Category Archives: Planet Money

Gross Domestic Product is Over 4%? Should I Care?

Today’s indicator was the GDP. Perhaps the most overused and overhyped indicator aside from the Dow Jones Industrial average, which is essentially meaningless no matter how you look at it.


THE INDICATOR GDP, OMG! July 27, 2018

The gross domestic product is a measure of all the goods and services an economy produces. For the second quarter of this year, the U.S. economy grew at a stellar rate of 4.1%. Today on the show, we take a deep dive into everybody’s favorite economic indicator: How is it measured? Why is it so high? Will it continue?

For what it was worth, it serves as a decent primer on the GDP. However, the hosts of the show left out the problems of too much growth, which is what the fed was responding too when they raised interest rates recently. Here’s hoping that the Fed acted severly and quickly enough to stop that scenario.

As several people pointed out on Facebook, the growth rate was over 4% several times during the Obama administration. So, not unheard of and not nearly as impressive as the OHM was making it out to be. Additionally, the cautions that were mentioned at the end of the show are well founded. I certainly wouldn’t be counting on this growth rate continuing. Too many indicators pointing in other directions.


THE INDICATOR Three Indicators To Keep A (Side)eye On July 19, 2018

How to Calculate the Federal Budget

I’ve gotten into several arguments over the years about what the US Federal Budget is and how it should be calculated. Planet Money tried to do a humorous take on the budget this week, and frankly, now I want to argue with them about it.


Here’s the problem with Planet Money‘s budget. Social Security and Medicare are paid for in advance with premiums like any other insurance program. So, the cost of their outlays should be (and are) on a separate ledger because (and this is the important bit) if the premiums do not cover the cost of outlays that is not the beneficiaries fault. The government must honor the rightful demands of beneficiaries or it will cease to serve any real purpose. The government will fail because the people who paid for benefits they won’t receive will make sure it comes crashing down.

The end of government is (again​, important) the real goal of those who call these program’s future into question. They want to end government and enjoy the knife & gunfire filled blessings of anarchy. Oh, who am I kidding? The brief period of anarchy involving nuclear physicists building hydrogen bombs for the highest bidder (at the point of a gun if necessary) before whatever form of life succeeds after humans are gone establishes their unquestioned rule of the planet. Here’s hoping that form of life is smarter than human life was.

The budget presented by the Planet Money Team is similar to this one,

You should immediately note that most of the budget is already spent, as in mandatory expenditures. These are the services that have already been paid for. The services that the average citizen can be said to expect from their government in this day and age. Access to healthcare. Insurance against disability. Assistance to families with dependent children. The latter being properly seen as investing in the future, something we don’t do nearly enough of. Something that the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s budget wants to do a lot less of.

The discretionary spending, the only part of government outlays that the currently sitting government should have any control over, looks like this;

As this image should make clear, the only thing that can be easily cut from these expenditures is the military. A military that we spend as much on as the next 9 countries combined. Now, we probably need a good portion of that to continue, but I’ve heard many people say over the years “we need those numbers to continue because they provide jobs for people who need them.”

Here’s a thought. How about we don’t spend money on new and better ways to destroy the world another ten times over? How about we just give the people working for the military the same amount of money but not require them to do any work. The soldiers, I mean. All of the poor, for that matter. I hear you saying “but what will they do to occupy their time?” Let them decide, or give them constructive advice on what kinds of things need done. Forestry and game observation. Construction of infrastructure in other countries as well as infrastructure in our own country.

Spend money on the future and not on the biggest, most glorious explosion ever seen in human history, a history ending nuclear holocaust. Food for thought.

Keynes Economic Theory

If your idea of You Tube rabbit holes involves animated histories of economists, then this should scratch that itch. An animated history of John Maynard Keynes from Alain de Botton. – Planet Money on Facebook


The School of Life, POLITICAL THEORY – John Maynard Keynes Just FYI, Keynes never said what he is famously credited as saying. At least, as far as we can tell he never said it.

I have been rolling a blog post around in my head discussing just how clueless most people are when it comes to the subject of money. I spent my entire life collecting coins and the last decade championing hard currency, only to be taken strange by my fellow hard-currency promoters when they all decided they wanted eSilver and eGold (don’t get me started on bitcoin) because it was easier to deal with than carrying hard money around with you.

