolina. … the SEC’s order finds that United officials feared Samson’s influence could jeopardize United’s business interests before the Port Authority, including the approval of a hangar project to help the airline at Newark’s airport. The company ultimately decided to initiate the route despite the poor financial projections. The same day that United’s then-CEO approved initiation of the route, the Port Authority’s board approved the lease agreement related to the hangar project. United employees were told “no proactive communications” about the new route. … The route ultimately lost approximately $945,000 before it ceased again roughly around the time of Samson’s resignation from the Port Authority.

With each $2 trillion spending bill and the lockdowns that shrink the private economy, the share of the GDP devoted to or controlled by government grows. So these opportunities for corruption also grow.

Readers: What do you think? Will corruption be the sector of the economy that grows fastest over the next decade (as government is expanded by Presidents Biden and Harris)?


  • “Forget Stocks Or Bonds, Invest In A Lobbyist” (NPR, 2012): In a recent study, researchers Raquel Alexander and Susan Scholz calculated the total amount the corporations saved from the lower tax rate. They compared the taxes saved to the amount the firms spent lobbying for the law. Their research showed the return on lobbying for those multinational corporations was 22,000 percent. That means for every dollar spent on lobbying, the companies got $220 in tax benefits.
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Derek Chauvin conviction makes us less safe in the long run?

As predicted in How’s the Derek Chauvin trial going?, the jury agreed with the government and the rest of Derek Chauvin’s life will be at taxpayer expense, as planned, but in a prison rather than a squad car or at a desk.

Short-term positive: we don’t all have to pay higher insurance premiums to cover $billions in losses from mostly peaceful protests that would have followed an acquittal ($1-2 billion in damage from last summer’s, according to Wikipedia).

I wonder if the long-term consequences of conviction will be negative for Americans who interact with the police. Once this one bad apple is locked away, nobody will be motivated to consider whether police should be unionized and therefore effectively immune from the consequences of any misconduct short of appearing to kill someone in custody on a video recording.

In the comments to the first Chauvin-related post, I cited an NPR story: “After police officers gained access to collective bargaining rights, there was a substantial increase in the killings of civilians — overwhelmingly, nonwhite civilians.”

Having more non-white police officers won’t help, based on the George Floyd killing, since two of the four officers involved were non-white. My comment regarding those other officers:

[what Chauvin was doing] was plainly something that other police officers in Minneapolis though was okay because three of them were there on the scene and didn’t try to stop Chauvin. Now, however, his brother/sister/binary-resister officers are coming out to say that what Chauvin did was way off the reservation (and we don’t need Elizabeth Warren to tell us how bad that is).

If they can paint Chauvin as a single bad apple then they can keep the system in place indefinitely ($300,000+/year total compensation, practical immunity from almost any wrongdoing via unionization, etc.). They can say “We convicted Chauvin so now #ProblemSolved and #MissionAccomplished.”

Senorpablo’s response:

the fact that ALL FOUR of these guys didn’t have the sense to not kill a guy in broad daylight only emphasizes the level of systemic corruption in law enforcement. Not one of these guys had the sense and stones to prevent Chauvin from killing another man and also ruining his own life? I expect the same authority and power complex that police display towards the public probably exist in their own hierarchy. Police are put on the hero pedestal–we must give them tremendous latitude and we can’t possibly fire them because what they do is so dangerous(it isn’t at all). It’s a great marketing job done by the unions or whomever. It seems like the majority of police training focus on their safety and well being, at the expense of those who they are paid to serve. It’s a completely voluntary job so this seems backwards to me.

If 1-4 guys are convicted and imprisoned, it isn’t “systemic corruption” as Senorpablo put it, but 1-4 guys who are outliers.

The research psychologists say that what we consider to be fundamental personality characteristics are actually artifacts of the environment we’re in. People behave consistently because we tend to see people in the same environment over and over. If the psychologists are right, Chauvin’s behavior was strongly influenced by the environment he was in (unionized police officer in which it is almost impossible to be fired).

Since Elizabeth Warren was mentioned above, I can’t resist pointing out that she seems to be here in Jupiter, Florida with us:


  • Shooting of Justine Damond (George Floyd‘s life turned out to be worth more than Justine Damond’s, though Justine Damond had no criminal background (Floyd had been convicted of eight crimes); the city paid out $20 million to Damond’s family and $27 million to George Floyd’s. Imagine if these payments, instead of coming from taxpayers, were funded by reduced raises to the police!)
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Mars “helicopter” can make Robinson owners feel good?

The Ingenuity “helicopter” (would most folks call it a “drone”?) has done some hover work on Mars.

Cost? $80 million to buy and $5 million/year to operate (Wikipedia).

The goal is to fly up to 16′ vertically and 160′ laterally.

I’m wondering if Robinson R44 owners worldwide are rejoicing. This government project makes a $400,000 Raven I purchase, adjusted for distance traveled and heights achieved, seem quite reasonable, even if you’re paying hangar rent to Bill Gates’s Signature (the climate change expert is also the world’s biggest seller of Jet A fuel to Gulfstreams).

Also fun, below is a photo of the team. They appear to be young enough to have minimal personal risk from COVID-19, yet they’re afraid to sit together unmasked (i.e., less daring than customers of a sports bar in Florida or employees at a typical FBO). They’re watching TV while sitting in front of a “Dare Mighty Things” sign.

Speaking of daring, here’s a front door sign from a coffee shop in Jupiter, Florida this morning:

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