Thursday, January 17, 2013

When Hyperbole Trumps Rationality

I'm finally to the point where I had to put my thoughts on guns down in an organized way.  After the murders in Newtown, CT, I had to see all sorts of absurd defenses of guns and gun ownership come out of the woodwork on Twitter and Facebook.  Every one of the common logic fallacies were used to either support truly ridiculous positions or argue against positions that virtually no one has.

I could probably write 10,000 words if I wanted to cover all the nonsense.  From the contention that banning civilian versions of military weapons somehow means every gun will be confiscated to the idea that because President Obama's children get armed security, he's an elitist hypocrite.  But I'll try to keep my focus on 2 memes that seem to always crop up.

The first is that people who hold the most liberal (from a gun rights perspective) interpretation of the Constitution contend that nearly unregulated gun ownership is necessary to allow the citizenry to be a check against government from becoming tyrannical or to defend themselves against a tyrannical government.  I honestly don't really know where to start on this.  I mean, at a broad, basic level, I get it. American colonists acted against a government that allowed them no input on how they were governed and no avenue to change that government.  It WAS tyrannical.  The issue today is that just because a minority (on some issues, an admittedly sizeable minority) disagrees with some government actions and laws does NOT make it tyrannical, about to become tyrannical or anything near that.  Every official that  passes a law is still elected.  A government is tyrannical when even the majority cannot tolerate what is being done.  Don't like the Affordable Care Act? Too bad.  A majority of elected officials created it.  A majority do not find the law burdensome.  Don't like the ATF?  Too bad.  The vast majority find it necessary to properly enforce existing laws (created by a majority of elected officials) on alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives.  You are still free to vote for whomever you choose as Representative, Senator and President.  This is not Soviet Russia, so you can leave if you like (even without giving up your citizenship!).  

There is nothing tyrannical about a large government.  You may have noticed we live in the world's largest economy (for the time being), with some of the best standards of living (for most of us...), a system of laws that prevent us from having air you can collect with a mosquito net (looking at YOU, Beijing), the safest air travel system in the world and some of the most advanced healthcare in the world.  You don't get that by chance and it doesn't continue by accident.  It requires a government.  It was created guessed it!  A majority of elected officials.  

Let's consider, for the moment, though, if the government were tyrannical.  Let's say a couple agents from any one of the 82 federal agencies that employ at least some sworn, armed agents (note: I read that figure somewhere and while on first blush it seems high, the truth is virtually every federal agency has armed enforcement agents) show up at your door to impose their tyranny.  You fight back, killing them with a 9mm handgun.  Ok, so a bunch more agents from a bigger, badder agency shows up.  You upgrade to a more powerful rifle and kill them all, with the help of a few like-minded neighbors.  Then, more agents from specialized units of more agencies show up.  You lose a few neighbors but your fight-the-power group manages to kill them all the agents with some of the biggest guns you have.  Well, then the National Guard shows up and the messing around stops.  But, wait!  You've called in every friend, neighbor, brother-in-law, whackjob and supporter you can find and you reach a standoff.  Fine.  Another National Guard unit is called in to support the first.  At this point, just how, exactly are you going to stop an armored personnel carrier?  A military-grade RPG?  (Remember, this is an allegedly "tyrannical government"--they'll stop at nothing to get you).  The fact is, many of the people that have the same goofy attitude that the government is out to get is them belong to a group of people that fully support the largest possible military and defense budget we can get.  Doesn't this seem self-defeating?  If the government wants to get you, it's going to get you, even if you have 1000 friends and neighbors all armed with AR-15's.  Why?  Because the members of that military are trained to use the best weapons the US taxpayer can buy against similarly very well-trained members of other militaries, not beer-guzzling, brat-eating fat guys who drive a forklift.  And that's no insult to beer-guzzling, brat-eating forklift drivers because I know a lot of them.  But they aren't Army Rangers.  So it's NOT about keeping government in check.  It's paranoia, delusions of grandeur and toughguyitis.  It's ridiculous, pointless and frankly, dangerous.

