The Poison In The Pen – a blast from the past post from December 2012

*Forgive me the recycled post.  I meant to write today, but this week is turning into one of those when I run around like a chicken with my head cut off.  I promise to write tomorrow.*

The Poison In The Pen – a blast from the past post from December 2012

This morning over breakfast we were talking about where jobs seem to be going.  (Into the wormhole, but that’s not what we mean.)  Yes, we were talking about it for the usual reason – we fear the one full time “regular work” job in this household will end up going that way too.

In a way it’s almost inevitable.  You pile regulations on something and make it really difficult to do it legally –ie the regulations contradict each other – people WILL stop doing it.  Only…

Only people still have to do something.  Well, right now, as someone who occasionally hires contractors to help in my work, (yes, I wish I could hire full time, but I don’t think it’s happening) I can tell you the regulations are crazy.  You have to read through tome-like volumes to figure out what you have to pay and how much and… It adds a week of admin work onto your work.

But people still have to work.  And people still need employees.  So, what we see happening is a lot more temp/contracting/part time, and the work of managing the regulations etc to a great extent off-loaded to each individual as “self-employed contractor.”

As someone who has worked on this for ever, I can tell you we get the ugly stick on taxes.  No, seriously.  We pay self-employment tax, for the privilege of working for ourselves.  Many states have other taxes on top of that.  We contribute both sides of social security.

Tax policy lags reality and I think most of the self-employment beating we get comes from the fact that forty or so years ago most self-employed people were in the very well paid professions: doctors, lawyers – people who could hire secretaries and accountants to not only manage the paperwork but to find every possible loophole.

We don’t have that, so the end of the year, unless I made nothing (which has happened a couple of years) is hectic and vaguely angsty, as we gather all the paperwork, etc and make sure every I is doted and every t is crossed.

Which brings us to where all these regulations on employers is leading (into the kaki, but that’s not important right now.)  I think over the next few years everyone we know is going to become a contractor and working  probably for multiple people every year.

I suspect the people making these laws, if they’re thinking at all beyond the “this would be nice to make employers do”, think that the fact that this will make life more uncertain will make people rely on government more.

That’s not how it works.

Looking back the level of confidence in big government coincided the era of cradle to grave employment in large companies.  People who thought their bosses were competent to manage their job security and retirement would also trust other large, faceless entities.

The level of distrust in government has been growing since the eighties and while the people in government – who, after all, have cradle to grave security at least most of the time – might think this was because of Reagan’s rhetoric (Which is part of the reason Obama wanted to be the anti-Reagan) I think they have it wrong.

The world my generation faced when we came of working age was one of temp work, of layoffs for being less than absolutely efficient, of…  Yeah.  What it meant was that we learned to trust only ourselves and our network.  People we knew well, people we could trust.  No big, faceless entities, which, of course, means not government, by extension.

I don’t think they understand that in a world of all-contractors, first, resentment against tax regulations is going to grow like mad – when you spend your holidays doing books and trying to figure out how much you made and how much you’re going to owe, you get a tadbit resentful.   When you see how much you have to pay for the “freedom” of working for yourself, particularly for people forced into it by new laws, you get even more resentful.

Your reaction is not to go “Oh, daddy-government, look after me” – it’s “Those right bastards are robbing me blind coming and going.”

I don’t think the people making full time employment impossible (though I’ll admit that it was going that way anyway with technology, to where people might PREFER to be contractors – but not by force and not this quickly) realize this.

I don’t think they know they’re making their own poisoned pill.

134 responses to “The Poison In The Pen – a blast from the past post from December 2012

  1. Greg Bear has written a number of dystopian novels where most people are temps and work for employment agencies. They swot to meet the qualifications for the best agencies.

    My wife works for a multinational that hasn’t hired a new employee in almost twenty years. There’s the core of old-timers who haven’t quit yet, and temps.

    • Under the current regulatory regime a company has to be crazy (as in, shareholder action to remove incompetent management level crazy) to hire direct for all but senior management positions. Given the difficulties of discharge of an employee, it is simply far more sensible to take on a temp and, if they prove viable,buying their contract from the agency.

      Of course, from that it becomes logical to just use temps, period. The agencies can worry about labor laws, benefits and tax issues while the company has a fixed cost per hour of the worker’s labor and very little overhead on it. The company can even exercise better management of their cash flow by how they time their AP payments to the agencies.

      • Yep – the best of the agencies have the option of working as a temp for six months or a year for a client, and if you work out well for them, then offered direct employment.
        I kind of liked temping – it was never boring, although as a temp you were usually very low on the company totem pole. The part I liked best was that there was no requirement of me to be all ga-ga for the company. Just a straight economic exchange; my time and skills for your money. No kabuki dance about company loyalty. I compared it to w*oring, following upon a disastrous marriage. Show up, render the service, get paid, go away; no pretense of loyalty required.

        • Most people need to realize that company loyalty is a scam. Loyalty is a two way street, but I’ve never seen a company larger than ten or fifteen employees that had any loyalty to the employee. To expect loyalty from the employee is ridiculous.
          When I work for people/companies I have always said, “I give an honest days work, for an honest days pay.” I’m not there because I have nothing better to do, and they certainly aren’t doing me a favor by giving me a job. It is a simple barter exchange.

          • That approach may be why there’s not much loyalty to the employees. If there are enough employees who don’t give a crap what happens to the company, the company’s not going to get all torn up about letting them go. I try to avoid “I’m just here for my paycheck” employees whenever possible.

            That said, I have fifteen employees. I’d say the size isn’t important, though. If the owner’s not a complete jerk, compassion for employees can scale up.

            My father, at one point, had around 120 employees. When his segment of the economy tanked in ’89-90, they had to shed all but about 15 of them. The policy was – you hired, you fire. No one wanted to go through having to let go someone they’d worked with for years ever again. Since then it’s been a core staff of 15-20 and the rest have been outside contractors. I still run into some of the old guys from the 80s every once in a while and they ask about my dad. They all seemed to realize letting them go hurt him personally.

