Monday, February 27, 2012

Memo: Uncle Sam is Broke

In case you missed the memo, Uncle Sam is broke...

Uncle Sam with Empty Treasury by James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960)

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why Governments Charge Rent

According to Matthew Yglesias of Slate:
The government has men with guns and dungeons. The armed men will throw you in the dungeon unless you pay taxes. So if the government chooses to accept random pieces of paper as payment, the pieces of paper become valuable. The point of collecting taxes isn't that the government needs money (it can print money); it's that if the quantity of taxes is too low relative to the stock of money, then the money loses its value and the price level rises.
Poster for "Rent" by Jonathan Larson

No wonder the government is constantly increasing the taxes (rent) it charges its citizens...

Source: Yglesias, M (2012, February 25), Modern Monetary Theory In The 17th Century, Slate.

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Still Serving: United States Army Retired

I, William Jeffrey McKibbin, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

At heart, I will always be a soldier. My name appears on the retired rolls of the US Army.

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The Light of Friendship

I’ve seen the light
And it’s in you,
In everything you are
And in everything you do.

It’s a perfect light
That shines for all to see.
It radiates from you
And has pierced the heart of me.

The light is from a friend.
It’s a light that keeps me warm.
It lets me know how loved I am,
And keeps me safe from harm.

To you my friend I am thankful,
In each and every way.
For you lift my spirits up,
With every passing day.

To know that you are there for me,
It makes me feel alive.
Because it is your friendship’s light,
Upon which my love thrives.

Thank you isn’t good enough,
But they’re the only words I know.
It is your light of friendship,
That gives my world it’s glow.

~ Praveen

Republished with kind permission of Praveen and Poetry of Life

Everything Changes But You

how can I explain?
how can I describe?
leaving me destitute
turning me into an empty shell;

I am wide awake
but my world is half asleep,
voices telling me to carry on
but I am swimming in an ocean all alone;

I tried to go on like
this never happened,
but where I am going
is anybody’s guess!

I will not question
what has brought you here to me
but some how, some where
it was meant to be.

with every step that I take,
I am more confident than before;
a thousand miles apart, I might be,
yet you will still be in my thoughts;

all good things must end,
as life is forever changing,
as I stand here, with emotions running deep,
I have nothing else to say
I have no words to comfort you
I hope everything changes but you;

as I sit here, pen and paper in hand,
wondering about all that happened,
together, forever we will stay,
because you know in your heart
that I will love you always;

~ Praveen

Republished with kind permission of Praveen and Poetry of Life

Iceland: People Ahead of Markets

According to Omar R Valdimarsson of Bloomberg:
Icelanders who pelted parliament with rocks in 2009 demanding their leaders and bankers answer for the country’s economic and financial collapse are reaping the benefits of their anger.

Since the end of 2008, the island’s banks have forgiven loans equivalent to 13 percent of gross domestic product, easing the debt burdens of more than a quarter of the population, according to a report published this month by the Icelandic Financial Services Association....

The island’s households were helped by an agreement between the government and the banks, which are still partly controlled by the state, to forgive debt exceeding 110 percent of home values....

Once it became clear back in October 2008 that the island’s banks were beyond saving, the government stepped in, ring-fenced the domestic accounts, and left international creditors in the lurch. The central bank imposed capital controls to halt the ensuing sell-off of the krona and new state-controlled banks were created from the remnants of the lenders that failed....

Iceland’s approach to dealing with the meltdown has put the needs of its population ahead of the markets at every turn....

Iceland’s special prosecutor has said it may indict as many as 90 people, while more than 200, including the former chief executives at the three biggest banks, face criminal charges.
Read More

Flag of Iceland

Perhaps America and Europe could learn something from Iceland's handling of the financial crisis since 2008.

Source: Valdimarsson, O R (2012, February 19), Icelandic Anger Brings Debt Forgiveness in Best Recovery Story, Bloomberg.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

$1.6 Billion Goes "Poof" at MF Global

According to the Wall Street Journal (2012, February 13), $1.6 billion has somehow disappeared from client accounts at MF Global -- "poof" -- the money is gone.

How MF Global managed to lose $1.6 billion in customer deposits is still a mystery. One has to wonder if similar cash losses could happen at other Wall Street firms...

Source: Cohen, M (2012, February 13), The Daily Docket: Missing MF Global Customer Money Totals $1.6B, Wall Street Journal Online.

