Manufacturers are Lowering Prices on Electric Cars to get us to Buy Cars we don’t Want

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 8th, 2013

Week in Review

The government and those on the left may want us to all drive electric cars.  But you know who doesn’t?  Pretty much all of us (see Mitsubishi iMiev is now the cheapest electric car by Eric Evarts posted 12/5/2013 on Consumer Reports).

The biggest improvement electric cars need is in the price. And the latest electric-car maker to make that improvement is Mitsubishi, which just slashed the price of its golf-cartlike iMiev by more than 20 percent, to $23,845. That’s a $6,130 price drop from $29,975. (Toyota recently lowered the price on the Prius Plug-In.)

In addition, Mitsubishi has added some standard features, such as front heated seats, CHAdeMO DC quick charge port, rear door speakers, leather steering wheel trim, passenger-side vanity mirror, fog lights, and aluminum wheels. While these standard features sweeten the deal, they do underscore just how barebones the car was previously.

The iMiev is still eligible for a $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit that brings the price down to $16,345, or less where other state and local credits are available. Even at that reduced price, it still a lot of money for a car that feels like little more than an enclosed golf cart. The appeal lies solely in providing attainable access into the world of pure-electric cars. At this price, it becomes more feasible as a second, occasional-use car. (Visit our alternative fuel hub for more on electric cars and hybrids…)

The i-MiEV feels tiny, tinny, and slow, with clumsy handling and a bumpy ride. And its short cruising range—barely 60 miles in our tests—keeps you on a tight leash. Charging times are long, spanning between 6 and 7 hours for a full charge using 240-voltage.

The Spartan interior is cramped and unappealing, with seating limited to four people. Finally, the car’s small size and slow responses make you feel vulnerable sharing the road with “real” cars.

So to own an electric car you have to pay a fortune to get little.  You can’t drive further than 30 miles from your house.  And you must play ‘Russian roulette’ when you share the road with real cars.  As well as trucks.  You should never drive around a down railroad crossing gate.  Because in a car-train accident the car will always lose.  Just as in an electric car-anything-else accident the electric car will always lose.  Give me a big heavy 4-door sedan any day.  It’s big, it takes up space and pollutes the air (a quote taken loosely from the 1980 movie Serial).  But most of all it has space to survive in should you ever get into a non-train accident.

Any car that a manufacturer has to sell at a loss even with massive government subsidies is a car they shouldn’t be selling.  And it’s especially a car the government shouldn’t be subsidizing.  Especially when pretty much all of us prefer a car that’s big, takes up space and pollutes the air.  And will let you drive further than 30 miles from home.  While getting you home again.  Even if you get stuck in rush hour traffic.  In the middle of a blizzard.  When it’s dark outside.  Things that are not a problem when you have gasoline in the gas tank.

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The Amount of Loss per Chevy Volt Sold is in Dispute but what is Not Disputed is that Each Volt Sold Loses Money

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2012

Week in Review

Some number crunching shows the Chevy Volt to be a disaster.  A Reuters’ article (see below) puts the loss per Volt sold as high as $49,000.  Which GM disputes.  Even former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz wrote an article in Forbes disputing this.  Criticizing the authors of the article for dividing the total Chevy Volt investment by the number of Volts sold to date.  And not the projected sales over the 5 year life of the vehicle.  But if you crunch the numbers over this 5 year period they still aren’t good.  And show a loss that may never be recovered (see Insight: GM’s Volt: The ugly math of low sales, high costs by Bernie Woodall and Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman posted 9/10/2012 on Reuters).

Nearly two years after the introduction of the path-breaking plug-in hybrid, GM is still losing as much as $49,000 on each Volt it builds, according to estimates provided to Reuters by industry analysts and manufacturing experts. GM on Monday issued a statement disputing the estimates…

GM’s basic problem is that “the Volt is over-engineered and over-priced,” said Dennis Virag, president of the Michigan-based Automotive Consulting Group…

GM’s quandary is how to increase sales volume so that it can spread its estimated $1.2-billion investment in the Volt over more vehicles while reducing manufacturing and component costs – which will be difficult to bring down until sales increase…

The lack of interest in the car has prevented GM from coming close to its early, optimistic sales projections. Discounted leases as low as $199 a month helped propel Volt sales in August to 2,831, pushing year-to-date sales to 13,500, well below the 40,000 cars that GM originally had hoped to sell in 2012.