Gun regulation has never been, is not and never will be about banning, confiscating or eliminating guns used for hunting, nominal self-defense against criminals or sport shooting.  I had a conversation on Facebook with someone who argued that if I knew anything about guns, I'd know that people who participate in sport shooting NEED a 30 round magazine.  My interaction in sport shooting says that's not true..but let's say it is:  That doesn't mean you can't use one at the event site and leave it with the organizers of the event.  You don't need to OWN the magazine, nor any high-powered, civilian version of a weapon originally developed specifically for military use.  And if the sport shooting you do DOES need it, then you just need to find a different event.  I watched shooting events at the Olympics and Outdoor Games and while I'm no Ted Nugent, I'm pretty sure none of them were using AR-15s.  (But I  could be wrong.  I still think the broader point is the average person who does sport shooting is out shooting skeet, which I *KNOW* doesn't use anything more than a shotgun).

The second silliness is memes similar to "If we treated drivers and cars like we do guns, everyone would be arrested and imprisoned after driving drunk" (or the like).  This isn't as preposterous as the "the government is out to get me" attitude, but it's actually far more stupid.  Every part of our interaction with automobiles is regulated.  The federal government already heavily regulates the manufacture of vehicles offered for sale in the U.S.  EVERYTHING about a car is regulated by the government--from the type and strength of window glass used, to the size, brightness and color of taillights, to the required safety equipment (and the standard to which that equipment must perform).  When you buy a car, every local jurisdiction charges a fee to register the vehicle (some charge annually based on the vehicle type, some a "property tax" on its value).  They also (in nearly all cases--I believe only 1 state--NH or VT--do not require insurance) require the vehicle be insured (so if you use the product and injure someone through your negligent use, the injured party can recover damages--imagine that!).  To be able to operate the vehicle, you have to meet basic requirements, pass a series of tests and pay a fee for the license to operate the vehicle.  Then, when you operate the vehicle, another massive set of regulations apply to how and where the vehicle is operated.  Those laws control how fast you can drive the car, your physical condition, require obeying signs and signals, on and on.  Ultimately, driving the car itself is very highly regulated.  The consequences of disobeying the regulations can be minor and inconvenient (a parking ticket or a couple hundred dollar speeding ticket) to criminal punishments as strong as any other criminal act (if you drive drunk and kill someone, a specific law exists to imprison you).

Alright, alright, we got it, Corey.  I'm sorry, but I exaggerated this and drew it out to point out that car ownership and operation is far more burdensome and regulated than owning at least some type of gun in basically every state in the country.  Despite the clamoring about "takin' away my guns!" even states thought of being very strict on guns allow fairly easy ownership of hunting and sport weapons (like basic rifles and shotguns).  And in fact, outside cities with their own laws, even strict states like NY allow reasonable access to owning handguns for those that qualify.  So the outrage is conflated to fear-mongering and paranoia.  It's unhelpful and foolish.

Last point (I know I said I'd focus on 2 memes, but this one I can't let go).  The NRA is getting a lot of attention for a web ad it released this week demanding why President Obama is ok with his daughters having armed guards while they are at school, but doesn't want "your kids" to have that security.  A meme of varying versions has popped up on Facebook over the last few weeks.  This one is probably the stupidest of the 3 I addressed today.  First, the President and his/her family are provided security by the Secret Service, as required by federal law, EVEN IF THE PRESIDENT OR ANY FAMILY MEMBER DOES NOT WANT IT!  Read that again:  The President is not special for getting Secret Service protection for his daughters.  They are protected even if they don't want to be.  Second, let's try to get our egos in check, shall we?  No one's children face the risks the children of the President faces.  No one's children have people who are targeting them SPECIFICALLY because of who their father or mother is (or who they are, themselves).  And I hate to break it you, but if there are children out there targeted specifically because of who their high-profile father is, then I can guarantee those children have private, armed security...because those fathers are certainly wealthy CEOs, celebrities or other officials.  The fact we are at the point that the NRA thinks it's perfectly acceptable invoke the security of the President's children means it has to have jumped the shark and this approach has completely devolved into demagoguery and irrationality.  

