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Friday WTgatory

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.19.19

Greetings from Wyoming. How about a half-Friday WTFuckery, half-meth-gator* thread?

*not Florida


 

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Hidden Wealth

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.18.19

I found this story interesting - Gabriel Zucman, one of Piketty's doctoral students, has established his niche as a wealth detective, making more accurate guesses of the vast wealth hidden by the .1%.

His methods are unusually brute-force compared with those of recent-vintage U.S. economists, relying not on powerful computers, regression analyses, or predictive models, but on simple, voluminous spreadsheets compiling the tax tables, macroeconomic datasets, and cross-border-flow calculations of central banks. He does it on his own, only rarely outsourcing to graduate students.

I suspect many of you know about this guy already, because he wrote a book, The Hidden Wealth of Nations, that might have come up in the same circles as Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

The actual effect of lower taxes on the rich, he argues, isn't to stimulate the economy but to further enrich the rich and further incentivize greed. In his analysis, when the wealthy get tax breaks, they focus less on reinvesting in businesses and more on hiring lobbyists, making campaign donations, and pursuing acquisitions that eliminate competitors. Chief executive officers, for their part, gain additional motivation to boost their own pay. "Once you've created a successful business and the wealth is established and you own billions of dollars, then what these people spend their time doing is trying to defend that position," Zucman says.

Just what we all already know, but it's still nice to read it. More bowling leagues, less corporate looting of the social safety net.


 

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Yet.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.17.19

I've recently acquired two examples of a figure of speech I remember from Michigan, but haven't been able to reconstruct, both illustrating the use of "yet" the way I'd use "still".

In Pittsburgh, a dad pointing out another girl's theme park wristband to his own daughter: "Look how nice her wristband is, yet. She doesn't play with hers."

In Montana, someone asked Jammies' uncle where his wife was, and he answered, "She's down at the hotel sleeping yet."

Phew, glad I got those off my chest.


 

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E. Messily health update

Posted by Ben
on 07.16.19

She wanted the folks here to know: she found a lump in her left breast about six or so weeks ago, which turned out to be a relatively large malignant tumor, and which has spread to her lymph nodes, including in her neck on both left and right. She has begun chemo (and hair loss), but the prognosis seems to be not good:

Unfortunately the lymph nodes in my neck are not operable, and the cancer in them complicates the picture. Typically, Stage 4 means palliative treatment with no chance of a complete cure. In my case, the oncologist has estimated a 20% chance of the chemo/surgery/radiation combo curing the cancer, but with a high risk of recurrence regardless of the immediate outcome. She declined to give me a more definite prognosis at this point because there are a number of variables in play; however, if the current treatment plan does not cure the cancer I have now, average life expectancy for stage 4 cancer of this type is about 2 years.

She said she will show up in comments here occasionally but is trying to limit the amount of time and energy replying to individual emails, etc., so while sympathy is appreciated in advance please (this is now me, not her) be understanding if you email her and get no reply.


 

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Guest Post - Bandit Capitalism

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.16.19

Moss-moss writes: Not exactly news:

Five U.S. states on Thursday filed lawsuits accusing Purdue Pharma LP of illegally marketing and selling opioids, escalating the wave of litigation over a nationwide abuse epidemic. [...] Officials accused Purdue Pharma of repeatedly making false and deceptive claims that opioids, including OxyContin, were safe for a wide range of patients seeking to reduce pain.
But part of a pattern:
Seizures of high-purity crystal methamphetamine have surged more than tenfold in Thailand over the past two years, statistics show, a stark indicator of the growth in industrial-scale production of the stimulant in neighbouring Myanmar.
[...]
By flooding Thailand and other countries with meth, organised crime groups have "generated new users" by enticing them with lower prices, Niyom said. The users then become dependent on the highly addictive drug, creating a bigger market for the product.

Heebie's take: that's nicely juxtaposed.


 

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Marriage as a community-wrecker

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.15.19

Another one of these case-against-marriage pieces:

In a review of two national surveys, the sociologists Natalia Sarkisian of Boston College and Naomi Gerstel of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that marriage actually weakens other social ties. Compared with those who stay single, married folks are less likely to visit or call parents and siblings--and less inclined to offer them emotional support or pragmatic help with things such as chores and transportation. They are also less likely to hang out with friends and neighbors.
Single people, by contrast, are far more connected to the social world around them. On average, they provide more care for their siblings and aging parents. They have more friends. They are more likely to offer help to neighbors and ask for it in return. This is especially true for those who have always been single, shattering the myth of the spinster cat lady entirely. Single women in particular are more politically engaged--attending rallies and fundraising for causes that are important to them--than married women. (These trends persist, but are weaker, for single people who were previously married. Cohabiting couples were underrepresented in the data and excluded from the study.)
Sarkisian and Gerstel wondered whether some of these effects could be explained by the demands of caring for small children. Maybe married parents just don't have any extra time or energy to offer neighbors and friends. But once they examined the data further, they found that those who were married without children were the most isolated. The researchers suggest that one potential explanation for this is that these couples tend to have more time and money--and thus need less help from family and friends, and are then less likely to offer it in return. The autonomy of successful married life can leave spouses cut off from their communities. Having children may slightly soften the isolating effects of marriage, because parents often turn to others for help.
The sociologists found that, for the most part, these trends couldn't be explained away by structural differences in the lives of married versus unmarried people. They hold true across racial groups and even when researchers control for age and socioeconomic status. So it isn't the circumstances of married life that isolate--it's marriage itself.

There is certainly a widely-known phenomenon where people are outgoing and involved as singletons, in part to keep themselves interesting and engaged, and because that's how you meet people, and then they do settle down with someone, move in, and proclaim themselves to be boring old married couple with their routines and TV shows, within the first few years of a relationship. In my experience, this is a result of cohabitation more than marriage per se.

It does take time and energy to go to the organizational meetings or practices or fundraisers or whatever, and it is natural that some of that contracts in a relationship, because a relationship does take time.

But I think it often disappears entirely because Americans don't feel much of an obligation towards their community, and don't see their individual absence as being a cost borne by society as a whole. This is the basic problem. Yes, it's good to resurface when you're a parent and you want your kid to grow up involved in sports and activities, but it's easy for Americans to pretend that community life is a salad bar to pick and choose from when you want it, and not something to contribute back towards.

As I'm writing this, I'm trying to narrow down which Americans I'm talking about - it's certainly not all Americans. It's not a red state/blue state division, or UMC/poor, or urban/rural necessarily. What I'm coming up with is that it's apolitical Americans that see society as a salad bar that's there for their own convenience. People use apolitical to see themselves as above the fray and disinclined towards the muck of politics, but really they are lazy, self-centered jerks who need to get a clue and help out for a change.

Or not, whatever.


 

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