Out in the trenches, even the cheap leases haven’t always been effective…

It currently costs GM “at least” $75,000 to build the Volt, including development costs, Munro said. That’s nearly twice the base price of the Volt before a $7,500 federal tax credit provided as part of President Barack Obama’s green energy policy…

The car entered production in the fall of 2010 as the first U.S. gasoline-electric hybrid that could be recharged by plugging the car into any electrical outlet. The Obama administration, which engineered a $50-billion taxpayer rescue of GM from bankruptcy in 2009 and has provided more than $5 billion in subsidies for green-car development, praised the Volt as an example of the country’s commitment to building more fuel-efficient cars…

Before GM resorted to discounting Volt leases, sales were averaging just over 1,500 cars a month. A huge part of that reason was consumer push back over the price, according to Virag of Automotive Consulting.

GM forecasted selling 40,000 cars per year over 5 years.  Before the discounting leases they were selling only 1,500 per month.  At that pace that comes to 18,000 cars per year over 5 years.  If you divide the $1.2 billion by 200,000 (40,000 X 5) cars sold that comes to a projected investment recovery of $6,000 per car sold.  If you divide the $1.2 billion by 90,000 (18,000 X 5) cars sold that comes to a projected investment recovery of $13,333 per car sold.  So the projected loss on their investment based on the current pace of sales over 5 years is $7,333 per Volt sold.  Or a profit margin of NEGATIVE 18.3%.  And that’s without adding any production losses.  The longer it takes to meet sales projections the greater the losses climb.  And the less likely they will ever make money on the Volt.  Even with all the subsidies and tax credits.

The big question is what do the taxpayers get for this massive investment into a car that can’t sell?  It’ll help GM advance technology for the next generation of hybrid car?  But isn’t that something car companies are supposed to be doing anyway?  And should a company that is coming out of bankruptcy protection be experimenting in exotic new technology instead of focusing on selling what people are buying to return to profitability?  So they can raise their stock price so the government can sell their shares of GM stock without a loss to repay the American taxpayer?  GM, and the American taxpayer, would be better off if GM focused on selling their more profitable trucks and SUVs until they repay their taxpayer debt.  Then once they were on more steady financial ground they could explore the exotic technologies.

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The Federal Wind Power Subsidy pays for about Half the Cost of Wind-Generated Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 19th, 2012

Week in Review

Taking money from Peter to give to Paul to spend does not increase net economic activity.  Yes, Paul’s spending increases which adds to economic activity.  But Peter’s spending decreases.  Which subtracts from economic activity.  This is the fatal flaw of stimulus spending.  There is no net gain in economic activity.  But the Keynesians don’t understand this.  If they take money from Peter to pay Paul to dig a ditch and then fill it back in they see only Paul’s contribution to the economy when he spends his wages.  They don’t see the reduction in Peter’s spending.  Why?  Because it’s not about economic stimulus.  It’s about the spending.  The taxes.  And the power it gives them (see Morning Bell: Wind Energy Subsidies Are As Useful As VHS Tape Subsidies by Amy Payne posted 8/16/2012 on The Foundry).

The wind production tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year, which has the industry crying out for continued subsidies.

And for good reason.

The subsidy is already equivalent to 50 percent to 70 percent of the wholesale price of electricity.

Wind power makes up a small sliver of our power generation.  Can you imagine the taxpayer cost if it made up a large portion of our power generation?  One shudders to think of a greatly expanding wind power sector and the additional taxation it would require.

Wait a minute.  If the fuel is free why does government have to subsidize the generation of this power?  Good question.  For although the fuel is free (as in sunshine and wind) the infrastructure to convert this free fuel into electricity is very expensive.  It takes an enormous amount of solar panels and windmills to generate useable power.  As well as ancillary equipment to store it or attach it to the grid.  And if the government didn’t pay at least half of this cost solar and wind ‘power plants’ couldn’t generate power at market prices.  Either they would produce power that no one would buy.  And after operating awhile without any revenue they would go out of business.  Or they would simply go out of business without even trying to generate power that no one would buy.  Simply put their power would come with a much higher price tag without those subsidies.  And it’s really hard to charge more for something that is identical to something selling for far less.  Like electric power coming from a coal-fired power plant.