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Washington Could Learn a Lot from Europe

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Monday, February 20, 2012

US Unit Labor Costs 1947-2011

According to data published by the World Gold Council and Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED), US unit labor costs have declined from a peak of over eight-tenths of an ounce of gold (0.82 troy ounces) in 1970, to less than a tenth of an ounce of gold (0.07 troy ounces) in 2011. Thus, unit labor costs have declined by over 91% in the US since 1970 (using troy ounces of gold as the measurement standard).

The question that remains to be asked is why these labor savings (and increases in productivity) are not finding their way into the pockets of workers...

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
Unit labor costs can be computed by dividing employer labor costs (payments made directly to workers plus employer payments into funds for the benefit of workers) by real value added output. Unit labor costs can also be computed by dividing hourly labor costs by output per hour.
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US Unit Labor Costs in Dramatic Decline

Unit labor costs (non-farm business sector) have declined sharply in the US since 2001. During the summer of 1973 (when I graduated from high school), unit labor costs stood at approximately one-quarter troy ounce of gold (0.26 troy ounces). By the end of 2011, unit labor costs had dropped to less than a tenth of an ounce of gold (0.07 troy ounces), for a total decline of approximately 73% for the period. Unit labor costs peaked at just over a third of an ounce of gold in 2001 (0.38 troy ounces), which implies an 80% decline in unit labor costs since the peak only 12 years ago.

The bottom line is that unit labor costs have declined dramatically in the US since 1973, and especially since 2001. In fact, US unit labor costs currently stand at their lowest levels since at least 1947. Why more of this labor cost savings is not finding its way into the pockets of workers is perhaps the central economic issue of our time.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
Unit labor costs can be computed by dividing employer labor costs (payments made directly to workers plus employer payments into funds for the benefit of workers) by real value added output. Unit labor costs can also be computed by dividing hourly labor costs by output per hour.
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Daniel Tammet: Different Ways of Knowing

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Daniel Tammet: Embracing the Wide Sky

Here's a book that every thinker should read.

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Embracing the Wide Sky was named "Best Book for Young Adults" in 2008 by the American Library Association.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Well Said...

"We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are."

~ Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) [Photo by Carl van Vechten]

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Brain is Wider than the Sky

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.

~ Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Daniel Tammet: Thinking in Sparks

"I'm seeing things in my head, like mental sparks firing up, and it's not until the very last moment that those sparks tell me what on earth they mean."

~ Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet (1979- )

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Share of Workers in Scientific Fields Shrinks

According to Conor Dougherty and Rob Barry of the Wall Street Journal, the percentage of Americans working in science and engineering has declined since 2000.
The share of American workers in the science and engineering professions fell slightly in the past decade, ending what had been a steady upward trend in the proportion of workers in fields associated with technological innovation and economic growth.... Meantime, foreign-born workers have grown. In 2010, about one in five workers in the technical labor force was foreign-born, compared with one in six in 2000.
Read More

Source: Dougherty, C & Barry, R (2012, February 17), Share of Workers in Scientific Fields Shrinks, Wall Street Journal Online.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Deep Analytical Talent: Where Are They Now?

According to James Manyika, Michael Chui, Brad Brown, Jacques Bughin, Richard Dobbs, Charles Roxburgh, and Angela Hung Byers of McKinsey (2011, May), the enterprise demand for "deep analytical talent" around the world could reach crisis proportions by 2018:
There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data. By 2018, the US alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.
Read More

Click to view interactive graphic

Click on the image above to view McKinsey's interactive graphic that shows the employment distribution of America's analytical talent by industry and role.

Source: Manyika, J; Chui, M; Brown, B; Bughin, J; Dobbs, R; Roxburgh, C; & Byers, A H (2011, May 2011), Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition, and Productivity, McKinsey.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Universities to Become Coffee Shops

According to Stephen T Gordon of the Boston Globe, our nation's universities will soon become coffeeshops.
College is becoming untenably expensive in the United States. Having a college degree means that you are much more likely to find good employment — but tuition and other costs have far outpaced inflation for decades. As the debt required to get an education rises, students and their families face a question: What’s the advantage of a good job if the salary difference is lost to student debt?

Online universities are starting to change this equation. MIT, a pioneer in making course materials available online for free, announced in December that it will begin to offer a credential for completion of online courses through a new program called MITx. The program is intended to offer MIT’s teaching materials to a wide range of students. Though it will carry some costs for students, the university’s press office has stated, “The aim is to make credentialing highly affordable.”