Reasonable people must be able to talk about this issue and find a point that reasonably controls guns and their sale.  This is about whether we're a "gun country" or "guns don't kill people, people kill people".  The facts are:  Lots of people are killed by people using guns--not knives, baseball bats or any other weapon.  Guns are easily obtained by those that DON'T intend to hunt, shoot skeet or kill an intruder.  No one is trying to take guns from law-abiding, mentally healthy people who want to own guns for those purposes.  Those are the facts and they are not in dispute.  If you try to dispute them, you are not rational.  It's time for rationality, not hyperbole.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Right-to-Work Doesn't Create Rights

Much has been written over the last couple days about Michigan implementing a "Right to Work" law. Believe it or not, push comes to shove, I'd prefer working in a non-union job than a union job and prefer choice--for the employee, the employer and the union itself rule the day.

In my mind, unions today do not do what unions repeatedly say they deserve credit for what most workers take for granted today:  a 40 hour work week, paid vacation and holidays, some form of health insurance coverage and dramatically improved working conditions.  We can argue they don't deserve credit for the 40 hour week or working conditions because the law codifies that--but in reality, those laws were created and passed because of unions working to have them passed.  So they deserve credit for setting the standards today.  And, in unionized workforces, those employees do have, on balance, higher average wages and better benefits.  The presence of those unions also do tend to create a support for "good" wages in the same industry.  Auto assembly workers in non-unionized plants of foreign manufacturers are still paid reasonably good wages and provided good benefits.  In fact, after GM and Chrysler's bankruptcies, their newly negotiated union contracts (and in turn, Ford's contract as well) created a 2-tier wage system where newly hired union workers are paid a lower, graduated wage; those wages are on par, more or less with what non-union assembly workers are paid.

So ultimately, that's an argument for unions to be unnecessary.  Given the standards most workers are accustomed to in most industries, unions going away wouldn't do anything really to paid vacation or holidays, paid sick time, 401(k)'s or other benefits.

My biggest opposition to unions is that they are territorial, bureaucratic, insular and in fact, exclusionary, not inclusive.  Using again the auto assembly plant as an example, every worker is given a defined role and that is ALL THEY CAN DO.  Someone else, in a different assignment, cannot fix something they see is broken and cannot help another person who needs a hand.  For me, specifically, the part I most dislike is that there is no incentive in a union to work hard, to be better than someone else, to be smarter.  In my job, at the end of the year, we are all assigned a rating and that rating influences our merit increase and our bonus.  The distribution is a bell curve with a heavy right skew.  Meaning, the vast majority of employees are "meets expectations".  It's actually difficult to achieve "exceeds expectations" and only a small number get a top rating.  But meeting expectations still gives you a very fair raise and an on-target bonus.  Yes, imagine that, a bonus!  Last year, my raise was approximately 2% and my bonus was 5% of my annual salary (which turns out to be a pretty nice number).  I get a 401(k) match up to 5% of contributions, contributions to a cash-balance pension plan that is fully funded by my employer, VERY reasonable health insurance cost, a salary that is actually top-of-the-range in our peer group (there are a lot of call centers in Green Bay), 28 paid days off (which includes holidays that are usually 6 days a year) and 4 days of paid sick time off per year.  There's nothing a union can do for me.  I drive a desk, so I don't need a union to protect me from black lung, a block of steel from crushing me or 120 degree heat.

I think everyone deserves to be paid individually on what they contribute.  You work harder, you come up with better ideas, you get more done, you get paid more and you get promoted more easily.  That's it.  Unions do NOTHING to make people do the best they can.