All electric generation probably receives subsidies.  Because that’s what politicians do.  They go to Washington and try to get federal money for their district.  But that’s just the usual graft.  Fossil fuel and nuclear power generated power don’t need subsidies.  They are so reliable and cost efficient that they form the backbone of our baseload power generation.  They run all of the time providing reliable inexpensive electric power.  Natural gas-fired turbines come on to help with peak load demands.  And solar power and wind power are so unreliable and costly that they serve neither baseload power requirements nor peak load requirements.  They are little more than novelties.  And a vehicle to funnel vast sums of taxpayer funds to political allies.  Think Solyndra.  And the Obama administration.

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President Obama’s Green Initiatives did not Create Jobs or Save the Planet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

If the Energy Department was a private corporation it would be the ideal bailout target for a company like Bain Capital.  Inept management, poor investments and bad strategic policy.  It has everything.  So much so that it would be easier for the bailout team to ask them at Energy what actually worked.  It would keep the initial meeting much shorter (see Difference Engine: To and from the grid posted 6/1/2012 on The Economist).

Since then, interest rates have fallen, while the price of solar panels has tumbled even more so—thanks to Chinese overcapacity. Meanwhile, electricity rates (at least those in southern California) have risen noticeably. Your correspondent reckons photovoltaic solar systems now cost half as much as they did four years ago.

Two things could make or break America’s affair with solar power. One concerns the ushered in by the economic stimulus bill of 2009. Many of those temporary tax credits are now coming to an end. If nothing is done to extend them, the incentives will fall from a peak of over $44 billion in 2009 to $16 billion this year and $11 billion by 2014. That could bring the solar-installation business to a screeching halt and wipe out tens of thousands of green jobs. The industry’s future depends largely on the outcome of the November election….

The irony is that those who invest their own money to generate clean electricity from solar panels on their rooftops are likely to be the last to benefit from it environmentally. Nowadays, most people work outside the home during the day and consume the bulk of their residential electricity in the evening and during the night. In California, that is when the state—which meets only 70% of its electricity requirement from its own resources—relies heavily on cheap electricity imported from dirty coal-fired power stations elsewhere in the country. This situation will only be exacerbated if, as expected, plug-in battery vehicles, needing to be recharged overnight, account for an increasing share of the Californian fleet.

That aside, all your correspondent now has to worry about is whether the 31% anti-dumping tariff recently imposed on Chinese solar-panel makers really does deter them. Having seen such trade spats play out many times before, he suspects the tariffs will only spur Chinese firms to acquire the few remaining American solar-panel makers so that they can carry on manufacturing in low-cost Wuxi or Shanghai and do their final assembly in middle America (presumably with local subsidies to boot).

So solar panels have never been cheaper thanks to the Chinese.  Which is good.  These lower prices will encourage people to save the planet by installing solar panels onto their roofs.  Unless the government raises these low prices with a 31% anti-dumping tariff.  Hmm.  Looks like you have to choose between saving the planet.  And providing green jobs.  For as this anti-dumping tariff clearly shows you can’t have both.

And because jobs are more important than the environment the government is subsidizing the clean energy industry.  Let’s crunch some numbers.  They say we could lose “tens of thousands of green jobs.”  So let’s assume there were 80,000 jobs created in the first year.  And they declined by 10,000 every year to reflect with the growing number of bankruptcies in the green energy sector.  Dividing the incentive by the cost in the first year you get a cost of about $550,000 for each job created.  If do the same for the last year you also get a cost of about $550,000 for each job created.  That’s a lot of money to pay someone.  And I’m guessing that the Chinese aren’t paying their employees a half million each in wages and benefits.  Not when they’re making these solar panels so cheap that the U.S. has to slap an anti-dumping tariff on them.

