Sunday, November 11, 2012

US House Gerrymandering

Wikipedia notes that the Republicans in the US House have a majority of seats in the 2012 Congress, despite having received a smaller number of votes than the Democrats, and that this is the first time this has happened since 1996.  So I have investigated the history. I built up a little spreadsheet to see how long this pattern has been going on.  The numbers come from Wikipedia, modified slightly to assign 7 undecided races to the way they are leaning now. 

Year Votes Rep. Seats Rep. Votes/Seat Rep. Votes Dem. Seats Dem. Votes/Seat Dem. Votes/Seat(Dem) / Votes/Seat(Rep)

1986 26,384,083 177 149,063 32,338,342 258 125,342 0.841
1988 37,015,851 175 211,519 43,473,080 260 167,204 0.790
1990 27,402,036 167 164,084 32,397,732 267 121,340 0.739
1992 43,498,015 176 247,148 48,550,096 258 188,179 0.761
1994 36,325,809 230 157,938 31,542,823 204 154,622 0.979
1996 43,120,872 228 189,127 43,393,580 206 210,648 1.114
1998 31,983,612 223 143,424 31,391,834 211 148,776 1.037
2000 46,750,175 221 211,539 46,411,559 212 218,922 1.035
2002 37,091,270 229 161,971 33,642,142 204 164,912 1.018
2004 55,713,412 232 240,144 52,745,121 202 261,114 1.087
2006 35,674,808 202 176,608 42,082,311 233 180,611 1.023
2008 51,952,981 178 291,871 64,888,090 257 252,483 0.865
2010 44,593,666 242 184,271 38,854,459 193 201,318 1.093
2012 53,822,442 235 229,032 54,301,095 200 271,505 1.185

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rebates from ASUS

I just bought a graphics card from ASUS, which (in case you don't know) is a very reputable maker of computers and computer components. They offer a rebate for certain items purchased in January 2012. After clicking through a fairly complicated form, I reached the following page, which I reproduce here in part:

o No-Wait
Choose our No-Wait-Rebate service. We will mail your Rebate payment via 1st class mail within 5-7 business days from the date of approval of your claim for a small fee of $1.00 which will be deducted from your Rebate payment. If you are in no rush and do not mind waiting 8-10 weeks and at no cost, we will mail your Rebate payment to you via 1st Class mail after we have received your Rebate documentation and have approved your claim.

o Basic
Choose this for our basic service of 8 to 10 weeks.

The American Express ® Reward Card
  • This Prepaid Card is a prepaid American Express Card and may be used at merchants in the U.S. that accept American Express® Cards.
  • This Card can be used instantly.
  • This Card is given to you as a Reward and no consideration, value, or money has been paid by you in exchange for this Card.
  • Free replacement of lost or stolen card.
  • Card cannot be used at cruise lines, for recurring billing charges, at casinos or ATMs.
  • Funds do not expire, service fees apply.
  • See Cardholder agreement for complete terms and conditions.
  • Cardholder agreement available at
  • Issued by AEPCMC under license from ©2010 American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.
  • For questions about the Card, including balance inquiries, contact 1-800-297-7327
In other words, for the modest fee of $1.00, I can have my rebate in about a week after it's approved. Otherwise I will wait about 2 and a half months. Why does ASUS do this? Why should a reputable company appear to be chiselers, all for about 15 cents, which is the interest on my rebate ($15.00) for 10 weeks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

California Taxes Compared

California is reputed to be a high tax state. So I've prepared some tables to show whether or not this true. The bottom line is that California taxes are higher than most other states, but not by much. Here are two tables: the first shows the tax rate in dollars per million dollars of state GDP, the second shows tax rate per capita, both sorted in order from high to low.

