Which states get hit hardest when SALT deduction is eliminated?

December 13, 2017

Looks like it might just be rich folks paying their fair share.

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Everybody knows that tax-payers in liberal-leaning states (CA, NY, NJ, MA, CT) will get hit the hardest when the GOP plan to eliminate the SALT (state & local taxes)  deduction is disallowed.

And, everybody has probably heard Chuckie Schumer whine about how New Yorkers toss more into the government coffers than they get back.

The Rockefeller Institute of Gov’t pulled together those 2 observations into an interesting (albeit a bit complicated) chart.

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click to enlarge

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Let’s decode the chart …

The vertical axis basically indicates if a state puts a low or high SALT burden on its residents.

The horizontal axis indicates if a state’s Balance of Payments with the Feds is positive (to the left) or negative (to the right).  That is, does the state get back from the Feds (in goods and services) more or less that its residents pay in Federal taxes.

For example, Hew York is in the upper right quadrant.

Chuckie is right: New York (a high SALT state) pays more to the Feds than it gets back.

Maryland and Virginia are in the upper left quadrant: residents pay high SALT but get more back from the Feds than they pay in Fed taxes.

All of which illuminates a couple of interesting points …

Read the rest of this entry »

Newser: Now, this is funny …

December 12, 2017

CNN goes from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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MSM reporting has had a bad couple of weeks …

Off the top of my head:

  • ABC’s Brian Ross caused a 350 point drop in the Dow by reporting exclusively that “Candidate Trump” instructed Flynn to make contact with the Russians. Turned out to be “President-elect Trump” and the contacts were completely legal
  • It was revealed that the FBI did, in fact, tell Sessions he didn’t have to report his Senatorial meetings and incidental contact with Russians.
  • CNN scooped that Donald, Jr. was emailed an encryption key to open purloined DNC emails before they were publically released.  Wrong. It was after they had been posted to the internet. Oops.

Now, CNN has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Yesterday, a mere hour after the Port Authority bombing, CNN started headlining another breaking news story.

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Source: TownHall.com

Note that the times on the 2 screen shoots are identical … then glance at the headlines.

Fox was still on the bombing story.

CNN, not so much.

They were reporting leaked information that President Trump drinks up 12 Diet Cokes every day … and, on the campaign trail, would often down a couple of Big Macs every day.

They  failed to present some exculpatory evidence: To keep his svelte physique, Trump doesn’t eat the Big Mac’s buns.

You just can’t make this stuff up …

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Reality Check: How much will YOUR income taxes go down (or up)?

December 11, 2017

Here’s a simple online  calculator that rudely awakened me.

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My son who admonished me to “stop calling it a tax cut until you run your numbers” … I finally did run my numbers.

For me — a discounted-rate college prof – my Federal income taxes will go up about 30%.

Whoa, Nelly.

What’s going on?

The key drivers: (1) loss of personal exemptions ($4,050 times 2)  (2) non-deductibility of state income taxes (Virginia has turned purple with a Dem governor) and (3) loss of 1/3 of my local real estate taxes (assuming the House version that still allows $10,000).

The alleged reduction in rates doesn’t offset those deductions lost.

Nuts.

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If you want to see what the likely impact will be on you, pull out the first couple of pages of your 2016 tax return so you can plug a few numbers into the CALCXML online tax calculator.

Here’s an example for a family of 4 – husband, wife, 2 kids under 18 … filing jointly … $150,000 combined income … no “unearned investment income” (dividends & capital gains which get taxed at a preferential rate) … $500,000 mortgage @ 4% …. $5,000 local real estate taxes .

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click for CalcXM’s online tax calculator

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And, the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

Living high off the pork …

December 8, 2017

According to the Census Bureau’s “American Community Survey” …

The five richest counties in the United States are all suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Loudoun County, VA tops the list … the median household income there is $125,672.

As a benchmark, the median household income in the U.S.  $55,322.

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Following close behind Loudoun are:

  • Falls Church, VA ($115,244)
  • Fairfax County, VA ($114,329)
  • Howard County, MD ($113,800)
  • Arlington County, VA ($108,706)

New York, New Jersey and California have a total of 8 counties on the top 20 list.

Here’s the full list …

Read the rest of this entry »

Have business gurus (and business schools) lost touch?

December 7, 2017

Some pillars of management theory are weakening.

