Monthly Archives: July 2013

1950s era tax structures will result in 1950s era families

Instapundit links to “The Plight of the Alpha Female,” detailing how women are not succeeding at the highest levels. Kay Hymowitz is right to focus on child-bearing as an issue with women rising to the highest echelons of their professions, but I’ll throw in a second option: a highly progressive tax code.  First, this vignette from November, 2012:

After the election, my wife and I are going partial Galt. We’re in California, so our state income tax went up in addition to what’s sure to come out of Washington.

My wife quit her job last week. I increased my participation in a tax deferment plan offered by my employer to bring my taxable income as close to $250K as possible. We’ll be cutting back a little, but the government is going to getting a whole lot less.

My wife’s entire salary barely covered our tax bill – she was 100% slave to the government, while I was a 10% slave. Now she is 100% free, and I’ll be a ~35% slave As a couple, 17.5% of our time is slaving on the government plantation from an astounding 55% previously.

My wife is deliriously happy, our children are delighted to have mom home, the dog gets more walks, and I find not spending money rapturously satisfying.

This anonymous man’s wife is no longer on the corporate treadmill, no longer a candidate for a promotion, no longer part of the upper echelons.  If someone surveyed her about her desire to quit the workforce, “kids” might be the official answer; those forms likely do not have anything about “our tax code punishes college-educated, high-earning couples”. Allegedly, a woman whose paycheck is equal to that of her husband is exactly the type of woman we are looking to as the next Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer – or even someone to take  a VP or a C-level slot at a company.

But the reality of our “eat the rich, except those who are super-rich” mentality is that we punish those women for their success by taking astronomical amounts of their money in taxes.  If they are any good at math, they quickly realise that most of their time is spent working for the government, and that leaving their jobs will not substantially effect their family’s finances.  Our tax code treats (married) women unequally: a wife’s second income is taxed at a much higher rate than is her husband’s income.

The Left has its fallacious “women earn seventy-something cents on a man’s dollar”; why do we not talk about how much married women pay in taxes compared to their husbands?

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Filed under Economics

A better solution

The Red Cross announced that its blood supply are at dangerously low levels – down about 10% from last June, and last June was the lowest level in fifteen years.  There are calls to open up blood donations to gays (specifically, men who have slept with men in the last year), or to pay blood donors.  I have already addressed the myriad problems with allowing MSM to donate blood; many other writers have discussed the problems with paying for blood.

A far better solution is to charge directly for blood (i.e. the insurance company does not pay; the individual would), but only charge for blood that is not offset by other donations.  For example, if someone receives five units of blood, the patient could tell his friends and family to donate in his name and offset the blood that he received.  Likewise, a person’s own prior donations could offset their use of blood in a future situation, as could very recent donations by the patient’s family.   If my hypothetical patient above had donated twice in his lifetime, and his mom happened to have donated a month prior to his surgery, he would only have to find two people to donate for him, or he would be charged for two units.

It would provide a tremendous incentive for people to donate regularly throughout their lives.  Deferred donors, or those ineligible to donate, could have smaller penalties, or no penalties at all, reflecting our desire to keep our blood supply safe.

Another option is to use such a system only for those who receive blood in elective surgeries.  I feel really lousy when I donate blood, but I do it because it could save someone’s life, not because some chicky wants a bigger, perkier rack.

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Filed under Bioethics

Our current health care system does not resemble any sort of free market

This, however, is free market health care.  Oklahoma doctors are putting their prices up online and starting bidding wars for patients.  Patients have gone to their own hospitals with a plane ticket to Oklahoma in hand, then asked the hospital to match the all-inclusive price of surgery.

Dr. Keith Smith’s medical group also does not accept Medicaid or Medicare, because the regulations would prohibit them from posting their prices online and charging what they charge.  Yes, my friends, as I’ve long said, you can’t give discount health care and be a Medicare/Medicaid provider.  (This is also why plastic surgery and cosmetic dentistry are so transparent with their prices, and have the better quality/lower price trend that is seen in computers, iPods, and pretty much anything in the free market.)

As a final point, Dr. Smith says this:

“What we’ve discovered is health care really doesn’t cost that much,” said Smith. “What people are being charged for is another matter altogether.”

I’ve heard that primary care doctors spend $47 per patient filling out insurance forms; the insurance company spends approximately the same amount of money.  Your premiums will pay for, in roughly equal numbers: your doctor’s visit; your doctor’s costs to fill out insurance paperwork; and your insurance company to process the payment.  If you want to pay for medical care plus administrative overhead, be my guest, but please don’t force the entire nation into that system.

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Filed under Economics, Medicare/Medicaid, ObamaCare, Reforming health care

The obligatory “George Zimmerman verdict” post

Okay, kids, it’s time to put on our 1L hats and sit in Criminal Law class.  Let’s talk about what criminal law is, what we need for a conviction, and due process.