Now, imagine a personnel manager at a mid-sized corporation who’s looking for an employee with some particular knowledge. There are two candidates: one with an appropriate college degree from the local state school, a second with relevant MITx certificates. Let’s say all other things between the candidates are equal. Which should the manager choose?

Given the caliber of professor [sic] at MIT, the online student may have learned just as much. The candidate who went to college probably enjoyed his experience more, but the potential employer is unlikely to care about that. Finally, there’s the financial reality: To some extent, the student debt of the job candidate dictates his salary requirements. If the MITx candidate has the knowledge required and far less student debt, he probably can be hired more cheaply. Ultimately, the cheaper option will win.
Read More

Saint's Cafe, State College, Pennsylvania

Follow the link below to learn more about MIT's new online learning initiative.


Also, be sure to visit Saint's Cafe the next time you are in State College, Pennsylvania (home of "Penn State"). You might just see me there blogging away...

Saint's Cafe

Source: Gordon, S T (2012, February 12), In the Future, Everything Will Be a Coffee Shop, Boston Globe.

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Greek Austerity Measures Hit Public Sector Hard

Elizabeth Palmer of CBS News reported that the $430 billion in spending cuts recently passed by the Greek parliament will have a significant impact on public sector wages and entitlements. For example, Greek teacher salaries will decline 38% from $1,450 to $900 per month, and the basic old age pension will drop by 23% from $600 to $460 per month. The unemployment rate for Greeks younger than age 24 is now almost 50%, and suicides in Greece have increased 22% since the fiscal crisis began.

Imagine what US public reaction might be if these same austerities were imposed upon a defaulting California or New York...

Source: Greek Citizens Bear Brunt of Massive Spending Cuts (2012, February 13), CBS News.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Self-Service Business Intelligence and Analytics Means Just That

The mantra of "self-service" is now reaching a crescendo in the business intelligence and analytics community. Jorgen Heizenberg of CapGemini acknowledges budget constraints in the current economy make self-service business analytics an enterprise imperative. However, he cautions that security monitoring by information technology (IT) departments is still required.
The current state of our economy is also impacting IT budgets. That’s a fact that nobody can deny. At the same time the need for relevant information has increased considerably. Organizations are more and more focusing on their customer and need supporting data. That is another fact. As a result IT is reconsidering its position (back to the core?) whilst the business is waiting for the much needed report or analysis. This need for faster time to information and less IT involvement has given rise to something that is often called Business or Self Service Reporting (SSR). Traditionally BI reports are created by the IT department. SSR allows business users to do this for themselves using end user oriented query and reporting tools.
Read More

Jorgen Heizenberg

From where I sit, the supervisory involvement of IT in the production of business intelligence and analytics is abating, though security monitoring will continue. However, the commoditization of IT means that budget-constraints will limit IT's capacity to manage business analytics projects directly. Moreover, the demand for analytics itself is expanding at a rate that IT cannot now contend with internally given existing or diminishing resources. Self-service business analytics are the future, which means that IT's involvement in producing business intelligence and analytics will flag with time.

Source: Heizenberg, J (2012, January 18), Self Service Reporting Good! Traditional BI Bad?, CapGemini.

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Death of the Star Schema?

by Tom Gleeson of Gobán Saor

With the release of the next version of PowerPivot (Microsoft) around the corner (mid March I think), I’ve been re-acquainting myself with its new features. Most of the current version’s annoyances have been remedied (no drill-thru, no hierarchy support for example); and the additional enhancements to the DAX language (crossjoins, alternate relationships etc) make modeling most any problem possible (and generally easy).

Death of a Star

The more I come to know PowerPivot, the more I believe that modeled data warehouses' days are numbered. I didn’t say data warehouses per se, rather those that attempt to centrally model end user reporting structures (usually as star-schemas).

There will continue to be a need for centrally controlled data warehouses (or at least simplified data views (and/or copies) of operational datasets, either provided by system vendors of by in-house IT) to bridge the raw-to-actionable data gap. But I suspect the emphasis will change from providing finished goods to providing semi-processed raw materials.

So, will the star-schema become redundant? No, as it’s still a valid method of modelling a reporting requirement in order to make many queries simpler to phrase (this obviously applies to SQL , but also to DAX queries). But, those who build them will be doing so closer to the problem at hand, and specific to that problem (I’ve discussed this before in Slowly Changing Dimensions: Time to Stop Worrying).

For many reports the barely modified operational data model will be all that’s required (for example, DAX doesn’t require “fact” header/detail tables to be flattened to detail level, as would be the case with a classic star).

