Category Archives: economics

A Study in Suck

Those who follow me on social media have been privy to my consistent griping about the Washington DC metro. Since ankle surgery, I’ve been able to take my car and park at work, but now that the ankle is healing, I will be back to taking the Metro next month.

You know it’s got to be bad when someone actually created a website entitled “Is Metro On Fire?” Accessing this site allows riders to know whether or not their metro line is actually ablaze. And if you want to know how often this happens…

metro…well, all you have to do is read this. Apparently metro was on fire 73 times in the first three months of 2016. SEVENTY-THREE times. This does include instances of smoke in the subway system, which apparently Metro officials protested as not being incidents of fire, such as malfunctioning train brakes that fill a station with smoke, or a third rail that is arcing so severely that the fire department is called, because apparently there are different definitions of “smoke” and “fire.” Regardless of the quibbling, can you imagine the second largest public transit system in the United States catching fire that many times in the first quarter of the calendar year?

Seriously? What in the everloving, rollerblading, couch-humping hell?

The press is freaking out about alleged Metro under funding. Congress won’t give metro more money, and is actually cutting funding for the ageing system! Metro doesn’t have a dedicated funding stream and has to go begging for money from the jurisdictions it services! Oh NOES!

For metro, it’s all about Mo’ Money! Mo’ Money! Mo’ Money! How can they be expected to run a busy transit system in the nation’s capital on a mere $2.8 billion (based on FY16 numbers)?

Oh, I dunno… perhaps not paying 70 percent of its budget to labor costs would be a good start?

Labor costs constitute over 70% of the 2014 WMATA budget, making it the single largest expenditure WMATA has to worry about. And it’s no wonder why it’s the largest bit. In 2011, during the middle of the recession, Amalgamated Local 689, the WMATA union, dragged a 3 percent annual raise out of management. The agency’s board declined to protect taxpayers and riders by not appealing the arbitration result. Naturally, riders were incensed—but WMATA paid no heed.

Now, I did a fair bit of analyzing of defense spending in my previous days. That’s a lot of labor costs! NATO, our biggest alliance, sets a benchmark that encourages its members to spend no more than 50 percent of their defense budgets on military and civilian personnel costs. There are reasons for that. While the biggest percentage of any budget is normally personnel costs, 70 percent is pretty outrageous and usually indicated bloated salaries – especially for high-ranking or connected personnel. It’s how much Greece spends as a percentage of its defense budget on salaries and benefits, and we know what an economic shit show that country is!

The average salary for a WMATA employee is $78,000 per year! And given the bloated personnel budget, that leaves precious little money for actual maintenance of the equipment that carries hundreds of thousands of passengers to their destinations. There are 488 station managers taking naps working inside glass kiosks at rail stations, and their base salaries are in the high $50,000s. However, given overtime, these guys take home closer to $70,000, and when you factor in overtime, at least 20 station managers took home a six-figure salary, according to a 2012 press report.

And you know what it takes to fire one of these tools? Apparently almost killing a whole lot of people! This douchebag was in such a hurry to get to his break at a location with some good places to stuff his face, that he decided “fuck the red signal!” And this wasn’t his first time being a reckless jackass with other people’s lives!

The operator was on his rail job less than a year after transferring from WMATA’s bus division. As a bus driver for about two years, he racked up three moving violations: two red light overruns and an illegal right turn on red. As a train operator, he added two unspecified safety violations before the potentially disastrous red signal overrun.

And while the system doesn’t have a dedicated funding stream, they do have a nearly guaranteed revenue source in this area – the federal government. Federal employees get transit benefits – $240 per month. You think they won’t use them? And there are quite a few of them. Why not use the benefit, if one can? And it allows the Metro to provide shitty service, because… well… they’re getting that money. It’s not like federal workers are spending their own money on the commute, so it doesn’t hit their wallet.

Thirty-five Metrorail stations serve federal facilities and 42 percent of Metrorail’s peak period commuters are federal employees. On Metrobus, 16 percent of peak period commuters are federal employees. The federal government contributes roughly 56 percent of the capital costs. Fares and other revenue currently fund 56 percent of the daily operations, while state and local governments fund the remaining 44 percent.

