Friday, January 23, 2004

Once Again, a Tax to "Soak the Rich" hits the Middle Class

A tax designed to stop the rich and corporations from taking advantage of tax loopholes is about to hammer the middle class.

As reported in the Detroit News editorial Scrap Special Tax Before it Hurts Families, the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is about to hit a lot of Middle Income families.

The tax was meant to make it harder for rich individuals and corporations to dodge income taxes. but instead it is is becoming a trap for many middle-income families and a drag on company investments.

The tax was enacted in 1986 to stop the rivh from taking advantage of tax loopholes, the same loopholes created by the same Congress that passed the AMT.

The law of unintended Consequences being what it is, as the AMT was not adjusted for inflation and as the Bush tax cuts are further creating a gap between the standard taxes a family pays and the AMT, more and more families are getting belted with the higher tax rate.

Once again soaking the rich tends to beat on the middle class and serves to stop them from becoming rich, and it keeps their tax burden high.

The Detroit News is absolutely correct in calling for the abolition of the AMT (although they also hedge and offer that it be amended to be adjusted for inflation).

This, among many other of the foibles, loopholes and other errors of our bloated tax code shows the folly of using the tax laws as a means of social policy rather than just revenue generation.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Coin of The Week - A Stater of Alexander The Great

This is a gold stater, dated to 316-315 BC, and it was minted at Sidon, and weighs 8.59g.

On the Obverse: Athena with griffin on helmet
On the Reverse: Winged Nike (the goddess of victory, not the athletic shoe) with Σ in left field. Mint State.

Alexander the Great, Or Alexander III of Macedon is a well-known historical figure, for an impressive list of Alexander the Great links to learn more about him check out Alexander the Great on the Web and incredible compendium of all things Alexander on the web, edited by Tim Spalding.

Pictures of the coin are courtesy of Harlan J. Berk, The bid for the coin is currently at $2090, not bad for an exquisite gold coin that is over 2300 years old and looks almost new, not to mention a fine price for a coin struck by Alexander the Great.

Editorial gets it right on a new Cobo

In the Detroit News, Thomas Bray wonderfully skewers all the arguments for a new convention center paid for on the backs of the taxpayers not just in Detroit but in the surrounding Counties, if its propnenets can get away with it.

In New convention center? Get real, Detroit, Bray points out that:

1. The debt on the old Cobo Hall still won't be paid off for anotherl 10 years.
2. Detroit is not exactly a hot spot for conventions, and a new convention center alongside abandoned buildings and crime-ladden areas doesn't exactly boost appeal.
3. If the Auto Show needs it, the Auto industry should pay a least a good chunk of the cost. I'd say they should pay for it in total and run it for a profit.
4. It won't go anywhere unless Detroit shares power in managing it.

Bray ends his article with the simple truth that until Detroit becomes a livable city with good infrastructure, good services, a lack of corruption, a work-friendly tax base, policing and education, people aren't going to flock to it and a convention center will not be the start of a renaissance fair.

Nice to see the Detroit News get it right.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Both Parties don't want Michigan Affirmative Action Referendum reaching the Ballot

For different reasons, the Michigan Republican party and the Michigan Democratic Party do not want a proposed refferendum banning Affirmative action in government and public universities to get on the ballot in the 2004 election.

The Republicans don't want it on as they fear it will energize the Democrat base to come out and thereby throw Michigan to the Democratic candidate for President and cause other races likewise to be influenced.

The Democrats don't want it on the ballot because it would likely pass. As noted in the artcle Michigan voters want affirmative action ban, the proposed ban would likely pass with 64% of the vote, which would be a huge margin.

As noted in the article, the Democrats are suing to keep it off the ballot. The Republican leadership are likewise not supporting the initiative, which is led by the Michigan Civil Rights initiative Group, but the initiative does have the support of some Republican politicians and Ward Connerly.

It seems that the people of Michigan, if given a chance, will vote against racial discrimination and affirmative action. Let us hope we get the chance to vote on it come November.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The Presence of a Creative Class does not a Growing City make.

The push for cool cities hosting a creative class is all en vogue these days. Michigan's Governor Granholm is heavily pushing the idea of turining Michigan Cities into cool places where people want to fiat of committees and central planning no doubt.

However, a critique of the theory that the creative class that is drawn to cool cities helps create a region rich in small business and young professionals is, as pointed out by the Volokh Conspiracy, an article by Steven Malanga entitled The Curse of the Creative Class. The Creative Class and the Michigan Cool Cities initiative seem to have their origin in Robert Florida's "The Rise of the Creative Class", and Malanga's critique points out, among other flaws in the argument that .

