Disincentives to Work

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece, “Fast Food Premium,” which argued that, as restaurants began offering higher wages and even signing bonuses to employees, those increased wages would get passed along to consumers, and would result in wider inflation (a big “thank you” to jonolan at Reflections from a Murky Pond for expanding upon the premise of my post with his own, excellent piece, “UBI —> UBM“).  My observations might be deemed “prophetic” if they weren’t so blindingly obvious:  higher input costs mean higher prices.  That’s basic economics.

Of course, the ongoing labor shortage is not due to a booming economy, per se, but due to excessively generous federal unemployment benefits, which have effectively increased the minimum wage for restaurant employees:  many such employees are paid more to stay at home, collecting unemployment, than they are to flip burgers, wait tables, etc.  Mogadishu Matt highlights this phenomenon in a reblog of a John Stossel piece:  the issue is not a labor shortage, but a problem of incentives.

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TBT: Cass on Our Diminished Income

The other day my students and I were talking about the Model T Ford, which in the 1920s ran around $6000 in today’s money for a new car.  It is impossible to find a brand-new vehicle of any make for $6000 today.  Granted, a Ford Focus, for example, is packed with way more technology and safety features than a Model T from 100 years ago, and that technological advancement gets factored into the price.

But consider that in the 1990s, when Kia hit the American market, they advertised a new sedan for around $6999 (in 1990s’ dollars).  What would that be twenty-five years late—maybe $9000 or $10,000?  That price point, too, is virtually impossible.

I managed to purchase my current vehicle—a 2017 Nissan Versa Note SV—for right around $9100.  It has around 45,000 miles on it when I bought it, and had been a rental vehicle before I purchased it.  I got a steal on that car—the closest comparable I’ve found since then was a list price of around $8900 (the list for my car was $8000 even).  That’s for a four-year old subcompact hatchback.

I got lucky when I found that car.  I figured it would be easy enough to find a decent car for under $10,000 when I began vehicle shopping in late 2019.  Boy, was I wrong.  Vehicles last longer than ever before, and maintain their value a very long time.  They’re also, as mentioned, packed full of technology and safety features that weren’t present even twenty years ago.  Trucks in particular hold their value extremely well; to find a truck in my price range, I’d have had to purchase a Ford F-150 from 1994 with half-a-million miles on it.

It’s great that cars last longer and are safer.  But those features—many of which drivers will never need or use—drive up the costs substantially.  Such was the point of an illuminating Twitter thread by Oren Cass, which demonstrates that, despite earning more money, Americans’ expenses for basic goods are substantially higher, requiring a whopping fifty-three weeks of pay to cover now versus a mere thirty weeks in 1985.  Naturally, given that there are only fifty-two weeks in a year, that presents a problem.

I don’t know the solution, but as I wrote a year ago, “Something’s gotta give.”

Indeed.  Here is 28 April 2020’s “Cass on Our Diminished Income“:

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Fast Food Premium

There’s been a lot of discussion of UBI—Universal Basic Income—over the last few years, especially with the presidential primary run of Andrew Yang.  The concept is seductive in its simplicity:  gut the welfare state and its behemoth apparatus of bureaucratic pencil pushers and middlemen, and just cut every adult citizen a monthly check.

For fiscal conservatives, it’s a particularly toothsome Devil’s Bargain:  streamline an inefficient and wasteful bureaucracy and simply direct deposit a grand every month into Americans’ checking accounts.  Of course, it’s a siren song:  we’d just get the payments and still suffer with an entrenched bureaucracy, claiming $1000 a month isn’t enough to meet the specialized needs of whatever community they pretend to support.

Even if the deal were struck and every redundant welfare program were eliminated, there UBI would still be a bad idea.  Besides the absurdity of merely paying people to exist, it’s inherently inflationary:  if you give everyone $1000 a month, prices are going to go up.  Just as college tuition has soared because universities realized they could jack up the price and federal loans would expand to cover the costs, UBI would cause a similar rise in prices.  Sure, it’d be great at first, but the inflationary effects would kick in quickly.

