I had resisted Facebook for a long time but have finally caved in and enrolled. Most of my family are on it and so are several old and dear friends. It does provide a nice way to keep up and some other nice entertainment.
I found this item that surprised both mom (who is on social security) and me (who is just shy of eligibility.) I really do think this sucks big time--to find that if you opt out of medicare because you qualify for a better health program only to find that you also must opt out of Social Security. We both thought the two were totally separate. After all you can opt for 'early' Social Security benefits at age 62 but must wait until age 65 to get Medicare. Something about this is totally screwy.
This one can be filed in the 'damned if you/damned if you don't' folder. Enrollment in Social Security is running above expected levels this year as older Americans who can enroll do so. Either they have lost jobs or they need the extra income in these nasty economic times. On the one hand the higher enrollment numbers will advance the time line for Social Security paying out more than they take in. On the other hand those who opt for social security and do not have a job are relieving the employment crunch somewhat. I don't blame those who opt for early benefits.
The Slate has an article examining the latest resurrection of 'fat taxes.' Actually they shouldn't be called 'fat taxes.' They aren't really because they are on a category of food most of us think of as junk food. Often these were already taxed because they were subject to sales taxes unlike other foods. Take a look at you checkout receipt at the supermarket and see if you state or local government follows that. You might buy potatoes, which are not taxed, and potato chips, which are. I am not really convinced by the argument that junk foods are 'engineered' to be irresistible, addicting even. They are just so readily available and convenient. But then we have whole categories of foods that are highly processed but aren't considered in the same category--he cake mix you bought along with the potatoes and potato chips for example. How do you want to categorize these foods? Or take a look at the canned vegetables on the supermarket shelves. Mom and I have and have been shocked at how much salt is in them. We recently had our first meals of beans and corn bread which were so salty we didn't have to add any salt. Mom doesn't add salt in cooking. She uses spices and herb mixtures exclusively. We add salt to taste at the table. We switched from the already prepared beans to the dried beans from then on. And we have switched to more of the frozen vegetables for the same reason. Alcohol and tobacco taxes are nicely straight forward compared to the swamp of trying to impose fat taxes.
But then there is another reason why I am somewhat leery of this kind of tax. Like all other 'sin' taxes they become a crutch for governments that impose them and those governments are not likely to take any real action to reform the behavior. In the 19th century the Czarist government knew that alcoholism was rampant but taxes on vodka and other alcoholic products provided the major support for their finances. Needless to say no real efforts were made to curb alcoholism because that would have diminished the revenues.
And then here is another bit of insanity. Since tourism brings in money why throttle the goose who should be laying the golden eggs? Thanks to Chris in Paris for the link. My first thought was to wonder if this proposal had anything to do with Chicago's fourth place finish for the 2016 Olympics--especially since one of the IOC members asked Obama about travel restrictions.