        • Yep. As a temp, you fall somewhere between mercenary and prostitute. I’ve been temping since I graduated in 2010—it’s how I pay the bills while I get my writing career off the ground.

    • Know how that goes — I was on the books for half a dozen temp agencies for about five years before I took up the writing seriously, and went into partnership with the original Owner of the Tiny Publishing Bidness. It had it’s moments … the best of them, for my money — and the one that I got the most useful work from was Kelly Services. (Used to be Kelly Girl).

  2. Those right bastards are robbing me blind coming and going.

    That’s certainly how I feel every tax year when I look at the amount I “pay into” a Ponzi scheme I won’t ever see a penny of by the time I retire, 30 years from now.

    I don’t quite feel the same way about federal taxes, because some of them are going to things that the federal government should be involved in. But most of it, yeah, same feeling.

  3. I suspect the people making these laws, if they’re thinking at all beyond the “this would be nice to make employers do”, think that the fact that this will make life more uncertain will make people rely on government more.

    The Spouse and I have discussed government business regulations, requirements and tax structures often. We have considered that the layers of red tape are designed, if not purposefully then by default, to protect big business. Only a big businesses can afford to have the people on the payroll who are not productive in the sense of the business itself, but are there to do the paperwork and see that some semblance of compliance is maintained.

    • Yep. Big Business LOVES Big Government. It’s much easier to buy a legislature or a regulatory agency than to actually convince consumers to buy your product. That’s where Keynesian economics really loses the plot, government spending isn’t a substitute for consumer spending, so aggregate demand is a useless metric.

      • And vice-versa. Much easier to control and regulate a few big conglomerates than a huge number of much smaller companies…

        • Also more profitable. Try to get any significant fine for regulatory noncompliance out of a small business and they just go bankrupt, whereas a Big Business can fork it over (generating big headlines that make it look as if the bureaucracy is performing some important and vital function) then take it as a charge against profits, reducing their tax liability in what amounts to a net wash.

        • Plus, without Big Business, you don’t have Big Labor.

    • Some of them, perhaps. Most of them, I think, are a result of interest groups capturing the regulatory agency. One small group wants something, the costs are diffuse and the benefits large for that one group, and no one wants to be a jerk. So they get it.

      Consider the ADA: It was a passed as a blank slate basically saying, “Be nice to the disabled.” Who wants to be mean to the disabled? But then it was left to judges and bureaucrats to fill in the details because no one actually thought through the specifics. They just wanted to be nice. That could have worked, maybe. Except disabled people are all disabled differently. And the poor businessman is left in a position where he can’t comply no matter what he does.

      I run a hotel, so here’s one I ran into: One disabled guest suggested that we lower the beds in the handicapped rooms so he could more easily get from his chair to the bed. Another guest needed a swing lift to get out of the chair and into bed. Those lifts have long struts at the bottom that go under the bed and require a certain height. So I can’t accommodate both and there’s no specific rule from the government I can fall back on to cover my backside. Either way I could be sued for violating the ADA.

      Another came from the Holder DoJ: Pool lifts. We’re not required to put mechanized lifts to get the disabled out of the pool. (Getting them in is simple enough. Just… tip.) But if we don’t have one, we’re exposed under the ADA. They have to be mounted – permanently – by the pool and they’re dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. And since the government didn’t actually require that we put them out (just inform us that we were on the hook if we didn’t) we’re exposed to liability from wayward children, drunks, and fools if we put this hazardous machinery out in a publickly accessible place.

      (I won’t even get into the idiocy of the actual reg requiring the handicapped rooms to be distributed evenly across all floors. If there’s a fire and you’re in a wheelchair, the government requires you to die in the name of equality. But at least you had a nice view from an upper floor, like all the non-disabled folks.)

      I don’t think most of them really want to hurt businesses, they’re just so dense they don’t understand what coping with their mandated kindness requires.

      • I don’t think most of them really want to hurt businesses, they’re just so dense they don’t understand what coping with their mandated kindness requires.

        And some of them aren’t even dense, just completely out of their depth and totally naïve and inexperienced about how real businesses work in the real world. Straight out of college into a government job without having any of their naïve idiocies knocked out of them by reality, that kind of thing. Well-meaning and quite intelligent, but totally blinkered, so that their proposed solutions (all of which involve “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”) always do more harm than good. But they mean so well!

        C.S. Lewis, over to you:

        Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth.

    • That;s one of the points Jonah Goldberg explains very clearly in his book “Liberal Fascism”. Of course, he wasn’t the first to observe this 🙂

  4. It’s much easier not to care too much about taxes when you work for a big corporation and it’s all just withheld from your paycheck. At the end of the year, when people receive their refund, it feels like a gift from Daddy Government rather than Daddy just returning something that he took from you and kept for a whole year without paying you any sort of rental fee. When you work for yourself and have to write the actual check to the IRS, there’s no pretending that it isn’t the government taking your money.

  5. Quibble: There are also farmers. For this reason my father took one of those correspondence courses to learn accounting, and borrowed a mechanical adding machine for his studies. On graduation, he toyed with the idea of becoming a CPA, but didn’t really like that sort of work. It was strictly to work on the farm books.

    That was in the 1960s. Today we think of that as relatively free regulation-wise. Nearly thirty years ago I almost pulled my hair out helping a farmer set up his accounting software, all due to some specific regulations. I shudder to think what it is today.
    In a way I’m complaining about a major way I make a living. My job today mostly consists of complying with just a small portion of Federal and State regulations. That’s sad.

    These things come about because legislators seldom have to deal with it themselves, and those legislators keep getting elected because most Americans work for someone else and are insulated from the increasing regulations – unless work becomes too expensive and the factory closes. Then they complain about the company moving overseas and never ask why it was cheaper.