Criminal laws describe concrete, objective actions, and sometimes an associated mental state, which are prohibited.   For example, it is unlawful to break into someone’s house with the intent to commit a felony therein, but it is not unlawful to break into your own home because you forgot the key. This enables people to be put on notice of what actions are allowed and are not allowed, and also enables us to increase the penalties for particularly gruesome actions.  For example, premeditated murder results in a stiffer jail sentence than does vehicular homicide after a car hits a patch of ice. There’s still a dead body, and still a person responsible for that, but we don’t mete out the same punishments, nor even call those the same crime.

Ah, yes, penalties.  We do not throw people in jail because they make generic bad decisions, unless those bad decisions violate a law.  Failure to throw someone in jail does not mean that we like what they did, think it’s a good idea, or want other people to act the same way.

That’s because we only throw people in jail when the prosecution has proved every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  We’re all familiar with the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but there is also the right to an acquittal, even if one does not do a single thing in one’s own defence.  You can just sit there and be acquitted: it’s the prosecution’s job to show that you have committed this crime, not your job to show that you did not.

The prosecution’s burden is to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is no reasonable doubt as to a single element of the crime, then the correct, just, and lawful result is to acquit.  You don’t convict because you don’t like the person, think he’s a moron with a gun, think he’s overzealous, or want to appease race-baiters: you only convict when each and every element of the crime has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

I do not believe that those calling the Zimmerman verdict a miscarriage of justice would want to live in a world wherein the above principles were not embraced.  The rioters would be ill-served by upending criminal law and replacing it with a system wherein we decide if we like the person, or if we think her actions were good, or wherein we judge the worthiness of the victim, not the actions of the alleged perpetrator.

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Filed under Law

Short Answer: No

As many Fog of Law readers know, I’ve been a vegetarian for fifteen years and have the best cat ever.  Furballs are friends, not food.   But the proposal by Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe to give human rights to chimpanzees?  No way. 

He and others have argued that chimps are able to use tools, interact socially, and teach their offspring. Some have also learned sign language, are able to communicate at the same level as a child of 3 or 4. [….]

With legal rights, chimps could seek injunctions to block researchers, animal trainers on movie sets, and operators of roadside attractions who might harm the animals either physically or psychologically. They could also seek damages for medical expenses, and their guardians could seek punitive damages against anyone who denies them their rights.

It is important to distinguish between humane treatment and human treatment.  Chimpanzees are not humans; they don’t get human rights.  A far better solution would be to grant them animal rights, such as the right to not be abused.   I feel a bit absurd even needing to explain this, but chimpanzees have no use for punitive damage awards.

The reasoning is deeply problematic.  Peter Singer has long argued that infants and some disabled individuals are not deserving of human rights because they cannot reason properly; with “Chimpanzee Rights”, Professor Tribe and his colleagues inadvertently underscore the noxious idea that rights are about abilities, rather than a moral absolute for each and every single human being.  We should be wary of untethering human rights from humanity, unless we want to live in a world wherein an otter has more rights than a disabled adult. 

I am writing this from the tenth floor of a skyscraper in downtown Boston; you’re all reading this on a computer.  It always impresses me when animals are able to use tools, invent recreation, or express a range of emotions, but chimpanzees did not build skyscrapers, rocket ships, hospitals, or nanorobots. They may be able to communicate in sign language, but they do not write novels, perform Shakespearean plays, or compose and perform symphonies.  Many animals communite socially, but they did not create governments, laws, philosophy, or the internet. Chimpanzees do not have any religion, or even atheism. 

Human beings are not mere animals, and any airhead who is reading my blog on an iPad ought to be able to grasp the distinction. That is why we alone have human rights, and why humans have human rights from the moment of conception until the moment of death: the sole requirement for those rights is being human, a part of the human race.

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Filed under Bioethics, Law

There are 10 kinds of people in the world:

Those who understand binary; those who do not; and those who are bemused that this is actually a trinary joke.

Seriously, bridget? you say. You haven’t blogged for a week and now you’re giving us trinary jokes? Okay, sorry dear readers, but I’ve been busy.  I’ll throw in my favourite chemistry joke to make it all better: Q: Why did the white bear dissolve in water?

A: Because he’s polar!

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Filed under Miscellanea

Lawyer Rant of the Day

About a month ago, some nutso chickie in Florida went on an eight-minute, profanity-laced, racist tirade against Dunkin Donuts employees because the store failed to give her a receipt the previous evening, and then failed to give her free donuts afterward.

Amusingly, Taylor Chapman (aka Crazy Chick) said that she had “called [her] lawyer” about the lack of a free donut. Whether or not there is a legal right to a free donut, let me explain something to Ms. Chapman, aspiring Juris Doctor: no lawyer will litigate The Case of the Not-Free Donut.

Economics 101: you’re looking at a minimum of ten grand to win a lawsuit over your free donut, and even a basic, DIY small claims suit over the donut and the Coolata will cost you a few hundred bucks.  That is, of course, a DIY small claim.

Your lawyer, if you had one, Ms. Chapman, would have told you that he would litigate the grand case of the donut, provided that you pony up a retainer worth thousands of dollars, keep it replenished, and agree to pay all fees up front.  And this isn’t just about donuts.  I can’t tell you how many people I know ask me if they can sue someone over something trivial.  “Sure, but talk to a lawyer who isn’t me about the costs,” I reply.  Once people find out that hiring a lawyer involves actual money, their oh-so-important lawsuit doesn’t seem that important anymore. (Laypersons are often surprised to find attorneys who demand payment up front, even in cases wherein there is a right to attorneys’ fees for successful litigants.)