At this point, I'm sure you're thinking "Woah, woah, WOAH.  You just went on a massive Twitter rant on Wednesday afternoon about the RTW law in Michigan and here you are, eviscerating unions.  Plus, don't you complain about Scott Walker?"  So here's my opposition to these laws and to the politicians behind them.  In Michigan, my biggest complaint is with the Governor, Rick Snyder.  He promoted this law as good for workers--as improving workers' rights, creating more jobs and moving companies to Michigan.  None of this is true.  Union opponents say unions are bad because it takes away workers' choice.  Well, just wait a second:  Don't workers have the choice to simply not accept a job that requires union membership?  Can't workers find the job that meets their needs?  And wouldn't, theoretically, the exercise of that choice mean non-union shops would gain ground?  And isn't that actually true, considering union membership is at or near an all-time low?  So why was the law needed anyway, then?  It's not, really.  What it does do is force unions to earn their keep.  But the problem is, if a union is elected in a workplace, the contracts it negotiates apply to everyone.  Prior to "right-to-work", unions were able to implement agreements in their contracts requiring everyone pay dues--to ostensibly cover the costs of running the union itself, etc because even if a worker wasn't a union member per se, they still benefited from the negotiated wage scale and benefits.  Right-to-work bars those agreements (in a basic sense).  So why would ANYONE "join the union"?  They can get a free ride--higher than market wages, better benefits and not have to pay dues.  Ultimately, if the union doesn't market their efforts well, enough people drop out of the union and it breaks.  If THAT happens, the employer benefits.  Period.

This law does NOT give any rights to workers.  It frees employers from the costs of dealing with a unionized workforce.  So my problem isn't "unions are going away and that sucks" (because as I noted, I'm generally opposed to them anyway), but rather the disingenuous, false and manipulative nature of Snyder's approach on this.  Right-to-work states have on balance, lower average wages, more uninsured people (to be largely corrected with PPACA), more people on Medicaid and more people on food stamps.  Right-to-work reduces union influence--there are fewer union members in right-to-work states and those employer put labor cost savings to profit, NOT to randomly hire more people.  Companies employ the number of people they need for the size of business they have.  Period.  If I ran a business that needed 20 people and my labor costs suddenly went down 20%, why in world would I EVER just hire 4 more people??  It's nonsensical.  And the argument of "Well, no.  See, the business would then expand because their labor costs are lower and that expansion would require hiring more employees."  Again, nope.  Because a business will only expand if they CAN--can they take market share from a competitor?  Staffing or not, do they have the capacity to meet the new demand?  If not, can they spend to expand or afford to borrow to expand?  If yes to all those questions, then a business will expand regardless--the increased revenue from the additional sales resulting from the expansion funds the additional labor costs.  Or, the business expands and through productivity improvements, greater efficiency or greater demands of their current staff, they produce more with the same staffing.  Why hire more people unless you have to?  Right-to-work does NOT CREATE JOBS.

Unions don't do what they say they do for members today.  They're outdated and largely unnecessary.  But even if required to join a union if they accept a particular job, that person still has free will and choice.  They can find another job.  As @simplekindoffan on Twitter always likes to tell me, he believes in worker choice and if they don't like something their employer does, they can get another job.  So if one job requires union membership, they have the choice to go elsewhere.  If I was a roofer, but I don't like heat, shouldn't there be a law requiring an employer can't make me work if it's over 95F?  I mean after all, how can I be forced to do something that could hurt me?  Obviously, that's a pretty dumb statement.  I have the choice to not work for a roofer and find a different job that's less physically demanding and safer.    Politicians should truly represent their constituents and let democracy work.  Passing a bill into law in a week to avoid debate that proponents of the law KNEW would delay its passage and then lying about what it will do is just not good for anyone.  Hopefully, those who voted for this law in Michigan will find that out the best possible way--by having the choice of a new line of work.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I'm Done Caring What Finley Says

We've all heard it all about Jermichael Finley.  He's a special talent--a body type that isn't true wide receiver or tight end, an ability to block, great speed.  He drops the ball too much.  He's mouthy with really 1 good season to back it up.

