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January 30, 2009

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Avatar: The Last Airbender was a pretty damn cool cartoon. It is therefore a bona fide guarantee that M. Night Shyamalan will ruin Avatar with his live-action version.

Not to get too PC about it, but given that the characters are kinda obviously non-white and that the concepts are drawn from all over Asia, would it hurt that much to have a few actors not be white?

Let's try this again, then:

I'd just like the highlight something I think is stunning that I posted in another thread, which is this chart based on this IRS report (pdf) showing the average Adjusted Gross Income and effective tax rate of the top 400 individual tax returns in ~5 year intervals from 1992-2006. The effective tax rate for the top 400 in 2006 was 17.2%! Indeed, if you look at the IRS report, 31 of the top 400 had an effective tax rate of 10% or less! Boo-ya!

I note this because presenting who earns what and pays how much in taxes by dividing earners into quintiles, or 5% slices, or even 1% slices, really doesn't tell the whole picture of exactly who benefits from placing the capital gains and dividend tax rates at 15%, and how much. It really needs to be broken down into the top 1, 0.1, .01, .001, and .0001%.

Further, note that there were ~138 million returns filed in 2006, 400 returns is ~.0003% of 138 million. The IRS pdf reports that the top 400 returns earned 1.31% of AGI. Thus, ~.0003% of US taxpayers earned 1.31% of AGI, or 4,500 times their share of the population (which is not quite right because the "individual" returns likely include married filing jointly and their dependents).

A trip down memory lane I ran across while looking for stuff about Michael Steele's 2006 attempts to make people think he was a Democrat.

Well, I always used to wonder, when Chuck D. said,

"5-0 said freeze, and I got numb
Can I tell them that I never really had a gun,
But it's the wax that the Terminator X spun"

is he saying that Terminator X used to cut people's heads off by hurling LPs at them, sort of like in the great Kung-Fu movie "Master of the Flying Guillotine"?

Ugh: Yeah, that gave me something to think about. Or, put another way, you have made the most effective argument to date (IMO).

So? Flat tax?

Or Odd-Job...


Avatar: The Last Airbender was a pretty damn cool cartoon. It is therefore a bona fide guarantee that M. Night Shyamalan will ruin Avatar with his live-action version.

Ditto that. The cartoon has been a real treat.


Not to get too PC about it, but given that the characters are kinda obviously non-white and that the concepts are drawn from all over Asia, would it hurt that much to have a few actors not be white?

Because everybody in Hollywood just knows that white folks can't relate to somebody who doesn't look just like them.

/facepalm

I note this because presenting who earns what and pays how much in taxes by dividing earners into quintiles, or 5% slices, or even 1% slices, really doesn't tell the whole picture of exactly who benefits from placing the capital gains and dividend tax rates at 15%, and how much. It really needs to be broken down into the top 1, 0.1, .01, .001, and .0001%.

Ugh,

Thanks for the link. The point you make in the last sentence here is important. Looking at bigger percentage slices really obscures a lot about both income and taxes at the very high end.

Ugh,

Kevin Phillips has covered some of this ground in Wealth and Democracy, but thanks for pulling in some more up to date stats.


I note this because presenting who earns what and pays how much in taxes by dividing earners into quintiles, or 5% slices, or even 1% slices, really doesn't tell the whole picture of exactly who benefits from placing the capital gains and dividend tax rates at 15%, and how much. It really needs to be broken down into the top 1, 0.1, .01, .001, and .0001%.

We need a log scale to talk about incomes and taxation. Or to borrow Taleb's terminology from Black Swan, the folks at the top are paid extremestan wages, but operate in a mediocristan tax system (and note that their wages are supported by what is for the most part a mediocristan economic base).

Avatar: The Last Airbender was a pretty damn cool cartoon. It is therefore a bona fide guarantee that M. Night Shyamalan will ruin Avatar with his live-action version.

Let me link you to Aang-aint-white on Livejournal, which is endeavoring to save the world with postage.

You can also get the t-shirt.

Seriously, this sounds like it's been as big a casting mistake since whatsisname decided to bleach Earthsea.

would it hurt that much to have a few actors not be white?

Isn't the larger question whether it's PC to have the entire population of the world be East Asian? (As an aside, wasn't the first actor to play Iroh Japanese? I seem to remember that he also played the admiral in Tora! Tora! Tora!)

JakeB, the fact of matter is that Terminator's scratching is more dangerous than a gun. (A supposition also explored in "Louder than a Bomb" and "Rebel without a Pause" -- the latter probably the best track on the album.)