Of course these numbers don’t include the $500 billion the government blew on Solyndra.  Or the other Solyndras out there.  Which when you factor all of these in these green jobs are costing the taxpayer probably in excess of a million dollars each.  For what?  To pay someone a $50,000 wage on an assembly line so he or she can take these earnings and stimulate the economy?  Talk about a negative return on investment.  And the president is attacking Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital past?  If Bain Capital took over the United States government to turn it around to get a sensible return on tax dollar investments guess who would be the first fired from his job?  The incompetent chief executive that spent a million dollars plus to get $50,000 worth of stimulus.

And the kicker is that none of this matters.  When solar power is available people are at work.  When people are home cranking up their air conditioners and plugging in their electric cars for the night the sun is down and coal-fired power plants are meeting this peak demand.  So we get nothing.  No jobs.  And we don’t even save the planet.  We just get higher taxes and more debt.  A pretty crappy deal if you ask me.  We have coal.  We should just use coal.  And not demonize it.  We’d arrive at the same outcome.  Only with fewer taxes and less debt.  And cheaper electricity.  Because we’d be bringing more coal-fired plants on line.  Now that is a smart turnaround plan.  The kind of turnaround that could end up in the win column at Bain Capital.

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The Federal Debt and Public Sector Grow, American Exceptionalism Declines

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 4th, 2011

Obama sets Spending Record, Maxes out Uncle Sam’s Credit Card

As Congress battles over a budget, Timothy Geithner goes back to Congress and warns them that the world as we know it will end unless they increase the debt ceiling.  I’m paraphrasing, of course (see U.S. will hit debt ceiling by May 16, Geithner warns Congress by Jim Puzzanghera posted 4/4/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

The Treasury Department had estimated that the nation would reach its $14.29-trillion debt limit between April 5 and May 31…

The Obama administration is pushing Congress to increase the debt limit, as it has done 75 times since 1962. The nation has never failed to increase the limit, Geithner said.

But the nation has never spent money it doesn’t have like the Obama administration has.  After some 2 years in office Obama has added about $4.3 trillion to the national debt.  That’s pretty impressive for just two scant years.  And how does that compare with his predecessors?  George W. Bush‘s added $4.2 trillion in eight years.  Bill Clinton added $1.4 trillion in his eight years.  Ronald Reagan added $1.6 trillion in his eight years.  And Reagan is always attacked with the ‘sure he saved the economy and increased GDP but at what cost’ line implying he did it with reckless and irresponsible spending by mortgaging our future.  But Reagan’s debt was chump change compared to the Obama $4.3 trillion added in only 2 years.  Yet the Reagan debt was bad.  While the Obama debt is nothing to worry about.  Funny how that works. 

One thing for sure, Obama sure likes to spend other people’s money. 

Renewable Energy Subsidies are a Slush Fund for Democrats

So what are we spending so much money on?  Oh, lots and lots of things.  Some big (Obamacare).  Some small.  So small that when you look at it as a line item you say, sure, that’s a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s chump change.  Like the debt Reagan added rebuilding the American economy and winning the Cold War.  Or solar energy subsidies (see Get A Tax Break For Going Green In 2011 by Ashlea Ebeling posted 4/1/2011 on Forbes).

When [a retired couple], N.J., both 73, file their 2010 tax return this spring, they’ll be getting a $15,000 federal tax credit for going solar. They were expecting to get an additional $11,000 state rebate too, but newly-elected Republican Gov. Chris Christie raided the N.J. Clean Energy Fund last year to help balance the state budget, so the pot of rebate money ran dry. Yet even without the promised state rebate, [they] calculate that their $50,000 investment will be paid off in five years thanks to the federal tax credit and other incentives.

He’s already watching his meter send electricity he generates back to the power company; he figures he’ll save $1,600 a year in electricity bills. And he stands to get up to $6,500 a year for 15 years in state-legislated solar renewable energy certificates…

Okay, so we have a retired couple who could afford to spend $50,000 on solar panels that will never pay for themselves in energy savings unless they live another 32 years in retirement.  You know, that is an awful return on investment.  Which explains why no one is making this investment.  Unless the government gives them about $100,000 in the next 15 years on top of the $15,000 federal tax credit.  And the $11,000 state benefits.  All to save $1,600 a year.  What a scam.