If you follow me, you probably know that I get emotional about my favorite sports teams.  I admit to not having a good analytical football mind--I follow probably a dozen non-writer people on Twitter who "know" football better than I do.  And I follow probably a handful of non-professional, "non-writer" people on baseball that I trust and appreciate on baseball--from a pure analytics standpoint.  When it comes to sports, I don't fall for liking the players too much (sure, I like Ryan Braun and enjoying feeling as though he's a Brewer for life and I like Aaron Rodgers as a person) because at the end of the day, I'm going to be a fan a lot longer than any of these guys are going to be playing (at least, I hope so).  So there's no sense getting "attached" to someone and letting that blind me to the only important thing:  performance.

That's it.  As long as you're not a child molester, an ax murderer (side note: I hate that:  isn't an "ax murderer" one that murders axes?  Not really, since murder only applies to humans.  Right?  ANYWAYS...), or a con man stealing from grandmas, I couldn't really care less if you're an asshole.  Hell, I'm an asshole.  So there's that.

The things I DON'T tolerate are stupidity and lack of effort.  Personally, for much of the season, Finley's only had himself to blame for minimal involvement in the Packers offense.  His juvenile "me and 12 just need to have better chemistry" whinefest falls on deaf ears.  You are a professional.  If you don't like how you're being targeted or used, you can do this thing that grown-ups do:  TALK ABOUT IT.  Not with me or the media--with your coach and your quarterback.  If you don't like the answer, then that's tough shit.  I don't really want to hear about it.  Why?  Because it's not my problem.  I only want my favorite team to win and I don't care it's done.  This isn't t-ball.  They keep score and only ONE team gets a trophy at the end.  Your feelings are irrelevant.  

If he's weak enough where this chemistry or his feelings are affecting his play, well then, he'll just stop being part of the offense.  He catches the ball, he'll be thrown the ball more.  That's it.  Look at Sunday's game.  The numbers, in total, weren't eye-popping, but his catches were critical.  I suppose if that helps his confidence, then good for him.  But realistically, Sunday was the Packers 5th win in a row and somehow they managed 4 of those wins with minimal Finley involvement.  It's apparent to most fans (I hope) the Packers have greater problems (and NO, one of them isn't Mason Crosby) that present the roadblocks to success in the playoffs.  While I am enjoying the run for the playoffs and hopefully another Super Bowl win, I WON'T be worrying, stressing and ranting over Finley's attention-deficit antics.

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Time to End the Corporate Income Tax

Reading this, I am sure you are thinking: "Am I in the right place?  Who is writing this?" or "This is the stupidest thing I've ever read."  Bear with me on this. 

In my view, the corporate income tax has become a weight around the neck of the President, the Congress, the businesses to which it applies, on and on.  That isn't to say the personal income tax or payroll taxes aren't a weight on the people that pay them.  The problem is the corporate income tax isn't worth its weight.

In fiscal 2010, the corporate income tax made up only 9% of total federal revenues.  Think about that:  $2.2 trillion in total revenue and only 9% of it came from the tax that, depending on who you talk to, is either way too high compared to the rest of the world, far too complex, a job-killing disaster or not doing ENOUGH to make corporations pay their fair share.  Well, despite Mitt Romney assertions to the contrary, corporations are NOT people.  (And he's not my friend, either).  People pay taxes...and ultimately, they pay the corporate income tax.

The corporate income tax makes businesses do stupid, inefficient or unnecessary things.  In economic speak, businesses stop being rational actors with respect to taxes.  Just complying with the tax costs businesses billions.  In my view, the corporate income tax actually ROBS the treasury of revenue.  Companies put significant effort into accomplishing one thing when it comes to taxes:  Minimizing the actual taxable income.  The result is money is blocked from flowing through the economy in a clean way and it's the only viable monetary reason for keeping dividend tax rates lower than earned income--because dividend income is double taxed.

