Saturday, July 26, 2014


I can just see the LMM doing this with me, in kayak, off the coast of Argentina.

Well, she might WATCH it, from a beach chair, ON the coast of Argentina.

Marriage at the Margin

Can Pro-Marriage Policies Work? An Analysis of Marginal Marriages 

 Wolfgang Frimmel, Martin Halla & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer
Demography, August 2014, Pages 1357-1379

Abstract: Policies to promote marriage are controversial, and it is unclear whether they are successful. To analyze such policies, one must distinguish between a marriage that is created by a marriage-promoting policy (marginal marriage) and a marriage that would have been formed even in the absence of a state intervention (average marriage). We exploit the suspension of a cash-on-hand marriage subsidy in Austria to examine the differential behavior of marginal and average marriages. The announcement of an impending suspension of this subsidy led to an enormous marriage boom among eligible couples that allows us to locate marginal marriages. Applying a difference-in-differences approach, we show that marginal marriages are surprisingly as stable as average marriages but produce fewer children, children later in marriage, and children who are less healthy at birth.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Pension-smoothing is a silly gimmick.  But it's a red herring.

Okay, yes, pretty much no one thinks it's a good idea.

It's dumb.  And wasteful.

Of course, the real solution is to raise taxes on gasoline, right?  Though that wouldn't solve the problem of people driving less, or the "problem" of more fuel efficient cars. (Problem?)

No, the real solution is to stop looting the highway trust fund for pork barrel projects, and use it for maintenance.  At present, 40% of the Fed's highway trust fund goes to "earmarked programs."

Stop that.  Easy peasey.

Here's the thing:  the states are supposed to pay for maintenance of the highway system.  And the STATE taxes are more than double the Fed excise tax.  The states you would expect (CA, CT, MI) all charge more than TRIPLE the Fed rate.  And these states all loot that money and use it to buy votes from developers and corporations.

There's this canard:  the rate of gas taxes has fallen, adjusted for inflation.  Well, the Fed tax rate has fallen, because all they do is use it to build bridges to nowhere.  It's just a slush fund for payoffs to campaign contributors.  The average rate of state gas tax was 20 cents/gallon in 2002.  It's 31 cents/gallon in 2014.  That's a 55% increase, in 12 years.  Inflation is only a 33% increase over that period.  The point being that state gas taxes have increased more than 20%, adjusted for inflation, since 2002.  Why do we need to raise gas taxes?

The answer is that politicians use your tax money to buy votes.  And they can never, ever have enough.  Votes, that is.

Just spend the actual money that we already raise on roads.  Take the 40% of the Fed highway trust fund that's spent on pork, and spend it on maintenance.  Stop enabling the states to use gas taxes for anything except roads.  We collect plenty of taxes for roads.  We just don't use it for roads.

Gas taxes are a pretty good example of a "user fee."  You pay more if you use more, and the money can be used to provide the service.  Except that, to paraphrase Gary Trudeau, "But the highway trust fund was just sitting there!"

Tenure and the Caterpillar

Found this great caterpillar, on the LMM's car.  Note the giant false head, unseeing "eyes," and upright posture.  When threatened, it rears up and tries to look all bad-ass, when in fact it's a soft little useless wimp.

Unfortunately, my good friend Michael Thomas imagined that there is some connection between this beast and the beast called "The Tenured Professor."   Click for an even more tenured image.

Ow.  Problem with the analogy, of course, is that caterpillars pupate and turn into pretty butterflies.  Tenured profs turn into....Keith Poole.  Double ow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

D-Drez lays down some smack

So, this guy was pretty sure of himself.  Got all up in here and talking big.  I thought I was going to have to respond.  I mean, the guy's "data" is "a woman sent me a letter."  Really?

But D-Drez took care of it.  Better than I could have anyway.

First World Problems: A bad redeye in first class

I sometimes travel first class, as an upgrade.  On Delta, I get upgraded sometimes.

But for the trip back from LAX to Raleigh, I actually paid for first class.  And had a remarkable experience.  Rather than rant, let me just hit the bullet points...

1.  We arrived at LAS, and had to wait 25 minutes 50 yards from the gate, because they didn't have a ground crew.  Really?  No one knew we were coming?  They could have borrowed my cellphone, if they needed to call ahead.  Then at RDU, getting in at 5:50 am after a long flight, again we had to wait 20 minutes.  I timed it.  Delta is notorious for its indifference to customer service, but this was amazing.  If you fly Southwest, you'll notice that they have the door open and people filing out within two minutes of landing.  Delta wants to show you who's boss.  They are.  Apparently, this happens a lot.  I actually missed a flight once, because we waited 30 minutes to get a ground crew.  Got there with just enough time, but couldn't get off the place to go those last 50 yards.

2.  The head stewardess played video games on her cell phone the whole trip from LAS to RDU.  Never once, not once offered snacks or drinks, except when we first got on the plane.

3.  When I got up and asked for some water, she was indignant.  "How was I supposed to know you wanted a drink"?  Well, I don't know...Mental telepathy?  Or perhaps stop playing Tetris on your cell phone and get up and walk through first class and see if anyone ASKS for a drink?

4.  Never offered snacks.  Not once.  On a 4 hour flight.  Amazing.  I mean, the snacks aren't that great, even in first class.  But she never even offered.  Yes, I likely would have said "no."  But gosh.

5.  My tray table was broken. Actually broken.  The hinge was splintered, and the table kept falling down.

6.  My seat was broken, and would not recline.  Four hour overnight redeye, and the seat won't recline.  You may think that's not a big deal.  It's a pretty big deal.

7.  My air vent was broken.  Literally broken, smashed up into the plastic, like it had been hit with a fist.  Completely non-functional.  And it was very hot, the whole trip.

8.  At the end of the flight, the head stewardess actually said, "That was the easiest I've ever had a flight.  No one wanted anything the whole trip!"  Completely oblivious.  She had no way of knowing whether anyone wanted anything, because she never entered the first class cabin to check.  The passengers in first class talked to each other about this.  "Do you believe how bad she is?"  "Wow, this is terrible."  We had, in fact, wanted at least some water on that long trip.  But she never stood up from her smart phone games and even asked.

A note:  It is fair to say, "Oh, poor baby.  That's a first world problem.  No snacks in first class...Awww."  I hear you.  But this was the first time I had ever actually paid for first class.  It is not a mistake I will make again.  At least, not on Delta.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday's Child

1.  They can't keep companies from leaving California, Michigan, and New York.  But they think they can keep companies from leaving the U.S.  That's a pretty terrible idea, since it means that companies won't come to the U.S. in the first place.

2.  Expulsion after graduation?   Not as bad as posthumous execution...

3.  Research shows that people who cycle to work are mostly white and wealthy.  Demonstrating an old truth:  If green living saved money, poor people would do it.  But only rich people do it.  Because the sacrifice makes them feel good about being rich.

4.  On the other hand, maybe poor folk don't cycle because they smoke too much.   "Do you smoke after cycling?"  "I don't know, I've never checked..."

5.  A princess...