EppsNet Archive: Money

What Would You Charge for an EpiPen?

29 Aug 2016 /
EpiPen

I don’t mean hypothetically, I mean I literally want to buy an EpiPen from you right now. My kid got stung by a bee, his face is swelling up like a balloon and his lungs are about to shut down.

I see a lot of people are mad at Mylan for charging $600 for EpiPens but they don’t seem to be mad at everyone else in the world who won’t sell them an EpiPen at all.

Not to mention, $600 for a life-saving treatment seems like a pretty good bargain to me.

Hillary Clinton has called for reducing the price of EpiPens. Hillary Clinton has never lifted a finger in a productive enterprise in her life. She will not sell you an EpiPen no matter how much you want or need one.

If the amoral profiteers at Mylan have an obligation to sell cheap EpiPens, why doesn’t Hillary Clinton? Why don’t you?


Carmack on Government

22 Aug 2016 /
John Carmack

My core thesis is that the federal government delivers very poor value for the resources it consumes, and that society as a whole would be better off with a government that was less ambitious. This is not to say that it doesn’t provide many valuable and even critical services, but that the cost of having the government provide them is much higher than you would tolerate from a company or individual you chose to do business with. For almost every task, it is a poor tool.

Given the inefficiency, why is the federal government called upon to do so many things? A large part is naked self interest, which is never going to go away — lots of people play the game to their best advantage, and even take pride in their ability to get more than they give.

However, a lot is done in the name of misplaced idealism. It isn’t hard to look around the world and find something that you feel needs fixing. The world gets to be a better place by people taking action to improve things, but it is easy for the thought to occur that if the government can be made to address your issue, it could give results far greater than what you would be able to accomplish with direct action. Even if you knew that it wasn’t going to be managed especially well, it would make up for it in volume. This has an obvious appeal.

Every idealistic cry for the government to “Do Something” means raising revenue, which means taking money from people to spend in the name of the new cause instead of letting it be used for whatever purpose the earner would have preferred.

It is unfortunate that income taxes get deducted automatically from most people’s paychecks, before they ever see the money they earned. A large chunk of the population thinks that tax day is when you get a nice little refund check. Good trick, that. If everyone was required to pay taxes like they pay their utilities, attitudes would probably change. When you get an appallingly high utility bill, you start thinking about turning off some lights and changing the thermostat. When your taxes are higher than all your other bills put together, what do you do? You can make a bit of a difference by living in Texas instead of California, but you don’t have many options regarding the bulk of it.

Helping people directly can be a noble thing. Forcing other people to do it with great inefficiency? Not so much. There isn’t a single thing that I would petition the federal government to add to its task list, and I would ask that it stop doing the majority of the things that it is currently doing. My vote is going to the candidates that at least vector in that direction.

— John Carmack

More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of

1 Aug 2016 /

Is anyone else sick of paying for an ever-expanding army of bureaucrats to meddle in their lives? Or is it just me?


In Politics, An Honest Man Does Not Get Rich

17 Jul 2016 /
Sam Rayburn

I have been unable to save much money in my life. I have been in politics, and in politics an honest man does not get rich.

That’s not true, there are LOTS of rich politicians. Oh wait . . .

[Sam Rayburn was one of the most powerful American politicians of the 20th century. He served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years, the longest tenure in U.S. history. His savings at his death totaled $ 15,000.]


George Orwell: “I Told You So”

25 Jun 2016 /

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Associated Press review of the official calendar Hillary Clinton kept as secretary of state identified at least 75 meetings with longtime political donors, Clinton Foundation contributors and corporate and other outside interests that were not recorded or omitted the names of those she met.

Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said that Clinton “has always made an effort to be transparent since entering public life.”

In addition to the unrecorded meetings with donors, this effort at transparency includes setting up a private email server to use as Secretary of State, and giving speeches at $200,000 per to Wall Street banks and investment firms, foreign governments and other special interest groups under a contract that prevents anyone from releasing a transcript of what she said.

Merrill went on to say, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”


Why is it Okay to Hate the Rich But Not the Poor?