It's time to end the corporate income tax.  Corporations (and all EMPLOYERS) will still pay significant amounts of tax--through their share of FICA, federal excise taxes and fees and their share of costs for unemployment and worker's compensation (although the last 2 are not technically taxes).  That shuts down transactions whose only purpose is to shelter or minimize income.  It reduces the need for business's accounting and finance departments to comply with the tax.  It means more income will flow directly to investors through dividends.

In exchange, (oh, conservatives, you didn't think it was going to be as easy as "Poof! Eliminate a tax that's been around forever", did you?) all income receives equal treatment.  Dividend and capital gains are taxed like ordinary income.  There are valid and fair arguments to be made for why that income should be "incentivized", but I have never (EVER) heard a business owner or stock investor say "I only do this because the taxes are lower than working in a coal mine."  Nonsense.  Business owners start businesses to control their lives, to build something.  Yes, that involves taking a risk.  But they are taking that risk because the true incentive is it could turn into something huge and they can achieve financial freedom.  Taxing some hedge fund's investments isn't going to stop hedge funds from investing.  And realistically, nearly all true small business owner aren't paying the corporate income tax now and they are NOT paying today dividend or capital gain taxes on income related to their business, either.  So taxing all income equally does next to nothing to the beloved "small business owner". 

I know I'll get the arguments:  "But their profits are HUGE.  They should pay!"  Yeah, ok.  But the point is, they aren't paying NOW to begin with.  Very large multinationals structure their income so it's earned internationally and then, they just never repatriate the income, leaving (essentially) untaxed anyway.  Ending the corporate income tax allows a company to simply do what is best for the business.  And profit?  Profit in and of itself is meaningless to a large corporation.  It doesn't let the corporation go on vacation with its kids or buy a vacation home in Vail.  It's just a number.  Ultimately, a corporation can really only do 3 things with its profit (essentially free cash):  1) nothing--it just sits around in a bank and that's just dumb.  Look at Apple--eventually, the investors revolted and forced them to declare a dividend or to do SOMETHING with the cash; 2) return it to investors--whether it's a share buyback or a dividend, that money is forced back into the economy and into the hands of people--to either reinvest it if they sell the shares or do something with the dividend income--and that money will be taxed and paid by PEOPLE; or 3) invest it themselves:  the company can expand, upgrade equipment, raise wages to improve retention...whatever.  But at the end of the day, that money gets forced through the system as well.  Right now, the issue isn't really the money that's taken out of the system via corporate income tax--it's the money that never SEES the system because it's saved, kept overseas or "spent" inefficiently through systemic costs.

Taxes are not bad.  I like taxes.  I like a progressive income tax.  But taxing the same dollar twice (or more) is just wrong.  It's inefficient and it's a disincentive.  It's time to end the corporate income tax.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Focus for Brewers Must Remain on Pitching

The Brewers 2012 season started with a lot of optimism and I think, not unreasonably.  They spent a fairly reasonable amount to put a solid offensive....blah blah blah everything every other much better written Brewers blog has written...well, you know what?  Screw this.  You all know what happened.

The bottom line is in 2013, the offense is NOT a problem.  Sure, Aramis isn't likely to repeat a slash line of .300/.360/.540, lead the league with 50 doubles or drive in 105.  Then again, virtually no one expected him to do in 2012 to begin with.  Ok, fine, Corey but Braun isn't going to repeat .319/.391/.595 with 41 HR or a 159 OPS+!  Says who?  Maybe he'll hit 38 HR instead or bats .303.  BFD.  He's Ryan Braun.  We're moving on. 

The big and sort of confounding problem is the pitching.  There's a need for at least 1 very good starting pitcher than can be depended on to give 180-200 innings and hopefully something like a 110 ERA+.  Doug Melvin can't be afraid to spend $12 million a year here if necessary.  A nice thing to have would be a back of rotation guy that can give Roenicke the ability to pick the best 2 of the remaining guys they used in 2012.  I like to think Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada go here.  Chris Narveson is just a question mark coming off his injury and if he can contribute, great.  But for the moment, it's better to try to plan as if he's not there.