I had a mini-history of the metallic monetary standards play out right before my eyes at that point. How do you know the gold and silver is there if you aren’t holding it in your hands? That exact instant, when the gold wasn’t in the owner’s hand when he spent it, was the birth of fractional reserve banking way back when, when people accepted that paper saying the gold existed was the same as having gold in their hands. Every bank run in history was caused by the gold not being where the paper said it was. I wasn’t going to sign up for that. I wasn’t going to give it all away, then, there for electronic promissory notes anymore than I had believed that a greenback was the same as a silver dollar when it comes to value. They are two completely different things.

There is a lot of writing that I’ve been squirreling away over the years on this subject. Here’s hoping I get the chance to put it all in order and publish it.

Facebook status post backdated to the blog.

#trypod – Dating Advice and Tim Harford

If anyone were to ask me for dating advice…

No one ever does, one of the benefits of repeating the story of how I met The Wife almost 30 years ago. I have to say, this is an unexpected side benefit from knife skills and stories of knife skills, not being bothered with requests from single people asking “how can I be as happy as you?” I mean, knife skills have their own benefits to you and your partner, such as the person who has your six in a bar fight having the ability to gut anyone who comes at you from behind. That is a very useful skill, but I never thought the story itself had a benefit until I started writing this post. I’ll have to remember that.

…anyway. Dating advice. I hereby vow to never give any. If I’m ever tempted to I will simply tell people to listen to this one episode of Planet Money,


Then I will tell them to subscribe to Why oh Why and listen to Episodes #8 How Will I know  and #12 Oblique Strategies specifically to get to the end of the story started in the podcast linked above. Why would I do that? Because a single girl like the host of Why oh Why is going to know more about dating than any guy who is breathing, and I’d be a bigger idiot than Tim Harford to offer any suggestions of my own.

Not that I disagree with Tim Harford. I’m rather fond of him. I’m currently listening to his 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy podcast, and I’m loving it. I’m noticing a pattern with Tim Harford, and that pattern is his love of the Oblique Strategies approach to answering really hard questions. Hard questions that don’t have right and wrong answers, like most things in life.

I mean he uses Brian Eno’s deck of cards in another (enjoyable) episode of Planet Money,


He mentions Oblique Strategies again in this TED talk,

Personally, I don’t think he did the host of Why Oh Why any favors by pulling out Oblique Strategies as a way to answer her questions about dating. Reverse (the card he drew) is a particularly cryptic concept to apply to the notion of mate selection and dating. You can’t really reverse. Asking herself why she started the dating and the podcast about dating (her interpretation of the meaning of reverse) leads her essentially to the question of discovering who she is before trying to find a mate. Life is to short to worry about finding out who you are before getting on with it. Part of finding out who your are is taking the journey through life. Picking a mate or even a series of mates if need be is also part of that process.

What follows is as close as I will ever get to giving advice on this subject. When you are doing things you like, you tend to find people you like. I think that is why so many people suggest “get a hobby” as a way to meet people. I think that is also the wrong advice. Get on with living your life, and then notice who you are living it next to. Across from. In competition with. Have conversations with those people. You might discover your very own knife-wielding love of your life. Or not, as the case may be.

Why #trypod? Clearly you didn’t listen to the episodes. NPR and other podcasters are running a promotion this month trying to get people to promote podcasts using the hashtag trypod. I’ve promoted four podcasts in this blog post, not that I’m counting or anything. I routinely post what I’m listening to (if it is good) to my Google plus profile. What I look back on and really like gets spread around to other social platforms. So nice try NPR. I’ll play along. Been suggesting things for people to listen to for years now.

On Presidential Tax Returns

We have no way to know the Real Estate Developer’s leverage position. We have no way to know because he won’t release his financials and we have to take this liar’s word on everything he says. Six bankruptcies. SIX.  “No personal bankruptcies” means nothing, and every businessman worth his salt knows this.

This is his standard of practice. His business model. Load his corporations with debt, loot the assets, declare bankruptcy. These sort of revelations should make his supporters shut up about his business acumen, because who wants a fraud like this leading our country? Weirdly his supporters seem as impervious to facts as the Birther-in-Chief himself.

As an aside, I love the NPR Politics​ podcast, the podcast that inspired this Planet Money episode. Love it. One little problem. I can’t link individual episodes, just the page with the latest on the top (well, you can embed them now) which makes the podcast really hard to share. IF the page was like the NPR​ Planet Money​ page, this would not be a problem.