So? Flat tax?

Sure. We just have to diddle old Steve Forbes's parameters a bit. He wanted a "flat tax" something like this:

tax = 17% of (income - $30K)

I propose we keep the form, but adjust the parameters:

tax = 57% of (income - $130K)

My version is exactly as "flat" as the Forbes version. But I bet Steve Forbes would oppose it, because people of his ilk are not interested in flatness -- they only care about cutting taxes for people of their own ilk. I say "ilk" because I'd never accuse Steve Forbes of belonging to a "class".

--TP

So? Flat tax?

OCSteve,

See my comment above to Ugh. I'd love to see something with the administrative simplicity of a flat tax, but with a progressive scaling, because the upper end of our income distribution is a power-law curve, not a Gaussian curve.

I do agree with the flat taxers that trying to micromanage economic decision making by putting all sorts of carrots and sticks in the tax code has gotten to the point of being absolutely fricking ridiculous. We need to start over from scratch designing the tax code, but not on a flat basis, IMHO.

Hmm, I thought for a minute Eric was suggesting that Oddjob could collect the taxes from the hyperrich.

Come on, the director isn't white. And look at all the Asian people in that Dragonball movie--it all totally balances out!

Yves Smith shines a light on rumors swirling around (in the rumor-sphere?) about the emerging bad-bank plan.

This issue really needs massive attention and brigades of pitchfork and torch bearers from blog land, because so far it looks to me like this is one area where Obama really screwed up by hiring the wrong people (who are deeply implicated in what Buiter called "cognitive regulatory capture" by the Wall St. investment banks), and the problems are so complex that the mainstream media is going to be completely hopeless. Can you imagine the likes of Chris Matthews trying to make sense out of this, for example:

[she's talking about the "bad bank" being in charge of mortgage cramdowns]

Readers are welcome to correct me, but if I understand mortgage securitizations, this will not work (legally) in a significant portion of cases, one where the offering documents restricted loan mods. Note that there are three general types: no restrictions on mods, mods permitted up to a certain % of the pool, and no restrictions. Servicers do not appear to have done much in the way of bona fide mods (a payment catchup plan would not be what most readers would define as a mod, yet services include them in their reported level of mods), and it remains an open question as to whether the real issue is lack of incentives, given that some pools have no restrictions on mods (they get paid for the work involved in foreclosures, they do not get paid to mod).

So why won't this ducky plan work? Wellie, my understanding is that for those deals that have mod restrictions, to lift them requires the consent of at least a majority (in some cases 2/3 or 3/4) of the holders of EVERY TRANCHE in the deal.

US banks hold mainly what was once AAA paper due to its favorable risk weighting under bank capital regulations. The equity tranche usually stayed with packager, which in many cases was an investment bank. So the aggregator bank might wind up able to get a high enough percentage of those tranches.

But the intermediate tranches went to a whole host of players, and for subprime securitization, a lot went into CDOs. And from 2006 onward, most CDOs were sold overseas, often to not very sophisticated players (think German Landesbanken).

Now we'll see if this sort of "we can mod the loans because we'll own the securities" is part of the official plan. And if it is, one has to question either the competence or the intentions of the plan's architects.


See my comment above to Ugh. I'd love to see something with the administrative simplicity of a flat tax, but with a progressive scaling, because the upper end of our income distribution is a power-law curve, not a Gaussian curve.

I’d be just fine with a progressive flat tax. Just to note that I agree with you. ;)

OCSteve, the problem is that people have started using the word "flat" to mean something not at all clear, maybe "simple", or "with fewer (or no) deductions", rather than "having only one tax bracket", as it was originally used. I don't know what a "progressive flat tax" would be.

The number of tax brackets doesn't contribute to the complexity of income taxes, since everyone gets the number from a table or a computer program. I'd actually prefer to have an infinite number of tax brackets to eliminate the sharp bends in the tax curve and make it smooth.

TonyP, nicely put. Nobody uses 'ilk' anymore.

A three year old? To Disneyworld? On a weekend? Pack gin, and lots of it.

5 years ago when my wife was turning (kid's age x 10), we took our 4 year old to Disneyworld on that same weekend. 'Record light crowds', they were not light enough. This year she's turning (kid's age x 5), and we have recovered sufficiently to consider another visit, but now have school to contend with.