Jobs data going back 20 years, to 1983, show that Florida’s top ten cities as a group actually do worse, lagging behind the national economy by several percentage points, while his so-called least creative cities continue to look like jobs powerhouses, expanding 60 percent faster than his most creative cities during that same period.

I certainly hope Michigan doesn't pin its hopes for a statewide urban renaissance on a nice, but flawed theory that puts increased government spending for "cool culture" at the forefront.

Let's fix the core infrastructure here in Michigan first. After all, if you build a habitable city with decent roads (Michigan's are the 5th worst in the nation), good powerlines and other attributes of civilization, along with a business and employment friendly environment, the creative class will come. They won't just move here if there are no decent jobs awaiting them, regardless of whether the land is overflowing with culture or not.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Coin of the Week - A Tetradrachm of Ptolemy II

On the Obverse: The portrait of Ptolemy II
On the Reverse: An Eagle standing and the inscription Ptolemy Basileus "Ptolemy the King"

Dating from 285-246 BC, this silver Tetradrachm of Ptolemy II Philadelphius, the ruler of Egypt and part of the Greek/Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty that controlled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death. (The last of the Ptolemies was of course, Cleopatra.

Philadelphius means brother or sister loving, and he lived up to the name. Ptolemy II married his full sister Arsinoe, following the Pharonic tradition of the Pharoah often being married to his sister. (This approach tends to keep your family tree quite orderly and also has some advantages for real estate and inheritance transactions).

Ptolemy II is responsible for having the 70 (possibly 72 or 75) Jewish scholars come from Jerusalem to translate the Pentateuch into a Greek version to be placed into the Great Library collection. This is the origin of the Septuagint (meaning 70) or Greek translation of the bible which was heavily relied upon by non-Hebrew speakers off the age and later by the early Christians. (Click Septuagint) for more detailed information).

Ptolemy II also instituted the Ptolemaic Games in honor of his father Ptolemy I, which were supposed to take place every four years and both rival and surpass the Olympic games. As you can see it failed to win out, after all, when have you last heard someone say they couldn't wait to watch the next Ptolemaics recently?

The coin is currently estimated at $225 in VF condition at Harlan J in their bid or buy sale. Not a bad price for a coin of a famous ruler and for a large silver coin that is at least 2249 years old.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

In Praise of the Snowblower

We had a few inches of snow fall upon the ground here in Oakland County, Michigan... a perfect opportunity to test the snow blower that I purchased along with our house this summer.

I have an impressively sloped driveway that is a bit on the long side. Put a car in neutral on it and it will drop right down. The kids who live on my street like to ride their sleds down it if that helps your imagination any.

So I pulled out the trusty Cub Cadet Snowblower. Impressivley it cleared the snow off the driveway and the street in front of the driveway in 12 minutes flat.

I had to clear the snow off the road as we don't seem to ever have a plow or salt truck visit our street...the downside to being a dead-end street off of a subdivision. Impressively since the street is a steep hill and I'm in the middle of it, I have to drive in reverse to the bottom of the hill and the dead end side of the street, and then shift into low gear and build speed up to get past my house and up the hill to get off the street and on my way to work.

Sadly Cub Cadet does not seem to make these walk-behind Snowblowers anymore.

Ah, technology is beautiful, what would have taken a lot longer, hours of drudgery with a shovel in the cold became a pleasant diversion before I had to change and drive off to work. The blower actually makes the process fun.

So if you live in an area that is blessed/cursed by snow, get thyself a snowblower, you'll be glad you did.

A Public-Private Partnership for a New Convention Center?

The Detroit Auto show is well nigh upon us.

Hosted at Cobo Hall in Detroit, this expo of Automobiles is quite a sight to behold.

However, the Auto Manufacturers and exhibitors want more space and either want Cobo to be expanded from its current 700,000 square feet or as reported in the Detroit News, a new convention center built. . . With public money of course.

Oakland County Exec Bruce Patterson shot down the idea of a tri-county area increase in sales taxes to pay for it, noting the public is still paying off the original Cobo Hall.

Nevermind the original Cobo Hall still hasn't paid itself off. While a one million square foot convention center may be nice to have, what use will it be if its only used for three weeks during the Auto Show? After all if the Exhibitors want it or need it, shouldn't they cover the cost and own it, rather than saddling the public with a new downtown albatross?

Bottom line: Whenever someone says it will be a public-private partnership, hang on to your wallets.