Monday, April 11, 2016

Legislating from the executive branch



A recent judge’s ruling confirmed what should have already been obvious: Montana’s tax credit scholarship is neither a state appropriation of funds, nor is it up to the executive branch to determine who should receive it. Unfortunately, money that could be going to parents who want more choice is still at risk. Why? Because the special interests want an appeal.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bullock, Tester send PayPal a disingenuous invitation



As my wife and I drove back from Billings last night, stopping off for some beers and boudin at High Plains Brewing and Cajun Phatty’s, I told her how my Facebook feed had shared the news of my home state’s governor inviting PayPal to set up shop there after rebuking Charlotte, citing all the amenities the Green Mountain state has to offer. I lamented the fact that even if our state leaders here in Montana wanted to send such an invitation, they couldn’t honestly do so.

Little did I know, they already had.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A taxing proposition



If you’re like nearly every other adult American, you just paid someone money to get a portion of your own earnings back. Every year, the multi-billion dollar tax return industry cashes in on people’s fundamental desire to recoup every penny of what they earned that the government should have taken. This is an industry that capitalizes on the ever-increasing complexity of tax laws, and fleeces Americans for getting back what never should have been taken to begin with. Whether it is paying $15 for an online service as I did, or a couple hundred dollars as I know some people have done this year already, it is preposterous to think that the average American has to engage the services of a highly trained professional, or utilize highly specialized and time-consuming software, just to get back the money they earned.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why I shop at Costco, and why it matters...



...well, it matters to me, at least.

In 2014, retail giant Target announced that they would no longer offer healthcare benefits to part time employees, instead directing them to the newly formed ACA exchanges. Their rationale at the time was that “by offering them insurance, we could actually disqualify many of them from being eligible for newly available subsidies that could reduce their overall health insurance expense."

At the time this decision was made, Target was still doing quite well and was profitable, though their earnings year over year had declined slightly. They hadn’t yet felt the full effect of their credit card breach, so this was not a reaction to adverse market conditions: this was purely a calculated business decision. When you look at it at face value, it makes sense for Target to do what it can to lower costs to compete in an already tight retail sector. But in reality what happened was that Target took its internal cost of providing benefits, previously paid for by consumers through retail pricing, and passed it along to everyone, not just their customers.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Playing the Trump Card



Though it was nearly twelve years ago now, I can remember it like it was yesterday. I sat around a lunch table with a bunch of coworkers in my new job and one of them picked up the newspaper to look at the election results. “I just don’t understand how anyone can vote for them?!” Them, in this instance, being Republicans. John Kerry has just been beaten handily by incumbent George W. Bush, despite all attempts to make the latter out to be the cronyist incompetent that he had become. The sentiment was widespread, and not just limited to our lunch table. But if you look at the map from that election, the widespread nature of this sentiment was limited to geographically small, but very densely populated sections of the country.

Fast forward to 2016, and those same areas of the country are bewildered at how anyone could vote for Trump in their own backyard. Let me say this at the outset – I would never, ever vote for Trump. I don’t think he’s a good human being, never mind a good presidential candidate. But deep down, I have to admit something: I understand why people are voting for him.