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Interesting article in The Economist asserts that “business gurus have lost touch with the world they seek to rule” and that “management theory is ripe for a reformation, especially at Business schools — the cathedrals of capitalism.”

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More specifically, the author argues that: “Management theories are organized around four basic ideas, repeated ad nauseam in every business book you read or business conference you attend, that bear almost no relation to reality.”

Here are some snippets on those four disputable basic ideas …

Read the rest of this entry »

Who would vote for a creepy old man?

December 6, 2017

Answer: Probably a majority of Alabama voters.

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Have you noticed what’s been happening in the Alabama Senate race?

Note that – after a couple of weeks of losing poll numbers – creepy old Roy Moore has pulled back into the lead.

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Let’s dissect the numbers a bit …

Read the rest of this entry »

Flashback: ANWR in Pictures (and Words)

December 5, 2017

To win Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski’s vote on the tax reform bill, a provision was slipped in to open part of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. Source

Though the provision hasn’t got much coverage, I suspect that it will eventually cause an uproar.

To prep HomaFiles readers, we thought it would be a good time time to reprise a HomaFiles blast-from-the-past …

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According to Jonah Goldberg, writing in the National Review Online:

Both the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards enthusiastically supported drilling in ANWR in the late 1980s.

The Post noted that the area “is one of the bleakest, most remote places on this continent, and there is hardly any other where drilling would have less impact on surrounding life. . . . ”

ANWR is roughly the size of South Carolina …

However, the area where, according to Department of Interior estimates, some 5.7 billion to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil reside is much smaller and …  would amount to the size of Dulles airport.

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Tempted to vacation there?  Keep reading …

Read the rest of this entry »

What if the Russians, North Koreans, Iranians or Mother Nature were to jam GPS satellites?

December 4, 2017

An interesting question posed in a WSJ commentary …
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Answer: We’d be in deep yogurt … and it just wouldn’t be an inability to drive to an unfamiliar destination.

To that point, according to the Department of Homeland Security has identified “18 Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource sectors” … and, 15 of the 18 are GPS-reliant.

That makes sense since the satellite-based Global Positioning System was built primarily for U.S. military ops and then repurposed to civilian applications air traffic control, weather monitoring and precise time-synchronization.

For background, according to NASA:

The Global Positioning System is a United States space-based radionavigation system that helps pinpoint a three dimensional position to about a meter of accuracy (for example latitude, longitude and altitude) and provide nano-second precise time anywhere on Earth.

GPS is currently comprised of a constellation of 24 US government satellites flying in six orbital planes … circling about 12,550 miles above the Earth … monitored by an extensive network of land-based receiving stations.

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So, what’s our Plan B if the satellite-based GPS system goes down?

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s the biggest tax loophole ?

December 1, 2017

… and, why isn’t it part of the tax reform conversation?

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I’ve been scratching my head over what the Senate & Congress are going after under the “tax reform” umbrella … and, what are being treated as sacred cows.

For example, the deductions for mortgage interest and state & local taxes are on the chopping block … but the biggest “Federal tax break” according to Simpson-Bowles and the Pew Foundation is the tax-free status of employer-paid health insurance.

Real tax reform would put employer-paid health insurance under a microscope: it’s clearly compensation that should be recorded on W-2s and taxed at ordinary income tax rates, right?

And, the loophole creates a severely unlevel playing field.

Think of the small business owner (or his employees).

They have to buy their health insurance with after-tax dollars …

That’s not fair, is it?

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Before you hit me with the “healthcare is different (and untouchable)” argument, consider this:

Read the rest of this entry »

How the super-rich shelter their income & wealth from taxes …

November 30, 2017

While keeping (or increasing) their financial and political might.

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For years, I’ve ranted whenever Warren Buffett whined that my taxes should be increased because he pays a lower income tax rate than his secretary.

And, I even offered up a suggestion (think: “Buffett Rule”) that might assuage Mr. Buffett’s guilt.

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For background …

Buffett benefits from the preferential tax rate on capital gains … but his mega tax dodge is bequeathing a big chunk his estate to his buddy Bill Gates’ tax exempt foundation … part, I guess, to “give back to society” … but in large part to dodge estate taxes.

You see, that part of Buffett’s estate escapes death taxes  (since it’s a “charitable donation”) … and, while alive, Buffett can still wield unfettered financial and political clout.

So, I proposed a simple tax reform to nullify the loophole and provide Warren with the opportunity to pay some serious taxes (and spread his wealth around).