So a system that’s on fire so often, there’s a site dedicated to informing riders when they’re in danger of… you know… DYING, that brags its stations are oh so clean (Then why did I actually find a turd on the mezzanine of the Ballston metro station last year? Yes, a real piece of poop. On the floor.), that is running unreliably, or not at all, some days, and that is pissing off riders so badly, they’re losing ridership despite the government transit benefit, wants more money to… do what? It wants to raise fares. Again. It wants to cut service. Even more. And it expects people to just suck it up. At some point, the transit benefit isn’t worth it. It doesn’t matter if it’s free to get to work. When it takes you two hours to ride the orange line 10 stops, it’s just not worth it, and the feds are starting to realize it too, while Congress even tried to pass a bill giving federal employees the option to use the benefit for other options, like Uber.

Overall, Metro is just a study in FAIL.

Shitty employee training.

Preferential racial hiring.

Lack of required annual re-certifications.

Intentional sabotage of equipment.

Poor safety practices.

Political infighting.

Idiotic priorities – no, I don’t think riders care whether some Metro moron is wearing his uniform correctly. They care about getting to their destination in a reasonable amount of time!

Lack of accountability and planning for growth.

Crappy maintenance.

Do I need to go on? No.

If Metro was run like a business, rather than a cushy jobs program for barely literate, incompetent ass clowns, maybe then things would get fixed. But since funding is pretty much guaranteed, there’s no incentive to change.


They can’t fit to allow the door to close. If the door can’t fully close, the train can’t move. If the train can’t move, you’re stuck at the station until several of these people step off the train to allow the door to close.

And it’s the taxpayers, who pay for the system whether they use it or not, and those who wind up stuck in a tunnel for 20 minutes in stifling heat with 1000 of their closest buds rubbing up against them in the summer, who suffer most.

I wouldn’t even mind a dedicated funding stream for metro, if we had any faith that the idiots who run the system would actually fix the long list of what’s wrong with it. But considering their track record (no pun intended), and the big, fat fail that has been their “safetrack” repair initiative so far, I can’t trust them to use the money wisely.

Rob says they should shut down the system, fire everyone, and start from scratch. I would be OK with driving to work or taking Uber until they got their shit together.

Maybe metro should stop wondering why riders are abandoning the system and take a long look at the mirror.


Making America Great Again… through force

Sarah Palin America’s screeching Trailer Trash Barbie caricature just endorsed the GOP’s front runner Donald Trump America’s authoritarian ass weasel. I was subjected to her screeching, incoherent word salad on what seemed to be an endless loop on Fox News last night until I wanted to gouge my own eardrums out with an electric drill.

donald-trump-dumb-and-dumberSeriously, I weep for America. The meatheads who are supporting Trump are now squealing with glee that he got the endorsement of a woman who is making a career of whipping up excitement among America’s fucktard confederacy while offering no substance whatever. She now has glommed on to the campaign offering her the most attention in an apparent attempt to evade irrelevancy.

So she got up on the stage with Trump, who looked part psychotic, and part constipated, and she spewed a few platitudes.

Well, I am here because like you I know that it is now or never. I’m in it to win it because we believe in America, and we love our freedom.

Well, if we in America love our freedom, why in dog’s name would we EVER support Trump?

Is it his contention that people who are put on the terrorist watchlist – without due process, and sometimes without actually having any affiliation to terrorism whatsoever – should be denied their rights?

trumpIs it his use of eminent domain to line his own pockets while depriving Americans of their property?

Is it his refusal to rule out registration of people based on their faith?

Is it his desire to shut down parts of the Internet?

Or is it his latest promise to FORCE Apple to build computers in the United States?

Trump didn’t just single out Apple in his 45-minute speech – he also took a swipe at Ford, which produces many of its automobiles in Mexico.

“Free trade is good. But we have to do it [force them back to the US]. Or we won’t have a country left,” he said.

You know… for someone who claims to love freedom, Trump sure loves to use government force a lot! And for someone who claims to support freedom, Palin is certainly anxious to ride that authoritarian’s coattails out of obscurity and back into the spotlight.