On The Other Hand their general weekly podcasts make me parse the news more closely than I feel comfortable doing on this blog when it comes to linking their feeds here directly.  I’d have to go through every sentence and pontificate as to why I disagree with this or that observation.  Just go to the feed and listen to it yourself.  Make your own judgments.


The real crime is not that he pays no income tax. No, the real crime is no Real Estate Developer pays income tax. This is because congress loves liars and fraudsters and hands them some of the best benefits available at their discretion.

But that isn’t the half of it. His supporters don’t want to know any facts about their candidate. They have been plugging their ears and humming as loud as possible for over a year now, hoping against hope that this guy will do the things he says he’ll do, counting on him to do the things he says he’ll do, and they don’t want to know any of the ugly details involved in getting the things they want.

So when the argument is made that he’d be stupid to release his tax returns, they agree with that. Because they can look at themselves in the mirror the morning after and say “I never knew he was going to murder 11 million people. If I had known that I would never have voted for him.” The lie is, they could have known that if they had not willfully blinded themselves.

Just as the average German did when they voted for the NSDAP.


Revealed this week (brace yourselves, this is going to keep happening) the Orange Hate-Monkey has probably not paid income taxes for about twenty years. 

In a lengthy New York Times article, it is revealed that his losses in 1995 could have lent him a tax shelter for 18 years. But that isn’t the half of it. As this article on Vox points out, what is in the tax returns is even worse. We know it is even worse because the Birther-in-Chief hasn’t released his tax returns yet.

Patience.  The other shoe will drop.  Eventually.


After the election was handed to the Orange Hate-Monkey on a platter, whether that platter was of Russian or FBI manufacture has yet to be determined, his spokeswoman stepped forward to explain that Mr. Trump has no intention of ever releasing his financials. This announcement reverses several months of excuse-making which Trump engaged in, and confirms his intentions to profit from his time in the office of the President in ways that no previous holder of the office would have ever dreamed of.

Trump cares nothing for the future of this country. He was impeachable from the moment he took the oath of office because he perjured himself in taking it. He is already subverting the constitution in violation of his oath. His raping of the country has begun and will continue until we stop him.

Last night at midnight, the Trump Administration took the White House petition site, We The People, offline.

Since taking office 11 months ago, 17 petitions have gathered more than the requisite 100,000 signatures each requiring Trump to address them.

Forbes Article, February 14, 2017

He has responded to precisely none — including the largest and most popular petition in the history of the government site, “Immediately release Donald Trump’s full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance.”

America, you have your answer. December 20th, 2017 Facebook status update for StonekettleStation

My First Electric Car

We recently bought a used Nissan Leaf. I am still waiting to see what charging it will cost, but I have a hard time believing it will be more expensive to run than the overly complex machinery built into the average internal combustion engine. Hopefully this story is correct.


I had no idea that I would need a postscript to this post, but I really didn’t know that the Koch’s were this stupid.  They’ve decided to go to war with Elon Musk over the future of the electric car.

The oil and gas industry may have thought it had killed the electric car, but sales — boosted by generous government subsidies — rose dramatically between 2010 and 2014, and energy giants are worried the thing may have come back to life. 

Time to kill it again. 

A new group that’s being cobbled together with fossil fuel backing hopes to spend about $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles, according to refining industry sources familiar with the plan. A Koch Industries board member and a veteran Washington energy lobbyist are working quietly to fund and launch the new advocacy outfit.

Elon Musk, of course, wasted no time and no snark when it came to responding to this threat.  As the linked article rightly notes, electric vehicles are not the only vehicles that receive subsidies.  Oil fueled vehicles, plastics (everything) is enabled by heavy subsidies to the oil and gas industry.


As the Tweeting Elon Musk linked article at the Guardian explains

Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The Koch’s may object to subsidies for all industries, but I don’t see them rejecting them personally. They are more than happy to cash those government checks themselves in spite of their ideological opposition to them.  Nothing cures the hurt of grave violations of your personal beliefs quite as well as millions of dollars of infused cash.


The October bill has arrived and, given the difference between last October and this October temperature-wise, the increase in electric consumption for last month was > 300 KWH which amounts to just over $80 in additional electricity.

Given the fact that in regular drive mode I can beat any sports car off the line, and that maintenance costs are near zero for the vehicle aside from replacing batteries and maintaining the moving parts in the front-end, I consider this car to be an excellent enhancement in city mobility.  I think I’d like to have two of them, one for each child.