Ken’s “Buffett Rule”: For purposes of estate taxation, estates shall be limited to a maximum deduction of $1 million for charitable donations.

It turns out that my focus on estate taxes was way too narrow and may have missed the forest for the trees.

Read the rest of this entry »

To bring back jobs, don’t cut the the corporate tax rate … here’s another idea.

November 28, 2017

Last week, we asked: if increasing the number of well-paying manufacturing jobs is important —  then rather than the usual proposed bromide of just cutting corporate taxes across-the-board, why not offer employers a double tax deduction for workers’ wages earned in the U.S.?

Here’s a complementary idea (to doubling the wages deduction) that might be worth worth considering …

Read the rest of this entry »

Answer to: Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

November 28, 2017

Yesterday, we posted a question posed to me by my soon-to-be 9 year old granddaughter … and challenged you to give it a try:

Determine the numerical values for a roasted turkey, a slice of pie and a cob of corn.

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Here’s the answer … if you haven’t already done the problem, do it before peeking:

Read the rest of this entry »

Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

November 27, 2017

A Thanksgiving Day puzzle from my granddaughter.

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What does your family do for fun at Thanksgiving?

Nowadays, mine tries to stump me with math problems.

This year, my soon-to-be 9 year old granddaughter brought over a set of puzzles that she’d been working on at school (3rd grade).

Give one a try:

Determine the numerical values for a roasted turkey, a slice of pie and a cob of corn.

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We all like to whine that American students are slipping behind other countries in math and science … which begs a basic question:

Are you at least as smart as a third grader?

I’ll post the answer tomorrow …

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Thanks to AMH for feeding the lead.
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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

Happy Thanksgiving !

November 22, 2017

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* * * * *
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

To bring back jobs, don’t cut the the corporate tax rate …

November 21, 2017

Rather, double the corporate tax deduction for workers’ wages earned the U.S. workers.

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Let’s start with an interesting analysis from Nate Silver’s  535.com titled Manufacturing Jobs Are Never Coming Back

“It’s understandable that voters in 2016  were angry about trade. The U.S. has lost more than 4.5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA took effect in 1994. And, there’s mounting evidence that U.S. trade policy, particularly with China, has caused lasting harm to many American workers.”

“Manufacturing in particular embodies something that seems to be disappearing in today’s economy: jobs with decent pay and benefits available to workers without a college degree are vanishing. The average factory worker earns more than $25 an hour before overtime; the typical retail worker makes less than $18 an hour.”

“In 1994 there were 3.5 million more Americans working in manufacturing than in retail. Today, those numbers have almost exactly reversed, and the gap is widening. More than 80 percent of all private jobs are now in the service sector.”

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How can that be?  Aren’t we hearing a lot about “re-shoring” and foreign capital investing in U.S. based manufacturing plants?

Read the rest of this entry »

My biggest beef with the GOP tax plan …

November 20, 2017

… and nobody seems to be talking about it.

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Remember Mitt Romneys ill-timed observation about “47% of Americans”.

No, they weren’t deplorables, they were simply the folks who pay no Federal income taxes.

Well if the GOP tax plan goes through, the 47% will be be alive .. and well … and growing.

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Source

Let’s start with some data…

Read the rest of this entry »

At what age did women get married in the 1970s?

November 17, 2017

An odd question motivated by recent events.

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First the disclaimer, Judge Roy Moore creeps me out … and I’m certainly no apologist for older men who hit on teenage girls. Period.

That said, two comments got me wondering.

First, a Clinton apologist was on TV saying that Bill deserved a pass for his sexual transgressions and abuses because “things were different in those days.”

Say, what?  Different how?

Separately, a friend bad-quipped about the sterotype of Southern girls marrying young – often in their early teens.

So, I started to wonder: what were things like in “those days” – specifically,in Alabama, when Judge Moore is alleged to have been hitting on teenage girls.

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What I discovered certainly doesn’t make Moore any less creepy or exonerate him, but it is interesting.

Read the rest of this entry »

More Disney: How does Mickey fingerprint me?

November 16, 2017

The tech behind biometric fingerprints
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Note: We’ve been doing an amusement park case in my current course.  So, we’re reprising a post from the archives.
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In prior posts, I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … and recounted the plausible explanations for why Mickey digitally records guests’ fingerprints when then enter the park.

Ostensibly, the purpose is fraud protection – keeping folks from passing along their partially used tickets for reuse.