We went to Disney last year with our 5-yr-old, 3-yr-old and 7-mth-old. I've never come home from a vacation more run down. Work seemed like a vacation after that vacation. Just a 3-yr-old might not be so bad. There's a store in the Polynesian that sells liquor, btw. It's not cheap, but it's a lot cheaper than any other liquor to be found in Disney.

I like Tony P's flat tax. If both the fed govt and NJ would adopt it, I'd really be set.

Isn't the larger question whether it's PC to have the entire population of the world be East Asian?

In Hollywood terms? What makes you say that?

Disneyworld is tougher than Disneyland because it is a lot more spread out. Also, hit the internet for coupons and deals. Here's one site, but there are tons more.


I don't think the three-year old has any must do rides, our 3 year old remembers meeting the characters more than any rides. Plus the waiting for rides was more stressful than anything else.

Von's child is three? How did that happen? I can rememeber when he was born!

My god, I've been commenting here for that long?

Never been to either Disney. But I've always heard how dreadful the lines are, which I imagine might not be such a problem in these recessionary times.

Good news from Somalia - I suppose: the "government" seems to have elected a new President . The less-good news is that the new Pres and government weren't actually IN Somalia when this happened: they have apparently had to decamp to Djibouti, as the bulk of Somalia is still under someone else's control . Great: a President and government without a country for a country without a President or government. And not much chance for a match-up.

Couple thoughts ....

Regarding Avatar, I thought Gwangung was commenting on the animated series until I followed Jes's links. Casting an all white cast in Avatar is a little like casting Clint Eastwood as Li Mu-bai or Kal Penn as the lead in a period production of Hamlet. Say what you will about Kal Penn's acting skills -- I'm a big fan of the first Harold and Kumar movie -- but I'm fairly certain that the prince of Denmark didn't hail from the subcontinent and, unless you're retelling the story in some sensible way, let's try to keep that in mind in the casting.

That's not being PC (or non-PC); that's called storytelling. Stories are tied to a time, place, and culture, and you respect that or you fundamentally change the story. That can be good or bad. Shaka Zulu with an Aztec Shaka might have the same plot, but it ain't Shaka Zulu.

I don't see why the same rule doesn't apply to Avatar, which involves exclusively Inuit, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean characters. (For some reason, I always thought of Aang as Korean. I can't explain why; maybe the name.) I suppose there could be some story-related reason to make all the characters white -- perhaps the story is moving to Sunnyvale and adds a character named Buffy? -- but I kind of doubt it.

Anyhoo, those are my initial, unformed thoughts.

Also, to all those who expressed compassion re: Disney .... Thanks!

While I don't want to post any actual spoilers, I'd just like to state that I have mixed feelings after watching tonight's Battlestar Galactica episode. In truth, if I were on that ship I would have put senile, old Adama and his worthless staff up against the wall along time ago.

I talked to to the mayor today about the town applying for 'community stabilization' money from the stimulus package for the benefit of my project - i mean the 'stability' of the community. I have a meeting with the town manager sand the director of the redevelopment district next week.

hee hee hee.

I wouldn't have bothered if they'd just given me a tax cut. Wouldn't have even thought of it to tell you the truth. If these f***ers insist that this is the proper way to play the game then that's what i'll do. ACORN my ass. This money's going to D.A.V.E.

That's the spirit, dave.

Hey, look, y'all, another Obama cabinet nominee has a $#[email protected]%&* tax problem.

What the hell, people?

Phil: Nobody ever said being The Party In Charge would be easy.

My personal view is that a corrected tax problem is a, well, corrected tax problem. So long as there is no criminal liability, it has nothing to do with someone's ability to the job.

I don't particularly like Daschle for DHHS on policy, but he's more than qualified. He'll provide competent leadership. Get him confirmed.

"Not to get too PC about it, but given that the characters are kinda obviously non-white and that the concepts are drawn from all over Asia, would it hurt that much to have a few actors not be white?"

That'll be the surprise twist. At the end, they'll rip of their masks and reveal a bunch of Asian kids.

The casting is somehow even worse, given that Shyamalan is himself Asian. I can only assume they were guided by US market merchandising.


global warming heresy: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24934655-5017272,00.html

"global warming heresy: "

Don't look now, d'd'd'dave, but Australia, which is in summer, is having a record heatwave.


"The Australian authorities fear about 20 people have died as a result of one of the worst heatwaves in 100 years to hit the south-east of the country."

But, hey, it's cold in the northern hemisphere in winter. Time to pack up our concerns about climate change.

Jon H wins the thread.