State Tax per $Million GDP
State Tax per Capita
Alaska 103,384.2
Alaska 7,136
Vermont 98,485.4
Wyoming 5,316
Wyoming 78,267.1
Vermont 3,840
West Virginia 77,676.7
North Dakota 3,792
North Dakota 77,352.3
Connecticut 3,614
Arkansas 75,944.3
Hawaii 3,515
Hawaii 73,811.6
New York 3,345
Mississippi 70,980.9
Delaware 3,173
Maine 70,190.6
Minnesota 3,166
Montana 67,075.3
New Jersey 3,015
Minnesota 65,290.1
Massachusetts 2,930
Kentucky 62,361.2
California 2,653
Michigan 61,579.8
West Virginia 2,618
New Mexico 60,721.3
Arkansas 2,597
Wisconsin 60,270.2
Maine 2,571
Idaho 60,133.5
Maryland 2,562
Connecticut 59,801.9
Wisconsin 2,530
Indiana 58,463.7
Washington 2,508
New Jersey 57,242.6
Montana 2,485
New York 56,820.4
New Mexico 2,450
Oklahoma 55,724.0
Pennsylvania 2,390
Maryland 55,342.4
Kansas 2,386
California 54,694.5
Indiana 2,331
Rhode Island 54,602.3
Iowa 2,320
Kansas 54,547.2
Rhode Island 2,316
Pennsylvania 54,348.7
United States 2,305
Massachusetts 53,379.5
Kentucky 2,287
Iowa 51,467.8
Oklahoma 2,272
North Carolina 51,215.7
Ilinois 2,266
Washington 50,836.3
Nebraska 2,262
Ohio 50,799.6
Michigan 2,259
United States 50,486.6
North Carolina 2,193
Utah 49,398.9
Mississippi 2,192
Alabama 48,857.4
Louisiana 2,171
Nebraska 48,046.1
Idaho 2,090
Ilinois 46,186.7
Utah 2,090
Oregon 45,920.4
Ohio 2,069
South Carolina 45,695.4
Nevada 2,068
Delaware 45,384.5
Virginia 2,022
Arizona 45,200.4
Oregon 1,957
Louisiana 45,066.7
Alabama 1,807
Missouri 43,504.5
Colorado 1,797
Florida 42,945.8
Missouri 1,747
Nevada 42,399.2
South Dakota 1,696
Tennessee 41,417.8
Arizona 1,695
Virginia 40,801.2
Georgia 1,677
Georgia 40,421.6
Tennessee 1,676
South Dakota 36,089.6
Florida 1,660
New Hampshire 35,425.7
Texas 1,655
Colorado 34,926.5
South Carolina 1,607
Texas 33,335.9
New Hampshire 1,534

Here are links to spreadsheets for these tables:
Full data for comparison of states by tax rate per $Million GDP: Here
Full data for comparison of states by tax rate per capita: Here
Comparison of states by rate per $Million GDP (left table above): Here
Comparison of states by rate per Capita (right table above): Here

Monday, September 15, 2008

An open letter to Andrew Bacevich

I found your interview with Terry Gross:

to be truly extraordinarily interesting. It has inspired me to reactivate my blog, which has lain long rusting. Here is my posting:

  • You said that the Bush administration is attempting to change the whole Islamic world. Bush bet his presidency on success on Iraq, but he didn't take out any insurance on his policy. His best expert on such things, General Shinseki, told the Congress that it would take about 400,000 troops to occupy Iraq successfully; they weren't provided. It was obvious to anyone following the situation that the looting which began immediately after the fall of Baghdad showed that more troops and a new policy were required; nothing was done for more than three years – too late and too little.

    It doesn't look like the administration is serious about the war. The administration may not be serious about anything except cutting taxes and winning elections.

  • You said that Americans overestimate what can be done with military force. I think Americans overestimate what can be done by government in general. Social conservatives think that government can prevent abortion; it never could and it never will. Almost everyone thinks that government can prevent the use of mind affecting chemicals; it never could and it never will. Government can do many things: it can provide pretty decent health care; it can reduce crime (though it can't eliminate it); and so on. But putting too great a load on government will break it down and make it incapable of doing the things that it could do otherwise.