This may stimulate the economy locally for a short time, but it just adds to the debt.  And the long term problems will be far greater than the short term benefits.  Then again, 73 year old people won’t be around to face those problems.  But you can bet that they will be voting for the party that just dropped a boatload of money into their laps to spend in their retirement years.  Let’s not forget that the senior population is growing greater than the younger population.  And they vote more.  So you can see that although the return on investment on solar energy is awful, it pays huge political dividends.  And that’s what it’s all about.  Not the environment.

Obamacare is a Slush Fund for Democrats

And speaking of really enjoying those retirement years, here’s a little pork buried in Obamacare just coming to light (see Uncovered: New $2 billion bailout in Obamacare by Byron York posted 3/31/2011 on The Examiner).

Investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee have discovered that a little-known provision in the national health care law has allowed the federal government to pay nearly $2 billion to unions, state public employee systems, and big corporations to subsidize health coverage costs for early retirees.

The legislation called for the program to spend a total of $5 billion, beginning in June 2010 — shortly after Obamacare was passed — and ending on January 1, 2014, as the system of national health care exchanges was scheduled to go into effect.

In other words, if you support Obamacare, we’ll take care of you.  As we always do.  And that’s why they fight for the public sector workers like they do.  They get a lot of union dues and foot soldiers.  In return the government throws them a bone.  Like an additional $5 billion in health care subsidies.

Where is the money going?  According to the new report, the biggest single recipient of an early-retiree bailout is the United Auto Workers, which has so far received $206,798,086.  Other big recipients include AT&T, which received $140,022,949, and Verizon, which received $91,702,538.  General Electric, in the news recently for not paying any U.S. taxes last year, received $36,607,818.  General Motors, recipient of a massive government bailout, received $19,002,669.

The program also paid large sums of money to state governments.  The Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio received $70,557,764; the Teacher Retirement System of Texas received $68,074,118; the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS, received $57,834,267; the Georgia Department of Community Health received $57,936,127; and the state of New York received $47,869,044.  Other states received lesser but still substantial sums.

But payments to individual states were dwarfed by the payout to the auto workers union, which received more than the states of New York, California, and Texas combined.  Other unions also received government funds, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, the United Mine Workers, and the Teamsters.

Remember the GM bailout?  Obama screwed the GM bond holders.  He called them greedy.  Humiliated them for trying to keep their contract rights.  The Obama administration sent these ‘first in line’ in bankruptcy to the end of the line.  Even behind the UAW who had no investment in GM.  Obama gave the UAW free shares of stock just for being who they were; contributors to the Democrat Party.  When the company went public again, the UAW was able to reap a fortune on that stock gift and fund their poorly funded pension fund.  And now this.  More tax dollars gifted to them for being good Democrat Party contributors.  This time to pay for health care costs of early retirees.  Lovely. 

Privileged life is good.  Obama takes care of the privileged.  And all you have to do is vote for him.  And give him a piece of your union dues.

The Public Sector Grows, the Private Sector Shrinks

But this government generosity is getting out of control.  People see the gravy train.  And they’re getting on it (see We’ve Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers by Stephen Moore posted 4/1/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?

The problem with this trend is that the government doesn’t pay for these government workers.  The taxpayers do.  The people with private sector jobs.  And as the public sector (i.e., government) grows, the smaller the private sector gets.  Which has to fund an even greater public sector by ever greater taxes.  But the more taxes we pay the more sacrifices we have to make.  Our lives grow more austere.  While the public sector lives a far more comfortable life than ours.  The government will be the first to condemn this income disparity when they can attack some corporation.  But it’s a different story when the well-to-do are their own people.  So they try to hide this wealth transfer.  Well, they try to hide it from the makers.  Not the takers.

Don’t expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government. Why? Because in recent years only government agencies have been hiring, and because the offer of near lifetime security is highly valued in these times of economic turbulence. When 23-year-olds aren’t willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands. Sadly, we could end up with a generation of Americans who want to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Public sector workers will bitch and moan about their jobs.  How they can earn more in the private sector.  Of course, they never leave the public sector.  Because the pay and benefits in the private sector suck compared to what they get in the public sector.  And no one ever fires them or lays them off.  That’s why they don’t ever give up those jobs.  Even college graduates have learned this.  And to guarantee those sweet jobs you know they will become lifetime Democrat voters.