Then, on top of that, there's a need for probably at least 3 bullpen guys.  I see no problem going into the season with Axford put down as "closer" (I know a closer is not a thing, but it'll have to do for now).  Jim Henderson was a nice surprise and if the market doesn't allow for obtaining a defined "set-up guy" (hey, another thing!), penciling Henderson here is fine.  The Brewers still have Mark Rogers, Tyler Thornburg, Mike Fiers (who I think is the best bet for the 3rd pitcher in the rotation if only 1 starter can be signed in free agency), Brandon Kintzler and Manny Parra to fit in or replace.  I'm not as down on Parra as others might be--I admit there's not a whole lot of positives in looking at his 2012 stats, but he was the victim of a over-burdened bullpen.  Ryan Topp (@ryantopp) made a good observation on this generally when we were talking about Kameron Loe--that the rotation's early struggles put pressure on the pen and made Roenicke do things he probably wouldn't have otherwise done.

Alright, so what do we have to work with here?  Here are the top candidates for starters:

Edwin Jackson:  4.03 ERA, 189.2 IP, 1.218 WHIP, 8 K/9 and 98 ERA+ 
Ryan Dempster:  3.38 ERA, 173.0 IP, 1.197 WHIP, 8 K/9 and 124 ERA+ (although he was decidedly less effective for Texas despite a 7-3 record for them).  A 3 year/$36-39 million deal for Dempster in the market wouldn't surprise me.  But given his age, I'd prefer the Brewers look at 2 year/$24-25 million type deal with an option for a 3rd year based on say, 170 IP in 2014.

I think the Brewers should also consider Dallas Braden, who appears to fully healed coming off shoulder surgery and would be a good candidate for an incentive-driven deal or Brandon McCarthy.  In fact, according the San Francisco Chronicle's A's blog, he was just recently cleared to resume full baseball activities and he said this is about the time he would start training in the off-season anyway.  His injury is not really a pitching concern like Braden's and the Brewers should be able to offer him a pretty competitive deal.  His H/9 of 9.3 is not as alarming as it really looks, considering the size of Coliseum.  Other options might include Dan Haren or Anibal Sanchez, but he seems to have set a contact demand that the Brewers not only can't meet but probably just chucks any reasonable chance of negotiating.  Finally, I suppose there's still the pie-in-the-sky idea of trying to go after Zack Greinke...and $23-25 million a year on him is a far better deal than the same money on Josh Hamilton would ever be.http://

What about relievers?  Like every other off-season, picking these guys is a complete crapshoot and frankly, I don't trust my own judgment in picking the best options here.  The best option, talent-wise, is probably Mike Adams, but a) he'll likely command a deal not worth doing (something Affeldt-like perhaps?) and b) there's the bad separation when Adams had his stint previously in Milwaukee.  

Personally, the guys I'd like to look at is Jason Grilli or Jon Rauch (his WHIP was damned good .988), his ERA was pretty good (3.59) and his HR/9 was just fine, but his K/9 is so-so (I'd like it higher than 6.6 for a reliever, but that's just me).  Rauch should be fairly affordable (perhaps $4-4.5M) as long as we can keep it under 3 years.  I absolutely HATE these 3 year deals to relievers.  Other suggestions or am I just wrong?  Hit me up on Twitter.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Fallacy of Tax Cuts Creating Jobs

This topic is one that's been bothering me for quite a while.  It never made much sense to me--why would a business owner make strategic decisions on whether to grow or maintain status quo based solely on tax cuts?

Let's say Joe owns a small business selling fabricated machine parts.  He's beat out badly by large, national corporations, but he makes a good living with his regional customers.  Joe has a competitor similar to his business nearby.  He knows they are struggling and he has a great opportunity to take market share.  He can proceed with a small expansion without taking on debt and would need to hire a handful of employees.  His business is structured as an S-Corp and in 2011, the business had a net income of $300,000, which flowed directly to him as personal income.  His and his wife's taxable income was $250,000.  Joe expects that his expansion would increase his business's net income to  $400,000 and estimates his taxable income would be about $340,000.

