Off the menu again
For some time I bought from Walmart a particular brand of canned herring I like, for a dollar a can. Then last year they bumped the price up to a dollar eighteen. Eighteen percent seemed a bit much, so I stopped eating herring – surprisingly, it wasn’t all that difficult.
Then around the beginning of lent they dropped the price back to a dollar a can, so I stocked up and ate a lot of herring.
The other day I looked and they wanted a dollar thirty-eight a can. That’s just not happening. Frankly, I question who besides me is buying very much canned herring. We’ll see if it goes on sale. Until then I’m switching to sardines and salmon.
Someone claims college is not for everybody, and then compounds that heresy by telling people everything can’t be the highest priority.
“Over a series of three posts I’ll provide some background information on Bitcoin, explain how it works, and consider some of the reasons why Christians need to develop an informed opinion about the cryptocurrency.” — What Christians Should Know About Bitcoin (Part 1 of 3)
Hmm, well, though a bit dubious I’ll read the first post, because I am both a Christian and mildly interested in Bitcoin; but don’t abuse my curiosity with a series on racoons for Christians, rare earth extraction technologies for Christians, or what we as Christians ought to consider about recent trends in theatrical lighting technology.
“We should start with the question “What is Bitcoin?” but before we can answer that we need to consider a more fundamental question, “What is money?” And that question brings us to the story of the rai of Yap.”
Okay, now I’m hooked.
Related or not, Fairy tales can come true is my favorite story I’ve posted here.
Regularly at Walmart, I’ll want to buy onions, but the onion bin is empty. Or a pouch (Welcome to the World of Tomorrow!) of salmon. There’s a space on the shelf, maybe an empty cardboard box where the salmon used to be, but there’s no salmon. Or gherkins, or oyster crackers, or hot dog buns. The stuff is in the store, but it’s on the pallet back in the back. The shelves look like the Moscow Central Grocery Collective might have looked in 1982. In Soviet Russia you could slip some money to the clerk, and she’d sell you some of the salmon hidden under the counter. In Walmart, there are no clerks.
In Communist Russia, the central planners set the price of salmon below its market price, so alternate mechanisms developed for distributing salmon. Maybe fish was rationed by hassle — the salmon cost twenty kopecks plus two hours in line, or twenty kopecks plus a bribe for the clerk. Or maybe you bought your salmon from a guy who stole it from the cannery.
In America today, it’s completely different. To keep costs down (Thanks, Obamacare!), Walmart has thinned out their supply chain until they have too few people working too few hours to keep the shelves stocked, and there are long lines to check out. They have, in effect, set the price of salmon below what it costs. But this is America! Here, we don’t wait for hours or bribe the clerks (there are no clerks; that’s the point!) Here in America, we buy something else, or we make a scene. We stand in the aisle and holler “Where’s the salmon!” or “Customer need assistance!” I mean, one would rather politely ask a clerk for help, but like I said there are no clerks.
People could shop somewhere else, but circumstances are the same there. Mom and Pop’s closed because they couldn’t compete with Walmart prices. Ritzy Organic’s prices are too high for someone on disability or working part time at, wait for it, Walmart! where their hours just got cut. Before the current food price inflation (which of course is not really happening), I thought the retail business model of the future might be membership. Customers would pay a flat monthly fee for whatever they wanted to carry out of the warehouse. Now, I don’t know. Maybe we need federal food insurance.
UPDATE 28 March 2013: more here with links.
Being overly flexible on the deposit is also a red flag. It’s not that hard for a tenant to do $1,000 worth of damage to a place and then walk away, and that’s why a landlord will want the deposit up front. Will a landlord be flexible on that if asked? Possibly. But don’t expect the landlord to volunteer that. Really, there’s no need to. The goal of an ad is to get the AAA tenant–if the landlord is fishing for a C-minus tenant from the get-go, either the landlord is desperate–a bad sign–or it’s a scam. — A landlord’s take on Craigslist rental scams
Written from a landlord’s perspective, this is a good thing to for anyone to read.