    It’s tempting to blame all this as an attempt to squeeze out small business, but like the saying goes, never ascribe to malice what can be explained by stupidity. And I’m not impressed by those in office.

    • People in authority rarely acknowledge or are aware of the actual work required to comply with the burdens and regulations they put on people. Dealing with this at work, currently, where the district manager has instituted more more paperwork requirements to help all the team leaders understand their numbers and the relationship of them to the store numbers.

      What this has actually done, has been to increase the paperwork from 20 minutes in the morning to a solid hour for each shift, coupled with the requirement that it be done while waiting on clients and driving sales. What it ends up meaning is that it’s all done on Saturday night by one person.

      • Bureausclerosis isn’t confined to the public sector. The reason it’s so prevalent there is because it’s fatal to any entity that has competition. The more time spent reporting paper-clip usage and promulgating paper-clip conservation strategies, the less time spent actually giving customers what they want and earning the company money. Eventually the company either drastically reforms (see IBM) or dies (see GM).

        • Yeah, the piling on of paperwork gets to be an issue just about everywhere after a while. They’re watching the pennies so hard, they’re losing sight of the dollars. And since so much of it is redundant, they’re not even going to do much good with the pennies.

        • “Eventually the company either drastically reforms (see IBM) or dies (see GM).”

          Unless your employees are a core Democrat voting block like the UAW. In which case, like anything else involving Democrats and voters, the corpse is re-animated so it can continue shuffling to the polls.

    • I wonder if bureaucrats can actually understand the burdens they create on individuals & small businesses – they are used to a structure where there’s a lot of job specialization, & new burdens are usually assumed by ‘someone in another department’. — rather like big businesses, in fact.

      As more people enter the ‘gig economy’, I expect more sales of software designed to help manage the complexities of regulated business, rather like tax software, with annual updates.

      • What they mostly see is the power such regulatory regimes accrue to them, and how it enhances the importance of their jobs.

        From that perspective the costs imposed are trivial.

      • They don’t care.

      • No. There is one mandatory form the government requires us to submit annually, and it has a stated time burden. It’s an underestimate.

        Something I noticed on the state level during the Great Recession is that the amount of hoops to jump through is inversely proportional to the amount of work submitted. This fits with Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

      • I want to disagree and say that you should be able to use a spreadsheet, and I suppose you could if you were a spreadsheet maven, but I finally broke down and bought check book software and it makes balancing my checkbook a snap.

  6. Just wanted to thank you for your blog over on PJM about appreciation of the female form. It is always a nice find to find you in a non-typical forum. And it is you writing.

  7. c4c

  8. I hate having to generate 1099 forms for my contractors. Too much information they have to trust me with to comply that I don’t *want* to know. In an age of identity theft, I’m just waiting for that to blow up somewhere.

    And then there’s the mess of Social Security. I know perfectly well we can’t just turn off the tap right now. My mother depends on it. So why can’t I pay her directly my share? Less overhead 🙂 (I know why. No skim opportunities by the government.) I’d even settle, personally, for an admission I will never get payments–what I want in return is tax credits. When I am old and grey, taxes are going to be a major source of expense. Allot to me the amount of money I *would* have gotten as credits, to apply to my taxes. And don’t bother me until that runs out.

    • Social Security was an acknowledged mess when they did the last “reform” during Reagan’s presidency, and back then we still had a few politicians in the Democrat party who could be trusted to put the national interest ahead of their party, such as Daniel Moynihan (now that party allows no members who are capable of conceiving of any national interest not depending on their party being in power.) Even then there were warnings that the large pool of money in the Social Security “trust fund” would be an irresistible magnet to irresponsible politicians (i.e., most of them), looking to buy find votes.

      And so it has proven, with the Federal Reserve raiding the family cookie jar and leaving it stuffed with UOU notes. But because of the myth that there is money in them thar lockbox, any effort at reform is susceptible to the most egregious demagogic libels possible. Recall the attacks on George W Bush when he attempted to rationalize the system after his reelection, or the ads depicting Paul Ryan dumping granny’s wheelchair over the cliff.

      Every year — heck, every week — that passes without reform of the Social Security accounts significantly impairs our ability to employ the benefits of compound interest to make that system sustainable. The mass of the Boomers transiting into recipients instead of donors to the system is going to hasten the collapse — and the Dems & MSM (BIRM) will find some way to blame Republicans for this, just as they blamed Bush for the economic collapse their housing policies generated in 2007.

      Of course, the last seven years of tepid (too positive a word for it) economic growth are doing nothing to help, either. Anybody on welfare is a drain on the accounts and one less contributor, and government policy seems to be determined to get as many as possible drawing from that well.

      If their policy goal was the economic collapse of the United States, I am hard pressed to think of anything they would have done differently.

      • And so it has proven, with the Federal Reserve raiding the family cookie jar and leaving it stuffed with UOU notes. But because of the myth that there is money in them thar lockbox, any effort at reform is susceptible to the most egregious demagogic libels possible. Recall the attacks on George W Bush when he attempted to rationalize the system after his reelection, or the ads depicting Paul Ryan dumping granny’s wheelchair over the cliff.

        Which is why in 15 years when the trust fund runs out of IOU’s and the checks get cut in half I will adamantly oppose any kind of reform to Social Security. We could have done it with relatively little pain in 2005, but they demogogued on the issue. To hell with them and anyone who supported them.

      • Really, can you think of anything in the last 7 years not designed to screw things up? Looks like enemy action to me.

    • As a landlord, in theory, I’m supposed to 1099 everyone whom I paid more than $600 in a business year. Everyone.

      Yup, that means I’m supposed to 1099 Home Depot.

