E-mail sampler

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I probably receive a minimum of seven e-mails a day directed to me by friends pertaining to politics or jokes. I also receive another 30 pertaining to business, and our company's filters screen out at least 90 more e-mails a day. Coming back after being gone for three or four days, I face the time-consuming task of clearing the e-mails (many also require action or responses).

On top of this I regularly review numerous favorite Web sites, including the Southeast Missourian's exciting new Web site.

The following are a few e-mail messages I thought you might enjoy.

Explaining our U.S. tax system with beer: Suppose that every day, 10 men go out for beer, and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59. So that's what they decided to do. The 10 men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beers by $20." Drinks for the 10 now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes, so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men, the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.323. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth and sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so: The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100 percent savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33 percent savings). The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28 percent savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25 percent savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22 percent savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16 percent savings). Each of the six was better off than before, and the first four continued to drink for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the 10th man, "but he got $10!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar too. It's unfair that he got 10 times more than I." "That's true," shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks."

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor." The nine men surrounded the 10th and beat him up.

The next night the 10th man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something very important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill.

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

-- Dr. David R. Kamerschen, professor of economics, University of Georgia

Whatever the scientific merits, global warming has become the political law of the land and is generating the biggest windfalls in decades in lobbying fees, corporate welfare, research grants and earmarks. Without any checks and balances, the cost of stanching carbon dioxide will be practically unlimited. Maybe it's time for a high-level bipartisan commission-televised and transparent-to review the science, the costs and the regulatory process, taking into account the national interest.

-- David Malpass, economist

Poisoned bulbs: The idiocies emanating from Congress have made its popularity ratings even worse than those of the current White House occupant. The latest example: Our national legislators are banning traditional incandescent light bulbs, which were invented by Thomas Edison more than 120 years ago. By 2014 these bulbs will be illegal. Instead, we'll be coerced into paying six to eight times the price of incandescents for supposedly more "efficient" compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) that last longer and consume less electricity.

Well, if CFLs are so great, why do we need a law to force us to buy 'em? Why can't politicians set aside their Nanny Bloombergesque dispositions and let the markets work?

But there's a more immediate problem: Each CFL bulb contains about 5 milligrams of mercury, a highly toxic and indestructible substance. It's like bulbs with asbestos. Billions of these bulbs will be everywhere. If one drops and breaks, you've got a problem, especially if you have small children or pets roaming around.

Here's a harbinger of the crisis to come from an item in Investor's Business Daily:

"According to an article in the April 12, 2007, issue of the Ellsworth [Maine} American, [Brandy] Bridges was installing one in her daughter's bedroom when it dropped on the floor and shattered. Luckily, Brandy knew CFLs contained mercury and called the store where she bought hers for advice. She was advised to call the poison-control hot line, which in turn directed her to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

"DEP showed up and found that mercury levels in her daughter's room were six times the state's 'safe' level. The DEP specialist gave her a 'low-ball' estimate of $2,000 to clean up the room."

Think about the challenge of disposing of all this mercury when the bulbs ultimately burn out. Too bad Edison isn't around to invent a suitable punishment for the dim bulbs who passed this legislation.

-- Steve Forbes

Excerpts from "Ronald Reagan's Greatest Laugh" CD:

"Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose."

"The most terrifying words in the English language: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

"No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."

"I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress."

"The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't take the civil service exam."

"Government is like a baby: an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."

"If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under."

"It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."

"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards. If you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book."

"Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong."

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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