Trump seems to comprehend economics about as well as Bernie Sanders does, that is to say not at all. Despite Palin’s glowing recommendation about Trump’s economic acumen, “Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize,” Trump seems to have little understanding about what will keep companies from outsourcing.


If he wants to bring manufacturing back to the United States, perhaps making the conditions more attractive for companies to do so would make more sense. Making it more attractive for businesses involved in the supply chain to operate in the United States would probably help, since that’s part of the reason why Apple manufactures its phones in China. But what about the raw materials that are mined in China? Is Trump going to produce a magical unicorn to shit the raw materials needed to produce an iPhone here in the United States?

Force Apple to relocate its manufacturing facility back to the United States, and you’ve just increased the cost of making an iPhone, because raw materials have to be shipped from Asia to Apple’s factories here. Aren’t iPhones expensive enough already?

Plus, from what I’m reading, manufacturing in the United States is on the rise, not on the decline, and it is automation that is largely responsible for any reduction in American manufacturing jobs, not trade, but note how quickly Trump wants to kick free trade in the nuts.

Hey… spew enough platitudes without any coherent planning or strategy behind them, and the oaf contingency lines up to worship you!

Yeah, he’ll FORCE Mexico to pay for a wall to keep illegal aliens out.

Yeah, he’ll FORCE manufacturers to bring jobs back to the United States from overseas.

Yeah, he wants a “deportation FORCE.”

He’ll FORCE us to be great again.

And the fact that the simpletons who support him don’t see the contradictions in his statements or the vapid cluelessness in Palin’s screeching bromides makes me really wonder about the future of America.

And now they’re complaining?

Let me get this straight. Walmart is evil, right? They sell cheap goods, drive smaller businesses in the area out, and pay slave wages, right? That makes them a player in Satan’s team photo, right?

So why is it that DC residents are now complaining after Walmart has decided to divest them of its evil, odious presence?

Melinda Jones needed a Walmart badly. The 50-year-old lives in the far eastern corner of Washington, D.C. The closest grocery options are over the line in Maryland, well out of walking distance. Because any shopping trip is a production, she typically takes the train out to Virginia and carpools with family to a military commissary.

“There’s nowhere to shop around here. A Walmart would have been great,” Jones said. “I can’t believe it … This makes me want to cry.”

Jones was supposed to have her shiny new Walmart, at a site called Capitol Gateway, as part of a five-store deal hatched between the company and city officials in 2013. But late last week, the Arkansas-based retailer said it was scrapping plans for the two as-yet-unopened stores in the city. Faced with lagging sales, Walmart is closing 154 locations and laying off 10,000 employees in the U.S.

After all, the District was less than welcoming when Walmart initially proposed to build stores there, according to the Washington Post.

Pushed by labor unions, a majority of the D.C. Council at first pushed back against welcoming Walmart to the city. Opponents cited Walmart’s large profits and refusal to let workers unionize, as well as its reputation for low wages.

And then, there’s the District’s minimum wage, which is already high at $11.50/hour, which is apparently not enough for those who want to do minimum work and get paid like skilled labor, and the proposal proposal to require D.C. employers to pay into a fund for family and medical leave for employees, as well as a plan to require a minimum amount of hours for hourly workers.

Apparently, DC expects Walmart to run its business at a loss, as long as the entitled get theirs, including former DC Mayor Vincent Gray, who brokered the deal with Walmart and was hoping to use it to resurrect the carcass of his political career after some not so savory activities came to light.

Melinda Jones apparently can’t get fresh produce where she lives – at least not anywhere close – so she was counting on the Walmart to build its store there, so she would have somewhere to shop.

The residents in the neighborhoods where the two stores were to go up apparently expected the company to run those businesses at a loss, because they NEED them.

Another resident said he planned to get a job there. “Everybody around here probably would’ve tried to get a job,” Mayo said. “Here one minute, gone the next.” Were they hoping to get easy work for high pay, because DC politicians think they can continue fleecing “the rich” while getting themselves re-elected? Well, guess what! Instead of getting work at $7.25 per hour, getting much-needed experience, and perhaps moving on to better employment, these residents now have no jobs at all. And they can thank DC government that they put into positions of authority for that!

