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Prediction: Obama will destroy Mitt Romney in November

As far as I can tell, Mitt Romney’s main campaign tactic this fall will revolve around Obama’s “mismanagement” of the economy. Of course, by this fall, it will be clear the the economy is once again recovering, so Romney’s rhetoric will fall flat and he won’t ever really challenge Obama for a majority of votes, popular or electoral. Furthermore, Obama is so neocon in non-economic areas — foreign policy, domestic security policy, civil liberties, etc — that no republican candidate not named Ron Paul can challenge him effectively there.

The upshot of this is that even though I don’t think Ron Paul would win against Obama either, he is actually the one candidate that has a legitimate chance because he will split liberals who actually care about things like liberty and freedom from oppression by their very own police state.

So, republicans have a choice this primary season: concede early by choosing current front-runner Mitt Romney, or make things interesting by choosing the one candidate who can take Obama to task on things that both matter and people care about: Ron Paul.

Republicans are the party of stupid, so I don’t expect them to figure this out in sufficient numbers to effect change. So, Mitt Romney Will lose badly in November. That will leave us with another term for Obama, who will begin to show true big-government colors as he searches for a legacy in his second term. So basically, not a lot of fun for people who care about individual or economic liberty for a few years.

Nevertheless, the United States will remain on balance the most free country in the world. It’s a race to the bottom and we’re losing!

Dreaming

I had a dream this morning as I was waking up.

Far off in a future northern Alaska, I was visiting a city that was incredibly unique. The founders of this city had built a three-kilometer tall weather control tower that kept the weather at the city center perpetually nice. The further away from the city center, the more the weather turned back into a wintery wasteland, with huge snowdrifts and constant storms.

The tower was in a state of disrepair, but not many people seemed to notice or care. The thing was enormous, stretching up into the heavens from below, maybe an acre in area.

I took part in a number of adventures while visiting this city — most of them are pretty foggy now though. One involved snowmobile rides out in the badlands, another was infiltrating the tower. I don’t remember making it to the top.

Truths, Discoveries, and Wonders

All of mans’ endeavors are fundamentally scientific. We should approach frontiers not with a sense of trepidation, but with a desire to explore, experiment, and understand. In this way, truths will be revealed to us, discoveries will bear our names, and wonders will blossom into our lives.

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My Effective Tax Rate

I just got my W-2 for last year, which, when combined with Turbotax or similar, allows me to calculate my income tax rate.

The direct, visible tax rate I’m paying — including federal and state taxes — is about 33.4%.

By any honest measurement, this is far below what I am actually causing to make its way into the government’s coffers. First, my Social Security tax and Medicare taxes are matched by Facebook — 6.2% and 1.45%. I never see this money in my “income”, but Facebook views it as a cost to employing me, so this is exactly equivalent to me paying all of these taxes as a slightly elevated pay rate.

Then there is the VPDI, “voluntarily paid disability insurance”, which, like most government schemes, isn’t really voluntary at all. I can choose to participate in my company’s plan, or I can pay the state — my choice! I of course chose to not pay the state, but essentially this is also a tax (since I wouldn’t carry disability insurance otherwise), albeit one that I get a service out of (of course, some people would claim this of all my paid taxes).

When these are taken into account, my income is taxed at more like a 38.1% rate.

And then, I buy things. I bought a car and paid sales tax on that. Every time I go to the store, I pay sales tax there. Where I live in Palo Alto, the sales tax rate is 9.25%. That’s right, everything I buy, I give another almost 10% to the government. Taking into account the approximate sales tax I paid, using some rough but not unreasonable estimates I made using data from my Mint.com records (I used reasonable assumptions, such as all gas, dining, and entertainment was purchased in state; shopping was half online; travel was mostly reimbursed and not counted, etc), my tax rate goes up to 39.6%.

We’re at nearly 40%, and that’s just the stuff that’s easy to figure out. I pay more for my housing because of property taxes. I pay all sorts of government taxes when I travel (occasionally they are enumerated and they often add 40% to the base rate).  I’m sure there’s a lot I’m missing too. How much do all of these things add to my total tax burden? I figure it’s almost impossible to tell. And that’s not unintentional.

I have a friend who recently calculated his income tax rate, and it came to about 1/8th of mine because he and his wife (one of whom is currently collecting unemployment benefits) are paying two mortgages. Viewing the unemployment payments as a reverse tax, their effective tax rate is well below 0%.

So the guy who made all the “right” decisions — studying hard and busting my butt to be worth a decent income; working through school to avoid student loans; not buying a house circa 2006 because I did the numbers and decided I couldn’t afford it; saving on my own for retirement — now pays at least 40% of his income to taxes, while others who bought the house, financed the car, and take the revolving door job — get net reimbursed with that money.

God bless America.

New Years Resolutions 2011

A bit late, but last year I didn’t do this as all, so I wanted to make sure I did them this year.

This is a post that will be updated a few times before I’m done, but here goes the first few:

  • Do at least one triathlon this year
  • Play tennis every week
  • Count my blessings but never be satisfied