11 Jun 2016 /
Scrooge McDuck

There is a feeling outside Silicon Valley that those inside the tech business are living in a tone-deaf bubble of arrogance. . . .

Here is the evidence that Silicon Valley is living in a bubble of its own arrogance.

Startup founders feel entitled to hate the poor.

The author seems to be based in the UK, which is outside Silicon Valley, so he writes “There is a feeling outside Silicon Valley that . . .” and inserts his own opinion. It’s a “feeling,” you see, and it exists outside Silicon Valley. Very clever.

If it’s okay to hate the rich (which it seems to be), why is it not okay to hate the poor? If it’s okay to hate people without knowing anything about them other than their economic standing, why is it okay to hate the rich, but not okay to hate the poor?

Why not hate the rich and the poor? I.e., I hate everyone who’s economic standing is significantly different from my own. No, it’s always I hate everyone who has more money and stuff than I do.


The Ideal Consumer

15 May 2016 /
Makeup before attendance

The ideal consumer is someone who is anxious, depressed and constantly dissatisfied. Academic studies from the most respected institutions show that sad people are bigger spenders. Why do you think our lives are saturated with images of flawless, unattainable beauty?


See You in Hell

15 May 2016 /

Satan

[See You in Hell is a feature by our guest blogger, Satan — PE]

Along with pleas for money, almost 100 percent of the cardboard signs I see being held by people on freeway off-ramps and the like include the phrase “God Bless You.”

There seems to be a correlation between belief in God and begging for money on off-ramps. Notice that you never see Satanists begging for money.

Why don’t they pray for the money? Maybe they did pray and God told them to make a cardboard sign?

I tell my acolytes if they need money, learn to code.

See you in Hell . . .


Wasteland

2 May 2016 /
Dan Bern (album)

And those that had money looked good but weren’t too happy
And those who didn’t have money didn’t look so good
And weren’t too happy either and in a city of three million
two hundred and sixty nine thousand nine hundred eighty four
Everyone was lonely

Dan Bern, “Wasteland”

‘Natural’ Product Claims Can Be Murky

1 Apr 2016 /

Whole Foods Markets Inc. last fall started selling a new brand of laundry detergent called Nature’s Power, whose green bottle claims the product is made “with plant-derived soaps.”

Its top active ingredient, a commonly used cleaning agent called sodium laureth sulfate, is found in plenty of its mainstream peers, including Arm & Hammer, which like Nature’s Power is made by Church & Dwight Co. Sodium laureth sulfate can be produced from coconut oil, palm oil or petroleum.

“It is the same chemical compound, regardless of what it’s derived from,” says Clarence Miller, a professor emeritus of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice University in Houston.

A Church & Dwight spokesman said the sodium laureth sulfate in Nature’s Power “is plant-based and not the same” as the sodium laureth sulfate found in Arm & Hammer. Whole Foods declined to comment.

WSJ

Let’s also note that in addition to being made by the same company as Arm & Hammer, with the same active ingredient as Arm & Hammer, Nature’s Power sells for 114 percent more than Arm & Hammer.

In other ‘green’ product news, S.C. Johnson, makers of Windex, also sell a multi-surface cleaner under the Mrs. Meyer’s brand for 127 percent more than Windex.

‘Natural’ and ‘organic’ are marketing terms, and ‘green’ is what you have to shell out to buy ‘natural’ products.

Natural Products


How People Learn to Become Resilient

21 Feb 2016 /
Reslience

[Developmental psychologist Emmy Werner] found that several elements predicted resilience. Some elements had to do with luck: a resilient child might have a strong bond with a supportive caregiver, parent, teacher, or other mentor-like figure. But another, quite large set of elements was psychological, and had to do with how the children responded to the environment. From a young age, resilient children tended to “meet the world on their own terms.” They were autonomous and independent, would seek out new experiences, and had a “positive social orientation.” “Though not especially gifted, these children used whatever skills they had effectively,” Werner wrote. Perhaps most importantly, the resilient children had what psychologists call an “internal locus of control”: they believed that they, and not their circumstances, affected their achievements. The resilient children saw themselves as the orchestrators of their own fates. In fact, on a scale that measured locus of control, they scored more than two standard deviations away from the standardization group.