Of course, there are other sorts of uses for digital fingerprints (e.g. catching bad guys) … and ways that the information can be misused.

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With my curiosity aroused, I did some digging re: digital fingerprints.

Read the rest of this entry »

More Disney: Why is Mickey fingerprinting me?

November 15, 2017

A plausible “why” and a very interesting “how”.
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Note: We’ve been doing an amusement park case in my current course.  So, we’re reprising a post from the archives.
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In a prior post Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney? , I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … the Magic Bands than let me into my hotel room & the park, Fast-Passed me to the front of lines, and “personalized” my family’s experience with real-time greetings and photos.

I noted that I was digitally fingerprinted when I entered the park and asked if anybody could tell me why.

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A couple of loyal readers clued me and provoked some digging.

Here’s what I learned …

Read the rest of this entry »

Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney?

November 14, 2017

Disney’s technology applications are impressive.
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Note: We’ve been doing an amusement park case in my current course.  So, we’re reprising a post from the archives.
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Last Spring, I took a fact-finding trip (aka. family vacation) to Disney World.

I was amazed at the way that Disney uses technology.

My first “wow” was at the entrance gate.

No surprise, there was a huge rush of “guests” entering the Magic Kingdom when the gates opened at 8 a.m.

The crowd measured into the thousands … all needing to be security-screened.

All bags and strollers had to be hand-checked … all kids – big & little – had to be ushered through metal detectors.

Nightmare, right?

Maybe at the airport, but not at Disney.

Our wait & processing time: less than 10 minutes.

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Then came the good part…

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook’s addictive dopamine hits “exploit a vulnerability in human psychology."

November 13, 2017

Co-founder admits: ‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains’

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Loyal readers know that I’m not a big fan of Facebook.

Besides the obvious privacy issues, I’ve been swayed by the mounting evidence that mental health deteriorates with heavy Facebook “engagement” … and that heavy Facebook engagement is becoming the norm … especially among teens.

So, I wasn’t surprised — but, I was shocked — when Sean Parker – one of Facebook’s co-founders – “unloaded on Facebook” … confirming many suspicions and bluntly admitting that it was all part of a master plan that may have “created a monster”.

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Here are some highlights of Parker’s catharsis (and a link to the chilling video) …

Read the rest of this entry »

How physically fit are folks in your city?

November 10, 2017

Washington, D.C. rated as “most fit city” for 3rd year in a row.

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Every year, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation rates the “fitness” of major metro areas based on a number of health behaviors and environmental factors such as access to parks, recreational facilities and walking trails.

According to this year’s  report, Washington, D.C. topped the list again.

 

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What makes D.C. so fit?

• Lower (than target) percent currently smoking
• Lower death rate for cardiovascular disease
• Higher percent of city land area as parkland
• Higher percent bicycling or walking to work
• More dog parks per capita
• More park units per capita
• More recreation centers per capita

And, my favorite:  More farmers’ markets per capita

Say, what?

D.C.’s score got a couple of dings including  a biggie: Fewer golf courses per capita

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Which of the 50 biggest metro areas scored the worst?

Read the rest of this entry »

Studies: More time on Facebook … and it’s not good for you.

November 9, 2017

“Negatively associated with overall well-being … particularly mental health”.

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Let’s connect a couple of recently reported studies …

First, the BLS periodically reports how Americans spend their leisure time.

According to the NYT, channeling the most recent BLS report:

The average time that users spend on Facebook is nearing an hour.

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Putting that hour of Facebook in perspective:

That’s more than any other leisure activity surveyed … with the exception of watching television programs and movies (an average per day of 2.8 hours).

It’s more time than people spend reading (19 minutes); participating in sports or exercise (17 minutes); or social events (four minutes).

It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours). NYT

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And, a recent study published by the Harvard Business Review indicates that all that Facebook time is unhealthy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy? Sad? Excited? … Facebook can tell.

November 8, 2017

And, has been caught doing just that.

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It always amazes me what people post on Facebook. Their daily activities, their deepest emotions – you name it.

By now, every Facebook user should know that FB sifts through their content – posts, pictures, links, emojis – to determine, for example, what topics are hot; what people are doing; which brands people are buying, recommending, trashing or considering; whether users are feeling happy, sad, scared, excited.

The latter is called “sentiment analysis” using computer algorithms to take users’ “emotional pulse”.

