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Comment: Re:To be more precise, Amazon will collect on taxe (Score 4, Insightful) 218

by swillden (#49762097) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

That assumes that the business can raise prices without consequence, which is an invalid assumption.

Only if the competition can avoid the taxes. If all of the players in the market get hit with the same taxes, then all of them absolutely can and will raise prices, and there will be no consequences.

Taxes are a percentage of profits, and are not deductible from revenue when calculating profits. So if Amazon raises their prices (and, assuming no change in consumer behavior, their revenue) by 10%, they also increase the amount of taxes they owe by 10%. So now they have to raise their prices again to cover the additional tax, lather rinse repeat.

This is a standard financial calculation, and a trivial one. The tax is 10%, so the increase is 10%, but there's 10% tax on that, so 1%, meaning the increase needs to be 11%, continue ad infinitum (literally). In other words, the new price needs to be 11.1111...% higher than the old one to keep profit margins unchanged. More generally, the increase needs to be the sum of the infinite series with terms r^n. This series is convergent if r < 1, and converges to 1/(1-r). So for a 25% tax, the company needs to increase prices by 1-1/(1-.25) = 33.333...% to keep profit margins unchanged after accounting for the new tax.

Of course, it doesn't quite happen like that. In practice, companies don't instantly raise prices. They do take the hit for a while, where it gets absorbed by the investors, not the customers. Then they allocate a portion of the losses to employees, in the form of reduced raises, or benefits. Then they raise prices. But eventually they get back to a steady state of roughly the same return on assets that they had before the tax hike.

Comment: Re:To be more precise, Amazon will collect on taxe (Score 5, Insightful) 218

by swillden (#49762053) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Specifically, all corporate taxes paid come from three categories of individuals: consumers, who pay higher prices for items to cover the taxes; employees, who make lower wages to cover the taxes; and shareholders, who earn lower returns (and note that the two former categories are often also shareholders, via their pension plans). Suppliers can also lose, but they're generally corporations as well, with their own employees and investors who actually eat the loss. In the long run, though, the investors don't lose because capital flows away from lower returns and towards higher ones. So companies must find ways to keep their returns up to somewhere near the mean rate of return.

Once you understand that no taxes are paid by corporations, ever, then you should also recognize that corporate taxes are not only ultimately paid by individuals, but the individuals almost never realize they're paying it. How many people know their prices would be lower, wages higher, or pension more secure, if it weren't for corporate taxes? And, therefore, how many voters have any interest in opposing corporate taxation? To politicians and voters, corporate taxes look almost like free money. Ratchet up the corporate taxes and no people get hurt, just those nasty corporations. (Actually, politicians sometimes get even more value out of threatening corporate taxes than enacting them, since it tends to encourage said corporations to buy off, er, donate to their re-election funds.)

I assert that while taxes are necessary, the electorate should see and understand exactly what they're paying, so they can evaluate the value they're receiving for the money they're paying. Hidden taxes are evil, and therefore corporate taxes are evil, and should be abolished, not raised.

Comment: Re:Pot, meet kettle (Score 1) 227

by swillden (#49756299) Attached to: Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

Global warming is a sloooooooooooooooooow process

Not necessarily. Greenland ice core records show that in the past the planet has seen temperature shifts of up to 7 C in as little as 30 years. 7 C is huge. It's like transporting Moscow to Rome. Of course, we have no idea what caused such rapid changes in the past. It wasn't CO2 levels, or particulates.

Comment: Re:Math (Score 1) 227

by swillden (#49756245) Attached to: Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

i would not be surprised if humans died off within a couple centuries after that.

I would. If one or more isolated populations managed to survive more than a couple of generations after the event, I think it's highly likely that they'd continue to survive indefinitely. The worst of the changes would be past, and they'd clearly have learned how to survive in the new environment, else they'd have died sooner.

Human intelligence makes us highly adaptable, as evidenced by the extraordinary diversity of environments in which we live, and lived even before the advent of modern technology. Humans who lack the necessary knowledge of how to survive in a particular environment are at severe risk of death any place on the planet, but if they manage to survive for even a year or two, odds are that they'll have learned enough to be able to extend that time almost indefinitely.

Comment: Re:When will their price be on par with ICE cars? (Score 1) 107

I drive a lot of small, economy cars through travel, probably in the range of a dozen or so per year. Not one of them had anything near the fun of driving the Volt, except for the one time I landed in a Mini Cooper.

Keep in mind that most of those small, economy cars don't cost anywhere near $35,000. With some upgrades that move them closer to that price point, they become more fun to drive, but I don't think even those launch like the Volt did.

Comment: Re:When will their price be on par with ICE cars? (Score 1) 107

Land prices are lower, delivery costs are lower, and taxes are lower. The first is the reason prices are lower in Barstow than LA and the second why prices are lower in LA than in Baker. It's always been a bad idea to fuel up along I-15 at anyplace other than major endpoints, and maybe Barstow/Victorville.

Comment: Re:When will their price be on par with ICE cars? (Score 1) 107

The Volt and that small, economy, ICE vehicle aren't quite the same markets. Having test-driven a Volt, it was a hell of a lot more fun than those smaller cars, with significantly better acceleration and handling. We would have bought it, had my wife (who would have been the primary driver) not had a problem with driver-side visibility, as a cross-bar in the rear driver-side window was right at her eye level when looking over her shoulder.