Something to think about if you’re positioning yourself as a victim of circumstances, or telling others, including children, that they are victims of circumstances, that their efforts will not be rewarded fairly, that powerful forces are conspiring to keep them down, etc.

Granted, most or all of the people in the second group seem to be in it for personal aggrandizement, i.e., You can’t make it in America so you need me to make a big fuss on your behalf and get handsomely paid for it, either in the form of money or in political power.


Tony Robbins’ Wealth-Building Tips Seem Pretty Useless

18 Jan 2016 /
Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins has 6 tips for Building Wealth Now. Let’s look at each of the tips and apply the “would anyone advise the opposite?” filter to assess the value of Robbins’ advice.

  1. Don’t lose money. I’m not kidding, that’s the first tip. Would anyone advise “Lose money”? No. So this “tip” is useless.
  2. Look for investments in which rewards far outweigh risks. Would anyone advise “Look for investments in which risks far outweigh rewards’? No. Robbins recommends using “the 5-to-1 rule,” in which the potential returns on an investment are 5 times greater than the potential losses. Why 5? Why not 10? Or 100? Where do you find these investments? I have no idea.
  3. Don’t overpay taxes. Would anyone advise “Overpay taxes”? No.
  4. Diversify. Would anyone advise “Don’t diversify”? Possibly. There’s a couple of schools of thought on diversification: 1) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; and 2) Put all your eggs in one basket, then watch that basket. So there’s a tip for you: Diversify.
  5. Watch out for mindless spending. Would anyone advise “Spend mindlessly”? No. Robbins says if you spend $40 a week on restaurant meals, consider inviting friends over for a low-cost dinner at home instead. “In a year, you’ll have saved $2,000. If you invest that $2,000 every year, in 40 years you’ll have half a million dollars.” No, in 40 years you’ll have $80,000. Maybe. Given some assumptions about your rate of return, you might have half a million dollars, but on the other hand, you might make some bad investments and wind up with nothing.
  6. Stop sabotaging yourself. Would anyone advise “Sabotage yourself”? No.

Another Thing I Like About Donald Trump

15 Jan 2016 /

Democrats don’t like him and Republicans don’t like him either.

The overarching theme of American politics is Democrats vs. Republicans, Team Blue vs. Team Red. It’s a freakishly expensive clown show for which we pay trillions of dollars a year to watch the Red clowns and the Blue clowns throw pies in each other’s faces.

Nobody really cares about truth, substance or common sense, only whether their team is winning.

When Obama replaced Bush, Democrats didn’t care that Obama kept all the same wars going and started a few new ones, kept the torture programs going, kept Guantanamo open, ramped up drone warfare, cozied up to Wall Street, etc., etc., etc. All the things they hated when Bush was doing them were okay now because their team was winning.

Elect Hillary Clinton and we’ll get four to eight years of trench warfare against Republicans. Elect a Republican candidate (other than Trump) and we’ll get four to eight years of trench warfare against Democrats. At a cost of trillions of dollars per year.

This election offers a unique choice — Trump — the best chance we may ever have to blow up the system and start over, which is long overdue.


Cashing In

12 Dec 2015 /
Joseph Heller

When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don’t see heaven or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every human tragedy.

— Joseph Heller, Catch-22

A Man’s a Man For A’ That

9 Dec 2015 /
Robert Burns

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

— Robert Burns, “A Man’s a Man For A’ That”

Could Donald Trump Have Made More Money in an Index Fund?

28 Oct 2015 /
Trump blurb

Click to enlarge

I’ve seen this theory advanced by multiple sources, including the attached clipping, which I saw on Facebook. I don’t know the original source, but the finger-painting reference is a clue that the author has an anti-Trump agenda, hasn’t done the math and is just repeating something that may or may not be true for the benefit of anyone predisposed to believe it.

The actual National Journal article, which is targeted at readers who don’t know much about history, math or the Trump family, says this:

By putting his inheritance into the stock market back in the 1970s, [Donald] Trump might have been “really rich” without all the drama. . . . Had the celebrity businessman and Republican presidential candidate invested his eventual share of his father’s real-estate company into a mutual fund of S&P 500 stocks in 1974, it would be worth nearly $3 billion today, thanks to the market’s performance over the past four decades.

