Cringely’s Stimulus Package

Bob Cringely is a very smart guy, and I generally like his technology columns. His latest blog post on the current economic crisis is… well… there’s no nice way to put it: it’s bone-headed.

You can skim the first part—it’s boilerplate “government ruins everything” deficit hawkery—but the meat of his plan relies on a reasonable estimate of unpaid taxes:

My proposal to end the recession will cost $20 billion, not $775 billion. I would allocate $20 billion in extra funding for federal tax compliance in the coming year. I’d also open-up such compliance enforcement to private firms. That’s the stick.

The carrot comes in the form of a quite specific form of one-time tax amnesty. Taxpayers who have shorted Uncle Sam will be asked to come forward and report their crimes, which will result in no additional tax payments or penalties – none. If you are a tax cheat and don’t come forward, that $20 billion will go toward hunting you down. If you are a tax cheat and do come forward but lie about the extent of your cheating, that $20 billion will be used against you, too, so there is a huge incentive to be honest and a large penalty for not being so. This is not a free lunch: you have to report IT ALL. That should be about $3 trillion for the last decade, remember.

Taxpayers who choose to participate in the amnesty program will be still subject to random audits but in general their accounts will be wiped clean IF they within the next six months take 50 percent of the tax money they admit to having owed but not paid and use it to buy goods and services in the United States. These purchases would have to be documented. No investments or savings would qualify – just buying stuff.

So, why is this a bad idea? Let’s leave out the practical and political problems involved in ramping up tax enforcement on the scale Bob suggests (because that’s probably actually a good idea). And let’s gloss over, for now, the dystopian vision of privatized tax collection. And let’s just skip right past the huge reporting and record-keeping burden that would be required to document that you spent X dollars where you were supposed to.

The big problem is: where is this money supposed to come from? I sincerely doubt that half of this $3 trillion in unpaid taxes is sitting in savings accounts waiting to be spent. The defining feature of this crisis is that there just isn’t money in the private sector to be spent; that’s why government intervention is needed. Relying on consumer spending to pull us out of this recession when consumer confidence is at an all-time low and when most people are struggling with too few assets and too much debt is not a good plan. No, sir.

Cringely’s Stimulus Package

Publishing is Changing

A couple weeks ago, there was a long article in New York Magazine about the end of publishing. It was interesting in the way that watching a car accident happen is interesting, only this is a car accident that you could have predicted was going to happen 20 years ago. You simply can’t keep paying a lot of money for something (in this case a book) that’s not going to make you a lot of money.

Last week, the author of that article tied it all together with another short blurb comparing Random House to General Motors, the only difference being Random House’s back list has some value.

It got me thinking a couple things:

It’s not that publishing is over, or banking, or auto manufacturers, or the music industry. This isn’t a coincidence. These are all businesses that haven’t evolved from where they were and they’re getting punished for it.

Why do e-books cost as much as an album? The article above has the price of ebooks for your Kindle at $9.99 similar to a price for an album on iTunes. Maybe iTunes has kept the price of an MP3 low, but a song or album you can listen to over and over and over again, while a book…how often do you read a book? Even your favorite book. If publishers agree to lower the cost of ebooks to $5, they’ll sell more than twice as many. Mark it, dude.

Oh, and the NY Times Magazine says journalism has to change, also, or they’ll be dead, too.

Oh, and James Surowiecki says Newspapers are toast, too.

Had the bosses realized that they were in the transportation business, rather than the railroad business, they could have moved into trucking and air transport, rather than letting other companies dominate. By extension, many argue that if newspapers had understood they were in the information business, rather than the print business, they would have adapted more quickly and more successfully to the Net.

Publishing is Changing

So What’s Wrong With Suze Orman?

I get Frank Rich’s point:

Given that John McCain’s economic team was headlined by Carly Fiorina and Joe the Plumber, the country would be dodging a fiscal bullet even if Obama had picked Suze Orman.

But if I were him, I would have gone with someone like James Cramer or Ben Stein as the punchline as opposed to someone who argues that if you don’t have the money you shouldn’t spend it. That’s just me, though.

So What’s Wrong With Suze Orman?

Comprehensive Election Reactions Round Up – A Reference

After the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, I didn’t quite know what to do to help myself take it all in. I found a message board called ‘Win it For’ that was started at some point before the World Series and was filled with stories from people who wanted the Red Sox to win the World Series for someone or other. I spent about 5 hours, reading it straight through, the morning after the World Series and it was the best way I could have celebrated the Red Sox winning.

On November 4, when Barack Obama was announced the winner of the 2008 Presidential Election I was searching for a similar sort of catharsis. Not so much because of Obama winning (which was nice) but because the election had been building as an event for almost 3 years ‘ from the speculation of who would run, to the announcements, to the campaigns, to the primaries, to the general, and finally, November 4th came and went. I thought maybe I’ll collect a few thoughts from friends, or collect all the Facebook status messages, or collect a few links that helped tell the story. As I thought about it, I decided I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted without going overboard. And I won’t lie, despite my attempts at making this document impartial, there’s no way it could have been. And though I’ve tried to make its focus 11/4, Election Day, there were certain events from the campaign that creeped in.

I wanted to create something to look at a couple years from now to remember the election and hopefully present a good representation of what both sides of America were feeling on that day as evidenced by the response in the press and on the blogs. I didn’t capture everything, though I’ve certainly tried. I want to consume all of this information, have it put on a microchip in my brain. Until that’s possible, I just read a lot. I don’t know how many of these links will work in a year or 5 years, (when this doc might be helpful to show younger people who may not have ever remembered having a president who isn’t black), but here’s what I’ve got. At the bottom is a list of all the sites I used and the domains that helped.

This is a LONG post, when you get bored, bookmark it so you can come back later. There are several different sections. If you want to skip around, you can use the Contents Section below.

Celebrate! – A run down of the celebrations.
WINS! – A list of 38 sites and their winning posts.
Winners and Losers – 18 lists of election winners and losers.
Turnout, Voting, and Polling – Articles and stories about voting, polling, and turn out.
Reactions – Reactions from the world, pundits, and celebrities.
How Obama Won – Some thoughts on how Obama won.
Why McCain Lost – Some thoughts on why McCain lost and what next for the GOP.
Expectations and Advice – There are a lot of people with expectations and a lot of people with advice.
Race – Obviously electing the first black president is going to bring up comments on race.
Money and Business – What will the impact on your money and you business be?
The Media – Without the media, wherever would we be!?
Humor – Without the humor, wherever would we be!?
Miscellaneous – Without the miscellaneous, wherever would we be!?
Personal Stories from Friends – Just what it says.
273 Status Political Status Messages in 27 Hours – Just what it says.
Via – Here’s a list of all the sites I used in putting this together ‘ the sources.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

Comprehensive Election Reactions Round Up – A Reference