Over the period 1970-2005, school spending per pupil, adjusted for inflation, doubled, while standardized achievement test scores were flat. Over roughly that same time period, public-school employment doubled per student, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington. That is what economists call negative productivity.

Why, then, is the answer to our educational woes always more spending?  Because there are a lot of teachers.  Who pay a lot of dues.  That go straight to the Democrat Party.  In exchange for more government spending on education.  Always for the children.  Yet the money never seems to make it to the classroom.  Based on the test scores.  But the money keeps flowing.  So the Democrat Party can always count on the teachers’ vote.

Most reasonable steps to restrain public-sector employment costs are smothered by the unions. Study after study has shown that states and cities could shave 20% to 40% off the cost of many services—fire fighting, public transportation, garbage collection, administrative functions, even prison operations—through competitive contracting to private providers. But unions have blocked many of those efforts. Public employees maintain that they are underpaid relative to equally qualified private-sector workers, yet they are deathly afraid of competitive bidding for government services.

So you could say these public sector workers are 20% to 40% overpaid, couldn’t you?  I mean, in the private sector, it’s the rare person who can demand 20% to 40% more than the going market salary or wage.  People just don’t choose to pay more.  Do you?  Do you hire a plumber whose rates are 20% to 40% higher than the going rate?  No, I doubt you do. I’ve even known union construction workers who hire nonunion workers to work at their house.  Because they, too, don’t want to pay more than they have to.  But public sector workers think they deserve this higher pay and benefits.  As does the federal government.  Who steps in to fight a governor (Scott Walker) who is trying to balance his state’s budget.  Why?  Because public sector workers are loyal Democrat voters.  And donors.  Via their automatically deducted union dues.

The Shining City upon a Hill to become Ordinary?

The national debt is growing out of control for a good reason.  Spending.  Now we’ve had spending in the past that was necessary.  But much of the spending in the last 2 years has had a higher purpose.  To fund the growing public sector.  And to buy loyal Democrat voters.  With the growth in entitlements consuming an ever larger part of the budget, that leaves little for the business of politics.  So they must borrow.  And borrow they do.  More than ever before.  They’ve added more in 2 years than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan did in their 8-year terms.  And they’re begging Congress to raise the debt ceiling so they can keep on spending.

The future isn’t looking so bright.  Perhaps this marks the beginning of the end of American Exceptionalism.  The point on the historical timeline when we stopped being that shining city upon a hill.  When we became ordinary.  With our best days long behind us.  I hope not.  But it’s been done before.  Great civilizations have come and gone.  Done in by an ever growing public sector that bankrupts nations.  Even empires.  No one is immune.  Not even that shining city upon the hill.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #36: “Politicians oppose across the board tax cuts because they are not politically expedient.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 19th, 2010

Pay Raise or Christmas Bonus – Which is Better?

If times are tough and the boss has to cut costs, which would you rather see cut?  The annual pay raise?  Or the Christmas bonus?  You, the employee, should pick to cut the Christmas bonus.  You, the employer, should pick to cut the pay raise.  The reason is the same for both.  A bonus is a onetime thing.  A pay raise is forever.

If you chose a Christmas bonus this year over a pay raise there is a very good chance you will take a pay cut the following year.  For if you got a $1,000 bonus this year but get nothing the following year, your annual earnings next year will be $1,000 less than they were this year.  However, if you chose the pay raise over the Christmas bonus this year and you get neither a pay raise nor a bonus the following year, you’ll at least make the same amount next year as you did this year.  Because that pay raise is still there.

The allure of a big check, though, is tough to beat.  Getting a 4-figure bonus check for the holidays may make the difference between a truly merry holiday and a not so merry holiday.  That’s why some people have more income tax withheld from their paychecks.  They want to get a big, sexy check after the holidays to help pay off their holiday debt.  Another $20 or $30 in a weekly paycheck just isn’t as sexy.  But it’ll do a whole lot more for you.  Perhaps even being just enough additional income to get you approved for that mortgage.

