Wealth Inequality in America

There has never been a time in US history where the wealthy have so much and the rest of us have so little. And by wealthy I’m not talking about those making a few hundred grand a year. I’m talking millions a year, the top 0.1%, the top 0.01%.

What’s more disturbing is that we can’t begin to have a conversation about how to deal with this problem — whether it even is a problem — until we all actually understand the distribution itself. And the reality is most of us only think we understand it.

This amazing video uses infographics to help explain the disparity. I hope you will take six minutes and watch it.

Paulson’s Bullshit

Hank Paulson in a Businessweek issue commemorating the financial crash five years ago:

I get asked all the time, “What’s the likelihood of another financial crisis?” And I begin by saying it’s a certainty. As long as we have markets, as long as we have banks, no matter what the regulatory system is, there will be flawed government policies.

Now, I’m not about to sit here and say that the financial mess was not a bi-product of failed government policies, but to insinuate that Wall Street was complicit, well, that takes balls. It was Wall Street that funneled money to Democrats and Republicans across government with the express intention of loosening regulation. It was Wall Street that played fast and loose with other people’s money, as always. It was Wall Street that fell under its own weight and then begged the government to bail it out.

Paulson’s policies failed the American public by propping up Wall Street. The banks should have been allowed to fail. Government should have then bailed out the American public. You know, those of us it exists to support: A government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The Massachusetts Software Tax

I am lucky enough to work in an industry that, compared to other industries, is lightly regulated. When odd regulations pop up, however, they are glaring. Massachusetts has apparently passed a new tax law for software companies who do any business at all in the Commonwealth. It makes no sense, even after Fast Co Labs tried to explain it:

This added levy is not only cumbersome, it’s super confusing. For example:

  • if you install software (Microsoft Office, Constant Contact, Drupal, etc.), it’s taxable
  • if your client clicks the mouse to install it, it’s not taxable
  • training your client to use this software is not taxable
  • but if you “customize” or configure the software in any way, it’s taxable
  • if you don’t actually make any changes, but just discuss them and plan them, it’s consulting and not taxable
  • if you create graphic design mockups, it’s not taxable
  • but as soon as you implement that design (i.e. program it), it becomes taxable if you’re using “prewritten” software “not developed” by you (such as WordPress)

At least, that’s how we think it works.

Read the entire article. I emailed the article to my accountant, here in Oregon. Sadly he has to be an expert in tax law for all 50 states and maybe overseas, too.

We are starting to see the desire to charge software taxes, first with the Internet sales tax and now with laws like this. Our landscape is only going to get more confusing. And, sadly, we are all going to have to be more active politically to protect our sanity.

via O’Reilly Radar

To College or To Start Up, That Will Be The Question

Paul Graham writing on investment trends:

When I graduated from college in 1986, there were essentially two options: get a job or go to grad school. Now there’s a third: start your own company. That’s a big change. In principle it was possible to start your own company in 1986 too, but it didn’t seem like a real possibility. It seemed possible to start a consulting company, or a niche product company, but it didn’t seem possible to start a company that would become big.

What do you mean by “graduate from college?” With the price of college education skyrocketing and the costs to start a company shrinking, which will potential students opt for? I sure wouldn’t bet on college.

I started Infinity Softworks while I was a senior in college. When I graduated in 1997 what I did — starting a company right out of school — was very unusual. I was weird. Now people don’t even blink, at least not among the under 50 crowd. Now it strikes me as odd when a smart kid graduating from college opts for a big, established, brand-name company. What? Couldn’t start your own company?

Money and Politics

This might be the most thought-provoking video I’ve ever seen on politics and money. Ugh! Politics, you say? Why are you talking about that here? Well, it is critical. Maybe you don’t like it but it shapes all of our lives and we better start working toward a better model than we have now.

Lawrence Lessig does an incredible job of explaining the current situation and how we can fix it. Take 18 minutes and watch it. You won’t regret it.