So, Ms. Chapman, feel free to spout off about how your “lawyer” has been called about the Case of the Not Free Donut, but any lawyer would have cracked up laughing, then handed you a bill for the phone call.  Because as overcrowded as the legal profession is, no one is waiting around to sue over your breakfast pastry.

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Filed under Law

ObamaCare prediction

The Obama Administration has announced a delay of the “tax” on employers who do not provide their employees with health insurance.   The tax was supposed to take place in 2014, just before the midterm elections; it will be delayed until after November, 2014, so that the electorate will

Before anyone gets too excited, this was the point all along.  We needed “government accounting” to make this law “budget neutral”: ten years of revenue, six years of payments, and the CBO would score it as “budget neutral” over the maximum period that they may look at (i.e. ten years).  The second benefit to the delay is to ensure that the pain would come after the 2012 elections: either Obama would be firmly ensconced in the White House, or Mitt Romney would have taken the blame.  Likewise, the benefits were doled out immediately before the election: in August 2012, insurance companies were forced to send rebate checks to their customers and were forced to say that it was because of ObamaCare.

This latest round of politicking over ObamaCare is more of the same.  Low-information voters (which should be an oxymoron) get checks in the mail, government bennies, and not much pain – so they think ObamaCare is great.  The Administration does not want them to sit in front of employers in 2014 and be told, “We only hire for a maximum of 29 hours a week.  We would love to take you on full-time, but we can’t afford ObamaCare.”

Now, my prediction: sometime around 2020, the Supreme Court will rule that various mandates in ObamaCare are unconstitutional, based on an “evolving standard” of decency and will condemn the writers of the law as backwards and bigoted.  Barack Obama will cheer the news.

I crack myself up.

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Filed under Employer Mandate, Law, ObamaCare

Tax something, you’ll get less of it

When any bubble collapses, every brain trust dreams up some counterproductive policy to attempt to solve the surface problem for about five minutes.

It’s pretty obvious that from a financial perspective, it doesn’t make sense to spend two hundred thousand dollars on a liberal arts degree.  (Certainly, some people can afford to do things that result in a net loss, but the vast majority of Americans simply cannot afford a six-figure net loss.)   So the solutions of the brain trusts?  Charge more for science, engineering, accounting, and business – majors that are actually going to pay off.

If you tax something, you will get less of it, and if you subsidise something, you will get more of it. A policy like this would lead to more students selecting majors with poor career prospects, and fewer students selecting ones that will enable them to find lucrative employment upon graduation.  Also, the subsidies will have to change every year: as the students shift from the higher-priced STEM fields into lower-priced fields, there will be fewer STEM students to subsidise the liberal arts, which will necessitate a higher price-per-student surcharge on STEM.  It’s like the insurance death spiral, except that it’s an entirely self-inflicted problem.  It’s “helping” the higher education bubble the same way that my cat “helps” me work by sitting on my laptop.

Better solution: introduce these students, who are allegedly there to be educated, to the concept of “debt to income ratio”.  Then explain it in terms of average starting salary for various majors.  Let them choose accordingly.  Also introduce them to this wonderful concept called a “double major”, in which they indulge their interest in Ancient Greece while earning a degree in chemical engineering.

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Filed under Miscellanea

In which I go all Val Kilmer on Stacy McCain

In the classic film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Val Kilmer’s character rather colourfully described the difference between male and female promiscuity.  I link for Stacy McCain’s erudition – McCain, so fast to tell us that the sexes are different, you see, but who tries to describe the problem of Kaitlyn Hunt through the lens of a teenage boy.  Here, he implores us to not make baseless conjectures based on Hunt’s previous promiscuous, heterosexual acts.

To go all Val Kilmer on my gentle readers, when a woman sleeps with a hundred men, there’s something rotten in Denver.  School teachers are taught to watch for students who have an age-inappropriate interest in sexual activity; it is often a sign of molestation. Girls who were molested often try to take some control of their sexuality by being promiscuous.  Thus, normalisation of underage promiscuity covers us the signs of molestation and tells children that it’s okay to behave in ways usually associated only with severe psychological damage.  (Certainly, the lack of meaningful consent is also a huge issue – we wouldn’t let fourteen-year-olds make binding contracts to purchase a home – but today is Val Kilmer Day here at The Fog of Law.)

Unfortunately, if Kaitlyn Hunt had been molested, such would be used as a mitigating element in her criminal trial, not an additional reason to oppose adults having sex with children.  People who have serious issues act out in ways that are unhealthy (e.g. drug use or dropping out of school) and also in ways that perpetrate their own hurt on a new generation (e.g. abuse, molestation). We shouldn’t tell them that their ways of acting out or harming others are normal, healthy expressions of human desire: we should be pointing out that those symptoms of a problem are also deeply sick in themselves.

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Filed under Law