Another important note is that the GAO is probably the most trustworthy and reliable portion of the U.S. Federal government from the public's point of view. They are sort of like Cassandra; they constantly give dire warnings about where the Feds are failing, they're almost always right, and nobody pays attention to them.
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Maybe your jurisdiction is different, but in my part of the U.S., early voting was available prior to the official election day. There were, if I recall, ten twelve days when the polls were open, including three Saturdays. My congressional district still had well under 50% participation in the last election.
Microsoft has denied that particular rumor. Of course, they might be lying or they might change their mind, but for now there are no official plans for a "free trial" model.
There are many more millionaires in the U.S. than that. Excluding home equity, approximately 6.5% of households are millionaires, as of last June. If you include home equity in the net worth calculation, somewhere between 10% and 15% of the U.S. qualifies, although it's frustratingly difficult to find exact numbers.
I have attended or worked at four different universities at some point. At each one, SAE was considered to be the most undisciplined, anti-social, and exclusionary fraternity on campus. That's just my anecdote, I know, but I'm certainly willing to believe that they should be singled out for special condemnation.
I would call them vandals too - I assume you are referring to the Boston Tea Party. The lead up to the American Revolution was mostly a series of thinly justified acts of vandalism, hooliganism, and general recalcitrance by the American colonists, fueled by an alarming amount of anti-royal paranoia. While Parliament and the royal governors often responded to these provocations tactlessly, it does not excuse the colonists' bad behavior. The fact that the Revolution was successful, and that much good ultimately came out of it, does not change the fact that the Sons of Liberty were assholes.
You are damning them with faint praise, I think. I've worked at a place with "strict enforcement of a seniority system" before, and it was a nightmare. I will not work at any company with such a strict seniority policy if I can help it at all.
The risk-free (i.e. government-guaranteed) inflation-adjusted 30-year interest rate in the U.S. is about 1% at the moment. On the one hand, that a seems depressingly low, and compared to historical rates it is. On the other hand, periods of low long-term real interest rates tend to be highly correlated with periods social and political stability, so perhaps today's low interest rates are a price worth paying.
If you are willing to accept a reasonable, but non-trivial, amount of risk, you could invest the stock market. A 3.5% inflation-adjusted rate of return is actually a very solid guess about future long-term stock market returns. Of course, there is definitely a risk that your returns will end up lower - that's why the stock market is a higher-risk, higher reward investment.
Here's a useful rule of thumb for estimating inflation-adjusted stock market returns in developed nations over long periods time (at least 20 years): Rate of return = Real economic growth rate + Divided rate - Expense ratio - Dilution rate. The "dilution rate" is the rate at which your shares of stock are diluted by companies issuing new shares of stock, and the the "expense ratio" is the proportion of your assets that are consumed by investment costs, usually in the form of transaction and recordkeeping costs incurred by your mutual fund.
The dividend rate of the domestic stock market is currently about 2% per year, and the market's dilution rate seems to be around
Putting that all together: 2%+2%-.5%-.2% = 3.3% estimated rate of return, which is almost exactly the rate cited by the grandparent. Keep in mind though, that this is a very long term estimate; the stock market might go up or down 50% in a single year. Also keep in mind that there's a good chance that this estimate will be wrong - after all, the reason that the expected return is relatively high is that there's a reasonable but non-trivial risk that your rate of return will be much lower than expected, even in the long run.
Anyone who wants to become a finance nerd would do well to read William Bernstein's book The Intelligent Asset Allocator. The book explains the rationale behind this rule of thumb, and everything else you might ever want to know about estimating financial returns.
The reason to buy instead of rent is specifically for the investment in the property itself.
That is not true for most people, at least in the U.S. People tend to buy houses because they desire independence (and to a lesser extent, status) - they want to be able to paint the walls, plant bushes, or whatever without needing a landlord's approval. The idea that a home is an investment tends to be a rationalization, not a motivation, for home purchases. And there's nothing wrong with buying a house so that you can have greater control over your living area. I am a homeowner - even though I could save money by renting - precisely because the ability to more or less do what I want with my house is more valuable than the extra cost of the house.
