Category Archives: Other

California dependent on international immigration for growth

“Our demographers anticipate we will return to slightly positive growth 12 months from now as the pandemic is brought under control and we see changes to immigration policy,” he said.

Source: California population falls for first time after pandemic losses

California has been losing population because more people move out of California, than move in, to/from other states. The state is now dependent on international immigration for retaining or growing its population.

Adopting Scandinavian social benefits and taxes in the U.S.

For something unrelated, I was researching some of the “social benefits” programs in Norway. This is my summary of what I came across – which may be sort of accurate or not.

What I found interesting is that this is nearly identical to what the Democrats have proposed for the U.S. (I am not a member of any political party.)

Some of the benefits already exist in the U.S. (Social security, for example) while others are new (“free college”).

Vacation

  • 25 days paid/year
  • 31 days/year at age 60+
  • Many jobs have negotiated more days of vacation

Education

  • University education is free, even for foreign students studying in Norway.
  • University graduate education is free up through PhD level.

Health care

  • Almost 100% coverage for health, dental, medical transport. Also includes coverage when traveling in the EU.

Maternity Leave

  • For mothers: 80% pay up to 59 weeks, or 100% pay up to 49 weeks.
  • For fathers: 15 weeks paid leave.
  • Either can then take up to one year unpaid leave beyond that.

Child Care

  • Heavily subsidized for children age 0-5 (nearly free)
  • Subsidized (but not free) for older children

Sick Leave and Disability

  • 100% pay up to 12 months, then 66%

Taxes

  • Standard and personal deductions (similar to US)
  • Then, 22% flat rate to US$22,000, then rises progressively to 33% at about $100k (that also includes costs of health care)
  • 8.2% social security
  • Property taxes
  • Value Added Tax (25% sales-like tax, and 15% VAT on food)
  • Capital gains tax flat 22%

A person making 55k / year will pay 24.7% in taxes or 32.9% including social security.

A person making about 100k and up will pay about 33% or 41.2% including social security.

Of course, on top of that, you pay 25% VAT (sales tax), property taxes and other taxes/fees.

In the U.S., social security tax is 12.4% but most workers only see 6.2% as the other half is, basically, taken out of income by the employer and used as the “employer’s contribution”.

The U.S. Federal tax scheme is progressive, without the large flat rate starting level. However, some states, like Oregon, have a largely flat rate 9 to 9.9% tax for most income and capital gains. Some cities also have additional income taxes. In worst cases, this can add 10-20% to the U.S. tax burden. It’s important when comparing taxes to try and identify all of the possible taxes: municipal income taxes, state income taxes, federal income taxes, state and federal capital gains taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, social security and Medicare taxes. This is why comparing one nation’s taxes to another is hard to do.

When all of the taxes are added together, it is apparent that taxes on Norway are very high. In Denmark, it is common for wage earners to pay 40% to 70% of their total income in taxes (those are not marginal tax rates but actual percent of income). The average Dane pays 45% of their entire income as income taxes.

There is a proposal to raise the U.S. capital gains tax to 39.4%, almost twice that of Norway. Economists say the maximum economic opportunity comes below 28%; after that, people change their behavior and the government gets less than expected and economic growth is harmed.

Another proposal would raise inheritance taxes for some to 61%. Since some states also have inheritance and/or estate taxes, these could raise the effective “death tax” to 70 to 80% of the estate value. Basically, the government would confiscate the majority of one’s wealth at death – this could make it difficult for some family businesses, including farms and ranches, to be continued into the next generation.

The Democrats have a tiny majority in the House and 50:50 in the Senate and some of them claim this gives them a mandate to restructure the U.S. into a high benefit/high tax scheme like those of Scandinavian countries.

Wealth Tax

  • In Norway, wealth of more than US$60,000, has a 0.7% (to city) and 0.15 (to state) or 0.85% of amount > $60k. That means for each dollar equivalent over US $60,000, you would pay 0.7% of that wealth to the government.
  • There are proposals in the U.S. for a wealth tax, albeit at far higher levels of wealth, for now.

Social Security Pension Program

  • 8.2% pay check contribution in Norway
  • Can retire at age 62 with 40 years work contributions. Can count work from age 13 onward.
  • Everyone eligible for retirement at age 67.
  • Pension based on “basic pension” + supplemental, based on years worked.

Scandinavian Social Benefits and Taxes Model

In the U.S., in 2021, the Democrats are proposing the U.S. adopt a Scandinavian social benefits and taxation model. Basically, a clone of the Scandinavian model.