“Good Enough” models will become the norm; classic “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know” centralised models a luxury for most (especially as such models tend to “age” very quickly).

If you’re about to invest or re-furbish your data warehouse or your reporting data sub-systems, don’t do so without first taking a serious look at PowerPivot. This is a game-changer, not just for full-stack Microsoft BI shops, but for any business that finds that their reporting datasets invariably end-up in Excel.

If you need any help evaluating PowerPivot or modeling your reporting needs in PowerPivot, I’m for hire.

Source: Gleeson, T (2012, January 19), Death of the Star Schema? Gobán Saor.

Republished with kind permission of Tom Gleeson of Gobán Saor

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

The End of Football in America

Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier of Grantland make an interesting case for the end of football in America:
The most plausible route to the death of football starts with liability suits. Precollegiate football is already sustaining 90,000 or more concussions each year. If ex-players start winning judgments, insurance companies might cease to insure colleges and high schools against football-related lawsuits. Coaches, team physicians, and referees would become increasingly nervous about their financial exposure in our litigious society. If you are coaching a high school football team, or refereeing a game as a volunteer, it is sobering to think that you could be hit with a $2 million lawsuit at any point in time. A lot of people will see it as easier to just stay away. More and more modern parents will keep their kids out of playing football, and there tends to be a "contagion effect" with such decisions; once some parents have second thoughts, many others follow suit. We have seen such domino effects with the risks of smoking or driving without seatbelts, two unsafe practices that were common in the 1960s but are much rarer today. The end result is that the NFL's feeder system would dry up and advertisers and networks would shy away from associating with the league, owing to adverse publicity and some chance of being named as co-defendants in future lawsuits.
Of course, football is a "too big to fail" business in America, so I anticipate that some sort of government subsidized insurance solution will soon be forthcoming.

Photo from The Sports Doc Chalk Talk

Source: Cowen, T & Grier, K (2012, February 9), What Would the End of Football Look Like? Grantland.

Mathematics, Problem-Solving, and Critical Thinking

The following is extracted from a speech presented by Grace Fu to winners of the Singapore Mathematical Society's Annual Prize Presentation Ceremony in 2008:
Mathematics will imbue you with problem-solving skills such as the ability to understand a problem, identify the relevant information, look for relationships and patterns, make your own conjectures and apply mathematical knowledge and tools to solve or prove them. Mathematics, thus, provides good opportunities for the training of the mind to think critically and adapt to new situations, something that will be valuable to your future careers.
The words above are instructive for anyone seeking to join the ranks of analytics professionals worldwide. The ability to solve complex problems through critical thinking and reasoning is essential in today's analytics-based economy. Singapore is recognized around the world as a leader in the conceptual mathematics movement.

Grace Fu Hai Yien (Chinese: 傅海燕; pinyin: Fù Hǎiyiàn)

Source: Fu, G (2008), Speech at the Singapore Mathematical Society Annual Prize Presentation Ceremony.

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Conceptual Mathematics in Singapore

Conceptual Mathematics in Singapore

The arrival of conceptual mathematics as an alternative teaching approach to procedural mathematics is now taking the world by storm. The so-called "Singapore mathematics method," which emphasizes concept mastery and model drawing ahead of procedures, is the foundation for this new approach to teaching mathematics. Math in Focus (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) exemplifies how the Singaporean conceptual approach can bring mathematics education to life in the post-modern classroom.
Math in Focus is the US edition of Singapore's top-ranking math program. It follows the same scope, sequence, and pedagogy as its Singapore edition, My Pals are Here!, but has been enhanced with the addition of a robust Teacher's Edition, differentiation components, and interactive technology.... Math in Focus is published by Marshall Cavendish Education Singapore, the premier publisher of textbooks in Singapore, and distributed in the US by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Both programs follow the pedagogical framework developed by the Singapore Ministry of Education: emphasizing concept mastery, a concrete-to-pictorial-to-abstract approach, metacognitive reasoning, and the use of model drawing to solve and justify problems.... Singapore math is more than isolated strategies and model-drawing techniques. It is a carefully sequenced curriculum that has led Singapore students to international success.... Math in Focus brings the authentic Singapore math pedagogy to US classrooms, and is aligned with Common Core State Standards. Math in Focus is the mastery program for world-class math instruction and results in the US.
Learn More

Singapore's Mathematics Framework [click to enlarge]

The emergence of robust enterprise analytics globally is both data and technologically driven, and will not be reversed. Our new analytics driven world will require conceptual agility that transcends procedural thinking from knowledge workers. Said another way, conceptual mathematics is more than a fad; conceptual mathematics and thinking are the future.