It's often hard to remember how devastating ancient wars were because there's no visual evidence and almost no testimony from the average population. Also, many of the deaths were indirect, as ancient warfare tended to cause widespread plague and famine.
In the Hundred Years War (actually a series of seven wars from 1337 to 1453) between England and France, France lost over half of its population
There were a few cultures where the situation you describe held true. In Ancient Greece, between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C., wars were mostly small scale affairs that resembled an extremely violent rugby match, with ritually defined locations, combatants, and prizes (usually a herd of goats). But those days were long past by the 5th century, when the Peloponnesian War erupted. We know that Athens lost at least a third of its population during that war, and they got off lucky compared to many other Greek city states, in which the entire citizenry were genocidally wiped out.
While your cynicism about the IRS is understandable, it is misplaced in this case. Private citizens, provided they are not wealthy and have an uncomplicated tax return, are often never audited in their entire lives. Large multinationals are audited every single year. Indeed, I know that Exxon gets so much scrutiny from the IRS that they have set aside a floor of their corporate headquarters for the IRS's use (IIRC there were up to 35 auditors plus support staff on site at times).
The reason for this is cause for cynicism - the IRS auditors have quotas, and large corporations are where the money is. I don't have the article now, but I remember reading in 2012 that the IRS's corporate audit division produced around $9,000 per hour in audit revenue. Your puny personal tax return can't compete unless you make a particularly egregious error, or you're one of the unlucky few to get chosen for a random audit.
As someone with a fairly libertarian outlook, I'd like to chime in with my agreement. There is a whole raft of cuts that I'd like to make to the IRS and the tax code generally, but I'm not silly enough to think that de-funding their IT budget is going to help accomplish my goals.
It sounds like the services described in the summary are still insurance agencies, just with lower (and less visible) costs and more technological awareness:
Some [of these] companies, like CoverHound and PolicyGenius, are online insurance agencies. Others, like Comparenow, send traffic to insurers and get a finder’s fee whenever someone buys a policy.
Now, that's fine as far as it goes; traditional insurance agents are an unnecessary, costly, and often unsavory gatekeeper if you're just looking to buy a vanilla personal insurance policy. If Google et al. can finally get people to cut out traditional agents, that's great - banging on about the evils of old-fashioned financial gatekeepers like stockbrokers and insurance agents is a pet hobby of mine. Still, I guess I'm missing what's so revolutionary here - I've been able to comparison shop directly from company websites like GEICO or Esurance for over a decade, with no intermediary at all.
Sorry, the last bit implies that nursing is having a hard time attracting women, when of course I meant the opposite.
If the answer to that question is "no," then so be it. But that leads to a new question of, "why isn't IT experiencing the same relative gender parity that other professions are?" Admittedly, that question would probably be more suited for a sociologist or psychologist to answer than an employer that's just trying to fill a job vacancy, but it would still be a worthwhile question.
Personally, I am an actuary, and I find this issue to be interesting because my profession has had little trouble attracting qualified females once it started trying. Somewhere around 40%-45% of actuaries in the U.S. are female, up from 7%-8% in the 1970s. That number will presumably get pretty close to parity as the oldest, all-male generation finishes retiring.
Being an actuary is generally technically demanding - it usually requires the ability to perform complex statistical simulations, a knowledge of SQL (or at least enough SQL to be dangerous), an understanding of the finer points of applicable state insurance regulations, and passing a long series of reasonably difficult examinations on probability, finance, general insurance knowledge, and specialty topics. As far as I can tell, getting into the actuarial profession is every bit as difficult as getting into the IT profession, at least in terms of the amount of intelligence, adaptability, and perseverance needed to acquire the necessary technical skills and domain knowledge.
Yet, the actuarial professions has almost achieved achieved gender parity, without really even trying - it just stopped deliberately excluding women in the '70s, and the problem solved itself. And I would point out, my profession is not unique in this respect - it's almost an identical story in the medical profession. There's another post in this thread somewhere claiming that the legal profession is seeing the same pattern. So I do think it's fair to ask why all these other fields that require a high amount of technical skill, not to mention perseverance, can attract women, but IT (and nursing) can't. What makes IT (or nursing) different?