  9. As this story from National Review Online’s gangblog The Corner illustrates, there are other burdens hampering us as well:

    Why One Texas Hair Braider Became a Workers’-Rights Activist
    By Astrid Gonzalez & James Sherk — October 7, 2015

    The White House workers’ summit today is focusing on declining union membership. It ignores a much larger problem facing many workers: they need a government permission slip to work. Without one they can go to jail. This happened to Isis Brantley, a Dallas hair braider.

    In 1997 police arrested her for operating without a cosmetology license. Undercover officers came into Brantley’s salon and “carted [her] off to jail like a common criminal.” The mother of five went to jail for not having a license that required over 1,500 hours of training (including four exams)– none of which covered African hair braiding.

    The arrest left Brantley homeless, jobless, and a passionate advocate for the rights to practice her craft.

    Ten years later, the Texas legislature “fixed” the problem by creating a 35-hour hair-braiding license inserted under the barbering statute. Although free to braid hair, Brantley was still bound by burdensome barbering laws. She wanted to teach other women how to braid hair. To do that, she had to become a licensed barber instructor and create a barber college — again filled with requirements that had nothing to do with hair braiding.

    Why should the government stop people who are willing and able to work? Why force them into poverty? Thankfully, Brantley’s story had a happy ending. On June 10, 2015, with the help of the Institute for Justice, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed a bill fully deregulating the practice of natural hair-braiding in the state.

    Brantley’s hard work and advocacy paid off. However, Brantley’s situation is not an isolated one. Nearly one-third of all jobs in the economy require some sort of license.

    Many of these licenses are equally unnecessary: florists, interior designers, and barbers. Too many Americans like Brantley cannot get ahead because they lack pointless government permission slips. This is a much greater issue for most workers than organized labor’s organizing difficulties.
    — — — — —

    What next, licensing of authors to protect the reading public from the hazards of verb-noun disagreement? (I know – speak softly, lest Big Publishing lobbyists insert such language in some bill; look at all of the Lit Majors underemployed because of unfair competition!)

    • There’s a state (Nevada? ) where you have to register if you want to tell stories. Not sure exactly what the requirements and I’m on mobile so not able to look it up at the moment but from what I recall, it’s supposed to discourage fortune tellers.

      • Breaking News: Wendig and Scalzi ruled not liable…

      • The Other Sean

        No, that couldn’t possibly lead to 1st Amendment violations, could it?

        • There are far too many lawmakers (of both parties) who have decided that it isn’t unconstitutional unless the Supreme Court says so. Therefore they’re free to pass whatever screwed up laws they want and the court will fix it later.

          • Wouldn’t you love to see a president veto something on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional? I wouldn’t even care if he was wrong; I’d just like to see the collective seizure that would happen to the body politic at the stated reason for the veto.

      • They usually get around such by changing their title from fortune teller to spiritual adviser.

        • They originally got around the “no fortune tellers, card readers or palmist” rules by saying they were merely entertainers telling elaborate stories for a very select audience from what I remember. So now, entertainers and story tellers are registered, though not necessarily licensed, with the theory it cuts down on the con men.

      • Fortune-tellers are required to get a license btw in Nevada (200 State business license). You might be thinking of Freemont Street where the street performers are being regulated now… (or will be soon). They are not allowed to accost the tourists and must stay in a certain area (painted as a block) lol. It has gotten a lot of attention here because the street performers are invoking 1st amendment rights.

    • True, a lot of licensing requirements are there because established industries wanted to increase the entry cost for competitors, not because of actual mitigatable risks to consumers.
      A better legal regime, I think: let people practice a craft or art commercially freely until a customer complains – and then let the judge determine how much of the existing body of training the practitioner actually needs to be trained in to mitigate the actual demonstrated harm done, if any.
      Not that I think judges are perfect – but they at least normally deal with issues one person at a time, so are free to customize judgements to fit the need within broad limits. Something a bureaucrat can’t do, if s/he even thought that way.

      • A judge’s decision is subject to appeal and establishes a presumed factual basis for that decision. The first judge to base a decision on obviously nonsensical standards will likely become subjected to such ridicule to ensure few follow that example.

      • Some is. Another is the problem with good intention. Take licensing barbers. The reason started with disease and insuring a clean shop – and that’s why some states require Barbercide ™ or Marvicide ™ dips for instruments. Then it sort of just grows.

        BTW, according to the story, the inventor of Barbercide ™ hated barbers, and the name of his disinfectant was a dig at them.

        • By the ’90s SC would not allow straight edged (very old fashioned) razors to be used by barbers for fear of HIV (and maybe hepatitis, which I think is easier to catch); NC still does allow straight edged razors.

    • Further on the issue of government “protecting” us from the dangers of unlicensed purveyors, I direct your attention to this campaign ad for video of Senator Ted Cruz, questioning of a witness who would certainly endorse prosecution of any scientists straying from the approved orthodoxy of “settled” science:

      https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&rlz=1C1AFAB_enUS462US479&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=get+thee+behind+me+satan+latin
      No medieval monk could mumble “vade retro me satana” with greater fervor than this witless witness uses in his invocation of “97% of scientists.”

      • Dagnabbit!


        Wrong stupid link!

        • Serves me right for trying to show off be clever and looking up the Latin version of get thee behind me Satan.

          • BTW: here’s the back story on that bogus 97% claim:

            The Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%’
            What is the origin of the false belief—constantly repeated—that almost all scientists agree about global warming?
            By Joseph Bast And Roy Spencer
            May 26, 2014
            [SNIP]
            One frequently cited source for the consensus is a 2004 opinion essay published in Science magazine by Naomi Oreskes, a science historian now at Harvard. She claimed to have examined abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and found that 75% supported the view that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming over the previous 50 years while none directly dissented.