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From "Business Intelligence" to "Business Analytics"

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Analytics: Hotter Than Ever

Timo Elliott is predicting that 2012 will be the year that analytics takes the lead as a business driver in today's economy:
The real trend this year is not the technology. It’s about helping business people make better decisions, and actually change the way companies do business. Analytics has always been about transforming business, but the recent huge changes in analytic technology have created interesting new opportunities for business innovation....

In particular, companies want better visibility about what’s going on in their market, and increased organizational agility in order to be able to deal with change fast. It’s like driving in the fog without a map – in order to survive, you should invest in better visibility, brakes, and steering to be able to spot and avoid fast-moving objects looming out of the fog.

Analytics provides these capabilities: business intelligence to peer into the road ahead, risk-management to provide fast alerts to new obstacles, and flexible financial planning systems to help swerve around them....

Many companies are going beyond "just" improving their existing analytic capabilities, using analytics in new ways to change the way they do business. Instead of analytics being something that is used to monitor and eventually improve a business process, analytics is becoming a more fundamental part of the business process itself.
Read More

Timo Elliott

Let's face it, analytics are hotter than ever, especially in today's competitive economy.

Source: Elliott, T (2012, February 10), 2012: The Year Analytics Means Business, Business Analytics.

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

What is Smugness?

Exhibiting or feeling great or offensive satisfaction with oneself or with one's situation; self-righteously complacent: "the smug look of a toad breakfasting on fat marsh flies" (William Pearson).

smugly adv
smugness n

How we all tire of the smug in this world...

Source: The Free Dictionary

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Visualizing Human Migration Patterns

Even Westvang uses Deluge software to track the migrations of 300,000 Norwegians using individual tax filing data (which is public domain in Norway). The result is a visualization treat!

Imagine how this visualization technique might be applied to other data sets. Follow the links below to learn more about Even Westvang's work, Deluge, and how this visualization was produced.

Deluge by Even Westvang

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Design Your Own Profession

Prof Anne-Marie Slaughter offers the following sage advice to those just beginning their careers:
Forget the titles on the org charts and the advertised positions. Design your own profession and convince employers that you are exactly what they need... Define the functions you think they need and you can supply, and then apply for a corresponding position, whether or not they've created it yet.
Read More

Prof Anne-Marie Slaughter (1958- )
Photo by PopTech

The professions of the future have yet to be defined...

Source: Slaughter, A-M (2011, December 22), Design Your Own Profession, Harvard Business Review Online.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Small Business Owners' Views on Big Business Taxes

A recent small business owners' survey report published by the American Sustainable Business Council, Main Street Alliance, and Small Business Majority (2012) concluded the following:
  • Small business owners overwhelmingly believe big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes that small businesses have to pay: A sweeping 90% believe this to be true; 92% say big corporations’ use of such loopholes is a problem.
  • Nine out of 10 small business owners say U.S. multinational corporations using accounting loopholes to shift their U.S. profits to offshore subsidiaries to avoid taxes is a problem: 91% of respondents agreed it is a problem, with 55% saying it is a very serious problem.
  • Majority of small business owners say their business is harmed when big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes: Three-quarters of respondents agree that their small business is harmed when loopholes allow big corporations to avoid taxes. More than one-third say it harms their business a lot.
  • Small business owners say big corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes: 67% believe big corporations pay less than their fair share of taxes. An even bigger majority, 73%, says multinational corporations pay less than their fair share.
  • Small business owners say households making more than $1 million a year pay less than their fair share in taxes: 58% of owners say households whose annual income exceeds $1 million pay less than their fair share.
  • Small business owners support a higher tax rate for individuals earning more than $1 million a year: 57% of respondents agree that individuals earning more than $1 million a year should pay a higher tax rate on the income over $1 million. Only one small business owner out of 500 polled reported their annual household income to be more than $1 million.
  • Four out of five small business owners disapprove of the “carried interest” loophole that gives hedge fund managers a big break on their taxes: 81% of small business owners favor hedge fund managers paying taxes at the ordinary income tax rate, with a top bracket rate currently set at 35%, rather than the 15% capital gains rate—with 61% strongly supporting this change.
  • A majority of small business owners believe Congress should let tax cuts expire on taxable household income exceeding $250,000 a year: 51% of respondents believe Congress should let tax cuts on taxable household income exceeding $250,000 a year expire (40% said they should be extended).
  • Respondents in this scientific national survey were politically diverse, with a majority Republican or independent-leaning Republican: 50% identified as Republican (27%) or independent-leaning Republican (23%); 32% as Democrat (14%) or independent-leaning Democratic (18%); and 15% as independent.

