The Bottom Line
The frequently, if not actually, daily Minyanville take on news, commentary and opinion from around the world:
The Senate Republican plan to mail $100 checks to voters to ease the burden of high gasoline prices is eliciting more scorn than gratitude from the very people it was intended to help, according to the New York Times. Aides for several Republican senators reported a surge of calls and e-mail messages from constituents ridiculing the rebate as a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before the midterm elections in November.
- Bottom Line: $100? Sounds good to me, Senator Sticky Fingers Frist Slim, but do I have to wear the boots to get it?
These boots are made for pumping
According to Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, co-authors of the widely discussed book Freakonomics, writing an op-ed piece in the New York Times, IRS data showing that tax cheating deprives the federal government of about $345 billion annually. Their solution? Audit more taxpayers!
- Bottom Line: More audits!!!! Why you smarty pants pencil neck... Ok, ok, simmer down, simmer down. Let's put ourselves in their shoes for a moment and reason through this....
So, as a reasonably paid economics professor and newspaper writer, we have decent salaries - I mean, we ain't vacationing in Cannes but we can afford the basic necessities; iPod, SUV, big TV. But wait, our fortune suddenly turns! Thanks to a best-selling book and numerous other related deals, suddenly we find ourselves in a higher tax bracket... but with new headaches. Hey, wait a minute! How did our tax bill get so high?! I mean, we know some things about economics, but the tax code? That's for CPAs! But what if... just hear me out for a moment... what if we download a copy of TurboTax ourselves? Makes sense, right? We're reasonably good with numbers. It's possible that we might want to keep the numbers in house, so to speak. Hmmm, but wait, this first run through TurboTax ain't looking too good. It's the Alternative Minimum Tax... and the gigantic publisher's advance... and the syndicated column fees. Whoa! Did you see that? Whatever I typed caused the Balance Owed to become a Balance Due! Ah, yes, typo. I see. I left out a couple of digits there. Hmmm....
Ok, now I'm just speculating here, pure speculation, but let's just say, hypothetically speaking, that one "tweaked" a few numbers in one's tax return. Of course, the fear would be that an audit might turn up the mistake. Then, there'd be hell to pay. An economist getting audited? Try living that one down. If only there were a way to turn the IRS off the trail so to speak. What if, just as a hypothetical, one had the ability to get an editorial into a major newspaper? What might one write about? Hmm, you know what might prove helpful to one who doesn't want to be audited? An editorial asking for more taxpayer audits! Brilliant! It's reverse psychology. See, one doesn't really want more audits, that's foolish and goes against the economic principle of self-interest. But, if one appears to want more audits, the government might see such an editorial as proof that there is no point in auditing the writer of the editorial asking for more audits since only a fool who doesn't care if he's audited would write an editorial asking for more audits. Freaky. In fact, one might say... Freakonomicsy.
According to an op-ed piece by the Asahi Shimbun picked up by the New York Times, the key lesson of the Chernobyl nuclear accident is to always be on the alert.
- Bottom Line: Actually, not so much an "editorial" as a statement of complete and utter obviousness. While I haven't worked in a nuclear facility capable of rendering 4,000 square miles uninhabitable for decades with the flip of a switch, I think I can say with some degree of certainty that "Be Alert" is pretty high up on the list of employee priorities. See?
Nuclear Facility Workplace Safety Guide
1. Be alert!
2. Do not run near reactor core.
3. Always point radioactive isotopes away from body.
4. Keep arms and legs inside moving nuclear reactor.
5. Do not leave spent fuel rods in the employee breakroom.
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