But Walmart is evil, horrible, and awful for not wanting to open more stores where they will undoubtedly make no profit, because apparently stores only exist for the benefit of those who want to work there (at inflated wages), those who want to shop there (at low wages), and the politicians who want to put said deal on their resumes.

econSo DC wants to force Walmart to pay higher wages for jobs that require few basic skills and practically no education, and are meant to be a gateway into the working world, not a lifestyle.

DC wants to force Walmart to keep employees on the clock even though it might not need them.

DC wants force Walmart to pay money into a pot for benefits it does not see fit to offer, because somehow everyone is entitled to them.

And now DC seems surprised and upset that Walmart doesn’t want to build two more locations in the city?

Someone in DC needs some lessons in basic economics.

Social Justice Morons Blame Income Inequality for the Rise of Daesh

Once again I have to ask: Have you ever seen something so stupid that it leaves you not only scratching your head until your scalp bleeds, but wondering if we’re at a point where the Sweet Meteor of Death (SMOD) would be the only remedy for the vast amounts of retardery put out into the world by the self-loathing social justice warrior set?

I know I’ve asked this question a lot, and sometimes I’m encouraged by what I read on the Internet. Today is not one of those days.

Yesterday, the Washington (Com)Post plucked a rumination out of its belly button lint examining whether Western nations are to blame for the rise of Daeshbag violence, because… Ready for this?


The (Com)Post admits that the idea is “controversial” and that this is a debate that’s “just beginning” even as it examines the brain droppings of one Thomas Piketty, whose entire academic existence revolves around proving how evil and horrible capitalism is and how its very nature will result in the growth the dreaded “wealth inequality” that will ostensibly create “a permanent, dynastic, global aristocracy, or an ‘endless inegalitarian spiral,’” according to Forbes. As an aside, Forbes also details how a grad student from MIT basically kicks Piketty in his shriveled, barely operational raisins by challenging the very premise of his poorly-reasoned “Capitalism is Teh Source of All Ebil™” mantra.

For the record, the debate is not just beginning. In my “Roots of Terrorism” Master’s level class in 2008 we explored (and tossed) the claim that poor people join terrorist groups en masse due to income inequality. The National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper in 2004 that looked at the determinants of terrorism at the country level. The paper showed that “terrorist risk is not significantly higher for poorer countries, once the effects of other country-specific characteristics such as the level of political freedom are taken into account.”

Princeton economics professor Alan Krueger, who has also advised the National Counterterrorism Center on the subject, also disagrees with this poverty = terrorism nonsense.

Why are better educated, more advan­taged individuals more likely than others to join terrorist groups? I think of terrorism as a market, with a supply side and a demand side. Individuals, either in small groups or on their own, supply their services to terrorist organizations.

But… but… but… Piketty will whine, it’s ECONOMIC INEQUALITY!

If you look at the region between Egypt and Iran — which includes Syria — you find several oil monarchies controlling between 60 and 70 percent of wealth, while housing just a bit more than 10 percent of the 300 million people living in that area.


Within those monarchies, he continues, a small slice of people controls most of the wealth, while a large — including women and refugees — are kept in a state of “semi-slavery.” Those economic conditions, he says, have become justifications for jihadists, along with the casualties of a series of wars in the region perpetuated by Western powers.

Hey, look at us! We're so indigent!

Hey, look at us! We’re so indigent!

The only problem is that the jihadists themselves have actually caused economic problems! They shut down businesses. They destroy livelihoods, leaving those who actually contribute to the economy with little choice but to join them, and leaving them with no economic options if they don’t. In addition, not a single sane investor in the world would put money into a shithole where Islamic terrorists are beheading people in the streets. Essentially, they have turned the economy into a recruiting tool, and by taking full control of the economy, they have wrested any ability to make a livelihood from merchants and businesspeople.

Before Islamic State militants overran her hometown of Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014, Fahima Omar ran a hairdressing salon. But ISIS gunmen made Omar close her business—and lose her only source of income. Salons like hers encouraged “debauchery,” the militants said.

Omar is one of many business owners—male and female—who say ISIS has forced them to shut up shop and lose their livelihoods in the process. The extremist group has also prevented those who refuse to join it from finding jobs, and has imposed heavy taxes on civilians.