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TBT^2: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective

The Kindle version of The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot goes live today!  If you pre-ordered the book, it should pop up in your Kindle app today.  At $5, it’s a very easy lift, as is the paperback at $15.

It’s April Fool’s Day, a holiday for mirth and merriment, but one I dedicate to remembering the day twelve years ago when I faced unemployment during the worst job market since the Great Depression.

In rereading last year’s TBT and the original “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective,” I’m reminded how good God has been to me.  Last year I’d lost most of my private lesson students due to The Virus; now, I’m back up to seven students (six weekly, one twice a month), and I’ve just released a book (the Kindle version goes live today!).  Gigging still hasn’t really picked back up, but Bandcamp sales have been decent (and another Bandcamp Friday is tomorrow!), and my front porch Spooktacular was a blast.

I’m still hustlin’, but I’m also taking more time to appreciate life.  Perhaps the hard slog of my twenties has finally paid off here in my mid-thirties.

With that, here are “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective” and “TBT: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective“:

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Hustlin’ Towards Financial Independence

It’s another Bandcamp Friday, which means if you buy my music today, Bandcamp doesn’t take their cut; ergo, yours portly pockets a few more dimes.

Those dimes add up. Regular readers know that I’m a major advocate of sensible financial planning and reducing unnecessary spending (at one point, I would have been an “extreme budgeter,” but now some hedonic adaptation has kicked in and I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor a bit more).  I also promote hustlingworking hard and spinning different side gigs—to generate extra income.

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Trump’s Pages of Accomplishments

Looking at national polls and predictions, it’s easy to get discouraged about President Trump’s reelection prospects.  Even with Joe Biden losing his mind, and the pick of a radical, authoritarian Kamala Harris as his running mate, “Sleepy Joe” is managing to stay up by hunkering down.

On our side there’s grumbling that Trump hasn’t done enough—on immigration, on law and order—and those aren’t entirely warrantless grumbles.  Republicans squandered—perhaps intentionally—an opportunity to fund the construction of the border wall while they controlled both chambers of Congress.  John McCain pompously and vindictively voted to keep the odious Affordable Care Act in place, a clear parting shot at Trump.  Trump did not seem to offer a robust response to the CHAZ/CHOP fiasco, but is now belatedly defending federal property in Portland, Oregon.

Those critiques aside, it’s worth remembering what Trump has accomplished—and he wants you to be reminded.  That’s why he gave Breitbart a six-page document of his achievements.  They are substantial—and make him one of the greatest presidents of the last fifty years.

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Lazy Sunday LXXII: Forgotten Posts, Volume I

I’ve been blogging daily for over a year-and-a-half now, with a smattering of posts going back to 2009 (on the old Blogger version of the site, which I call TPP 1.0).  While I think I have some decent posts—my buddy fridrix of Corporate History International once told me my material was in the top ten percent in terms of quality on the Internet—I’ve written a lot of garbage, too, including placeholder posts for times I can’t really get something fresh posted.

Of course, I’ve written essays that I think are excellent—or, at the very least, very important—that get virtually no hits.  Then I’ll write throwaway posts, like “Tom Steyer’s Belt,” that blow up the view counter.  That one at least made sense—I was one of the first sources to write about his goofy belt, and his ads were so ubiquitous in late 2019, people searching for his belt got my blog.

What’s interesting to me is that forget some of the things I’ve written.  It’s another reason we shouldn’t be so fast to crucify television personalities who posted something incendiary on their blog fifteen years ago.  Views change, although I think sometimes folks in the hot seat exaggerate how much they’ve “evolved” on an issue.  Then again, we’re responsible for what we put out there.

That’s all a long way of saying that I’m doing some deep dives for an indeterminate number of Sundays into some forgotten posts.  These are posts that don’t immediately spring to my mind when I’m referencing my own work.  These posts may or may not have had high or low hit counts; they are just posts that don’t linger strongly in my memory.  They’re the red-headed stepchildren of my churning mind.

To find these posts, I just looked back at months in 2018 and 2019 to see what didn’t leap out to me as familiar.  You’ll notice that February 2019 is heavily-represented here, as that was early in the process of what became my goal of one year of daily posts.