            Ms. Oreskes’s definition of consensus covered “man-made” but left out “dangerous”—and scores of articles by prominent scientists such as Richard Lindzen, John Christy,Sherwood Idso and Patrick Michaels, who question the consensus, were excluded. The methodology is also flawed. A study published earlier this year in Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.

            Another widely cited source for the consensus view is a 2009 article in “Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union” by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, and her master’s thesis adviser Peter Doran. It reported the results of a two-question online survey of selected scientists. Mr. Doran and Ms. Zimmerman claimed “97 percent of climate scientists agree” that global temperatures have risen and that humans are a significant contributing factor.

            The survey’s questions don’t reveal much of interest. Most scientists who are skeptical of catastrophic global warming nevertheless would answer “yes” to both questions. The survey was silent on whether the human impact is large enough to constitute a problem. Nor did it include solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists or astronomers, who are the scientists most likely to be aware of natural causes of climate change.

            The “97 percent” figure in the Zimmerman/Doran survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said they published more than half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change. Seventy-nine scientists—of the 3,146 who responded to the survey—does not a consensus make.
            — — — — —

            HT: Jonah Goldberg at NRO The Corner

    • Some evening when you feel a yen for some outrage, look up the ITAR regulations. That’s “International Traffic in Arms Regulations”, and it shut my last business down before it got off the ground.

      Ostensibly, it’s a tax on armaments manufacturers – like Martin Marietta, Honeywell, Colt, or General Dynamics. But “armaments” got expanded to “anything a foreign military might use.” And if you manufacture any of those things, you have to pay a hefty “not a tax” annual listing fee of $2,250 per year, last I checked.

      Now, back to their definition of “amaments”… underwear, socks, wire-guided missiles, condoms, aspirin, sunglasses, battleships, horses, notepaper, and other items all have a military application, so their manufacturers have to pay.

      BUT, for the same items I used to make out in my workshop, I can get assistance from the Feral Government to identify and hook up with a Chinese manufacturer, who would make the parts, which I could then import and sell… but I wouldn’t have to register and pay for the privilege of an ITAR listing since I didn’t actually make anything myself.

      “It’s not sanity, it’s politics…”

      • IIRC, cryptography is regulated as a munitions.

        • That was the case about 15 years ago, which is why people working on open-source cryptography projects were very careful not to accept any help from any US citizen or resident. But it’s changed now, to some extent, and you can work on open-source crypto if you’re in the United States without falling afoul of export regulations. The key question appears to be “Is this product intended for a mass market?” If yes, you’re OK; if not, you have to jump through hoops.

          See http://crypto.stackexchange.com/questions/6721/export-from-us-of-crypto-software-with-key-size-56-bits-still-needs-permission for more details. Short version: as with just about anything else involving the US government, it’s needlessly complicated and hurts small businesses the most.

        • I think I recall a reference on xkcd.com some time back that it wasn’t called a weapon, which might not be precisely the same thing. The two characters (main male and main female characters, I think) lamented that it wasn’t because then it would be protected by the Second Amendment.

          • I remember that XKCD. I didn’t think of this at the time, but looking back, he actually missed the point. The point of restricting export of crypto was “We want US citizens (and businesses, and especially the military) to have good crypto, but not the rest of the world.” Which was actually quite pointless — the crypto research happening in the rest of the world was just as good as, if not better than, the US’s crypto research. But pointless or not, “We want US citizens to have this weapon but not the rest of the world” is entirely consistent with the Second Amendment.

  10. I was aware that there are a large number of Stupid, Allegedly Scholarly Books about Joan of Arc, but I have just encountered my first one about St. Therese and her family. One of my peeves is employment-oriented, so I will mention it.

    The guy gets all flippant about how St. Therese’s mom didn’t express team feeling with her lacemaking workers. Because you can’t possibly have sympathy with your employees unless you use team language and the first person plural.

    When most of the woman’s letters survive only in extracts of suitable passages, made by her daughters years after her death, solely as part of the canonization investigations for St. Therese, this man is bitching because the extracts don’t use the first person plural when she talks about the work.

    Mind you, it’s very clear from some of the surviving bits that St. Therese’s mom knew a great deal about her workers and their problems, as well as about the families of her house servants, random people she happened to meet on trains, and little kids in whose affairs she meddled because they were being starved or mistreated. Presumably she also had a life outside letters, and presumably she didn’t always need to tell her sister or her sister in law or her other relatives a bunch of in-depth stories about her teamwork (not really a French management thing) with people they didn’t even know. But no, Scholarly Biographer Knows Best.

    Bah.

    • Also, the guy quotes Simone de Beauvoir, the most completest awesomest writer ever, in order to prove how much he understands female conditions in 1858. What a maroon.

      • He is now bitching that she doesn’t mention politics enough in the surviving extracts, and is rhetorically questioning whether the woman knew basic news facts of the day. Because apparently the Martins took newspapers just for their fishwrap possibilities, and obviously everybody pre-modern was just stupid and ignorant unless they write lengthy political discourses that survive them.

        • The lack of consideration some people have for historians!

          Thankfully, with today’s lives lived online and in the Cloud future historians will have full access to almost everybody’s every thought.

          • The sad thing is that this guy actually isn’t the worst writer, by a long way. He makes some sensible comments and has some insights. It’s just hard to pick them out, because he’s such a twit with ahistorical imagination the rest of the time.

            Also, I really don’t need any historian calculating how many times a woman menstruated during marriage as part of any biography, and it’s not very classy for a female historian unless she frames it very carefully. But if a male historian does it, he’d better have a really super-good framing device, and this guy didn’t. You could just say how many months she wasn’t pregnant; you don’t need to mention the rest unless you’re going in for descriptions of laundry tasks or diseases or similar.

        • That would be what is known as “projecting.” You see, your average Leftist (which I assume this Scholarly Biographer Who Knows Best is) can’t comment on the weather without explaining how it’s really a political statement about [insert name of fashionable victim group here]. Thus, he is convinced that everyone else is just as obsessed with politics as he is, and the only reason for not boring everyone else with your opinions at every opportunity is because you’re too ignorant to have any.