Of the above, here are the proposed changes to the U.S., as best I can tell.

  • Vacation – no change
  • Health care – ACA subsidies extended, but not otherwise making fundamental changes. Some Democrats would like to implement a so-called “Medicare-for-All” concept (unrelated to Medicare except for the name) but this is unlikely to occur.
  • Education – free community college, and free tuition for families earning less than $125k, eliminating existing student loan debts
  • Maternity Leave – proposed family leave law
  • Child care – free pre-K school
  • Sick Leave and Disability – no change
  • Taxes – proposed 39.4% capital gains tax, proposed higher taxes for high income earners, discussion of 3% wealth tax on high wealth (various numbers of $10 and $50 million and higher)
  • Social Security – no changes

No guarantees on the accuracy of the above information. I was compiling this for some “back of the envelope” understanding – not necessarily accounting level accuracy. I thought this was interesting and chose to share it here on the blog.

Does auto-enrollment in retirement plans make sense?

Source: A new law would require employees to save for retirement – MarketWatch

The law would mandate automatic payroll deductions of 3%, rising 1% per year until 10% is reached – unless the employee intentionally opts out. (Some businesses already implement this on their own.)

I argue that a younger person just out of college, especially in a professional track job, should be saving money to buy a home and other necessary life expenses at this young age – and not saving for retirement.

There is now research that backs this up – most college educated workers will have dramatic pay increases over the first 10-15 years of their work life. Saving will be easier with higher incomes (if they do not expand spending). This may be a time to spend money on enjoying life too – the future is not predictable and health problems and even death may eliminate future plans.

A side effect of the traditional view to start saving for retirement, immediately as a young person is that many will, surprisingly, save too much for retirement – and be unable to spend that money in retirement to do the things they then wish they had done when younger.

Continue reading Does auto-enrollment in retirement plans make sense?

The culture of perpetual outrage strikes Krispy Kreme

Far too many people have far too much time and far too easy of a life that they are compelled to join the culture of perpetual outrage over absurd issues:

The donut chain’s well-meaning (and literally sweet) incentive sparked some backlash on social media, with everyone from doctors to comedians pointing out that obesity — which is rampant in the U.S.— is also a prime risk category for the coronavirus.

Source: Krispy Kreme CEO defends COVID vaccine promotion: ‘If folks don’t want to visit a donut shop, they don’t have to’

Those caught up in the culture of perpetual outrage actively seek out targets for outrage – which is easy to do with today’s media and social media sources. They are not fulfilled unless outraged about something!

Sigh.

(This post belongs on my Social Panic blog but I was lazy this morning – or outraged! Hah hah).

Before moving for retirement, do the “Walmart test”

This is spot on:

Even if you hate the idea, make a tour of the nearest Walmart in your proposed retirement paradise–if the place has one. (And if it doesn’t, be warned. Walmart does far more market research about its locations than you ever will and knows from where it invests.)

A Walmart walk-through will tell you almost all you need to know about the locals: how they shop, their attitude toward cleanliness, their degree of contentment, hidden issues of class and taste.

Source: Opinion: Before you move to a new town in retirement, check the local Walmart – and 5 other hard-learned lessons – MarketWatch

We thought it would take six months to choose a retirement relocation destination. It took over 4 years – and we know others who found it took ten years.

We began with a list that grew to 18 possible areas, cut that in half to 9 based on further online research, and visited 5 of the 9, in person, sometimes several times, over a period of years, plus two that we had visited during prior vacation trips.

Through this process we identified to key evaluation steps!

  • Spend time in the local Wamart for the reason the author gives, above. That is spot on.
  • Second, visit the local public library. This too tells you much about the locals and the local community – plus, local librarians are a wealth of information about the area – not just for book research projects!
  • Third, hang out in an espresso shop for a bit and see what people are there and what they are doing. Again, you are learning a lot about the local community.

We narrowed our choices to three areas. While continuing to evaluate those three, we happened to go on a camping trip. There, the folks in the adjoining camping spot had just retired back to the town he had grown up in 40 years prior. And he asked, “Have you considered this town?” Strangely enough, we had been there but never put it on our list. The next weekend we visited that town. And over the next few months, visited again a few times. And thus, we ended up retiring to a city that had never even been on our list for 4+ years!

Bill Gates says he buys green aviation fuel, uses solar panels on his homes and eats synthetic meats | Daily Mail Online

Bill Gates has become a parody of living the green life:

Bill Gates says he buys green aviation fuel, uses solar panels on his homes and eats synthetic meats to reduce his carbon footprint as he stresses the importance of consuming less

Source: Bill Gates says he buys green aviation fuel, uses solar panels on his homes and eats synthetic meats | Daily Mail Online

… and he stresses the importance of consuming less.

