To Big To Fail?

We are the 99%If a company is to big to fail then it needs to be managed for the benefit of all of us (the 100%) and not for the benefit of the shareholders or top management.

If the public must subsidize a business to prevent it’s failing because it will cause catastrophic impact on all of us (the public), then the public needs to sit on the board of that company to make sure they do not fail.  Another option is to nationalize these businesses for the benefit of everyone.  I am not in favor of this option, because the U.S. Congress cannot seem to manage themselves or our country.  But there are many examples of non-profit companies, with no shareholders, managing water, electric, and phone services very well, for the benefit of their customers.

I am not advocating that the government is directly involved with management of a business, but the government makes rules that provide access to a businesses information and governance.  This public access could be accomplished in several ways: board seats, public notice of future plans, rules specific to a industry or business area.

As the US subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 showed, industry practices that might be OK on a limited basis can be devastating when practiced industry-wide.  This is the result of a free market behaving badly!

Global Post rails against privacy!?

I was surfing my news feeds and ran across this post on the Global Post that gave me pause.  Here is a quote from their site with emphasis added.

The letter was published a day before House Judiciary committee members will debate on the Stop Online Privacy Act introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.). Although Smith’s bill has attracted tons of support from media firms and the Hollywood industry, web companies and public interest groups strong oppose it, the Washington Post reported.

SOPA aims to cut the amount of pirated content online and would give content owners and the US government the power to request court orders to shut down websites associated with piracy, the BBC reported. The bill also aims to stop online ad networks and payment processors from doing business with foreign websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.

I know Mark Zuckerberg thinks privacy is over, but Sergey Brin of Google, Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Elon Musk of PayPal (EBay), Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post and Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia?  Apparently they were opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act introduced by Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), which is very different.  And even Mark Zuckerberg is not as open as he wants you to be!

Apparently the editors and fact-checkers at the Global Post are out for the holidays.  Happy New Year!

IRS should allow direct electronic submission of forms

The IRS should all U.S. citizens to submit tax returns directly to their system without going through a third party. This is something you can do on paper, but not electronically.

The IRS gave a big boost to the tax professional/software industry by requiring me to use one of the third party preparers to submit my tax return electronically.  Buried in the online agreement, that you must respond in the affirmative, is usually a clause that gives the third party the right to use your tax return data for purposes other that submitting your return to the IRS!  In other words, sell you unrelated goods and services.

Now third party tax preparation companies are gathering detailed information about their customers.  And what could be more detailed that a tax return.  We are requried to list every financial company that we have a relationship.  Who are our dependents.  If we gamble, or more correct, if you won some money gambling.  How much we spend on health insurance.  To what charities we give money.  Who holds our mortgage.  And that is just the beginning.

Where and when will the assault on our privacy end!  I will continue filing my tax return on paper, by snail mail, until this right to privacy is recognized by the IRS.

IRS, sharpen your letter openers and check your post office box.

The Donald, You’re Fired!

Donald Trump may hold people’s attention in New York City, but here in the boondocks of middle America, he just looks stupid.  He’s insistence that the President show his “long-form” birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States is ridiculous!  Well now that the President has shown his long-form birth certificate what will The Donald do?  Well, he has his real estate holdings, his TV show The Apprentice, and other business interests.

Now he has threatened to run for President of the United States.  The Donald would not make a very good president.  His personal experience is so far removed from main stream America, that he would likely fare worse that George W. Bush.  Also his ego would not fare well in a presidential campaign, as evidenced by his stone-faced expression through most of the annual White House Correspondents dinner, where The Donald was the butt of jokes from the President and the dinner’s featured speaker Seth Meyers, the head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor for “Saturday Night Live.”  Well played, Mr. President!

Since he announced he would make a decision and declare it on his TV show, I cannot help but think The Donald was simply using the situation as a way to increase the decreasing audience for his TV show.  I for one will not be viewing the finale.  Donald, go back to doing whatever you do, but leave us out of it because you’re fired!