  11. Chris Nelson

    As a side note I met one of the worlds best forensic accountants at a conference earlier this year. From him I learned there’s probably more than few trillion of untaxed funds hidden in overseas banks, probably more than 15 or closer to 20 trillion. Basically once you hit a certain level of lucre, the rest of the world works for you due to the loopholes and such. “If the working world knew the real truth and went hungry enough, the French Revolution would look like a lame WWE match between preschoolers.”

    • If he’s referring to the phenomenon that I believe he is, those funds are not untaxed. They were taxed in the jurisdictions where they were earned. But under idiotic U.S. law (and the law of no other country), foreign earnings of U.S. businesses, after being taxed in those foreign countries, are taxed again at the full U.S. corporate rate (the highest in the world, last I read of it) if they are ever brought home to the U.S. firm’s home office. This is a powerful incentive to U.S. firms to relocate their business overseas and keep it there, and it provides a huge advantage to non-American businesses, which are not subject to this confiscatory tax.

      Needless to say, your accountant friend to the contrary, the money is not ‘hidden in overseas banks’; the bulk of it is reinvested in the operations of those businesses abroad. Money sitting in a bank, drawing microscopic interest, does the owner no measurable good.

      • Don’t worry about that idle cash in foreign accounts, held back from the excessive repatriation taxes imposed by our code — as Sarah recently linked at Instapundit, Foreign governments ready cash grab on U.S. earnings.

        It is not long for this world.

      • Chris Nelson

        He was referring to under-taxed and untaxed money. I got a few censored details of some of the cases, it was amazing what people that have everything would do to have more.

        I verified some of the details with an acquaintance who works at the IRS, apparently there’s people they can’t touch due to not having enough legal funds to go after or due to politics. The people that hire forensic accountants are generally rich or have a really good case.

    • One of the large funds management companies laughed at me and said that since my portfolio was under a million I was too small for them.

    • “If the working world knew the real truth and went hungry enough, the French Revolution would look like a lame WWE match between preschoolers.”

      It’s really easy to miss the ‘went hungry enough’ qualification. One of the reasons revolutionary fervor never took off in America in the 20th century is that everyone had and has it pretty good. Most Americans don’t care about the rich having an excess as long as they have enough to live on. It’s easy to think that even a successful revolution would leave you worse off than the life of a current working or welfare class American. The handful of wannabe revolutionaries we have, the leftist terrorist wannabes and so-called anarchists and such, are not trying to spark a revolution because they’re oppressed and want the oppression to stop, but because revolution is their only chance at getting to be the Nomenklatura.

      If the Progressives do manage to spark a revolution based on envy of the truly wealthy and win, the revolutionaries aren’t going to spare the Progressive rich. The Rosanne Barrs and Michael Moores are going to find themselves up against the same wall as the conservative rich.

      • If the Progressives do manage to spark a revolution based on envy of the truly wealthy and win, the revolutionaries aren’t going to spare the Progressive rich. The Rosanne Barrs and Michael Moores are going to find themselves up against the same wall as the conservative rich.

        Which is why Gweneth Paltrow’s recent comments (the ones about how it’s not fair that Robert Downey, Jr. makes so much more money than her for acting in the Iron Man movies) are so phenomenally stupid. She can’t see that the same envy that is driving her, also would be driving anyone who would want to do something about it. If anyone took power enough to reduce Downey’s salary down to “fair” levels, her salary would be dropping right alongside it. And I’d bet that that idea had never even occurred to her.

        • I’d bet that that idea had never even occurred to her.

          I hardly think it desirable to initiate a discussion of ideas that have never occurred to Bruce Paltrow & Blythe Danner’s little girl.

        • Whether or not it’s true, “women don’t make as much as men” has some traction as an argument with the general public, because it’s about the public in general. Trying to prove that argument by citing the difference between the top actors and the top actresses doesn’t resonate the same way, and I’d suspect it’s going to turn people off. That difference isn’t going to cause people to overthrow capitalism, and isn’t likely to bring many people that aren’t highly paid actors and actresses to the ballot box.

          A lot of Progressive arguments make sense to hipster Progressive urban intellectual young adults, but utterly fail when applied to potentially-liberal working class and welfare class people. (Most rich Progressives seem to think of themselves as being hipster Progressive urban intellectual young adults in spirit).

          As you said, most people don’t care that Downey makes more than Paltrow, and most of those that think Downey makes too much money think Paltrow makes too much money; the important difference is not between Downey’s pay and Paltrow’s pay, but between the pay of Hollywood actors like Downey / Paltrow and their own working class pay / welfare check.

          • That and the general public is aware that Downey is a much better actor than Paltrow. Not to mention, it’s Iron Man, not Iron Woman on the marquee.

            Maybe Paltrow should go complain to Melissa McCarthy about how little women make in Hollywood.

  12. Gratuitous post to restore crashed tablet.

  13. “Looking back the level of confidence in big government coincided the era of cradle to grave employment in large companies.”

    I’ve heard things like this so often I think that it is becoming a cliche. In the US, at least, I don’t know when this has been true, or was anything but rare, unless you work the government or some other outfit that can resist market forces. Maybe it is a “golden age” myth.

    • It was that way during the golden age of US manufacturing. There were rust belt factories where two or three generations had worked.

      But to see trust in Big Government, you have to go back to FDR. When you think about it, it’s interesting that the same era saw the charismatic leaders FDR, Churchill, Stalin, and Hitler all on the political stage at the same time.

      • In many places the main industrial employer also provided housing, grocery stores, hospitals and other amenities. In the worst such communities the company issued scrip for goods and services (see: company store) with wages not always sufficient to cover expenses.