If the Bush-era tax cuts were to "expire", Joe and his wife would move from the 33% tax bracket to the 36% bracket.  Oh ok, so he'll pay about 3% more overall or $10,200 a year...that's a lot, but not so bad since he's making another $90,000.  Except that's wrong.  Federal income tax rates are marginal, so Joe would only experience a 3% increase on the amount over the threshold for the next lowest bracket.  Using projected 2013 brackets, this means Joe only pays 3% more on the amount over $241,900.  So his tax liability would increase by about $3000.

So you need to wonder:  Would a business owner say "Nah, not gonna do it...don't want an extra $87,000 in net income" to avoid $3000 in taxes?  That's nonsensical.  And frankly, I don't believe it for a second.  A business owner who's as successful as Joe isn't stupid.  He runs his business well and wants to make money.  Period.  No one would turn down a 35% increase in income just to avoid a marginal increase in taxes.

Businesses that don't expand aren't expanding because they aren't run well, have to take on debt to expand and can't afford it or can't access the capital or any number of other market-related reasons.  And any business owner who specifically chooses not to expand because of taxes is terrible at their job.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Stop Stressing Over the Electoral College

There has obviously been a lot of dramatics and hysterics over the Electoral College this election season, and not just in the last couple days.  The complaints range from the typical (and understandable) position that "I live in [heavily Republican or heavily Democrat state] and my vote doesn't matter" to "the candidates only pay attention to 9 (or 8 or 10, depending on your view) states!  They don't care about the rest of the country."

Well, the truth is, it doesn't matter whether we use the Electoral College or a straight popular vote.  Yes, I can sense your reactions--probably ranging to a lot of the reactions I get on Twitter: "Your fucking ignorant" (most) to "This is why I love following you" (a few).  Certainly, my argument is probably nothing terribly insightful or new, but here it is.

Currently, neither party does much campaigning on the West Coast, the Deep South (except FL), the Northeast, or the Plains because there are few persuadable voters there.  The majority in those regions are fairly locked-in and aren't changing from their established positions.  People in the remaining 8-10 states have more undecided and persuadable voters (or going Nate Silver on you, they are more elastic).  Campaigning there only makes sense.

People will say, "Sure, but if it was a popular vote, candidates would go to more places, trying to get every vote they can".  No, they wouldn't and here's why:  The Republican is going to get the VAST majority of voters in AK, AL, MS, LA, AR, TX, TN, KY, ND, SD, NE, KS, ID, WY and UT and large, but not mind-blowing margins in GA, MT and AZ.  Why would the Republican candidate candidate EVER go to ID or UT or WY?  For one thing, not enough people live there anyway and secondly, how many more votes can they really get there?  The same is true in Democrat strongholds.  It's all about diminishing returns--you can spend money and time trying to get another 50,000 votes in WY or you can just focus on FL to maximize the 4 million votes there.  (Without paying as much attention as they do now, a candidate might only get 3.4 or 3.5 million votes).  You can't invest time or money in 51 places.  You can't fly to AK to campaign if you're Mitt Romney to get even 30,000 of the 91,000 votes that went to Obama.

The final point is that despite the Constitutional headaches that can occur in an Electoral College tie, etc, the truth is greater headaches could occur in a very close election if the popular vote is used.  This year, thus far, there are 118,500,000 votes for President.  Where do you set the trigger for an automatic recount?  If you set it at 0.1%, that's still 118,500 votes.  How do you recount every state?  That doesn't make any sense.  So if the total is within 0.1%, do you then have a recount in any state that is within 0.5%?  The same legal fights that already occur in states like FL or OH are exactly where they would occur in a popular vote election.  It's time to focus on more important, broader issues.