The Mortgage Interest Deduction

Big Government likes to spend money.  Their money.  When it comes to spending, they operate under the premise that it’s all their money.  Your net pay is only the portion of their money that they let you keep.  For you to spend as it pleases them. 

Affordable housing is important on both sides of the aisle.  The Left likes it primarily for putting people into houses who can’t afford to buy houses.  This makes for grateful voters at election time.  The Right likes it primarily for the economic dividend.  New housing drives a host of other economic activity to furnish those new houses.

Now Big Government is not very generous with their money.  Hence their pervasive taxes.  They don’t want to lower taxes too much.  If they did, we would be able to keep more of their money.  And they just won’t have that.  But on the other hand, they want us to buy houses.  So they came up with the mortgage interest deduction (MID).  If we buy what they want us to buy, they’ll let us keep a little more of their money via this income tax deduction.  Their little way of saying thank you for going into debt up to our eyeballs.  Of course, if they would just cut our taxes we could probably buy those houses without the MID.  But we must remember whose money it is.  It’s not about us enjoying our life as much as we can.  It’s about them giving us as little of their money as possible.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

They give us (for the time being, at least) the mortgage interest deduction because they get something for it.  Housing sales.  Which gives the Left more grateful voters.  And the Right a more bustling economy.  In other words, Big Government received a sufficient payment on this gift of money they gave us.  This to them is a sensible tax cut.  It’s not general.  It’s not across the board.  It’s specific and targeted to the people they want something from.

This is how they measure the value of any projected tax cut.  They ask themselves how will this tax cut benefit us, Big Government.  And if that benefit is sufficient, that they will gain real value for it, then they grant us this sensible tax cut.  It’s basic accounting fundamentals, matching the costs to the benefits. Which is why they really eschew across the board tax cuts.  With those there’s no matching of costs to benefits.  Sure, everyone may win, but that ‘everyone’ doesn’t include them the way they see it.

They’ll provide a tax credit to buy a ‘green’ car because they can match the cost to the benefit.  They get campaign contributions (and votes) from the Left for promoting ‘green’ technology.  And they get kickbacks from ‘green’ industries the more green technology is used.  They can match the costs of these ‘green’ tax credits to the benefits they receive in exchange.  These tax credits make sense to them.  Across the board tax cuts, on the other hand, don’t.  It’s a lot of money thrown away without anything specific to show for it.  Sure the economy may be better off, but what demographic did it buy?  What specific graft can they count on?  Big Government operates on props.  And if they don’t feel the love (and the money), you better watch your back.

A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Pay raises and Christmas bonuses.  Targeted tax cuts and across the board tax cuts.  They have something in common.   Two of them benefit us in the short term (bonuses and targeted tax cuts).  Two of them benefit us in the long term (raises and across the board tax cuts).  Tax credits and the MID are nice, but you have to spend a lot of money to get them.  And they’re short lived.  A pay raise and an across the board tax cut, though, gives you more money to spend with every paycheck.  And the more money you have, the less you have to borrow.  The less interest you will pay on your credit cards.  And the smaller your mortgage will be (and the less interest you will pay on that mortgage).

But, of course, letting us keep more of our money doesn’t help them.  Big Government.  It won’t help reelect them.  And it won’t help them get rich.  (And who hasn’t left Washington rich?)  And that’s what it’s all about.  At least, based on history.    And so what if they crash our economy in the process?  A bad economy is good for them.  A bad economy calls for stimulus spending.  It calls for reform.  It calls for Big Government to step in and do something.  Anything.  Because the people are desperate.  And a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

And the people will willingly suffer for a couple of years.  They’ll make their sacrifices.  Suffer unemployment.  To help build a better tomorrow.  But when that tomorrow never comes, they will grow impatient.  They’ll stop giving them their props.  They will stop loving them.  Believing in them.  Which may back Big Government into a corner.  Where they will either move to the center and govern according to the will of the people.  Or rule by executive order against the will of the people.  Should they choose the former, we better all watch our backs.

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