Business interests in the US are clearly not defined homogenously. The emerging divide between small businesses and larger firms is becoming very real, at least in the minds of small business owners. Follow the link below to download the full report:


Source: National Opinion Poll: Small Business Owners’ Views on Taxes and How to Level the Playing Field with Big Business (2012, February 6), American Sustainable Business Council, Main Street Alliance, & Small Business Majority.

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Three Obstacles to Predictive Analytics

SimaFore cites three key obstacles that firms confront along the path to predictive analytics:
  1. Lack of data maturity
  2. Inadequate technology
  3. Lack of executive support
Read More

Multi-Monte Carlo Function in ModelRisk 4 Software (Vose)

Companies that are still not competing on analytics are behind the power curve. If any of the three conditions above are constraining predictive analytics at your firm, consider remedies.

Source: SimaFore (2012, February 2), 3 Reasons Why Predictive Analytics May NOT Benefit Your Business.

PS: ModelRisk 4 software is a product of Vose Software BVBA, Ghent, Belgium. Follow the link below to learn more:

ModelRisk 4

Saturday, February 04, 2012

US Jobs Recovery Will Take Years

According to forecasts by the Hamilton Project, a full US jobs recovery will apparently take many years given that the US is currently creating approximately 200,000 new jobs per month.

When one considers that the US resident population is currently growing at approximately 250,000 new residents per month, the job growth reported above becomes irrelevant. Hence, job opportunities in the US will likely remain tight for many years into the future (and perhaps indefinitely).

My best advice for career seekers is to acquire world-class skills that sell at a premium in the global marketplace as early during your life as possible, and then to convert those skills into premium wages. Additionally, a significant portion of one's earnings should be invested into high quality long-term equities throughout one's life in order to build an estate that supports financial independence.

For those who choose instead to avoid skill acquisition and investment planning, life is likely to get much tougher in the coming years...

Source: Yglesias, M (2012, February 3), The Long Road to Full Employment, Slate.

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Friday, February 03, 2012

Stand-Up Meetings are the Future

Stand-up meetings are becoming the new norm in business. The advantages of stand-up meeetings become obvious when one considers how much time is generally wasted in sit-down meetings where participants can be half-asleep, engaged in text messaging, surfing the Internet, or even playing video games on mobile devices. Moreover, those who lead meetings are often verbose or follow tedious routines that lure attendees into inattentiveness.

Try juggling a notebook, pen, mobile phone, laptop, and a cup of coffee while standing and you will soon understand why stand-up meetings tend to be short and sweet. For many office workers, stand-up meetings are not simply a fad, but the future.

Source: Silverman, R E (2012, February 2), No More Angling for the Best Seat; More Meetings Are Stand-Up Jobs, Wall Street Journal Online.

US Employment to Population Ratio in Stagnation

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the US employment to population ratio* for January 2012 stood at 57.8%, down significantly from 58.5% the previous month, but up slightly from 57.6% a year ago. The US employment to population ratio has been trending downwards since 2000.

Many economists believe that reporting the number employed as a percentage of the civilian population provides a more accurate description of the current state of employment than conjecturing the number of "unemployed" in a population. The US employment to population ratio reached an historical peak of 64.4% on an annual basis in 2000.

*The BLS defines employment and population (civilian noninstitutional) as follows:
Employment consists of all persons who, during the reference week (the calendar week including the twelfth day of the month), (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family, or (b) were not working but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.... The civilian noninstitutional population consists of persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities and homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Richard Feynman: Imagining Electromagnetic Waves

Prof Richard Feynman on imagining electromagnetic waves:
I’ll tell you what I see. I see some kind of vague showy, wiggling lines — here and there an E and a B written on them somehow, and perhaps some of the lines have arrows on them — an arrow here or there which disappears when I look too closely at it. When I talk about the fields swishing through space, I have a terrible confusion between the symbols I use to describe the objects and the objects themselves. I cannot really make a picture that is even nearly like the true waves. So if you have difficulty making such a picture, you should not be worried that your difficulty is unusual.
Prof Richard Phillips Feynman (1918-1988)

Source: Feynman, R P, Leighton, R , & Sands, M (2011), The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol II, New York: Basic Books.

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