Of course, FB promises that they’ll protect users’ privacy and would never even consider divulging that information to outsiders, say, advertisers or political campaigns.

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Bad news for believers: FB was caught “sharing” sentiment analysis data.

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According to USA Today

Documents leaked to a newspaper, The Australian, indicate that Facebook executives prepared a report for one of the country’s top banks.

The report described how Facebook gleans psychological insights into the mood shifts of millions of young people in Australia and New Zealand by monitoring their status updates and photos.

The 23-page report showed Facebook’s ability to detect when users as young as 14 are feeling emotions such as defeat, stress, anxiety or being overwhelmed … and. other information on young people’s emotional well-being such as when they exhibit “nervous-excitement” are “conquering fears“.

FB claimed that it can track how emotions fluctuate during the week.

Anticipatory emotions are more likely to be expressed early in the week.

Reflective emotions increase on the weekend.

Monday-Thursday is about building confidence.

The weekend is for broadcasting achievements.

At a relatively benign level, advertisers can use that information to target ads to certain age groups … and they can time them to run on a certain day.

That’s apparently what FB got caught doing – revealing anonymous and aggregated data – to a potential advertising client.

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Let’s go a step further…

According to the article: “Facebook has also come under heavy scrutiny in the past for secretly conducting research that manipulated the emotions of users by altering what they see in their News Feed without their consent.”

So, it doesn’t take much creativity to imagine the collection and dissemination of individuals’ sentiment data that could be used to target advertising to specific individuals at specific times – say, when they’re feeling down and are vulnerable to buying certain products geared to giving them a pick-me-up, say, some new clothes, a fancy car or miracle drug.

Pretty unnerving, right?

Of course, FB assures users that it would never consider divulging that sort of data.

Yeah, right.

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Connecting dots

In a prior post, we reported on a study that concluded time on Facebook can be hazardous to your mental health.

For details see Studies: More time on Facebook … and it’s not good for you.

So, being on Facebook can make you emotionally vulnerable.

Facebook can determine when you’re vulnerable.

Facebook can sell that info to advertisers.

But, FB assures us that it won’t sell that data.

Whew … that’s a relief.

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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A prof says: “You earn exam points … and, the burden of proof is on you”

November 7, 2017

Students often take issue with grades … sometimes understandably, sometimes not so much.

For perspective, here’s an interesting op-ed by an econ prof …

Read the rest of this entry »

Should my trash pick-up be tax deductible?

November 6, 2017

… and what about HOA fees?

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For openers, let me declare: I think that I end up worse off under the proposed GOP tax plan.

That said, I’m all for eliminating the deduction for state & local taxes.

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Here’s why I’m not swayed by the whiners in the high tax & spend states ..

Read the rest of this entry »

Are you a nice person?

November 3, 2017

You probably over-rate your “niceness” … but that’s OK.

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According to the UK Independent

You may consider yourself to be a nice person, but  a new study concludes that you’re probably not as nice as you think.

Psychologists at the University of London have discovered that 98 per cent of British people think they’re part of the nicest 50 per cent of the population.

Participants in the study were given a list of “nice” behaviors and asked which ones they do.

They claimed to do easy stuff like giving directions to lost souls, holding doors open or giving Granny their seat on the bus.

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But, their niceness had limits …

The respondents stopped short of giving money to needy strangers (less than 1 in 5) or helping Granny cross the street (about 1 in 4).

Still, there’s some very good news …

 

Read the rest of this entry »

All of the info I’ve collected says I’m right … so there!

November 2, 2017

Dan Lovallo, a professor and decision-making researcher says, “Confirmation bias is probably the single biggest problem in business, because even the most sophisticated people get it wrong. People go out and they’re collecting the data, and they don’t realize they’re cooking the books.”

What’s this “confirmation bias” that Lovello is talking about?

No surprise, people tend to seek out information that supports their existing beliefs.

You know, liberals watch MSNBC, read the NY Times listen to BBC podcasts; conservatives watch FOX, read the WSJ and listen to Rush.

Behavioral psychologists call the he dynamic “confirmation bias”.

 

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In socio-politics, the confirmation bias tends to harden polarized positions. People just gather debate fodder rather than probing both sides of issues.

In the realm of decision making, confirmation bias has a dysfunctional effect: it leads to bad decisions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Should you put your extracurricular activities and interests on your resume?

November 1, 2017

More than you think, they may impact your chances of getting an interview.