My personal view is that a corrected tax problem is a, well, corrected tax problem. So long as there is no criminal liability, it has nothing to do with someone's ability to the job.

True enough, but it looks bad for this same problem to keep popping up again and again amongst Our Ruling Class. We really need a Constitutional amendment limiting the amount of time people can serve in Congress, because this lifetime service really appears to separate people from believing they have to adhere to the rules.

My personal view is that a corrected tax problem is a, well, corrected tax problem.

Yes, but they are not being corrected until they get picked for something and know that they are going to be closely scrutinized.

Can you and I get that deal?

Phil, do we have any evidence that the failure to adhere to the tax rules is more prevalent among the ruling class than among other people? It could just be that lots of people in general don't follow the tax rules, especially the more obscure and complicated parts of them. The ones who aren't being appointed to the cabinet never are forced to rectify the situation.

Beats me -- I didn't claim it was more prevalent. It's my opinion, though, that it shouldn't even be as prevalent. I don't expect our pols to be superhuman, or paragons of virtue, but I do expect them to exercise some common sense, having taken certain swearing-in oaths and being entrusted with the positions they are.

And in Daschle's specific case, "unreported consulting fees" and "questionable charitable contributions" don't sound like arcane subsections of the IRS code to me, but then I'm not an accountant or attorney.

RE: Daschle. On first glance his issues seem more serious than Geithner's. Unreported income is bad (though supposedly the consulting fees were a clerical error on his employer's part, but that seems odd). I didn't see the details on the charitable deductions but haven't looked too hard, could be he got caught up in the new rules as Congress has tinkered with what sort substantiation/valuation you need to take a deduction, but again if he's inflating values that's bad. But, what's really bad from PR standpoint is the personal use of an employer provided car and driver. Not only is that income, it smacks of "Taxes are for you little people." Just stupid and it could cost him the cabinet position.

As OCSteve said, these deathbed appointment timed confessions are a bit convenient (though to be fair it's not like everyone goes back and reviews their prior year returns to see if they screwed up). Also, the amount of interest he paid seems too low, and I would think he would owe penalties as well, but the IRS needs to assess them and fessing up before they find out is a good fact.

OCSteve: Can you and I get that deal?

Maybe, if you file and amended return showing you owed more taxes, paid them along with interest, you're likely not to get hit with penalties.

As for taxes more generally, at least when it comes to individuals (as opposed to corporate/partnership taxation), what ideally should be done is to replace all the deductions, credits, phaseouts etc. with a single standard deduction for you, some amount of deduction for dependents (e.g., any dependent, no special child tax credit) and everything else should be eliminated and the cap gains rate equalized with ordinary income. Though it's probably going to be hard to get rid of the mortgage interest and charitable deductions, along with the exclusion of $X on gains from the sale of your home (and I'm not really sure we should getting rid the mortgage interest deduction is a good idea, especially right now).

What OCSteve said.

---

"My personal view is that a corrected tax problem is a, well, corrected tax problem."

I felt a little out-of-touch when I seemed to be the only anti-Geithner voice here but found some reassurance the other day when I heard an interview with Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, whom I respect and who voted against the ex-Goldman Sachs golden boy because of his tax violations and, he said, other philosophical policy issues.

---

Daschle is going to have some splainin' to do about the unpaid limo and driver his friend "lent" him. Not a pretty picture for the populist senator.

Yes, but they are not being corrected until they get picked for something and know that they are going to be closely scrutinized.

Can you and I get that deal?

Steve, I think we have that deal now. At least I have it.

I own three businesses, two of which are profitable, which is why I need the third one. My taxes are unbelievably complex, and not only because I have preferred over the past 6 years to optimize for as little a transfer to the Treasury as is legally permitted. (My CPA's motto: Helping you pay for as little of this #$%ing war as I can.)

While I make it a religious practice to report anything at all that could be construed as income, the deductibility side of our tax code is literally incomprehensible even to the experts I employ. We meet to discuss annual returns and part of that conversation is about assessing which marginal deductions I'm willing to sign off on.

My point, and I do have one, is that the new Caesar's Wife Administration is grilling appointees at a depth that either flatly excludes, or requires a review and re-file, for everyone I know who is not a W-2 employee with no other attachments to her/his 1040EZ.

Not such a deal.

About Dschle...

