Gongol.com Archives: March 2007
Brian Gongol

March 9, 2007

Graphics Graphic of the day: Wired

News Toll roads not enough?

Business and Finance China plans to raise taxes on foreign businesses
Also interesting: The situation in Cape Verde, where they're worried about losing donations from abroad that keep them from being exceptionally poor. At some point or another, every poor country has to get off the aid train and find a way to get wealthy that doesn't depend upon natural resources.

Science and Technology Bees have too much stress
Huge numbers of beehives are failing, and it's not just a problem for honey producers -- if the bees don't fly, they can't pollinate effectively, and that threatens crops

Science and Technology EU promises big energy changes, but are they the best way?
They're planning to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% and to get 20% of their energy from renewable fuels by...conveniently...2020. The problem isn't the intent so much as the likely course of execution. They'll probably just tax conventional energy sources and impose new regulations. It would seem much more efficient to offer incentive prizes and encourage innovation rather than impose new rules and costs that will hurt the region's economic growth.

Business and Finance Americans up to their eyeballs in debt
The country as a whole is carrying about $876 billion in revolving debt -- that's the credit-card kind of stuff. Assuming that country's total population is about 300 million, that's about $2,920 in revolving debt per person, or at 2.6 people per household, about $7,600 per household in credit-card-type debt. Assuming many people are paying 19% per year on that debt (which isn't unlikely), the interest alone on that debt is draining more than $1,400 from the average household. That's $1,400 per year in total deadweight to the household budget. In the reverse case, a household investing $1,400 per year at a very conservative rate of 5% per year would have earned $53,000 in interest over 30 years. So the word that household net worth is way up is wildly misleading: For many households, the deadweight of debt is a real killer. (Not to mention that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are skewing the net worth calculation to the upside...and they don't have any credit-card debt.)

Broadcasting Katie Couric hasn't salvaged "CBS Evening News" ratings

News Iranian general defects to United States
Meanwhile, there's evidence that "pressure groups" -- in essence, thugs who use violence to enforce their political will -- are in resurgence in Iran. That's the kind of news that makes the FBI's abuse of the Patriot Act especially disappointing. Evil collapses in upon itself as long as good people are allowed to stand freely against it. But when a law-enforcement agency of the world's leading light for liberty lies about its use of illegal surveillance, that makes it hard for people to continue believing in the system. The government can't just assume that people will trust the government's goodwill while it erodes the civil liberties that make the nation great in the first place. The Patriot Act was an overreaction, and it's little surprise that it's being abused. It doesn't help that local politicians are engaging in soft-serve socialism, either -- passing too many laws to restrict people's freedom in the name of "helping" them.

Iowa Where the Iowa legislature stands right now

Iowa When you can't afford the schools you have, start more?
Iowa HSB 115 would create statewide preschool for 4-year-olds. Given that the state already has trouble making ends meet in many districts, how would expanding the obligation make it easier to do the job right?

Iowa Legislating Iowa's favorite musical instrument?
Three Iowa House members endorsed House Resolution 26, which would declare the trombone "Iowa's premier musical instrument." Are these people completely mad?

Humor and Good News Onion: "Apple unveils new product-unveiling product"

Socialism Doesn't Work Higher tax bills for TV watchers
Iowa SF 390 would impose a brand-new 5% tax on cable and satellite TV service in Iowa. Why? So they can offset the tax giveaway the house is planning to offer fitness centers? Oddly, on the other side of the coin, House File 680 would give away tax breaks to people making copies of videos. What's going on here? What makes those firms so special that they don't have to pay taxes like everyone else?

News More democracy for Great Britain
The House of Commons wants everyone in the House of Lords to be elected

Socialism Doesn't Work Carbon neutrality is bad law
Someone in the Iowa Senate has spent too much time watching Al Gore's film: Senate File 391 would force any new power plants or factories built in the state to be "carbon neutral." Meanwhile, SF 286 would force power companies to reduce our energy use by 12% within five years. Simultaneously, SF 288 would mandate energy-efficiency rules in the state building code. It's one thing to ensure that inhabitants won't be killed by shoddy construction; but is it reasonable to mandate the amount of insulation they have, too? Heavy-handed regulations won't solve man-made global warming. On the opposite end of the scale, the Senate is also looking at SF 393, which would give sales-tax refunds to IT facilities for their power bills. So on one hand, they want to beat up the power companies, but on the other, they want to subsidize consumers for using more. All the while, SF 394 would create tax giveaways for power generation using biofuels. Meanwhile, HF 498 would create an "Iowa Power Fund" and an "energy independence office," which just sound like new ways for the government to subsidize certain businesses at the expense of all the others. The same goes for HSB 266, which would spend lots of money on "development and commercialization" of "targeted industries." And for HF 698, which includes giveaways for "high-quality job creation." And for HSB 271, which gives away tax money for "entrepreneurial endowments." Someone dig up a Five-Year Plan: The amount of micromanagement under consideration is disturbing. If we really want to cut energy consumption and the pollution it creates, a few inducement prizes for energy innovations would be more than sufficient.

Socialism Doesn't Work "Fair share" for public employees passes Iowa Senate
SF 413 proposes that non-union employees working in union shops can be forced to pay a fee to the union anyway. It's not really "fair", since it forces people to pay the equivalent of dues to an organization they specifically chose not to join.

News New US commander in Iraq says military can't solve problems there

Humor and Good News What's good about massage

Iowa Can a sales-tax hike really help Iowa?
At this point, almost every part of the state has a local-option sales tax, mainly used for school funding. It makes sales-tax filing ridiculously complicated for any business doing work across the state. So if Iowa HSB 250 would reverse the local-option taxes and effectively flatten the rate across the state, it might be a good thing. But at the same time, our sales taxes just keep growing all the time. When's it going to end? Besides, the number of stupid exemptions perpetually working their way into law (like an exemption for gyms to buy fitness equipment -- HF 720) never seems to end. What makes a weight bench worthy of an exemption, but not a desk or a laptop computer for an office?

Water News Truck stop in Clive has runoff problem

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