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Interesting study reported in HBR

The study investigated whether applicants got invited to interview at highly prestigious law firms (though the findings are probably generalizable to other top-notch professional firms).

Here’s the drill:

Imagine four applicants, all of whom attend the same, selective second-tier law school.

They all have phenomenal grade point averages, are on law review, and have identical, highly relevant work experiences.

The only differences are whether they are male or female and if their extracurricular activities suggest they come from a higher-class or lower-class background.

Who gets invited to interview?

More specifically, the researchers used a technique — known as the resume audit method — randomly assigning different items to the resumes and sending applications to real employers to see how they affect the probability of being called back for a job interview.

All applicants were from 2nd tier schools (where top firms don’t typically do on campus interviewing).

All educational, academic, and work-related achievements were identical between the fictitious candidates.

To test gender effects, the applicants were first-named James or Julia.

To “signal” social status, last names were either prestigious sounding “Cabot” or more common “Clark” … and commonly used and and often required portions of resumes were varied: awards and extracurricular activities:

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The experiment confirmed some expectations, but there were also surprises …

Read the rest of this entry »

Michigan State University bans whiteboards … say, what?

October 31, 2017

This one gave me a false-positive flashback …

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First, the flashback…

When we moved into our new business school building a decade ago (yeah, it has been that long), I was assigned a new office.

It was at the end of a corridor (as far away from the academic action as they could put me) with a clear view of the building’s commercially-sized air conditioners and the Jesuit graveyard (no kidding).

One complete wall in the office was floor-to-ceiling with book shelves.

Since I only had 6 books (5 of them borrowed), I took out all but the top book shelf (which was suitable for displaying memorabilia) and installed a self-purchased whiteboard (a necessity, right?).

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In short order, I got visit from the Dean.

One of my colleagues had ratted me out for making an unauthorized alteration to my office.

Apparently, my whiteboard had violated some common law community standards.

I got off with a slap on the wrist (remember, Gtown is a Catholic school) … but still have occasional nightmares.

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OK, fast forward to today in Lansing, Michigan where whiteboards are now officially contraband.

Read the rest of this entry »

Girl wins golf tourney … denied trophy.

October 30, 2017

Penalized for being a girl … say, what?

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Let’s go to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for this one.

According to reports, Emily Nash, an 8th grader, won a teen boy’s golf tournament.

As allowed by rules, she entered the tournament as part of her high school’s team (since girl’s don’t play fall golf in her school district).

She shot from the same tees as the boys.

And, she shot 75 … which was 4 strokes better than the 2nd place finisher.

Not bad, right?

 

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But, Emily didn’t get the tourney trophy for best individual performance.

Why? You might ask …

Read the rest of this entry »

Yum, those burgers looks good …

October 27, 2017

Adding visuals to menus (and reports) creates interest and boosts credibility.

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Studies have shown that adding  icons and photos to restaurant menus increase sales up to 30% for the featured items.

The visuals draw attention to the items … if done well, they stimulate diners’ senses.

OK, we’ve all be menu-enticed … that’s not news.

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But, did you know that simply adding a visual – a graph or chart  or formula — to a report can boost the credibility of a conclusion by 50% or more?

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s time to do away with SALT.

October 26, 2017

That is, the State and Local Tax deduction.

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Among the provisions of the GOP’s tax-cutting plan that has drawn intense opposition (mostly from Democrats) is the elimination of state and local tax (SALT) deductions for folks who itemize their deductions (versus taking the standard deduction).

All else equal, eliminating the SALT deduction would income taxes paid to the federal government by about $180 billion each year … providing some wiggle room for cutting income taxes in other ways.

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So, why the uproar? Who gets hurt if the SALT deduction is eliminated?

Read the rest of this entry »

WaPo: Proof of collusion with the Russians!

October 25, 2017

But, it was the Clinton campaign and DNC … not Trumpsters.

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In case your eyes were glued to the World Series (which the Dodgers won 3 to 1) …

Last night, the Washington Post – hardly a  right-wing conspirator – published an exclusive report (that has now been verified by several news sources) that provides evidence tying the Clinton campaign and the DNC to Russians.

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Here’s the story in a nutshell …

Read the rest of this entry »

Gates, Zuckerberg … and the limits on educational philanthropy.

October 24, 2017

Both threw much money at education with disappointing results.

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Two related reports hit over the weekend.

The first announced that the Gates Foundation would spend more than $1.7 billion over the next five years to pay for new initiatives in K-12 public education. The plan is a “redirection” of prior initiatives. More on that later.