Get over cheap gasoline

I am watching the news and the collective hand-ringing over $4.00/gallon gasoline.  Candy Crowley of CNN asked  John Hofmeister, former president Shell Oil, how high with gasoline price go?  He answered with a combination of market forces and advocated that U.S. citizens should demand their politicians do more to increase domestic oil production.  Later on the same show, Donald Trump stated that we should tell OPEC what to charge us for gasoline.  Try that with your neighborhood gas station.

The truth is gasoline and the oil it comes from is a limited resource. All the oil that we will ever use was created hundreds of millions of years ago.  The conditions were very different for today’s climate.  Probably a much hotter climate.

As a limited resource gasoline will get more expensive as we use it up.  Any attempt to control the price will bring many unintended consequences.  The U.S. has enjoyed cheap gasoline because we are a large producer, but we have become an even larger consumer!

The price we pay for gasoline does not reflect the real cost of a gallon.  The U.S. consumes more that it produces, so we must import oil.  So our government has gone to foreign producers and made deals, invaded, and fought wars to keep oil cheap for us.  This added cost is not added to gasoline costs.

Letting the price rise will cause alternatives to be developed, conservation will be increased without large market boom and bust cycles.

Gasoline will get more expensive.  The price of gasoline will go up.  All the way to the top!  Get over it!

Guard Against Disease

Should we require everyone get vaccinations for diseases to prevent pandemics?  There has been opposition to vaccines since the practice was first used in western medicine in 1796.  In that year, Edward Jenner used cowpox germs to create protection from the more deadly smallpox disease.  As the cartoon below shows, people were concerned about the ingredients and effects of the new procedure.

The Cow-Pock—or—the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!
The Cow-Pock—or—the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!

This was shown in a publication against the practice of vaccines.  After vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the WHO certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979.  This has saved millions of people from disfigurement and possible death from this disease!

Even in recent years the famous people have started campaigns using bad science and anecdotal evidence of the dangers of vaccines.  I believe there needs to be thorough testing and disclosure of the effects of new vaccines, but without widespread vaccination programs, diseases, like smallpox, will not be eradicated.

For more information about vaccines see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine and http://www.dmoz.org/Health/Pharmacy/Drugs_and_Medications/Vaccines_and_Antisera/

IRS Privacy Changes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is trying to slip a change in rules through that will allow companies that process your tax returns to sell that information to other people.The proposed rule, published on December 8, 2005 in the Federal Register, would allow companies that prepare your income tax return to ask your permission to give or sell your information to third parties. This change is being slip through as an administrative change. Privacy advocates (including me) feel this gives an open door to tax preparers to harvest detailed information about their customers. Consent must be given, but many people will not read every word that preparers put in front of them.

Quoting rule text:

The proposed regulations also allow a taxpayer to use a single document to consent to multiple uses of their tax return information….

The Treasury Department and the IRS propose these amendments to protect taxpayers’ tax return information, and to ensure that taxpayers are fully informed when providing consent to disclose or use tax return information.

This doesn’t seem to be the case. If the IRS was concerned about disclosure of tax return information they would make a rule the information can only be disclose to the IRS or the taxpayer.

The proposed regulations also allow a taxpayer to use a single document to consent to multiple uses of their tax return information, or use a single document to consent to multiple disclosures of their tax return information, provided certain requirements are met.

This would allow preparers to use one consent form for several uses, only one of which they actually discuss with the taxpayer.

To quote Lou Dobbs (CNN, Mar 22, 2006), “Well, it is under the heading of, you can’t make this stuff up. The Internal Revenue Service saying that we would be sharing our personal tax information to protect the privacy of our tax information. It’s Orwellian.”

Written or electronically generated comments must be received by March 8, 2006. Outlines of topics to be discussed at the public hearing scheduled for April 4, 2006, in the Auditorium of the Internal Revenue Building at 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20224, must be received by March 14, 2006. These regulations are proposed to apply on the date that is 30 days after the final regulations are published in the Federal Register.