His carbon foot print is 3 to 4 orders of magnitude greater than mine. At least.

This is hypocrisy on the level of John Kerry, the climate czar, who flies around the world in his private jet lecturing us peons on why we need to make huge sacrifices.

Posting this is a awkward as I have met Bill several times in the past, admire him and his work, and have been in his “old house” and in his new home when it was under construction. Bill has made unbelievably massive donations to important functions that help a lot of people and the future of humanity. He is a good and decent person contrary to how many view him. I have not read his book on climate change but based on a review, I think his ideas make far more sense than most rhetoric on that subject. But considering his lifestyle, his climate advocacy turns into a parody – and he seems to acknowledge that.

Why is it wrong to refer to the China virus variant, but okay to refer to the UK, South Africa or Brazil variants?

3 news headlines from March 2021:

Yale University School of Medicine: Calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan Virus” or “China Virus” is inaccurate and xenophobic

Why is it inaccurate and xenophobic when applied to the China virus but not also to the Brazil, UK or South African variants?

Why is okay for the Yale School of Medicine, after saying “China virus” is xenophobic, to then refer to the other variants by country name on its own press release web site?

Why the double standard? Shouldn’t the geographic source be eliminated in all references?

What is the plan to dial back the fear, panic and hysteria?

After year of scary Covid-19 headlines and bad forecasts (2.2 million dead in the U.S. by April/May 2020, we need 100,000 ventilators STAT!), much of the population remains in fear.

We see this in quotes on social media from people who say they have barely left their home in a year. We see it in people wearing face masks while driving their car with the windows rolled up. We see it in Letters to the Editor about the necessity to keep schools closed until there are zero cases of Covid. We see this surveys finding something like 35% of the population saying they will continue to wear a face mask even after the pandemic ends and 14% saying they will likely wear a face mask the rest of their life.

Many people remain caught in fear and hysteria due to extraordinarily poor public health communication coupled with a media focused on doom and gloom.

As vaccines roll out, as the pandemic may fade on its own, at some point life should return to normal – in spite of, and not because of the totalitarian desires of many public health experts and politicians. At some point, most people will begin to say to hell with it and get on with life (as has happened during most prior pandemics).

What is the plan to unwind this hysteria?

There is none.

15 days to flatten the curve is extended to the point that it is now “infinity”. We will never be safe and must remain locked up in our homes, wearing face masks until we die.

I witnessed the last of the scheduled “firefalls” to occur in Yosemite National Park

A long time ago, park staff would push a pile of burning embers off of Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park in an evening display of a “Fire fall” that recreated the many waterfalls but with glowing embers. The embers would be pushed over the edge when visitors on the valley floor below would all yell simultaneously, “Let the fire fall!”.

In retrospect, this was bizarre, especially inside a national park. But it had gone on since 1872.

Oddly, as a child I witnessed the last of the scheduled original fire falls as we were there late in the season.  During the following winter, the National Park Service announced it would discontinue the practice. They ran one additional one, in the middle of winter with almost no visitors present.

Since then, photographers took to catching the glow of the setting sun on Horsetail Falls which occurs when the weather and sunlight line up just right. The following news story omits all mention of the original firefall.

Source: How to see Yosemite’s firefall in 2021, Horsetail Fall | The Sacramento Bee

This is me too

I would prefer to be writing positive things about tech, energy, transportation too.

Unfortunately, I have a very low tolerance for bull shit [1]- and the pandemic response level of bull shit has been wild.

Quite a few people are frustrated by the level of illogical nonsense that has emanated from public health epidemic experts, the media and politicians and many have begun to speak out. It’s been a steady stream of inconsistent, contradictory, illogical and incoherent nonsense.

[1] By bull shit tolerance is very low. This might be because of my training – undergrad degree in computer science (and 3 courses shy of a degree in math too), a graduate degree in software engineering, and an MBA (analysis and computer modeling). Precision and logic are important and its how my brain is trained to operate. When its working … It might also be because of multiple traumatic brain injuries which caused me a host of challenges throughout life. Regardless, I do not tolerate bull shit. (If you want to know, one 5″ skull fracture, moderate TBI diagnosed years later, 5 more knock out blows – subsequent speech problems, tinnitus, six kinds of headaches including visual migraines, brain perseveration, anxiety, sleep disorders, occasional swallowing difficulties, sensitivity to light and sound – and more. Brain injuries are not fun.)