In one sense there is no solution for our economic difficulties. We have a society full of mature adults who are illiterate, or innumerate, or both. They have all the skills they will ever acquire. They won’t be allowed to starve in the street. They won’t be denied the right to vote. When they get old and infirm they might me “euthanized,” but that’s a topic for another day.
In another sense, the solution to our economic difficulties could appear tomorrow. The economy crashed because people realized they had built a lot of useless stuff nobody needed – second McMansions for everyone! Then we realized we could only live in one house at a time, and came to see we could not sustain an economy in which people sell burgers to their childcare providers and the government taxes their employers to pay both an earned income credit. The recovery and then the next boom will happen in the same crazy way. One day people will simply decide they’re rich.
Maybe this time it will be, not McMansions, but obelisks. “Look at all these obelisks!” Paul Krugman will say. “Nobody has obelisks like America! We’re the greatest!” The economy will heat up as bankers loan money to build new obelisks out on the edge of town. The illiterate will get jobs counting obelisks for the government. The innumerate will write panegyrics to people’s obelisks, which people will post on the hot new app that’s gleebing all the frellbots. Apple will make a fortune selling easy-to-use Burlboxes to host the obelisk panegyrics. Thomas Friedman will explain how the economy has been fundamentally transformed.
Then one day people will look around and realize Finistere is a stupid waste of time and obelisks are useless. The market will crash, and we’ll all be broke again.
The perils of rational profit maximization
A guy outsourced his job to a Chinese company.
“The software developer, in his 40s, is thought to have spent his workdays surfing the web, watching cat videos on YouTube and browsing Reddit and eBay.
“He reportedly paid just a fifth of his six-figure salary to a company based in Shenyang to do his job.
“Operator Verizon says the scam came to light after the US firm asked it for an audit, suspecting a security breach.”
And he got fired. Well, that’s what happens when your job is outsourced.
In this TED talk, see if you can spot the Great Leap Forward: Let My Dataset Change Your Mindset, by Hans Rosling
This map of which states get money from Washington and which states pay money to Washington surprised me. Net payers to the Feds include Texas, California, New York, Illinois, and New Hampshire. Net recipients of federal money include Idaho, Mississippi, Virginia, and the Dakotas.
The source of the data is not clear, so there’s no telling if it checks out. And really, there’s no such thing as “federal money.” No money comes from D.C.; it all comes from people who are required by law to pay taxes. The feds keep some percent, then send the rest back to other people. Which is a great deal for the feds, but less good for everyone else.
It might be better if people with extra coats gave them to people who didn’t have coats, and food likewise. Although to be fair, if you talk to the guys who volunteer at the community food bank or the thrift shop, that’s not so easy to do in practice.
“It is mind-boggling that the legislators who worked on this act allowed such a loophole…” This mind-boggling “loophole” is that employers don’t have to pay for Obamacare if they don’t give you more than about twenty-five hours a week. And so (astonishing! Who’d have thought!) peoples’ hours get cut to twenty-five. Well, they’ll just have to get a second part-time job.
“Yet acquiring a second part-time job may be an impossibility for a large number of service/hospitality employees. Most part-time employees in this industry do not work full eight-hour shifts in a day. Rather, they work five to six days a week for four to six hours at a time during the busiest hours. Thus, it may not be possible for part-time workers to work more than one job, because the days they will be available to work will have been constrained by the part-time job they are trying to supplement.” — D.L. Dillard, linked above
Part time work became common because of rules requiring benefits for full time workers. Voters demanded government make the rules because of appalling working conditions in the nineteenth century. Running a business by off-shoring manufacturing and keeping a few part-timers at thirty hours a week is itself a loophole; competition and regulation force businesses to use that loophole or close.
If they change the law to require employer-paid health insurance to anyone who works twenty-five hours, they’ll cut your hours to twenty. This isn’t mind-boggling at all. There’s only one way to close this “loophole” – full national health care. Some forward-thinking liberal legislators probably knew perfectly well they were creating a system that would fail, and are prepared to make the most of that failure.