As the Washington Post observed, Gates’ prior mega-contributions to improve K-12 education “didn’t go so well, but the man, if anything, is persistent.”

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The second story dealt with Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to improving Newark NJ’s schools. A report was released indicating disappointing results. More on that later, too.

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I commend both Gates and Zuckerberg for throwing a massive amount of money at improving education. Their intentions seem good and the amounts of money are, as we say in academia, statistically significant.

That said, what’s going on?

 

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Frat boys party more, study less and earn more … say, what?

October 23, 2017

Fraternities get a lot of press.

You know: Heavy drinking, hazing tragedies and pure goofiness.

Why would anybody want their sons to join one?

Well, a couple of economists at Union College did a study that makes joining a fraternity look like a very rational decision.

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Here’s the scoop …

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Words really do matter … especially in a kid’s early years.

October 20, 2017

Interesting study reported in The Atlantic

A pair of psychologists – Betty Hart and Todd Risley –  got curious about why some 3 and 4 year old kids are more academically ready than others.

“They devised a novel (and exhaustive) methodology: for more than three years, they sampled the actual words spoken to young children from 42 families at 3 different socioeconomic levels: (1) welfare homes, (2) working-class homes, and (3) professionals’ homes. Then they tallied the quantity and quality of the words spoken to the kids. “

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The results were – in the words of the researchers – “astounding”…

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As if forgetting stuff wasn’t bad enough …

October 19, 2017

Study: Half of people “remember” events that never happened

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According to a recent study, once a person hears that a fictional event happened, there’s a 50/50 chance that they will believe that it took place and start to embellish it with details, even if the imaginary event is of a personal nature.

For example, researchers “primed” subjects with fake (but relatively harmless) memories, such as taking a childhood hot-air balloon ride or pulling a prank on a friend.

Researchers intimated that the imaginary events  were real.

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And, the result …

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Odds: I bet you’re a Democrat …

October 18, 2017

… if your parents were Democrats.

And, I bet if your parents were Republicans, then you’re a Republican.

According to Smithsonian.com

“The party affiliation of someone’s parents can predict the child’s political leanings about around 70 percent of the time.”

That’s pretty good, but “new research suggests ideological differences between partisans may reflect distinct neural processes.”

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More specifically, researchers say that they can predict who’s right and who’s left of center politically with 82.9 % accuracy.

Here’s the study and its implications …

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What’s the most common job in the majority of states?

October 17, 2017

Hint #1: 40 years ago, it was “secretary”.

Hint#2: It’s one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S.

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Census data was crunched by NPR analysts.

Don’t squint for the labels … just glance at the states’ color coding and make your guess.

 

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And, the answer is ….

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How much does “healthcare” really matter?

October 16, 2017

For a long time I’ve railed that politicos and pundits confuse “healthcare” with “health insurance” – trying to fix health insurance (by throwing money at it) … rather than getting to the efficacy and efficiency roots of healthcare delivery.

Here’s another twist to the story.

I stumbled on a report from the Kaiser Foundation: Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants.

It’s punch line:

“Though health care is essential to health, research demonstrates that it is a relatively weak health determinant.”

More specifically, Kaiser concludes that healthcare has only about a 10% impact on the risk of premature death … dwarfed by genetics (30%) and individual behavior (40%).

Said differently, health behaviors, such as smoking and diet and exercise, are the most important determinants of premature death

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And, as the title of the article’s title suggest, there’s a social component (20%) that’s double the impact of healthcare per se …

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Fun fact: another apparent partisan divide …

October 13, 2017

Yesterday, we posted a Pew survey finding:

“Each party has become more ideologically homogeneous, and more hostile toward the opinions of members of the other party.”

Oh, my.

On a slightly lighter side, the nation is even divided on housing preferences:

“Overall, Americans are equally divided between wanting to live in a community with larger houses farther apart, where schools, shops and restaurants are not nearby (48%), and those who want to live in smaller houses closer together but within walking distance to schools and shops (47%).”

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Now, one might expect that housing preferences wouldn’t be a political flashpoint, right?

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Pew: Even more divided now … moderates need not apply.

October 12, 2017

It’s no great secret that America is increasingly polarized politically.