        The community depicted in the film October Sky was essentially a company town, although I don’t recall whether they used company scrip. Another example is the town of Pullman, Illinois, built by the Pullman Company as housing for its employees. Per Wiki:

        Historic Pullman was built in the 1880s by George Pullman as workers’ housing for employees of his eponymous railroad car company, the Pullman Palace Car Company. He established behavioral standards that workers had to meet to live in the area and charged them rent. Pullman’s architect, Solon Spencer Beman, was said to be extremely proud that he had met all the workers’ needs within the neighborhood he designed. The distinctive rowhouses were comfortable by standards of the day, and contained such amenities as indoor plumbing, gas, and sewers.

        During the depression that followed the Panic of 1893, demand for Pullman cars slackened. The Pullman company laid off hundreds of workers and switched many more to pay-per-piece work. This work, while paying more per hour, reduced total worker income. Despite these cutbacks, the Company did not reduce rents for workers who lived in the town of Pullman. They rejected those conditions.

        Workers initiated the Pullman Strike in 1894, and it lasted for 2 months, eventually leading to intervention by the US government and military. The Strike Commission set up in 1894 ruled that the aesthetic features admired by visitors had little monetary value for employees.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman,_Chicago#Beginnings

        Ultimately the town was sold to the city of Chicago, the Illinois Supreme Court ruling that operating the town exceeded the company’s charter.

        • Cradle to grave employment implies at least forty years of working for the same company. It is hard to believe that many people could ever have done that in the US, outside of the government. If it was 1880 to 1920 that is outside of human memory.
          I know only one guy who worked his entire life for one outfit. He was an engineer at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. Nice pension, but his employment history is hardly typical.

          • Actually, it’s common in utilities that aren’t infested with bean counters. One friend with 40+ years has decided to retire, and he isn’t alone with four decades employment at the same location. I myself am on my 4th hardhat, having had one issued when I began, and a replacement at approximately ten year intervals since.

            As one of our big bosses put it, he wasn’t keen on mandatory retirement because that many years of experience goes out the door with each retiree. In one company where bean counters rule, they offered early outs and found themselves without that experience. Some had to be rehired but most became consultants. Then, some decades later, the same company made the same mistake, with the same results.

            • some decades later, the same company made the same mistake, with the same results.

              Pity there weren’t more people with more experience in that department.

      • But to see trust in Big Government, you have to go back to FDR. When you think about it, it’s interesting that the same era saw the charismatic leaders FDR, Churchill, Stalin, and Hitler all on the political stage at the same time.

        I think it was the Second World War which marked the high point of truest in government. Looking back in hindsight, it’s actually scary. I truly believe our involvement in the war was for the best in general, but I can’t deny the influence of the propaganda bandwagon of the time getting everyone to pull together influencing the current perceptions of what happened. It’s almost an inverse preference cascade at work: “everyone around me acts like what we’re doing is good, so I have to silence any doubts I have lest I cause us to fail.” How much of “trust the government” was a product of government propaganda?

        I think Progressive opposition to US involvement in Vietnam finally broke that trust in government, with a little help from the Civil Rights movement. Ironically, the Progressives broke that trust in part because they were enamored with the bigger government philosophy of the Soviets. “We need to destroy the people’s trust in the power of big government so we can usher in a bigger government” is inherently contradictory, which I think helps those of us that want a smaller government in the long run.

        • It’s odd to reply to your own comment, but I just thought of what I missed here.

          Trust in individual institutions is not as important as having trust in the larger system of society as a whole. What’s needed is a system of checks and balances. Nixon betrayed the trust of the American people, but accountability in the system was provided by others in the system, both other government and media, calling him to task. As long as a critical percentage of the system behaves responsibly, one untrustworthy individual or group can’t mess things up.

          Right now, there is no part of the system that anyone trusts. It wouldn’t matter so much if the President and the bureaucracy were trustworthy if the legislative and judicial branches could be trusted to hold them to task when they weren’t. It wouldn’t matter if the government were untrustworthy if the media could be trusted to properly inform the public when the government was untrustworthy to hold the government to task. We wouldn’t need to worry about the media so much if the public in general was more interested in politicians with integrity rather than politicians that promise the most goodies or mark the right checkboxes.

          Right now, we have people willing to vote for Hillary knowing she’s a lying untrustworthy candidate because she’s a Democrat, and a media willing to fawn over her despite all the dishonesty in her history.

          • Nixon betrayed the trust of the American people, but accountability in the system was provided by others in the system, both other government and media, calling him to task.

            Just a minor corrective: Nixon no more betrayed the trust of the American people than did LBJ, JFK or numerous of their predecessors. That is largely a myth wrought by his political enemies, people who arguably did betray the trust of the American people.

            In his book, The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot That Brought Nixon Down, Geoff Shepard, a member of President Nixon’s White House staff from 1969 to 1974, presents research he contends shows misconduct by the judges and prosecutors involved in the Watergate trials.

            He likens the tactics to those which brought down Alaskan senator Ted Stevens: false testimony, concealing exculpatory evidence, and collusion between prosecutors & judge.

            Shepard is author of several books on what he describes as a coup d’état by the Eastern Establishment to bring down a popularly elected president. Thus he is easily dismissed as a nut, gnawing on the bones of an imagined conspiracy.

            A variety of excerpts of Shepard’s arguments:

            washingtontimes[DOT]com/news/2015/aug/10/geoff-shepard-richard-nixons-watergate-tragedy-cau/print/
            Documents I’ve recently uncovered in the National Archives tell a tale of secret meetings, secret memos and secret collusion that will shock many Americans and that constitute flagrant violations of our Constitution and its Bill of Rights that will shock many Americans.