  • You said that the U.S. is facing bankruptcy. This is true in a most literal sense. There are proposals to “fix” Social Security by reducing benefits. The Social Security Trust Fund is in good enough shape to pay benefits without change till about 2040 – which is about as far into the future as it makes sense to make such predictions. People with incomes up to $97,500 (in 2007, proportionately less in earlier years) have been paying about 3% of their income into the Trust Fund with the idea that they would recover the money in their old age. To cut them short is in fact nothing other than national bankruptcy.

  • You said that we should remove our forces from the Greater Middle East, where they are a constant irritant to the people who live there. You are surely familiar with David Hackett Fisher's two books Paul Revere's Ride and Washington's Crossing. Paul Revere's Ride makes the point that the Revolution began in Boston very largely because this was the site of the British garrison in North America. Similarly in Washington's Crossing he writes that New Jersey was fairly friendly to the British forces immediately after their invasion in 1776, but that there was constant friction between the British troops and the local population, which led to guerrilla war by the Americans against the British, and that this made the success of Washington's raid at Trenton possible.

    Something we should remember is that people would usually rather be ruled by their own thugs and monsters than by foreigners, however competent and well meaning.

You said that you think of yourself as a conservative. I think that many people who believe they are “on the left” now find themselves to be conservatives. I have been struck by the similarity of the electoral maps of the last two elections and the maps of the elections of 1856 and 1860 with the colors reversed. What can this mean?

Very Sincerely - Jonathan Ryshpan

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What's a Billion

We see more and more big numbers in the news, numbers so big that it's not easy to understand what they mean. A simple way to estimate the meaning is the cost to an individual American. Here are two simple ways to figure out what a billion dollars of U.S. Government expenditure means to such a person:

Way 1 (By the share of the population): The Bureau of the Census estimates the U.S. population to be 298,444,215. So if the Government spends $1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars) your share of it is about $3.35:
     $3.35 = $1,000,000,000 / 298,444,215
= A billion dollars divided by the population.
Say $3+1/3 per billion spent by the government.

Way 2 (By the share of the money): The Department of Commerce estimates the U.S. Gross Domestic Product to be about $13,220,000,000,000 ($13.22 trillion dollars). So if the Government spends $1,000,000,000 your share is about 7+1/2 cents for each thousand dollars you earn:

   $0.076 = ($1,000,000,000 / $13,220,000,000,000) * $1,000
= A billion dollars share of the GDP times a thousand dollars.
Say seven and a half cents per thousand dollars earned per billion dollars spent by the Government.

As an example, what has the war in Iraq cost a somewhat prosperous family, of two people earning, $40,000 each? So far the appropriations for the war come to about $350,000,000,000 (three hundred billion)
Way 1:  350 Billion spent by the Government
2 people
$3.35 cost per billion spent
$2,345 TOTAL = 350 * 2 * $3.35
Not enough to buy a car, but enough to notice.

Way 2: 350 Billion spent by the Government
$80 Family income in thousands
$0.075 Cost per thousand earned per billion spent
2,100 TOTAL = 350 * 80 * 0.075

Sunday, March 04, 2007

One Call rents them all

"...which is only a single line of a verse well known to
the wise"

One call to rent them all
One call to get them
One call to bring them all
And on the job site set them.

Copyright Issues ...

In a recent issue of The New Republic, I read the following:

A scientist's plea for Christian environmentalism.

Apocalypse Now

by Edward O. Wilson
Post date 08.28.06 | Issue date 09.04.06

Because of copyright issues, this article is not available online.
Subscribers can download it in PDF format here. ...

What are these copyright issues? How do they prevent the article from being posted in HTML while permitting it to be posted in PDF? What's going on here?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Washboard of the Lord

Every rocky mountain slope
A corrugated washing board,
Every snowflake Fuller's soap.
And the dirty land
Scrubbed by His hand
On the washboard of the Lord.