With that, here are some forgotten posts of yesteryear:

  • Reality Breeds Conservatism” – This post isn’t totally forgotten, but it’s one of those keystone essays that, for whatever reason, I don’t link to frequently (unlike “Progressivism and Political Violence,” which I have probably linked to more than another other post).  I also wrote this post before diving into Russell Kirk’s ideas about conservatism, which themselves reflect Edmund Burke’s notions of “ordered liberty” and the organic nature of a healthy society.  It’s a decent, if lengthy post from 2018 (TPP 2.0 era), and it explores the influence of risk upon one’s political affiliations and leanings.
  • Twilight Zone Reviews on Orion’s Cold Fire” – My blogger buddy photog undertook a project in 2019 to watch and review every Twilight Zone episode.  He’d obtained the full box set, I believe, and set about his task, initially with daily reviews, which he then scaled back to a few times a week.  He’s now writing reviews of Shakespeare in Film, which I will confess I have not followed as closely, but is in the same spirit as his TWZ project.
  • The Good Populism” – This post was one in which I mused about running the first iteration of History of Conservative Thought.  The essay explores a post from classicist Victor Davis Hanson entitled “The Good Populism.”  I enthused at the time about how I would “definitely include” this essay in the course.  Oops!  The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray, eh?  But it is a great essay, as VDH delivers keen analysis once again.  In an age in which populism has newfound purchase on the American political imagination, it’s worth understanding that not all populism is the wicked machinations of demagogues swaying the rubes.
  • More Good News: Tom Rice on the State of the Economy” – I completely forgot about this short post, which features a YouTube video of my US Represenative, Tom Rice, discussing the good economy.  That was in The Before Times, in the Long Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus, when things just kept getting better and better.  Just can the headlines at Zero Hedge and you’ll see pretty quickly that we’re headed for multiple financial cliffs if we don’t cease with all this shutdown nonsense.  Yikes!

Well, that’s it for this Sunday.  I’m looking forward into further deep dives over the coming weeks.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Special Election Day 2020

Last November, my little town held town council electionsNeither of the people I voted for won, and the two incumbents won reelection (there were two separate seats up, so we got to vote for two separate candidates).

In March, one of the Town Councillors resigned for reasons still unknown to me, which triggered a special election. I filed to run for Town Council on Friday, 13 March 2020—the Friday before all the schools in South Carolina shut down and went to distance learning.

With The Virus hitting, the special election was moved from its original date on Tuesday, 12 May to today, Tuesday, 14 July 2020.  My plan was to keep it simple, just talking to people and maybe going door-to-door, but quarantining—as well as a good bit of time on the road this summer—prevented that.  It also didn’t help that I was cooped up inside for two weeks with a gnarly virus (fortunately, I tested negative for The Virus, but I’m skeptical as to the accuracy of that test).

But that’s mostly me making excuses for myself.  I could have done more.  I did talk to my neighbor and a few other folks.  One older man approached me while I was loading my car up one morning and complained about a house with caged pit bulls in the backyard; he wanted me to introduce an ordinance banning pit bulls “when you get elected.”  I’ve actually given that a great deal of thought, and might explain my thinking on that proposal in a future post.  It will certainly become more relevant if I get elected.

As for the campaign, I resolved to spend $0 campaigning.  I didn’t do any fundraising, or even funded anything myself (other than spending $31 for the filing fee).  There’s no need to spend scads of money in a local election in a town of approximately 950 people.  Public office should be attainable to anyone, especially at the local level, and I want to see if that’s doable.

I did, however, create a small (free!) Facebook page eight days ago.  I wrote a short post explaining my vision for the town:

My basic pitch:  Lamar is centrally-located in a rapidly growing part of South Carolina.  Working families, especially young ones just starting out, are finding it more difficult to buy homes in the larger neighboring municipalities.  Lamar is well-positioned to welcome those young families with friendliness, affordable real estate, low taxes, and proximity to the three large towns in the area (not to mention two Interstates).

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