Has he tortured anybody?
Has he lied to Congress or the public?
Has he politicized a government agency?
Hhas he appointed uncompetents, religious fanatics and campaign donors to leadership positions in an government agency?
Does he have a history of being wrong on his major policy initiatives or public statements about policy?
Is he a hack, a criminal, an idiot, a robber baron, or an ideologue?
Does he proposition pages, use a wide stance in bathrooms, or cheat on his wife with prostitutes?

If not, then he's beter than anyone Bush brought into the government. I say, let's seat him. Sheesh. It's not as if the R's in Congress or R voters for that matter cared about competence, let alone purity of personal life when it came to the Bush administration. Why should Obama be held to a standard of utter perfection?

Has he tortured anybody?

Well, stopping there puts him up over 99% of the people in the last Administration.

But having standards is good...

How about a BSG spoiler open thread?

Tax season . . .

We just got our tax thingies the other day and the guys couldn't line up quickly enough to this preparer in town who, they swear, works miracles.

Need this deduction? Or that deduction? Go to Hurley (not his name).

Make sure you go to Hurley: He doubled my return compared to where I used to go. He'll give you every deduction in the universe, right up to the point where you won't get audited. Yeah, right.

Me? I've been going to the same scrupulous, conservative, dot the i's, cross the t's lady for 20 years. I'm no saint, but I don't want no stinkin' audit -- plus, I'm loyal and a creature of habit.

Anyhow, one of these days, I imagine one of my co-workers may get a date with the tax man. Then what? Will they get the Timothy Geithner treatment?

I don't know.

"How bad a lawyer do you have to be to put your client on death row in a state penitentury for a federal violation of the selective service act?"

It's actually fairly common for Federal prisoners to be contracted out to local and state jails and prisons. It's routine for Federal pre-trial prisoners, since there are few Federal jails, but it can happen for sentenced prisoners as well, particularly while awaiting assignment, in transit, or making court appearances. Per diem fees for housing Federal prisoners are a substantial revenue and profit stream for some local and state jails and prisons.

After being sentenced for organizing resistance to draft registration in 1983, I was detained for 2 weeks in a local jail before being transferred to a Federal institution for the balance of my sentence.

As for death row, crimes committed against correction officers while in a state or local institution (even while serving a Federal sentence or pending trial for a violation of Federal law) would be violations of state law. Murder or attempted murder of a correctional officer is a captial offense in some states.

Finally, for what it is worth, it looks to me like the video for "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" might have been filmed at Alcatraz, which is often used for movies as a realistic stand-in for an operating prison, but where it's much easier to get permisison to film. Alcatraz was a Federal prison, where a draft resister could in theory have been sent once in the Federal prison system, although I've never heard of any who actually were.

There are lots of myths and misunderstandings about Selective Service, but the song isn't necessarily completely implausible.

Wow, actual facts from E. Hasbrouck. This is a blog, Edward! Get those facts out of here.

The comment re: state pen comes from a line in the song "How long has it been / they got me sitting in the State pen"

von: "Jon H wins the thread."

Yay! I look forward to the generous pension.

It's nice to see all of the new commenters lately at The Kitty.

Welcome.

wonkie, it's not that I disagree that Obama's cabinet appointments are a huge improvement over pretty much anybody the palsied hand of the Bush administration installed anywhere. But for us Obama voters, it's too easy to rest on "Not as bad as the Bush administration." You just know that the Republicans and the die-hard 22%-ers are going to be looking for anything, anything at all, to poke holes in this presidency from the get-go, and I'm tired of these idiots providing them with easy targets.

"Yay! I look forward to the generous pension."

Eric was giving away ObWi T-shirts the other day, although I wanted a Kitty mug.

---

And what Phil said.

Yeah, well I don't think we should worry about either pleasing or appeasing them. They will criticize no matter waht. I do appreciate the point that not as bad as Bush ins't good enough, though.

Wonkie: Yeah, well I don't think we should worry about either pleasing or appeasing them. They will criticize no matter waht. I do appreciate the point that not as bad as Bush ins't good enough, though.

We were promised the “most ethical Congress evah”. I’ll settle for less corrupt than the Bush administration, but I was hoping for more…

Interesting. Chike Okeafor, a DE for the Arizona Cardinals, chose not to identify Purdue as his alma mater during the Superbowl. He instead identified the West Lafayette Red Devils, his high school team. Funny. I played football with Chike. (He was a bit younger, but a really smart player even then. At the time, the biggest rap against him was that he didn't like to take a hit -- something that he obviously overcame.)

Six degrees et al.

(I meant to write that Chike was/is a bit younger than me. Obviously, Chike was "a bit younger" than he is now when he was in high school.)

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