Comment: Re: Apple ][ was a great product (Score 1) 74

by cpt kangarooski (#49745473) Attached to: In 1984, Jobs and Wozniak Talk About Apple's Earliest Days

Though there was a good reason for the original compact Macs to discourage users from opening them up -- there were exposed high voltage monitor electronics in there which could give you a hell of a zap of not properly discharged.

The later all in one Macs of the 90s were better in that regard. Their user suitable parts (motherboard, drives) all were easy to get at, but the monitors and power supplies were fully enclosed.

Comment: Re:Tolls? (Score 1) 825

by Martin Blank (#49739307) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

I'd like to see flat fuel taxes indexed to inflation. A ten-cent per gallon tax that might have been sufficient in 1990 is falling woefully short of that mark in 2015 (it should be about 18 cents per gallon now) and while it wouldn't necessarily obviate the need for per-mile taxes, they might not be seen as so important to consider, at least not yet.

Coincidentally, I read an article this morning about a lab at a Texas university where they can simulate years of road wear in a few weeks. They have an axle capable of replicating the weight of a tractor-trailer (and up to double it) that can do 100,000 passes a week, including variance of up to 18 inches each way to simulate vehicles traveling in different parts of the lane. They use it to test different road structures, and experiments are due to wrap up this summer with papers to follow. Clever contraption, but what caught my eye was the claim that a mere 5% increase in average duration for a road material translates to about $50 million in annual savings for the roadways maintained by the state of Texas. Given the massive shortfall in roadway funding in the state, it would be nice to see something that gets a 25% or greater increase. There are plenty of highways (let alone streets) that are nightmares to drive on in the winter after the ice.

Comment: Re:Tolls? (Score 1) 825

by Martin Blank (#49739159) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

Depends on the location. Measure M is a half-cent sales tax which raises hundreds of millions of dollars per year in Orange County, CA. It has been extremely popular and has paid for roads and freeways (the 22 freeway widening a few years ago was either largely or completely paid for from Measure M revenues).

Comment: Re:Arbitrary appendages? (Score 2) 50

Well that was my point about having very plastic brains. I'm not a neuroscientist, and I don't know how much details like (I have specifically four major appendages to control; two arms, two legs) are baked into the brain from day 0, vs. being just one of the configurations to which a very young brain can adapt.

You missed the point, I think.

The bionic foot in the article doesn't receive signals directly from the brain. It receives signals as they arrive at existing muscles. So we're talking about a brain that has already been wired naturally to control normally-grown muscles, and hijacking that message to also actuate motors. To use this process for additional limbs, you'd have to have a person who had grown those limbs to begin with.

Comment: Re:Stupid reasoning. (Score 1) 1079

by jonadab (#49732271) Attached to: Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour
Businesses just raise their prices to compensate. The people who really get hurt are the people who make just a few dollars an hour more than minimum wage, because they've worked hard to get raises. Guess what happens to their raises when minimum wage goes up and drives inflation? Yeah.

With that said, I'm surprised California minimum wage wasn't already more than $15/hour. In real terms, that might actually be _lower_ than minimum wage in the Midwest. I say might, because it depends somewhat on exactly what you're buying. Electronics, for instance, are generally the same price nationwide, so your minimum wage job in California could buy a lot more iPhones than an equivalent minimum wage job in Ohio. OTOH, if you are mostly buying food and housing, you'd be better off with $5 an hour in Indiana than $15 an hour in Southern California. So figuring out an exact purchasing power ratio for the general case is not really possible. But anyway, my point is, $15/hour sounds high if you live in a place with a reasonable cost of living, but it's really not high in LA. Money's just worth less out there.

Comment: Re:Let me tell you about mine. (Score 1) 164

by swillden (#49723379) Attached to: I spent Mother's Day this year ...

I wish you all the best, and hope your mom really does figure out that if you're the most important thing in her life, she's really doing it wrong.

I do have sympathy for her; I'm sure that like my daughter her choices aren't wholly under her own control, and that as hellish as it is to live with her, it's got to be a thousand times worse to be her. But that doesn't change the fact that close contact with someone like that wears on you in ways that you don't even realize until they're gone. My family is still recovering from the unbelievable tension and stress she put on all of us until she moved out. I didn't even realize until she was gone how irrationally snappish and defensive her brothers had gotten, but now I see it because they're finally unclenching their jaws. Me, too.

Your mother is mentally ill, and she needs help. But until she decides that, and decides that she needs to get help to change, or until she bottoms out in some way that legally removes all choice from her, it won't happen. Having compassion for her suffering is good... as long as you don't get sucked in, and that's really hard. I don't think I could bring myself to cut ties, but maybe it would be best. Nobody can tell you what's right, and odds are that whatever you do will bring some misery. It's balancing on razors and job #1 is not getting cut any more than you can avoid :-/

Comment: Re:Let me tell you about mine. (Score 1) 164

by swillden (#49715509) Attached to: I spent Mother's Day this year ...

Beauty school? I think you're on the wrong site fella.

Why? It's a reasonable living.

In one way it's sad, because she's a very intelligent young woman. Easily capable -- intellectually -- of any university curriculum she wants to pursue. But her mental illness and concomitant emotional instability make it difficult for her to handle that sort of challenge. More to the point, she is convinced that she will fail in a university setting, which guarantees that she will. We can't convince her otherwise. She believes she can do beauty school, and she enjoys that sort of thing. So, fingers crossed that she succeeds.

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