One big problem with that analysis: Donald Trump didn’t have an inheritance in the 1970s. His father, Fred Trump, was alive until 1999. When the author talks about Donald Trump investing his “eventual share,” what is he talking about? You can’t in 1974 invest an inheritance that you’re not going to have until 1999.

Donald and Fred Trump

Donald and Fred Trump

How much money exactly did Trump inherit? I couldn’t tell you, but working backward from the National Journal analysis, in order to have $3 billion today, you would have had to invest about $35 million in the S&P 500 in 1974.

Fred Trump died in 1999 with a net worth of $250-300 million. He had five children, one of whom predeceased him, so after estate tax and perhaps some charitable bequests, $35 million per child should at least be in the ballpark.

Had Donald Trump invested that amount in the S&P 500 when he actually received it in 1999, it would be worth about $70 million today, which is not bad, it’s more than I’ve got, but it wouldn’t make him a billionaire.

If he’d invested the $200 million that Forbes magazine determined he was worth in 1982 into that index fund, it would have grown to more than $8 billion today.

The math is right . . . the S&P 500 has increased about 4,000% since 1982. But why 1982? The author selected 1982 for a reason, although he doesn’t say what the reason is.

He tosses off 1982 like one date is as good as another so let’s go with 1982, and relies on readers not knowing or caring what he’s up to.

In 1982, the stock market had been flat for almost 15 years, after which it took off on the greatest bull market in history. Today, in 2015, anyone can tell you that you should have invested your entire net worth in the stock market in 1982. Even a modest $25,000 investment in 1982 would have allowed you to take up finger-painting and still be a millionaire today.

Making great investment decisions retroactively is very easy, like taking a test when you already know the answers.

The author dishonestly uses the S&P 500 as a proxy for average economic performance but picks a starting point, 1982, from which stock market performance was not only not average, it was historically unprecedented. It was the optimal investment point in American history.

Same objection applies to his previous example of a hypothetical S&P 500 investment in 1974. Why 1974? Because in 1974, the stock market was lower than any point since the early 1960s, and in hindsight can be identified as an optimal investment point for maximum return.


Why Jennifer Lawrence Makes Less Than Bradley Cooper

14 Oct 2015 /
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence is complaining (Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?) that she and American Hustle co-star Amy Adams received 7 percent of the profits for the film, while male actors Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale and director David Russell received 9 percent.

The only explanation I can think of for this inequity is that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were willing to work for 7 percent. It doesn’t make sense to sign a deal for 7 percent and then complain that you didn’t get 9 percent. If you want 9, ask for 9. If it’s going to bother you to make less than a male co-star, ask for the same deal as the male co-star.

Does Jennifer Lawrence have an agent? This doesn’t seem super complicated . . .


Time is Money

13 Aug 2015 /

Short histories

Amazon sent me some book recommendations, including A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by the same author. The second book costs five dollars more. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Maybe condensing a short history into a really short history saves me some time and I have to pay more for that. Time is money . . . in this case, five dollars.


There Are Four Ways You Can Spend Money

10 Aug 2015 /
English: Portrait of Milton Friedman

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.

— Milton Friedman

Greece is Going Out of Business

9 Jul 2015 /

I remember the good old days when we only had to worry about small banks going out of business. Then big banks started to go out of business, then non-bank financial institutions, and now small countries.

The problem with having a lot of debt is that, with some exceptions (“too big to fail”), bad things happen when your investors get nervous.

My memory is not photographic as some of the legends about me say, but I am sure I would remember if the works of Adam Smith included the phrase “too big to fail.” — Garry Kasparov

What are the odds that people running companies or countries will make smart decisions about money if they don’t need to make smart decisions — if they can do just as well or better making dumb decisions and being rescued from the consequences?

According to the government debt chart below, the next countries in line for a day of reckoning are two more small countries (Ireland, Portugal) and a medium-sized country (Italy). Further down the chart are two big countries.

The United States, the biggest of the big, is not shown on the chart but is currently at 100 percent debt to GDP.

Government debt


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