Thursday, September 30, 2010

I paid off the national debt! (partly)

Lots of concern about the national indebtedness of the United States of America these days. It drives Tea Partiers to rage, get economists all bothered, provides ammo for politicians to do and say all kinds of things. And the average Joe (the non-plumber type) worries and frets.

What to do? I decided to just go ahead and pay it off. Well, part of it anyway. Precisely $20 of the approximately $13,500,000,000,000 we owe as a federal republic. I made a contribution to the Bureau of the Public Dept, which is part of the US Treasury Department.

A drop in the bucket. Actually, by my estimates, more like a drop in twenty million buckets (standard drop volume, 5 gallon bucket).

I figure we each owe about $42,000. At the rate we've borrowed (Treasury bills yielding an average of 5% these days, maybe) the annual interest on this per capita amount is roughly $2,000. So, my $20 doesn't even come close to covering even the interest on my share. But $2000 does. And if I chipped in $4000 per year, I'd be actively paying down my share!

When you start figuring in things like the fact that inflation will discount the debt with time, and with economic growth, the debt will get more manageable, this big problem seems more solvable.

Sending in $20 does something else: it signals to our elected leaders that we're willing to shoulder the burden. Maybe it will drive home the point that we are willing to assume responsibility for the services we receive from the government. Maybe that will enable pols to act with a bit more courage: cut some expenditures, raise some taxes.

What about you? How about joining me and chipping in a few bucks? Are we going to complain about the debt? Or do something about it?

eliminate frosh and soph years

Governor signed into law a new requirement that California State Colleges accept all California Community College System transfer students who meet the transfer requirements. This fits well with my idea for helping to control the costs of higher education in CA: eliminate freshman and sophomore years.

What's the value of using the higher cost institutions of the CSU system and the UC system in the first two years of college students' education? At the CSU and UC, the first two years of classes are taught in overcrowded classrooms by highly paid professors, or by numerous teaching assistants, or by part time adjunct faculty. Students often have poor access to their instructors compared to the CCC system. And having Nobel Prize winners teach first year calculus just isn't a good use of their time.

Let students who are committed to joining the state colleges and university complete their first two years in our large and cost-efficient community college system.

It worked for me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

reclaiming words

Language changes. Heard that, yo. Still, many good words get unfairly maligned, tarred or tarnished. Purposefully, as the American right and sometimes the left do for political purposes.

Others words just suffer bad fortune. They get used incorrectly, or suffer an unfortunate association with some event that fixes a new meaning onto them.

Tarnished words get dropped from usage. Then the language suffers because speakers must reach for less suitable words, invent new words, or simply communicate with less clarity, precision or meaning.

If the tarring of a word is political, that word is said only ironically, or sarcastically, with air quotes, or self-consciousness.

Here's my list of words that should be reclaimed. Words that have utility. Words that are worthy. Words we should use again without feeling funny. What words are on your list?


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Boomers' last hurrah

Interesting piece by Michael Kinsley in this month's issue of the Atlantic. He argues that one way the Baby Boomers can redeem their generation is to use their collective wealth to pay down our national debt. It is certainly time for all of America to start paying for the things we want. I'm not in agreement with the johnny-come-lately deficit hawks and Tea Party apoplexics who suddenly have deficit fever. But in the long haul, we have a big problem. And the Boomers, who have not sacrificied for the nation in the way that earlier generations have (Kinsley's thesis), could at the very least make this sacrifice.

This starts with a willingness to tax ourselves, tax ourselves very progressively, and tax our estates heavily.

I think a >50% estate tax and a marginal federal rate of 45% are good places to start (and these will affect me personally).

What are you willing to do?

Monday, September 20, 2010

feminism, anyone?

It takes a lot of courage to call yourself a feminist these days. Even very liberal people avoid the label. And men? Forget about men referring to themselves as feminists (yes, it is possible to be a male feminist.)

How about you? Are you a feminist? Know anyone who openly calls themselves a feminist? If so, do they use finger quotes when they say it? Know any men who would wear the label?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

ain't that the truth?

we can't remember who drove us in the ditch we're in...

good writing

Modern Love column in NYT

Country mouse, city mouse

I live in a house in San Francisco that touches the walls of the houses on either side of me. A few blocks away is the hurly burly of the Mission District, with all its urban intensity. But every afternoon a pair of redtailed hawks flies over my backyard, letting out a couple of their characteristic screams. Some afternoons are so quiet that the bees on the echium cone flowers are the loudest sound I can hear back there.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

FB test


Step away from the Zuckerberg

I'm starting a new blog to contain my daily ramblings. I don't really want FaceBook to own everything I write, nor do I want to be read only by regular FaceBook users. So, I'm attempting to use this blog as a substitute for how I've been using FB. I'll share what I write here on FB, generally.