Additionally, Daesh is the spawn of al Q’aida, which wasn’t exactly started by poor jihadists disillusioned with not getting their share of the economic pie.

The World Bank is trying to figure out the level of income inequality in the Middle East, and claims that due to lack of transparency, it’s extremely hard to gauge who has squirreled wealth away where and how much. The world’s understanding of income inequality in the Middle East until now has been pretty limited, and we actually thought that income inequality in the region was relatively low. World Bank economist Irina Ianchovichina says looking just at household income is insufficient (Piketty claims to rely on income tax information from those countries, but Ianchovichina says the World Bank hasn’t even been able to get that info).

Measuring wealth is much more complex than calculating income, so any one source gives us only a partial picture. The Forbes database of billionaires gives us information on the wealth and nationalities of billionaires, most of who either inherited their wealth or earned it themselves. This database suggests this sort of wealth in the region is not very high, except in Lebanon.

So what might we be missing? In many cases, it appears the amount of wealth accumulated by heads of state in the region is not trivial: information on this can be obtained from various sources, including Forbes. When we include the wealth of heads of state we find that wealth concentration increases in a number of countries, although in some of the wealthiest countries like Qatar and even Kuwait, this particular adjustment doesn’t make much difference.

Other recent evidence suggests that the nationals of many countries hide their wealth in bank accounts in tax havens and that, cumulatively, these accounts show up as a sizable share of a country’s Gross Domestic Product. Niels Johannesen and co-authors show that autocracies rich in resources like oil—many of them countries in the Arab world—account globally for a much larger share of hidden wealth than other types of countries. And now, data from the HSBC on such bank deposits by nationality shows that most Arab countries are among the top one third of countries ranked by the amount of money in their HSBC accounts.

In other words, that’s quite the assertion there, Sparky! Information on real wealth concentration is limited due to the lack of transparency in those nations, studies over the years have shown that economic factors have only limited impact on the rise in terrorism, and yet Piketty puts forth this claim.


I would guess it’s because it’s his bread and butter. He’s been harping on this income inequality thing for years. He promotes wealth redistribution through a progressive progtarded global tax on wealth. While he claimed to have been converted to the virtues of capitalism and the free market after a 1991 trip to the USSR, it apparently didn’t stick. As a matter of fact he served as an economic adviser to Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal during the French presidential campaign, so I don’t know how anyone can claim with any seriousness that this guy is in any way objective or a reliable source of economic assessment. And yet, you can expect the usual prog suspects will glom on to this as an anchor for their feelings of Western guilt and their insistence that everyone who is rich be punished for it.

Oh, but the oil revenues of rich Arabic countries are not going to education, Piketty claims (link is in French)! Oil money is supposed to go to regional development, he claims! Well, I’m so glad he seems to consider himself the arbiter of how other nations should spend their money! Sure, every nosy socialist on the planet wants to tell others how to spend their wealth, because obviously their feminist studies degrees make them qualified adjudicators of allocation of revenues. And while spending on education is nice to have, there’s no indication that education, or lack thereof, is contributing to Daesh recruitment efforts. As a matter of fact, according to Dr. Krueger’s research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the exact opposite is true.

Not only that, but Daesh scumbags are incredibly rich. They’ve stolen oil and taken over its production, and they apparently have a waiting list of would-be terrorist assholes waiting to blow themselves up for Allah! Worse yet, rich Saudis are allowed to jump the queue, causing quite a bit of jealous discontent among the other murderous freaks. AH! Maybe that’s what Piketty means? They’re just jealous because the rich are being allowed to blow themselves quicker than they are! Yeah… that certainly sounds like supporting evidence for Piketty’s idiotic theory… NOT!

Here’s the thing. Terrorism is the buzzword of the decade. If you can link your claims to terrorism, you are almost sure to get a captive audience for even the most defective of claims. Piketty has been promoting his income inequality views for years, and even though the evidence done over the past decade shows no correlation between poverty, a lack of education, and a desire to become a terrorist or even support for terrorist views (quite the opposite appears to be true), he probably sees this as an opportunity to advance his redistributionist agenda.

So watch out, people! “Global warming” and “income inequality” will be the two catch phrases that will become the prog siren call as causes of terrorism. Just know it’s all a puerile scheme to relieve people of their earnings.