For a revealing animated infographic, see America’s political polarization in 3 charts …

According to Pew surveys: (1) there was a political divide in the Clinton years, but also a sizeable overlapping middle (2) there was a slight convergence to the middle in the post 9-11 Bush years, and (3) there was a widening divide and shrinking middle during the Obama years.

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Fast forward to today.

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College: Making Freshman year (almost) free …

October 11, 2017

Let more students earn AP credits by putting “boilerplate” courses online and beefing-up certification testing.

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A article posted on Real Clear Politics caught my eye.

The author Steven Klinsky, is credentialed as a businessman and education reformer, chairman of Harvard’s Public Education Policy Group and founder of the Modern States Education Alliance (MSEA).

He observes that (1) traditional brick & mortar colleges are increasingly unaffordable, (2) that “the tuition cost for many online courses has been set every bit as high (or sometimes higher!) than for the same course delivered in the physical classroom” and (3) that increasingly popular MOOCs can deliver quality content but no college credits—just “certificates of completion”.

So, as a private citizen and philanthropist, Mr. Klinsky has been trying to “square the circle” with MSEA’s “Freshman Year for Free” program.

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How does Klinsky and MSEA plan to do it?

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What do Americans fear the most?

October 10, 2017

The answer may surprise you …

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Chapman University does an annual survey of Americans’ fears

Here’s some quick background ….

The study queries on 11 “Domains of Fear”:

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The study deep dives into specific fears within each domain:

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OK, make your pick from the above list. 

What do Americans fear the most?

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Amazon is cornering another market … MBAs.

October 9, 2017

“Flooding the zone” to land the best & brightest.

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Now that Amazon has staked out territory the grocery business, it’s time for them to move on to another front.

According to the WSJ: “Another Thing Amazon Is Disrupting: Business-School Recruiting”

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Let’s put that in perspective:

In the past year, Amazon has hired some 1,000 newly minted M.B.A.s in the past year

Amazon is now the top MBA recruiter at Carnegie Mellon, Duke and Cal-Berkeley.

It hires the most first-year M.B.A.s at Michigan, MIT, Dartmouth College and Duke.

Last year, Amazon took in more interns from the University of Chicago than either Bain or McKinsey & Co., which were until recently the school’s top hirers of interns.

 

How do they do it?

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Score higher on the SATs … GUARANTEED!

October 6, 2017

Just make sure that your parents went to college.

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The College Board publishes a “Total Group Profile Report” on college-bound seniors …

One set of numbers caught my eye:

SAT scores by the student’s parents level of educational attainment.

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Note that about 2/3’s of the college-bound seniors taking the SAT came from homes with a degreed parent – either associate, bachelor or graduate.

Only about 1/3 came from homes with parents having only a high school education or less.

And, the performance differentials are substantial between the groups …

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Some “interesting” SAT results …

October 5, 2017

The College Board publishes a “Total Group Profile Report” college-bound seniors.

A couple of sets of numbers caught my eye ….

Let’s start with math scores/

Two big takeaways:

(1) The gap between boys and girls narrowed from the 40 point difference in the 1970s to about 25 points … but has remained fairly constant at that level for about the past 20 years

(2) Scores for both boys and girls have been falling for the past dozen years or so.

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OK, boys outscore girls in math, but girls do better on the verbal part of the SATs, right?

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Are you addicted to, err, cookies?

October 4, 2017

Sounds like a “dog ate homework” excuse, but you may eat too many cookies – not because you’re a fundamentally bad person – but, because you’re addicted to them andmay want to enroll in Cookies Anonymous.

In some ground-breaking research to be present at a Society for Neuroscience conference next month,  a Connecticut College study concluded that Oreos are just as addictive as drugs.

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Here’s the skinny on the research findings …

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Memo to Michelin: Shove your stars …

October 3, 2017

3-star chef wants out of the rankings

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According to the NY Times

Sébastien Bras, one of France’s most celebrated chefs, has stunned the French culinary world with an unlikely plea: Take my three Michelin stars away.

Mr. Bras is fed up with the pressure of maintaining those stars. He says he is seeking nothing less than culinary “liberation” and “a new meaning to my life.”

While the stars confer cachet and financial security, Mr. Bras’s audacious move is also reflective of a new generation of chefs, some of whom are eager to escape from the punishing strain of unpredictable rankings and malicious food critics.

“Three stars mean that everything must be perfect, at any time, in every plate. One must be passionate, a genius, but mostly a workaholic, because you have to be working in your restaurant from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day, nonstop.”

There’s also an economic angle …

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