            The smoking-gun tape, for example, does record the president concurring in the suggestion that they ask the CIA to tell the FBI not to interview two individuals, but the goal was not to thwart the FBI’s Watergate investigation. It was to protect the identities of prominent Democrats who’d made confidential contributions to Nixon’s re-election committee.

            townhall[DOT]com/tipsheet/cortneyobrien/2015/08/09/author-the-real-watergate-scandal-was-the-trashing-of-our-constitution-n2036123
            Shepard dedicates several pages of his book talking about collusion. Collusion between the presiding judge in the Watergate trial, John Sirica, and the prosecution:

            “John Sirica is a disgrace to the federal judiciary,” Shepard said. “What he did – and it’s documented in the book – at least a dozen instances of secret meetings between that judge and Watergate prosecutors and other interesting people. You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand the judge isn’t supposed to get together with one side before the trial and work stuff out. And Sirica did it all the time.”

            Collusion between the prosecution and congressional officials:

            “The special prosecutor was secretly assuring court and congressional officials that Nixon had personally approved to pay another blackmail,” he said. “They were wrong. They couldn’t prove that. Turns out to be the opposite. But we didn’t know (those of us on President Nixon’s defense team) they were making this secret accusation. If Nixon had known that’s what they were saying about him he never would have resigned. Nixon wasn’t a quitter and he knew he hadn’t done that. But we didn’t even know about the accusation.”

            And the concealment of significant documents:

            “Watergate prosecutors took the government files with them,” Shepard explained. “This is not unlike having a private server and deciding later how many documents you’re going to destroy. These are government documents and they should have stayed at National Archives and then subject to review with researchers like me. But three of the key prosecutors took their files.”

            • Those with the interest and a spare hour might enjoy this presentation:

              This is the same video linked above in the book title; that one goes to the CSPAN2 presentation, which includes the transcript. This is the official presentation by the Richard Nixon Foundation.

    • My father started late, having emigrated to the U.S. then earned a Ph.D. before starting work with DuPont in the mid-60s, but he retired from them in the mid-90s. Even more amazingly, he managed to stay in the same plant for about 20 years, though his role there kept changing.

  14. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    Sarah, from 2012. Still topical.

  15. I think we have developed a three class system. Those the work for the government and the corps, the dividing line between which has been shrinking for a long time, those that are on government dole one way or another and the rest, who just want to make a living and are screwed everyway by the others who have the votes to just walk over the rest, for a time.

  16. About 20 years ago, I looked into hiring a part-time minimum wage employee. But to do so legally in California would have cost me more out of pocket (taxes, fees, workmans comp, health insurance, etc, etc, etc) than my entire annual *gross*. It worked out to something like $28,000 out of pocket.

    Needless to say, it didn’t happen. Some hardworking kid didn’t get a job, and I didn’t get to grow my business.

    But I did gain a thorough understanding of the appeal of hiring illegal aliens for cash under the table.

    Back about this same time, Costco figured out that under CA’s tax structure, wages are only 30% of the cost of each employee. 70% is some government-imposed cost.

    • I looked at the amount of time I was spending tearinf down cores, cleaning, ordering parts, etc., and figured that my time would be better spent doing the things that actually turned a profit. A part-time helper would have helped the bottom line greatly.

      Unfortunately, it didn’t take long looking at the state regulations before I realized I’d have to hire *two* non-profit-generating employees; one to do odd jobs, and the other to do all the extra paperwork…

      De gummit *really* wants its tentacles into anything smelling of business, now matter how small: http://abc13.com/news/police-shut-down-girls-lemonade-stand/776322/

    • yep. did the same some time ago.

    • Seventy percent??!!

      • The Other Sean

        I suspect there’s effectively some minimum cost per employee in terms of overhead for compliance, plus contributions to various government-mandated funds that may be tied to hours worked as opposed to wage. As a result, lower-paid employees may have a higher percentage cost for compliance than the more highly paid. For example, it may cost $15 per hour per employee to comply. If an employee’s wage $45 per hour, compliance is 25% of the employee cost, while if the employee’s wage is $15, compliance is 50%.

        Still, 70% seems ridiculous, but it is California.

        • I was guessing that there might (also) be a whole set of costs that weren’t per employee but were associated with having any employee(s) at all, so if you had more, it might come out to less per person, but there’s always that problem with the first….

  17. I’m not religious and I’m certainly not Jewish, but the more I listen to Progressives and their constant blathering the more I appreciate the ten commandments. High taxes are just another flavor of greed and coveting thy neighbors stuff.

  18. We pay self-employment tax, for the privilege of working for ourselves…..We contribute both sides of social security.

    But then you get to take off half of what you paid in self-employment taxes (the employer’s half of the social security, that I think gets paid into your Social Security, right?) as a *credit* on your Form 1040.

    The software mostly figures mine for me.

    • Not here, that I know.

      • It’s been (10-4=6) six months, so maybe I forgot, but I’m pretty sure it’s a credit to your income taxes or an adjustment or something.

        • Deduction.

        • ‘s possible we and our accountant missed it, but I’m fairly sure not. The self employment tax is just flushed with the rest of the taxes.

          • Line 27 of the 2014 1040 (don’t know if it’ll still be line 27 in 2015): “Deductible part of self-employment tax. Attach schedule SE.” Schedule SE basically says “enter the full amount of your self-employment tax on line 57 of the 1040, and 50% of your self-employment tax on line 27.”

            But it’s not a credit, it’s a deduction. Still, it’s figured separately from the “standard deduction”, so even if you don’t itemize, it’ll reduce your taxable income by a few extra thousand.

            • Oh, and if you realize “Wait, I could have taken that deduction and saved a couple hundred dollars in taxes” after the fact, you can file the 1040X within up to three years and claim the deduction you should have gotten, and they’ll send you a refund check. Did that once, about a decade ago.

              • Yeah, I’ve done a 1040X once too, and I’ve had the IRS tell me I messed up–and they wrote me a check (so don’t take tax advice from me!)