A Bernieverse of Socialist Douche Crockery

I view rabid Bernie Sanders supporters much like I view rabid Paulians (fanatical supporters of former Congressman Ron Paul) – as somewhat unhinged conspiritards in dire need of something or someone to worship. (By the way, notice I said “rabid” and “fanatical.” If you count yourself as one of those, by all means, screech!) They gaze adoringly at their would-be savior. They invoke His name in every discussion (e.g. See? Bernie Sanders said this same thing years ago… or Ron Paul predicted the economic collapse…). They post absurd memes and worship their politician-prince at a level that’s beyond weird.

Ehhhh. Creepy!

Ehhhh. Creepy!

And the even creepier…



And of course both sets of nuts claim the establishment is somehow clubbing their savior over the head like a baby seal, artificially spiking their successes, and influencing the media to ignore and silence them.

The Berntards are currently the standard-bearers for the “media wants to silence my candidate” conspiracy theories. Their latest – debunked by PolitiFact – is that Bernie was a clear winner in the Democrat debate, and CNN spiked polls supporting this insane contention, because HILLARY!

Problem with conspiracy theories is that most of the time they’re imbecilic inanities uttered by frothing fruitcakes (See: Alex Jones and InfoWars) that are mostly wrong.

CNN didn’t delete its poll.

The poll showing Sanders way ahead is here on Facebook through It’s not on CNN’s website, but it’s not clear that it ever was on CNN’s website. 


CNN’s digital team used a Facebook app to run live polls of users about what they thought of the debate as it was happening.

And of course, the Berntards, much like the Ronulans dogpiled the poll and then complained it was deleted, because BERNIE is the man! And no, he’s not a socialist.

Good lord!

Yeah, I know one of those retards. “Bernie is not a socialist! He believes in private property! I know. I read stuff!”

This is where I feel compelled once again to whip out my old blog about whether or not Obama is a socialist, because it does explain to the slow of mind what that term means.

…there are degrees of socialism, just like there are degrees of libertarianism. While this one is by far not the most odious, it’s still noxious by its very nature. It punishes achievement. It strives to force the so-called “haves” to work for the benefit of the “have nots.” It claims to strive to help the needy, but instead keeps them effectively chained to government handouts, while others work to support said handouts and pay more and more each year.

Sanders by his own admission is a democratic socialist. This doesn’t mean he’s not a socialist. There are varied degrees of socialism, but leftists don’t want you to understand that, because “socialism” has negative connotations in most people’s minds… something having to do with the Soviet Union… Cold War… you know, that stuff.

“It’s not socialism, it’s social democracy, which is a big difference,” said Mike Konczal, an economic policy expert at the left-wing Roosevelt Institute. Social democracy, Mr. Konczal noted, “implies a very active role for capitalism in the framework.”

Hell, Teh Bern™ himself acknowledged and admitted this!

While the social democrats of today have, for the most part, abandoned that whole “government must own all means of production” thing, they have no problem with public management of it, or government control of it. They want the welfare state. They want regulation. They want equality of outcome, which goes way beyond the equality of opportunity most of us would agree is desirable. Sure, capitalism exists, but it’s muzzled by the state.

The democratic socialists such as Sanders have not abandoned their hope for social ownership of major industries. While all of us oppose corporatism, Sanders takes it a step further. He wants worker-owned cooperatives. He wants to use government force to break up Wall Street firms. He wants to control salaries by capping CEO pay, as if he’s more qualified to decide how much their work is worth than the companies they run. If you don’t think that’s socialism, I’ve got this bridge… Hell, he barely understands supply and demand, but he wants to have control of corporations?? Gee… I wonder how many competent, capable CEOs would want to work to run successful businesses for the pittance Bernieverse would allot them as a salary, even as their companies pay more and more in taxes to operate in the United States?



In Bernieverse, the $18 trillion price tag of Bernie nutjobbery would be paid by lots and lots of new taxes!

I’m envisioning lots and lots of businesses ceasing operations in the United States or leaving the country altogether. Wonder who will be the producers in the United States once that stops happening… Wonder who will create jobs…

Naaaaaah. Not at all socialist!

Please put down the crack pipe!

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